Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today's Special - - Wild at Whiskey Creek

Janga and I have been fans of Julie Anne Long's writing for almost ten years. The Legend of Lyon Redmond, the long-awaited conclusion of her Pennyroyal Green historical romance series was on both of our Best of 2015 book lists and I'm pretty sure her contemporary debut, Hot in Hellcat Canyon will be on both of our "best of" lists for this year. In addition to that, July brought one of the highlights of our reading lives when Long was awarded the 2016 RITA® for Best Historical Romance:Short for her 10th Pennyroyal Green novel, It Started With a Scandal and during her acceptance speech thanked both of us by name for our enthusiastic support of her books over the years. In light of all that, when it came time to talk about her newest book, Wild at Whiskey Creek, we thought we'd take a different approach. Instead of one of us writing a formal review, we've decided to share with you our recent conversation about why we love this book and give it our enthusiastic recommendation. 

PJ: Janga and I both fell in love with Julie Anne Long’s contemporary debut Hot in Hellcat Canyon and have been eagerly anticipating a return visit with the publication of Wild at Whiskey Creek. I was even more excited when I learned that this book would feature a friends-to-lovers journey for by-the-book sheriff’s deputy, Eli and always-pushing-the-boundaries musician, Glory. These two could not be more different, yet from an early age there has been an unshakable bond between them. Well, unshakable until Eli arrested his best friend, Jonah, who happens to be Glory’s older brother, and had him sent to prison. That would put a damper on any budding relationship, don’t you agree, Janga? 

Janga: Oh, yeah, you have to love that friends-to-lovers trope, especially when the friends to lovers journey runs into the kind of obstacles JAL gives her characters. Speaking of characters, I love the realness of Glory and Eli. Glory has the kind of toughness and tenacity necessary for a poor girl with a big dream, and JAL shows those qualities in ways that give Glory a certain edginess but also in ways that earn the reader’s respect. The toughness is offset by vulnerability. How can you not root for a heroine who understands the “chasm between wanting and having” and what it costs to build a bridge across it and who also still cherishes a stuffed animal? And I adore Eli! He is a man of integrity, not just in the sense of being morally upright and doing the right thing, even when it exacts a personal cost but also in the original sense of the word, possessing a wholeness. All the pieces of who Eli is fit together to give him a completeness that I find irresistible. Then there is the perfection of Eli and Glory together. As you say, PJ, they are opposites in many ways, but I believe in them as a couple because they are also alike in some significant ways. JAL is no slouch when it comes to creating secondary characters either.

PJ: That stuffed animal and all it represents about broke my heart. JAL has a knack for inserting things into her stories, like Glory’s tiger, that seem subtle and unimportant at first glance but carry a whale of an emotional punch. And yes, she is a master at creating complex, fully-dimensional, real characters, whether they are in the spotlight or part of the fabric of the town. One of the things I most enjoy about these books is the community she has created. Everyone has a role – whether large or small – and each contributes in their own way to the story. I have yet to find a single throwaway character. Also, I grew up in a small town and, believe me, she nails the class structure, humor, and emotion of small town life. And speaking of humor, once again she had me rolling with laughter at some of the antics of her characters and the brilliant dialog she gifted them. I’ve met more than a few retirees in mobile home parks in Florida that could be the real-life inspirations for the elderly spitfires at the Heavenly Shores Mobile Estates Retirement Community and the Elysian Acres Mobile Estates. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think the elderly gentleman on the souped-up mobility scooter was based on my late husband. Did I ever tell you about how he used to challenge neighbor kids to races (they, on their bicycles and he, on his own mobility scooter)? Long's senior citizen characters are that outrageous, and that true to life. Also, while not a person, Glory’s music is such an intrinsic part of her being that it almost carries the weight of an actual character.

Janga: The small-town setting rings true with me too. I particularly liked the names of businesses like the Misty Cat and the Plugged Nickel. In my experience, small towns are great with those distinctive names. The music is a definite strength in this novel. I’m not musical generally. I’m much more attuned to the rhythm and lyricism of a writer’s prose (another reason I have always been a JAL fan), but I could hear Glory’s voice. I’m sure part of it was her covers of songs I know well enough by the original artists to have them in my head. Julie said in her recent AAR interview that there will be a “Spotify list for readers including those songs.” Hurrah! But I could hear Glory’s own songs too, and I was so happy that some of the lyrics were included. I always wonder about songwriter characters who don’t share any of their songs.

PJ: Yes! Glory was so authentic, so believable, her lyrics so heartfelt that when I turned the final page of the book the first thing I wanted to do was download her album. Sure, I know she isn’t real and that there isn’t an album but for one exciting moment, I let myself believe.

Janga: Overall, Wild at Whiskey Creek was another JAL winner for me. I confess that I still like Hot in Hellcat Canyon best, and I connected with Britt and J.T. in that way readers do with the leads in their best beloved books, but this second book is superb on its own merits. Best of all, I am eager for the next book.

PJ: I agree, Janga. Hot in Hellcat Canyon is one of the best books I’ve read in years and, like you, I connected with Britt and J.T. in a visceral way but Wild at Whiskey Creek is close on its heels and I’m excited to see what Julie Anne Long brings us next. There are so many fascinating secondary characters waiting in the wings for their stories. Whose books are you most excited to read?

Janga: Jonah is my first choice for book 3 and I’m also very interested in seeing Franco leveled by love. However, I hear that Eden Harwood is next, and her story is promising too - - plus that means more of Annelise (Eden’s adorable daughter). You know me, PJ; if a book has Julie Anne Long’s name as author on the cover, I’m going to be reading it.

PJ: I can’t believe I’m saying this (because I found him incredibly annoying in the first book) but I think I’m most excited for Franco’s story. He surprised me in this book with glimpses of depths I didn’t think he had. It’s going to be so much fun to watch him fall! Of course, I’m pulling for Jonah and his redemption. I do love a good second-chance story. But, let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter who is third…or fourth…or fifth. Returning to Hellcat Canyon for anyone’s story will be a treat. The truth is, Janga, if the book has Julie Anne Long’s name on the cover, we’ll both be reading it!

Readers, have you read Wild at Whiskey Creek yet? What did you think? Whose book are you most excited to read next?


Janga and I hope you've enjoyed this post. We plan to make it an ongoing feature and already have a book in mind for the next one. What we don't have is a title for our book conversations so that they can be easily identifiable and grouped together for searching - like we have for Janga's "On Second Thought" reviews. So we're tossing it to you, the Dish readers. What do you think we should call our new feature? Leave your suggestions in the comments. If we choose your suggested name, I'll send you a package of books, including a copy of Wild at Whiskey Creek. (U.S. only) If the winner lives outside the U.S. I'll send you the book of your choice from (value not to exceed $10 US)

Everyone knows the Greenleaf family puts the “Hell” in Hellcat Canyon—legend has it the only way they ever leave is in a cop car or a casket. But Glory Greenleaf has a different getaway vehicle in mind: her guitar. She has a Texas-sized talent and the ambition (and attitude) to match, but only two people have ever believed in her: her brother, who’s in jail, and his best friend . . . who put him there.

Sheriff Eli Barlow has secretly been in love with Glory since he was twelve years old. Which is how he knows her head is as hard as her heart is soft—and why she can’t forgive him for fracturing her family . . . or forget that night they surrendered to an explosive, long-simmering passion. But when a betrayal threatens Glory’s big break, Eli will risk everything to make it right . . . because the best way to love the girl from Whiskey Creek might mean setting her free forever.


  1. "In Between the Lines"

    A great feature thank you

  2. Love the two - way review! I haven't read either book yet but am planning to get them soon...

  3. Reading with Friends
    Between Friends
    Coffee and Books

  4. haven't read this book or series yet, but I always take Romance Dish cues for good reads!

    here's my suggestion: Book Tête-à-Tête

  5. Novel Thoughts
    The Book Roundtable
    Dishing Books

  6. Book Notes.
    Book Buzz
    reader rendezvous

  7. Happy bibliophiles
    Novel News
    Book Lit

  8. Lots of terrific comments! I can tell we're going to have a tough time picking one!

  9. I have not read this book yet, but coincidently this book came in my Monthly books from Harlequin Reader Service. I can't wait to read it. This will be my first Julie Ann Long book..

    Best Bud Book Chat

    1. You're first ever? Oh, Kathleen, you are in for such a treat!

    2. You're so lucky Kathleen....there are so many JAL books to enjoy. I've read most of them more than once...some a lot more than once, but there's nothing like the first time.

  10. OH MY GOD. I loved this story. It was so RAW and emotional and there were so many times I wanted to drunk text Julie and go, "OMG, how do you know my friends? Did I introduce you?" because seriously that sheriff and arresting the "blood" thing SO HAPPENED in my life. That whole dynamic was just freaky to read. I swear Julie and I MUST be cousins or something. We must know the same people.

    And yes, the thousand little details that Julie uses that CREATE the world of Hellcat Canyon, the language, the visuals--it's just...I'm amazed and excited to read such genius and learn from someone who is such a master at this craft. The layers. The quirks. The emotion.

    Also, does anyone else picture James Franco whenever you read Franco Francone? Because I swear when the book movie plays in my head, he's who I picture every time.

    1. PS I love this kind of back and forth blog and am glad you'll be featuring more of them. Hmm, a name. I don't know if I can give anything as distinctive or fitting as say the Misty Cat or Plugged Nickel...but the dialogue kinda reminds me of a Charlie Rose show, smart, thoughtful, thorough and passionate about the subject matter. You're both Southern as can be--maybe the Yellow Rose Show. *LOL* The Yellow Rose Show, featuring XXX by ZZZ.

    2. Hellie/Fran, I LOVE your comment!! I am just so THRILLED and touched you experienced the book this way. And you hit upon something here: I wanted to write a book that captured the people *I* knew,that felt familiar to me, and I haven't really encountered these people in any of the books I've read. I think (I hope) a lot of people will find these characters familiar and relatable, the way you and I do. And thank you for saying such beautiful things. It' really an honor to know you find inspiration in my work. I think I'm going to share your comment on Facebook, if you don't mind. :)

    3. Right there with you, Hellie. I grew up in a town of 1800 people. I lost count of the number of times while reading Whiskey Creek that I said, "OMG! I know that person!

    4. Of course I don't mind, Julie. I want to shout from the rooftops that "I know Julie Anne Long! She TALKED TO ME!"--so use at will. *LOL*

    5. Love your comments Hellie, but James Franco? I don't see it. First, he's not "gorgeous" by any stretch and second, he's a bit quirky..which is something I love, but it's not Franco Francone. He was on a cop show. He's a man's man. Flawlessly handsome. A playboy...a flirt. I'd have to think on it for a while, but maybe Ryan Reynolds, or Josh Duhamel, Ryan Gosslingm, Jenson Ackles, that guy from Supernatural. I'll have to get back to you on that.

  11. "Smart, thoughtful, thorough and passionate about the subject matter." Wow! Hellie, you just brought a load of sunshine into a dreary day. Thank you!

    1. All true. You two are the MOST trusted readers and reviewers in romance today--and it's for these reasons and so many more besides. I loved seeing your names acknowledged and noted around in print or online--you two have worked hard to create the smart thoughtful presence you have in the romance reading world and it's so great to see it being praised and highlighted. You're very much an inspiration of loving what you do and creating a place for it. It's art, really.

    2. You forgot the tissue alert! Geez, Hellie, how do I respond to that? Thank you doesn't quite seem to cover it. It means a lot to me that you feel that way. I do love blogging about the books that touch my heart and it means a lot to me that people appreciate what we've worked hard to create here. Now, you'll have to excuse me while I go clean the ugly, black mascara streaks off my face. ;-)

    3. I feel the same way, Hellie! Thank you for putting into words how many of us here feel about Janga and PJ.

  12. I'm excited that the second book is out! I loved the first one, which I bought after your review plus two of our mutual friends talking about it. Absolutely the kind of small town story I enjoy.

    I am useless at finding catchy names for things. Good job I never went into copy-writing or anything.

  13. I loved Julie Ann Long's historicals, and I am amazed at how well she has transitioned to contemporary. HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is on my keeper shelf, and as soon as I am finished with my stack of Christmas books, WILD AT WHISKEY CREEK is next!

  14. Let's Dish Together

    I agree, this book was wonderful, but the first one was just a tad better. Glory and her songs were wondrous--So much emotion. I'm with you gals: if Julie Anne Long's name is on the cover, I'm reading it!

  15. I'm not a big fan of the contemporary romance genre, but I AM a fan of Julie Anne Long, so I have read both books and loved them. In WAWC, I loved the way music was used throughout the book. Glory's thoughts...actually her entire life was set to music. Music memories she shared with Eli were an important part of their relationship, and the way Glory communicated with him, without using words. As I read, I was struck by the thought that this book actually had a soundtrack, and how kind of amazing that was. I have the feeling that not many authors could have pulled that off, in such a subtle way.

  16. Tea Time. Everything that took place of importance, was discussed during tea.

  17. I love Julie Anne Long's books, I hope this one on my wish list and can't wait to read it. I'm liking this new casual, less formal segment, maybe it can be called Dishing It Up

  18. book talk now
    dishing on romance
    dishing on books
    romance books on the table
    lets dish on books
    congrats on the books, sounds good
    thanks all

  19. One Perfect Romance
    Cover to Cover
    Let's talk about it
    Once Upon a Time
    As the Page Turns
    Take a look and read a book
    Books & Beyond
    Happy Bookers
    Thanks for the lovely post :)

  20. I'm excited about reading this book but I'm still waiting for my turn with it at the library!

    So many great names suggested already, here's mine:
    The Hot Pot
    Have A Side Dish
    Look forward to the next posting!