Review: Strawberry Hill by Catherine Anderson

Posted December 31, 2018 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 10 Comments

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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Strawberry Hill by Catherine Anderson
Strawberry Hill

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
two-flames

Series: Mystic Creek #5
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on December 31, 2018
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Get it at: add to goodreads

The Delight

An orphaned cub, a second chance for two people in their winter years, camp pranks, and a spanking new romance in a small Oregon mountain town had me settling in for a comfy read.

Review

Strawberry Hill is book five in the Mystic Creek series, but it will work fine standalone or out of order since it introduces a new situation and mostly new players.

The story opens with a prologue about Slade Wilder finding a dead black bear buried under a recent rock slide and then shortly after coming across an orphaned baby blonde black bear cub.  He knows the right thing is to leave it in the wild to fend for itself and tries, but then the little one follows him and him home to the ranch.  It reminds him of the spirited young girl who would have adopted that cub and championed it in a heartbeat.  She had his heart and they were getting married until she believed a lie and left his life forever.  He remained alone after that and now looks at the years remaining of his life with no close family and no one to leave his beloved ranch.

Erin, Slade’s niece figured out she wasn’t cut out to be a big city cop in Seattle or the big city like her svelte stuffy mother and took a job as a county sheriff’s deputy near her Uncle Slade’s ranch.  She wants to spend time with him and get to know him better.  Only trouble is, she’s the low person at the office and keeps getting called in off duty and handed assignments she has no idea what she’s doing.    She tries to bluff her way through an encounter with a man who turns out to be her uncle’s foreman, Wyatt, and alienates him before sticking her boot firmly in her mouth striving to be the tough cop and the son her absent dad never had.  It’s only in the middle of another crisis she has no clue what to do that she realizes that her trying to prove herself all these years is a empty use of her life.  Another encounter with Wyatt sets her feet firmly on the right path for the first time.

After 42 years, Vickie Brown is about to encounter the man who broke her heart when she accepts a job to be the camp cook for his Wilderness Adventures business.  He swore he never cheated on her and now, face to face, he swore he never got her letters.  But, Slade Wilder is a liar, right?

So, this book.  I enjoyed parts of it, but other parts frustrated me or needed more development.  The pace was good and the descriptions of world and characters was well-drawn.  I love the world of the stories.  The variety of personalities and situations are always welcome.  The opening when Slade and his ranch are introduced with that rascally bear cub and the ranch hands all trying to help was fabulous.  The opening scene where Erin really messes up with Wyatt in one big misunderstanding was a hoot.  What a meet-cute!  I found the dramatic first scene with Vickie compelling, too.  I was very curious about what really happened between her and Slade since they both felt the other wronged them.
And, then I hit a snag when the truth came out.

Let me get into what stuck in my craw about this one.

For once, its not because of the baby the dad never knew about because Vickie wrote Slade four letters.  She was destitute and far from home at the time.  She’s in the clear on that one.
But, here’s the thing, she’s out there pregnant and destitute because she believed the word of a conniving girl who Vicky knew wanted Slade rather than trusting him.  He’s never given her reason not to trust him and they have known each other all their lives, but inexplicably, she can’t trust him nor did she try to see if others would back up his story.  She just ran and stayed gone.  And, hid her son Brody’s paternity from Brody for over forty years because- and here we get into one of the things that drives me nuts about secret baby tropes- she made the decision that Slade shouldn’t get the chance to meet Brody in case he rejected him to his face.  At least it wasn’t for a selfish reason, but still, she gave her son zero chances to know his dad.

Now, here they are again and Slade is still telling her over forty years later that he never cheated and he never got the letters.  She’s already established that he’s an upstanding man and well respected and he’s even shared his loneliness for family and wished he’d had a son.  But no… she’s still convinced he’s a liar.

And, then when she starts pulling pranks at the campsite all with things that are aimed at Slade because she knows his fears and what will make him uncomfortable and annoy him as ‘payback for rejecting Brody all those years ago’, I just shook my head and shouted at my Kindle, “How old are you?  Five?”

The final scene when she learns the truth from someone other than Slade, because yeah, can’t trust him right?  Again, I was asking myself how old was she because that scene degenerated into farce and never really cleared the air.  Call me bloodthirsty, but I really wanted a big apology from her about calling him a liar, but especially after all the pranking and stubbornness.

Whew, sorry, had to purge that.  I do know people act irrationally particularly if their heart and emotions are on the line and there is a point where they acknowledge that mistakes were made.  I thought she had a tough row to hoe after she ran off and felt bad for all that happened, but I couldn’t shut off that other side of my brain that felt that huge conflict didn’t work based on their history and personalities.

Now, it was more than my frustration with Vickie.  I did enjoy Erin and Wyatt’s introduction and early days of their romance, but would rather their page time to have been devoted to a better detailed denouement for Slade and Vickie.  So much was left glossed over or waved away with a few sentences in an epilogue.  I really needed more after Vickie finally accepted the truth.  She gets the truth, gets angry at the right person finally, and then it shifted to the epilogue in a blink.  Things were brought up that I felt were never addressed and were either glossed over or left hanging.

Mini spoilers here,

I would rather have seen an actual scene of Vickie telling her son the truth and Slade getting to meet his son for the first time.  And, after Erin and Wyatt got so much page time, their story just petered out and went into a holding pattern in the background so what was the point?

So, bet you think I hated this one.  I didn’t.  Actually, I liked it and was glad to have read it in spite of stuff I had issue with.  I really hope she completes Wyatt and Erin’s story now.  The series is one I mostly enjoy and can recommend it to contemporary romance fans who enjoy small town settings and gently paced romance.

My thanks to Penguin Random House for providing this book to be read in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges

Romance Roundabout #408 CR
New Release #209
COYER Winter #12

Recommendations

 

 

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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Melliane
Guest

ooooh that cover is just so cute!

Sophia Rose
Guest

Sooo cute! I love that blond bear cub.

Lover Of Romance
Guest

Yeah I think I would struggle with the aspelct of the heroine not trusting the hero and instead taking what someone else said at face value. This aspect is written quite often in romance and can drive me nuts at times. But glad you enjoyed the story overall.

Sophia Rose
Guest

I just don’t get it. I really don’t. She knew him through and through with no qualms, but out of the blue believes a gal she knows she can’t trust.
You’re right. This situation does get written more often than it should. I try to avoid them, but some times its not obvious from the blurb. 🙂 There were definitely some cute moments to give me some compensation.

Melanie Simmons
Guest

Says something about a book when you have a lot of issues, but still enjoyed it anyways. Sounds like a cute story. How can you not love a cute baby bear cub.

Sophia Rose
Guest

Yeah, I am not a fan of that type of set up and it never makes sense to me how someone can hold a grudge that long or keep baby secrets, but, the cute scenes with the younger couple, the ranch and camping- and yes, the adorable bear- made it worth it.

Rachel @Waves of Fiction
Guest

Yep, our thoughts on this pretty much mirror each other. There were parts of this one that I loved, but also a whole lot I didn’t. First being that I thought I was reading Erin and Wyatt’s story because the publisher sent me the blurb that was about them. I’m sure it was in error, but the error was up on goodreads, too. I didn’t figure this out until I finished the book and was like “what the heck?! They didn’t even kiss!” I would’ve had different expectations going in. I was very disappointed with Vicky! She deprived Slade of… Read more »

Sophia Rose
Guest

Yep, I read your review and had to laugh because this hit us both in the same place. I want to read Erin and Wyatt’s story, for sure.

Angie Elle
Guest

Oh wow. This book is absolutely not for me! I don’t think this author, in general, is. I read a book by her previously, and it also felt farcical.

Great review, Sophia!

Sophia Rose
Guest

Yep! Her books seem to be hit or miss for me and when they miss, they really, really miss. The first one of the series was my favorite and then it sort of went gradually down hill with a few blips of delight. I want the younger couples story so I’ll probably read that one.