Everyone knows that I especially crave contemporaries in the summer, let alone summer contemporaries! This year, I have been reading more new adult books than I ever have before. I really like new adult for having mature characters, who are often in college or in that stage between college and ‘real’ adulthood. Enter Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley series, a new adult romance series set in the Hudson Valley area of New York. I found this series through Kristin of SuperSpaceChick. This series has the perfect blend of summer setting, romance, family, and so much crave-worthy food. Does calling myself a summer-romance-foodie count as a fangirl classification?
Nuts (Book #1)
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
After a dairy disaster that leaves her nearly client-less, LA private chef Roxie’s return to the Hudson Valley to help run her family’s diner for the summer. Roxie is reluctant to return home to her hippie mother and small town life, until she meets local farmer Leo. While much of the focus is on Roxie and Leo’s relationship development, Alice Clayton delves into family dynamics and personal growth—not to mention all of the delicious sounding cake. I really enjoyed the romance and relationship dynamics, but my favorite part was hands-down the food!
Roxie is just so passionate about cooking and I feel like I learned so much from her! Catch me trying out caramel cake, strawberry pie, and grilled cheese with apples inside while also learning how to pickle and make jam. Not to mention that this book also has inspired me to go to a farmers’ market for the fruit, NOT for finding a cute farmer like Leo of course. Anyways….
As stated, Nuts revolves around Roxie adjusting back to small town life and navigating her relationship with Leo and her family. There’s just so much development on her end that I found myself constantly rooting for her. When it came to the romance, there’s definitely some steam- and some food-inspired nicknames- with just the right amount of details and pace. I honestly love details when it comes to contemporaries, and Alice Clayton delves into Roxie’s past and present. The setting was so descriptive and for once, made me crave some upstate farm life. For those looking for summer contemporaries and romance set outside the beach, this one is for you.
Cream of the Crop (Book #2)
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Cream of the Crop follows one of Roxie’s best friends, Natalie, and Oscar, Bailey Falls’ infamous (and hot) dairy farmer. A marketing executive in NYC, Natalie’s latest work project is a publicity campaign for Bailey Falls, getting the opportunity to work with the dairy farmer she’s had her eye on at the weekend food markets. This book definitely falls into the ‘city girl turns country’ trope, as Natalie learns that there are places worth living outside of the city. One thing I didn’t know about Cream of the Crop before going in is that Natalie is plus-size. I haven’t read a ton of new adult or romance books, but I thought this was a really refreshing element. She is super confident in her body and in basically everything she does.
Cream of the Crop is definitely the most steamy of the books in the series. Oscar and Natalie get together pretty early on. Like the other characters, they both have personal issues and backstories that affects how they handle their relationship with one another. Oscar and Natalie’s relationship was my favorite out of three couples featured in the series because I loved their banter and Natalie so much as protagonist. While Natalie is not as savvy in the kitchen as Roxie, there is still plenty of foodie love (especially cheese) to go around in this installment.
Buns (Book #3)
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Although once again set in Bailey Falls, the majority of Buns takes place at the Bryant Mountain House, which is mentioned in the previous two books. This installment follows the third best friend in Roxie and Natalie’s trio, Clara. As a hotel consultant, Clara works on rebranding hotels in need of serious change, which leads her to Bailey Falls’ hotel and resort. The son of the hotel’s owner, Archie, is reluctant to make any changes, but Clara has him soon falling in love with her rebranding plan- and her.
Buns was definitely the book that has made me want to visit upstate New York the most. I loved the hotel atmosphere with the Bailey Falls charm from the other books. Clara is an athlete and loves doing anything outdoors, so she spends a lot of time getting to know the area- with Archie as her tour guide of course. With Clara’s changes, I would love to stay at this hotel—in her acknowledgments, Alice Clayton shares her personal upstate resort recommendations. While I wouldn’t necessarily straight-up label it as ‘hate,’ Clara and Archie fall under the hate-to-lovers trope. Their pasts again make them hesitant to start a relationship, even though are definitely encouraged to do so by the other characters. I’m so used to characters from the same universe just making cameos in the other books that I really enjoyed how the Nuts and Cream of the Crop casts were main or secondary characters in this book. I really liked the ending, but I wouldn’t necessarily mind a fourth book following a certain event between one of the couples…
Have you read any books by Alice Clayton? What are your new adult or romance recommendations? Share in the comments!