May 13th, 2020
As I explained in my last book review, sometimes the best book in a series takes awhile to get to, and sometimes you don’t even have to read them all! If only someone could tell you about that hidden gem. If only someone could warn you if there are books you can skip. Well, my friends, that’s exactly what I’m here to do!
Today, I’m reviewing the Cane River Romance Series by Mary Jane Hathaway. To be honest, Hathaway is always a hit or miss author for me. Some of her books I count among my favorites while others, frankly, aren’t that good. When it comes to her Cane River Romance Series, you could give up too soon and miss out an amazing read with book four!
First off, the series takes place in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and largely centers around a vintage book store in the historical district. Book one, The Pepper in the Gumbo, is a Louisiana spin on the movie You’ve Got Mail with bookstore owner Alice Augustine as the main protagonist. Every book thereafter features at least one character who lives in the upstairs apartment of the bookstore. I actually read book two, These Sheltering Walls, first. I therefore know from personal experience that these can be read on their own and out of order anyway (with one exception - which I’ll get to later).
I read book two, then book one. Both were great (with book two being far more serious). Then I got to book three, Only Through Love, and I was extremely disappointed. I didn’t realize it was a novella when I bought it on my Kindle, first of all, so I was shocked at how short it was. But even a novella should have a strong ending, and this one ended abruptly. I actually scrolled expecting another chapter and got confused when there wasn’t one! The romance wasn’t even fully fleshed out and felt rushed. The couple - Charlie and Austin - show up again in book six, and they are honestly much cuter in that book. (By the way, Charlie is a girl. The girl in book two is named Henry. It’s just a thing with this series.)
I read a lot of reviews of Only Through Love that matched my feelings. Sadly, many of them said “I’m done with this series,” which is a shame because the BEST book in this entire series, in my opinion, is book four - A Star to Steer By.
First of all, A Star to Steer By is absolutely hilarious. Rarely has a book made me laugh so hard. I actually read it in one day. Granted, I was stuck at the hospital while my husband had surgery, so I didn’t really have anything else to do. People kept looking at me weird because I was laughing out loud, and how many people do that at a hospital? It honestly helped me through a really rough day.
Why is it so funny? Two words - giant cupcake. Roxie Hardy has returned to her family bakery because of her grandmother’s health, and is forced to stand outside in a giant cupcake costume just like during her torturous high school days. Andy McBride meets her while she’s in the costume, shows her rare kindness, and finds himself confiding in the mysterious “cupcake.” He has no idea it’s his neighbor Roxie. Seriously, I was laughing so hard I cried.
Roxie and Andy are also downright adorable. When they describe themselves, you imagine someone awkward and unattractive. Yet, when Andy describes Roxie or vice versa, you see someone gorgeous and sexy. I absolutely adore that in romance novels. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. While I enjoyed books one and two, book four is the only one I would re-read.
My only criticism of this book is the cover. The story takes place in the fall, and Roxie and Andy are always complaining about the heat and humidity. As a matter of fact, the heat even adds to the humorous plot situations. So why in the world is the couple on the cover bundled up? The woman is in a mitten, scarf, and hat! As a woman from Georgia, I can tell you that we rarely pull those out in the fall, and I imagine coastal Louisiana is even warmer. The woman in the picture doesn’t look at all how Roxie is described, either. I know I’m being nit picky, but it bugs me!
Book five is called The Boundless Deep, and to be completely honest, I can’t really remember it. I remember more about Alice and Paul from book one having cute moments. Actually, Alice and Paul show up in all of the books. That’s really the only reason to read them all. The other couples show up now and then, but not as much.
Book six is called Until Winter Comes Again and is set at Christmas time. While a new couple is introduced, the book is really about all of the couples in the entire series (the whole thing is centered around a wedding). As a matter of fact, they all are trying to play matchmaker with the childhood best friends who just signed up to move into the two apartments above the bookstore. After all, the bookstore brought the rest of them together. Surely it’s going to work it’s romantic magic again. Or will it? To be honest, the only parts of this one I liked were the parts with Alice and Paul from book one, and - of course - Roxie and Andy. Because all of the characters feature heavily in book six, it’s also the only one that doesn’t stand alone. It won’t make sense if you haven’t read the other books.
Bottom Line: Read books one, two, and four. Skip books three and five. Maybe skim book six to catch up on your favorite couples, but definitely save it for last.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.