Title: Paradise Hops
Author: Liz Crowe
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Grade/Rating: 4 out of 5
To begin, I will admit that although I had heard good things about Ms. Crowe’s books and even had a couple on my list to read, I had not read a single one until now. Sometimes a book just comes along in unexpected ways and you go into it thinking “Why not? I’m up for something new and fresh.” I had skimmed the synopsis, and it appeared to be a typical angst-like romance with the potential to stimulate more than my ability to have hot flashes on command so I dove right in. As of now, I have read it twice in less than two weeks…
Ms. Crowe has developed a cast of characters that come alive on the pages flaunting their flaws and all. To start we are given a shattered woman who’s lost in a fog that is slowly suffocating her ability to return to the lively and spunky woman she once was. Lori Brockton is a frustrating character that you want to shake to death one minute and then smother her in a hug the next. To see someone compartmentalize her feelings and push away any real social contact was hard; but in the same sense, I’m not sure if I personally would not do the same having gone through what she has. Everyone deals with things differently, and it was refreshing to see real trauma and emotions dealt with in an unfavorable manner and being forced to accept it.
Of course, you can’t have a romance novel without a handsome man or two, and Ms. Crowe did not skimp in this department either. First, there is Garrett Hunter, the man we all want to see opening doors for us and treating us like the princess we all believe we are. He is undeniably handsome with a crisp and clean feeling that hangs a suit like few others but also has the education, drive and dependable qualities we all crave beyond the eye candy. His first interaction with Lori alone made my heart go pity-pat, and I was immediately cheering for him to be that changing force I knew Lori needed from page one. Even from the very first few pages, he made me feel safe; and his compassion and need to care for Lori was evident from the get go, which was exactly what she needed. Now that we have established which team I started on, I will admit that when Eli Buchanan was introduced you could almost hear the “Boos” coming from my own inner monologue. Of course, you can’t have a good romance plot without some angst driven-lust and Eli provided more than enough lust and anger for me and Lori and probably a whole slew of others as well. He’s the bad boy with a temper that has a flash point of zero. But what makes him appealing is his passion for brewing that makes even me want to be on his payroll and even in his warpath just to watch the creativity take over. To say he demanded attention is an understatement…he commanded it and got it. When Eli was in the room, everyone knew it and felt it long before he opened his mouth. And who doesn’t find that kind of man addictive or attractive?
Lori goes through some serious mental and physical anguish and changes; but the most important thing to know is, she needs these highs and lows in order to find her own pace at which to become the Lori she was destined to be. It may not be the person she set out in the world to become, but how often are we exactly what we thought we were supposed to be? Of course, if I were in the vicinity of either Garrett or Eli, I would be a ball of contradictions; and I was right there with Lori as she dealt with each blow as they came. I didn’t agree with some of her decisions; and at some point, I wanted to reach through the pages and take Garrett all for myself as she batted these two men around like they were kitty toys.
I love a good book, and I know when one is a little higher on my shelf than others. And Paradise Hops is slowly creeping up my favorites list. The characters and story plot are at times intense and painful but yet are filled with a painful passion that was refreshingly unexpected. Ms. Crowe has forced me to feel sympathy for each character in a different way and proved that even in fiction, life isn’t always easy or fair and that happily-ever-after come in all shapes and forms. My heart, along with Garrett’s, Lori’s, and Eli’s, was tested and broken several times only to be glued back together with an outcome that was not foreshadowed. The only, and very small difficult moments for me to comprehend, were a three chapter segment set in a different time and place. I stumbled through this part questioning why it was there; and after two reads, I still don’t have a definitive answer. I feel like the book could easily hold without these particular parts and maybe even spare some room for more elaboration in the parts I wanted to see more of. It didn’t ruin the story or my feeling for the book–just left me a little lost in the reasoning and purpose column. The other thing that stuck out to me was the brewing company itself. I know nothing of beer/lagers/ales or their processes; but it was evident to me that Ms. Crowe is very passionate about this area, and it came through in the story. There was technical terminology that I was unaware of; and being that I have never experienced a brewery myself, I found myself Googling images to give a more complete mental picture. And I will admit, it enhanced the story for me. I don’t see myself going out and sampling brews (it’s just not my choice in beverages), but I can now say I know the difference when I see the labels on bottles. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even the parts I wanted to scream at or the one I cried at; and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Crowe’s writing in the near future. This story contains some serious heat and passion but are enhanced with elements of forgiveness, acceptance, and ultimately love that makes this more than just a steamy clichéd romance novel. Ms. Crowe certainly doesn’t write her stories with the standard formulas that’s for sure, and it’s refreshing to know that as a romance writer she’s willing to think outside the box and challenge her readers.
Please note: Author supplied book for review.