Audio Review: Alicia Hunter Pace – Sweet Gone South

sweet-gone-south-by-alicia-hunter-paceAuthor: Alicia Hunter Pace
Reviewer: Lucy
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: MF Audio

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 


Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Summary: Chocolatier Lanie Heaven has good friends, a booming business, and the adoration of the citizens of Merritt, Alabama. But she also has a secret. After the devastating breakup with her long time college boyfriend, she lost a baby and the hope of ever having a child – the thing she desires above all else.
Though still grief-stricken eighteen months after the accident that killed his wife and best friend, Judge Luke Avery is lonely for the company of someone other than his three-year-old daughter, Emma.
When Luke moves into the apartment above Lanie’s candy shop, Lanie and Emma fall in love at first sight and Luke finds himself along for the ride. It’s so easy for the three of them to slip into a life as sweet as the candy in Lanie’s shop.
But when Emma calls Lanie Mommy, Luke realizes things have gone too far; he has to propose to Lanie or walk away. He isn’t ready for marriage, but engaged isn’t married. Lanie eagerly accepts but as the evidence stacks up, she must accept that Luke’s love is not equal to her own.
Can Luke find a way to slay his demons before the sweet life they have created goes completely south?

Review: Lanie is a chocolatier who makes devastatingly delicious creations at her candy shop in Merritt. She’s sweet, kind and loves children. It makes her secret of being unable to bear children so terrible. She wants love and family so much. She’s alone after a terrible breakup and when she meets Emma, the little daughter of her new tenant, it’s like a ready made family. She has had pain in her past, “This wasn’t just a broken heart; it was a broken life”. Her ex, Alexander, hurt her badly and losing their baby right after he dumps her for someone else is a life changing event. She gives her up dream of being an early childhood teacher and is a little lost until the candy making.
Luke is charming, a devoted father and a judge in town. He’s also still heavily grieving the loss of his wife and he absolutely isn’t going to be married again. He thinks about his dead wife, Carrie, all the time. He’s a wonderful father and loves Emma so much but he just doesn’t think about what he’s doing to Lanie. He wants her, sure. And Emma loves her. But he doesn’t love her like he loved Carrie, who Luke believes would want him to pine for the rest of his life.
While Lanie and Emma fall immediately in love, Judge Luke definitely not on board like that. He comes across as entitled, or at least spoiled, for a lot of the story. Whereas Lanie is down to earth and gentle, he seems (very nearly) a user at times. He wants Emma happy and goes into the whole thing knowing he’s not going to be what he’s promised Lanie.
I did understand how much Carrie is in his thoughts, his decisions, his reactions. He was married to someone he loved very much, for a long time, and she’s only been gone 18 months. The fact that he had to go through the rumor mill about her makes it even worse. It doesn’t excuse him from wanting everything from Lanie without actually giving anything of himself (well, except sex).
I liked Lanie and Emma both immensely. As a dedicated chocoholic I appreciated Lanie’s talents. I also liked that there were good friends for her. And I loved her grandparents, who took her in when she needed it, gave her time and taught her to be a chocolatier.
I really had to grind my teeth sometimes with Luke. At the point of getting engaged, he goes through boxes to find the engagement ring that was passed down to him but that Carrie wouldn’t have liked. He doesn’t really care if Lanie would like it. It’s a ring he has and he’s going to use it. Or when he throws out the words that make Lanie realize how he really feels. He wants to placate her with jewelry, does he not know her? He is selfish, not wanting to marry but not wanting her out of his bed.
I had a question about the back story of Luke’s deceased wife and best friend. I wondered why Lanie didn’t realize what was going on with herself. I admit – I absolutely hated the ploy to get Luke to see reason. It’s a prop that made the story lose a lot. That sort of trope doesn’t work for me because I wanted idiot Luke to realize what he was doing and missing on his own. The way it happened is too forced and too fairy tale for me. So what was a solid 4 hearts for most of the story lost one for that. But then I had to upgrade some because the narrator did such a great job. I definitely believe I’d have liked this less on ebook.
This was my first listen of Amy Rubinate as a narrator and I have to say, she made Luke sound incredibly sexy. She has the honeyed drawl down pat and she did the man justice, something that is sometimes difficult when narrating other genders. I’ll look for other books narrated by her.

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