Magnolia by Kristi Cook

MagnoliaTitle: Magnolia

Author: Kristi Cook

Genre: Contemporary

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 336

Rating: 4.5/5

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

I don’t think I even heard of this book until it came out and a few reviews came in, all fairly positive. The summary really caught my attention (reverse Romeo and Juliet situation and a hate-love relationship all sound like interesting things me to me!), so I decided to give this book a chance even though I’ve never read any of Kristi Cook’s earlier paranormal series. Even though I don’t know if I’ll check out that trilogy, but I’ll definitely check out any new contemporary books she writes as long as they’re as cute and quick as this one was!

The Beginning

From the very beginning, this book had me hooked and I just had to keep reading to find out what would happen between Jemma and Ryder! I started it in the morning and was trying to read it between the other books I was reading at the moment, but I finally gave up on that and devoted my time to this book because I just couldn’t put it down for some reason – it was addicting and I just don’t know why!

The Plot

A big bulk of this book takes place during a hurricane that hits Jemma’s small Mississippi town and leaves her and Ryder trapped in her house alone. There’s some relationship building and general introductions before that (which is Part I) and there’s a wrapping-up period (Part III), but my favorite part was Part II, when the book was really just about building and exploring the relationship between Jemma and Ryder.

The Characters

I was a big fan of Jemma as a character. I don’t like guns and I hope that I never have to touch one, let alone use one, but I respected Jemma’s great skill with shooting (especially since she only shot inanimate objects, excluding one dramatic scene) and I loved her for the fact that she constantly won a local shooting competition where she would wear her girliest outfits to really rub it in the face of misogynistic competitors who could barely stand to lose to “tomboys,” let alone girlier girls. Ryder was also an interesting character, as well as their parents, but the rest of the secondary characters didn’t get too much of a chance to shine since the book was very focused on Jemma and Ryder. As a result, the main cast was definitely more developed than the secondary one, but since I was more interested in them, I didn’t mind too much.

The Setting

This book takes place in the South, and I really don’t think you’ll forget that fact as you read the book. I’ve never lived in the Southern US nor do I have a lot of family down there, so most of what I know about it is stereotypes. This book is written by a real Mississippi girl, though (at least I’m guessing it is based on her comment at the beginning of the book that you just can’t take the Mississippi out of a Mississippi girl), so it didn’t feel like it relied too much on stereotypes. Of course, someone who actually lives in Mississippi is welcome to disagree, but as someone outside of that environment, I thought the setting was done well.

The Adult Situation

Since a big portion of the book takes place in the middle of a hurricane where both of Ryder and Jemma’s parents are out of town and out of touch due to downed telephone lines, there are a lot of unsupervised scenes that felt fairly organic. Sure, it doesn’t seem like many parents would leave their high school senior daughter alone when they went to Texas for an undetermined amount of time (well, roughly two weeks, I think), but based on Jemma’s “good girl” personality and the little trouble she had ever given her parents made it seem a bit more realistic.

The Romance

Like I’ve already said, I really liked this romance, which definitely helped the book – if you don’t like Jemma and Ryder together, then you probably won’t like the book too much since it is so focused on them as individuals and together. Luckily for me, I liked their dynamic. Things started out slightly shaky because there was some big secret explaining why Jemma hated Ryder so much, but it didn’t take as long as it could have to find out what happened and I did kind of understand, especially considering Jemma was about 13 or 14 at the time and you tend to make things even more dramatic during that time. Sometimes there was more drama and misunderstanding than there needed to be, but it really wasn’t that bad and I enjoyed their relationship enough to overlook all that.

The Ending

As I already mentioned, I started this book in the morning of a Wednesday and finished it around one in the morning on Thursday before I finally turned off the light and went to bed. I read a few chapters of two other books at the beginning of the day, but my focus was on this book for the most part, and the closer I got to the end, the more I wanted to know and the faster I went. So, things didn’t go downhill for me, even when Part II ended and I wasn’t able to focus completely on just Jemma and Ryder.

In Conclusion…

This book just really surprised me – in a good way. I was really hoping to like it, but since I hadn’t heard too much about it, I couldn’t be sure. Luckily for me, though, it kept me happily occupied for a day and has me pretty excited for future contemporaries from Cook.




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