The third in Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley series, Buns is the story of a hotel marketing expert who likes to live without ties and a hotel manager who is all about family roots and staying put.
Clara Morgan had a crappy mother and spent most of her childhood moving from one foster home to another. She didn’t really experience any of the “normal” family kind of things that many people do. She worked hard and went to college and landed an excellent job in hotel marketing. She goes around to hotels all over the country and helps them to fix their problems so they can make money and be successful. And she’s really good at it. She has an apartment in Boston but spends little time there. Most of her life is spent where she works. In a very real sense, her work is her life.
She has two close friends, Natalie and Roxie who, as it happens are now happily ensconced in Bailey Falls in the Hudson Valley with their significant others (their stories can be found in Nuts and Cream of the Crop), so spending a few months at Bryant Mountain House, which is a stone’s throw from Bailey Falls, means she can also spend time with her friends on the regular.
Bryant Mountain House is a resort somewhat similar to Kellermans (of Dirty Dancing fame) but not *quite* so classist. Their business has been going downhill for the last few years and John Bryant, the owner, has called Clara in to identify what they need to do to get things back on track and to project manage the changes required.
Archie Bryant is John’s son. He’s the hotel manager and is less than pleased about an “outsider” like Clara coming in and telling him his business.
Clara doesn’t make a great first impression – she nearly runs him over! – and they butt heads often over the suggestions she makes to change the hotel and make it profitable again.
Archie is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Clara. He grew up steeped in Bryant family tradition. Bryant Mountain House was built in the 1800s and he is firmly rooted there. Clara’s intrusion into his life threatens most of what he holds dear. However, over time, he does see that if he doesn’t agree to changes, there will be no Bryant Mountain House in a few years. Archie also values the staff at the hotel, who he regards as family, and he feels a huge responsibility to them. Ultimately this sense of responsibility gets him on board with Clara’s suggestions.
Archie is a widower who has devoted himself to the hotel even more thoroughly since his wife died of ovarian cancer. He doesn’t want to be attracted to Clara at first but he finds himself unable to resist. I was happy he didn’t spend too much time beating himself up for wanting another relationship.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about Buns was the work Clara did. As the story progressed, the listener gets to understand what is wrong at Bryant Mountain House and what Clara sees as the important issues to fix. And it was so interesting! It felt completely authentic but it also didn’t delve so far into the particulars that it became boring. It reminded me a little of the kind of “competency porn” Nora Roberts is famous for.
Mostly the conflict between Clara and Archie is her fear and avoidance of commitment. It made sense for her to be wary of love but at the same time want it desperately. There are some scenes where she feels very much the outsider because she just hasn’t had the family experiences she is seeing in front of her and she doesn’t know what to do.
Eventually she and Archie decide to make their own traditions and family experiences together. I liked the way her career was worked into the story. I had been worried she would have to give up too much to be with him but the author worked it out neatly.
Elizabeth Louise does most of the narration, with Jason Carpenter doing the epilogue at the end only. His narration was fine but it was so short a performance it is difficult to say more about it. But in the few minutes he was in my earbuds I enjoyed what I heard.
I’ve listened to Ms. Louise only once before and I recall enjoying her narration well enough – although that book was a new adult story and I do think Ms. Louise’s natural voice is better suited to a younger protagonist. I felt Clara sounded too young a lot of the time. Ms. Louise had distinct voices for Roxie and Natalie and the other female characters and almost universally, I liked those voices better. Her tone had more depth and richness when she was depicting, in particular, Roxie or Natalie. When Clara spoke, she often sounded a bit quivery to my ear, as if Ms. Louise’s voice lacked strength.
However, Ms. Louise did deliver on pacing and characterisation and I liked the way she portrayed the chemistry between Clara and Archie. I also loved the banter between the wider group of friends; Roxie, Natalie, Oscar, Leo, Chad and Logan.
There were times when Clara was thinking to herself and then speaking or vice versa and I couldn’t tell exactly when she was doing which from the tone. I could usually put it together from context but not always. There aren’t any punctuation marks in an audiobook and what is or what is not said out loud makes a difference so I wished there was a clearer verbal marker in Buns.
Buns turned out to have more depth and substance to it than the title suggested and I’m now keen to go back and read/listen to the earlier books in the series – both of which are on my TBR/TBL.
AUTHOR: Alice Clayton
NARRATED BY: Elizabeth Louise with Jason Carpenter
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: KaetrinBuy Buns by Alice Clayton on Amazon