I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Simon & Schuster on August 5, 2014
Source: the author
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.
Kristi Cook has done it again! Her Winterhaven trilogy is one of my all-time favorite paranormal trilogies! And now with Magnolia, Cook tackled contemporary and it was epic! The plot, the characters, the situations the characters were put in – It was all amazing and incredible!
First of all, Cook is a gorgeous writer. She really sweeps the reader in, making you feel as though you can clearly picture everything that’s happening, like you’re really experiencing everything with the characters. She’s also brilliant when it comes to character development. All her characters, even the secondary and tertiary ones, have distinct voices, extensive backgrounds and a role to play. No character is insignificant.
I adored Jemma. She felt very real and down-to-earth. She wanted to escape her hometown and do what she wanted to do with her life, not what her parents wanted her to do with her life. Jemma knows how to properly handle a gun, which made her just a tiny bit scary… I would certainly NOT want to get on her bad side!
Ryder was hilarious and swoony! On the outside, he seemed like the typical perfect jock – especially from Jemma’s POV. But he had his own share of problems and concerns. Even when Jemma pushed him away, he never really left her alone. He was always there for her. And what he decided to do in the end? So awesome and swoony!!
I loved Jemma and Ryder as an “anti-couple.” They were both so head-strong and stubborn. The anti-love interest concept was so fascinating, too – it was a nice change from insta-love, which seems to dominate most YA books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind some insta-love (when done right), but this was such a refreshing concept. This book was basically the exact opposite of Romeo & Juliet. Jemma and Ryder’s families wanted them together more than anything, so they fought against that. They hated each other and refused to even attempt a friendship because of it. The banter between them was just hilarious!
The storm section was really scary and creepy. Cook successfully guaranteed that I will NEVER move to Mississippi, that’s for sure! Between the bugs (the spiders, specifically), the storm/hurricane and the resulting tornadoes… *Shudders!!!!* The storm really brought Ryder and Jemma together, though. It forced them to work together, to trust each other, to rely on each other. Their will to survive forced them to put their feelings and differences aside. When they could do nothing but sit inside their make-shift storm shelter and wait out the tornadoes, they opened up to each other and slowly became friends – and then much more!
My heart was in my throat for the entire storm section! I kept waiting for something truly terrible to happen – though the storm itself and the ensuing damage was horrible enough. As an animal lover, I appreciated that Jemma and Ryder always looked after and protected the animals.
And most of all, the storm section really made me think. I kept wondering, what would I do in this situation? Would I be as brave as Jemma and Ryder? Would I make it through? How would I react to some of the things that happened? With one storm, so many things were lost – It really makes you appreciate what you have in life.
The secondary storyline with Jemma’s sister was heart-breaking. It was very difficult to read those sections, but it was also necessary to the story. Also, the Patrick storyline. Jemma needed him in her life to see that she was truly destined to be with Ryder. But the way Patrick’s storyline wrapped up… I NEVER expected that. It was such a shock, I still can’t believe it, even though it has been days since I read the book.
Overall, I adored Magnolia. It was a fantastic book with amazing characters and an interesting plot. I loved the anti-Romeo and Juliet concept. The storm was a fascinating way to bring Jemma and Ryder together, though it was scary to picture. I loved, loved, LOVED the end! It was both hilarious and perfect. Kristi Cook is an amazing writer and she’ll always be on my Auto-Buy list! I can’t recommend her books enough! If you haven’t read them, they’re a must!