Thursday, April 22, 2021

Southern Sinner (North Carolina Highlands #3) by Jessica Peterson

* * * * *

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Until I brought my fake girlfriend home.

When I took a seat next to the gorgeous brunette at the blackjack table, I had no idea it would be the start of the hottest weekend of my life. By day, Stevie and I dominate the casinos of Sin City.

By night, I dominate her in my penthouse suite.

Then my brother Samuel ruins it by asking me to come home for his engagement party.

Because he’s not just getting married. This isn’t a normal celebration for me. His future bride is my "one who got away." The girl I may or may not still be in love with.

The catch? He wants me to prove I’m over his fiancée before they set a date. So I ask Stevie to double down on our chemistry and pretend to be my girlfriend.

We set our ground rules: lots of sex, plenty of pretend smiles, and no strings.

But we’re not only gambling with the truth. We’re gambling with our hearts.

They say every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. But Stevie’s past may force us to fold on our future before it’s even begun.

Source: ARC provided in exchange for an honest review

Southern Sinner is an absolute winner for me. I adore this story of Hank who's been on a travel bender looking to get past his heartbreak and humiliation after being rejected (by his brother's girlfriend, though he didn't know they were together at the time), and Stevie who's newly single and ready to live it up. Hank and Stevie walk a different path to what I think is a happily for now for them. To make it simple, I've just listed my favorite takeaways from the story.

The good:

✔️ Younger guy, older woman dynamic 
✔️ Independent woman who declares aloud what she does and doesn’t want . Stevie wants the fun but not the hassle of a committed relationship as she’s recently finalized her divorce.
✔️ She’s an bad ass and successful entrepreneur 
✔️ Hank’s not intimidated by her ambition or success
✔️ He’s totally supportive of her aspirations
✔️ So many lovely and swoon-worthy references to Bridgerton
✔️ Close-knit family
✔️ Music - It plays a big part in their story. Stevie is named after the Stevie Nicks, after all. But it's also one of the most significant ways in which Stevie and Hank bond. There's a scene where they're composing a song together that to me is far more intimate than any of their sex scenes because they're speaking straight from the heart. It's raw, honest, vulnerable and it gave me the chills.
✔️ Steamy moments - Speaking of bonding ... it's Jessica Peterson so we know what we're in for and plenty of it!

Not so great:

✖️ Stevie’s self-doubting moments. She was terrified to let her guard down and that kept her inert. She stood in her own way and I understood where it all came from but I was still so frustrated on her behalf.
✖️ Close-knit family: the flip side.  I love the Beauregards but they bulldozed their way into Hank and Stevie’s business. That type of behavior makes me cringe no matter the story or the author, and I tend to have a visceral reaction to that.


➕ Hello, cliffhanger! Just drop that bomb on us and walk away, why don’t you, Jessica Peterson? 😉😆

If you’re in to the fake dating but falling for each other for real, long distance that complicates things, and overcoming some serious trust issues to get to that HFN/HEA, this is it! Hank and Stevie make a great couple. Hank, in particular, is one of the best romantic heroes I've read. He's considerate, secure, loves his family. He aims to be an equal partner which is exactly what Stevie was missing from her former marriage. The concept of equal partnership being so alien to her that she doesn't even recognize what Hank has been offering all along. I don't think people realize that they deserve that so I took great heart in seeing it come to fruition for someone like Stevie who carried all the guilt about her marriage failing.  

Southern Sinner is my favorite in the series so far and now I CAN NOT wait for Rhett's book because it sounds like it's going to be a doozy!

~ Bel

Here are the links to my reviews of the previous two books in the North Carolina Highlands series:

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