Monday, April 11, 2011

Sweet Carolina Girls by R.E. Bradshaw

Book:  Sweet Carolina Girls
Author:  R.E. Bradshaw
Publisher:  Blue Crab Publishing

I love getting email, especially from my readers, so I did a funky little box-step, box-step, shuffle, shuffle . . . unghhhk [stand up quickly, look around to see if anyone noticed me falling on my ass, brush myself off], fist pump, fist pump, "yeah!", when I got my first bonafide request for a review.

Pffffft, I'm having fun, here!

From the fingertips of the Lust Lizard of Zoom Zoom, "Warm sun, green grass, light breeze on your face.  That means it's softball season.  How about some R.E. Bradshaw?"

Well, Ms. Lizard, excellent point!

I strolled over to my electronic bookshelf, pulled out Sweet Carolina Girls, and blew the dust off it's little pixilated cover just for you.

Sweet Carolina Girls hit the shelves in mid-2010.  It's the story of Harper Lynch, a 23-year old Okie pursuing a Ph.D., who's recently immigrated to North Carolina to work on a big grant project.  While she's somewhat familiar with the area and has an elderly grandmother a few hours up the road, she's on her own.  Of course, this is familiar territory for Harper, since she was orphaned by a drunk driver as a teen.  Shortly after arriving in Kerrville, Harper wanders into the Tarr Barr, meets it's softball loving owner, and gets an invitation to play on her team.   Excited about the opportunity to play the game she loves, Harper shows up at the first team meeting, and meets the women she will come to love and hate.  The ladies on the team are a diverse family:  young, old, married, single, happy, angry, shy, black, white, Latina, gay, and straight.  Ooh, and beautiful.

The last one would be Lauren Zachary.  Lauren is "happily" married to Dr. Shelby West, who just happens to work in the same department as Harper. Sparks fly immediately between Lauren and Harper.  Both girls try to resist the pull, and their teammates try to warn them off.  But we soon find that Lauren and Shelby are navigating rough seas, and all isn't well in the Zachary-West household.  Lauren finds the strength to assert her independence, tries to resist the supersonic pull of Harper, then flings herself into the arms of the woman that very well may be the love of her life.  But, Shelby isn't ready to give up on Lauren, and a life-altering struggle that affects everyone on and everything about the team ensues.

First off, I have to give a hearty back thump to Ms. Bradshaw for the goofy golden retriever and Pat Summit.  These are two of my favorite things . . .

Okay, now on to the discussion.

This book used a couple of worn out plot conventions that usually make my left eye twitch:  (1)  Parents die in a fiery crash; and (2)  One or more of the main characters are independently wealthy / smart / talented / athletic / stunning [in this case, all of the above].

But, and a big 'but' at that, my left eye failed to twitch once throughout this book.  The reason is fairly simple - the author took the time and effort to construct a complex story and embed them firmly and logically within it, instead of using these devices simply as an excuse to explain why a character is distant and unable to form attachments easily; or because the the plot wasn't solid enough to hold up to a character that wasn't amazing on some level.   More specifically, drunk driving and it's real and potential consequences play an important role throughout the book.  And, the fact that Harper and Lauren connect on so many levels means that their physical attraction is bolstered and reaffirmed in a way neither has experienced before.

The book also introduced us to an entire softball team, as well as their spouses.  This, in itself, could have gotten messy and out of hand very easily.  But, it didn't.  The secondary characters had distinct names, distinct personalities, and distinct roles.  On a few occasions, I had to thumb back to try to remember who someone was, but it really wasn't that bad.

Thank God!  I usually find myself skipping forward if it gets too messy or tedious.

Overall, I thought the story was very well constructed, the characters were solid and memorable, and only a few teeny tiny leaps of faith made it through the final edit.

Really, Harper JUST happened to have a copy of the software the State Police uses to reconstruct accidents?  M'kay.

As I sit back, and go through the story in my head, I'm actually hard pressed to find much wrong with the book.  A few little things like the software gimmick smacked of the word "convenient", but most all the other parts were well done.

How about the fact that the book was constructed around a softball team, and they actually practiced AND played games?  How about the inconvenience that the dogs barked, peed, drooled, had messy paws, and didn't like being left along for long periods of time?  Then some of our characters said the wrong thing at the wrong time . . . not out of spite or stupidity, but just because it slipped out?

Been there, done that, almost been strangled by the t-shirt . . . 

Seriously, authors whisking past these smaller details within the story . . . that's precisely the kind of thing that drives me crazy when I read the darn thing.

Now, if I have to have one really bad thing to say, it's this:  It drove me nuts that the word "passed" was used instead of "past" on at least three occasions.  Now, admittedly, I am using an e-reader, so it could have been a product of the translation, but I was starting to feel the first subtle tugs of an eye twitch.

Ooh, and if I have to have a second bad thing to say it's that Harper sort of 'felt' like a superbly-integrated soft butch.  Trust me when I say:  Sherri Coale isn't a soft butch [even though she could easily kick my sorry little butt], and Soft Butch doesn't wear Jimmy Choo!

Now I feel better about rolling the whole thing up:

This was my second reading of Sweet Carolina Girls.  I liked it as much the second time through, if not a little better.  As I mentioned before, the story was well constructed, it had a plausible beginning, middle, and end, the characters held up well in their roles, and I wouldn't keep harping about worn-out plot devices if they were all used as well as they were in this book.

I'm pretty sure I've read all of Ms. Bradshaw's books at this point, and this is my favorite so far.  To me, it's always telling if I get mad when a book ends - because I don't want it to be the end of the characters.  Well, I'm still a little ticked off, so you know Sweet Carolina Girls is a keeper.

On the Rainbow Scale, I'll give it a 5.2 out of 6, but mostly because I'm still steaming that it ended.


  1. I'm glad R.E. Bradshaw linked this review, because it introduced me to your blog! I can't believe it's taken me this long to find it. I'm following it now, and you've been linked at the Lesbrary in the sidebar.

  2. Hey, Ms. Lesbary!

    Welcome to the Revolution!

    Glad you stopped by for a few minutes.

    I just got my hot little hands on Waking Up Gray, and can't wait to find a little time to stroke out my next review. Ms. Bradshaw is on a hot little roll, and her growth as an author is evident with each new pub. Come back later in the week, and I should have the new book up. Oorah!!

  3. My daughter and I were introduced to Choo Choo Soul through the Disney Channel. She would ask the see the music videos again and again. It really got her dancing.

  4. Espana - thanks for stopping by TRR. I bet it was really cute to see your little girl dancing with Choo Choo Soul!