Country Angel by Erin Trejo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
*** 3 Cranky Stars ***
The potential is there, but there were a few reasons I couldn't find a way to give it much more. Let's have a little overview of the basics before I really dig into it all.
Jules is a small town farm girl, dating the captain of the football team and singing karaoke on the edge of town every once in a while, but really has never had any dreams beyond that. Really smal town girl....such a small town girl that she has never been outside the boundaries of her small town, even to the next town over.
Knox is a mysterious stranger who settles on the farm next door to Julia's family. Her momma makes an apple pie to welcome him, and sends Jules to take it to him. Early on we get some info from his POV, of why he has run away to a farm in the middle of nowhere, from fame and fortune in LA. Not so subtle hints of tragedy and guilt hit in the intro and tease throughout most of the book.
Jules seems to know exactly where her life is headed in that she will marry the town hero; captain of the football team, good looking, smart enough (or athletic enough?) to earn a college scholarship, but turns it down, and be a farmer's wife, much like her mother, in the town she has lived her entire life in. Jules assumes he refuses the scholarship because he knows his place is home and farming, but it doesn't seem they have ever discussed this. Skimming back over the intro, she says her parents encouraged her to go to college and see the world, however the way we see her parents throughout the rest of the book makes me really question that. At one point Jules says she can't leave her mom to her father's abuse. However, as events come about presenting her the opportunity to hop on a plane and go across country, she does so without a second thought.
Knox has run away from the fame and fortune he had known as the singer for one of the most popular band's in the world after tragedy strikes leaving him the only remaining living member. Many moments of Knox's story are quite poignant, and even manage to bring a tear or two to this jaded reader's cynical eyes. His survivor's guilt is really well written.
Jules loves to sing and write songs, but is scared to sing in public. But all-American hero boyfriend takes her to the edge of town to sing "karaoke" in a bar on the edge of town on a regular basis. The bar owner wants her there because he knows she will bring a crowd, and an older man from the "house band" plays backup for her - apparently her original songs, but I can't swear to that. Everything about this seems to be thrown together to further a plot line later in the book, and it seems we are supposed to suspend disbelief on so many things because it is such a small town.
I am currently a "big city" gal, and have been most of my life, but I have small town roots. I think one of my issues with the story is the way the small town is portrayed as so disconnected from the rest of the world. The "stranger" in town not being warmly welcomed by everyone is very believable, but not a single person recognizing this very famous singer who has been all over the news due to the tragic accident that killed everyone else in his band is a bit of a stretch for me.
The fact that Julia/Jules has never been even to the next town is even more unbelievable to me. Her amazing boyfriend never took her out to eat? What about away games for the football star? Did she only go to home games? Her parents never go out of their small town for anything? Even if just to get some supplies at a lower price? These things really don't sit well with me. One of my grandmother's never drove, and was from a town of 400, but she got out on a pretty regular basis, and into her 90's kept up with current events on the news and pretty much everyone else in town had internet. While many things about small towns rang true, such as everyone knowing your business, others just didn't and as I reflect back on the book that dichotomy really bothers me. I can't really go into the other side of this without delving too deeply into spoiler territory, but there is a great flip-flop to this that is made more unbelievable by the way the small town, and especially the small town heroine, are portrayed.
However there were parts of the story that truly touched me, beyond the rock star's tragedy and his struggle to acceptance and beyond. And though I couldn't relate to a number of things in the heroine's basic makeup, I still found myself getting caught up on her emotional roller coaster with Knox. There were incredibly sweet, touching and funny moments as Knox tries to become a farmer, and his friendship with a local boy was refreshing as well.
Many of the "townies" (my word) had great personalities, such as the 80 year old store owner, and the charming and wise Mrs. Masters. One particularly poignant quote from her led me to a personal connection: " You kids these days don’t realize the magnitude of a life. When you find that one special person you make it work no matter what.” Mrs. Masters picks her box up and stands, heading inside. I watch as she walks away with her memories. I want those memories and I want them with Jules." Mrs. Masters is absolutely adorable and she reminds me of my other grandma. My cousin's wife recently told me a story the of the first time she met my grandma. Her now husband was bringing her "home" for the first time so all the aunts and cousins and such could have a bridal shower for her. As they are driving down main street, Jan watches the tiniest little old lady park her car and walk across the street, with a bright purple t-shirt and big hat to go with her big smile. Jan tells her then fiance, "Oh isn't she the cutest thing?" and Bob tells her, "That's Aunt Edna." This kind of small town connection I can absolutely relate to, and there were many of those kinds of moments. I am just not sure that they outweigh the ones that I can't wrap my head around.
I almost hate to mention that I also found numerous spelling and grammatical errors in this, to the point of distraction. There were also many moments of "head hopping" - going from one character's point of view to another without clarifying the change.
I would really like to rate this book higher, because as I said at the start of the review, the story has a lot of potential. If the author would ever choose to re-edit and rework it a bit, I would be happy to reread it and reconsider my rating and review.
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