Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Books With Love Hop - Giveaway - "The Pionner Woman" & "How to Knit a Heart Back Home"

Some girls have all the luck. Ree Drummond's depiction of her cowboy husband in The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels would make any female swoon. He is quite literally the perfect man, and yet totally believable in the role. Despite his wife's glowing characterization, the affectionately dubbed "Marlboro Man" still manages to come across as authentic and utterly likable. What seems to be a personality that is too good to be true is actually the genuine nature of a decent, respectable guy.

Ree is more critical of her own faults and short comings. She grew up as an American princess. Her backyard was the golf course of a country club. Her wardrobe was filled with designer clothes. When she moved back home after a break-up, she didn't have to worry about finding a job right away in order to support herself. Not to say that her life was completely devoid of anxiety, but she lived a life that was secure and protected. Her plan was to pick herself up, dust herself off and head to Chicago for a life filled with excitement and culture. That is until, she met Marlboro Man.

The two begin to form an intimate relationship that can rightly be called a courtship. On most evenings, Marlboro Man drives Ree to his ranch in his pick-up truck where they spend the time cooking dinner, watching movies and snuggling on the front porch under the stars. Ever the gentleman, Marlboro Man doesn't push things farther than long make-out sessions on his couch and makes sure Ree makes it home every night. But not before calling to wish her a good night with his deep baritone voice that never fails to send shivers down Ree's spine.

If Marlboro Man has an agenda, it is to make Ree his wife. Though not necessarily reluctant to spend the rest of her life with the man of her dreams, she begins to question her suitability in regards to his rural lifestyle. The quiet. The isolation. The manure. Can she really give up everything she's ever known and planned for in order to adapt to the rugged, physical existence of life on the farm?

The beauty of the narrative lies in Ree's transformation. She was always a good-hearted person - having patience with her special needs brother, trying to be there for both of her parents as they go through a painful divorce - but she grows beyond the boundaries of her suburban mindset. It is as if she experiences a reawakening about what is really important in life versus what is just meaningless excess. The pure, unconditional love of Marlboro Man opens her eyes to a whole new host of possibilities now before her. It is beautiful to walk with Ree as she undergoes this transformation.

While in many ways a modern day fairy tale, the book is not all fluff. After their wedding, the couple comes to experience several back-to-back hardships that test their mettle right off the bat. Things do not begin to run as smoothly as during their dating days, but they come to rely on and support each other in a conjoined effort to face head-on whatever comes their way.

One wonders how the quiet, reserved nature of Marlboro Man feels about having his private moments with Ree captured in print for all to read. Does he truly feels comfortable sharing such intimate details with the world? However, he will no doubt feel the gratitude of every woman who picks up the book thanking God that a man like him truly exists.

Overall, women the world over will swoon for Marlboro Man.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond is available for $25.99 at and at


Do men find women who knit sexy? In today's looks-based culture, it seems more believable in the comforting world of fiction. Rachael Herron champions the idea in How to Knit a Heart Back Home. Lucy Harrison is the plain Jane heroine following in the footsteps of her late grandmother. From operating her financially strapped bookstore to habitually wearing her threadbare, hand-knitted sweater, Lucy willingly submerges her own identity in that of the deceased. Her life in the small coastal California town of Cypress Hollow is so quiet that the penultimate highlight of her romantic life occurred all the way back in high school with bad boy, Owen Bancroft. As the story begins, Owen is back home for the first time since their adolescent encounter. Needless to say, this sends Lucy into a tizzy.

depicts Owen's nostalgia as on par with Lucy's, yet throughout the narrative the concept rings false. First, Owen does not recognize Lucy when they see each other for the first time. He's had several romantic interludes with other women throughout the years, one even a few weeks before returning to Cypress Hollow. He certainly is not the romantic hero who has been pining away for Lucy all these years. Since his abrupt departure, he never made a single attempt to reconnect with her.

As they begin to develop a relationship, the basis of it seems purely physical on Owen's side. Again and again, his attraction to Lucy is, for the most part, based on satisfying his desire. While this may be gratifying to Lucy to some extent, she is thrown into a constant state of upheaval as they begin to get reacquainted with each other. The further Owen advances, the quicker she is to pull away, but not before he moves her another step closer to his ultimate fulfillment.

The descriptive details relating to the amorous scenes are a tad on the cheesy side. They are more appropriate to a romance novel with a Fabio emblazoned cover than a love story with a knitting/literary theme. The frequent mention of prophylactics puts the book more on par with being a poster child for a STD awareness campaign. Herron even has Lucy's mother walk in on the couple while in the act. This cringe-worthy moment is the very antithesis of what any romance reader wants to uncover in a love story. It gets even worse when instead of bolting from the room, she tries to carry on a conversation with the amorously intertwined couple.

The saving grace for knitters is wrapped up in the legendary status of Eliza Carpenter. The fictitious icon of knitters the world over has turned Cypress Hollow into a mecca for those wishing to click their needles in their idol's former place of residence. The drawing together of Lucy and Owen is based on the discovery of Eliza's unpublished patterns. The reason Owen is back is because of his guilt over his mother's dementia and having to place her in a nursing home. After selling Lucy boxes of his mother's old books, the valuable papers are uncovered. The opportunity to work together on the project forges their strengthening bond.

However, when Owen begins to see Lucy as more of a person than an object, he becomes quite overbearing. He wants her to quit being a volunteer firefighter/EMT in order to ensure her safety. Being a former cop, he draws his gun on Lucy's brother mistaking him for a burglar. He even investigates her past by snooping through her private documents. Only by asserting herself does Lucy come to gain equal footing in the relationship.

The believability of some points is questionable. Can Lucy really afford a house of her own when visitors only stop by her bookstore to use the restroom or help themselves to the free coffee? Would the town bombshell really prefer Lucy's ear flap hat wearing, barely communicative, younger brother to the dashingly handsome, Owen, who just happens to be her old high school flame? At times, a slip here or there is allowable, but when questionable details start to add up it begins to detract from the work as a whole.

Overall, through the power of a love story, a meek knitter/bookworm converts the town bad boy into a romantic, leading man.

How to Knit A Heart Back Home by Rachael Herron is available for $13.99 at and at

Review copies provided by New York Journal of Books.

Congratulations to our winner: Linda Henderson!


  1. Thanks for the giveaway! Great book choices! :)

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