This post contains reviews of the currently available books in the Licking Thicket series:
- Flakes (#0.5)
- Fakers (#1)
- Liars (#2)
- Fools (#3)
Flakes (Book 0.5)
This novella blends onscreen sparks and sexiness with a narrative that provides the necessary context for the current relationship (or lack thereof) status of the two main characters. Ryder and Colin have walked the knife’s edge of unfulfilled attraction for years, and both men had ample reason to resist. It’s not like things have changed now, but that those reasons suddenly seem less important in the face of a surprise snowstorm and forced proximity. This peek into one night between the two men is also an excellent look at the overall dynamics of the town they live in, even without the epilogue that throws multiple future characters at the reader.
Pet peeve: White skin is, unfortunately, still the assumed default in fiction, and the authors make multiple references to Colin’s skin tone without also doing the same for Ryder. This is far from a complaint about forced diversity, and I do applaud how Lennox and Archer never resort to forced exoticism in their description (no food references here!). However, the imbalance jarred me out of the story every time and is an unconscious bias I wish authors would be more aware of.
Fakers (Book 2)
Licking Thicket comes further to life in the series’ first full-length novel that delves into the events hinted at in the prequel novella’s epilogue. The situation is not as confusing as that epilogue made it out to be, even though the fake boyfriend shenanigans are definitely out in full force. The resulting relationships that occur are obvious from a mile away, but Lennox and Archer form them out of dynamic primary and secondary characters that are sweet and hilarious. It would have been so easy for the authors to use small-town cliches to fill out their cast, especially considering the sheer ridiculousness of the town festival that is the primary point of the plot.
However, the main heroes do spell it out at one point: Licking Thicket might be a bit of a joke, but all the residents are in on it. Despite the vast amount of accidental sexual innuendo that abounds, the true humor of the story comes from the various character interactions that stem from love rather than malice. And throughout it all, Brooks and Mal indulge in the spark between them without setting up the partners in their “fake” relationships for negative repercussions.
The story sets up the expectation that everything will work out at the end of the festival, and the characters will live happily ever after. The dark moment is a bit darker (though not unnecessarily angsty), but that merely sets up better satisfaction with the actual happily ever after.
I’m pleased that I have more books to read in this setting because I may not be a small-town girl, but this series is definitely small-town good.
Liars (Book 2)
Things I loved about this book: The continuing escapades of that wacky small town, Licking Thicket, including appearances by characters from previous installments of this series. I also quickly fell in love with Diesel Church and his quiet competence, even as his life is thrown awry when he decides to fight for custody of his infant niece. He accidentally wrangles Parrish into helping him achieve that goal, and the immediate attraction between them evolves into friendship and then love in a sweet, humorous romance. Except…
Things I did not love about this book: Basically everything about Parrish Partridge. Luckily, Lennox and Archer are talented enough writers that I enjoyed his point-of-view scenes for the writing even when I wanted to roll my eyes at all of his ridiculous antics. He hides his terrible entitled attitude behind a veneer of “oh shucks” humor that grated at me like nails on a chalkboard. He does his best to help Diesel because he genuinely cares about the baby and knows she’ll be better off with her uncle, but there are multiple occasions where he runs roughshod over what Diesel actually wants.
I’d have abandoned this book if it weren’t for the above-mentioned elements I did love about this book. I’m also already invested in the shenanigans between a certain potential relationship featured in the next book in the series, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of that entertaining backstory. In short, it is a credit to how well the authors have developed this overall series that I finished this book, even though it starred a character I wanted to drop-kick into the nearest chicken coop.
Fools (Book 3)
Despite my vague disinterest in the previous book due to one of the main characters, I kept reading because I didn’t want to miss a single bit of the backstory between the next two heroes in this series. Once I read their own story, I was not disappointed. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book, and I learned that while crying makes reading on an elliptical difficult, laughing makes it dangerous to one’s health.
It’s obvious to everyone around them that Dunn and Tucker are meant to be together. Alas, they are content to be best friends because Dunn is straight and Tucker is unwilling to risk their friendship. Some moments in this book verge awfully close to “gay for you” territory, except Dunn is a straightforward enough guy to recognize that he wants what he wants, and if certain things make more sense in retrospect, he’s not going to be too upset about it. In contrast, Tucker has lived the gay experience in Tennessee for most of his life, and he’s determined to do anything to prevent Dunn from getting hurt, even if it means stalling their relationship.
Tucker forgot, however, that this is Licking Thicket, which continues to be as much of a character in this book as any of the actual people. It may be too ridiculous to be realistic, but who cares? Romance is already a form of escapism, and if that means I get to enjoy my romance story in a vaguely idealized world, so be it. I hope others find this series, and especially this book, to be as adorable and entertaining as I did.
I look forward to the additional titles in this series teased by Lennox on her social media. I’m definitely already interested in the spin-off series featuring a certain cardiologist.