- Title: Pretend with Me
- Author: Emily Mayer
- Where to buy: Amazon
- Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Southern Fiction
- Would I recommend: This is a light, enjoyable enemies-to-lovers romance with a side of dysfunctional family relationships and a little small-town Southern drama. I liked it!
One phone call was all it took to upend my entire life in completely unexpected ways.
Whoever said that you can’t go home again was a liar. After the senior year from hell, I had spent a decade trying to avoid Beacon Hill and its residents. My luck came to a sudden end after daddy had an incident with a rotted floor. In and out, I promised myself. I was just there to help my parents for a week or two tops.
Things in Beacon Hill hadn’t changed much since I’d been home last. Mama still worked at the hub of gossip known as Trixie’s, Mrs. Thomas still made the best chicken salad in all of Georgia, and my sister was still the devil in a pushup bra. And of course, the St. James family was still local royalty. Our very own version of the Kennedys.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, not only is my sister back in town after a failed modeling career, she’s also engaged to Macon St. James. The golden boy of Beacon Hill, and the star of every single one of my teenage fantasies.
The biggest surprise of all was Holden St. James. I thought he would be one of the villains in this story, but I was learning that I had been wrong about a lot of things. And Holden just might be worth coming home for….
Sutton Buchanan has her life in Savannah pretty much the way she likes it. She’s got her job, her friends, and her passel of guinea pigs. But when her mother calls to say her father has been injured on the job and will be laid up for a while, Sutton reluctantly heads back home to Beacon Hill. Back to help her parents and face her hateful sister, Sissy. Sissy has come back home after failing to make a splash in the modeling world, and she’s now engaged to marry Sutton’s teenage crush, Macon St. James.
Sutton would just as soon have a root canal with no anesthetic as spend time in the presence of either her sister or Holden St. James, Mason’s brother. As a teenager, she had the opportunity to hear what he and his family thought of her sister, her family, and it wasn’t flattering. When she’s thrown into regular contact with him for pre-wedding events, she finds herself fighting an unexpected attraction to him.
Having grown up in a small Southern town, I understand that there are some families that are like town royalty. They’re held in a certain awe. Even if Sutton’s family was comfortably middle-class or even upper middle-class, I can see how a family like the St. James family would be seen as a cut or two above, and interactions could be uneasy.
And I’ll tell you what, if I was Sutton Buchanan, I don’t know that I’d want to go back home, either. Sissy was a raging heifer who got her way about EVERYTHING. I grew up in a small Southern town. I’ve known people like that. They get what they want, when they want, and they don’t care who they trample in the process. And mom and dad apparently just let Sissy run roughshod over whoever she wants, including her own sister. I know that sometimes parents favor one child, but my heart really hurt for Sutton. Her parents loved her, sure, but a love that won’t protect you from a horrible sibling seems anemic at best.
And nobody seemed willing to rein Sissy in! Not her parents, not her fiance, nobody. The descriptions of wedding dress shopping had me alternately laughing and rolling my eyes. If I’d picked out some of those dresses like Sissy was eyeballing, my mama would have yanked a knot in my head and told me absolutely not.
Maxine was one of my most favorite characters in the book! She is the epitome of ride or die. She wanted to see Sutton happy, and she wasn’t above pulling some outrageous shenanigans to make Sutton’s wedding responsibilities a little less painful. Everybody needs a Maxine in their life.
Holden St. James was also a nice surprise. Sutton had what she thought was a legitimate reason to dislike him and his family (although Macon never seemed to be painted with that same brush, which was a little surprising). Even when Sutton seemed to be going out of her way to hold the past against him, Holden was a gentleman. As the story progressed, it became clear that he cared for her, and I was cheering for Sutton to get over herself and admit her feelings. Neither Holden nor Macon turned out to be what Sutton thought they were!
I’ll admit, as I read, I kept waiting for one of those rom-com twists where there’s a horrible misunderstanding, the newly fledged relationship is derailed, and boy has to fight to win girl back (or vice versa). And I thought I saw it coming. But Emily Mayer twisted the twist, and I was thrilled to see it. Sutton found her own inner Southern steel magnolia and put her foot down. Huzzah!
If you love a small-town Southern setting and a fun enemies-to-lovers romance with a side of dysfunctional family, you’ll enjoy Pretend with Me!
Read on for an excerpt, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks to AME for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Once he was all settled, I got into the front seat and took a fortifying drink of my coffee.
“Okay, big guy, let’s set some ground rules for this drive.” I met his narrowed gaze in the mirror and smiled widely. “I don’t want to hear one single word about where my hands are on the wheel, the speed limit, the space between cars, or motion sickness. Got it?”
“Sutton Louise Buchanan, I was there for the day you took your first breath and I can — ”
“Good enough.” I turned the engine on and put the truck in reverse. “Why are you working on a Saturday anyway?”
“I want to make sure my crew stays on schedule while I’m laid up.” Daddy leaned forward and reached between the seats to grab his coffee. “It’s a real big job so I don’t want to fall behind right out of the gate if it can be helped.”
I nodded. “Makes sense. Where are we headed?” I came to a stop at the sign just at the end of our street.
“To the old Bradford place.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise as I turned the truck in the right direction, memory taking over. The old farmhouse had originally been built in the mid-1800s and had been renovated sporadically until the owners abandoned it in the 1980s. It was a beautiful old house — or it had been — with big porches and a sunroom that had been added on at some point. Something about that house had always called to me. I’d daydreamed about being the one to finally breathe life back into it, restore it to its former glory. Of course, all that was before Sissy had made staying here seem impossible.
There were always lots of rumors circulating about why the Bradfords had abruptly moved away after living and farming on the land for centuries, but no one really knew the reason. Beacon Hill loved its gossip. A local favorite was that one of the Mr. Bradfords had killed his entire family, and their ghosts haunted the house. Every Halloween, high schoolers would break in and try to spend the night inside. I had never been invited.
“Someone finally bought that old place?”
“Sure did, and it’s a total gut job. There were structural issues.” Daddy sounded practically gleeful at the prospect. I pictured dollar signs floating around his head like little cartoon hearts.
“I’m really happy to see that house get the love it deserves, but whoever bought it either has too much money or is an idiot.”
Daddy was silent, his fingers playing a rhythm on his Thermos.
“Well, I’d say it’s probably the former.” Daddy paused. “I don’t think anyone can call Holden St. James an idiot.”
“What?” I screeched, whipping my head around to look at him and jerking the steering wheel in the process, causing us to briefly veer off the road and onto the shoulder.
“Eyes on the road, Sutton!” Daddy yelled, bracing himself. “Jesus remember me, how many times can a man almost die in one week?”
Car in the proper lane, I took a deep breath.
“Did you just say Holden St. James bought the old Bradford place?”
“If I answer that question, are you going to be able to maintain control of the vehicle?”
I rolled my eyes, but kept them facing forward — both for safety and so Daddy wouldn’t see it.
“You’re getting dramatic in your old age. I was just surprised. It doesn’t seem like someplace Holden St. James would be interested in living. I pictured him in a sterile, ultra-modern penthouse where every single piece of furniture makes a statement and is uncomfortable.”
“Think highly of the boy, do you?” Daddy drawled, his voice thick with sarcasm.
I shrugged, reaching for my coffee. Daddy cleared his throat pointedly, and I immediately returned my hand to the wheel.
“I’d be a better driver if I was fully caffeinated,” I mumbled. “Oh! I bet he’s going to flip it. That makes sense. The property value on that place will probably be insane once you’re done with the renovation, especially with all the land it sits on.”
About the author:
Emily Mayer is a part-time lawyer, full- time storyteller, and an aspiring writer. She lives in Central Ohio with the two loves of her life: her husband and her dog. If she isn’t working, you can usually find her somewhere with a book in her hand.