Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Okay, so I have to preface this review with the acknowledgment that I did not read the first book in the series: Southern Chance. It’s currently sitting in my Kindle Library, and I have every intention of reading it because, while these are a series of standalones, jumping into Natasha Madison’s Southern Comfort found me rushing to catch up. I note this because, if you are like me and picking up Southern Comfort without having read Southern Chance, you might find yourself a bit in the dark about the story. It is possible to quickly understand the background of these characters and their relationships BUT the entire time I was reading my ARC of Southern Comfort I felt as though I had missed out. That I was that person who had just joined a new friend group with a history that I didn’t yet fully know. To Madison’s credit, I easily understand the history. It didn’t take me long into her story, but I was missing an initial dynamic between the hero and heroine of this story: Casey and Olivia.
Now, you should know that you jump right into the action of Casey and Olivia’s story. From its start, this book is a fast-paced romantic suspense best friend’s brother’s story. The action begins right at the beginning, grabbing your attention and pulling you through its adventure. It’s clear that Casey and Olivia have a chemistry that exudes from the page. However, these two self-sabotage to the ultimate degree. Casey, a billionaire cowboy, tells us multiple times that he has no interest in getting married and having children. It’s not in the cards for him, even though he owns a home and farm that is made for a family. Herein lies the biggest issue with Southern Comfort: there are some inconsistencies in the story-telling. Casey’s spurning of a marriage and family when his life is made for that feels like a big leap. Yes, he’s a billionaire. Yes, his life is incredibly busy. Yet, his background and choices indicate a man who will, in fact, marry and have children. That he takes most of the story to realize that truth, especially when his heart screams for Olivia, feels meant to manipulate Madison’s readers. Every story requires tension, some inciting incident that pulls the hero and heroine away from each other. However, that tension should feel organic to their journey. This is where my lack of knowledge from not having read Southern Chance could be undermining my reading of Southern Comfort. I’ll have to read that book to find out. What I do know is that Casey is a persistent, stalwart, masculine, alpha-male. He clearly adores Olivia based on his care for her. He’s the archetypal romantic hero who readers love. He will literally lay down his life for his heroine. His inconsistency in actually choosing her is the issue at hand in Madison’s story.
The other inconsistency is Olivia. Now, this story is, beyond billionaire, best friend’s brother story, a romantic suspense. Someone is trying to kill Olivia. At every turn, this person comes very close to completing his mission. And yet, Olivia tells us that she is bored and wants to go out. She isn’t safe, even on the farm of a security guru such as Casey. I found myself confused. Casey agrees to take her to the local bar where, thankfully, nothing happens to her, but this moment illustrates a glaring issue with the story: how is her attacker able to get to her on Casey’s farm which has the highest levels of security, yet nothing happens at the bar? Even more, why couldn’t Olivia just “suck it up” and stay where it was safest? Additionally, Olivia threatens to leave on multiple occasions because she believes she is taking advantage of Casey’s family and putting them in danger even though they constantly show her their love for her. Madison is careful to develop Olivia’s psychology and background, specifically her mother’s verbal and emotional abuse of her, and this allows us to accept Olivia’s want to run. However, Casey’s family is vastly different from her own, and it felt a bit contrived for her to want to go home. These are really the only issues with Madison’s book.
What is lovely about Southern Comfort is its slow-burn towards romance. It’s clear from the start that Casey and Olivia are suited to each other. Madison carefully teases our emotions pushing these two together and then pulling them apart. In doing so, she builds their chemistry to a degree that requires them to eventually consummate it. When they finally do, it’s explosive. This seeks to underscore the action of the story, as Olivia’s life is regularly in danger. Casey must use his resources and his love for her to protect her from this danger.
There is so much in Natasha Madison’s Southern Comfort, and she leaves her readers with both a magical happy ending and a compelling cliffhanger. While there are aspects of her story that could require more attention, I know that I will be reading the next book of the series, Southern Storm. As a writer, Madison clearly sees her universe, and she’s apt to create it for her readers. As she crafts her world, she draws us into this sultry small town where love is found for anyone who chases it.
In love and romance,