Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Jackson James, I didn’t know you had it in you. Okay, let’s be honest. Jackson James has had a fraught existence in the Penny Reid world of romance. From his early years of sherriffing when he lived to pull over the Winston boys to his various dalliances earning him a playboy reputation, there are times when Jackson James hasn’t been anyone’s favorite person. Until now.
Penny Reid’s newest story, Totally Folked, is everything you ever wanted to know about Jackson James. By the time this book ends, you will ADORE him as he falls in love with Raquel Ezra, Hollywood A-lister. Do you need to read the whole of the Penny Reid universe to read Totally Folked? Not at all. However, it makes for more interesting reading because you encounter the Winstons and their loves.
For me, Totally Folked is a sister story to Penny Reid’s Grin and Beard It, Jethro and Sienna Diaz’s story. While their stories are very different, there are parallels between them. I find this interesting because Jethro and Jackson James aren’t the other’s favorite person. Yet, Jethro and Jackson share the experience of falling for and loving a Hollywood hot commodity, and this creates issues for their relationships. In fact, one of my favorite parts of Totally Folked is the connection that grows between Jethro and Jackson because of this parallel. Reid adds in a bit of Cletus to the mix, and you find the Penny Reid magic that you expect from her stories.
So what is truly special about this book? Its messages. Raquel struggles with authenticity. She’s lived a life that has been constructed for her Hollywood persona, but it’s left her empty, wanting more. She has no real friends, and she returns to Green Valley to find something that she knows is missing. Through her connection with Jackson and Sienna Diaz, she finds herself, and she stands in her truth. The power of that message is necessary in our own world where everything feels constructed for social media. Reid seems to be admonishing us to live our most authentic lives. However, as Sienna tells Raquel, we all have to fake it sometimes, yet staying as true to ourselves as possible is key.
And Jackson, forever living in the shadow of his father’s renown, has struggled to find his space. In fact, he tells us in Totally Folked that everything good in his life has come from work, so he believes his relationship with Rae (Raquel) can’t be good because it’s easy and fun. As the story progresses and Jackson realizes his growing love for Rae, he has to decide if he can embrace vulnerability (this is actually the case for both of them) or if he will have to walk away. Again, Penny Reid’s focus on the vulnerability in loving relationships feels important for us to read.
Penny Reid’s Totally Folked is everything you love about her stories. She mixes touches of small-town living with humor and the gravity of living and loving. When you finish her story, you can’t help but want more stories from her because she entertains you while she challenges you to be a better human being.
In love and romance,