Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Entering Jessica Peterson’s Southern Bombshell is like tiptoeing into your parents’ house when you don’t want to get caught for staying out past your curfew. You do it with trepidation because you never know what you’re going to encounter. If you’ve spent any time in Peterson’s North Carolina Highlands series, then you have been introduced to her heroine of Southern Bombshell, Milly. You already know that she has been the impetus in the other books of this series for helping her brothers find love, helping them “see” the reality of a situation with all of her ball-busting moxie. You should also be familiar with Nate Kingsley, the oldest son of the family considered the enemy of the Beauregards. This is the Hatfields and McCoys of the North Carolina highlands. What happens when the next in line to the Kingsley whisky business falls for the princess (she really isn’t a princess…but she is the only female in the Beauregard family) of his family nemesis? Fireworks, combustion, the apocalypse? That’s where Peterson’s Southern Bombshell begins for her readers, and the tiptoe, the worry over their ability to find a happy ending, results in a story that captivates you until the very last page.
Southern Bombshell isn’t what you believe it to be. At least, that’s my read on it. I honestly went into this book already a little heartbroken. Peterson teases us with Milly and Nate in earlier stories, and we know going into this one that they have connected on some level and it hasn’t ended positively. We don’t know exactly the situation, but we know it’s softened or changed a usually fiery Milly. On reading the blurb for this story, your heart breaks further if you’ve been reading the other books because you find out that Nate is marrying….someone else, and they’ve asked the wedding planner extraordinaire, Milly, to plan their wedding. Cue broken glass sound for the feel of your heart breaking for Milly. So I entered Southern Bombshell already afraid of the journey ahead, and it was so very, very needless because Jessica Peterson flexes her immense writing muscle, and she crafts a story that, believe it or not, doesn’t have equivalent angst to her brothers’ stories. Honestly. What Southern Bombshell creates is an adoration for one Nate Kingsley. Milly who usually steals every scene she’s in cannot, in my opinion, compete with the deliciousness of Nate Kingsley, and it’s glorious.
Like any of her other romances, Jessica Peterson is intentional with her message here, and like her other books, she has two. One is female positive: she reminds us that women oftentimes believe in “doing” as a representation of achievement. She writes,” I think we put a lot more pressure on women than we do on men to have it together. To keep everyone else happy and put everyone else first and make sure things run smoothly, even if it makes us miserable in the process. […] She’d rather die than disappoint the people she loves.” And this truth’s arrow hit my soul because Peterson is right. She uses the character of Milly to illustrate this, and it takes the peace wrought by Nate, their yin and yang symbiosis, to help her slow down and appreciate the moment without the cost of herself. And that, friends, is an important truth.
Milly teaches Nate another important truth of Jessica Peterson’s story: that setting boundaries as protection from people who seek to harm us is okay. When those same people forge past those boundaries, we can choose to walk away without guilt. This message is where I fell head over heels with Nate. Of the stories in this series, the men are incredibly masculine in all ways, and Peterson creates Nate with an empathic spirit. He sees and provides for Milly in a manner that others cannot. The beauty of this book is his struggle with the almost masculine need to take care of his toxic family at the expense of himself and a more contented future. There is much to love about him: he reads, he’s industrious, he’s careful, and he’s thoughtful. Together, Milly and Nate become an emotional powerhouse in the Beauregard and Kingsley families, and it feels different from the former stories of this series.
If you haven’t grabbed any of Jessica Peterson’s North Carolina Highlands series, start now. If you want to start with Southern Bombshell, you can. Each book has been designed to be standalone, but you will miss out on the richness of the rest of the series before you hit the splendor of Peterson’s newest book. And this one ends so beautifully. Jessica Peterson absolutely surprised me with this one. I went into it, looking through my fingers as one does with a horror film, and I left it with a huge smile and tears of joy in my eyes.
In love and romance,