by Dakota Cassidy
Series: Plum Orchard #3
Published by Harlequin MIRA on June 24, 2014
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Shields up, sugar—things in Plum Orchard are about to get real.
Marybell Lyman is notorious for two things:
Her look. The wicked hairstyle, multiple piercings and practiced sneer that say: "Stay back—I bite."
Her voice. The syrupy lilt that's her bread and butter at Call Girls, the prim little town's flourishing phone-sex company.
Hunky handyman Taggart Hawthorn is mesmerized by the contradiction: such sweet tones inside such a spiky shell! He wants to know more about mysterious Marybell, to hear more of her sexy talk—all for himself.
But Tag's attentions, delicious as they are, have Marybell panicked. She's been hiding a long time. She's finally got a home, a job and friends she adores. She won't have it all snatched away by another stupid mistake—like falling in love. So when Marybell's past comes calling, she and the Call Girls will prove no one handles scandals like a Southern girl!
Talking After Midnight is the third book in Dakota Cassidy’s Plum Orchard series. Cassidy has mentioned that her inspiration for this series was the TV show “Hart of Dixie.” That influence is definitely apparent, from the small-town atmosphere to the group of mean girl characters to the heartfelt relationships that the people of the town have with each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Plum Orchard books. While it took me a little longer to warm up to Marybell, the heroine of this book, overall I enjoyed this latest installment as well. I should note that it’s much more enjoyable if you read the books in series order. The supporting characters are especially prominent in this plot.
Marybell is a woman of mystery who stands out like a sore thumb in the town of Plum Orchard. Her style is pure rebel, complete with colorful mohawk, multiple piercings and tattoos, and goth makeup. But don’t make assumptions from her appearance, because she’s an utter sweetheart, as her fellow Call Girls (of Plum Orchard’s phone sex company) know well.
But even though Marybell and the other Call Girls have become dear friends, there’s a huge secret that she has been keeping from them and everyone in the town. So things get really complicated when Marybell and handyman Tag Hawthorne start seeing each other. The relationship starts out casual (as relationships so often do in romance!) but the closer Marybell and Tag get, the more they both start to confide in each other. There are also elements of Marybell’s past and upbringing that she slowly reveals to Tag. In turn, Tag shares his past failures with Marybell. But even after they’re exclusive, Marybell is still holding back from fully trusting Tag.
This part of the story left me conflicted. On one hand, I understood why Marybell is so hesitant to reveal herself, to her friends but especially to Tag. Once the secret was finally revealed, I was pretty stunned. I listened to this on audio and at the big reveal, I gasped loudly while driving in my car. Maybe I should’ve seen the twist coming, but it was a surprise for me.
On the other hand, I just wanted Marybell to take a chance and be fully honest with Tag already, especially after he told her about his awful mistakes. So I could see both perspectives and while I was frustrated at first, I understood Marybell’s motivation later and this made me warm up to her more as a character.
Lastly, the ending was positively swoonworthy and I loved it so much.
I don’t listen to romance on audio very frequently because I’m super picky about narrators, but the narrator for this book, Scarlet Chase, does an excellent job. She uses distinct voices for each of the characters and has a very pleasant, expressive narrating voice.
As I mentioned, the supporting characters are a huge part of this story and I’m hoping that the third Hawthorne brother will get his own book. If so, I’ll definitely be continuing the series since I love Cassidy’s writing style.
Rating: 4 stars