Reviewed by Tori
“How come your kissing mommy?”
“I love her…is that okay?”
“Nuh-uh. She’s married to my daddy.”
“But your daddy kisses Dr. Declan, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, but that’s different. They’re both boys […] See, if mommy gets someone new, it has to be a girl, that’s all. Sorry man, I don’t make the rules.”
An impulsive decision made years ago left Andi married and a mother at a young age. Older and wiser, Andi finally has the chance to leave the small town of Bitterroot, TX and pursue her dreams of becoming a singer, but unless she deals with the past and her own mistakes, she will never get past the town limits.
Malcolm Colton still harbors guilt over what happened. He never meant to hurt Andi but she was too young for him back then and by the time he saw what she was doing, it was too late. When he is hired by her father, any chance he might have had is lost. This time though, things will be different. He’s going to make sure of it. He and Andi are older now and he’s ready to explore the attraction between them, but he’s going to need a lot more than luck and love if he wants Andi to give him a second chance.
Honky Tonk Hellion is the first in a new series by Z.A. Maxfield. A spin off the My Cowboy series, this book continues the story from My Cowboy Promises, branching out and adding to it. Though you don’t have to read My Cowboy Promises to appreciate what is happening in here, I would recommend it. There is a lot of unspoken tension and various dynamics playing out that may not make sense if you aren’t privy to where they are coming from. The first person dual narrative doesn’t help. Maxfield does use Andi and Malcolm’s memories to give readers a low key recap but at times I couldn’t help but feel I was missing things.
Emotionally bittersweet with indulgent flashes of charm, wit, and sorrow, this second chance romance explores all the different definitions of love, family, and relationships. Two families in similar circumstances discover the will to move past the comfortable and secure to forge their own destinies-some with blessing and some with anger. Forgiveness and redemption cast a long shadow as Andi, Malcolm, Truman, and Lorelai all learn that sometimes in order to move forward, you have to be strong enough to let go of the past. Though a romance at heart, Maxfield engages in some social commentary as she speaks of the homophobia that is embedded in this little southern town and those who choose to fight against it.
“In Mr. Evans’s hierarchy of crime, lighting people’s porches on fire beats sexual shenanigans, and he’s prepared to ‘defend our right to be freaks anyway, because we’re (gosh danged) Americans, is what.'”
Though it took me a little while to connect with the flow of the narrative, I was soon caught up in this soap opera style drama and falling in love with these delightfully flawed characters. Andi Chandler-Dent hasn’t had it easy. Abandoned by her mother and raised by her tyrannical father, she looked for love in all the wrong places and soon found herself a mother at age 15. When she tells the father, he insists she get rid of it. Instead, she marries her best friend, Ryder, who is gay, declares him the legal father, and they raise baby Jonas together. Ryder eventually falls in love with the local doctor, Declan, and soon all of them pile into Declan’s home as one big happy family.
“I wave, and my odd little family waves back from the porch. My husband, his boyfriend, our son, and the dragon, Marge.”
I loved Andi. She is a fantastic combination of vulnerability and strength with a hefty dose of mother’s wisdom. Condemned by the town for her wild ways, her marriage to Ryder and the addition of Declan to their little family has marked them all for the worse. Ready to start the career she put off to be a mother, she is torn between her wants and her needs. Malcolm re-entering her life is an added pressure she doesn’t want. She loved him for so long but his repeated rejections created a wall between them that she is not ready to knock down.
I was prepared to hate Malcolm but you really can’t. He tries so hard to make up for what he did in the past though technically, he really didn’t do anything wrong. A former and really bad rodeo rider turned lawyer, he did what he felt was right by Andi so many years ago. Their age difference (22 to her 15) was not acceptable and he knew it. He never expected her to go after one of his best friends. He also never expected that friend to sleep with her so he blames himself for not stopping her. Add in his work for her dad and he can’t seem to catch a break with her. In an effort to make up for all the pain he has caused her, he arranges for his best friend, Truman King, the famous country singer, to come hear her sing.
“I keep getting involved in Andi Chandler’s affairs from the wrong side of the looking glass and now…I can’t stop.”
As Malcolm and Andi begin to work on healing, Maxfield introduces us to Kevin Braeden and his wife, Laurleen. This is really where the story really picks up and gets interesting. So much tension and anger in this little family. Kevin loves Truman and Laurleen and they all live together but he refuses to let them out of the closet. Andi’s arrival in Atlanta to record with Truman forces them all, her included, to take a good hard look at their lives and hearts. While Maxfield doesn’t really confirm or deny, there are clues towards emotional and physical abuse on Kevin’s end towards both Truman and Laurleen. I loved that Andi speaks her mind and doesn’t allow any of them to intimidate her.
“Own your shit. Take pride in it. Take care of it or you will lose it.”
“I’m supposed to care what because some entitled strangers want to know everything about my-”
“You’re supposed to care because you’re hurting two people who love you.”
The ending is a heartfelt affair as the very foundations of these two families are rocked by change. Difficult choices are made and new paths forged. Familiar faces from books four and five of The Cowboys series drift in and we are able to see how their lives are going. We are left with the knowledge that Andi and Malcolm have found their HFN and I can’t wait to see what Maxfield has in store for Laurleen, Truman, and Kevin.
**edited to correct child’s name from Josh to Jonas. My mistake**