This book was, for me, a jumble of contradictions, and it left me not liking either character. On the plus side, the characters like each other.
Natalie is an ad exec in New York, and she is a city girl through and through: she spends thousands of dollars on fancy shoes, she brunches with her parents, and delivery boys know her by name. She’s also a master at picking up men, and she loves casual sex. She learned that men love a confident woman, so she puts her size-eighteen body in clothes that show off her curves and cleavage, and she doesn’t apologize for taking up space. She has a crush on the hunky cheese maker at the farmer’s market, and she gets tongue-tied in his presence.
Natalie also has inexplicable fantasies about living in the country. Her fantasies are unrealistic and she never thinks about how playing farmer would be a 180-degree life change.
So, Natalie designs a campaign for a small town upstate, the town where her best friend happens to live and where Oscar the cheesemaker also happens to live. She packs up her snakeskin peep-toed sandals and her jumpsuit and heads to the country. After an embarrassingly speechless introduction, Natalie finds her confidence and tells Oscar all of the things she’d like to do with him, naked. Oscar is a fan of this. Her $2,200 leather thigh-hi boots get ruined in the mud, but she doesn’t care, and that’s where I cried a little.
I’m going to jump to the things that I didn’t understand. Oscar is friends with his ex, and Natalie is crazy jealous about it. Oscar doesn’t think the jealousy is a bad thing, and he makes no effort to ask either woman to respect relationship boundaries. The majority of their time together is spent on the weekends where Oscar lives, so Natalie is pretty much on vacation and Oscar doesn’t have to make any accommodations to be with her. He shows zero interest in her life or job in the city.
When he spends the weekend with her and goes to an art show, he is openly rude and disrespectful to her friends and colleagues. I expected a huge grovel after his, and I was excited for Oscar to do something to pursue Natalie, instead of sitting back and waiting for her to visit. But there was no grovel. He doesn’t apologize, and Natalie agrees that many of her friends are pretentious, thus justifying Oscar’s bad behavior for him. What? Basically, Oscar is totally passive and he did not impress me at all.
The writing style is very fun and light-hearted. It’s all Natalie’s POV, and she has an inner soundtrack and makes lots of jokes. There are worse characters to spend time with. But, for all of her confidence — with men, with her job, with her body — she is impractical. Maybe I’m still crying about her ruined shoes. She and Oscar have lots of sex together, but as I said, it’s mostly vacation sex. I didn’t get a sense that they had long-term relationship strategies, given that their lifestyles were so different. Clearly I did not get swept up in the romance. I could just be a grumpy old woman who doesn’t spend enough money on clothes, though.
*ARC provided by publisher
Click to purchase: Amazon
Cream of the Crop
by Alice Clayton
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books