We’re heading back to Whynot, NC, y’all! Pour yourself a swig of peach moonshine and sit back and relax with PRETTY AS A PEACH by Juliette Poe. Things are bloomin’ down in Whynot, and we not just talking about peach trees…
Mainer Farms is steeped in family history, but it’s also deep in debt from the effects of the ever-changing farming industry. Not about to let his family’s legacy go under, Colt Mancinkus is willing to do anything he can to save the farm.
Darby Culhane is the new farmer in Whynot, North Carolina, and she’s proving to be quite the forbidden temptation for Colt. Darby isn’t looking for anything but a fresh start, and she’s got it all figured out. Get settled in? Check. Apply for the rural county grant? Check. Confrontation with the steaming mad, smoking hot local farmer? Well, that wasn’t on the agenda.
As pretty as she is sweet, Colt can’t help but be drawn to Darby’s…peaches. No really, she’s a peach farmer. Get that mind out of the gutter, and get on down to the farm to see what happens when circumstances force Colt and Darby to team up. They may just find that the peach trees aren’t the only things in bloom.
** All books in the Sex & Sweet Tea series can be read as standalones, but if you’d like to start at the beginning, Ain’t He Precious? (Sex & Sweet Tea, Book #1) is #FREE for a limited time! **
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Small town romances are one of my favorite types of stories because the angst is low and there are plenty of laughs and heartwarming incidences to indulge in when it comes to the story line. AND, there’s no better place to experience all that small towns have to offer than Whynot, North Carolina. Not only do readers get to experience residents’ joys and horrors of living in a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but we also get to truly know the townspeople and one crazy and loving family in particular, the Mancinkus family.
Pretty as a Peach is Colt’s story with Whynot newcomer, Darby Culhane – a single mom vying for the same grant that Colt wants/needs to save his family’s farm and keep the legacy alive, which is a definite point of contention for the long-time resident and the newcomer. But it’s pretty obvious from their initial encounter that Darby and Colt are both dealing with contradictory feelings for one another…because as much as they seem to dislike each other, there are also indications that they want to get down and dirty with one another in the most delicious ways.
I love the fact that Juliette Poe usually pairs one of the residents of Whynot with a newcomer to the town who, at first glance, doesn’t seem to fit the town or the person they end up with, but as the story continues, it becomes crystal clear just how good these two would be together regardless of their differences or the extenuating circumstances that may pit them against each other.
Readers can’t help but wear a huge smile on their face as they read Darby and Colt’s story because even when they’re not getting along, the underlying sexual tension is always there and just waiting for Darby and Colt to finally give into what’s been simmering just beneath the surface.
Pretty as a Peach is a sweet and romantic read that allows readers to feel like they’re honorary members of the town of Whynot, and as things heat up between Colt and Darby, getting both of their perspectives helps readers to truly understand what’s at stake for both of them and also what their feelings for one another mean for them both personally and professionally.
4 Poison Apples
Every Sunday for as long as I can remember, my mama, Catherine Mancinkus, has cooked a large family meal that was served promptly at two PM. This gave her the opportunity to attend Sunday church services with plenty of time left to come home to make a feast fit for a king. There were always the usual staples of a southern Sunday dinner. Biscuits or cornbread, sweet tea, and a homemade dessert. We would also have ham, meatloaf, or country-fried steak. There were always classic sides like collards, macaroni and cheese, or butter beans.
When I was around six, Pap came to live full time in North Carolina from Pittsburgh. Ever since his move here, our Sunday dinner got supplemented with some of his favorites he grew up with in his Polish/Lithuanian family. That meant there was usually halupki or sauerkraut served. Sometimes Mama would make pierogis.
Us Mancinkus kids loved it. We considered these additions to Sunday dinner to be exotic, sort of how we viewed our eccentric grandfather from up North. Pap, on the other hand, became enamored of southern cooking and was completely fine with ham, collards, and cornbread for dinner. He was willing to give up his northern-rooted food. However, we were not since we had come to love it, so my mama had a very eclectic selection of food on Sunday.
Today the Mancinkus dining room is filled to capacity. My dad, Jerry, sits on one end of the long table, and Pap sits on the other. My mother sits to the left of my dad, followed by Trixie, her fiancé Ry, and then Laken, who is looking morose over the fact Jake could not be here since he’s in California on business.
On my side of the table, Lowe sits to my right with his wife Mely beside him and Larkin on the other side. There’s no conversation going on in this exact moment because we’re all too busy passing bowls around the table, counterclockwise as is our tradition. I take a large scoop of red beans and rice from a white ceramic bowl before passing it to Lowe. My hands are immediately filled with a platter of jalapeno cornbread. I take two slices.
“When are you going to fill us in about the grant you got awarded?” Pap says from my right.
I throw him a smirking glance, because he likes to stir stuff up. But the joke is on him. I had intended to lay out my plans for the vineyard tonight to the entire family.
Handing the cornbread off to Lowe, I take a sip of my sweet tea before I answer. I take a moment to glance around the table and see that everyone’s attention is on me with keen interest, as evidenced by the fact they’re all ignoring the delicious food before them.
I decide to do them a favor and make it short. “I’m going to plant grapes on the western side of the farm. Some muscadine but also some vinifera grapes. And then I’m going to make wine from them.”
Once again, I look around the table. Dad, Laken, and Larkin have their mouths open in surprise. My mom stares at me with pride. I glance to my right and see Lowe is nodding—perhaps tacit approval without hearing more—and Mely has an expression on her face that seems to say she can’t determine whether this is a good idea.
It’s Pap who asks the first question. “What’s your game plan?”
Nice. Simple. Nonjudgmental. Pap’s got it going on tonight.
“I had to write up a five-year business plan when I submitted for the expansion grants. Anyone of y’all can take a look at it if you want. The short story, though, is it’s going to take two to three years for the vines to produce. Another year after that to get the wine production settled. I’m hoping by the fifth year I’ll be able to break even, and we can start making a profit after that. Assuming our wine tastes good enough to sell.”
“You’re going to give up some of the leased land?” my dad asks. There’s a tiny bit of doubt in his voice, but that’s understandable. He hasn’t been working morning, noon, and night on this project the way I have for the last few years, so he doesn’t know the ins and outs the way I do. He’s also been removed from the business of our current operations, preferring to do semi-retired tinkering around the farm as is his due.
I nod. “The expansion grant will cover some of that lost revenue, but I have enough repeat buyers for our cattle I’ve been gradually expanding over the last few years that it will compensate.”
And that’s all my dad needs to know. He and my mom put me in charge of Mainer Farms, and I’ve been running it solidly for the last few years. We’ve been struggling, but that’s mainly due to our inability to maintain our tobacco crops. Imported tobacco is just way too cheap for a smaller farm like us to compete with, so we’ve had to get creative and find other avenues to keep the farm going. While the easy fix was to lease out land, by doing the cattle and now the vineyard, I’m hoping we can become a fully self-sustaining farm once again.
“I think it sounds like an amazing idea,” Mely says from the other side of Lowe, leaning forward to look past him to me. I shoot her a grateful smile in return before she says, “You realize you could actually use tourism as an income earner once you get up and running. You could open up a restaurant and have wine tastings.”
Chuckling, I give her another nod. “It’s something I would like to research, but that might be about ten years down the road.”
“What do you need from us, honey?” my mom asks.
My answer to her is simple. “Just your support.”
“You always have that,” she says, and then my cheeks turn hot when she continues, “We are so proud of what you’ve done with the farm. We believe you can accomplish anything.”
“Amen to that,” Larkin says.
And to my surprise, Laken holds up her glass of sweet tea. “To my brother, Colt Mancinkus. The finest farmer these parts has ever seen.”
Everyone follows suit and picks up their glasses, raising them high. They all say things such as, “here, here” or “to Colt”.
“We need to spike this sweet tea with some peach moonshine,” Pap says, and everyone laughs.
But not for long as my mom gets up and goes into the kitchen, reaching into a back cabinet where she keeps some of Billy Crump’s mason jars filled with his specialty peach moonshine.
This has turned into a good day. I generally expected my family to be supportive. Like I’ve always said, there’s not one of them sitting at this table who wouldn’t give their own skin for this farm. But my idea is risky. If this doesn’t work, the farm could go under. And yet every single one of them in here tonight looks upon me as if they don’t have a doubt in the world I can pull this off.
I love my family.
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About the Author
Juliette Poe is the sweet and swoony alter ego of New York Times Best Selling author, Sawyer Bennett.
A fun-loving southern girl, Juliette knows the allure of sweet tea, small towns, and long summer nights, that some of the best dates end sitting on the front porch swing, and that family is top priority. She brings love in the south to life in her debut series, Sex & Sweet Tea.
When Juliette isn’t delivering the sweetest kind of romance, she’s teaching her southern belle daughter the fine art of fishing, the importance of wearing Chucks, and the endless possibilities of a vivid imagination.
Sawyer also writes general and women’s fiction under the pen name S. Bennett and sweet romance under the name Juliette Poe.
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