Holly Creek: Book One
Small town heroes and big town hearts.
Jefferson Lee Davis is happy with his life in the city until his favorite uncle has a bad fall and he rushes to Holly Creek to make sure Uncle Sherman is okay. Jefferson Lee knows how to navigate small Southern town’s politics and the residents greet him with open arms. Everyone but the town’s sheriff, Zane Yarbrough, that is.
Dogwood Days, the town’s biggest festival is looming, so Jefferson has to step up and take over his uncle’s job as the town blogger, even if that puts him right in the sheriff’s path. Quirky neighbors, meddling family, and a sassy best friend all come together to make Jefferson Lee’s life in Holly Creek a full-time adventure. When he loses his job back in the city, Jefferson Lee has to start a new job search that will take him away from the town he’s learning to think of as home. Will this big city boy find sweet romance in the arms of a small town sheriff or will the allure of the city call him back?
JEFFERSON FUMBLED blindly for his nightstand as his phone rang, the music screeching into his sleep-deprived and slightly hungover mind. He finally found his quarry and groaned at the photo of the bespectacled older man that appeared on the display. He covered his eyes for a moment before hitting the button to accept the call.
“Hey, Uncle Sherman.”
“Jefferson Lee! How’s my favorite nephew?”
Jefferson bit back a sigh. It was entirely too early on a Sunday morning for the rapid-fire conversations he normally had with his uncle. Time to distract and give himself time to wake up. “I’m good. How’s things in Holly Creek?”
Bringing up Uncle Sherman’s beloved hometown was the fastest way to get the conversation off himself. His uncle could speak for hours about the town where he’d been born and raised.
“Everything’s good here. Getting ready for the big Dogwood Festival. Did I tell you that the Holly Berries wanted to bring in a band from the city to spruce things up a bit more? I keep trying to tell them that some traditions should be maintained, but they keep pushing for more and more. Why, I remember when I was a young man, everybody was on the square for the opening ceremonies. We didn’t need a fancy band. Seeing those glorious trees in full bloom was enough for us and for the tourists. Although, the almanac is predicting a cold snap in the late spring, so I’m a bit concerned. If the blossoms are damaged, it won’t make for much of a festival.”
“That’s not good.”
Held in late April, the Dogwood Festival was one of many celebrations the small North Carolina town featured in an effort to bring in more tourists than those brought in by Fairwinds, the huge resort and winery on the outskirts of town. Jefferson yawned widely and tried to get his brain functioning enough to remember what the next big town event would be. Nothing came to mind.
“It’s not good at all. Those women are all aflutter over the possibility of a chill in the air. I say we just need to stick it out and make sure we have a good stock of sweatshirts and sweaters at the mercantile. Folks come all the way to the mountains. The least we can do is have a warm shirt for them to buy.”
Jefferson laughed. “That’s the Uncle Sherman I know and love. Always have your eye on the prize.”
Sherman cackled. “Well, I’ve let Quincy take over most of the decision-making on that front, but I do still like to dip my fingers into the pot every once in a while.”
Jefferson snorted to himself. He’d heard from his cousin Quincy many times over the past year about how their uncle constantly “dipped his fingers into the pot.” Quincy had begged for Jefferson’s assistance, swearing that Sherman only listened to Jefferson. Jefferson had simply laughed and told Quincy it served him right for thinking Sherman wouldn’t still be involved in their family business. The man had been running the town’s only general store for nearly thirty years and had spent another ten learning the business at his father’s side. “You know,” he hedged, “you could see what Quincy does on his own. Give him a chance to figure out y’all will need some warmer clothes in stock.”
Sherman huffed and ignored the suggestion. “Jefferson Lee, you should come down for a visit. You haven’t been down since the Fall Festival and here it is springtime.”
“I’ve been busy with the new job. A reporter’s work is never done. Or so they say. I’ll get down to see you soon.” Jefferson yawned again and crawled out of bed. The coffee pot was only a few dozen steps away. He could make it. He’d had enough of these conversations with his uncle to know he wasn’t getting off the phone any time soon.
“Jefferson Lee, you aren’t still in bed, are you?”
“I’m up.” It wasn’t a lie. He was. Barely.
Uncle Sherman sighed loudly in his ear. “Did you have big plans last night? I don’t want to interrupt if you have a new fella?”
Jefferson thought about the hot fireman curled up in the other bedroom. Uncle Sherman was convinced Jefferson’s roommate, Trent, was more than a friend. Unfortunately, not so much. They had a lot of fun together, but Trent wasn’t ready to settle down, and neither was Jefferson. Besides, Trent was like the brother he’d never had, and the thought of putting their friendship at risk gave Jefferson the heebie-jeebies.
“Nah. Nothing new to report on that front.”
He popped a canister of coffee into the single-serve pot and punched the button for the largest cup.
“That’s a shame, Jefferson Lee. You’re such a good catch.”
“I know,” Jefferson chuckled his reply. “You tell me so every time we talk.”
His uncle laughed with him. “Well, you are. You’re one of the North Carolina Davis’s, after all. So tell me how the job is going?”
“It’s going. Not as fulfilling as I’d hoped, but I’m sure it’ll get better. I’ve got to start somewhere.”
“That’s true, although I wish you’d considered my offer to run the mercantile.”
“I did consider it, Uncle Sherman. And I considered that you’d drive me to drink and that I’d prefer to keep you as my favorite uncle.”
Jefferson waited for the coffee to finish dripping its way into the mug. It was taking entirely too long. He scratched his fingers through his messy blond hair, making a mental note to schedule a trim at some point during the week, and waited impatiently for his caffeine.
Sherman sighed in his ear again.
“You going to tell me what’s wrong, Uncle Sherman?”
“You know me too well.” Sherman made a huffing noise and then went silent.
“Yes, I do. So?”
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Uh-huh. Nothing. Which is why you’re calling me this early on a Sunday morning. Spill it.”
“I’m just having a little trouble with Clover.”
Clover Crofton was the head of the Holly Berries, Holly Creek’s women’s society. She was the youngest leader to date, but her family had been in Holly Creek for generations, and her mother had led the group for nearly a decade. Jefferson had always gotten along with Clover. Her parents lived a few houses down from Uncle Sherman, and as Jefferson and Clover were about the same age, they’d gotten into mischief together when he’d spent his summers there when he was younger. They’d also shared a really nice kiss when Jefferson was in high school. Fortunately he’d figured out pretty quickly that his interests lay more with the guys than the gals, and Clover had realized that kissing him was like kissing a brother. They’d remained friends and even went out on occasion when Jefferson visited his uncle.
“What’s going on with Clover?”
“Well, you remember Mary Caroline?”
“Yes, Uncle Sherman. I remember my cousin’s wife. I was there for their wedding last year. She was the beautiful redhead down front, right?”
Uncle Sherman huffed. “Well, it’s been so long since you’ve visited I thought you might have forgotten.”
“You know, I bet Mom would love to help you with your Clover problem. I was just talking to her the other day—”
“Jefferson Lee Davis, don’t you dare sic your mother on me! That woman is a menace. How my brother has put up with her for thirty years is beyond me.”
“I won’t if you tell me what’s going on.”
“Well, you remember what happened at the wedding?”
How could he forget? Sweet Mary Caroline had grown claws and fangs when she’d overheard Clover saying Quincy could do better. She’d accidentally dumped a glass full of punch over Clover’s head at the reception. It was one of Jefferson’s favorite moments ever, and the second he’d known for certain that Mary Caroline was the perfect woman for his cousin.
“Well, so does Clover. And to make matters worse, as a wedding present, Mary Caroline’s cousin, Beau, did their landscaping while they were gone on their honeymoon. Do you remember Beau?”
Oh boy, did he ever remember Beau Granville. The man had been devastatingly handsome in his tuxedo. Tall, broad shoulders, thick, deep-red hair, with enough scruff on his face to make him look both elegant and rough-and-tumble at the same time. Jefferson had wanted to find out if those shoulders were as amazing as they looked and peel the suit off him piece by piece while licking every inch of—
“Jefferson Lee, you’re drooling.”
“I am not.”
Sherman cackled again. “Hell, son, I drooled over him. Beau is one gorgeous man.”
Jefferson cleared his throat and forced his mind back to the problem at hand. “So Beau did Quincy and Mary Caroline’s landscaping as a wedding present?” He could think of a few things he’d let Beau landscape. And they had nothing to do with yard work.
“Yes. The man’s a genius. Worked in Raleigh, you know. Did a bunch of formal gardens and commercial sites. His portfolio is very impressive.”
“Okay?” Jefferson forced his imagination away from what Beau would look like naked and back to his conversation with his uncle. If Sherman thought he was distracted, he’d never hear the end of it.
“Well, see, the Rose Festival is coming up.”
“Oh crap.” People flocked to Holly Creek for the Rose Festival, and Clover’s rose garden had won first prize for the past five years. It was one of her proudest accomplishments. Anyone who threatened her reign would be chopped liver. Or just chopped into a million pieces and used for fertilizer. Clover had a very clever imagination. Jefferson figured she’d make it work and get even more prize roses out of the bargain.
“Exactly. Clover is pissed because Beau did such an amazing job, and she’s afraid that Mary Caroline’s yard is going to win the blue ribbon this year. Now, I don’t know that it will. Roses take some time to develop, and Mary Caroline has only had hers for a year, but Beau really did do an outstanding job, and her back garden is to die for. Beau’s been helping me with mine as well. Did you know that I’ve been pruning my roses all wrong? Well, Beau did. Showed me how to change things up. You wouldn’t believe how well my garden is doing since he came to town.”
“Wait. So Beau stayed in Holly Creek?”
“Well, he didn’t stay, but he did come back a few months after the wedding. He bought the old Morris place once Clementine, bless her heart, realized she couldn’t take care of it anymore.”
“I remember you telling me that. I liked Ms. Clementine. She always made me those lemon cookies I like so much.”
“She’s a dear lady. She’s in Georgia now with her granddaughter. I spoke to her a few weeks ago, as a matter of fact. Anyway, when she decided to sell, Beau went and had a word with her. Next thing we knew, he showed up with a moving truck. Said he’d gotten tired of all the commercial landscaping and wanted to do some smaller projects. But if you ask me, he came mostly because Mary Caroline was miserable here. When you piss off the head of the Holly Berries, things aren’t exactly going to be easy for you. Did I tell you they didn’t accept Mary Caroline’s application for membership?”
“Exactly. Clover is incensed.”
“I’d imagine so.”
“And now she’s saying that Beau has been trying to guarantee that Mary Caroline will win by not doing his best work in the other gardens he’s been working on. Including Clover’s.”
“Precisely. So she wants me to write up a piece on the blog showing how Mary Caroline should be excluded from the rose garden contest due to an unfair advantage.”
Uncle Sherman’s blog had replaced the Holly Creek Herald once the small newspaper had gone under a few years previously. He’d started the blog for fun, but then it had turned into quite the sensation. Not only did the tourists look to the Jolly Holly Creek Blog for news and tips, but the locals used it as a source of news as well. The blog’s success was one of the reasons Sherman had turned over the majority of duties at the mercantile to Quincy. Apparently being a blogger took up a lot of his time.
“Well, you can’t do that,” Jefferson said.
“I know I can’t do that. But I need to get Clover off my back. She even had Rosalie call me about it. She sent her mother after me, Jefferson Lee. Her mother. And now, all the Holly Berries have been dropping hints left and right. They’re saying that I’m playing favorites too, since Mary Caroline is my niece. I’m in such a pickle.”
“That you are.” Jefferson slurped his coffee and thought through the dilemma. Clearly running the Holly Berries had driven Clover power crazy. Ah, life in a small town. “What does Charles think about this?”
“I have not spoken to Mayor Hollister about this issue.”
Uh-oh. Uncle Sherman and Charles must be having another of their legendary spats. “But, Uncle Sherman—”
“No. I will not speak to that man until he comes to his senses.”
A loud crash sounded through the phone before everything went quiet.
“Uncle Sherman?” No response. “Uncle Sherman?” Jefferson yelled frantically into the phone, but his uncle still didn’t answer.
“Oh shit. Oh shit. Uncle Sherman!”
Trent wandered into the kitchen, dressed only in his boxers, and frowned at Jefferson. “Why’re you yelling?”
“My uncle. Something happened.”
“I don’t know. Where’s your phone?” Jefferson asked.
“In my room.”
“Get it. Hurry.” Trent ran back into the bedroom and returned moments later with his cell phone in hand. Jefferson called out to his uncle once again but still didn’t hear anything.
Trent handed the phone over to Jefferson, who quickly did a search for the number of the county sheriff’s office. He dialed with Trent’s phone, still holding his own to his ear, hoping to hear something from his uncle.
“Blue Ridge County Sheriff’s Office,” a deep, masculine voice answered.
“This is Jefferson Lee Davis. I’m on the phone with Uncle Sherman, but something happened. I heard a crash, and now he’s not answering me. I don’t know what happened. I think he’s hurt.”
“I’m on my way, Jefferson Lee. Give me five minutes. Call me back at this number if you hear from him. I’ve got the office line forwarded to my cell.”
“Not a problem. I’ll be there soon.”
What followed was the longest five minutes of Jefferson’s life. He heard the sheriff banging on the door, then his voice calling out to Sherman a moment later. The sheriff’s voice was in his ear a second after that. “Jefferson Lee, it looks like he’s had a bad fall. I need to hang up and call the ambulance, okay? You keep your phone handy, and I’ll call you the moment I know more.”
Jefferson’s hand shook as he hung up the phone.
Trent stared wide-eyed at him.
“He fell. He’s hurt,” Jefferson said.
“Go get in the shower.”
“Jefferson, go get in the shower. You need to get dressed and get on the road. How far away is Holly Creek again?”
“About three hours.”
“Right. So get in the shower, and I’ll get you packed.”
Jefferson nodded numbly and ran for the bathroom, his cell phone still clenched tightly in his hand.
I'm a huge fan of Poppy Dennison's and she sure knows how to put on her Southern, if you understand my meaning. So the instant I read the blurb for 'Dogwood Days' I knew I had to read it. Growing up in a big family that moved every couple of years with my dad's job, I dreamed of living in a small town. Even with all the nosy Parkers I still always thought it would be fantastic. So much drama and excitement over the littlest things, but also people who truly cared about you and helped you if you needed it. And, having lived for twelve years in North Carolina, I was intimately familiar with the ways of the South.
"So you must be the strange man who was taking pictures of the school.”
“Strange? I’m not strange! What?”
“Selma Jane got a call from Mr. Cornwall, who said some strange man was prowling around outside the school taking pictures.”
“Oh my God. This town!”
I laughed, a lot, reading this book. Jefferson Lee is adorable. He's funny, he loves his Uncle Sherman, he knows how to manipulate and work every one of the people in Holly Creek - not maliciously, mind you - and he's completely clueless about how Sheriff Zane feels. He rushes back to his hometown the instant he hears his uncle has been injured, and since coincidentally his position as a reporter in Charlotte gets eliminated, he has the time to help his uncle with his blog. Now, this blog is a huge deal in this small town, especially since their local paper went out of business a few years ago. The blog is all the news and gossip to be found. *grins*
Oh Poppy, this was perfect! I loved the pace of it, the wit, the characters, and the love story. Zane is perfect for Jefferson Lee, and I found their relationship absolutely adorable. I definitely laughed, and had more than a few awww moments. Plus, these two are definitely sexy and hot together. Thank you, Poppy, this was just what I needed.
NOTE: This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
The first thing I want to talk about is THAT COVER! I’m a total cover snob and this one is just about as perfect as can be. And once you read the story, I’m sure you will agree. I loved having that adorable man on the cover in my mind as I pictured main character Jefferson Lee Davis.
The second thing I want to talk about is Poppy Dennison. I am not a paranormal fan so this was the first book I’ve read by Ms. Dennison. But I had the pleasure of meeting Poppy at GRL 2015 and her enthusiasm and spirit prompted me to look up her catalogue the night I meet her. I requested Dogwood Days that night and read it right away.
Dogwood Days is, at its most basic, a story about a small southern town called Holly Creek in North Carolina. Where everybody knows everybody’s business and no one is a stranger. The big deal in Holly Creek is their annual spring Dogwood Festival, where the town gathers to sell handmade goods, enter jams and jellies and pies in contests and enter their flowers for the ultimate prize of “Best” in Holly Creek. Ms. Dennison, a southern girl herself, does a fantastic job painting a picture of spring in Holly Creek. In my opinion, Dogwood Days is a love story, but it is a love story about the people and the town more than a love story about a displaced New Yorker and the local sheriff.
Jefferson Lee Davis (and that is exactly what everyone calls him. Not Jeff, not JD but Jefferson Lee) is a small town transplant living in the “big city” Charlotte, NC as a writer for a magazine. He takes an extended leave from his job to go back to Holly Creek, his hometown, and take care of his favorite uncle who has suffered a fall.
Zane Yarbrough is the town sheriff and is a bit gruff with Jefferson Lee at first. I chalked it up to sexual frustration and, of course, I was right. The relationship between the men is a slow burn and they take their sweet time to get together but when they finally do get together it is fireworks and great sex. The problem now that these men are together is that Jefferson Lee is inclined to stay in Holly Creek permanently, but he has been offered a great job at another magazine several hours away. You’ll have to read the book to see what Jefferson Lee decides.
This was a wonderful book about the love of small southern towns with a nice little M/M romance to complement it. While it doesn’t say on her blog or the buy page, my hope is that this will become a series of the goings-on in Holly Creek, NC.
The characters and the humour in this book was such a treat that, although short and not attempting to be a Pulitzer contender, it leaves one with a lovely feel-good aftertaste. More!
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