Hand Picked is a breezy, sweet Hallmark movie of a romance novel. You know the kind I’m talking about: an idyllic small town, adorably over-invested and wacky townsfolks, from first kiss to marriage in a matter of weeks. It’s all formulaic and absurdist, but somehow manages to work.
Luke, a first grade teacher with nipple rings under his sweatervest and an inability to swear like an adult (Oh, sugar!) has moved to Little Pippen Hollow, Vermont after winning his dream house in a fiber magazine raffle. Unfortunately the move hasn’t been a success. The house is a floor to ceiling safety hazard. He can’t seem to make friends with the locals. And, worst of all his crush, Webb—the town’s favorite son, an overworked and tightly wound apple farmer—is openly hostile and blames Luke for endangering his son. Naturally our heroes find themselves accidentally betrothed when the pair agree to burry their differences and drunkenly blow the town’s unity bugle. The pair is horrified to learn that if they complete twelve conditions they will be legally wed according to the ancient town by-laws. It’s not a problem though; how hard can it be to avoid co-mingling their flocks?
May Archer has carved out a niche for herself writing cute, low-angst, flufftastic romances. Some of them work better than others based on one’s personal affection for the trope du jour. I found Hand Picked to be one of her more successful offerings. We have a story with two likable guys and no real villains. Most of the tension comes from our heros’ bumbling inability to get out of their own way.
If that was all there was the book would still be a warm cup of chocolate in front of the fire. What made it sing for me its sense of humor, a mad-cap, Bringing Up Baby level of ridiculousness that found found to be laugh out loud funny more than once. This book is absurd in the best, warmest, way. The dialogue is snappy, the characters manage to remain real even when the plot around them veers into farce. If you are looking for an angst-fee, silly, fun read, this book checks all the boxes.
My rating: 8 out of 10 heirloom apple varietals