Doing it at: 63%
Catnip: I’m With the Band; Drummers; Deep Dark Secret; Brother’s Best Friend; Forbidden Romance; Adorable Nicknames
Shame Scale: Leaving Amarillo has some flowery language that made me a bit cringe-y, but a strong story and a cute cover puts this at low range shame.
Fantasy Cast: Matthew Goode; Clare Bowen
What do we taste like?: Better than ice cream
Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.
Ten years later, Dixie and her brother Dallas are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.
Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.
Here’s a shameful, non-book-related, Cleone secret: I’m a closet country music fan. I blame my hillbilly roots, my pappy left me his Hank Williams records (Hank I thank you very much not Jr.) in his will, and Friday nights at my grandparents were spent watching The Statler Brothers. I love the TV show Nashville, have seen the deeply underrated The Thing Called Love multiple times, and was pretty pumped to read Leaving Amarillo – a reference to a Bob Willis song that I knew before finding this book.
Dixie Leigh Lark (that name is exactly what I would have wanted to name a character in a romance set in Texas so even though its twee we are letting it go) plays the fiddle in a country band with her brother, Dallas, and their childhood friend, Gavin. She’s the youngest of the three and used to letting her brother boss her around and have his way for the most part. This includes her not pursuing a romantic relationship with Gavin even though she’s had a crush on him since she was nine and he was ten, since the very day they met at her parents funeral. Dallas, age twelve, forbid Gavin to EVER touch her if he wanted to be their friend.Which, I don’t know, are twelve-year-old boys concerned with people touching their nine-year old sisters? I’d ask my older brother but he’s a jerk.
Gavin promises to never touch Dixie, a promise he upholds to the letter for ten years, he never touches her despite being a flirty manwhore with almost all other women. He never touches her despite his eyes holding what Dixie calls his “I’d really like to take your pain away, take you to bed and make it all better with my dick” Look. Dixie’s reaching her breaking point with the sexual tension with the band’s super hot drummer. She’s prepared to make a move if he won’t, her brother be damned.
Her move making corresponds with the band getting a big break and being entered into the line up at the Austin Music Fest. Now not only is Dixie stuck with her brother and her object of secret desire 24/7; her grandpa is sick and she’s worried being so far away from him, she’s trying to decide if she wants to continue on with her college education, and Dallas has signed the band with a manager that doesn’t seem crazy about her.
Gavin agrees to spend one night with Dixie, one night to get each other out of their systems, and then they’ll move on and never mention it again is the plan. Because that ALWAYS works. Once the deal is made things start to change between Gavin and Dixie: they share kisses, he gets openly angry when the lead singer of another band on the festival flirts with her, and her brother almost catches them going beyond the friendship boundaries in her hotel room. Do brother’s dislike their best friends licking ice cream off their little sisters stomachs and then giving them oral sex? Probably. That one seems more likely than the twelve-year-old cockblocking, I’d ask my brother but I reiterate he’s a jerk.
The writing in Leaving Amarillo is an interesting mix of really excellent dialog and extremely flowery prose:
He’s white-hot, burning flames licking up everything in his path. And I’m just a little bluebird flying dangerously close to the fire.
Like a flower cast out in the darkness, I withered day by day, withdrawing into myself and into the girl I likely would’ve become if Gavin Garrison hadn’t wandered up onto my grandparent’s porch the day of my parent’s funeral.
Gavin blocks the glinting sun and it shines around him, creating an angelic effect around my tattooed, tortured soul mate.
The over the top romance writing was so well-balanced with the good writing that I could forgive almost all of it:
“What have you got in store for me, little Bluebird? Some Fifty Shades fantasy** you can’t wait to play out with a willing participant?”
My heart quickens its pace at his naughty suggestion. “Gavin Garrison, have you been reading mommy porn?”
“I’m glad you came,” I whisper.
“I’m glad you’re wearing my shirt,” he says evenly, leaning back in the chair as his chin lifts slightly. “Now take it off.”
I bite his lower lip and he growls. “You can bite me as hard as you want to. I like for it to hurt.”
This one night of really hot sex does nothing to ease the desire that Gavin and Dixie feel for each other, they’ve known each other too long and have too many connections outside of sex for this to be a clean and easy one night stand. Gavin had a terrible childhood, that led to him accumulating some dark secrets he hasn’t fully disclosed to Dixie. He may not recognize that he loves Dixie, but it is pretty obvious to the reader that he does. He’s gentle with her, and extremely protective. Standing up for her to his best friend can’t be easy, and it can’t be easy risking the relationship with basically the only two people he has in the world to pursue a romance with Dixie, either.
Bad boy manwhore drummer with a heart of gold is basically my ultimate catnip, you guys. And have we talked about how he calls her Bluebird? We LOVE when our book people have adorable nicknames for each other, it’s why Mary and I are in each other’s phones as Shortcake and Plum. I was rooting really hard for Gavin and his Bluebird to figure out their shit and get together.
Sadly, Quinn ends Leaving Amarillo on a cliffhanger, book two was released 6/15 but it is Dallas’ story and oh my God you are killing me smalls! I will read however many books it takes to get to a Dixie and Gavin HEA, but I won’t be happy about it, making readers wait is cruel, when said readers have limited patience and the desire for instant gratification.
If you’re also a secret country music fan, or you also love the brother’s best friend trope, or if you too have drummer catnip pick up Leaving Amarillo and join me on my HEA wait, we can internet glare at Caisey Quinn together!
Check out Leaving Amarillo on Amazon
**I’m delighted to report the book sex in Leaving Amarillo is way better than the book sex in Fifty Shades.