Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Magnolia by Kristi CookMagnolia by Kristi Cook
Published by Simon Pulse on August 5, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
AmazonThe Book Depository

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

There is nothing like the right book at the right time. I mean, obviously, a good book is good whenever, but a good book just when you needed it? Bookish heaven. Magnolia is what I needed in this slumpish mood I’ve been in. I’ve been craving fluffy romance with a great ship and Magnolia is that. Technically, Magnolia is a review book, but egalleys are supposed to be lowest priority, so it also felt like a free read, like I was cheating my schedule. Ah, beautiful liberation. Even more odd, just as the storm in Magnolia Branch hit in my reading, the thunder started going outside. How about that for timing? Magnolia is everything I hoped it would be: a southern Swan Princess with a glorious ship and all the feels.

Kristi Cook is writing about the popular kids in Magnolia. All the people that Jemma and Ryder hang out with regularly are the pinnacle of society in their Mississippi Town. Jemma’s a cheerleader and Ryder’s the head quarterback. Though Cook doesn’t get into the popularity stress stuff or show everything as unhealthy as it usually is, I also don’t think it’s quite idealized. There are definitely some drunken mistakes and some people are clearly not the nicest. My point is, though, that Jemma and Ryder aren’t the sort of people I would hang out with in real life and they’re nothing like me, but I still got completely sucked into this story and fell in love with the characters. I’m always so impressed when an author can make me feel for a character without me having too much in common with that character.

From the beginning, I loved Jemma’s narration. The occasional bit of dialect irked mildly, but Cook keeps it to a minimum. Otherwise, Jemma’s voice was just immediately full of life. I can’t put a finger on what makes a character go from believable but still only a character to being so real and immediate. Whatever it is, Jemma has it. I love too that Jemma has so much passion for things I don’t care about, particularly shooting. I actually hate guns and have zero interest in all of that, but I love that Jemma, who enjoys refashioning vintage clothing and cute dresses, is the best shot in her town and has a pistol named Delilah. I care about this because she makes me care. Also because woman power for the win.

Before I get into the ship, I want to talk about my other favorite part, which is the storm itself. The hurricane that hits Magnolia Landing, a whole six hours from the coast, is diminished but still monstrous. I was so incredibly tense as I read the chapters during the storm. There’s a special sort of helplessness as they sit there and listen to crashing sounds, not knowing whether the house will still be there when they come out. Like with the characters, I think Cook got this so perfect that I felt like I was there myself.

Now, I’d never really given it much thought, but this is actually a trope I LOVE. Two people who hate each other for one reason or another are forced together by circumstances and have to work through everything. This trope happens all the time in manga and kdrama. Being trapped together by circumstance forces the two to talk about things they never have before. There’s also an added sense of danger, sometimes very real and sometimes merely that of being stuck in unfamiliar circumstances. In this context, being honest is a lot easier and this is where all the feels come. Oh boy do they come.

This ship is a marvelous ship. The book’s been compared to a flipped Romeo and Juliet, but I definitely think it’s more Swan Princess. You know that opening song where the parents are trying to force the kids to get together and the kids are like BLECH. It’s like that. These two have serious chemistry and the ship is done just right. There’s a certain amount of pain and JUST KISS ALREADY and then the moves happen exactly when they should. It’s also awesome how Jemma and Ryder have to learn to throw off their old patterns of hatred, even once it’s become clear that hatred is not the emotion there. THIS SHIP IS GREAT.

The one thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was how perfect Ryder and Jemma are. Ryder’s gorgeous, incredibly smart, gentlemanly, and an amazing football player. Jemma plays down her own skills, but she’s talented with film, dress alteration, cheerleading and shooting, on top of being really attractive and smart. I mean, Jemma’s got so many talents that are shown that I have trouble feeling her passion for film as any stronger than any of the other things at which she excels. They’re flawed primarily in how stubborn they are. The other thing is that I feel like Cook threw in a few too many serious side plots for a fluffy book and then didn’t tie them all up satisfyingly. Personally, I feel like the plot about Jemma’s sister Nan sort of fell by the wayside. It wasn’t terribly handled, but I also don’t really get what it added to the story, much like View Spoiler ».

If, like me, you love fluffy books with swoony romances, THIS BOOK. Also, if you like southern contemporaries or books about storms/survival, Magnolia‘s just what you need.

Favorite Quote:

And, okay, I’ll admit it. . . . I like to needle ’em just a bit. I purposely wear the girliest outfit possible—little flowery sundresses with cowboy boots most years. Drives ’em nuts. If they’re going to get beaten by a girl, they’d rather it be some tomboy wearing overalls and a flannel shirt, you know? Stupid sexist pigs.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif the swan princess

22 responses to “Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook”

  1. I just came here for the rating and the gif, pretty much but THAT GIF OMGGGGGGG I love the Swan Princess *cries forever* Okay, must read this book. We’ll see if I get it for my birthday, and otherwise I shall order it next week because WHAT IS PATIENCE.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Top Ten Books People Told Me I MUST ReadMy Profile

  2. Ahahahaha perfect gif is perfect!

    I read this one on the bus to NY for BEA and it was absolutely perfect. It was happy but not without feels and dramatic enough for me to forget I was on a Greyhound with a bunch of smelly and vaguely gross passengers. It’s not my normal type of read but it was SO PERFECT.

    My only two problems with the book were the same as yours. Jemma was awesome, but her interests were scattered and it was hard to pin down exactly WHY film was the most important to her. And the thing under the spoiler tag? Yes. I understand the author had to get Jemma and Ryder alone, but I think there were better ways to do that other than such a dramatic (and ultimately forgotten) subplot.

    Anyway. I’m so glad you loved this one and yayyy for the liberated feeling of neglecting the schedule for a “you” read. I hope your slump gets lost soon.
    Bekka @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books Everyone Tells Us We HAVE to ReadMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Isn’t it? That was all I could think of through the whole book. I love when my GIF choice is so easy.

      It’s really engrossing. I totally forgot about the storm booming outside and was inside the one in the book. That’s exactly the sort of book for public transit. Also essential on planes.

      I mean, it’s great that she has a lot of interests and most of them were established pretty well, but I felt like her actual passion for film wasn’t. She liked it, but not more than shooting. There weren’t any loving scenes of working on her video. It was more just BAM MY VIDEO IS DONE. And, yeah, I think if you made her an only child or left Nan healthy at college, there would have been more time for that and then there have to be other ways to get her alone for the storm.

      I hope so too. I’m changing up my method a bit in hopes that will kick my moodiness in the butt.

  3. I was in Barnes & Nobles yesterday and started reading this book while waiting for someone and I definitely wanted to keep reading after just a few pages. I get what you mean by Jemma’s narration being full of life and very believable. I also can already see myself loving this ship. I hope to continue reading this one soon! Great review!

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ahhhh, you should definitely get back to it. 😀 I bet the finished book is really pretty too. Even the e-ARC was pretty with those flowery chapter headers.


    This trope is my absolute favorite trope of all time, and I need more books like it. Even being stuck in an elevator will do it for me. (Though I’m not sure how that would work for an entire book.)

    The serious subplots did confuse me, and I think the point with Nan was for us to go right to that as the tragedy part, and then be surprised by what it really was? I don’t know, but I’m not sure how I feel about that either way. Ehh.
    Blythe Harris recently posted…Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel HawkinsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      For stuck in elevator there’s that Jennifer E. Smith book, which I loved OH SO MUCH. #sarcasm. That also happens in Boys Over Flowers (later in the series they also get trapped in a cabin during a snowstorm and have to declothe for warmth. So yeah. It’s a shit show but also really hard to put down. Seriously, manga though. It’s all about trapping people places so they can finally be honest.

      Yeah, Nan’s subplot could have been good but it’s a short book with a whole bunch of subplots. In short, fluffy books, it’s really best to keep it to only one or two darker subplots. I just feel like they tend to get dropped once the couple starts going. Though I actually did like the Patrick subplot. I would keep that and kick the sister one personally. Or just make the book longer.

  5. Awww, yay! You found a fluffy cutesy book to love! I may have to add this one to my list even though this isn’t usually my thing. Whatever my thing is. This sounds adorable though. 🙂
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – ‘Must Reads’ I Still Need To ReadMy Profile

  6. I love The Swan Princess. Well, I love the Swan Lake Story, and I love that movie’s take on it.

    Anyway, I’m glad you liked this so much. It is pretty awesome to read a book at just the right time. I liked Magnolia, but I wasn’t quite as in love. But I absolutely enjoyed it, and will read more Kristi Cook books.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me That I MUST ReadMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I actually don’t really know the Swan Lake story aside from that and Black Swan, which is something I should probably fix.

      Kristi Cook really wasn’t on my radar before this and I definitely need to check out more now!

  7. Brandy says:

    I had fun with this one too though I rolled my eyes at one particular part toward the end that seemed to me to go one length too many in the drama department.

    But it was like a hate to love story with best friend to love story woven into it. Which is like Christmas and my birthday all in one. I shipped it hard and loved every moment with Jemma and Ryder.

    I kind of liked how good at everything they were even if it did seem a bit much. They had lots of hobbies and focused on the ones they were good at. I don’t know how common it is, but it certainly happens. I had a student last year who is a tech genius, all-star soccer player, amazing photographer AND videographer who also happens to play the piano like a maestro. He is dating a girl who plays four different string instruments (well enough to have gone to NYC several times to perform in various concert halls), makes her own clothes, and is a brilliant writer. THEY ARE FIFTEEN. It’s disgusting kind of, but I guess super talented people deserve their own stories too?

    I’m excited you reviewed two books in a row I’ve already read so I can read and comment. 🙂
    Brandy recently posted…Greenglass HouseMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Super curious which thing at the end made you roll your eyes. Was it the thing with the guy she was dating? Or the service?

      Yessss, the ship was so great. Also the survival trapped together part was fun.

      Okay, those kids are ridiculous. It’s not so much that I don’t think it was believable but that there wasn’t enough emphasis on film for me to see that she was truly passionate about it.

      Hahaha, I have Dissonance coming up next, so you should read that really quickly. :-p

  8. roro says:


    this is high on my wishlist

    tx for the lovely review, christina
    roro recently posted…BOOK TOUR: Playing By The BOOK by S. Chris. Shirley ( REVIEW)My Profile

  9. Felicia says:

    Hey! I really like your blog. I’m quite new to it; found it in a topic on Goodreads.
    I love book blogs, and I’ve been looking through yours. You really made me wanna read this book! I’ll see if I can find a kindle version of it, and put it on my to-read-list.
    I’m following by e-mail from now on!

    – Felicia ( )

  10. THAT GIF. I love those movies *hugs DVD box*

    Okay, back to the review. I also like it when two people hate each other and slowly they become friends. I recently saw the movie ‘Into the storm’ and it was very intense, so I’d love to read a book about a storm too.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Let it go #5. Alias Hook, Eona and Adorkable.My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Oooh, I wouldn’t have pegged this for a Mel book. I hope it works out! It’s definitely shippy and cute, but there are a few plot lines that maybe weren’t needed. *crosses fingers*

  11. […] of my immense love for Hook’s Revenge. I also watched The Swan Princess again because of Christina’s review of Magnolia, forever lol. I somehow had never seen She’s the Man, so I fixed that great injustice, and I […]

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