Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Edelweiss for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
I've had a lengthy debate with myself whether to give this 2 stars or 3. Ultimately, I've decided on 3 but I refused to post my review during the tour. Because although I've enjoyed reading Magnolia, I found a lot of things I didn't quite like. The most superficial thing I didn't like is the cover. Now, don't get me wrong, the cover is actually cute and very apt, given that this is a Southern romance with a hurricane involved. All those dark clouds are very foreboding in nature. Really, I just don't like that the guy looks like Liam Hemsworth. Haha!
I like the reverse Romeo and Juliet plot and the forced close proximity trope used during the hurricane. Close proximity, even if it's a cheap trick, never fails to bring a smile on my face. However, I find Ryder a bit of a flat character and Jemma kind of superficial? I mean, sure, Jemma's cool, what with her being the best shot (as in target shooting) in Magnolia Branch, but meh, I just couldn't place myself in the characters' shoes and see what they like about each other. Ryder's hot, Jemma's beautiful, both have their own strengths (Ryder in school and Jemma in film). But nothing. I got giddy at times because they were all alone in Jemma's house during a hurricane but in general, I wasn't down with the pairing. There were hot scenes too, MEHEHE, so that is appreciated, thank you very much. Then I wasn't a fan of the randomness of the events in the novel too. SPOILER ALERT: What the heck? Why did Patrick have to die? We get a death scare with Nana's disease and I thought she'd die to give depth to the novel but then Patrick died without so much as a footenote. I don't get it. It just felt so out of field and the way they dealt with his death was very fleeting and simple. It was like, let's kill Patrick off so Jemma and Ryder can ride off into the sunset. Whuuuuttt??? That was really random and blase. END OF SPOILER
So while I enjoyed reading it for all the shenanigans and the teen rebellion where they could get it (Jemma and Ryder sneaking out because they don't want to give their families the satisfaction of seeing them together), I wasn't convinced with the romance and the story. This was just a bit over-the-top to me. Maybe with a different set of characters or a different set of plot devices, I would have loved this reverse Romeo and Juliet set-up to bits.