Cover of Parks and Provocation, with a drawing of a bearded fireman's head wearing a fireman hat with a heart on it, on a burlap background

About the Book

Title: Parks and Provocation (Green Valley Heroes #2)
Published: 2022

Sub-Genres: Cozy Romance, Southern Romance, Second Chance Romance
What’s Your Type: Sweet Home Alabama, Post College Transition, Small Town Charm

Greetings, lovers, and welcome back to this year’s Grown-Up Guide to Romance. For this fifth installment, we’ve been highlighting books that feature our favorite tropes, starting with “Friends to Lovers,” followed by “Fake Dating.” And this week, I have the wicked pleasure of focusing on “Enemies to Lovers,” which I’ve relished since a young age thanks to L.M. Montgomery and her slow-burn saga of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Name-calling with vegetables! Slate breaking! Near drownings! Lucy Maud knew what she was doing, y’all! 

For me, part of the fun of Enemies to Lovers is the strength of emotion, the flames of hatred burning into a bonfire of love and passion. That intensity of feeling in any form, whether it’s contempt or lust, gives off a scorching heat that might leave various body parts* a little singed. 

*I could mean eyebrows, but do I?!

Just a heads up, after my review of one particular book below, you’ll find recommendations for more sizzling Enemies to Lovers romance novels. And then help a girl out and leave your own recs in the comments!

Parks and Provocation (Green Valley Heroes #2) by Juliette Cross

Fancy Dress to Fabio: Crafty

This folksy design looks like something you’d find on the wall of an AirBnb next to the “Live Laugh Love” sign, and I’m not mad about it. While it certainly hints at the romantic contents, it doesn’t scream SEX SEX SEX, and the artwork is totally in line with the small town setting of Green Valley. Honestly, this could easily be one of the labels of moonshine at the local distillery—I’m thinking a Fireball type flavor—that would sell like hot (hey-o) cakes.

The Deal: 

After getting sacked from her hotshot post-college marketing gig, Lola Landry has crawled home to Green Valley, TN to regroup and figure out how to climb back on that career ladder. One major step is the creation of Kiss-n-Tell, a podcast in which she and Marly, her childhood bestie, interview men who’ve gone on a first date with Lola. It’s purely for her professional portfolio, until it becomes absolutely personal when she agrees to go on a date with Jedediah Lawson. 

Jed, football god and golden boy, was her high school crush-turned-nemesis, after he started calling her “Coca-Cola Lola” (a terrible play on her Coke bottle glasses) then asked her to prom as a joke. Jed is also back in Green Valley, having left college early to take care of his ailing father, and is now a fireman and (related) the most eligible bachelor in town. Determined to get a second chance with Lola, Jed agrees to undergo the scrutiny of the podcast, and as the first date turns into the second… and third… Lola begins to question her true heart’s desire, especially when she receives a dream job offer from a firm in Texas. What will she do?!!*

*I think we all know what she’s gonna do.

The Leading Woman

Lola could easily fall into that cliché of Career Woman Who Wants It All, but Juliette Close has crafted an incredibly relatable recent college grad who is terrified of failure. An only child haunted by the idea that she’ll be a burden to her parents (even though they absolutely adore her), Lola is laser-focused on getting back to a high paying job with a bright future, and she’s as risk-averse as they come, so I actually understood her fear of falling for Jed. Of course, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few times when I wanted to yell OPEN YOUR EYES, WOMAN, YOU ARE ACTING A FOOL but her stubbornness comes from a lack of confidence in herself, so it’s easy to forgive. Plus, Lola literally will stand in front of a mirror and do a Superwoman pose while repeating a mantra about believing in herself so… if you’re not rooting for her, you’re a monster.

The Leading Man

Unlike Lola, Jed often feels a little too good to be true. He gave up his dreams of playing college (and potentially professional) football to take care of his ailing father; he’s an incredibly caring and doting big brother (he made both of his younger sisters take self-defense); and yes, he has a “dark secret” that you will guess right away. (I’m sure you’ve already guessed that it’s not dark in the slightest.) He’s great with kids, and at one point, he thinks:

My fantasies extended well beyond me mapping her body with my mouth. They ventured far into the future where afternoons on the porch, and mornings in a nursery peeking into a crib, existed.

Uhhh Jed, let’s maybe slow our roll for a minute. I’m not reading this book because sex makes babies, mmkay?

I *do* like the fact that he’s super upfront with Lola about wanting a second chance; none of this miscommunication / mixed signals nonsense. He’s an extremely decent dude, and it’s not his fault that Juliette Cross clearly saw Magic Mike XXL and decided to transform Joe Manganiello’s character into a (real) fireman with a heart of gold. 

Risque Ranking: 7

This book does a good job of ratcheting up the tension between Lola and Jed (will their attraction to each other overcome their teenage feud?) while tiding us over with carnal daydreams from both Lola and Jed’s thirsty little minds. There’s fun elements, like this tidibit from Lola:

On one of our margarita nights, Marly and I had argued over the sexiest parts of a man. One of my top favorites was the suprasternal notch. Also called the jugular notch, or more plainly, the neck dent—that dip at the base of the throat between the collarbone.

And then, not so soon that it jumps the shark but not so late that you get bored, there is plenty of sex, and it’s of the pent-up-since-high-school variety, so it’s explosive and frenzied and pretty dang steamy! My only complaint is that some of the dirty talk feels canned, like would someone actually say this and if they did, wouldn’t the other person just burst into laughter? Look, you’ll see what I mean in the next section. 

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

So, there’s some scintillating moments, like this:

“Enjoying yourself?” I panted, staring down at him, working between my legs.

“You have no idea.” He locked onto my gaze and didn’t let me go as he finger-fucked me deeper and sped up the flicks of his tongue.

He somehow read my body, or perhaps it was my quickening moans, because he thrust in a second finger and sped up the pace right as I was climbing that save. More like it came crashing down on top of me with tsunami-like brutal force and embarrassing speed.

But then there’s also cringe-y moments, like this:

The fingers of one hand caressed down my neck and the curve of my shoulder, trailing down my arm then back up.

“I’d drop to my knees and worship your sweet pussy with my mouth till you came.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and moaned at that mental picture, heart hammering at Jed’s naughty mouth.

I mean, Jed, you cannot be for real.

Was it Good For You?

Before I answer this question, I need to tell you that, at one point in the book, Lola and Jed indulge in nachos after some bedroom hanky panky. They deem them “sex nachos,” which I am ALL ABOUT. Sex nachos sound like the ultimate in satisfaction, so I’m sorry to say, dear reader, that Parks and Provocation… is not sex nachos. I’d also argue that it baaarely classifies as Enemies to Lovers, because Jed and Lola never actually despised each other–more like butt hurt each other–but I guess a high school spat might feel like all-out war when you’re a teenager. 

But! It’s still a pleasantly light romp, with a likable heroine and a swoony guy, and I really enjoyed Juliette Cross’ sense of humor (especially the scene where all of the women in town come out to watch the fire safety demonstration, a.k.a. swoll sweaty dudes). I did not, however, appreciate her repeated use of “dimple popping” or variations thereof. That phrase is my enemy, and we shall never become lovers. 

Further Reading on ENEMIES TO LOVERS

Stephanie Recommends:

Cover of The Heiress Gets A Duke: A woman in a lavish gold ballgown leans on a chair back.

The Heiress Gets a Duke (The Gilded Age Heiresses #1) by Harper St. George

I love a good historical romance where the man-of-his-era actually grows and learns that he needs to be a better partner if he wants to actually keep the hot, smart woman he’s fallen for. 

Rosemary Recommends:

Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid

This story about two rival hockey players goes from 0 to 100 with an ultra spicy prologue, then backs up to tell you the full story of Shane and Ilya’s enemies-to-lovers romance. And it’s only made that much sexier by the fact that they have to keep it out of the public eye. Yeah, sure, this one features two sets of six-pack abs on the cover, but if you want to be discreet, that’s what Kindles are for, right?

Kandis Recommends:

Cover of Everything for You, with an illustration fo a man in a suit holding a soccer ball looking at a soccer player

Everything For You by Chloe Liese

You don’t need to have read the previous four books in the series to be joining the Bergman siblings in shipping their professional soccer star brother, Oliver, and his hot, grumpy, foul-mouthed teammate, Gavin Hayes. If you think this sounds like some kind of Roy Kent-inspired fantasy, you’d be right!

Amanda Recommends:

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

There’s so much going on in this book and it’s hard not to love it all. The miscommunication trope is mega here which is where we get our “enemies” from. It was my second romance read and I fell hard. 

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Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.