Publication Date: 5/26/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
Set in the heart of Louisiana, Amy Conner’s spellbinding new novel tells of a young woman yearning for a better existence—and of the secret longings that will change the lives of all those around her.
Eighteen-year-old Lireinne Hooten has always been on the lowest rung of the ladder. Abandoned by her mother, Lireinne lives with her stepfather in an old trailer on Million Dollar Road. Every day she walks the long mile, through a canopy of live oaks, to her job at the world’s largest alligator farm. Shy and overweight in high school, Lireinne has become lean and resilient from months of hosing out the huge cement barns. And just like Snowball—the enormous, all-white alligator she feeds illicit treats every day—she’s hungry to be free.
Lireinne’s boss, Con Costello, is powerful, attractive, and used to getting exactly what he desires. Now that he’s noticed Lireinne’s haunting beauty, he wants her too. But unlike Con’s needy second wife, Lizzie, or Emma, his still heartbroken ex, Lireinne isn’t interested. Undeterred, Con’s growing obsession will upend all their lives—compelling Lizzie to confront the hard truth about her marriage, pushing Emma past her self-imposed isolation and back into the world. And for Lireinne, it will lead to an unexpected chance to redefine herself, far away from her past and from Million Dollar Road.
Insightful and atmospheric, Million Dollar Road is a richly observed novel of our most keenly felt appetites—for love, acceptance, and a place to belong.
A special thank you to the author, Kensington, and NetGalley, and for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Conner returns with MILLION DOLLAR ROAD, another riveting, and passionate "southern charmer" must read; full of wit, humor, and some important (hard) life lessons. From Poverty to Prada!
Set in Covington, Louisiana, Conner gives distinctive voice to three engaging women--different ages and walks of life with a complicated man who loves them all.
Bringing heartfelt emotion, compassion, and humor to each of them, as she deftly unravels their complex life journey of broken dreams, heartache, poverty, and loss; to one of abundance, hope, courage, and love.
Lireinne, is a simple girl, age eighteen, and abandoned by her mother years ago. She lives with her stepfather, Bud and half-brother, Wolf, age fifteen in a doublewide trailer in the rural Louisiana. She was previously fat in school; however, with all the exercise walking to work, she has lost thirty pounds and is quite beautiful. Her stepfather is good to her; however, he works hard, with two jobs to provide for his children, so not a lot of time left for his family.
She gave up on high school, a drop out, as she was tired of the bullying and the kids making fun of their poor life. Lireinne currently works as a hoser for the world’s largest alligator farm at the BFG barn, called Sauvage Global Enterprises. She is responsible and takes care of the animals, cleaning, does her household chores, taking care of her horse, dad and brother. She is not interested in guys; however, they are always trying to hit on her due to her beauty, and no one respects her. She walks to work each day in the heat along the long Million Dollar Road, as she has no car. (so-called because back during the Depression the WPA spent a million bucks to get it drained, laid and paved).
She has one of the lowest jobs, making less than minimum wage; having to walk to the Dollar General or catch a ride to Walmart for clothes and supplies. She does not know what it is like to shop in a mall, or have nice things she sees in magazines. She is poor, hungry, and dreams of a life in Paris; however, she is realistic enough to know she will never leave this dead end job or town.
Emma, is fragile, mild mannered, timid, and the owner of an organic farm. Emma is suffering from anxiety and never leaves her house except to go to the farmer’s market. She was a wife who had it all married to Con, the CEO of SGE (Alligator Farm) who cheated on her for years, and they are now divorced. He is now married to Lizzie, the "other woman"; leaving her devastated and unsure how to move on except to hide away on her farm. She has always wanted a child and a family; however, after a miscarriage eighteen years ago, was unable to have any more children. She lives on pills for her panic attacks, and has no friends except for Sarah, the funny eighty year old sassy neighbor, (loved her), who continually tells her she needs to get out more.
Emma and Con were poor when they met back in school and both worked their way through school and built a nice secure life with good jobs and a home; however, Con could not and will not stay faithful. Now in her early forties, Emma has a panic attack just thinking of Million Dollar Road, her ex-husband, and the alligator farm.
Lizzie is hot tempered and wants her way. She grew up poor and she is determined to make it in the world with everything she desires. She was a successful attorney and began sleeping with Con (married at the time) at the law firm. Since, Con gave up practicing law and joined the SGE as CEO. They are now married and he wants her to stay home so they can entertain. She feels neglected and all she thinks about is shopping, money, and getting a maid. She wants to go out, dress up, and have Con at her beckoning call. Con does not like the control. Having a maid means success in her eyes. She does not want to clean or cook. She has won the man; however, now she suspects Con is cheating on her. Not a happy camper.
Con is a charming and good-looking man (a snake), and so full of himself. He is hungry with desire and selfish. Since he grew up poor, he wants and desires all he can take within his reach and beyond. As the CEO of his company he wants abundance - money, cars, sex, travel, women, luxury, and the finer things of life. He soon realizes his first wife was not so bad, as she was a great cook, except she was not fun. Lizzie was fun, for a while, but now she is bitchy and demanding. So one day she sees this stunning girl walking down the road, and sets his sights on his new hoser; now promoted to his personal assistant-Lireinne. He is obsessed with her, even though she is young enough to be his daughter.
However, he may have met his match, as Lireinne may be the smartest of them all, as she has no interest in her boss, sleeping with him or any romantic notions. She wants to make her own money, her own future, and have other people respect her. She wants to help her brother stay in school and go to college, help her dad with the bills, and dreams of one day going to Paris. Will she get pulled in by money, power, and Con, or will she make her own way and be independent?
When Emma, Lireinne, and Bud's path connect it is heartwarming and humorous! Emma has an opportunity to have a new life back in the real world. Lireinne could be the daughter figure Emma has always wanted, and Emma may be the mother figure for Lireinne to reach out to. Lireinne has a chance to re-invent herself, and may have an opportunity to get to Paris for work, but she has to ditch Con. Is the Eiffell Tower, Prada, and Jimmy Choos within her reach? Lizzie is faced with a challenge and a life changing decision. What about the growing relationship between the unlikely couple, Emma and Bud?
Con is in the middle and what happens next is witty and suspenseful, with Snowball the alligator who gets loose(she even has her own narrative), Lima Bean Lizzy’s dog gets loose, and Con tries to rescue and gets caught in the crossfire, which leaves him not so cocky. My favorite characters were Lireinne, Emma and Bud, and would love to hear more from these, in a series, and possibly her brother Wolf.
An ideal book for book clubs and discussions as many personalities and points of view, with a man and three different women figures. An ongoing theme throughout the novel; Worrying or obsessing about power, appetite, hunger, money, poverty, desire, and losing something, whether it be money, position, status, or love. Each character has choices to make. From animals to humans they all seek and want.
If you have not read Amy's debut, THE RIGHT THING, would highly recommend, as it was on my Top 30 Books of 2014. These are two books, you do not want to miss. (Front covers are exceptional, equally matched, by the author's masterful talent for storytelling).
Fans of Charles Martin, Fannie Flagg, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Susan Rebecca White, Nicholas Sparks, Mary Kay Andrews, Erika Marks, Shelly Noble, and Wendy Wax will appreciate Conner’s southern humor, human dynamics, and her heartwarming stories from rags to riches.
Loved the tie in with the author's personal background, as semi-retired horse trainer and former co-owner and manager of the world's largest alligator farming concern, while working with the high-end designers in Europe where she fell in love with Paris and the French. Her passion shines through in MILLION DOLLAR ROAD, and have to bet, the book was so much fun to write and it was to read!
About the Author
Ms. Conner’s work history includes (but is not limited to) the following professions: runway model, private investigator, horse trainer/riding instructor, oriental rug and antique salesman, legal secretary, executive assistant and t-shirt designer.
From 1986 to 2006, she was part-owner with her husband of the world’s largest alligator farming concern and during that time worked in the skin business with Hermes in Paris, Gucci in Milan and other high-end designers of premium luxury strap goods. During this period, Ms. Conner often traveled in Europe to promote the business and fell in love with Paris and the French people.
Ms. Conner began writing in earnest at the advanced age of 50, having come to the realization that she couldn’t be an athlete (horse trainer) forever. The Right Thing is her second novel. Million Dollar Road to be released May 26, 2015. Website Twitter