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Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you're a Pamela Morsi fan, you won't want to miss this. If you've never read her work before, like me, you'll be pleasantly on the way to becoming a fan. This is a warm and charming book that holds your attention and has you rooting for the troubled protagonists. If you prefer steamy, explicit sex, though, steer clear. This is a character-driven book in a low-key style, with minimal profanity and nothing that you wouldn't want your teenage daughter or elderly mother to see.

The plot is basic: a very young grandmother (46) who hasn't a motherly bone in her body is called upon to care for her grandchildren while her daughter is overseas. The grandchildren are quick to size her up as Abuela Mala (bad grandmother). Red runs a honky-tonk, and lives in a cramped apartment over the bar. Her stud muffin, Cam, who is only slightly older than her daughter, comes to the rescue: he'll swap his house for her flat so the children can live in comfort and have access to good schooling.

The quirks and coils of the characters flesh out the plot. You know the kids will be won over, that the young boyfriend will prevail over his aging girlfriend, and that there will be resolutions to most of the problems that arise. Where Morsi excels is in making sure that there aren't any perfect solutions, and no guarantees of a happily-ever-after. Instead, you see how the people learn to accept the happy-right-now and live with the uncertain future.

The only flaw in this book is that I never quite "got" just what Cam sees in Red. Until close to the end of the story, she isn't warm, is often insulting, doesn't open up, and basically doesn't seem to offer much to the relationship. Cam always has to make the first move, endure the insults, and keep coming back for more. I found that extremely annoying.

Otherwise, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and the characters stay with you long after the last page is turned.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
"Red" Cullens has everything under control. The 46 year old bar owner loves her little honky-tonk in a forgotten part of San Antonio. The night-life lifestyle suits her; her hot young lover doesn't threaten her freedom and her friends (and patrons) know how to join her in having a good time. But one phone call turns her world upside down. In short order Red has to take custody of her two young grandchildren; her "boy toy", Cam, begins to push for a more permanent role in her life and the future of her beloved bar is threatened by plans to renovate her run down neighborhood.

I loved this story! The characters were written with so much depth that I found myself thinking about them long after I had finished the book. While Red and Cam's relationship is central to the story this book touches on many issues - relationships between parents and children; how people can be defined by "class" and upbringing; the illusion of control that so many of us cling to. Very well done; I would highly recommend this book. One slight caution: While it is obvious that Red and Cam enjoy an enthusiastic sex life it is primarily conducted off page. Some readers might be disappointed by that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Normally the heroine of a romance story is young--very young. However, in "Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar" Red Cullens is forty-something with a grown daughter and two grandchildren. She's far from perfect and doesn't have much contact with them, but she's come to terms with her strengths and weaknesses long ago. Her relationships are brief, putting her heart and soul into her San Antonio bar.

Then...

Red gets a call from the Family Assistance Center to pick up her kids. They'd been staying with their paternal grandmother who had been carrying for Olivia (age 9) and Daniel (age 6) while their mother was in Afghanistan was in the hospital. Their father was unwilling to take them, so Red was it. Problem was, she lived above a bar, worked until the wee hours of the morning, and there was Cam, her live-in boy toy.

The set up of this story drew me in, but my interest soon faded with the relationship between Red and Cam. He was too perfect, too unbelievable. There were parts of the story I did love such as Daniel who used Spanish like a code to talk with his sister and Cam. I loved Red, her background and the fact she was willing to change. Unfortunately, these parts weren't enough to mask the parts I didn't love.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How could anyone not get swept up in a Tall Texas Tale that begins like this: "The sidewalk was full of smokers and spitters. The light from the open doorway was muted, but the sound from inside was not. It was a typical Thursday night of cold beer and live music at Red's Hot Honky-Tonk." ... "Inside, as most nights, Red Cullens herself was at the cash register, totaling up the tabs. Backlit from the lights on the bar, she was an attractive woman. Petite, some would have described her. Only five foot three inches, she stood on a box as she worked to give her a better view of the crowd. It also gave them a better view of her."

Author Pamela Morsi drew me into Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar with those words; I just had to know more about Red...and the more I learned, the more I liked her. Red had a rather hard childhood and bad luck with men. Due to family circumstances, life forced her to raise her daughter alone. She doesn't think she was a very good mother, but she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and is proud that she owns her own business. She enjoys her lifestyle and rowdy customers. Due to so many men coming and going in her life, she doesn't trust men and is reluctant to form a serious relationship. Thus she never lets any of them get to know her, ultimately chasing them away.

Her current lover, a musician named Cam, is younger than she is, so she thinks he's around just for the fun and should he decide to leave she could care less...or so she tells herself.

All in all, Red doesn't want anything to change in her life, but she would like a closer relationship with her daughter.

Her daughter grew into a fine, strong woman and is serving overseas with the military. She left her two children in the care of her mother-in-law, but they are suddenly thrust upon Red when the woman is hospitalized. That's when the trouble begins! That's when the changes Red fears begin to come!

Cam is in love with Red, but she's stubborn and resists him at every turn. He turns out to be wonderful with children and comes to Red's rescue over and over. Even if he is younger, he is more mature than Red and is much more than a "guitar-picking cowboy." What secrets does Cam have that astonish Red when she finds out?

The little girl, Olivia, is an independent child who thinks she is the one responsible for her younger brother Daniel. Smart beyond her years, Olivia is dead set against liking her grandmother, so is quite defiant at times, resenting and misunderstanding Red throughout most of the story. Olivia emails her mother almost daily and tells some tall tales of her own about "Granny Red."

With Cam's help, Red is learning to cope with the children, and to add to the drama, the town is urbanizing the neighborhood and she has fears of losing her lease and of her business not "fitting into the grander scheme."

Will Red have to relocate the bar and lose her good customers? What does Cam do to help save that situation? Does Olivia ever realize her grandmother with the red hair, tattoos and tight jeans has their best interests at heart and is doing her best to care for them until their mother returns? Will the misunderstandings between Red and her daughter be resolved when she returns to claim her children? And when will Red loosen up and learn to trust Cam?

I'm not a spoiler, so I hope I haven't told you too much already. You must read for yourself to get the answers to this complex story. And believe me, this is one book you won't want to miss.

I think of Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar as "a new millennium cowboy movie," but it's also like a soulful country-western song. The cover of the book states: "Suddenly her life is a Hank Williams song"...and that expresses it well. This book has honky-tonk blues, musicians, cowboys, bars, late night rowdies, kids coming of age, adventure, love and more. It's a light, fast read filled with humor and pathos; a book that will keep your interest until the satisfying ending. I tip my cowgirl hat to Pamela Morsi for her excellent writing, smooth style and realistic dialog. These characters pull at your heartstrings and make you love them. Five-stars all the way.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, March 7, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Red Cullins likes her life just fine. She should, she made it for herself. She escaped a life of poverty and abuse, scraping and saving until she was able to open a honky-tonk bar in a questionable neighborhood. She is loved by her employees and customers, lusted after by many men, and has a current boy toy, a much younger fiddle player, Cam Early. She has no close family ties, she never keeps her lovers for long, and no one gets too close.

Then everything changes. She suddenly finds herself responsible for her two grandchildren, a six-year-old and a nine-year-old, when their other grandmother has a stroke. (Red's daughter, Bridge, is deployed in Afghanistan.) Cam didn't know Red had a daughter, much less grandchildren. Red expects him to run, not walk, to the nearest exit, which would be much more convenient for her than having to deal with sticky feelings. But none of her evasive tactics work. Cam stays. He embraces the idea of Red being a grandmother. Red eventually does, too, even though the children despise her.

As if that isn't enough, development of the San Antonio River that runs behind her bar threatens the business she has put so much of her love, energy and money into. And Cam has a dark secret, too.

This book is all about learning to embrace the uncertainties of life. It is a beautiful book. I read it in one day, could not put it down. The first chapter is a little slow, all set-up, but Ms. Morsi is such a skilled writer that it's easy to just keep turning the pages. Then you get sucked in and you're a goner. I cried three times reading this book, quite rare for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is told entirely from the point of view of Red, a good woman from a broken family that rejected her unjustly. But this tough cookie did what she had to do to survive and raise her daughter, born out of wedlock and into destitution.

Red now owns a justly successful neighborhood Bar with character and charm, but she's renting a building in an area under threat of urban renewal and she may have to give up her prime location and her success. Red has achieved this shoestring success all on her own, letting no one get close enough to hurt her, least of all her own daughter.

Her (divorced) daughter calls from Afghanistan where she's been deployed to tell her estranged mother to pick up her 2 children, Red's grandchildren. The other grandmother who was caring for the children has had a bad stroke.

Red can't do this and run the bar and deal with eviction. But she has values. She must do it. In the process, she must confront her barriers against letting others close enough to hurt, especially her very young boyfriend who so wants to help her.

This is an exceptionally well written portrait of an American family pressured by repeated deployments. It really feels as if the author knows what this unique pressure feels like, and just how much and how little the Service can do to mitigate those pressures.

This oddly upbeat read tells the story of an American family healing its future generations, one heart sore crisis at a time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 3, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Author Pamela Morsi has had over twenty novels published. She resides in Texas with her husband and daughter.
When Red's daughter calls from her military base overseas to tell her that she needs Red to take guardianship over her 2 kids, Red had no other choice. But she hasn't seen the kids in a long time, and she isn't so sure her boy toy, a man young enough to be her son, will go for the granny look. But as she settles into the life, Red realizes that she has a lot of growing up to do, and that Cam, her boyfriend, is way more mature than she is, handling everything, including her, in stride.
This book just didn't do it for me. Though Red grew up a lot throughout the book, and I adored Cam to no end, I just found the book so-so. Red was stubborn to the point of irritating, and as a mom, I had a hard time with how she viewed her grandkids at first. I'm not real fond of the huge age difference between them either, but that's a personal preference. The book had a lot of filler in my opinion, which left several dead spots where I lost interest. I will say though, the ending was great.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 20, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A 40-something grandma-bar owner is suddenly forced to take custody of her young grandchildren and it doesn't fit in with her lifestyle. We're given some background on Red and you can sort of understand her bleak outlook, but I can't imagine being so distant from your daughter and grandkids. I found the older of the two grandchildren intriguing, as she, at age 8, is the grownup looking out for her 6 yr. old brother as taught to her by her military mom. I also couldn't figure out what Cam, Red's boy-toy, saw in Red. He's the mature one in the relationship while Red walks around with a chip on her shoulder and blinders over her eyes as she continues to deny that changes are going to be forced upon her business, due to development of the Riverwalk behind her bar. The book would be better if Red were even a little bit likeable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 18, 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Red's Hot Honky Tonk Bar" was an easy, pleasant read. The characters were well developed and easy to root for. It's the first Pamela Morsi book I've read and will not likely be the last. That said, I enjoyed her writing and book, but it didn't really inspire me to rush right out to get another as some authors have.

I enjoy books that use their location as a character of sorts (particularly when it's somewhere I've been) and enjoyed the authors attention to San Antonio. She also did a very nice job with the characters of Olivia and David. Olivia's emails were well done and age appropriate.

The biggest pet peeve I had about the book was the cover art. I think the book was much better and deeper than one would guess from the Harlequin-esque cover- I hope they change it for future editions!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those low-stress books. Nothing particularly deep about it, but it's certainly not bad for its genre and much better written than most others in it. I found Red a little awkward in her dual role as grandmother and bar owner, which is understandable, of course, but again, it was a fun read so I'll recommend it.
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