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M.J. Pullen
Author
Sugar Street
M.J. Pullen, author
In the idyllic Atlanta suburb of Sugar Mills, four women are struggling to keep their marriages alive and lives fulfilled in the hectic whirl of the middle-class suburbs. Adventurous Jess adores her sportswriter husband, but he’s more likely to fall asleep than to respond to her creative attempts at seduction. Delia agreed to an open marriage when she had nothing to lose; but now that the reality of her choice has settled in, she feels a void that no direct sales party can fill. Infertility has left ex-tennis star Carras feeling powerless and frustrated, while PTA president Maizy is desperate for acceptance in the Sugar Mills community. Enter Parker, a gorgeous young tennis pro moonlighting as a male escort, who makes the women wonder if a little well-orchestrated jealousy might be just the thing. Will their risky scheme put the spark back in their suburban marriages, or burn everything they’ve worked for to the ground? Sugar Street is a story about marriage, friendship and the possibilities hidden beneath quiet desperation.

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 5 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Pullen's intriguing series starter with pitch-perfect pacing begins with the main characters already in jail, setting the stakes and encouraging readers to follow along and discover what happened. Romance readers will be disappointed, however. Less romance and more firmly in the women's fiction category, this story of four relationships is drawn with compassion and nuance but doesn't land on happily ever after. 

Prose: Pullens’s prose is fluid and smooth. Each of the characters has a unique and nuanced tone that readers would identify even without the helpful section headers identifying the POV. The writing never calls attention to itself, instead, it uses authentic dialogue and succinct phrasing to delve into the characters’ inner lives.

Originality: This book relies on a premise that is at once hard to believe and easy to swallow. Would four women who love their husbands hire a male escort to bring the spark back to their marriages? While a far-fetched idea, Pullen develops it smoothly, bringing readers along for the ride without a hitch.

Character development: Despite their similarities, the four main characters clearly came to their current lives by different paths, and their marriages have unique hurdles—and each relationship finishes in a different place. The uniqueness of each relationship and the differences in outcome for four women in the same situation work to showcase Pullen’s ability to understand and grow her characters.

Date Submitted: June 27, 2018

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