Tuesday, April 29

Book Review: Nashville Sweetheart by Rachel Hauck

In Rachel Hauck's Nashville Sweetheart,  we meet Aubrey James, the daughter of beloved Southern gospel singers who were killed in a tragic accident.  Aubrey has hit some bumps along the way while paving her own road as the "Queen of County Soul."  She's taken on a grueling tour, she's just become the unwilling queen of the tabloids with her bandmate's decision to sell her secrets, and she collapses from exhaustion right after her wealthy boyfriend's over-the-top onstage proposal.  Feeling overworked, betrayed, and lost, Aubrey decides to break her no-interview policy and set the record straight about her career and personal life with a local Nashville morning show.

Sports reporter Scott Vaughn is at the top of his game when his producers throw a curve ball - with the show's entertainment reporter on maternity leave, he gets drafted to spend the summer on diva duty.  Scott gets to witness firsthand Aubrey's decision to start fresh and handles tough questions with kindness and wit.  Even though her record label expects her to keep making predictable country hits, she feels pulled back toward her gospel roots and wants to write her own material.  While her fiance's mother wants her to keep the family name out of the press, she wants to come clean with her fans about her personal struggles.  And although she's spent years achieving her wildest dreams, she longs for the spiritual piece of the puzzle that is missing.

The format of the book is unique - in addition to the story's alternating first-person narrative, the text includes snippets of Aubrey's discography, artist bio, schedule, interview transcripts, and e-mails, making it more of an epistolary novel.  I read the story as an e-book, and did have some issues with the formatting - often, the only indication of a switch from Aubrey's narration to Scott's was the character's name in plain text between lines.  It was easy to overlook and I often got confused about whose thoughts I was reading.  I also got confused by what seemed like random bold, italicized text until I realized that structure signaled a scene change.  I think a true paragraph break or even starting a new chapter when the narrator or scene changes would have added clarity, and that may have been an issue with the e-book format rather than the actual manuscript.

Nashville Sweetheart was a quick, entertaining read - Aubrey and Scott were both likable narrators and I found myself rooting for them as their friendship and potential romance developed.  I could definitely see this book being adapted to the screen and found myself trying to cast the characters as I read.  I liked that even though the storyline included a lot of minor characters, including Aubrey's staff, Scott's co-workers, and three very different families, Hauck included enough detail and characterization that I never got confused about who was who.  I related to Aubrey's journey away from her faith due to the challenges in her life and to her struggle to get back to the spirituality she once had.  And having visited Nashville last summer, I loved being able to recognize real neighborhoods and places in the story, from Belle Meade to SoBro to the stage of the Ryman Auditorium.  I don't think you have to be a county music fan to enjoy this book, but it definitely didn't hurt.  If you're a fan of chick lit with a deeper message about what's really important, I think you'll enjoy this slice of the diva life.

Disclaimer:  I received a free ebook copy of Nashville Sweetheart as a member of BookLook Bloggers in exchange for writing this objective review.  I received no monetary compensation for this review and all opinions are my own.


  1. This does sound like a lot of fun! Although I am always a fan of epistolary type stories.

    1. I know you're a fan of the TV show (at least the music), so I think you'd like this book which has a similar vibe but nicer characters!