“This story is a pretty brave undertaking in that it attempts to fuse a romance with some very tough social issues. For the most part, it succeeds in achieving that goal without sacrificing any part of the story.
The set up
Adelaide (Addy) Davis returns home to Whiskey Creek after a 15-year absence. She's been living about an hour away in Sacramento but has never once visited her grandmother, Milly, the woman who raised her, since graduating high school. Addy was brutally assaulted by members of the baseball team when she was 16 and one of her rapists died that same night. Complicating matters is the fact that she had been in love with his twin brother, Noah Rackham, and she never told anyone in that town what had happened to her. The only reason she's come back to Whiskey Creek is to help her ailing grandmother run her restaurant.
The story begins with Addy's rescue by Noah after having been abducted from her bed and left in a mine miles away from home. While she still carries a torch for him, she doesn't want him to ever learn the truth about his revered brother because she believes it will hurt him and his family. Her return has made someone nervous and she's being threatened, probably by one of the four remaining men involved in her assault. Noah is very much attracted to Addy but she thinks it wise to not get too involved with him because of the secrets she's keeping.
We learned in the last story that Noah's best friend, Baxter, is gay and is deeply closeted because he's afraid it will affect his relationship with Noah and his family will ostracize him. Most everyone on their friends circle already suspect the truth, including him being in love with Noah.
What works about this story
There are many things tested in addition to the romance between Addy and Noah. This is a small town where secrets are difficult to maintain. Some of Addy's rapists are now respected members of Whiskey Creek and if the news gets out about what happened 15-years ago, it will polarize and divide the town. Attitudes about sexual orientation will also cause some conflicts in this fairly conservative town and Baxter's reluctance to be forthcoming about himself are well founded. Noah is at the center of all of these issues and compounds the problems by having been commitment shy for most of his adult life. He's asking Addy and Baxter to trust him to react appropriately when nothing about his past behavior gives them confidence to do so.
These are really tough issues that are realistically explored and presented. The solutions aren't easy and you won't see them neatly packaged by the end of the story...well some are but most we will have to wait and see. There was a delicate balance that was maintained through the end and I was emotionally connected the entire time.
What I wish I'd seen more of
I wanted more of Addy's point of view as to how she really felt about Noah. Most of her thoughts were centered on survival and protecting her secrets so I didn't have a strong connection to her adult feelings about him. I knew how strong her infatuation with him was as a teenager but the current issues and the past kind of blurred things...I couldn't get a clear picture of what she was really feeling. The romance suffered just a little as a consequence and wrapped rather quickly in the end.
The bottom line
I really, really like this book. We get to see a bit of the underbelly of Whiskey Creek yet the town survives. Addy is an extremely conflicted character who strives to do the right thing and may test your patience. I found myself unable to judge her, however, as she tried her best and did it somewhat alone. Noah is pretty flawed and at times, seeming somewhat shallow, but emerges in a good place. This is a meaty story to tackle in a contemporary romance and I love that these issues are part of the design. I'm also confident that we haven't seen the end of some of the issues these characters and the town confronted. Well done.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley)”