Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-239763-8
Contemporary Romance, 2016
On the bright side, nothing here feels too much like a by-the-numbers small town romance. Perhaps the author exorcised all of those things in her previous loosely-related book Hot in Hellcat Canyon. We are still in Hellcat Canyon, though, and the movie shoot mentioned in the previous book is happening here too, so readers who have read the previous book may enjoy this story a bit more than readers who haven’t.
The Greenleaf family has always been trouble, but to Deputy Sheriff Eli Barlow, it has always been about Glory. Glory Greenleaf, her brother Jonah, and Eli go way back, and she had been Eli’s biggest supporter from the beginning. Everything was fine, until that one night when they somehow just kissed. It was magical… and then he had to go arrest her brother for being part of a meth distribution ring and things never move anywhere beyond that kiss as a result. Both of them today spend a lot of time thinking about the past and could-have-been’s. I mean “a lot” – these people can look at anything, say a tree or a coffee cup and woosh, a flash to the past. If this is real life, I’d suspect that Eli and Glory spend a lot of time stopping at whatever they do to stare blankly ahead as they think about the past, making people wonder whether there’s something with those two.
Fortunately, things become more lively when the movie people breeze into town, and several secondary characters start creating a fuss, because Glory and Eli don’t do anything more to keep things interesting. The author writes very prettily in this story, I’d give her that, but then again, that’s why I’m a fan: she can make a scene sing by this elegant turn of phrase or two, with deceptive ease. But when I close this book and try to think back to what I know of Eli and Glory, I only get vague impressions of two people who spend so much time idealizing the past and the could-have-been’s that I can only wonder whether they know who the real other person is.
Furthermore, the conflict keeping them apart is threadbare – it’s hard for me to empathize with Glory when Jonah is a grown-up who made his own decisions and Eli was just doing his job, and Eli is just waffling around with unresolved issues about not sealing the deal with Glory. They spend a long time not talking to one another, but when they do have time for the other person, it’s to quickly hop into the sack. I can understand wanting to get down to business ASAP, but this also means that the relationship basically jumps from zero to 100 without any graceful transition along the way. Too much time is spent wallowing about the past, and not enough time and focus are given to develop the characters and their relationship in their present day.
The secondary characters are fine, and they provide ample diversion from the dreary slow-paced main arc of Glory and Eli. But they are not the main reason I’m here, are they?
Wild at Whiskey Creek is a better book than the previous one, but really, there isn’t much happening here that sticks to my mind at the end of the day.