Home to Whiskey Creek
By Brenda Novak
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Noah Rackham, a professional mountain biker, is on a sunset ride one evening when he hears cries for help. He is horrified when he discovers that the cries are coming from the abandoned mine shaft where his twin brother died in a cave-in after their high school graduation fifteen years earlier. With difficulty, he pulls the woman from the mine, and he’s even more shocked when he sees her and realizes that she was beaten and dumped in the mine. But despite her condition, she insists on being taken to her grandmother’s home rather than to the hospital or police station.
Adelaide Davies left Whiskey Creek as soon as could get away, and she hasn’t been back in thirteen years. She returned only because her grandmother is in declining health and no longer able to run her restaurant Just Like Mom’s alone. Addy hopes to persuade her to sell the restaurant and return to Davis with Addy. But she has only been back one day when a man breaks in and abducts her, tossing her down the old mine shaft where sixteen-year-old Addy had been gang raped by five of Whiskey Creek’s star athletes as part of their graduation celebration with a warning that worse would happen to her and her grandmother if she told anyone what happened fifteen years ago. Addy knows that her attacker was one of four rapists; the fifth, Cody Rackham, perished in the same mine shaft. What her attacker doesn’t know is that Addy has her own reasons for keeping silent about the rape all these years.
Addy had a crush on Noah in high school, and she admits to herself that the grown-up Noah is even sexier that the boy she once dreamed about, but Addy doesn’t want any ties to Whiskey Creek. Noah can’t understand why Addy refuses every effort he makes to see more of her, but he’s a persistent sort. He hopes that Addy will let go of her secrets and give the two of them a chance. He has no idea that Addy’s secret can destroy a lot of lives, his own family among them.
In this fourth book in her Whiskey Creek series, after When Lightning Strikes, When Snow Falls, and When Summer Comes, Brenda Novak does what she does best—combines compelling characters with a suspenseful plot and a romance that keeps the reader hoping for an HEA. Novak uses one of my favorite quotations from William Faulkner as an epigram for Home to Whiskey Creek: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” (Requiem for a Nun). The statement becomes thematic as Addy finds that despite the years and her three years of therapy, her past has made her the person she is and is still imprisoning her with its tenacious tentacles. She can’t really claim a future until she deals with her past. Her attackers discover that they cannot escape the consequences of past actions.
Noah too is caught in the past. He has never come to terms with his twin’s death, and he has continued to protect Cody’s image so that few people know the reckless, dangerous stranger that Cody became on alcohol and drugs. There is another thread from his past that Noah must deal with as well. He has suspected for some time that his almost life-long best friend, Baxter, is gay and has more than friendly feelings for Noah, but uncomfortable with the idea, Noah has refused to address the issue. When something happens that forces him to admit that Baxter is gay, the price is almost unbearable.
This is the most complex book in a strong series. Readers who have followed the series will find this one rewarding on its own merits and as part of the interwoven stories of this group of friends. Readers who have not read any of the other books will find that this books works well as a standalone novel. I recommend this book and the full Whiskey Creek series. I’m looking forward to Take Me Home for Christmas, an October 29 release that is not only a holiday story but also a second-chance-at-love tale for Sophia DeBussi and Ted Dixon, a story I’ve been hoping for since the first book—and maybe all the friends will come home to Whiskey Creek for Christmas.
Brenda Novak has dealt with real issues in this series—celebrity culture, class differences, life-threatening illness, gang rape, and coming out. Domestic abuse will almost certainly figure into the next story. Do you like issue stories, or do you think they distract from the romance?