Wild at Whiskey Creek
Wild at Whiskey Creek offers a twist on the friends-to-lovers theme, with the long-standing friendship between the hero and heroine having recently fallen apart. Unfortunately, however, I found the book difficult to get into, and put it down multiple times. Neither the hero nor heroine captured my interest while the book gave off the vibe of being another small town romance filled with quirky characters. But slowly the story started to pick up, and by the end I loved both principal characters.
Deputy Eli Barlow has been called to the Plugged Nickel – a dive bar in Hellcat Canyon – because something bad is going to happen. When Eli arrives he learns a group of seedy poker players have been arguing, and have a bet going involving a woman. The author’s writing brings the scene to life, giving a clear picture of the action, and people, in the bar. While the Plugged Nickel and its patrons are colorful, it’s not a place most women alone would want to step inside. But that’s where we first encounter our heroine, Glory Greenleaf, the subject of the bet.
Glory is the younger sister of Eli’s former best friend Jonah. Glory’s entire family is notorious for being daredevils. In contrast, Eli’s father was a cop, and despite having a law degree, Eli came back to the small town and became a Deputy Sheriff. But the differences in their backgrounds never really mattered to Jonah, Elia, and Glory growing up. We slowly learn that although Glory and Eli have dated other people, they’d started inching toward each other, and shared one passionate kiss. Everything blew up two nights after the kiss, when Eli arrested Jonah for meth transport. Glory has frozen Eli out in the months since it happened, but meeting in the bar forces him into her orbit.
The chemistry between Eli and Glory sizzles and it’s obvious they know each other inside and out. Eli longs for Glory and can’t get her out of his mind; thoughts of her come to him throughout the day at unexpected times. While Glory is similarly affected, she can’t forgive Eli yet for arresting her brother. As the book moves forward and the two begin to repair their relationship the question becomes this: even if Glory can forgive Eli, do the two of them have a chance? Eli’s career is in Hellcat Canyon while Glory wants to leave.
Glory works at a variety of odd jobs, but she’s also a songwriter and does live mic nights in the area. She’s determined to leave Hellcat Canyon and make a name in the music business, but ends up giving money to her mother and younger brother, both largely useless characters. But when Glory spots a poster for an up-and-coming band that’s going to play in a local bar she refocuses her energy on connecting with the band and getting out of town.
Perhaps if I’d read the first book in the series I would have liked this one more from the beginning. At first I thought Hellcat Canyon was a dying town populated solely by people like the characters in the Plugged Nickel, or the over-the-top senior citizens Eli deals with on calls. But the town is clearly more than that, as a TV show is shooting in the area, and one of the actors decides he wants to get involved with Glory.
I began to like both Glory and Eli as the author revealed more about them. We learn that Glory will fight to the death for people she cares about, and she’s cared about Eli – loved Eli – since she was a girl. Eli still loves Glory, and the steps he takes to help her achieve her dreams, even if it means losing her for good, prove the depth of his character.
Ultimately I came to love both Glory and Eli, and loved where they ended up in their relationship. But given what I’ve said about the book being difficult to get into – had it continued along the same lines as the opening chapters, it would have been a C grade read – I’m giving it a qualified recommendation overall.