You’re invited to a wedding in Whiskey Creek, Heart of the Gold Country.
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong wedding. Olivia Arnold is arranging the festivities—and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. Because she should be marrying Kyle Houseman. They were together for more than a year…. But her jealous sister, Noelle, stole him away—and now she’s pregnant.
All their friends in Whiskey Creek know as well as Olivia does that Kyle’s making a mistake. His stepbrother, Brandon, knows it, too. But Kyle’s determined to go through with it, for his child’s sake.
Olivia’s devastated, but surprisingly Brandon—the black sheep of the family—is there to provide comfort and consolation. The intensity between them, both physical and emotional, shows Olivia that maybe Kyle wasn’t the right man for her… But is Brandon?
I can't even imagine what such a situation would feel like, nor can I even imagine a family that would even think of asking the sister that has been rejected to plan the wedding of the spoiled and triumphant sister who has "stolen" her sister's almost-fiance. And yet, that is the setting in which this story occurs. It is a deeply emotional tale, filled with pain and that sense, right from the beginning, that no one can really understand parents who could be so clueless to the brokenness that one of their daughters has caused the other, or who have never actually recognized the mean spirit that lives within that spoiled brat of a human being.
The other mystery, at least for me, is why Olivia would even cave in to these people. Yes, that's been the family tradition--Noelle gets her way, and Olivia is drawn in as the co-dependent handmaiden to her sister. Time and time again Olivia gives in, all in the name of family peace, and the person who is injured time and time again is Olivia herself. Now not only has Olivia's family betrayed her once again, but the man she had been with for over a year has demonstrated his weak moral fiber in even caving in to Noelle's seduction--as if he had never seen that woman in action during the year he had been involved with Olivia and her family. What a wuss!! I have to own up to being really irritated to nearly everyone in this story for a good part of the story. I know from my own counseling experience that dysfunctional families pull these kinds of hurtful actions on one another, their individual members are out of emotional balance, and the end result is the kind of wound that can often linger years before healing.
And then there's Brandon . . . Kyle's stepbrother, a relationship that has been strained and contentious ever since their respective parents married. Brandon felt like he lost his family when their parents married and Kyle became the favored son. So he "did his own thing" and became the "square peg in the round hole" and lived his own way. He and he alone felt Olivia's pain, recognized the unhealthy atmosphere of the entire circumstance, drew Olivia into an embrace of understanding and a haven of comfort she had long stopped expecting from her own parents. I really liked Brandon a lot!
This is not an easy novella, not the kind of happy-go-lucky romance that could be a pleasant reading interlude. No, this short work stretches the reader's emotional boundaries, makes the mind work, has a most definite distress component, and certainly sets the reader up for asking some serious questions of the narrative. Perhaps that's why this story stands out for me. It made me work, and in the "working" I experienced an even greater sense of satisfaction when I reached the end. It is a novella that adds to the Whiskey Creek family of characters as it moves the reader toward future stories to come out of this very small, intense, and closely connected community. A really terrific read. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.
This novel was released 31 July 2012 by Harlequin under its Mira imprint.