Bad blood has existed for years between the Satterfields and McElroys. But when Romy is assigned to tutor high school football player Julian, sparks begin to fly and the two fall madly in love. Planning to elope the night of their high school graduation, Julian stood Romy up, never offering a reason why he didn’t meet her and head off to Nashville to follow their dreams together.
A decade later, Romy is coming home to take care of her father and with a new boyfriend in tow. The new boyfriend comes from a well-to-do family and has every intention of making an honest woman of Romy. But there’s one small catch.
Actually, there are several catches before Romy and her new boyfriend can live happily ever after. There’s the question of just who and where she wants to live out happily ever after.
Set in the same small town as The Happy Hour Choir, Sally Kilpatrick’s sophomore novel Bittersweet Creek not only lives up to the high expectations I had for it, but it eclipses them. Kilpatrick sets up a romance that has obstacles to it — and they’re obstacles that are authentic and earned. There are moments in this novel when we’re just as uncertain who Romy will choose as Romy is and there are moments when I couldn’t quite figure out what was going to come next — because Kilpatrick had created a believable scenario where one of many choices could happen.
The strength of this novel is that Kilpatrick gets us to understand and care about both Julian and Romy. (She even makes Romy’s new boyfriend sympathetic. In a role that could easily have been one note, she gives him some depth). By alternating the narrator from chapter to chapter, we’re allowed to see inside the minds of our two star-crossed lovers and to discover what lead to their romance and to the events of the night in question. I’ll even go so far as to admit that Bittersweet Creek created a bit of a knot in my throat and some misty eyes reading it. Kilpatrick gives us a deep, fully realized and believable romance between these two.
It helps that she’s surrounded our star-crossed lovers with a great supporting cast. You won’t necessarily like all of them, but they’re all utterly believable, read and authentic.
Honestly, I was completely surprised and pleased by this novel. Sally Kilpatrick set a high bar for herself with The Happy Hour Choir. Bittersweet Creek easily clears that bar and has set a new higher bar for her next book. It’s firmly put Kilpatrick on my list of authors to watch and read everything she publishes. And yes, this book is one that is totally outside of my usual reading comfort zone. But don’t let that bother you — pick it up, set everything else aside and prepare yourself for one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read all year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC for this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I should also add that I went to school with Sally back in the day and that we both share a deep, abiding love of all things Big Orange.