Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith (Contemporary Novel, Match 2018).
This fast-rising short story writer’s first novel is a moving, three-sided examination of shattering loss, abiding love and the cleansing power of passions reborn. It is, in a sense, a love triangle–but one unlike any you’ve seen and, despite misplaced (if understandable) feelings of guilt that hamper two of them, one where none of the trio is less than honorable.
The three central characters narrate alternating chapters in most effecting fashion–in itself no mean trick, considering one is already dead when the book opens.
Evangeline Royce is a grieving widow, emotionally destroyed when her policeman husband is lost in the line of duty mere weeks prior to giving birth to their child.
Dalton, her husband’s adopted brother and lifelong best friend, is profoundly wounded as well. He dedicates himself to providing emotional support and practical support to Evi and her newborn son, Noah.
And then there’s Eamon, Evi’s martyred spouse. His chapters serve as flashbacks, providing background and context in a lyrical fashion, leading finally up to the moment a domestic dispute call cost him his life.
The author does a fine job blending the three viewpoints together, building sympathy and understanding, not to mention admiration for each of these characters. There are secrets to be revealed and dealt with, but never in a mawkish or sleazy fashion. These are good people–by no means flawless, but each deeply honorable, intelligent and decent. In fact, one of the best features of this novel is that there is no cliche ‘bad guy’ in evidence. Hurtful family truths certainly play a part, but even those in the wrong are genuine, conflicted people and their missteps are treated with compassion and insight.
I very much enjoyed this interestingly structured book and the people I met here. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from Leesa Cross-Smith.