Review: Cider Brook by Carla Neggers

cider brook by carla neggersFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook, large print
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Swift River Valley #3
Length: 379 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: January 28, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Unlikely partners bound by circumstance…or by fate?

Being rescued by a good-looking, bad-boy firefighter isn’t how Samantha Bennett expected to start her stay in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. Now she has everyone’s attention—especially that of Justin Sloan, her rescuer, who wants to know why she was camped out in an abandoned old New England cider mill.

Samantha is a treasure hunter who has returned to Knights Bridge to solve a 300-year-old mystery and salvage her good name. Justin remembers her well. He’s the one who alerted her late mentor to her iffy past and got her fired. But just because he doesn’t trust her doesn’t mean he can resist her. Samantha is daring, determined, seized by wanderlust—everything that strong, stoic Justin never knew he wanted. Until now…

My Review:

After having finished this story and had a chance to think about, it feels like the theme of Cider Brook is finding peace with the ghosts of the past. And that applies whether they are they are the ghosts of the long-dead past, or your own past.

A lot of the characters in the story are seeking redemption for something that they feel they did wrong, or think might have been the wrong thing. Part of the story is that the people they think they wronged have died. So they are searching for peace within themselves.

I feel like I should start the way that A Christmas Carol starts; Duncan McCaffrey was dead, to begin with. Yet the story centers around him and his death, even though he isn’t still around.

Duncan was a larger-than-life treasure hunter and explorer. And so was Harry Bennett, Samantha Bennett’s grandfather, also lately deceased. While cataloging and processing her grandfather Harry’s huge and disorganized collections, Sam comes across a painting of a mill over Cider Brook and a handwritten romance novel between a pirate and an English Lady.

Sam recognizes the scene in the painting and is fascinated with the book. She has been hunting pirates all of her professional life, and the story points her towards Knight’s Bridge. Sam was there once before, when she briefly worked for Duncan McCaffrey.

That’s where Sam feels the need for redemption. She concealed her investigation of Knight’s Bridge and her identity as a member of the slightly infamous Bennett family from Duncan. He fired her because he couldn’t trust her after that.

Now she’s back in Knight’s Bridge chasing her pirate legend, and everyone is pretty wary of her and her motives. She wasn’t exactly above board the last time, after all.

A freak thunderstorm forces her to break into that very same Cider Bridge mill for shelter, and when the place catches fire, she gets rescued by Justin Sloan, the same man who outed her presence to Duncan.

The Sloans do their level best to keep her around while Justin investigates what she is there for. He wants to keep her from treasure hunting, and she’s out chasing pirate legends. They strike sparks from the beginning.

As Sam investigates the local legends, she discovers that her pirate may really have been part of the history of Cider Brook and Knight’s Bridge. Her confirmation of that history lies in a little secret that Justin has been keeping from her all along.

Escape Rating B: In the end, it’s the historical story that turns out to be more interesting than the slow-burning love story between Sam and Justin in the present.
I enjoyed the way that the entire Sloan clan adopts Sam and involves her in the wedding and the other events going on while she is there. Even though I haven’t read the first two books in the Swift River Valley series, Sam’s introduction to everyone served as my introduction as well. (Although I am curious enough about the previous stories that I’m planning to read them!)

Sam and Justin arrive slowly at a relationship; they need to trust each other, and at first they really, really don’t.

But the historical investigation is what held my interest. Sam is trying to find a 17th century pirate, and her trail has led her to Knight’s Bridge. The more she digs, the more she discovers, and the closer she comes to a piece of her own past. The way that this thread circled around to the present was very cool.

Sam’s past with Duncan, and why she felt so bad about what happened, is never quite clear. But the subplot it introduces with Duncan’s lawyer, Loretta, and how she felt about encouraging Duncan to fire Sam, as well as Loretta’s inability to move on after Duncan’s death, was a poignant side-plot.

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