Author: Charlotte Nash
Hachette RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Romance, medicine and small town drama combine in Charlotte Nash’s latest novel, Crystal Creek. It’s the first book I’ve read by Nash, but I can now happily recommend her to lovers of rural romance.
Set primarily in Townsville, Queensland, the story focuses on medical student Christina Price and her efforts to prove herself in life after a difficult upbringing marred by parental neglect and schoolyard bullying. Returning to her childhood home evokes upsetting memories and anxiety rather than nostalgia, and Christina is only there because she has to complete a medical rotation as part of her degree. What starts as a visit of necessity turns into a season of growth and new understanding as Christina learns to stand up for herself, confronts her past and opens herself to the possibility of love with Army Captain Aiden Bell. Two hurting people … two lives connecting. Have they met at the right time in their lives, or will Aiden’s career get in the way?
I enjoyed this book. I’m familiar with the Army lifestyle so I could easily relate to descriptions of the toll it can take on relationships. The chemistry between Christina and Aiden was credible and I wanted them to overcome the hurdles needed to take their relationship further. Nash sets up a multi-layered conflict that includes past hurts that cloud moving on as well as secrets that need to be communicated … but are not. Aiden comes across as a protective, strong male who has a vulnerable side; his strength and protectiveness draws Christina’s inner strength out. It’s a good match. On the romance spice scale, it’s probably a sensual, rather than spicy, but that suits me fine.
Nash dips into themes of dysfunctional relationships, career, belonging, study and work-life balance, themes with wide-ranging relevance to readers. Her storytelling is well structured and strikes a good balance between character development and romantic plot development. The Army base setting adds interest because many are unfamiliar with the way military lifestyles work – for me, it was like stepping back in time.
A great example of Australian small-town romance, Crystal Creek puts Charlotte Nash up there with the top writers of the rural romance genre. If you’re looking for an escapist story that mixes hope, romance and more than a little soul-searching, check this one out. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Nash. The only thing I could point out is that the Crystal Creek of the title has little mention – the wannabe lovers visit the place but the focus is more on them than the place itself.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. My copy was courtesy of Hachette.