Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.
Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.
To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book took a while to grow on me. Up until around the 50% mark, I seriously considered DNF-ing. Most of that had to do with the instalove-esque relationship dynamics between the two protagonists. I mean, do heterosexuals really get distracted by a person’s attractiveness while said attractive person is a potential danger to them? Eventually it all fell into place and stopped annoying me, but it did result in me taking much longer to read this book than I’d originally planned.
This next point is *slightly* spoilery, but it happens early in the book so I don’t think it’s too bad. Warning for spoilers anyway.
The other issue I had was the handling of the animal death early in the book, which turned out to be a huge plot point. I hadn’t yet established an emotional connection to either Piper or her pet, before suddenly this apparently beloved animal had been killed and therefore it had absolutely no impact on me. I felt extremely detached from the animal’s owner for the longest time because of this. While her devastation was understandable, I simply hadn’t had the opportunity to connect before I was plunged into this. While some readers’ experiences may vary, especially those who are particularly sensitive to animal cruelty, I found my immersion was negatively impacted by the lack of establishment prior to this happening.
I was fairly connected to Gris early on, primarily because his emotional arc didn’t hinge largely on a sudden tragedy that occurs before a reader connection was established. Piper grew on me over time as I got used to her, so I was fairly invested in the two of them by the time I passed the halfway mark. Gris needs to learn to shut his face sometimes, but I have mentally adopted both him and Piper anyway. I really loved both protagonists’ relationships with their parents. Gris’s dad, despite not being physically present, is bloody hilarious at times.
Once I got past the instalove issue, I really warmed to Gris and Piper’s relationship. Once they were established as a couple, I found the whole thing far less irritating. Do be aware that Gris does try to make Piper think she’s imagining things at one point, and therefore doubt her own perceptions, in an attempt to avoid her finding out his secrets, but she calls him on it immediately and they resolve the issue.
I can’t comment on the OCD or self-harm rep, but the author is writing from personal experience and also used sensitivity readers. She has also included a trigger warning for self-harm at the beginning of the book and discusses her experiences a little bit in an author’s note at the end.
I tend to be a little easier on mentally ill and neurodivergent/neuroatypical authors when they use ableist language in their works since it’s not my place to really judge what’s appropriate, but do be aware there’s a fair amount in there and not all of it is Piper, the character with OCD, referring to her own experiences with the condition.
There is also a passing mention of a teacher potentially having untoward relations with their teenage students, in case that’s a trigger for anyone.
Overall, I didn’t end up hating this book as much as I thought I would and found myself rather enjoying it around the 2/3 mark. Having followed Wendy on social media for a while, back when I was still a teen myself, that was an immense relief.