Sierra Falls, by Veronica Wolff

>> Sunday, January 26, 2014

TITLE: Sierra Falls
AUTHOR: Veronica Wolff

PAGES: 320
PUBLISHER: Berkley Sensation

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Starts a series, I think

Sierra Falls, California, is one of those sleepy towns that people choose to leave. Sorrow Bailey chose to stay behind and run the struggling family lodge, but has always yearned for more. Things look up when she discovers a collection of letters from her three-times great grandmother and namesake, telling the story of a forbidden love affair.

Billy Preston is the new sheriff, a widower escaping the grief of his former life. He helps out after an accident at the Bailey lodge, and what begins as admiration for Sorrow's quiet strength quickly becomes more. When Sorrow's discovery brings fame to Sierra Falls and her dreams of a better life are within reach, one too many "accidents" have Billy wondering whether someone is willing to kill to keep them off the map...

Sierra Falls started out well. Sorrow Bailey wanted to leave the isolated mountain town in California where her parents own a lodge. She wanted to do so just as much as her siblings, but as the youngest and the last one left, and with her father having suffered a stroke, she didn't feel she could. She's stayed behind to help, expressing all her creativity in gourmet cooking that her father refuses to let her serve in the lodge.

She and Billy Preston, the new sheriff, start getting to know each other better when a tree falls through the roof of the lodge and Billy helps out. Billy likes and is attracted to Sorrow, but she's got a boyfriend, plus, he isn't sure he's quite ready for a serious relationship after the death of his wife. And then there are the suspiciously frequent accidents at the lodge.

This doesn't sound particularly original: small town, put-upon heroine who feels stuck, parents who don't appreciate the work she does and put her down, hero who is the town sheriff. But there were glimpses of real originality there, of subverting some of those obvious plot points. Sorrow really resents her sister having left, and she makes her feel it when she returns. It's not a black and white thing at all. Sorrow is not a martyr and can even be a bit of a bitch to her sister, and her sister is not horrible and taking advantage of her, she's just someone who left to pursue her own dream. Also, Sorrow has a boyfriend, and not only does she have sex with him, she kind of is with him mainly for the sex, which she enjoys much more than she likes him as a person. Then there's the age difference between Sorrow and Billy (not huge, but significant), and some intriguing signs of a secondary romance between two older characters who seemed perfect for each other, despite being outwardly very different.

I was intrigued, and settled in for an enjoyable read. And then I got really bored. I think it was the letters that bogged it down. See, Sorrow finds a bunch of letters in the attic written by an ancestress of hers to this well-known figure, and suddenly it's all about the letters and making them the centrepiece of a festival that will revive the town's fortunes. Unfortunately, all the story around that is really not at all interesting, and I couldn't care less.

There were other things going on that I did like, such as Sorrow's battle with her father for respect (although I really think she could have been a lot more assertive there) and her very realistically fraught relationship with her sister, but I left it for a few weeks in the middle while I had my holiday in Jordan (even though it was an ebook, and I took my kindle with me), and it took me a while to pick it back up even when I returned.

When I finally did, the thing got briefly interesting again, as the romance between Sorrow and Billy, the sheriff, picked up. But then the finale was all about the sabotage, and that was tedious as hell, and I ended up skimming it.

So, not offensive, and with some promise, but ultimately very average.



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