Secrets of Ugly Creek by Cheryel Hutton

UGLY
Secrets of Ugly Creek by Cheryel Hutton
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (135 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Nobody knows how special Ugly Creek is, except the people who live there and guard its secrets. When journalist and ex-resident Madison Clark discovers an infamous muckraker plans to film a documentary there, she volunteers to interview him. Somebody must protect the little town. She didn’t realize she’d also have to protect her heart.

For Gibson “Mac” McFain, this documentary series means a fresh start. He didn’t count on a feisty, yet attractive, reporter questioning his motives. Worse, someone is determined to undermine his efforts by attacking him and his crew. No matter what he feels about Madison, Mac can’t risk ruining what’s left of his career.

Love requires trust; but both Madison and Mac believe it’s a luxury they can’t afford. That leaves desire and it’s only a matter of time before they act on their longings. But are the stakes too high to be sleeping with the enemy?

Rural communities are supposed to be quiet and safe. If only Ugly Creek had gotten that message.

The storyline itself was compelling, but it took a while for the science fiction and paranormal elements to show up. At first I was slightly puzzled by this decision because the blurb lead me to believe that these things were central to the plot. It’s difficult to discuss Ms. Hutton’s reasons for doing this without wandering into spoiler territory, but this definitely wasn’t an error. As soon as I figured out why she wrote it this way, I completely understood why the author needed to include so much other information in the beginning.

While I appreciated the fact that the main character had her share of flaws, some of them were so deep-seated and serious that I had trouble picking out the positive attributes of her personality as well. It would have been helpful to have a few more examples of her strengths so that my perception of her could be balanced better. Madison can be incredibly opinionated and judgmental, but I never quite figured out what she’s like at her best.

I’m a sucker for canine characters. There’s something endearing about including a friendly, mischievous dog in a story, and Gizmo is no exception to this rule. Some of my favorite scenes involved all of the hijinks he got into when the humans were distracted by other things. He’s quite a funny little guy.

The romantic subplot never made sense to me. The characters involved in it have good reasons to dislike one another, so I found it odd that either one of them would want to spend even more time with someone who was such a source of conflict in their lives. I would have preferred to either have read a full-length novel that better explains their mutual attraction or to have something shorter than cut all of those scenes out.

This is the second book in a series. I didn’t realize this was the case when I requested it, but I had no problem at all getting caught up on the most important details of previous events within a chapter or two. It can definitely be read as a standalone work, and that made me happy.

Secrets of Ugly Creek is a good choice for anyone who likes science fiction whose setting is completely humdrum and ordinary.

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