⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ( 5 Stars)
In my review for Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas, I said ”Who knew that you could take steamy taboo and make it classy, believable and heartfelt?” In Credence, the author takes that statement to the extreme and produces a book that manages to be atmospheric, character-driven, emotional, extremely sexual and thought-provoking all at once.
Credence is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is definitely a statement to Douglas’ writing skills (that keep improving with each new book). We get a story set in the Colorado mountains where each page exudes eeriness and ambiance.
From page one we get reeled in by Tiernan, the seventeen-year-old daughter of two famous Hollywood stars. However, Tiernan is a shell of a person. Her parents were obsessed with one another and resented their daughter. She grew up with nannies and boarding schools, ignored and cast aside. She’s quiet, reserved, empty. Until she gets a call from her step-uncle Jake. She has a chance to join him and his two sons in the Mountains until she comes of age, and maybe that’s just what she needs. A change of pace.
The first part of the book is heartbreaking as we see Tiernan struggle with who she was taught to be and who she really is. But it’s also constructed in a way that keeps you on your toes. The strangeness of the new house, of getting to know new people, keeps you on edge and guessing what could happen next.
”I stand there, still, but the nerves under my skin fire. One phone call, a coach seat, and four states later, it finally occurs to me… I don’t know these people.”
Alfred Hitchcock had a theory he called the “bomb theory”– his analogy for the distinction between surprise and suspense.
In Hitchcock’s theory, there are two scenarios. In the first, two people are having a conversation while a bomb is ticking under the table. The bomb explodes. The viewer is surprised momentarily because there was no indication anything out of the ordinary was going to happen.
In the second scenario, the bomb is underneath the table, but the viewer knows it’s there. They also know that in fifteen minutes that bomb is going to explode, which creates nail-biting suspense. According to Hitchcock, the second scenario is more captivating because the audience is actively participating in the scene and they dying to warn the characters.
There’s a similar feeling in Credence, you just know that something is looming under the surface of all characters, and that they are all going to go off at some point, you just don’t know when. And that’s why this book was so hard to put down.
Regarding the romance, I will say that this is a book has strong reverse harem themes. The blurb clearly alludes that ”One of them has her. The other one wants her. But he…He’s going to keep her.” So I understand that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. And I won’t lie, this book is extremely erotic and definitely for mature audiences.
However, what I think that was so interesting about Credence is how Penelope Douglas makes you analyze this very odd and forbidden situation and twist it in a way that might even make you consider the possibility of something like that happening. Of course, this is fiction but I think it’s so daring for an author to ”go there” creating a discussion around taboo themes.
”Something about this house—these people—lend credence every day to what I always knew I needed. Not sex. Not a guy. Just a place. Somewhere or someone to feel like home.”
The ending of Credence is also very satisfying. The only complaint I have is that in the last 15% of the book there was probably one two many things happening at the same time, and didn’t necessarily need the added conflict. It wasn’t anything too crazy, but I would have preferred to have the extra pages devoted to one particular character overcoming his struggles. At least we get a lovely epilogue and even a nod to the Fall Away Series.
If I can leave one last thought in this review it is: I freaking loved Credence. If you’re not afraid of a forbidden romance, maybe even some dark romance themes, you are in for a wild ride. I’ll definitely read this more than once. It’s already a favorite.