WILDWOOD CREEK is the fourth book in the Moses Lake series by Lisa Wingate. But this one is a little different, in that it alternates between contemporary and historical, weaving two stories into one.
Allie Kirkland has always been a starry-eyed dreamer, aspiring to follow her late father’s footsteps directly into the entertainment industry. Her mother and stepfather are livid that Allie used the inheritance from her grandmother to start a grad degree in film production. To them, Allie is living in a fantasy and should join the “real world” and work at her stepfather’s law business. Although at times Allie wonders if they are right, she just can’t ignore her deep-down passion to fulfill her father’s --- and perhaps her own --- destiny.
When she lands a job as a production assistant for a reality-based television docudrama, set in the hills of Moses Lake, Texas, Allie is thrilled. The show will cast actors to portray real-life characters from 1861, living in Wildwood, an early Civil War-era frontier settlement. Sinister legends abound about this remote place, where people mysteriously vanished from their homes, leaving their belongings behind. Many believed that a young woman named Bonnie Rose, who came to the town by riverboat with her little sister, was behind the disappearances.
"WILDWOOD CREEK grabbed me from page one and didn’t let go. This is one of those rare gems I had trouble putting down, and the ending took me by surprise --- probably one of the highest compliments to pay an author."
Once the cast and crew arrive on the set, Allie is shocked when she is approached and asked to play the character of Bonnie Rose. She is more comfortable behind the camera, but doesn’t want to take a chance of missing out on this opportunity altogether, so she agrees. As production ensues, Allie is drawn deeper into the mystery and feels an undeniable connection with the character she plays.
WILDWOOD CREEK is really like two stories in one, and they intertwine seamlessly. The story alternates between past and present, from Allie to Bonnie Rose. Each counterpart is compelling, and readers are drawn into the mystery as it plays out. Bonnie Rose and her nine-year-old sister, Maggie May, are truly endearing, and the tragic circumstances that brought them to Wildwood made me want to reach through the pages of the book and wrap them both up in a big hug.
Besides the drama and mystery, romance plays a role, providing a nice divergence from the heaviness of the topic. Allie’s best friend, Kim, also offers a bit of fun and entertainment to the story, her free-spiritedness a breath of fresh air, even if she does come across as an irresponsible child at times. Then there’s Wren, the spoiled brat of a girl who plays Maggie May, stealing every scene she’s in with some funny --- if irreverent --- dialogue.
Author Lisa Wingate provides a wealth of fascinating historical facts, and it’s clear how much research went into constructing this novel. Wingate creates exquisite word pictures, painting a beautiful setting, and her storytelling is superb. The flow seems effortless yet was no doubt woven with great care and attention to detail. Readers even get to revisit characters from previous Moses Lake books, like Len and his granddaughter Birdie, Bert, Nester and Pop Dorsey. Mallory Hale, the main character in LARKSPUR COVE, also makes an appearance. Allie even adds her “quote” to the Wall of Wisdom at the Waterbird Bait and Grocery, which is a nice touch.
WILDWOOD CREEK grabbed me from page one and didn’t let go. This is one of those rare gems I had trouble putting down, and the ending took me by surprise --- probably one of the highest compliments to pay an author. I have enjoyed all of the Moses Lake books, and, as mentioned earlier, this one is a bit different from the three before it. But it is my personal favorite in the series, and will appeal to all genre fans: historical, romance, mystery and general fiction alike. Whether or not this is the last we see of Moses Lake and its residents remains to be seen. I, for one, hope not. It’s definitely a place that leaves you longing to visit time and time again.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on April 27, 2014