Aussie Book Review: Crystal Creek by Charlotte Nash

“Will a placement at Townsville's army base hold the key to medical student Christina's past - and perhaps her future?

Aspiring medical student Christina Price has worked hard to rise above an upbringing filled with neglect and the assumption that she would never amount to anything. She promised herself she was never going back - could never go back - to Townsville, where she'd been bullied and betrayed as a young teenager. But when a twist of fate lands her on practical placement in a clinic on the Townsville army base, she must confront past hurts if she wants to succeed and, just maybe, find love.

Captain Aiden Bell is used to hard work, and to the life of an army officer: base-hopping and deploying overseas. His career has taken an emotional toll that he hasn't dealt with, until meeting Christina stirs memories, desire - and hope.

At Crystal Creek, can facing your past give love a chance?”

“… people who trust each other and expect there’ll be some hard times seem to do better than the ones with rose-tinted glasses.” – Crystal Creek

When Christina Price’s medical rotation in Brisbane falls through, she finds herself having to take a placement at the Townsville Army Base’s medical clinic. Of all the places she never wanted to go back to, it is Townsville, where the reasons for the breakdown of her relationship with aunt Harriett are still unclear and memories of bullying school children linger around every corner. Christina’s life has always been one of survival and, while trying to do so, on the smell of an oily rag, she is both committed and dedicated to finishing her degree even if a bit conflicted about returning. 

Captain Aiden Bell is posted at the Townsville Army Base – for the time being. Currently doing a stint coordinating a disaster relief exercise, he’s never in one place for too long but this posting has created an opportunity to be closer to his sister, Dani, a doctor at the nearby hospital whose wedding date is looming.

The attraction between them is instant and one kiss at Crystal Creek, a place that has always been just a fantasy to Christina, leaves them unable to stop thinking about one another even with the emotional baggage that has left them with scars both internally and externally. The last thing either of them wants is a relationship.

As Christina battles to study, complete assignments and eek out a living to support herself and Aiden fights his inner hurt, disillusionment and the fact that his deployment overseas is imminent, the attraction between them grows stronger.

I’ve wanted to read a Charlotte Nash novel for a long while now, but for some or other reason, I haven’t done so - until Crystal Creek. Wow, what a book – and what a gifted writer.

I was so impressed that I literally inhaled it, thoroughly enjoying the characters of both Aiden and Christina as I found myself connecting with both of them on an emotional level.

Deliciously handsome with a tattoo that stretches from his bicep over his chest (yes, I'm a self-confessed lover of skin art on men), Aiden seems like he is just all hard edges. On the inside though, he is kind, caring, considerate and respectful with the softest of hearts.

While he’s had his fair share of painful experiences, Christina’s story is by no means light. The daughter of an alcoholic mother who bore witness to, and became a victim of Rachael’s dysfunctional life, was also a casualty of bullying at school. Stubborn, proud and determined, she is driven to succeed and prove to all the people who said she would never amount to anything that they were so very wrong about her!

All of this (and more) is revealed as Charlotte skilfully peels back their layers to reveal two human beings who have experienced deep hurt, humiliation and disappointment that makes them feel like they don’t belong anywhere and, as they wade through the quagmire of old grief, letting go of the past and finding something constant to hold onto, it packs a punch in the emotional gut of the reader.

Romantic, heart-warming and engaging, Charlotte’s writing is assured and has a spark that left me wanting more.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this book for review.

About the Author

Charlotte Nash was born in England and grew up in the Redland Shire of Brisbane with a love for horses and heavy machinery, later studying both engineering and medicine (some of which on an army base).

She subsequently worked for the CSIRO and for private industry, which included building rockets and visiting mine sties and ports across Australia.

These days, she is a technical writer and fiction author, and teaches creative writing at the University of Queensland in the community.

Crystal Creek is her third novel.


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