From Karen Siplin, the author of His Insignificant Other and Such a Girl, comes a passionate and edgy love story about a savvy female celebrity photographer and a small-town white contractor that asks, "Where does a black woman born and raised in the big city go when she wants to escape, and what happens when she gets there?"
After one too many run-ins with irate A-list celebrities and their bodyguards on the streets of Los Angeles, paparazza Jimi Anne Hamilton has decided to throw in the towel. But when she planned to ride her BMW K 1200 motorcycle from California to New York, she didn't count on having her cross-country adventure interrupted by a motorcycle thief. After the brutal attack, which sees both her motorcycle and camera equipment stolen, she finds herself left with only her helmet, a few clothes, and a bag of money she swiped from her attacker. Disillusioned and hurt, Jimi chooses to recuperate in a nearby town where she meets Caleb Atwood, a local contractor fighting his own demons.
Jimi and Caleb make a mismatched pair: black and white, highbrow and low. But in Caleb, Jimi believes she has found someone who feels as much of an outsider as she is. With Whiskey Road, Karen Siplin again succeeds in giving readers a story about opposites who manage to see what no one else can that they're right for each other.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Karen Siplin was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has a degree in Film Production from CUNY's Hunter College. Her first novel, His Insignificant Other, was a 2002 Borders Original Voices selection. She is currently working on her third novel. Visit her website at www.karensiplin.com.
Read an Excerpt
Caleb's thinking about what he's going to do tonight. He's been keeping a low profile for the past four days. To avoid trouble. But it's Thursday, the beginning of his weekend, and he doesn't want to spend the evening alone.
Since his wife left six months ago, he's been suffering through a lot of lonely evenings. Weekends are the worst. He hates the way people look at him when he enters places alone. Lately, he's noticed an eerie silence blankets the rooms he walks into. This silence hounds him in Frenchman's Bend, where he lives, and it's the reason he comes one town over to Wheeler's Coffee Shop in Darby. At Wheeler's people understand a twenty-nine-year-old man makes mistakes and is bound to face heartache because of them.
For the past three weeks Caleb's been meeting a married woman at her house a little over a mile from the coffee shop. Emma is sixteen years older than he is. She's small and beautiful, paints pretty pictures and sells antiques for a living. When her husband's at work she helps Caleb get through a lot of lonely afternoons. Most evenings are spent listlessly in Frenchman's Bend. Channel surfing and chain-smoking. Drinking with his friends. Coasting. His life is about coasting these days. Just until another distraction comes along.
Outside, a black girl clad completely in black motorcycle leather gets out of a car and watches it drive away. She adjusts the knapsack on her shoulder, picks up a duffel bag and helmet from the ground and looks at the coffee shop. After a minute, she limps over. Caleb wonders idly where her motorcycle is.
She pulls the coffee shop's door open confidently, not at all deterred by the six white men sitting at the counter drinking their late-afternoon coffee. Including him. Everyone looks up to greet her. No one says a word when they see her. They just stare.
She has ebony hair that grazes her shoulders. Except a lock that hangs in front. Pink, defiant and alone. Caleb kind of smirks at that. A lone pink lock of hair probably has a story. Her right eye is bruised a dark purple and her bottom lip is busted. There's a gash across her forehead. She's a pretty girl, and watching her, Caleb wonders if she took a nasty spill on her missing motorcycle, or if someone did that to her.
Caleb's the type of man who can't help feeling vaguely protective of women he thinks are in trouble. Some people have a soft spot for stray cats or missing children. He's always felt the tug on his heart for women with bruises. They remind him of his mother. She had a history of being involved with men who hurt her.
The number of women he sees with bruises never surprises him. He just wonders why it's such a common occurrence. Something every man at this counter comes across, but never mentions. Occasionally Caleb notices the same woman with a new bruise and he wonders how her man knew she'd be the one who'd let him get away with it. He never asks. He doesn't think they'd be honest with him. A woman who'd let a man hit her more than once wouldn't be able to tell him why it happens.
"Can someone recommend a decent motel?" the girl asks in a voice soft enough to give everyone an excuse to ignore her. Caleb looks at the paper he's been pretending to read for the past twenty minutes, aware of the deafening silence. Seconds later, he looks at her again. He can't help it.
She's wearing the same leather uniform he's seen in print catalogues and on the Internet. It's tight, Italian and very expensive. But the duffel bag she's carrying is worn and scuffed. She has a death grip on it, like it's packed with her life everything that's good and worth holding on to. Caleb has an unfamiliar desire to empty it and wash it for her, but he knows he'd never get his hands on it.
She sets the bag and her helmet on the stool at the end of the counter, rests a heavily booted foot on the stool's base. Jennifer, the owner of Wheeler's Coffee Shop, refills the coffees and all the men stare solemnly into their full cups.
"Can someone recommend a decent motel?" the girl repeats slower, a little louder. "Or directions to an actual town that would have a decent motel."
Everyone looks at her. She's rolling a lighter gently between her fingers, waiting patiently for someone to answer her question. Her nails are short, unpolished and clean. The skin around her knuckles is swollen and scabbed. When she sets the lighter on the counter, Caleb notices her hands are shaking. He thinks: She fought back.
"Are you gonna order something?" Jennifer asks the girl.
"Sure," the girl says, unfazed by Jennifer's rudeness. "Coffee. Black. No sugar. And a pack of Marlboros."
Jennifer turns her back to the counter and Caleb watches her fill a take-out cup with steaming coffee. She sets it in front of the girl and places a lid on top of it. The girl stares at the cup, not unaware of what this gesture means. Caleb thinks she's going to leave. He would. Instead, she looks at Jennifer with an arched eyebrow. She unzips her leather jacket, takes it off to expose a sleeveless undershirt and bruised arms and sits on the stool next to her stuff. Caleb smirks at that also.
"Thanks," the girl says with a smile.
Jennifer nods stiffly, glancing up for a second to wave good-bye to a man who has left exact change for his coffee. Then she pulls a pack of Marlboro cigarettes from the dispenser and tosses it carelessly on the counter. Caleb stares. Jennifer has never been anything but kind and smiling in his presence.
"No motels, then?" the girl says, tapping the pack of cigarettes on the counter's edge.
Jennifer sighs quietly, kind of rolls her eyes. "Nothing around here," she says.
Percy from the hardware store looks at Caleb, curious if Caleb will offer the girl a place to stay. There are cottages behind his house in Frenchman's Bend. One of them is still in decent condition. Years ago, his uncle opened them to tourists, but Caleb nipped that in the bud when he inherited the property. Caleb can see a joke formulating in Percy's eyes. Caleb doesn't like strangers. Percy knows this. So it'd give Percy a laugh to put Caleb in an awkward spot. But Caleb flashes him a look and Percy swallows hard, nods his apology, turns back to his coffee.
And Caleb looks at the girl. Her eyes are on him. Large, dark eyes. Wide and inquisitive. As if she knows what's just passed between him and the old man. He looks away.
He hasn't ever considered reopening the cottages. And definitely not for a girl as cute as this one. He glances at her again. She's no longer looking at him. He checks out her body and decides it's probably nice underneath all the leather. No one notices the once-over. He's quick.
Jennifer starts to refill everyone's cup again. Except the girl's. The girl doesn't seem to notice the slight, even though Caleb thinks her coffee's finished. Her head is lowered; her hair falls forward to cover her face. Caleb tries hard like everyone else to pretend she isn't there, but just like everyone else, he can't stop glancing at her every two seconds. She's different. Strange for this part of the world. She's brought with her an energy that has set this diner on edge. When he senses her eyes on him he looks up, feeling the jittery tinge he feels when he thinks someone's going to accuse him of something. But she still isn't looking at him.
He stands, a little disturbed by his discomfort. In the back of Wheeler's, Jennifer keeps a refrigerator stocked with six-packs. He grabs his usual pack of Budweiser.
"Try Main Street," he suggests when he returns to the counter. "It's about fifteen minutes away. In Frenchman's Bend."
He can feel every eye in the room on him, but his eyes remain only on the girl. Her expression is unreadable. He thinks she's going to ask him some impossible question he can't answer; he doesn't know why. Instead, she smiles.
"Thanks," she says.
She slides off the stool gingerly and sticks her hand inside her jacket. He can't help but watch as she pulls some cash from her pocket and drops it on the counter. She grabs her things and limps out of the coffee shop. She doesn't look back when Jennifer calls out for her to wait for her change.
Copyright © 2008 by Karen Siplin
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is my first book by Karen and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I am a huge fan of romance and this story to me was really original and believable. The vulnerability of jimi was very tangible and Caleb's issues where strong enough to scare her a bit and make him skittish of what he was beginning to feel for her. the one thing that bothered me a tiny bit was the lack of sex scenes..( I am not a freak or anything) but the way Karen was literally writing how Caleb was hot for Jimi, I think there should have been at least a big one and then downplay the rest. If this is your first time reading her book, you will not be disappointed. I've already place my order for her other books. :)
Whiskey Road was a great book, but the main characters, Caleb and Jimi-I couldn't stand them! They were too hesitant and evasive with their feelings for one another. I blame Karen for making them like that! I suppose I could understand why, though. Nonetheless, the book was awesome and I would read it again. I'm willing to admit that Jimi and Caleb's tendency to avoid showing their feelings is what made the book realistic. Big-ups to Karen Siplin for writing this!