It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I find myself still thinking about a book a whole week after first finishing it, and the more I think about this story, the more beauty I keep finding in every single memory of it. From its arresting opening line to the many jaw-dropping bombshells thrown along the way, this story was everything I hoped for, and more, thus making my first encounter with Adriane Leigh’s writing a truly unforgettable one. A tragic but hopeful second chance romance—interwoven with a melancholy tale of stolen dreams and missed opportunities—Leigh tells the story of two people who find each other after many years apart, and examines the depths of their love for one another by testing the very limits of it. Her prose is beautiful and confident, affecting without being maudlin—it squeezed my heart while continuously bringing tears of joy to my eyes, and I had to take a very long, deep breath in the end to fully absorb all the emotions it left in me. This was undoubtedly one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time.
“While everyone was singin’ in church, sending their praise above, I was supposed to be floatin’ in that river. But I’m not. You know why? Because you, Fallon Gentry. Of all the days, of all the moments, you showed up in my life.”
From the moment Fallon Gentry and Augusta Belle Branson first laid eyes on one another on a hot summer’s day in small town Tennessee, their lives would never be the same. Their friendship would take years to blossom into a tender romance that would shape their every dream and hope for the future, defining them as people and erasing any sense of difference between them based on their dissimilar upbringings alone, but it would all come to an end in the blink of an eye, leaving them both heartbroken, and locked in a past that neither of them would forget.
“You were born to fly, Augusta Belle. Some people never get beyond fearin’ the fall. But never forget that you, my dear, were born with just enough rebel heart to leap and soar.”
Ten years later, we find Fallon living on the open road, with a successful music career in Nashville left behind, and with only his guitar and whiskey as his constant companions. He travels from town to town, playing songs inspired by the girl who broke his heart, secretly hoping he’d eventually find her again. Until one day he suddenly finds himself staring into the brandy eyes of the woman he never forgot, torn between hating her and wanting her back.
Augusta Belle Branson had torn my heart from my chest. No way was I letting that thief back inside.
But life for Augusta Belle has not been easy for the past ten years, and the more we learn about her, the clearer it becomes that she is hiding something from Fallon. We watch them learn to trust one another again, rekindling a flame that had never truly gone out, and as the truth is slowly revealed, we are moved to tears by all they must face and forgive in order to keep loving one another. Because they might have lost so much in the years they’ve been apart, but nothing will stop Fallon again from giving his Whiskey Girl everything she’s ever dreamed of.
“How many times you gonna defy death before you realize what you’re lookin’ for is right here, Augusta Belle? Stop running and let me hold you.”
There is so much more that I could say about this insanely beautiful novel, so much more that I’ve had to process while falling in love with Fallon and his Augusta Belle, but this is the kind of story you need to experience as it unfolds, with no real spoilers, and by understanding these characters as the author slowly breaks them wide open for us. They felt fully alive to me—complex, flawed, and inherently human—and every moment between them leapt from the page with profound emotion. I was totally captivated from the first page and it left me in absolute awe of this author’s talent.
“Every day, every gig, no matter where I was, in a sea of people, my eyes never stopped searching for you.”