If you have read any of my past book reviews, then you would know that I have been on the hunt for a gut-wrenching, oddball book that will sit with me through the holidays and ruin my appetite. A book that will resurface in my brain at the most random and inappropriate of times, like when I am washing the dishes, or when I am feeding my grandchildren applesauce years down the line. Well, fellow oxygen breathers, I have found it.
“Credence” by Penelope Douglas has given a new meaning to the “step” in step uncle. If that caught your attention, then buckle your seatbelts, because I wish I had. But then again, this is Penelope Douglas, creator of the infamous “Devils Night” series and the reigning smut queen. The lengthy trigger warning for this book was a given.
But this story in particular follows Tiernan, a 17 year old who was abruptly orphaned and decided to live with her father’s step brother and two sons in the Colorado mountains. As the only child of a wealthy couple, Tiernan was under the impression that her STEP uncle, whom she had never met before, was also gifted with a fortune and lived in a boogie ski resort. Emphasis on the “step.” However, this was not the case, and a key point in the plot is that through the winter months, there is no escape from the Hicksville cabin until the snow thaws off the roads. So Tiernan, an underage girl with severe abandonment issues, must stay with her STEP cousins and STEP uncle, who in my brain bears an uncanny resemblance to Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls, for the majority of the story. Can we all fill in the blanks and guess how this story goes?
I have to disclose that the trigger warnings for this book are intense, to say the least. “Credence” includes themes of sexual assault, violence, questionable consent, self-harm, and most importantly, semi-incest. Hence the emphasis on the “step.”
You must be thinking, “Olivia, did you pick this book on purpose?” To which I must reply, “NO.” This book was recommended to me by my very own TikTok account and has been one of the most popular, spicy books on Kindle for some time.
Does this mean I was disappointed? Definitely not, the world building was incredible, and the circumstances were just uncomfortable enough for me to want to know what happens next, since I truly did not think Douglas had the balls to go there. She definitely did, and more.
I am not appalled by the age gap trope in general, however this book was definitely pushing the boundaries. But I have to say that the plot buildup regarding Tiernan’s past and her questionable logic makes it almost realistic in a way. This does not mean that the woman in me did not take a minute and say, “Did I just read that correctly?” The love triangle trope is somewhat new to me, but for some odd reason, I did not hate it. My emotions lept from sadness, to giddiness, to straight revulsion. But what can I say? I most definitely was not bored, and I finished this book in three days.
“Credence” pushed every boundary imaginable, while building new ones and then pushing those as well. Things I could not have even imagined reading were read between the covers of this book, and Penelope Douglas has officially won the award for “Most Out-Of-Pocket” novels. The good news is that it is a stand-alone book, so there is no sequel to burn your eyes even further.
Again, I must reiterate that this is a work of fiction, and a red, hot spicy one at that. If the trigger warning gave you even the slightest bit of unease, I would definitely push it to the side and leave it for the smut veterans. However, if you want a completely unrealistic, close proximity trope with a heaping tablespoon of semi-incest and a smidge of “I hope the Lord isn’t listening” then “Credence” is the book for you. Read at your own peril.