Book Review: Credence by Penelope Douglas

While reading, I thought by book review of Credence would be a most positive one. Unfortunately, as the story continued, I had many problems with it. I don’t know Penelope Douglas, I didn’t even know Credence was categorized as romance, but it’s not the genre that actually caused problems. If you want to purchase Credence by Penelope Douglas or read an excerpt, head to Amazon.

(Review contains major spoilers.)

Book review of Credence by Penelope Douglas

Credence official cover art
Credence official cover art

My rating: ★★★ (3/5)

Summary: Tiernan de Haas lost her superstar parents, but they never truly cared about her. Still, she has two more months to go before she’s legally an adult, and her parents left her in the care of Jake Van der Berg, her father’s stepbrother. Jake lives in the mountains with his two sons, Noah and Kaleb. As winter settles in and the family gets snowed in, Tiernan crosses a dangerous line with the members of her new family.

Genre: want-to-be Romance, odd Reverse Harem, some sort of Suspense

Audience: Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: age gap, child neglect, abuse, sexual assault

Addictive Writing Style

The first thing worth noting in this book review of Credence is that Douglas’ writing style is pretty addictive. I like the way she phrases emotions and takes you places with simple, yet effective descriptions. Initially, she put a lot of thought into crafting her characters. As Tiernan and Jake get introduced, they feel like real people with an emotional baggage you can’t ignore. Credence reads like a very mature book, and I enjoyed that part.

A Confusing Idea of “Romance”

Douglas spends a lot of time building up the dynamic between Tiernan and her “uncle,” Jake, so it didn’t surprise me in the least when the two of them took their flirting to the next level. However, as soon as that happened, it flickered out and died, and it never showed up again in the second half of the book.

I went into this book knowing nothing about Penelope Douglas, her preferences, her genres… Nothing. I saw a cover featuring some woods and mist, and I didn’t even expect this book to have romantic themes. Imagine my surprise when, after Jake leaves for one evening, Tiernan jumps into a threesome with his sons, Noah and Kaleb. She was a virgin up till what, two days ago? Two weeks ago? Granted, she flirted a bit with Noah. She had an odd encounter with Kaleb before, though she pushed him away. And now, she watches porn movies with them and has sex with them.

But it doesn’t stop there.

When Jake comes back, she hops beds for a bit. So, I thought, is this a reverse harem book? Well, no. The male characters you find in Credence are misogynist pigs. They sleep around and shelter Tiernan like the next Virgin Mary. They’re in her face anytime a guy shows interest in her. So, no, they’re not very fond of sharing. Noah serves us a cringe fest of lines taken from Wattpad to show Tiernan he’s the best option. Jake’s balls shrink and all he does is hang around or complain that Tiernan’s caretaker, Mirai, calls too often. Kaleb is an abusive child.

And then, out of nowhere, Tiernan states she is in love with Kaleb.

Sex heals trauma. Rape too, apparently.

I don’t have any problem with authors who write sexual abuse, rape, and all kinds of weird stuff. But when they romanticize it, I grow concerned.

Kaleb has selective mutism since he was 4. He doesn’t know how to hang around people, how to display his emotions. Apparently, even though this story takes place in the 21st century, Jake never thought of sending his son to therapy. They did a bit of sign language and that was it. This is not fantasy or science fiction, and yet Kaleb acts as if nobody ever knew what to do with him. Teachers, pediatricians, nada. Nobody was there.

Kaleb abuses Tiernan frequently. He spits in her hair, writes “slut” on her forehead, throws away her birth control to get her pregnant, outright rapes her one night, but she loves him. She runs away, never looks back for 6 months. She fears him, but she loves him to the point of forgetting all of that when he shows up again… to fix the swing in her garden.

Because Tiernan spent her childhood watching her parents, who didn’t care about her existence, play on that damned swing.

And also, after 18 years of selective mutism, Kaleb can talk like a normal person after 6 months of reading books out loud. He’s normal now. Ableist much?

Nonsensical HEA

My hopes of Tiernan being smarter than that died with the epilogue. Miss California got her degree, has infinite amounts of parent money to build herself another house and had a kid with Kaleb. This awkward “family” gathers for camping. Noah has embraced his one true love, racing. Jake is happily screwing Mirai and contemplates having a kid with her.

I know the romance genre has mandatory HEAs. I just don’t think this is a romance book. The logical ending would have been for Kaleb to die in that -40 °C (-100 °F) weather when he went missing. For Noah to have gone racing long before Tiernan left, since she didn’t give a damn about his feelings, anyway. Tiernan should’ve probably ended up single. I guess Jake was alright, and I wouldn’t have cringed if she eventually went back to him.

Ultimately, this a book that wanted to mix too many genres. A bit of psychology, suspense, thriller, romance, RH… You can’t handle all of that in 36 chapters. I liked the author’s style, and this book certainly made me curious about her other works. But Credence did not deliver.