Almost Broken takes place in Woodstock.
No, not that Woodstock. This story is set in one of the other thirty-four Woodstocks found in seven countries around the world. Actually, the name Woodstock is so popular, some countries have more than one. Canada, the UK and Jamaica all have two Woodstocks; Australia has four; South Africa and New Zealand each have one, but the Woodstock winner is the United States with twenty-two, including the namesake for arguably the most famous rock festival in history. Actually, the 1969 Woodstock festival was staged on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, some sixty miles away from the town of Woodstock.
In any event, the small town that serves as the setting for Almost Broken is Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada, located in beautiful Carleton County, not far from the US border at Houlton, Maine. And also, because you’re never very far from a river in New Brunswick, including in Woodstock, the St. John and Meduxnekeag rivers play a pivotal role in this romantic suspense about struggle and triumph.
The history of this Woodstock location has its own colourful cast of forefathers, when in 1783, the area was settled by disbanded veterans of DeLancey’s Brigade following the American Revolutionary War. The first incorporated town in New Brunswick in 1856, Woodstock has plenty of local charm. But aside from it being a nice place to live and visit, it’s special to me because it’s where my best friend lives, and it never fails to remind me of countless good times spent there. Of course there’s a Main Street marching proudly through it, serving not only as a gentle reminder of a storied downtown of days past, but also a vibrant example that the town’s lifeblood still flows deep, rich and strong as it continues to reinvent itself with an abundance of modern amenities.
The Carleton County Courthouse stands sentinel on Main Street on a warm August day, an imposing presence in this former Shiretown. I think of Blaise Callaghan of Almost Broken as the gavel sounds its damning echo, and his life takes a dramatic and unexpected turn, exposing the terrible underbelly of things heretofore unimaginable. That judge’s decision left Blaise grappling with a painful new reality, while he struggles to hold onto important remnants of his past.
“He closed his eyes as a natural longing washed over him. He could definitely feel a connection with this woman. ‘I can’t, but thank you,’ he said, his voice barely above a whisper, very much aware of his six p.m. to six a.m. curfew and the fact that his parole officer had warned him that he’d never know when he’d come to his house to check up on him. Otherwise he’d be temped to soothe his soul in the arms of this beautiful woman.
‘All right then,’ she said quietly. ‘I understand.’
“She started to get out then turned back. ‘I’m going to go now,’ she said leaning imperceptibly closer, and his lips found hers. It was a great kiss, fired by mutual desire, and it deepened quickly before they broke it off, breathless, both needing more, but knowing it would never happen.
“She reached up and smoothed the hair back off his forehead in an affectionate gesture as she gazed into his eyes. ‘Good-bye, Blaise Callaghan. Stay strong and take care of yourself. I wish for you all good things.’
“He watched as she got into her car and drove away. She was a desirable woman, there was no mistaking that, but if it had been possible to get together, it would have only been for one night. No one could compare to Sophie. No one.”
The sun beats down with often relentless intensity on this idyllic little town, the flags fluttering in a gentle afternoon breeze on Main Street. Meanwhile, Blaise still finds himself in the middle of a nightmare as shadows begin to lengthen around him….
“Thirst tortured him, his throat having turned to dust hours ago. He could see the river through the trees; hear the waves lapping and that only added to his torment. Could he crawl there and get a drink? He moaned, or was it a call for help? Certainly, the crows that frequented the trees around him could do nothing, except mock him unmercifully.”