The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I think that it was the rum-running aspect of the story that saved this book from being a completely formulaic book, but even with those fun 20s touches, the author was unable to prevent a bit of a shipwreck.
Summary complete with SPOILERS
Outcast girl is raised by kind fatherly man who is no relation. However, when she graduates he suddenly sells the boat she thought would become hers to a man called Hicks. It turns out this is to get the money to send her to secretarial school and because he has kind of promised her to Hicks as a wife. But she is strong and spunky and says no way, Jose! She dashes off to learn how to fix boat engines from the very man who bought her boat, and who of course is devotedly in love with her despite apparently never having spoken to her before. Then for years she works as a mechanic until she finds that she could be making even bigger money by keeping the engine cool for a rum-runner. Surprise, surprise, the mysterious beautiful young man she once glimpsed from a distance and cannot get out of her mind becomes a crew member too, for kicks. Even bigger surprise, she falls for him, goes all girly for him, goes to speakeasies with him, sleeps with him, etc while noticing that he never says he loves her and gets angry at talk about the future. And of course poor old Hicks is still hanging around like a big sad puppy, somehow comforting her. The whole thing is pretty predictable. Her father figure dies, her sister leaves and gets married, beautiful boy shows over and over just what a jerk he can be and exactly what he wants her for, and then the boat explodes and Mr. Beautiful bails on them all. Our heroine goes back to engine repairs after travelling to NYC to say one weird last goodbye to the guy who cared nothing for her, and of course, suddenly realizes it was Hicks who was perfect for her all along. So everyone is happy (except probably the guy who was so injured in that boat explosion) and that's the end.
I would have liked the book better if the heroine (whose name I've already forgotten) had not been so silly. I liked that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty, was in love with the sea, and didn't fear carving out her own path, but she just continually makes stupid choices and ignores the worry of the small handful of people who actually love her. However, stupid choices are part of life for everyone so I am trying to overlook that.
I guess I also would have liked the book better if it hadn't been so easy to figure out, pretty much from the first time she spots the guy whose beauty seems to be his only good trait, exactly what the rest of the book will be. And it is. There are no surprises. How disappointing :(
I have to say, though, that the author has skill for making you see the setting clearly in your mind's eye. And the suspense on the rum-running trips was palpable. I think the choice of subject matter was a good one, as there aren't so many books written about the people who risked all to provide those who could afford it with illegal booze (at a huge profit).
If you love the Roaring 20s I think this is worth reading so long as you don't expect too much.
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