The Whiskey Sea

the-whiskey-seaAuthor: Ann Howard Creel

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: August 23, 2016

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Frieda Hope and her sister Bea are orphaned at a young age after their mother, the town whore, dies.  They are fortunate to be taken in by a local fisherman, Silver, who cares for them as if they were his own.  Bea is pretty and sociable and inclined to academics, whereas Frieda just wants to get through high school and then help Silver fish on his boat.  She hates being constantly judged based on her mother’s choices, so she prefers the solitude of the sea to people.  As her high school graduation nears, she learns that Silver has sold his boat to a local boat engine repairman, Hicks, because he doesn’t want her living the harsh life of a fisherman.  Devastated, Frieda begs Hicks to teach her to repair engines, too, so she will still have some connection to the sea.  This is all during the time of Prohibition, and their small fishing town off the Jersey Shore is the perfect place for rumrunning.  One of Frieda’s customers offers her a permanent position on his rumrunning boat as engineer, and the money is so good that she can’t refuse.  She wants to send Bea to college and provide nursing care for Silver, who has recently suffered a debilitating stroke.  Silver and Hicks don’t approve of her choice, but she is so headstrong that they can’t stop her.

As Frieda becomes successful at her illegal job, she meets a gorgeous Princeton grad student who joins their operation on a lark.  He doesn’t need the money and will be going to law school in the fall, so this is his way to escape what he calls his oppressive family and its obligations.  Frieda has never fallen for a man before, mostly as a way to avoid her mother’s legacy, so she is absolutely enchanted.  At the same time, though, she is furious with herself for feeling so insecure around Princeton (as the crew calls him). She believes that she is giving up her independence and autonomy, especially since he won’t commit to her.  Just when she is ready to force his hand, he acts in a way that shows his true colors and his honest feelings about her.

I am an avid reader of historical fiction, but the topic of rumrunning during Prohibition is a new one for me.  I was not disappointed, as I loved the characters, the setting, and the adventure.  Despite Frieda’s prickly exterior, she has a warm and loving character that is demonstrated in how she sacrifices her happiness for her family.  Her rumrunning companions are brought to life through their own personal stories, and Princeton’s life of privilege is demonstrated through his shallow and often frivolous behavior.  The history of the time and the area are brought to life through the many runs they make, and how they manage to avoid the law is always thrilling.

This story takes place in the time of Prohibition off the Jersey Shore, where rumrunning (or bootlegging) was successful and very common.  The local shoremen who participated in this illegal activity quickly became rich, often at the risk of their health and lives.  Frieda frequently experiences this too, as their boat is often chased by Coast Guard vessels looking to stop their activities.  More often than not, however, rumrunners faced pirates who would rob them and even kill over the cash they carried.  Frieda learns to keep an eye out, but sometimes the pirates are too much.  Much of this is illustrated throughout the book, which means that there is some violence and a penchant for harsh reality.  Additionally, there is strong profanity used for effect.  While it is not in every sentence, it is definitely noticeable.  For these reasons, I recommend the book for mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and thorough review.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

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