The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel

The-Whiskey-SeaGenre: Drama, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016

As the daughter of the town’s late prostitute, Frieda Hope knows hardship. She is accustomed to whispers and rejection, and vows to provide a better life for her sister, Bea. When Silver, a kind fisherman, takes the two girls in, Frieda finds refuge and solace on the water. However, her plans crumble when Silver sells his boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks.

The elderly fisherman believes Hicks will make a good husband for Frieda, but she has other ideas and convinces the young veteran to teach her how to repair boat engines. Nonetheless, it quickly becomes evident that her mechanic wages won’t cover putting Bea through teacher’s school. Determined to make Bea’s dream a reality by any means necessary, and now in the height of the Prohibition, Frieda becomes a rumrunner, succumbing to the lure of making big money fast. Things start to look up, especially once she meets a handsome Ivy Leaguer bent on winning her over. But choices have a way of catching up and Frieda finds herself grappling to find firm ground.

I don’t often read historical fiction and I’ve never picked up a Prohibition era novel, but The Whiskey Sea had me riveted from beginning to end. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be bittersweet. Ann Howard Creel pens a story of hope, heartbreak, and the choices in between.

I watched helplessly as Frieda steadily advanced toward a precipice of bad decisions, yet I couldn’t resist becoming entrenched in her story, desperately wanting to be her friend and help guide her out of her downward spiral. By the end, I felt that, for the most part, Frieda was repentant for her choices and actions. Though in an area or two, I did wonder whether she was sorry for what she’d done or for the outcome.

Hicks’ steadfastness, loyalty, and sense of morality made him my favorite almost immediately. My appreciation for him only grew as the story progressed. The author brought the setting to life so vividly that I could taste the ocean brine, see the coastal shoreline, and hear the cawing seagulls and breaking waves. Days after finishing the book, I still feel like I stand on the brink of that world. I need only to close my eyes and I’m back with Frieda, Bea, Silver, and Hicks.

As a fan of The Magic of Ordinary Days (both the book and Hallmark movie) also written by Creel, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review this story. While the characters, setting, and time period differ greatly, a common thread and theme exists between the two. 

Readers should be aware that, while not predominant, there is some foul language, and though not described in graphic depths, there are moments of intimacy.

Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!

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