Reviewed by Mandi
First of all, a huge thank you to Samantha, who recommended this book to me on twitter. I have never heard of this author and this is a start of a new series, and I am on board. Such a fun, sexy book with a great heroine.
Devlin is a Maryland state representative, married with a plan to make it to Washington, D.C. But when he discovers his wife is having an affair, and punches the guy, he is labeled a disgrace by political society. After ending his marriage and needing to lay low for a while, he heads to his grandmother’s empty cabin in Bootleg, West Virginia, to spend the summer reflecting. What he doesn’t realize is that Bootleg doesn’t offer peace and quiet for inner reflection…it provides hourly entertainment in the name of Scarlett Bodine.
Scarlett is born and raised in Bootleg, a town built on bootlegging during prohibition, their legendary moonshine and hot springs and spa. The tourists flock there, and the townspeople all know one another and everyone’s business. Scarlett is a handy-woman, who can fix anything in anyone’s house. She is unapologetically real and honest and I absolutely adore her. She lives with no regrets, and has all the confidence in the world. She also has several brothers who make sure the men in her life treat her right. Growing up, her father was an alcoholic, and her mother passed away, so her brothers and her became very close. I loved her brothers (who I assume will all get books as they are all single and I need their books now). Her family is so supportive and tight – they don’t keep secrets from one another but are also there to make sure to give everyone a hard time. There is a lot of laughter, and a lot of making fun of the others (in good humor). Their family dynamic is really done well and will make you smile.
When Devlin moves in, Scarlett announces herself loudly, much to Devlin’s frustration, and makes her presence known. All Devlin wants to do is hide in his house in the quiet – but soon, Scarlett is dragging him to lake parties, and the local diner, and even softball games where everyone must do a shot of moonshine between each inning.
Between innings, shots of moonshine were handed out to both teams. “It evens the playing field,” Scarlett explained knocking back her third shot. “Doesn’t matter if you’re an all-star athlete if you can’t run in a straight line.”
Things were getting a little fuzzy in my vision, but I still managed to get my glove on the ball a couple of times. Everyone looked like they were slowing down a bit. Opal was one hell of a catcher, and she hit no less than a double every time she got up to bat. But by the fourth inning, she was listing to the side behind the Lumberjack batter.
Jameson and Jonah got tangled up going for a pop fly and had a hard time getting back on their feet. One of the Eagler players stumbled on his jog to third base and got tagged out while he was laying face down in the dirt. The only one who didn’t seem to suffer any ill-effects from the moonshine was Scarlett. In the fifth, she hit a bases-loaded triple. And in the sixth, she scored a sweet double play when a bunt made it past Bowie on the pitcher’s mound. She moved like the booze made her more graceful, more athletic.
By the seventh inning, I was swilling water and dumping my moonshine on the ground. Jonah was trying to tell the very sober Gibson a story about a horse and a sweater. Opal and Buck broke into a clumsy but energetic two-step in the dugout until Buck smacked his head on the overhang.
There were so many scenes in this book that actually made me smile and giggle. Like when Scarlett’s brothers get wind that Devlin is trying to court her:
“I’m not going to hurt Scarlett!”
“This is just a little reminder of what’ll happen if you do,” Bowie said, still a little winded.
“You don’t need to do this,” I tried again. We were getting closer and closer to the end of the dock.
“Pretty sure we do,” Jameson insisted.
“I’ll press charges!”
“Good luck with that,” Jameson smirked.
“The sheriff is a big fan of our little Scarlett. He’s not gonna take a likin’ to some guy whose just tryin’ to get in her pants,” Bowie explained.
“I’m not just trying to get in her pants!”
“Oh, hey, Judge Carwell. Mornin’ Carolina Rae,” Bowie said, raising his free hand to a couple in a fishing boat.
“Mornin’ Bodines,” Judge Carwell called. “He courtin’ Scarlett?”
“What the hell kind of town is this?” I hissed.
Jonah shrugged and grinned. “Bootleg, man.”
“Yes, sir. We’re just remindin’ him to treat her right,” Gibson said.
“Carry on, boys.”
Devlin and Scarlett fall hard for each other, although they are unsure where the relationship is headed since Devlin plans to eventually head back to Maryland and back to his job. But they work through it and their relationship is so well done. It’s not rushed at all. We get to know Scarlett, Devlin and the side characters so well. Plus it’s super sexy:
“So, want to get out of here?” I was only half joking.
She laughed and ran her hand over my chest, down the buttons of my shirt. I went rock hard when she rose up on her tiptoes and let her lips brush my ear. “I want to spend my evening flirting with you before I spend my night fucking you.”
And just like that, any drop of blood I’d had left in my head dropped south so fast I saw black creeping in on the edges of my vision. “Huh,” was all I could manage.
We are also introduced to a cold missing persons case, where years ago a young woman vanished and has never been seen since. Bootleg still has missing person posters for her hanging up in windows. We learn a little bit about this and the author’s note at the end of the book states this mystery will be present throughout the whole series of six planned books. The mystery is presented but doesn’t overshadow the romance at all. It was just enough to keep me interested.
I really think you guys will like this one. This author’s voice was really a breath of fresh air in the small town romance world. I can’t wait for another book in Bootleg.