Book Title: Whiskey Sea
Author: Ann Howard Creel
About the Author: This author has written several novels, as well as some young adult novels. She is a year younger than my parents. I liked that she had discussion questions for this book up on her website.
Main Characters: Oh boy. So many interesting characters. This is why I like fiction. Let’s review some of the main characters.
Frieda: Protagonist. She is the daughter of the ‘town whore’ who died at a young age, leaving Frieda and her infant sister on their own. Frieda is a tough girl, not afraid to hang with the boys, and is very protective of herself and her sister. I felt a lot of similarities between Frieda and myself. She will do what she has to do to reach her goals, even if that means breaking the law or coming face to face with danger.
Bea: Frieda’s younger sister. Since she is a bit younger, she didn’t grow up with the ‘whore’s daughter’ rumors and stigma like her older sister. She’s idealistic and romantic, and very naive. Always a book-smart type, she has led a sheltered life and is eager to fall in line with anyone who is offering to take care of her and provide for her.
Silver: Frieda and Bea’s adoptive father. He took the young girls in and cared for them like they were his own. He worked hard as a clammer to save up money for the girls to have a secure life. He thought he knew what was best for these girls, but should have known that they were both head-strong and were going to have their own plans that might not match his.
Hicks: A hopeful suitor of Frieda’s, Hicks purchased Silver’s boat in hopes of getting on Frieda’s good side. He is looking to settle down with a woman who can understand him. He is a smart but simple type of man who is very matter-of-fact, dependable and sweet.
Dutch: The captain of the rumrunner boat. He’s your typical ship captain; big and strong, overly confident, well-traveled, and over the top at times. He took expectedly greedy wrong turns throughout the story. He was probably the most predictable and boring character in the book, in my opinion.
Rudy: A crewmate with a family. He’s a normal sort of guy, wondering why a woman like Frieda would be getting mixed up in rumrunning. He looks out for Frieda in a big brother sort of way, but maybe oversteps his boundaries at times.
Charles: The enigma. The beautiful upper class tourist wanting to find some excitement on the seas before being ‘doomed’ to his elitist life studying law at Harvard. He sweeps Frieda off her feet, only to do the utterly expected things that are reserved only for the worst types of selfish assholes. He shows her a life of luxury and happiness that she never would have dreamed of, only to turn around and take it all away and disappear. I found a lot of similarities between this character and my latest ex-boyfriend lol!
I’m leaving out a few more characters, such as Hawkeye (in all likelihood, Frieda’s real father), Whitey (Bea’s real father), etc but you’ll have to read the book yourself to get the full story!
Plot Summary: During prohibition, rumrunning takes over a quiet fishing town on the Jersey shore. Anyone with a fast boat looking to make some serious money could risk breaking the law (and risk their life) to bring cases of alcohol to shore from Canadian outpost ships. Frieda had wanted to be a clammer like Silver, but when he sold his boat to Hicks (in hopes that Frieda might marry him) she decided she would find her own way. She learned to work on ship engines and landed a lucrative gig on Dutch’s rumrunning boat. Her goal was to save up enough money to send her sister Bea to college in New York City and ensure that they’d never have to turn to the work that their mother did. Everything was going to plan until Charles, the rich upper class (and of course, devastatingly handsome) visitor joins the crew. He charms the panties right off of Frieda and they have a lovely summer together – until the end of August comes and everything goes to hell! Bea disappears for weeks, only to reveal that she’s not registering for college and is instead engaged to a professor… completely abandoning Frieda’s hopes for her to be an educated, independent woman. To make things worse, the danger has been increasing on the seas. In a desperate attempt to outrun some murderous thieves that were chasing their boat, Frieda was ordered to use napalm in their fuel. She tries to argue against this but it’s too late – when her crew mate Rudy takes matters into his hands, and quite literally blows up the entire operation. The entire crew is forced to face some new realities and deal with the consequences of their lifestyle.
Admittedly, I’m skipping over some major plot points here. I don’t want to spoil everything, in case anyone wants to read the book!
Lessons Learned: You might have a dream for someone, but you can’t force them to follow it. In fact, you can’t force anyone to fit the life that you have in mind for them. Most people aren’t going to do what you want them to do, and you have to be flexible enough to cope with this. Also, a tiger can’t change it’s stripes. Everyone saw that Frieda was setting herself up to get hurt by Charles, but love is blind and she had to learn the hard way, just like all of us! Another lesson was just learning about how the rumrunning worked. I knew about speakeasies in Manhattan and needing secret passwords and all that, but I never really thought about HOW the alcohol made it’s way to those secret bars. Big ships from Canada would set up wayyy out in the ocean where the laws no longer applied, and local boats from New Jersey and Long Island would come out to meet the Canadian boats, buy the alcohol, and take it back to the shore… all while avoiding the coast guard and gangsters trying to steal the cash and booze.
Personal Opinions: I love historical fiction. Prohibition is such a fascinating time period. I thought this book was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the variety of characters. Sure, the story was a bit predictable, but there were some unexpected turns. Plus, I don’t really like when there’s a Prologue that reveals something that is going to happen later on in the book. I spend the whole time anticipating that one moment and it’s just unnecessary. Maybe I’ll skip the next Prologue that tries to force plot foreshadows down my throat lol!