Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dark Whisky Road by Jen Black

It’s refreshing to read a plot set in the north of England where the protagonists need to be creative over avoiding the Excise men, where smuggling is second nature to the upper classes as well as the lower classes who do a lot of the toil. Similar plots I've read have been located on southern English coastlines, so it's nice to have it set in the border country of Northumberland with southern Scotland getting a mention, an overland route for the illicit whisy rather than a sea route. The occasional northern dialect that’s used sets the reader firmly into the locale as does the fine description of the landscape.

Jen Black’s writing style is crisp and flows beautifully, the story moving forward at a steady pace. Melanie, a dowager duchess, takes on her new housekeeper situation with fortitude and determination. Her choices are limited and she must make it work. Overcoming the recent horrific events she’s had to endure isn’t easy and her wariness of men is a stumbling block she must conquer. Her reactions to the widower, Lord Jarrow, are sometimes humorous, subservience not really something that comes easily, since she’s too used to leading and making her own decisions.

Jen Black’s portrayal of Melanie is sympathetic and well drawn-she’s a heroine with some spunk but also with vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Lord Jarrow’s secrets are well guarded, though Melanie determines to uncover them. That Jarrow has been living a semi reclusive life for years is believable in Victorian times – yet he’s not a dark and brooding hero. There are some very likeable secondary characters who add colour and humour to the story.

This is an enjoyable, quick read for a lover of historical romance.

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