Bilow, Rochelle. Ruby Spencer’s Whisky Year. Berkley. 2023. 368 pp. ISBN 978-0593547885. $17.00
An American food writer rents a cottage in Scotland, sight unseen, to spend the next year writing a cookbook, trying all the whisky, and maybe finding a hot Scotman. In exchange for room and board, Ruby puts in some hours at the adjacent pub, which conveniently has the kitchen her cottage lacks. The pub has some good whiskey and a friendly vibe, if a little quiet… and then a local guy shows up as the handyman at proprietor Grace’s request, to make a few minor repairs to the flophouse, as the cottage is affectionately known, and Ruby is smitten. She sends all the right vibes to Brochnan, but he does not seem to be picking up what she’s laying down until well into the novel. The relationship was drawn out way too much for my liking.
Ruby only ended up in charming Thistlecross because it’s where her dart landed, but she soon feels part of the community, and ends up overhearing something she shouldn’t have from the mayor, a childhood friend of Brochnan. As their relationship deepens, she wonders if she should tell him what she knows about the future of the pub and cottage, especially after he confides about his trust issues with women… but chooses not to. I may or may not have been grimacing in disappointment at the character’s actions.
The writing is solid and attention to detail is excellent. The food and drink descriptions are good but not enough to make this a culinary read, a little disappointing, since the cookbook idea is a major plot point. Ruby’s first pitch is rejected, and she eventually hits on a winning idea (but WHY not focus on the family style suppers she hosts???). This missed opportunity, dishonesty and slow pacing was like sip of not-aged-enough whisky: yes, complex, smokey, peaty, but a little too much wincing as it goes down rough.
The cover art perfectly depicts a scene where Roo convinces Broo to take a selfie on one of their adventures–well done.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #RubySpencer’sWhiskyYear from #NetGalley.