Romancing the Rumrunner by Michelle McLean
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A sizzling romance filled with speakeasies and secrets set in era of the Roaring Twenties!
Jessica Harlan is a young and independent woman trying to make a living by running the butcher shop which she’s inherited, along with all of her father’s debts. With no husband or family to count on, Jessie leads a double life as a butcher by day and owner of The Red Phoenix, a speakeasy, by night. With prohibition agents tracking her every move Jessica knows it’s only a matter of time before her identity is revealed and club is compromised. Enter Anthony Solomon, an ex-cop turned private investigator looking for redemption from his past. When an old colleague gives Tony the chance to redeem his law enforcement career and earn a handsome paycheck by taking down the infamous Phoenix, he gladly accepts. To uncover the Phoenix’s identity, Tony must “cozy up” to his rumored flame, none other than Jessica Harlan. Tony is determined to do whatever it takes to catch the notorious Phoenix but will he be able to carry out this game of seduction without falling for the beautiful rumrunner?
ROMANCING THE RUMRUNNER is an engaging story that had me hooked from beginning to end. When I read the synopsis of this book I wasted no time in requesting a copy from Entangled Publishing. I love reading about the Roaring Twenties, especially the glamour and bad boys of that era. I’d like blame it on my love for Boardwalk Empire, but I’ve always been fascinated by this time period. Michelle McLean beautifully captures the essence of the 1920s with the story’s Chicago setting and some entertaining slang specific to the time, that had me laughing out loud. Her writing easily transports you to the intriguing world of Prohibition, speakeasies and gangsters!
When Jessie is introduced to the story she seems like a strong willed woman operating two businesses (legally and illegally), but I have to admit I was expecting her to be a bit rougher around the edges, being a female rumrunner and all. Instead I saw a sweet and generous heroine who struggles with confidence but slowly comes into her own after meeting Tony and becoming a singer at The Corkscrew, another speakeasy. Yeah, did I mention her way of checking out the competition is to take a job as a singer at her rival’s club?!
Even when she makes some questionable choices (i.e. like showing Tony her secret stash of hooch), Jessie is still a very relatable heroine. She’s not a damsel in distress, sure she’s had some bad luck with men and has a few trust issues, but is completely independent and trying to right the wrongs of her father for a better life. Her hidden talent is her singing voice and while I loved that the author showcases this aspect to her personality in the story, I thought it could have been fleshed out a little more. While singing at The Corkscrew her lyrics are described to be very sultry but we never actually know what she’s signing, only that Tony does not approve, which is something I’ll vent about later.
The hero, Tony is both charming and frustrating in my opinion. He has a few demons from his past, nothing that makes him a real bad boy in my eyes but he definitely makes up for it with his charming personality and gentlemanly ways. He knows just what to say to make Jessie blush and I loved watching the attraction and mistrust that ensues between these two. Tony’s possessiveness with Jessie at The Corkscrew was his only major flaw in my book, don’t get me wrong I love an alpha male but I just feel that it was uncalled for given the situation. He hires her to sing at his club and then gets on her case for doing just that, I didn’t buy the whole “you’re going to drive all the men crazy” act when that was her job! I thought Jessie never gave him reason to feel she was interested in someone else but him, but after learning of his past with his ex who cheated on him, I could understand (but not approve) his behavior. That being said, I think they made a really cute couple when it was all said and done. You can argue that they initially deceived each other for their own gain but it just makes their romance that much interesting. I was hoping for more smexy times behind closed doors because of their intense chemistry, but there’s a lot of kissing and touching before any real action happens towards the book’s end (but it happens).
All in all, ROMANCING THE RUMRUNNER is a delightful story with well developed characters, romance and a dose of suspense. Tony and Jessie’s escapades will keep you turning the pages and their sweet romance make it an effortless read. There’s also one supporting character worth mentioning that I think shines throughout the story and that’s Miss Maude, Jessie’s sassy best friend and singer at The Red Phoenix, she’s fabulous! This is my first book by the author and Michelle McClean has won me over with her bootlegger heroine and charming P.I. hero, I can’t wait to read more of her work. Whether you long for a story set in a different time or are looking for a great beach read with a little steam to it, you’ll be sure to think ROMANCING THE RUMRUNNER is the cat’s meow!