Moonlight & Whiskey
In Moonlight & Whiskey, Tricia Lynne aims to deliver spunky, funny little story about a one-night stand that turns into true love. The novel starts well, but unfortunately goes quickly downhill and ends up feeling like a beignet that’s been soaked in cinnamon sugar for too long.
Medical engineer Avery Barrows likes sex and isn’t ashamed to admit it. But her last relationship was two years ago, with a man who wouldn’t marry her because of her plus-sized figure, and she’s endured a string of creepy fetishists and jerks since then.
But screw that – she’s heading from her home in Dallas to New Orleans for a have-fun weekend with her best friend, Kat. In the lobby of a gorgeous old hotel in Bourbon Street, she runs butt-first into a handsome dude who immediately turns her life upside-down and accidentally injures her ankle. The meet-cute results in their having dinner together. Magic, fateful cooking, excellent music and some ancient bourbon that tastes different to everyone who slugs it conspire to drive one hot night of debauchery.
The handsome guy is Declan McGinn, who is, if you haven’t guessed, Irish as a pint of Guinness but has no accent because he grew up in America, and when he hurts Avery by mistake sparks fly between them. She discovers later that he owns a bar named Whiskey Moon and plays guitar and sings in a local band, BlackSmith. While Kat flirts with Declan’s bandmate, Jamie, Declan and Avery keep having mind-blowing sex, sharing music and sharing their life stories with one another, discovering common goals and interests along the way. But soon the strength of their attraction has them wondering if there’s something solid beneath the easy flirtation and cataclysmic orgasms. Will the magical erotic glow of their relationship transcend the bounds of Avery’s vacation, her commitment issues and her mediocre, workaday world?
Avery is a fun, realistic heroine; sexy, vulnerable, full-blooded, and sometimes unlikable and mean. The prose is spirited and funny and has a lot of attitude. But as the book wears on, her adolescent behavior (and sometimes Kat’s is even worse) begins to grate and doesn’t mesh well with the notion of Avery being a professional woman earning a six-figure salary
Declan charmed me less. He’s one of those dudes who gets bat wings tattooed onto his shoulders because “everyone has their demons”; he alternates between cruel, confident alpha behavior and sad-lost-little-boy-angst. He’s a little melancholy when he’s not being seductive, smooth and the perfect bad-boy rock star boyfriend. He explodes at Avery with nasty words because of his own scars but ooh baby, he doesn’t mean it, look at his sad-boy-bad-boy face! He doesn’t have to worry about selling out and experiencing mainstream success because he can just sell his songs and invest the money without risking anything. Note: he thinks music peaked with early 00s goth rock. Maybe he sold a couple of songs to the Jonas Brothers for the reunion tour.
Declan and Avery’s biggest foes – shock! – are their own severe abandonment issues and self-esteem problems. This means they have messy, fucked-up arguments where they taunt one another with low blows. This can be unpleasant to read and while normally, the hero calling the heroine a whore would be my hard limit for hero behavior and would crash the book into D-grade territory, Avery can and does fire right back. The book gets bogged down trying to explain this in darkness/night angel/demon yin/yang iconography that doesn’t fully make their violent tempers feel kosher, provides utterly dizzying mood shifts, and suffers a nearly fatal crash with some last-minute, stereotypical plot shifts. Equally inexplicable is the way that when we switch to Declan’s point of view, he actually thinks in an Irish brogue. No, really. Don’t get me started on a final plot point where Declan is caught kissing another woman in his dressing room (but it was totally okay because he tried to push her away) and the narrative keeps insisting it’s Avery’s fault for not listening to him and Believing in Fate and ends up with them pointing fingers and accusing each other of infidelity.
The third-act introduction of work tension for Avery – which is supposed to represent her full liberation from her buttoned-down public self and a crisis point for Declan (who doesn’t fit into her mainstream world) – feels poorly established after pages of insular angst and sex and vacation porn and nothing else.
And did there need to be an inappropriate plot point where Avery, Jack, Declan and Kat break into a cemetery to ask Marie Laveau for a wish – and then all four of them fuck there while trying to mentally explain away how this isn’t disrespectful of the dead? Does the author think that New Orleans doesn’t have any public decency ordinances? The book’s weird exotification of voodoo is kind of squirmworthy but is thankfully generally kept to the background, but its tourist-level PoV on New Orleans and what makes it special is less than groundbreaking. Oh, and if you’re not into reading about lots of exhibitionistic public sex and exposure and masturbation you probably won’t enjoy this book.
Note to the publisher: Please, for the love of mike: if the book’s heroine is plus sized, GIVE US A PLUS SIZED COVER MODEL.