Tennessee Whiskey by Donna K. Ford is a fascinating story set in an area that has always interested me. The main character, Dane Foster travels to Jellico after losing her photography job and her best friend to an explosion in a war zone. She is in Jellico to try to find out information about her mother’s family. There she meets Emma Reynolds and her brother Curtis. Emma runs the local bar in town and takes care of her brother who is mildly developmentally challenged. Emma agrees to let Dane rent a room in her home while she is searching for her mother’s family, but she warns her to be very careful. People in this area are very distrustful of strangers, especially ones asking questions. Not only does Dane face problems in Jellico as an outsider, but Emma herself soon faces a pretty dangerous situation. Curtis gets tangled up in the local drug scene which has kind of taken over bootlegging as the main moneymaking business for some folks. The three face danger and possible heartache, but also a burgeoning attraction between Dane and Emma as they work to help Curtis survive the trouble he is in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story partly because of the setting. Ms. Ford’s descriptions of the place and the people in this area of Appalachia are spot on. Though I never lived in the area itself, I remember my father describing these places as we traveled through North Carolina and Tennessee to visit relatives. What he described and what I read here are very similar. The characters are also well developed and true to the story and the setting. I connected with Dane and Emma, and loved watching their feelings for each other grow through the tale. The mystery & intrigue in this book is realistic and sometimes even frightening. It would have kept me reading even without the romance aspect of the story. There is quite a bit of angst in the novel, from the beginning until the end, but this is also a heartwarming tale that I think you will enjoy.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for an honest review.