Cooper McQueen is pretty damned miffed when his gorgeous one-night stand tries to make off with his million-dollar bottle of bourbon. He’s even more incensed when the woman, Paris, insists the bourbon rightfully belongs to her, as he’ll soon acknowledge if he listens to her story. Hearing her out beats involving the police, so McQueen reluctantly agrees--and soon finds himself immersed in a torrid tale of secrets and lies steeped in the best bourbon Kentucky has ever produced.
THE BOURBON THIEF [Amazon | Kobo | The Book Depository] is Tiffany Reisz’s first full-length work outside the Original Sinners series. It’s not erotica (though there are certainly sexy times herein), but in every other way it offers up all the goodness Reisz’s fans have come to expect from her books.
The most important of these, and the one I revelled in as I read, is the feel. Reisz’s style is the perfect fusion of Jackie Collins and vintage Anne Rice (assuming we're talking Rice’s pure historical novels, rather than her vampiric and witchly offerings). Shit gets wild here, y’all. Reisz has zero interest in nurturing cliches or placing limits on plot or character. Reading her is like exploring a long-abandoned chateau in the heart of a reclaimed swamp; ie, it's dark, terrifying, beautiful, and irresistible. You know there’s always more to discover, and you can’t wait to poke into every nook.
Fair warning: you’ll probably never find your way out again. Once you’ve had one Reisz, you want more and more and more and more.
Longtime readers also know to expect plenty of glorious misdirection. Reisz loves to give the impression that one thing is about to happen, when in fact something utterly different (yet firmly backed up by the plot) lurks just over the horizon. If you’re the sort of reader who’s disinclined to guess along, you’ll have plenty of surprises ahead of you. If you’re like me and you enjoy figuring it all out as you go, you’ll have the satisfaction of correctly guessing where Reisz is really headed with all this. In all honesty, I’m such a good guesser that THE BOURBON THIEF didn’t often surprise me, but I loved watching Reisz work so much that this did not matter. Not even a little bit.
Into this entrancing, tricksy framework, Reisz slots complex, interesting characters who bounce off one another like nobody’s business. They banter, often in gloriously salacious ways. They make connections at a decent clip, ensuring the plot never veers into "somebody has to be clueless for this to fly" territory. They take ownership of their power and wield it to their best advantage without screwing over anyone who doesn’t damned well deserve it.
If you do deserve it, though--watch out.
On that note, let's throw a few non-spoilery content warnings out there.
THE BOURBON THIEF contains sexual violence in the form of an on-page attempted rape and a century-old, off-page slave rape. In the latter case, nobody beyond the perpetrator tries to pretend there was anything consensual or acceptable about what happened.
There are a couple of extremely willing child brides, too, the most important of whom is seventeen at the time of her marriage.
I also need to note that much of the book hinges on the divide between the Maddox family’s white members and its black members; both the child who resulted from the aforementioned slave rape, and the family’s most recent non-white addition. Reisz’s acknowledgements indicate she had sensitivity readers to ensure she didn’t muck up the race relations, but as a white person I’m not in a position to gauge how well she succeeded.
Finally, there’s quite a bit about one character’s "real" father. That sort of language always rubs me the wrong way since it plays down the bond between adoptive parents and their children.
Despite this, I loved the book deep in my soul and couldn’t read it quickly enough to suit my needs. It’s gorgeously Gothic, with excellent writing, a killer plot, fabulous characters, and heaps of dark secrets for them what wants ‘em. I’ll be recommending it far and wide.