RUBY SPENCER’S WHISKY YEAR
by Rochelle Bilow
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Reviewed by Hellie
When a thirty-something American food writer moves to a Scottish village for one year to fulfill her dream of writing a cookbook she finds more than inspiration—she meets a handsome Scotsman she can’t resist.
Ruby Spencer is spending one year living in a small cottage in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands for three reasons: to write a bestselling cookbook, to drink a barrelful of whisky, and to figure out what comes next. It’s hard to know what to expect after an impulse decision based on a map of Scotland in her Manhattan apartment—but she knows it’s high time she had an adventure.
The moment she sets foot in Thistlecross, the verdant scenery, cozy cottages, and struggling local pub steal her heart. Between designing pop-up suppers and conversing with the colorful locals, Ruby starts to see a future that stretches beyond her year of adventure. It doesn’t hurt that Brochan, the ruggedly handsome local handyman, keeps coming around to repair things at her cottage. Though Ruby swore off men, she can’t help fantasizing what a roll in the barley might be like with the bearded Scot.
As Ruby grows closer to Brochan and the tightly held traditions of the charming village, she discovers secret plans to turn her beloved pub into an American chain restaurant. Faced with an impossible choice, Ruby must decide between love, loyalty, and the Highlands way of life.
Admit it: you too have watched Outlander and wanted to jaunt over to Scotland to find your very own Highlander, drink whisky, and find out just exactly what is under that kilt. I have longed for Scotland my entire life–or at least the entirety since I discovered boys were cute and started fantasizing about who I would marry. Highlanders have been on my list since I was 14. (Yes, I was precocious. Though admittedly I was a bit boy crazy prior to this and from the ages of 5-13, I was still hung up on Bo Duke. But once I got into romance novels, it was all Highlanders.) So this book checked every one of my boxes.
A slightly older heroine who is having a bit of an identity crisis? CHECK.
A grumpy, taciturn Scot who has a marshmallowy center? CHECK.
Small town village life with secrets, missing parents, and a tacky business that wants to take over the town? CHECK CHECK CHECK!
Also, I love to cook…and the characterization layering of the main character cooking and developing recipes was also up my alley, though I would have liked a few recipes at the end. Though this wasn’t that kind of book. (I do love a book with recipes in the back.) As an added bonus: the heroine has NORMAL parents who are kind, supportive, and not neurotic or mysteriously absent and villainous. It’s so nice to have some well-adjusted heroines who are having identity crises for other reasons.
Go find a copy of this book and enjoy this little bon-bon as the well-deserved treat you deserve. It’s the sort of Rom-Com that hearkens back to how rom-coms should be: funny without being biting, cute without being too cliched (i.e. tropes are familiar but don’t feel like they’re poorly executed) and a satisfying ending. OH, and it’s WHISKY, not Whiskey with an E. After I finished reading the book, I was passing a shop and spied one of the whiskies mentioned…and thought, “How great is this!? She really did her homework.” Well done. I can’t wait to read what comes next.