The sudden and tragic death of her mother throws Hannah Hawkins into a position she doesn’t feel at all prepared for. With the duty of leading her family’s decades-long moonshining business weighing heavy on her shoulders, the last thing she needs is something making her transition even harder. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she gets. A band of vicious new players has arrived in small-town Harlan, Kentucky, and while what they really want remains a mystery, it quickly becomes clear they’re willing to stoop to dark lengths to get it. To fight off a beast, Hannah realizes she needs to join forces with a rival.
Javier Meza may be the sole heir to his family’s moonshining empire, but he’s certainly no leader. He has no head for business or diplomacy, preferring to spend his days in the trenches, making corn liquor with the rest of the “cooks.” That doesn’t mean he isn’t more than willing to step up and take charge when his family finds themselves in danger. Forming a shaky partnership with the Hawkins family is one thing, but marrying Hannah Hawkins to keep their deal on the straight and narrow is something else entirely.
From All Things Burn author, Jodie Slaughter comes a multicultural romance about illegal white whiskey, a marriage of convenience between decades-long rival families, and Black Appalachia. Readers of Kenya Wright, Theodora Taylor, and Lucy Score & Claire Kingsley will enjoy this full-length romance novel with a strong heroine, swoon-worthy hero, and a very satisfying HEA.
Mama always said that the real reason the moonshine business lasted so long after prohibition ended was because of how sexy it was. She wasn’t wrong. People didn’t care about how grimy the process could be. They didn’t care about the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into that corn liquor they kept stashed away in their kitchen cabinets. There wasn’t any thought given to the runners who risked jail time by smuggling the product through the state and beyond. Those things may have been our dangerous reality — but to everyone else, they didn’t even exist.
To the masses, moonshine was something shrouded in badly kept secrets, something just risky enough to be compelling. From the biggest cities in the state to counties still suffering under the collapse of coal country, people talked about moonshine — about our shine. Corn liquor so smooth and strong it made the Hawkins name synonymous with Harlan County, Kentucky.
For decades, that had been a great thing — it kept sales up and morale high. In many ways, it still was. But it also made us a target. Historically, our rivalries had been handled with as much civility as possible. Even still, the moonshine business wasn’t clean in any form, it sometimes required dirty fighting and while the Hawkins’ were good at being civil, we were even better at fighting dirty. Reputation preceding, it had been going on two decades since we’d had anyone overstepping our battle lines. So, when I woke up weeks before to find one of my best and oldest runners bleeding out in his truck with the back full of destroyed product — I knew our luck had finally run out. I wasn’t banking on that luck magically returning to us, though, so I decided to drum up a plan that was a little more realistic.
Jodie Slaughter is a twenty-something who has been coming up with stories about people in love all her life. A huge lover of suspense, antiheroes, and daring heroines, she loves incorporating those elements into her romance novels. Whether she’s writing a dark romance full of intensity or something only a little mischievous, she is always striving to make her love stories as compelling and unique as possible.
When she’s not writing, reading, or daydreaming about new story ideas, she can normally be found watching HGTV or trying to recreate grocery store cake frosting.
Get to know the author:
What drew you to write White Whiskey Bargain?
As a romance author, I’m always on the search for cool ways to make people fall in love. Lately, I’ve been very interested in characters who exist in worlds that could be described as morally grey. In drawing inspiration from my home state of Kentucky, I figured that centering a romance novel in the middle of an Appalachian battle of legacy survival was the perfect way for me to do that. Bringing moonshine into the mix was the icing on the cake for me.
Why did you choose Appalachian Kentucky for the setting?
I have a ton of mixed feelings about my home state of Kentucky. There’s a lot of fondness, but also a lot of pain and anger. I also can’t help but recognize how beautiful and interesting Appalachia is — steeped in so much history and tradition. Additionally, I felt a great need to showcase people of color in a setting where they aren’t often seen in media but definitely exist in the real world.
What makes Javier and Hannah special as characters?
Both Javier and Hannah come from very proud families. They’ve had their histories and their responsibilities drilled into their heads from birth. Still, they handle these things very differently. You can see that in their personal journeys. While Hannah struggles in learning how to lead, Javier is trying his best to balance serving his family, with being a good husband. I like to think that both of them are incredibly resilient and unique, but also kind of universal in their hardships.
What makes them special as a couple?
When I was writing White Whiskey Bargain, their chemistry shocked even me. I feel like it jumps off the page. Hannah and Javier are different in so many ways, but they’re also incredibly similar. They have the same values and so many of the same wants. I like to think of it as a slow burn, but the way their relationship moves from one of pure responsibility to one of passion to one of love makes them really special in my eyes.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
I wanted to make sure I told this story as authentically as possible. I wanted to properly capture the way they spoke, the things they said, their sensibilities, and their decisions. All of it was absolutely worth it, but it definitely wasn’t always easy.
What was your favorite scene to write?
Without giving away any spoilers, there’s a scene in the book involving Hannah, Javier, a car, and a light rain shower. That was definitely my favorite scene to write.
Can you describe White Whiskey Bargain in four words?
Languid. Wild. Illuminating. Sexy.
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