The Rum Runner’s Woman by Mia Soul is another recently released debut novel. Set in Prohibition Era North Carolina on Okracoke Island, it is an historical romance centering around May Kaney, a nineteen-years-old a waitress at the local cafe (which is just a front for an illegal bar), and Eric Bolene, captain of the Black Heart and a rum runner (although he runs other kinds at alcohol as well).
May first meets Eric as he rows ashore to meet with her boss at the cafe. She is naturally quite smitten with him because of the way his shirt clings to his physique. Not to be left out, Eric is smitten with May in all her virginal innocence. Despite knowing it would be wrong for so many reasons for them to get together, they do anyway because their lust, and in my opinion it is lust, is too strong to ignore.
First and foremost I must disclose I could not finish this book. I got to about 50% of the way in before I threw in the towel. It just did not hold my interest.
My biggest problem with The Rum Runner’s Woman are the characters. They’re stock romance novel tropes. May is a wide-eyed, insipid, virginal, small-town girl. Her father is an abusive alcoholic but don’t worry, he’s not in the story for very long because he is killed. This of course causes the family financial hardship and threatens May’s dream of studying art in New York. Naturally she begins to view Eric as her way out because somehow she’s convinced herself she’s in love with him despite the fact they’ve barely spoken to each other.
Even though Eric is the same age as May’s mother, has a kid with his still legally wife, Red (a fellow booze smuggler), he doesn’t act like the mature adult he supposedly is. He does nothing to discourage May’s obvious and embarrassing schoolgirl-type crush because dammit, May’s a beauty and he just has to have her. He doesn’t act like a professional in his business dealings and is a cad in his personal life not only for how he treats May but also how he lays on the charm on her widowed mother (still a babe, of course, after 3 kids), and Red. Like May, he is an utterly unlikeable.
It’s not just the main characters which suffer from unlikableness. The secondary characters all seem to be obsessed with sex. It’s really off-putting. May’s boss is a nasty, perverted old man who does nothing but ogle her all day. Her mother openly flirts with Eric shortly after her husband’s death. Red’s a nutty, bisexual who seems to be good at one thing yet can somehow command her crew’s respect on her ship Red Storm.
In addition to problems with the characters, the plot itself took too long to develop and was one of the reasons why I stopped after 50%. May’s boss tries to rape her but thankfully she escapes. Instead of going home, she goes to Eric’s ship where she is discovered. Of course he doesn’t take her back home and allows her to stay on his ship even though he wouldn’t mind having sex with her despite her bruised face. At least he waits a couple at days before having sex with her after her near rape. A gentleman.
And of course May gets pregnant. This upsets her mother who insists she leave for New York right away and live in a home for other unmarried women who are “in the family way.” May lies about the father of her child choosing to name a co-worker who has a crush on her. Apparently the prudent, adult thing to do to inform the real father right away doesn’t cross May’s mind. I skipped to the last chapter just to see what happened and just couldn’t be happy with the fantasy, happily-ever-after ending because nothing up to the half I got through justified it.
Additional concerns for me crept up in the dialogue especially when Eric began calling May “little girl” and “sweet angel” either before, during, or after sex. Considering he’s the same age as her mother, it came across as creepy. May becomes petty and jealous whenever Eric interacts with her mom. The main characters don’t start getting to know one another until after they begin having sex and all their dialogue never came across as sincere or honest.
My final concern was how the romance and subsequent sex scenes are developed. As previously mentioned, these two have nothing in common and barely talk so I’m not sure how they could love each other. I didn’t find the love scenes romantic. One particularly disturbed me because despite May complaining of soreness and plainly states she would like the night off, Eric plies her alcohol to make sure she’ll sleep through the next day while he conducts a big deal. Instead of respecting her wishes, he precedes to soothe her soreness which then leads to sex. Yes, May does give consent however, just the fact Eric works his magic to get her to change her mind because he is unable to control his own desire makes the whole scene border on rape in my opinion. It was after that scene that I quickly did not want to venture further but did just to see if she’d call him out on the incident. She didn’t.
Because I could not finish The Rum Runner’s woman, I cannot give it a rating. The book was not my cup of tea despite its unique time penned a setting.