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Book Review: Blind Tiger

By Robert McCool

In her twenty-sixth novel Sandra Brown takes us back to Prohibition era Texas in order to present an ambitious story about a couple bound to come together over illegal whiskey making. It is also about 1920s societal norms for women.

Blind Tiger  (Grand Central Publishing, Hatchette Book Group; ISBN 978-1-5387-5196) is a big five-course dinner that fills you completely up and satisfies your appetite for action and romance. Really, it is a big book with room for each character's development into a fully fleshed human with a human's desires and drives.

Reluctant hero Thatcher Hutton bails out of a freight train to avoid getting killed by three men for pocket change. Although he has a rough landing, he makes his way to the nearest town. Walking to Foley, Texas he runs into a young woman and recent widow, Laurel Plummer, who is attempting to hang sheets in a steady wind. Thatcher offers to help and is curtly dismissed. However, he also asks for a drink of water. Laurel walks him to the back of her shack and allows him a drink. Due to circumstances with a rooster he ends up touching her, giving the predictable immediate flash of physical attraction necessary for their story to begin.

The day that he arrives in Foley, the local doctor's wife goes missing and Thatcher is blamed and arrested, thrown in jail and let sit there. Sheriff Bill Amos listens to Thatcher's story of innocence, checks the facts and lets Thatcher out of jail. While remaining a suspect, Thatcher takes a job breaking horses and finds a boarding house to call home.

Meanwhile, Laurel's father-in-law is brewing moonshine and selling it to local customers. Laurel wants a piece of the action. Under the guise of baking and selling pies, she uses the cover of baking and delivering to hide what she and her father-and-law are doing. Then she starts to expand her delivery range to include the rough men that work in oil and drink a whole lot of 'shine.

But the already established providers of whiskey do what they can to shut her down. This includes killing her two delivery boys.

At the same time, Thatcher has been deputized and trapped into raiding the local speakeasy, also known as a “Blind Tiger” where the town's drinkers and prostitutes gather. He gets hated for that.

It turns out that the doctor is guilty of murdering his wife so he can marry a more sexual woman he's in love with. That doesn't work out for him.

It also turns out that everybody, including the mayor, Sheriff Amos and other notable folks are into the illegal production and protection of moonshine. Consumption and bootlegging are sacred despite the threat of Federal Agent arrest and incarceration in a federal prison.

Then there are Thatcher and Laurel. Smoke rises every time they encounter each other. It is that hot. The two of them are magnet and iron, sparks included. The sensuous tension and heat also affects the reader. I couldn't put it down. The sex is graceful and consensual, enjoyed by both of them despite the norms of the times.

It is also the norm of the times that women stayed home and served their families. Laurel bucks those servitude roles, choosing to make her own way in a world of men–one of my favorite themes in literature. That is the other story in the book, which is told with conviction and clarity.

What I've written here is a brief synopsis of a book that exists on a bigger scale and scope. Never having read any of Sandra Brown's novels before now, I am impressed with her skill and will read more of her work in the future. She's that good.


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