“Book Review: Gathering Storm”
Reviewed by Steph Huddleston
A cool-headed woman persevering in the dangerous business world of prohibition America
Gathering Storm by Sherilyn Decter is the first book of the historical fiction series set in 1920s Florida called the Rum Runners Chronicles. This story centers around Edith Duffy, the widow of a mobster who was heavily involved in the bootlegging industry. Now, her husband is dead and she must figure out what to do with her grief (and life) now that he’s gone. The illegal liquor business is the only thing Edith has ever been good at, but can she do it by herself?
Some people might start wondering what on earth she thinks she’s doing, but that doesn’t stop her from purchasing a run-down speakeasy called Gator Joes and making it her own. With stand-offish townspeople, an angry preacher, and the ominous “Wharf Rats” to contend with, Edith has more than one big challenge ahead of her.
Gathering Storm explores the time period it is set in with great detail, particularly where it relates to the prohibition policies. It is clear Decter has spent a lot of time researching and relaying her view on the events of this time. The historical details ground us in truth, while the descriptions remain vivid, beautiful and entertaining:
“If the devil ever decides to grow a garden, he’ll look to the Everglades for inspiration.”
I also found it particularly entertaining to have Al Capone’s wife play one of the secondary characters in the story. At times, I did feel a bit overtaken with too much historical detail, losing the flow of the story, but the narrative always makes its way back. Also, while contending the policies of the time period is not uncommon in the historical fiction genre, A Gathering Storm does seem occasionally divided in its goal of telling either a character-driven story or making a historical commentary.
While Gathering Storm is predominantly in third person, Decter cleverly inserts snippets of first-person internal narration to draw us closer into Edith’s character and a few other secondary characters as well. There are only a few characters who we can hear in this way, but it helps us gain insight into the people we should be paying most attention to.
Edith is a bold character not only for her time period, but also for the present. She acknowledges her own difficulties in pursuing a business that is both illegal and dominated by men. She is a widow and not bound by any traditional maternal roles, and she must come to terms with the guilt and grief that plagues her from her husband’s death while refusing to live a life of complacency.
If you’re a historical fiction lover and are interested in the prohibition era, you will find this a historically fascinating read. This is not just a story of prohibition in America, it’s a story of womanhood and strength. The feeling one is left with when closing A Gathering Storm is one of steely determination and hope. Those who are looking for a female-led historical fiction with a backbone of steel, this book is for you. Only the first book in Decter’s series, I’m eager to find out more about the rest of Edith’s story in the novels to come.
Paperback: 433 pages
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