“Book Review: Storm Surge”
Reviewed by Steph Huddleston
The search for family and belonging in the midst of the dangerous bootlegging industry
Storm Surge by Sherilyn Decter is the second book in the Rum Runners series (book one review here). This series follows Edith Duffy as she seeks to rebuild her life and identity in the illegal liquor industry during Prohibition. While book one, A Gathering Storm, focuses primarily on Edith’s establishment of herself within the bootlegging scene of 1920s Florida, Storm Surge focuses on Edith’s relationship with other characters within the novel.
Edith’s relationship with her young ward Leroy is of particular note throughout this book. Leroy is a young boy of eleven, brought in during book one to assist Edith with the running of her speakeasy. In this sequel, the relationship between Leroy and Edith is explored in greater depth, and the pair faces several challenges together, including historical child labor laws and Leroy’s mysterious parentage.
Once again, Decter demonstrates her level of dedication in research for her historical fiction. The historical details are rich and, for the most part, absorbing. The world of 1920s Prohibition Florida feels vibrant and engaging. The balance between historical detail and plot has been successfully navigated and improved upon in this Rum Runners book two.
Although the dialogue in Storm Surge fluctuates in character distinction and authenticity at times, the overall plot flow is smooth and often assisted by aspects like tarot card readings interspersed throughout the novel. These readings are provided by one of the characters and build tension and expectation throughout both A Gathering Storm and Storm Surge novels.
Edith must determine what the people in her life, Leroy included, mean to her and what she will sacrifice for them. Storm Surge raises questions around motherhood and the anxieties that face many women as they care for the children in their lives. Edith’s struggle against conservative gender roles begins in A Gathering Storm and is continued throughout Storm Surge, in particular relating to her maternal capabilities.
“But that’s the thing, Cleo. I’m not like Mary Carmichael, [Leroy’s] friend Jay’s mother. She stays home all day, baking and sewing, doing good works in the community, active in the church. If that’s what I’m measured against, there’s no way I can meet that.”
Storm Surge introduces us to a new Edith Duffy that is beginning to allow herself to form emotional attachments and become vulnerable once more. It is that vulnerability that shows her progress and recovery following the events of A Gathering Storm, beyond just the development of the bootlegging business itself. The desire for family is the heart of Storm Surge. As a reader, the desire for seeing Edith happy and connected with those in her life keeps you reading on.
“Family isn’t always about blood. It’s the people in your life that want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who stand by you, no matter what. And it’s got nothing to do with baking cookies.”
Storm Surge is perfect for lovers of historical fiction with heart, suspense, and familial bonds. Decter has successfully presented an entertaining, gritty character in Edith Duffy, and Decter’s sensitive portrayal of the anxieties surrounding traditional female roles and motherhood is a testament to the way historical fiction can relate to readers on a deeper level. Decter has provided another quality historical fiction novel in Storm Surge, and I look forward to seeing what is next to come for Edith Duffy in the series.
Paperback: 478 pages
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