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Apple- Independent Book Review

March 19, 2019

This dynamic second novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series steps ever closer to the dangers and mysteries lurking in 1920s Philadelphia.

Tasting the Apple takes all of the tension boiling over from Book One, turns up the heat, and refuses to cool down. Widowed mother Maggie Barnes gets herself into even more trouble in this second book, surrounding herself with Philadelphia’s most dangerous criminals. Stakes continue to increase in this one, and author Sherilyn Decter continues to shine.

This book isn’t just a one-stop shop for an explosive premise. Nearly all of the characters in Tasting the Apple have their own quirks and stories to them, their own goals and obstacles standing in their way. They take the strong premise of Decter’s series and offer the reader genuine people to root for. It’s one hell of an immersive experience.

With finances continuing to increase, Maggie Barnes is forced to find a way to help pay for her and her son. True to her character, she refuses to ask for help and instead, mortgages her home to secure a loan. These monthly loan payments offer a tense ticking clock for the reader, making us constantly worry if Maggie is going to be able to keep the roof over her head and in turn, keep her boarding business afloat. Philadelphia continues to spiral downward in the years of Prohibition. Breweries and speakeasies continue to pop up, and so do the crooked cops. Tasting the Apple will have you second-guessing nearly every person of authority, wondering if their hand is grabbing for some illegal money just like the last crook did. It’s just one of many mysteries that keep this book easy to keep turning pages.

While Maggie Barnes and Philadelphia’s downfall are perhaps the primary causes of tension in Tasting the Apple, the most intriguing one turns out to be something that Maggie Barnes truly can’t handle: Her best friend, Edith Duffy, the wife of the city’s most dangerous bootlegger, is getting herself into all sorts of trouble.

As her husband Mickey spends time elsewhere, Edith takes up cocaine and other men to keep her happy. She is a truly unique treat of a character, offering the reader all of the complexities that we’re looking for as well as the development of a potential downfall that you know will influence the whole city around her.

The secondary narratives shine brightest in Tasting the Apple. However, they also might have just a bit too much screen time. Similar to book one, I felt as though this novel was missing a climax, something that would break the plot open and take the story in a heightened direction. At times, the text hints that it’s taking a step that way, but then we slip back into Maggie or Edith’s personal obstacles and miss out on where the primary narrative could take us.

Still, Tasting the Apple is a wonderful new addition to the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series. With two straight books developing complex characters and promising plots, it’s easy to get swept up into this series.

If you haven’t read any of these yet, wise up. Because you’re missing out on something special.

Joe Walters