cover image Ruby Spencer’s Whiskey Year

Ruby Spencer’s Whiskey Year

Rochelle Bilow. Berkley, $17 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-54788-5

Chef Bilow’s foodie romance (after the memoir The Call of the Farm) takes some time to hit its groove. Having thrown a dart at a map of Scotland, burned-out New York City food writer Ruby Spenser moves to the charming town of Thistlecross in search of a new start and inspiration for a cookbook. In the meantime, she’ll work with Grace, an older woman who manages the town’s too-quiet pub and from whom Ruby rents a quaint cottage. Ruby feels a connection to the pub and the village immediately—and becomes even more invested when she meets Brochan, the handsome handyman who fixes up her rental. While sampling whisky together against some quintessentially Scottish backdrops, Brochan slowly opens up to Ruby. When the pair learn that family drama threatens the pub’s future—and by extension, the fate of Thistlecross itself—they must put their heads together to save the town. The overly expositional opening keeps readers at arms’ length emotionally, but the narrative picks up steam once Ruby joins the community, and her passion for her new life in Scotland makes her easier to connect with by the end. This should have plenty of appeal for armchair travelers. Agent: Sharon Pelletier, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.)