Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
If you have been loving the stories in the Speakeasy Taproom series, then you will ADORE Mae Wood’s Wildflower. This newest book to this series, a part of the World of True North universe courtesy of Sarina Bowen’s Heart Eyes Press, is a second chance romance based on an unrequited crush. One of the shining elements of Wildflower is its focus on women breaking through the glass ceiling of the beer industry. And any story intent on magnifying the equity issues within a business industry while wrapping it in a romance package is a worthy read.
The story follows Juliana and Riggs. As a teenager, Juliana had an unrequited crush on Riggs, her older brother’s adversary and friend. Even a few years later, at her best friend’s wedding, Juliana continues to pine for Riggs to no avail. Fast forward twenty-plus years and Riggs and Juliana find themselves back in their hometown. Riggs has escaped Boston with his teenage son in the wake of a family scandal, while Juliana and her three partners have set up shop opening a brewery and tasting room, one of the first fully-owned female breweries. From the moment they meet again, Riggs and Juliana are attracted to each other. However, past issues cause them to forgo acting upon it. Until they do. One night, stranded in another town, they decide to act on their attraction for one night. However, after that night, they can’t deny themselves. The issue is Juliana’s very busy life and Rigg’s insistence on leaving their hometown and returning to Boston. Is it possible for these two to have more?
There are some important focuses of Mae Wood’s Wildflower that make this story important:
*Through the course of Riggs’s journey, Wood aptly highlights the idea of happiness. More specifically, through his story arc, Wood interrogates the definition of happiness and the need to find it while being yourself. Riggs makes a choice in his youth to “put on” an identity to show wealth and prosperity, as a way to escape his simple life. On his return home, he recognizes that those two things mean nothing if reached by being nothing other than yourself. As the book progresses and he falls deeper into love with Juliana, he realizes what matters most: family, peace, and easy living.
*With Juliana’s story (and her partners), Wood focuses on female achievement and the way that women’s roles are reduced in traditionally male-dominated industries. From the start to the finish, you learn so much about the beer world and beer bros as Juliana and her partners strive to find their own place in it. Once again, there is this focus on striving. However, through Juliana’s characterization, we find the balance between reaching goals and wanting more AND finding happiness in a life lived simply with deep relationships between friends and family members.
These two characterizations show Mae Wood’s impressive storytelling. From its beginning, I was hooked unable to step away from Juliana and Rigg’s story. I will say that the ending felt underwhelming given the depth of development you find through most of the story. However, I’m hoping to get my hands on the epilogue to earn more of their happy ending.
As a first-time reader of Mae Wood, I want more. I loved her fluid style and her capacity to infuse her story with a gravity that makes her romance more. If you have jumped into the Speakeasy Taproom stories, then I KNOW you will love Wildflower. Thus far, I think it’s one of my favorites.
In love and romance,