A Matter of Happiness (and a classic bourbon cocktail)

I’ve been kind of striking out a bit with my reading lately.   I haven’t finished anything too terrible but nothing has wowed me.  At. All.  When Lisa at TLC sent out the request for readers for A Matter of Happiness by Tori Whitaker, I thought the blurb sounded good and I love a good tale about strong women, especially during the Roaring 20s.  Read on to see what I thought of my latest book in my reading stack.

About the book:

Matter of Happiness: A Novel

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (November 8, 2022)

Paperback: 363 pages

A cherished heirloom opens up a century of secrets in a bittersweet novel about family, hard truths, and self-discovery by the author of Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish.

Melanie Barnett thinks she has it all together. With an ex-fiancé and a pending promotion at a Kentucky bourbon distillery, Melanie has figured out that love and career don’t mix. Until she makes a discovery while cleaning her Jordan MX car, a scarlet-red symbol of the Jazz Age’s independent women that she inherited from her great-great-great-aunt Violet. Its secret compartment holds Violet’s weathered journal–within it an intriguing message: Take from this story what you will, Melanie, and you can bury the rest. Melanie wonders what more there is to learn from Violet’s past.

In 1921 Violet Bond defers to no one. Hers is a life of adventure in Detroit, the hub of the motorcar boom and the fastest growing city in America. But in an era of speakeasies, financial windfalls, free-spirited friends, and unexpected romance, it’s easy to spin out of control.

Now, as Melanie’s own world takes unexpected turns, her life and Violet’s life intersect. Generations apart, they’re coming into their own and questioning what modern womanhood–and happiness–really means.

About the author:

Tori Whitaker is the bestselling author of Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish and A Matter of Happiness. She belongs to the Bourbon Women Association and the Historical Novel Society. Her work has appeared in the Historical Novels Review and Bookmarks magazine.

What I thought:

I’m reading a lot of books lately that have an outstanding premise but somehow lose the mark when it comes to the overall picture.  Although I will say that I did enjoy reading the book (and finished it in almost one day), there were a few things that bothered me.

One was Melanie’s connection to her great-great-great-aunt.  I kept trying to do the math to see how it was possible that Melanie (a twenty-eight-year old in 2018) was able to have any sort of a relationship that she would remember with a woman who was in her early twenties in the 1920s.

Secondly, I thought that if Whitaker used “modern woman” again I was going to scream.  This phrase worked better during the 1920s’ plot but lost a lot of it’s intended emphasis during the 2018 segments.

But, that leads me to the aspects of the novel I liked best.  I did like the alternating storylines from the 1920s to 2018.  I loved the character of Violet and that she could just pick up and leave her home to find a  job halfway across the country.   I enjoyed living vicariously through Melanie’s job.  (Spoiler, but I’m glad she stayed where she was.)

About halfway through the book, I knew what the mystery was but I still enjoyed the novel.  I’m rating it a 3.5.  (I feel like I’ve been a bit hard on authors lately.  I guess I’m waiting on someone to wow me.)

The food…

There were some delicious meals mentioned in the novel:  picnics, teas, Thanksgiving, and the first meals that Violet cooked for Robert.

Matter of Happiness is a book not only set in the Prohibition era but also in the modern world of Kentucky bourbon.  Because of these two settings, I focused more on the cocktails.   Here’s a list of what I spotted:

  • Bee’s Knees (with lemon and gin)
  • Pink Lady (apple brandy, lemon, grenadine and egg white)
  • French 75
  • Mint Juleps
  • Bourbon, straight

I know there were a lot more gin drinks (from the Prohibition portion of the plot) and lot more bourbon drinks from modern Kentucky.  I have had all of these drinks except for a Pink Lady but the reviews for this drink from both Violet (1920s bootlegged gin era) and Melanie (modern) were terrible.  Violet describes it as tasting like cough syrup and Melanie as looking like Pepto-Bismol.  Yeah, NO.

Luckily, the book, kindly autographed by the author, also came with a recipe for a Classic Whiskey Sour.  My choice of whiskey drinks is an Old Fashioned but I decided to give this recipe a shot.

Classic Whiskey Sour

From Bourbon is My Comfort Food by Heather Wibbels

The publisher sent this recipe with the novel on a promotional card.


  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 1-2 drops aromatic bitters
  • lemon slice and cocktail cherry for garnish


  1. Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish.

Yield: 1

I’m an Old Fashioned girl, but this might be my new favorite.

Please check out others on the tour:

Monday, November 7th: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Tuesday, November 8th: @books_and_biewers

Wednesday, November 9th:  Reading Reality

Thursday, November 10th: @spaceonthebookcase

Friday, November 11th: Books Cooks Looks

Tuesday, November 15th: @audreyoakesreadseverything

Wednesday, November 16th: @a_book_read_in_jersey

Thursday, November 17th: @mlbooklove

Friday, November 18th: @pickagoodbook and Pick a Good Book

Friday, November 18th: Girl Who Reads

Monday, November 21st: @books_wine_and_sunshine

Monday, November 21st: @detroitmomsonthesamepage


Please note that I received a free copy of the book for an honest review.  All rants and gushings are my own.

I’m linking up with November’s Foodies Read.

2 comments to A Matter of Happiness (and a classic bourbon cocktail)

  • I enjoy a good whiskey sour every once in a while. Try the Eve Ronin series, free with Kindle unlimited, Debra. There are a lot of inconsistancy in them as well but they are a fun read. I might look for this book when I’m done with the CTB and Lit Happens December reads.

  • mae

    Cocktail recipes always amuse me, though my drink of choice (almost every night with dinner) is wine! You make me miss the blog Kitchen Riffs which often featured quite exotic cocktails. I enjoyed reading your post — though I definitely am not tempted to read the book.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com