“It's pointless to judge somebody when you have no idea where they've come from or what they have been through. A person is not the sum of their appearance they are the sum of their experience.” ~ Unknown
The first time Teag, of 'Secrets and High Spirits’ by Lou Harper, met Bruce they didn't get off to a good start. In fact, Teag later describes him as a tattooed moron; he and Bruce hardly talked at all, but because Bruce is a big man and has tattoos, Teag judges him by his appearance without even knowing him. When Teag decides he's ready to seriously look for a place to open a bar, they run into each other again and Teag is every bit as rude as before. Fortunately, Bruce has a forgiving nature and a strong desire to run his own place. When it comes down to it, Teag knows he doesn't have the money to be able to follow his dream. When a partnership is offered between him and Bruce, he reluctantly takes the offer.
Teag can be charming when he needs to be, but there's a bad temper behind that amiable nature and it doesn't take much to set it off. I think he is best described by Ella, Bruce's realtor: “He’s laced tighter than a tavern wench’s girdle.” Surprisingly, things start falling into place. As they work together, Teag and Bruce get to know each other and see that their preconceived notions of each other are wrong. Both men contribute their knowledge and connections to make the bar into a business they both want and, like it or not, have “the back alley boys”, Teag's friends and former roommates, help.
Bruce gets tired of Teag holding back and not saying what he's feeling and dares him to say exactly what he means, which has startling results when Teag starts ordering him around. As big as he is, bossy men really turn Bruce on so he does exactly what Teag says and loves it, until Teag bursts his bubble by telling Bruce that their encounter is a one-time thing. Bruce reluctantly agrees. He's trying so hard to please Teag; he even lets him be 'boss' although it's a joint project. While doing the restoration, they find lots of interesting things. In an effort to get perspective, Bruce does a lot of research about the bar, including finding a man who frequented the bar when the former owner was there. Bruce gets a lot of valuable information from him and he's more than happy to come to the bar and see what they have done with it.
This story is well written with the awesomely eccentric and well-developed characters Lou so deftly creates. I was entertained even though, personally, I had hoped for more magic. I was happy to see Madam Layla (Bran's Mother from Lou's 'Dead Man and High Spirits' series) and the touch of magic she brought with her. It made me smile. I also enjoyed seeing some of the quirky characters Lou brought in from some of the other stories in the series. They added some much appreciated comedic relief, in true Lou Harper style. I loved Bruce and tolerated Teag. I'm still having trouble seeing them together, but often, there's no rhyme or reason as to whom we love. This is the fourth and final book of the series; it can be read alone or as part of the series, which will add details that will make the book more enjoyable. If you like stories about magic spells, quirky but loyal friends, mystery, suspense, and hard-earned love, then you may enjoy this story.