Book Review: Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick

Once Upon a WineAuthor: Beth Kendrick
Title: Once Upon a Wine
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher/Netgalley
Format: Paperback and EArc
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Women's Fiction

From the "sharp, sassy, [and] surprisingly emotional" author of Put a Ring on It, New Uses for Old Boyfriends, and The Week Before the Wedding, a new novel set in the charming seaside town of Black Dog Bay, Delaware... Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of Cabernet - her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She's bought a vineyard - in Delaware. At Ginger's command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat. The three women reunite, determined to succeed. There's only one little problem: None of them knows the first thing about wine making. And it turns out, owning a vineyard isn't all wine and roses. It's dirt, sweat, and desperation. Every day brings financial pitfalls, unruly tourises, romantic dilemmas, and second thoughts. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth waiting for. 

This is my first Beth Kendrick book and I expect that it won't be my last. The story was just as cute as the novel's cover. And I'm absolutely a dog lover, so what's not to like about that adorable French bulldog, who is also a character in this book (with a name like Jacques to boot!).

Right off, this story felt like a well-written, well-paced, well-directed, and well-acted Hallmark movie. You know the ones? Where everything just comes together and the experience is enjoyable (and not cheesy) from start to finish? Not to diminish the power of storytelling by comparing it to a Hallmark movie because I am an absolute Hallmark-movie junkie but if you enjoy those types, then this is definitely a book for you. You are in for a complex and layered summer beach read as all the women in the book are at different stages of their lives and struggling in very real ways.

Because it's written so well, I was able to finish in it a single sitting. The story begins with Cammie, who receives a phone call from her cousin Kat urging Cammie to come out to Delaware right away since her eccentric aunt, Ginger, just purchased a vineyard. None of them know anything about the wine business and there were hysterical one liners like, "oh my god, it's the Chateau of Woe..." that had me right there beside these women.

Cammie is returning to Black Dog Bay, where 11 years ago she left Ian behind, a farmer who still lives there and who reconnects with her as if no time has elapsed. I love second chance romances and this one was slow-building and satisfying. Kat is dealing with her own midlife crisis at 32, a back and knee injury forcing her to retire early from a skateboarding career. And there's the mother hen, Ginger, who is starting over after surviving cancer.

As the women continue on the road to working together and eventually trying to successfully run a vineyard, their relationship ebbs and flows and the funny lines just keep coming. Such as the dialogue between Kat and Cammie as they attempt to purchase a tractor from an auction:

Kat, who was herself wearing jeans, agreed. "I knew I shouldn't have ironed this shirt." She shook her head at Cammie's yellow cotton sundress and woven straw sunhat. "You are way overdressed." She indicated a man a few yards away. "Look how tight that dude's jeans are. Is that the John Deere version of jeggings? They're like a tourniquet."

I mean, funny, funny lines. As a reader, I was strongly enmeshed in their lives and really wanted things to work out for all of them. Kat had a great backstory and it was interesting to see how she handled her relationship in the throes of (forced) early retirement. She's at a crossroads in her life, having a little bit of a mid-mid-life crisis, and watching her marriage unfold and how she handles it was one of the highlights for me.

A huge theme in this story is to "bloom where you're planted." It recurs throughout the book both figuratively and literally and honestly, gave me a lot to reflect on. This book was a refreshing surprise and I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Also, it made me want to try their strawberry wine! It was a light read yet intricate at the same time. I guess the reading experience was very much like wine - layered, complex, and (this one just happened to be) full-bodied.

It comes out tomorrow and I highly recommend you purchase this one and add it to your summer reading list!


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