Monday 31 August 2020

Guest Review: Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas

Emmy Bridges has always looked out for others. Now it's time to put down roots of her own.
Working for a wine-maker in France is the opportunity of a lifetime for Emmy. Even if she doesn't know a thing about wine - beyond what's on offer at the local supermarket.
There's plenty to get to grips with in the rustic town of Petit Frère. Emmy's new work friends need more than a little winning over. Then there's her infuriatingly brash tutor, Isaac, and the enigmatic Madame Beaumont, tucked away in her vineyard of secrets.
But Emmy will soon realise that in life - just as in wine-making - the best things happen when you let go and trust your instincts. Particularly when there's romance in the air...

Review: I am a relatively new reader of Jo Thomas’s novels, having been attracted to my first one last Christmas. Since then, I have been enjoying working through her back catalogue as her books have taken me on a trip around the world. This story is set predominantly in the south of France and presents the reader with an insight into the world of winemaking. It had me hooked straight away, and was all too soon finished, leaving just a desire to enjoy a refreshing glass or two of wine and consider the possibilities of living on a vineyard.....

The central character in the story is Emmy Bridges, who is living with her father, worried about his physical and mental health following her mother’s death. It turns out there are financial worries also, so she is desperate to hang onto her job, which she feels may be coming to an end unless she can pull her socks up. Unexpectedly, she gets the chance to spend a month in France learning about winemaking with a view to marketing the product back in the UK. The drawback is that she knows nothing about wine. She has a lucky break when she runs into local winemaker Madame Beaumont in the small French town to which she and her three colleagues have been sent. However, this woman’s traditional methods of wine production, which Emmy is shown, are at variance with what she is being taught by her tutor, Isaac. In spite of several disagreements, the pair develop a mutual respect and romance may well be in the air, but several obstacles are thrown into their path as Emmy suddenly finds herself in charge of a vineyard at harvest time.

I found this a really compelling story that quickly had me immersed in the world of winemaking and wine drinking. The descriptions of the French countryside were so good that I was transported there in my mind and could almost taste the delicious dishes that Emmy and her colleagues were devouring while learning about new skills. I thought that all the characters were believable, if not all likeable. Emmy herself was quiet and mild-mannered, but showed great inner strength when it really mattered and I was glad that she was able to win the respect of the difficult Madame Beaumont and the attractive Isaac. In common with all Jo Thomas’s books that I have read thus far, I would recommend this one to others, confident that they will enjoy the journey to the French vineyards.

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