Nat reviews Sour Grapes by Eliza Lentzski

the cover of Sour Grapes

If you’re mostly familiar with Eliza Lentzski from her Don’t Call Me Hero series (which I really loved) you’ll notice this is quite a departure from that grittier, mysterious style and more in keeping with the contemporary vibe of her more recent novels, including The Woman in 3B. Sour Grapes was an especially fun read for me, because my day job is in the wine and spirits industry, and I love it when my interests collide. Sapphic romance in a winery? Always a yes, and thank you. One of the things I really enjoyed about Sour Grapes was the attention to detail around the winemaking and even the agricultural aspect involved. A lot of the book is dedicated to discussing the craft with accuracy, so if you’re studying up on your level one Sommelier test, this might be a fun way to ingest some wine knowledge.

Speaking of studying up, June St Clare, who’s recently purchased a winery with no winemaking knowledge or even a desire to own said winery, knows absolutely nothing. But owning a winery had been her partner’s retirement plan for them — at least until her untimely, and fairly recent, death. The timing of events was something I struggled a bit with, how quickly June processed her partner’s unexpected death, or more accurately didn’t seem to process. Her partner Alex has only been gone a few months, but there’s a distinct lack of fresh grief from someone whose lover of 20 years has just suddenly died, which I think might have seemed less strange if the author had included a bit more internal dialogue. There are some indications throughout the book that their relationship was less than perfect, but June’s behavior felt more in line with someone whose spouse passed away at least a year or two before, and that detail nagged me quite a bit.

This brings us to our grumpy love interest. I love an Eeyore, and Lucia Santiago doesn’t disappoint. She was definitely my favorite character of the book, and I would have really enjoyed reading from her viewpoint as well, but then maybe that would have made her much less mysterious and brooding. Lucia is the assistant winemaker of June’s new venture, who is brilliant when it comes to viticulture and hatching amazing ideas, but severely lacking when it comes to people skills. Of course Lucia is less than thrilled to meet the clueless, new owner of the winery where her family has been working for decades behind the scenes. Her issues with the doors money can open leads to an interesting sidequest, where Lentzski uses Lucia’s character, who’s Mexican-American, to effortlessly bring attention to immigration issues, farm labor, and unions. If Jorts the cat could read, he’d be so proud!

Overall, this was a solid showing with a few scrapes here and there. The ending felt a bit rushed, almost frantic. I know a common complaint with some romance novels is that that the characters get back together too quickly after one of them does something incredibly stupid in the third act. When the “Bad Decisions” part of this book came along, the last couple of chapters kind of sped out of control. Lucia’s acceptance of June’s return felt very out of character with her brooding, better-off-alone persona, and I wish it had been fleshed out a bit more. I also didn’t love June’s constant pity parties, and by the end I almost felt that Lucia could have done better, but the heart wants what it wants! Despite the flaws in Sour Grapes, all in all it remains a fun summer read that would pair well with a Napa cab sauv.

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