My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars to Ellen Crosby‘s The Chardonnay Charade, her second book in the “Wine Country Mysteries” series. I enjoy wine and I enjoy this series, but I found myself putting the book down a few times without any sense of urgency to get back to it. In the end, I am glad I read it and I will continue a few more in the series, but there were a few times I wasn’t very engaged due to the way the story has been told.
Lucie Montgomery is still healing from the death of her father and a few other family friends in the last book when the wife of her doctor is found dead in Lucie’s vineyard, possibly due to her staff’s negligent activities. Lucie soon learns the victim was bashed on the head prior to having some of the chemicals on her property attack the victim’s body, but the suspects all point to friends of hers which makes it even harder to accept. Lucie supports her doctor who is accused of the murders and helps him prove his alibi, but when another death adds the intrigue of political scandal, Lucie’s confused. Her vineyard becomes a spot for lovers’ trysts upping the game of who is actually having an affair on his/her spouse. Add in a charming British transplant, some sisterly bonding time with Mia and the potential for Quinn, her new winemaker, to abandon her (or kiss her!), and you’ve got tons of stories beginning to burgeon. In the end, the killer is caught but it’s not something Lucie is happy to hear given all that she’s been through lately.
If you love wine, you will feel right at home. The author adds in many different background stories about the grapes, processes and EPA oversight regulations. It helps you feel connected with a bit of the past when Thomas Jefferson built wineries from European grapes, something important to these Virginia vintners.
Lucy is a great character who you sometimes dislike and sometimes root for. I like the balanced approach because she seems very real. She is well-written with flaws and strengths, but each time, I find myself wanting to keep learning more.
I really don’t like Lucie’s family, but I’m hoping her relationship with them will change in the next book given what happened to Mia at the end of this one (no spoilers here!). It feels like Lucie is too alone and I want her to have someone on her side for a change.
The plot was a bit predictable. I had 3 potential outcomes (and there were quite a number of suspects) and this was at the top of my list. I didn’t want it to come true, but it did… I think it bothers me because I took it as another blow to Lucie that the killer is someone she knows (not really a spoiler as she knows almost all of the suspects). I was hoping it would go differently.
I waffled between a 3 and a 4 on this review, having a few good highlights but also a few “blah” parts… in the end, I think it gets pushed down to a 3 because it took me a week to read and I’m usually done in 3 days with a book of this size. It rolls along without any major cliffhangers or major dramatic moments which can be good but sometimes you need a few surprise nudges. If you’ve read the first one and are on the fence about the second one… if you need suspense and action, this isn’t for you; however, if you enjoy the relaxing story-telling type approach, then you should keep reading this series.