Friday, February 26, 2021

The Vineyard at Painted Moon

  The Vineyard at Painted Moon
Author:  Susan Mallery
Publication Information:  HQN. 2021. 400 pages.
ISBN:  1335912797 / 978-1335912794

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'Not that what you're wearing isn't great, but the party starts in an hour."

Favorite Quote:  "'I'm asking the question.' ... 'It's a scary question.' ... 'All the good ones are.'"

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Bel Apres and Painted Moon are the fictional vineyards of this story. However, although I might expect them to be in the Napa Valley, these vineyards are in the state of Washington. My knowledge of wine is nonexistent. So, the fact that the state of Washington is home to many wineries is new to me. I learn something new from a book that I expect to entertain not teach.

The book has embedded in it romance because that is consistent with the genre. Although romance is not my usual genre of choice, this story works because more than the romance, this book is about family - the one we are born with and the one we create for ourselves. It is about friendship and friends who become family. It is about marriage. It is about what happens when someone you think is family no longer chooses to be. It is about women - some who know themselves and live life according to their principles and some who are still on that journey of self-discovery.

What makes this family drama even more dramatic is the fact that there is indeed a villain in this story. Barbara, the founder and owner of Bel Apres, goes from treating MacKenzie as her favorite to treating her as the enemy. Her actions are extreme and dramatic and including pushing away those closest to her. Her behavior is vindictive and self-defeating. Occasional references are made to her backstory and what it took for her to establish Bel Apres and succeed. However, the book never does explain the severity of reactions and emotions. Understandably, this is not her story. Yet, she has the potential to develop into a multifaceted character. I want to know her "why" and feel like I don't. I could see an entire story being written about her.

The same lack of development extends to the character of Rhys. His reaction and behavior during the divorce is also extreme. However, his primary role in the book is that one dimensional ex-husband so I am less curious about his motivations.

My favorite character in the book is actually not MacKenzie even though the book is her story. Rhys has two sisters - Four and Stephanie - who end up more central to the story than he does. Four, as the name might suggest is the wise free spirit who lives on her mother's estate but somewhat on her own terms. Stephanie's story interestingly has as much depth to it as MacKenzie's and is actually more the more interesting one. Hers is the story of the girl who has always been told she does not measure up or amount to who grows up into the woman who believes that to be true who finally finds that there is a different path and a different choice. Her story is likely more common in our society than we would like to think, and as such, perhaps more real and relatable than MacKenzie's.

All in all, some expected romance and one dimensional characters, lots of family drama, and some more compelling stories draw me and provide the escape that this book is ended to be.

About the Author

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She's known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

About the Book

MacKenzie Dienes's life isn't perfect, but it's as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend's brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws' vineyard. So what if it's a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she's still barred from the family business meetings? It's all enough...until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven't had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn't think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she's ever really known...even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she's pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn't so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she's worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn't so sure she's willing to pay…

Q and A with Susan Mallery

Where did inspiration for the book come from?
The Vineyard at Painted Moon was really inspired by the gorgeous wine country of Washington State. My readers have told me that they love when my books have wish-you-were-there settings, like the tulip farms in Secrets of the Tulip Sisters and the monastery-turned-mansion of The Summer of Sunshine and Margot. So I knew I wanted to set my next hardcover somewhere that would give readers a beautiful, scenic escape—and this was well before I knew the book would come out during a pandemic, when we’re all trapped at home a lot more than usual.

So I started daydreaming about beautiful settings, and I landed on Washington wine country. Breathtaking. Seriously, look it up.

Every evening before dinner, Mr. Mallery and I have a glass of wine together and tell one another about our day. This daily ritual makes us feel close and connected even when life gets hectic, and it has led us to learn more about how wine is made. I thought it could be really interesting to write about a female winemaker, because this is still very much a male-dominated field. I asked myself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to a winemaker?”

“What if,” I thought, “she lost the land she loved?”

And not because of fire or natural disaster, but because of an emotional earthquake—Mackenzie Dienes is the winemaker at a family winery. But it’s her husband’s family. . . and their marriage is in trouble. She could stay if she’s willing to be nothing more than an employee for the rest of her life. But if she wants something more, something of her own, she’ll have to be brave.

The Vineyard at Painted Moon is the story of Mackenzie’s search for happiness and self-fulfillment after divorce. With some pretty spectacular scenery thrown in. Oh, and wine. Lots and lots of wine.

What are your favorite scenes? Why?
This is a tricky question for me to answer without spoilers, because my favorite scenes are the emotional turning points of the story. I don’t really want to reveal them here, as I think readers will want to experience them on their own. I will answer, but it’s going to be vague and somewhat frustrating. Teasers, rather than spoilers.

I love the scene where Mackenzie and Rhys realize that their marriage is over. (That doesn’t count as a spoiler, since it’s revealed on the back cover of the book.) The way they come to the realization and move through the scene is completely unexpected and unlike any breakup scene I’ve ever written—or read, for that matter. It’s heartbreaking and poignant and beautiful and even a little funny. If you have a heart, it’ll make you cry. I think readers are going to fall in love with Rhys even as Mackenzie is accepting that she’s not in love with him anymore.

One of my other favorite scenes is one that I’m not sure will stand out as much in readers’ minds. It’s a scene in which Mackenzie finds out just how highly she is esteemed by her colleagues in the wine world. She never knew. She never thought of working anywhere but the family winery—she was just so grateful to have a family through her husband, since she had none of her own. In this scene, nothing really changes but her perception—of herself, and of how people perceive her—but perception is reality. Suddenly, Mackenzie realizes that she has options. She can dare to dream.

And that changes everything.

What was the hardest scene to write and why?
At the risk of repeating myself, that scene in which Mackenzie and Rhys finally acknowledge that their marriage is over was certainly one of the hardest to write. The emotional intricacies of the situation were incredibly nuanced. I had to get it exactly right. Rhys is not a point-of-view character, so the whole scene is told from Mackenzie’s perspective, but I wanted the reader to understand and empathize with Rhys, as well. It’s a deeply emotional scene, and I’m very curious to see how readers will respond to it.

Do you have advice for me wanting to write in the same genre?
Never give up. There are a lot of very talented writers who will never be published simply because they gave up trying. You never know if the next book will be the one. You have to want it enough to keep going.

Where did the idea for the title come from? It’s so original.
Thank you! I almost never come up with the titles for my own books. My file names are just the first name of the main character, so the working title on this book was Mackenzie. When it’s time to title the book, the whole team makes suggestions—my editor, agent, assistant, the marketing department. It’s trickier now than it’s ever been because I’ve written a lot of books, and we don’t want the titles to be too similar. And yet they have to appeal to the same audience.

All that said, I was the one to suggest The Vineyard at Painted Moon. I thought it would be appropriate to feature the beautiful setting in the title, since it plays such an important role in the book. I’m glad you like it!

Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Stephanie and Four, Rhys’s sisters and Mackenzie’s best friends. They’re the kind of friend that every woman should have—and that every woman should be. Close female friendships are a hallmark of my books. In The Vineyard at Painted Moon, the friendships were especially complex because they were also sisters-in-law. . . soon to be exes. But at the end of the day, this truly is Mackenzie's story, so she would be the favorite.

What is your favorite book genre to read?
For the most part, I read what I write—women’s fiction and romance. I’m not into thrillers or anything that involves violence and murder. I’m much more interested in emotional drama, in the inherent conflict between people who want different things.

Social Links

Mailing List:

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble:
AppleBooks: Google Play:

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment