Happy Hour, by the author of the Wine Lover’s Mystery Series, Michele Scott, is a Sex and the City style (minus the fashion) chicklit novel featuring four female forty-something best friends who live in the Napa Valley and meet every Sunday for “friendship, good food and great wine.” The book opens three years before the story really begins, giving the history of each main character, so that we know what they’ve been through up until present day. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the four women: Kat, Alyssa, Danielle and Jamie and Jamie’s chapters occasionally offer one of her columns from the magazine she edits. There is a bonus section at the back of the book that includes each woman’s favourite recipe (I think I’m going to try Kat’s Fettucine, Goat Cheese and Pancetta!) and complementary wine mentioned in the story, an interview with the author, and book club discussion questions.
Kat McClintock is a sommelier who owns a restaurant with her second husband Christian. Together they endure the challenges that come with a blended family including Christian’s less than perfect connection with Kat’s sons from her first marriage, Jeremy and Brian, the addition of Christian’s young daughter Amber into their household, and Kat’s estranged new age mother, Venus who had left her father to find herself many years before.
Alyssa Johnson, an artist and gallery owner, is keeping a deep dark secret from her best friends. She left her fiancé Terrell three years earlier when she discovered that his best friend James was someone from her past who had changed her life forever. Now she must find the courage to let the skeleton out of the closet in order to overcome a life and death situation and decide who she really wants to spend her future with.
Danielle Bastillia is a divorced vintner whose rebellious teenage daughters Shannon and Cassie just can’t seem to communicate with her. Danielle’s high school crush Mark Murphy, who is now a doctor, reappears in her life just as she is shaken to her core when Shannon admits that she is pregnant and they later discover that her baby has Down’s syndrome.
Jamie Evans, the editor-in-chief of Wine Lover’s Magazine, is raising her young daughter Maddie alone after her husband Nathan died of cancer. Jamie, who finds herself financially challenged, is also stuck looking after her doddering mother-in-law Dorothy and understandably has trouble moving forward with her life. However, with the help of Maddie’s horseback riding coach, the handsome Tyler Meeks, Jamie slowly begins to join the land of the living once again.
These are strong female characters that you can truly empathize with and root for but there is no Mr. Big among the men. With the exception of Tyler Meeks, none of the men were particularly appealing to me and weren’t written with a lot of detail.
Together, these women find the strength to deal with the hardships of life within the protective bonds of their friendship and in the end it would seem that everyone gets to enjoy fine wine (Pinot Grigio for me please!) and live happily ever after which makes for good escapism. It was as hard for me to pick a favourite among them as it was with Sex and the City, which coincidentally, I just finished watching all 6 seasons of, back to back on DVD.
This is the first book I’ve read by San Diego’s Michele Scott and while I enjoyed it and think that the characters were well developed, the dialogue authentic, and the contemporary pop culture references very relatable, there is something about the flow of her writing style (somewhat staccato) that just doesn’t quite live up to the quality I’ve found in other contemporary women’s writers like Helen Fielding, Jane Porter or Maggie O’Farrell. However, I would read more of Scott’s work and can certainly identify with her personal philosophy and sense of humour. She left me wanting to take a trip to the Napa Valley with my best girlfriends so that we can enjoy our own Happy Hour. Cheers, Michelle!