Review: The Case of the Voracious Vintner by Tara Lain, Middlemarch Mysteries 2

Cover Art © 2019 Kanaxa

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

Although this is the second Middlemark Mystery, you can read this as a standalone. Llewellyn and Blaise from book one (The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean) are planning their wedding at Marchand Wineries and get drawn in to the intrigue happening amongst the cut throat wine community. Bo Marchand tried to escape Georgia and start his own vineyard in California, but Bo’s whole family followed him and now live with him. As the “man of the house” at the age of 26, he is struggling with everyone’s expectations. Jeremy Aames, owner of Hill Top Wineries at the ripe old age of 24, has been in the area for a year and is starting to make a name for himself until a competitor seems to be undermining him at every turn. With Jeremy not who he says he is, Bo in the closet, and a murderer on the loose with a long list of suspects, I felt like I was in a soap opera. Thank goodness, because this is a load of fun.

The author shows both points of view, but Bo is so much more likeable as a character. He is the driving force in trying to save Jeremy from going out of business by teaming up to combat Ernest Ottersen, who is taking over most of the wine contracts. Eventually I got drawn in to Jeremy’s background story, but being intrigued by his story and interested in him as a character are two different things. There are times I felt sorry for him, times I was impressed by his cleverness and success, and other times where I think he is too naive, especially given his background. There is not a lot about the side characters: Jeremy’s assistant, Christian, Bo’s best waiter RJ, the ruthless competition Ernest Ottersen and his PR person Sage, the Cop O’Hara, Bo’s whole family, Jeremy’s family…really they are all there to be suspects, except Bo’s Momma, who is there to drive him nuts. The intrigue is very well done with different forks in the storylines. I don’t want to spoil it.

With this author I am used to OTT fabulous characters with a lighter plot. This book has more subdued characters and an OTT plot. There is some murky Dionysian group or secret society involved. There is also Jeremy’s past coming to bite him in a big way. Yes, some of this is completely unrealistic. I love how after people get killed, no one seems at all upset or traumatized in any way. There is one little thing that bothered me. There is a scene with some dubious consent that I am not sure added anything to the book unless you have that kink. I am not sure if it was meant to be hot or funny, but it didn’t work for me because it didn’t seem to match the rest of the story. Also, many more people should have gone to jail. Never mind, because the rest of the book is quite entertaining. Everything gets resolved and wrapped up with multiple bows. The banter and bad jokes between Jeremy and Bo are cute. The sex scenes are hot. I wanted these guys to have their happily ever after.

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Review: Love You So Special By Tara Lain, Love You So 3

Love You So Special
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

This is the third book in the Love You So series. I have not read the first two and didn’t feel like I missed anything at all so I would call this a standalone. I admit having a bias here as I went to school in and worked in Orange County, CA where this and a lot of her books are set. Tara Lain usually does the blue collar/wealthy trope well. She has reigned in the fabulousness for this one, although there is still a little OTT plot point.

Artie, a plumber working on a job in a concert hall gets to hear some of the music played for rehearsals. We know by his POV that it’s a unique experience for him. When we see the rest of his life–his work buddies, his family–we understand how he only superficially fits into his own life. His quirks as they are called, his interests, hobbies, what moves him, are what flesh him out as a person for the readers.

Francois is a rich, famous classical pianist who loves composing, but has anxiety performing because of the crowds. He lives with his overbearing mother in an exclusive gated community. They meet when Artie is hired to take over work on the guest house, being built in the back of the main house. Artie is enchanted by the music and then attracted by the man. Francois has been home schooled and is socially awkward, but he’s intrigued by Artie.

As Artie and Francois become friends, I found the interactions between them charming. Artie has spent so long pretending to be what everyone expects him to be, he is lonely. While Francois is out, Artie is not–not even to Francois. Of course, I’m happy when that changes. Some people just click when they meet and it just works. Francois having met Artie is the impetus for him to start trading security for some independence. Artie needs to stop living to accommodate everyone else in his life and start living for himself. Have you ever had someone say the right thing to you at the right time? Don, Artie’s landlord gives Artie something to think about that changes the way he looks at things. Francois’s epiphany comes during a much more traumatic experience.

At first I didn’t really like Francois’s mom, but then once we get to know her more she becomes more human and she does actually care for her son. Her idea of what’s best for him and his idea of what’s best for him don’t always gel. I could say the same for Artie’s family, but when they needed to step up and be supportive, they were so that’s all that matters. Right? So, yes, everything is resolved easily and there is some fan girl nodding to her favorite authors. Not everything has to be angsty. While I’m the first to say I like realistic stories, I like a good fantasy to cheer me up also. Sometimes the world is dark enough and I want to escape into a well written cheerful happy, sappy gay romance novel. This hit the spot.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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