Event planner extraordinaire Presley Parker takes a crash course in wine-testing from her assistant to prepare for an upcoming assignment planning a wine-tasting event at a nearby Napa Valley winery. It promises to be a great weekend for Presley and her team, and everyone is looking forward to working at what should be a fun event. That was before JoAnne Douglas and other protesters from the Green Grape Association threaten to stop the event before it even starts. If there's no event, there's no paycheck for Presley and crew, so she is as anxious as the winery owners for the event to continue as planned. Just when it looks like the wine-tasting at Rob and Marie Christopher's winery is going to continue without a hitch, JoAnne Douglas, the ringleader of the protesters, is found murdered and Presley's client Rob is the prime suspect. Presley doesn't want to get involved, but Rob's wife Marie begs her to stay in Napa and help clear Rob's name. So Presley puts some of her planning skills to use to try to catch a murderer.
The reasoning behind Presley helping the investigation to help a client she hardly knows is a bit thin, but once you get past that, this is a fun mystery. Presley has a great sense of humor, and I like the observations she makes about her event-planning experiences. One distraction in the otherwise excellent writing is the awkward inclusion of product brands. Depending on how they are used, adding a brand can add realism to a book, but when misused, it can take the reader out of a scene. Some of the dialogue seems more like product placement than a way to help the reader visualize the scene, but luckily this didn't occur too frequently.
I like this quick and fun to read book, even though I don't always find Presley likeable! It is admirable the way she takes care of her mother Veronica, who is battling early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and she is a wonderful boss to the employees of her party-planning business. The scenes between Presley and her mother are both amusing and touching and are some of my favorite moments in the book. I hope Veronica's condition stays stable for several books to come.
However, Presley often comes across too immature for someone who owns and manages her own business. She is invited to stay in the winery owners' home, but then she sneaks her boyfriend Brad in for a late-night rendezvous, which seems extremely unprofessional. I would like Presley more if she could manage her life as well as she does her business. I would have also liked to see more everyday interaction between Presley and Brad as well as between Presley and her assistants, who are interesting characters when they do appear. The victim and the suspects are all hiding things which make the investigation harder for Presley, but more exciting for the reader. Overall, the combination of planning a party and solving a murder are more compatible than they seem and Presley is determined to overcome any obstacle to uncover the true murderer.
If you like the Coffee House mysteries by Cleo Coyle, then you should enjoy this new party-planning mystery by Penny Warner. The plot isn't complex, but the interesting characters and humorous dialog make this a book worth reading. Tips are included at the beginning of each chapter and at the end of the book to help you host a wine and cheese-tasting party of your own. Cheers!
This review was originally written for The Season EZine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.