"Becket is about to wrap up the meeting before the interrogation progresses, when he jumps, startled by the sound of raucous laughter inside the restaurant. He hears it again-- closer, louder, familiar-- and cringes, recognizing the unmistakeable guffaw. Only one person has a belly laugh like that. A deep rumble like the Green Giant from the old commercials. Alarmed, shivers race up and down his spine as he realizes that last night's confounding dream wasn't a dream at all, but a premonition..." (p. 5).
Patrick Ember's Wine Runs Deep was published by FriesenPress in 2018 at 296 pages.
Who should read this?
This novel is a great pick for anyone fascinated by, loves conflict from the past that comes back to haunt you, romance, humor, or stories of overcoming obstacles and finding a way to persist in the face of the daunting darkness.
Beckett Jenson is a young man with many dreams. He has chased these dreams, overcoming obstacles in his youth and bullies that he once thought were his friends. When he found a way out of that hard life, he went on to built a new one full of life and opportunity in California, opening a winery of his own called Taboo. With the help of good friends, Callie and Pedro, life has finally started to shape out the way Beckett had hoped. He has a good, welcoming business open and inviting to anyone. It is his openness that allows his former bullies, Al and Cale in addition to their new partner Keno, back into his life. As they show up demanding to be repaid for their loyal services in their earlier days, Beckett must decide how he can resolve their requests and kick them from his life for good. But when the past comes back to haunt him, Beckett is not prepared for all of the chaos that will come with it. He must find a way with the help of his old friends and friends he meets along the way to overcome their troubling conflicts and come out stronger and safer. Will he be able to preserve the life that he has worked so hard to build, or will his past destroy him and the ones he loves? With a bit of humor, romance, and showdowns, Beckett is off on the journey of his lifetime.
First, I would like to thank Patrick Ember for generously reaching out and offering to send me a copy of his novel in exchange for a review. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Wine Runs Deep and reviewing it.
Second, I would like to start off reviewing this thriller by looking at it on a broader scale before zooming in on the details. One thing that I think is very unique to Ember is his utilization and skilled manipulation of diction. He does such a fantastic job at creating imagery with his words that make it so pleasurable to read. It truly feels as though I can visualize the settings and feel the warmth and smell the enveloping aromas offered in the story. Additionally, I cannot think of a better primary setting than that of a winery for a story such as this. When life is so chaotic, it is nice to feel that you are living nearby and working at a winery so that you can feel immersed in the relaxed nature of that world. In addition to this smart setting and the repeatedly well-utilized imagery to depict it, Ember does a wonderful job manipulating his language to create humor throughout the novel. The witty language used throughout the novel does a nice job of providing readers with comic relief in moments of tension or conflict. The humor is well-paced but never ending and feels fitting for the characters and writing style. This is not an easily achieved balance for a writing to find, but Ember does a nice job in doing so.
Beyond writing style, the story's plot is very smart, too. Beginning the novel with Beckett's past allows the reader to understand just why it is so important that Beckett is who he is today and how he got there. Beckett had a nightmare of a time growing up and did not have the best or most supportive peers by any means. Everyone has negative influences in their lives at some point, but no one intends to keep them around for ever. For Beckett, he had made his clean escape and built up a life that was based on hard work, dedication, and love. He created a winery that was open and welcoming to anyone and everyone. The only problem with his openness is that, in doing so, he opened his world to the only two people he had hoped to cut from his life. Al and Cale were not good friends to Beckett, but being the buff, tough men who Beckett walked away from, they feel that they are due some type of reparation. Entering through the wide open door that Beckett worked so hard to build, they force him into a sticky situation. I love the way in which Ember creates a plot that demonstrates how the past will come back to haunt you. I think that it is masterfully created in a way that feels very relatable to the reader. Everyone has a nemesis who must be confronted again at some point in life, but it is unlikely that most people have to deal with the same magnitude of conflict that Beckett must face throughout this story. This makes for a story that is intriguing and easy to read, feeling that it is relatable but not too relatable. It's an adventure that the reader is excited about, but is happy to never undergo personally. You can step into the pages of Beckett's journey and flip the pages, worrying and cheering him on, but also feeling better about what ever situation you're in that is not nearly as dangerous or dreary.
In addition to the main plot line, I really enjoyed the several smaller plot lines and conflicts that Ember threads throughout the story. I really liked the way that different characters and conflicts were added in because with each addition, it seemed to build upon the characters that readers have met and are learning to root for. The characterization is more strongly developed through moments of bonding, courage, and boldness. It is because of these small moments that the later plot elements are more believable and the eventual conclusion's success is made possible. Without any of these smaller elements or characters, the overall success of the story be far less possible.
While each plot element in this story is necessary for its overall success, it did feel as though some elements were rushed through or glossed over. One element that I found was not realistic enough due to the lack of development would be the romantic relationships in this story. I found it very hard to jump on board with Brook and Beckett's relationship. They fell in love within 18 hours of meeting and were being discussed as love birds by Beckett's best friends, Callie and Pedro, in less than a week. Falling head over heals in love and being willing to do everything that they do throughout this novel this quickly feels rushed and improbable. It seems to me that developing this romance, even planting seeds that maybe Beckett had had a crush on the woman who worked at a local winery before officially meeting her would have made it feel like there had been something already there from which this romance sparked. However, having them see each other, spend some time together, hook up, and profess their love in one day does not justify the full love story that sprang from this point. Additionally, I felt that the character whose loyalties remain uncertain until nearly the end, Keno, is given a very rushed love story. He falls in love with the best friend of the girl he is originally pursuing and within a year decides to date the best friend, at some point propose, have time to plan a wedding, and then get married... That feels like there just was not enough time to seem logical or realistic to me. Spreading the timeline out or adding details to cement how these relationships could be so real and strong would only further strengthen the overall story.
One other element with which I struggled was how trusting characters could be in moments where they should have shown hesitation and uncertainty. I find it hard to believe that Keno, having acted on rage rather than logic, would trust a stranger who was the bathroom attendant and only witness to his actions to back him up. He had no loyalties or ties to Keno, so it seems hard to believe that he could rely on him for something so important. Additionally, when Keno provides details to his friends describing how Cale is going to be implicated for said incident, he does not answer their inquiries about what happened or what he knows. That seems suspect and unusual to me. I think that would cause some nervousness or distrust among some of his friends, but it does not. These moments seem to be glossed over for the purpose of securing the story, moving from "point A" to "point B" without leaving any loose ends.
Overall, if you're able to overlook the few details that are glossed over or rushed through, Wine Runs Deep is truly a fun tale to dive into. It's a very well developed adventure that is cleverly written to entertain and keep the reader on his or her toes. I think that this adventure is not meant to be scrutinized, but rather one for a reader to kick back with a glass of wine, cuddle up with a blanket, and dive into a story that can make you forget about what ever may be haunting you. It's charming and fun to follow Beckett and his crew along for their ride and see how well developed their friendships, goals, and characters become. I think that there may even be more in store for this gang in the future, but only time will tell. I look forward to seeing any future tales that Ember may spin.