Spritzer’s family winery is famous for its inexpensive wine (think Two Buck Chuck). He’s runs the place for his aunt and he’s pretty happy with that. He’s got everything he needs…Aunt Del, his sometimes girlfriend Kan, and friends and coworkers who help him keep the winery moving along.
After Spritzer’s uncle passes away, Aunt Del decides she’d like to pursue her dream of having the winery produce a fine, high end sparkling wine and hires a master from France to come and set up the operation. The man’s contract is for four years…long enough to start growing the proper grapes, erect a separate building to press them, and store the wine until it’s ready to bottle.
Michel is a handsome Frenchman and he knows what he does. His family has one of the oldest, most famous champagne wineries in the country. He happily takes Del up on her offer to come to America and get her winery ready to produce the finest sparkling wine it can. He gets along with everyone…except Spritzer. Their relationship begins as quite contentious, and at times, he just wants to give up and head home.
The question is whether, in the span of four years, Spritzer and Michel can not only learn to get along, but to be able to negotiate the pitfalls of a loving relationship.
I have mixed feelings about Spritzer. The blurb intrigued me. I don’t know much about wine. Truthfully, I prefer a nice margarita to a glass of the stuff. Thanks to this book, I learned a lot about the process involved, from grapes on the vine to the bottle on the table. Interesting stuff, really. There’s a lot more involved than what I imagined, and Jon McDonald provides the perfect amount of description. It’s almost as if the vineyard and the wine are characters in the story.
I liked the character of Michel. He’s very particular about what he needs from Spritzer and Del to make the best product they can. I liked the way he respected Del and shared with her every detail of the process so she understood why he needed what he did. He also interacted well with the other characters in the book from Spritzer’s girlfriend (I’ll get to that.), Spritzer’s uppity cousin, the other winery employees, and the people who lived in town. Spritzer, himself? Meh. Not so much. I thought he was uptight, cantankerous, arrogant, and sometimes, mean. Yes, he loved Aunt Del, and he got along with the employees at the winery, but that was about it. He was a genuine ass toward Michel, and he was steadfastly determined to make it as difficult as possible for Michel to do what he needed to do. He was a pretty lousy boyfriend too. Kan wanted to nail him down to a marriage proposal, and he didn’t really want to do that. Rather than letting her move on with her life, he seemed to keep dangling carrots in front of her. I was as frustrated as she was. The first time he actually met Michel was uncomfortable to read, and when he found out Michele was gay?
Spritzer turned to leave but Del stopped him. “Stevie, I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences here, but Michel told me right up front, before he signed the agreement, that he was gay. He didn’t want it to be a problem because he wanted to be totally open about his sexuality. I thought you ought to know.”
“Michel’s a fuckin’ f*g too? Oh, shit.”
That was kind of it for me. There was no way for me to actually like him after that. I rooted for him and Michel as a couple, but that was because I wanted Michel to be happy. I was happy when Spritzer began making his great turnaround, but by then, it was too little, too late.
There were plenty of background characters in Spritzer. Aunt Del is the most prominent. She was a sweet, kindly old lady, but she was nobody to cross. She was protective of her family and her business, and she remained true to her dream, even if it took until her 80s to find it. I would say the next most important would be Kan. As I mentioned, she wanted a ring on her finger, and I was slightly annoyed by her. She would issue ultimatums, but she’d keep coming around. She was angry when Spritzer and Michel got together, but she’d “cheated” on him when she went out of town. I kept shaking my head over the whole thing. Other characters included cousin Nelson…what a jerk! Francisco, Spritzer’s right hand man, plus Francisco’s wife and son, and Kan’s father played a role also. McDonald wrote these characters very well. He gave the perfect amount of detail and made them completely fleshed out even though they weren’t main characters.
Since the story took place over four years, there is only so much that can be written. If every detail in that period of time were to be included, we’d be looking at a book that’s as long as War and Peace, and The Illiad and The Odyssey combined. So, there was a lot of fast forwarding. Sometimes, I found that to be distracting. Along with that, there was a secondary plot that took place in the 80s, and pieces of that was told in between present day chapters. Once again, I understand the reasoning behind that, but when it was combined with the time jumps of the present day, I periodically had to go back and reread passages to understand what was going on. It would take me out of the experience, and I grew frustrated. Mixing that with my (ok, I’m going to say it) dislike of Spritzer made me have to set down my Kindle and walk away several times.
I’m not going to say Spritzer was a terrible book. I really liked the amount of detail McDonald includes. I was able to clearly see what everyone looked like, the color of the grapes in the vineyard, and the layout of the buildings that house the presses and storage. It did all play out like a movie in my head. I also have to compliment his writing style because I did feel such a visceral reaction to Spritzer. Sure, I thought he was a loser (most of the time), but it takes something special to make me feel that strongly about a character…one way or another.
By the time I got to the end, I was pretty caught up in the plot, and felt surprised to see it was over. I wanted more, but I think it had to end the way it did. Spritzer and Michel had a lot of things to figure out about their relationship, and this seemed like a good place to stop the story. It gives the reader a chance to use their imagination as to how they’ll resolve their issues.
I am giving a cautious recommendation of Spritzer. If you’re a fan enemies to lovers books, this might be right up your alley.