When Jenna first met Trish, she didn’t know Trish would be her first love. They met at work, where Jenna was just starting out as a young professional and Trish was passing time until she was ready for college. But the two women meshed quickly, and soon, friendship grew to love. When Trish moved away for school, they grew apart despite efforts at a long-distance relationship.
Jenna then has a series of relationships over the years, most notably with a woman named Zoe. However, Jenna sees patterns emerge in this relationship that concern her, but that Zoe either cannot or chooses not to acknowledge.
Upset over the end of her long-term relationship with Zoe, Jenna’s joins her friend Lorissa at a women’s retreat. In fact, Jenna is only going to pose as Lorissa’s girlfriend in order to drive Lorissa’s ex, who is also attending the retreat, crazy with jealousy. Except it doesn’t take long for Lorissa and her ex to make up. This suddenly leaves Jenna with a new and incredibly attractive bunk mate named Dana. The two connect instantly and easily, but work commitments end their brief encounter after a single night of passion. Jenna is surprised to learn Dana wants to pursue a relationship.
Over the next several weeks, things seem to be going well, but it all comes crashing to a halt when Dana cuts things off. The next time Jenna sees Dana, the latter has a blonde bombshell on her arm and Jenna realizes there is no way to compete. The end of another promising connection causes Jenna to reflect on all her relationships and come to the conclusion that perhaps she’s already has had her one true love and that is the end of it…at least, until she gets one more shot at making things work with Dana.
Blame it on the Chardonnay is a first-person narrative that explores a handful of Jenna’s key romances and personal relationships. It’s organized in a straightforward, linear fashion. Each section is demarcated with the name of whomever serves as Jenna’s main counterpart. I thought this was interesting because, at times, Jenna comes across as someone having a hard time making a relationship stick. By the same token, none of these relationships really fit the “quick fling” bill either. For example, Jenna and Zoe are together for eight years. Admittedly, I had a hard time maintaining a good understanding of how much time had passed overall. Jenna always came across as a fun, funny, and sensitive person in her late twenties/early thirties, but I really don’t know.
For all the relationships we get so observe, I did not feel a strong connection between Jenna and her romantic partners. That is to say, it felt like Jenna’s relationship with Carol, which Jenna herself described in very casual terms, was given exactly the amount of time as we got for Jenna/Trish and Jenna/Zoe, one of whom was Jenna’s first true love and the relationship that set the bar pretty high for all the others, and the latter being an eight-year commitment. Maybe it was because we truly are limited to Jenna’s knowledge as a first-person narrator rather than an omniscient third person. Nevertheless, the effect was that I had a hard time feeling Jenna’s malaise when her relationship with Zoe ended or the shock of Dana breaking things off so quickly.
That said, Jenna as a character is very relatable. It was fun and something different to read about the various people with whom Jenna gets together. Rather than focusing on one single couple’s relationship or various takes on that trope, it felt like I got to know who Jenna was through the lens of her romantic life. Carol was the not-quite-right-but-okay-for-right-now, Zoe was The One (?) and Dana was The Hottie. Jenna was a constant through these relationships and it seemed like what she wanted out of an intimate relationship was clear. For me, at least, this was very different from my usual romance fare—the whole romance is about “when will so and so get together,” whereas here I was all in with seeing where Jenna was going more so than who she was going with.
The book does feature an ending that allowed me a good sense of catharsis regarding Dana’s suddenly breaking up with Jenna. I also really enjoyed seeing some of the quirky aspects of Jenna as a character.