Welcome back to the Book Club! It’s always a treat when a novel comes along where it’s clear and obvious that the author did a fair amount of research for the story’s setting. Be it personal experience or a brilliant level of hard work, a novel is more rewarding when the set dressing doesn’t feel like a cardboard cut-out on a stage. Today’s novel takes a trip to the winery, and maybe we’ll discover it’s not all grape plucking and day drinking down in the underrated Gulf Coast wine country. Fill a glass and keep the crackers on standby, this one’s going to be a palette cleanser. Let’s do this!
Tangled Up In You by Lelani Black transports us to the beautiful, yet rugged backdrop of Texas wine country. Reid Mackey runs a successful winery destination complete with restaurants, cabins, and more Lone Star scenery than you can find inside an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. What’s far less successful however, is the relationship with his father, who’s cold-calling Reid and imploring him to take on a new employee at the winery. Slim on the details, Reid begrudgingly accepts a provisional employment of the yet-to-be-met Jadelyn Park. Oh I think that’s her coming up the dirt road now…oh no, she’s getting stuck in the mud…and now her car’s taking out some vines. What the fuck dad? What did you get me into?
Perspective change comes several times throughout the chapters, using a narrator style feeding bits of information to the reader as a method for aiding to the suspense. As referred by Reid’s father, the young and beautiful Jadelyn is in desperate need of a fresh start. I know what you might be thinking: Jadelyn probably had some stuffy ex boyfriend that didn’t believe in her dreams or some shit so she skipped town like an idiot to work as a dilettante wine pourer. Well we can keep that trope on basic cable for this story as Jadelyn is actually in some deep shit. A convicted felon, low on funds and even less opportunity, her parole officer (who is also Reid’s father) pulls some strings to get her this fresh start at the winery. The suspense slowly builds as we’re gradually exposed to the twisting paths that brought both of the main characters to this point, and what it might mean to both of them when they can’t deny their physical attraction. The author did a great job with this, and pulled this off in a unique way.
The romantic tension of Jadelyn and Reid is lovely, however the use of antagonists and secondary romances magnifies the author’s portrait. Jadelyn isn’t simply out on her ass, as her past is actively hunting her down, and stunting her fresh start with new complications. Sparing details, Jadelyn has a deceased ex, and his surviving brother blames Jadelyn for everything. The execution of the bad guy’s malice isn’t anything new, but his origin story was both surprising and horribly disturbing. Let’s just leave it at physical abuse in a sexual relationship and advise you to take a few deep breaths during your personal read through. Going into Tangled Up in You I suspected a back and forth dynamic between two main characters, with maybe a little wise cracking from their friends/co-workers on the side. Not only do we get the aforementioned off screen dynamic of antagonists, but Jadelyn and Reid aren’t the only people in the winery finding love. All the moving parts fit fantastically, but I’m more worried about the strengthened libidos of everyone that visits this winery. There’s a fine line between hip trendy winery and a full blown sex cauldron…and Reid Mackey is walking that fine line with nothing but impunity!
Verdict: Tangled Up In You by Lelani Black is a surprisingly detailed romance set in the deceptive yet serene setting of a beautiful Texas winery. Main characters you want to see fall in love, and maybe some secondary ones you’ll be pulling for too, the complete cast of characters set up both a rewarding and imaginative story. Life on the vine is hard as hell, but the reader can bask in the fruits of the author’s hard labor. This novel won’t make you want to open a vineyard anytime soon, but maybe it will give you a new place you’ll want to find love.