Saturday, August 1, 2015

Valley Fever by Katherine Taylor

Sometimes I get distracted when I read like a writer. Such was the case with Valley Fever, the second novel of Katherine Taylor.  She opens with Ingrid, the protagonist, arriving at her sister and brother-in-law's house after a breakup, evidently a pattern. Making things even more complicated, Ingrid never returns to the scene of a heartbreak.

After a short stay, though, she ends up in Fresno living with her parents, whose livelihood is a large vineyard in the heard of grape country.  Between drought and manipulative friends and partners, she quickly realizes that her father's operations are in jeopardy.  Even though she has no intention of staying at her childhood home, when her father develops serious health problems, she ends up staying and taking over  the business.

The novel taught me much about grapes, raisins, wine, and California agriculture in general. Along the way, though, the author let too many plot threads drop.  The ex-boyfriend who causes so much heartbreak in chapter one is not even an afterthought as the book continues.  The sudden dissolution of her sister's marriage also comes without clear foreshadowing.

Most off-putting, though, was Taylor's tendency to lapse into extended exposition when development through action and dialogue would be more rewarding to the reader. She has some well-drawn characters, but at times, I had to flip back to be sure who was whom. I had a little trouble with the mother's characterization as well. While there was much to entertain me in this book, I'd have loved to see it after just a little more editing.


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