Part love story, part travelogue, part wine course, part memoir, and yet fully fiction.
In the novel, wine becomes a symbol for discovering and rekindling love.
—Dan Klefstad, NPR’s Morning Edition
Wine and travel lovers from anywhere will enjoy Charles Blackstone’s new novel, Vintage Attraction.
—Crain’s Chicago Business
There’s a lot to like about Charles Blackstone’s latest novel, Vintage Attraction. The semi-autobiographical story of the romance between English teacher Peter Hapworth and world-renowned sommelier Izzy Conway invites the reader to speculate on Blackstone’s own relationship with Alpana Singh. It name-drops some of Chicago’s culinary haunts. There’s a pug. However, one could argue that the most seductive aspect of Vintage Attraction is its depiction of the ripe vineyards of Greece, where the star-crossed lovers must face their uncertain future together.
Just as a sommelier specializes in wine and food pairings, the best writers specialize in story pairings, or in this case, romantic entanglements. Do Peter and Izzy make for a good pairing? . . . Izzy is a very interesting character. We get to see her vulnerabilities and in their frailties, both latch onto each other, not necessarily filling in voids, but coupling their taste buds wherever they can . . . Hapworth’s education in wine goes hand in hand with his growing marriage. Vintage wines are often saved for special occasions. In Vintage Attraction, Blackstone reminds us that wine isn’t a question to be solved, but a drink to savor, relish, and celebrate.
—Peter Tieryas, The Whimsy of Creation
Blackstone brings out the flavor of something truly riveting as the tale pours through various wine tastings and winds through vineyards. (Blackstone is married to one of Chicago’s master sommeliers, which lends credence to this fictional guided tour of all things wine.) Clearly, Vintage Attraction proves the maxim that “in wine there’s truth,” because it’s spot-on with explanations of the many varietals in the fascinating world of wine. Discover: A debut novel filled with riveting information about wine.
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
Reading Vintage Attraction seems to provide a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style glimpse into the courtship of Blackstone and his wife, lightly blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. It’s a cute courtship, but like remote-relationships-turned-real of the recent and distant past, Hapworth and Conway face tough obstacles. Their story becomes a guessing game of whether or not they were meant to be.
—Sabra Embury, Los Angeles Review of Books
Peter Hapworth is a 37-year-old part-time adjunct lecturer trying to pay off two grad degrees when he starts a relationship with wine expert and television persona Isabelle Conway; through her, he comes to know wine, love, and adult responsibility. After dating just five months, he’s now married, co-owner of a pug, and cosigner on a mortgage for the couple’s Chicago loft. When career issues, neighbors from hell, and ex-lovers threaten to cork their marriage, Peter and Isabelle take off on a wine trip to Greece in search of inspiration. Blackstone’s rendering of a disgruntled hipster-slacker-intellectual in the character of Peter is authentic and humorous; the amusing scenes involving academia are written with brilliance and insight. Peter’s ex-lover Talia brings a fun element, and Isabelle is well drawn. VERDICT Readers of literary fiction who are interested in wine or the Chicago setting will especially like this second novel (after The Week You Weren’t Here) by the managing editor of Bookslut.com.
The book dives as deeply into different grapes and vintages as it does into Izzy and Peter’s romance. Since starting it I’ve stocked my wine cabinet with new (to me) grapes like Xinomavro and Assyrtiko – perfect to sip while reading, of course. Pick it up if you’re a Top Chef fan, wine fan, or just someone who likes a good love story.
Blackstone’s debut novel traces the whirlwind courtship, hasty elopement, and rocky first weeks of marriage of Peter Hapworth—an unfulfilled adjunct literature professor at a Chicago community college—and Isabelle “Izzy” Conway—a celebrity sommelier with her own TV show, Vintage Attraction. The reader is regaled with glimpses into the glamorous world of wine marketing—from symposiums and cocktail parties to wine festivals across the country, where Izzy is treated like visiting royalty. Peter quits his lackluster teaching job, giving him more time to hone his skills as a restaurant “conceptualist.” Former lovers threaten to undermine the couple’s newly forged bond, but an all-expenses-paid wine tour of Greece brings them even closer and becomes the inception of their own unique wine store—the reincarnation of Vintage Attraction. Blackstone, who is married to a sommelier, repeatedly makes an effort to equate forging a relationship with making fine wine, ensuring that for those with a taste for both light literary romance and a glass of crisp Assyrtiko, this is an excellent match.
Some of life’s most enjoyable pleasures are also the simplest—a glass of wine, a good book, and someone to share them with. Chicago author Charles Blackstone’s debut novel, Vintage Attraction
, perfectly blends the three in a story about an English professor who falls in love with a beautiful wine expert he sees on television. Lonely and unhappy, Peter Hapworth pitches himself as a guest on Isabelle Conway’s wine show, and the two begin a romance that takes them everywhere from Chicago to Santorini. If the book seems to capture the intoxicating effects of love and wine alike, it’s because it does.
Blackstone, a Chicago native, is married to Alpana Singh, one of only 201 experts in the world who’ve earned the distinction of master sommelier (she was also the youngest woman, passing the exam when she was only 21!). They say that wine gets better with age, but Vintage Attraction
is already buzzing with great reviews, so make sure to grab yourself a copy
when it comes out on October 22.
In 2008, Blackstone and his wife, restaurateur Alpana Singh, presented a panel at the Printers Row Book Fair called “Wine in Literature.” This October, Blackstone will be celebrating the release of “Vintage Attraction,” a novel about an English teacher named Peter Hapworth who meets a prominent sommelier, Isabelle Conway. They fall in love, and soon find themselves in a relationship with complexities that anyone who’s ever loved will find familiar: sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, growing fuller with time.
Blackstone’s second novel follows the wine-infused romance of Peter Hapworth, self-described “Conceptualist, Teacher, Chicagoan, Swashbuckler, Eater, Drinker, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker,” and sommelier Isabelle Conway, star of her own television show, Vintage Attraction. When Peter applies to be a guest on her show, he winds up with a date, and the two embark on a whirlwind courtship. Izzy’s world is a glamorous one, in contrast to Peter’s drab academic circles and lackluster dating life. In five weeks, their courtship runs its course through Chicago’s restaurant scene, culminating with their hasty elopement. When Izzy’s ex-boyfriend Pacer Rosengrant begins to pursue her, Peter begins to question his bond with Izzy and is pulled back into an old relationship. To test their love, he follows her on a wine tour of Greece. Blackstone has created a likable protagonist in Peter, and a worthy love interest in Izzy, toying with the dynamic of pursuer and pursued. His wine world knowledge is impressive. Agent: Ryan Harbage, Fischer-Harbage Agency. (Oct.)
A romance built on fine wine threatens to go sour in this light novel with a lot of snarky undertones. Peter, the narrator of the second novel by Blackstone (The Week You Weren’t Here, 2005), is a bright 30-something man with a go-nowhere adjunct gig teaching composition at a Chicago university who spends his spare time with his pug and imagines punny, unworkable concepts for restaurants. Despite this lassitude, he manages to win the love of Isabelle, a local celebrity TV-show host who demystifies wine for the masses. Their love blossoms fast—they tie the knot within weeks—but so does trouble: Peter is increasingly running afoul of his bosses, their new condo loft has high-volume neighbors, and an old flame appears to have insinuated himself back into Izzy’s life. This is all in service of a comic work of commercial fiction, down to the adorable dog and the make-or-break trip to Greece in the novel’s closing chapters. Blackstone is a witty writer with a great subject.
In Vintage Attraction, Blackstone expertly and with Rick Steves-like detail takes the reader on a heart-led journey from Chicago to Greece, with some side trips in between. His writing is strong as well as smart, raw, and incredibly honest. The book’s strengths are in these true emotions as well as in his motley cast of human, well-developed characters. This honesty along with the relatable characters makes Vintage Attraction a book that you simply will not want to stop reading. Yet you will, because you won’t want it to end.