Monday, March 14, 2011

A Vintage Affair by Josh Lanyon

TITLE: A Vintage Affair
AUTHOR: Josh Lanyon
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 42k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Master of wine Austin Gillespie is on assignment when he arrives at the fading Georgia house. He’s there to catalog and count their cellar, but what he finds is a house full of some of the most interesting Southern characters he’s ever seen outside of literature and a dead body left amongst the wine racks…

I’m slow to get around to reading this particular Lanyon story, mostly because I was finding a sameness to his work that precludes consuming it rapidly. If I did, I most assuredly would find myself bored before too long, and I respect his writing too much for that to happen. That being said, this isn’t as strong as other Lanyon works I’ve read.

Austin Gillespie is a master of wine in a slightly precarious professional position. There’s every possibility in the world he’s not going to get the promotion he deserves, in favor of it going to one of the bosses’ fiancĂ©e, so he throws himself into his latest assignment in hopes of it saving his job. According to the inventory his company has been provided, the Cashel wine cellar has many excellent and exclusive vintages, but none more exciting than the famous Lee bottles. If he can find those, Austin has his future set. What he doesn’t anticipate is finding the dead body of a local sommelier in the cellar, too. Through the initial stages of the investigation, he’s forced to interact with the decidedly unusual family, including the daughter’s friend, Jeff. Jeff seems interested in Austin, but this is the south, and he’s not entirely sure he’s reading the man correctly.

What starts out as a more traditional mystery set-up devolves into what is probably one of the more typical romance stories I’ve read by Lanyon. Focus shifts a third of the way into the short novel from the question of who the killer is to the attraction between Austin and Jeff, and then slides even further away once their relationship is consummated. Jeff is very much in the closet in what felt like a very realistic portrayal of a Southern man from an old family, and Austin is very comfortable about his sexuality, uncomfortable with the way Jeff denies himself. The plot breaks down into this dynamic for the last half, including an attempt on Jeff’s part to “prove” his bisexuality by involving Austin in a threeway with a woman. It’s very different tonally to what is set up at the beginning with the mystery, though in all fairness, fits perfectly with the questions Austin’s life and choices raise. It’s a story about self-discovery and sticking with what makes you happy, even when it doesn’t thrill other people. I only wished it flowed better than it did since it was set up as one thing and ultimately became something else.

Austin and Jeff are familiar archetypes in Lanyon’s catalog – the wealthy artist-type sure of his sexuality, the strong but most definitely unsure of his sexuality crime professional. I really liked Austin at the beginning, however, as his viewpoint as seen through wines was crisp and unusual. Why that disappeared after the one-night stand, I have no idea. On the other hand, Jeff was charming enough for me not to care too much that he wasn’t wholly original, but considering how much he built up his denial, I just couldn’t buy into his swift turnaround at the end. Timewise in the plot it wasn’t that short – a month – but none of it happens on the page, and so as a reader, I had little time to work it through and accept it emotionally. I only got told about it after the fact, and Lanyon did far too good of a job portraying him as a man in denial for me to believe it so readily.

Not my favorite of Lanyon’s works, but I did enjoy the wine aspects a great deal. That very much rang true.


7/10 – Lacks the narrative flow I expect from Lanyon, though the slightly pretentious verbiage is a perfect fit for the subject matter

Hero #1

6/10 – His turnaround never felt organic to the character I’d been introduced to

Hero #2

6/10 – I liked his confusion regarding his orientation, but didn’t believe much of his behavior of the ending

Entertainment value

6/10 – Flawed but still fascinating

World building

8/10 – The greatest care is given to the wine world, and it’s terrifically genuine



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