The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery
Release Date - February 9, 2021
I've loved so many of Susan Mallery's novels over the years. That leaves me with very mixed feelings about The Vineyard at Painted Moon.
For 16 years, Mackenzie Dienes has spent her days working tirelessly in her husband's family vineyards. She creates exceptional wines that sell well for high prices. The problem is that it's his family's winery and vineyards. It's his sisters and mother. Mackenzie married into it, but it's not truly hers. Her mother-in-law made it clear that spouses will never be part owners at Bel Apres. When her husband asks for a divorce, she's not shocked, but she's incredibly sad to find herself starting anew.
When her mother-in-law (a women she felt close to) fires her on the spot and tries to have her evicted from her home, Mackenzie has no choice but to start over. She wants to keep doing what she loves on the lands she knows so well, but it's time to fight for herself and the life she feels she deserves.
My problem with The Vineyard at Painted Moon comes down to certain characters. There is absolutely no redeeming qualities with Rhys, Mackenzie's husband; his mother, Barbara, who makes Snow White's Evil Stepmother look like Mother Teresa; and Rhys' youngest sister Lori. I couldn't stomach any of them.
A good first half of the story is focused on the family relations and Mackenzie's friendships with her other two sisters-in-law (Four and Stephanie). After the divorce becomes clear, the book chances to Mackenzie's mother-in-law becoming as evil as possible doing all she can to destroy Mackenzie's chance for a future, even destroying her own daughters' psyche and self-esteem along the way. It became tough to read as even with the horrid treatment, they all continued to try to be nice to Barbara when it was the last thing she deserved. I got tired of them taking her verbal abuse and not doing much to stand up to her.
I couldn't put the book down, I give it that. But I felt cheated that the true happiness and Mackenzie figuring things out came so late into the story that my irritation level had already spiked. I wish there'd been a little more lightheartedness and fun added to overcome the dark shadow Barbara cast on the story.