As the story opens, four women are standing on the precipice. Kat McClintock, a divorced mother of two sons, is interviewing for a position as a sommelier with a new, trendy San Francisco restaurant. The interview takes a surprising turn.
Alyssa Johnson teaches art in Soho. She is engaged to marry Terrell Henley, but harbors a terrible secret that she must confess to him because it involves Terrell’s best friend, James.
Danielle Bastilia is a wealthy socialite who has just been served with divorce papers.
Jamie Evan has just been promoted to editor-in-chief of Wine Lover’s Magazine after working seven years to achieve that goal. Just as she is planning a celebration at home with her daughter, Maddie, and Nate, her husband, Nate comes home and delivers devastating news.
Three and a half years later, each woman’s story picks up, with every chapter focused on one of them. Jamie has developed an afternoon “Happy Hour” two Sundays each month with her three friends about which she writes a column in the magazine. Maddie is now nine years old, and Jamie also cares for her mother-in-law, Dorothy, who suffers from dementia. In her inaugural column, she introduces the other women:
Danielle is now the divorced owner of Deesse Estate Wines, after being part owner of Bastilia Wines. She is focusing on small boutique wines using all organic methods.
Kat’s last name has changed to Reilly. She is married to Christian, owner of the restaurant where she applied to serve as the sommelier. Together they now operate Christian’s San Francisco restaurant, Sphinx, as well as Christian’s in Yountville, which is adjacent to Napa.
Finally, Alyssa remains single and has moved to St. Helena where she owns The Vine Gallery. Still teaching art classes, she hosts monthly wine tastings and showings of the work of local artists.
As the women enjoy their every-other-Sunday happy hours, they vent with, support, and encourage each other as every one of them faces challenges and difficulties.
Author Michele Scott’s first foray into women’s fiction is an engaging, touching story of four women who come together in solidarity to support each other through various trials and challenges.
The four women’s life circumstances are divergent. For instance, Kat has remarried and is now running two restaurants with husband Christian. But she must still navigate her difficult relationship with her ex-husband, Perry, the father of her two children. Anyone who has lived within a blended family will find Cat’s stressors and emotional responses to them completely believable as she struggles to balance her responsibilities and loyalties to her children and new husband. Second marriages are difficult even without the complications Cat faces.
Danielle lands on her feet following her divorce from Al. Because she is financially stable, she is able to launch her own winery. However, her oldest daughter returns from college and makes an announcement that threatens to derail the equilibrium Danielle has worked so hard to restore to her life. Again, Danielle, like Cat, is a well-developed, believable and empathetic character who must stand by her daughter under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, respecting her child’s choices even if they conflict with what Danielle believes would be best.
Alyssa has re-established herself on the West Coast, but her past still threatens her happiness.
Friendships are vital for our livelihood especially for women. I think when women get together whether it’s with a book club or just out for coffee we lean on our friends in good times and bad times. We laugh together and we cry together and we support one another.~ Author Michele Scott
And lastly, Jamie has survived an unspeakable tragedy which has left her with financial problems she does not want anyone to know about. However, another event will shake up her well-ordered life yet again and require her to reinvest herself one more time. Is she up to the challenge?
Through it all, the four women stand by each other, providing support, encouragement, advice, and a safe place to share their feelings. Still, they keep secrets from one another, ashamed to admit their own mistakes or reveal aspects of themselves that they believe might cause the other women to reject them, bringing about an end to the friendships they all need in their lives.
Women who have close female friends upon whom they rely will readily relate to the way the four friends interact. Their conversations lack contrivance, and their struggles could be those of you or your friends. Scott has a natural, yet nuanced writing style that draws her reader into each woman’s life and evokes compassion for her characters. Each of the women is earnest, with the capacity to love and be loved, although at least two of them must learn to trust again after being hurt. Scott allows her characters to express their reservations in a realistic manner, even while interjecting some fun and romance to keep the book’s pace and tone from bogging down.
The book is a testament to the importance of female friendships and ability of women to maintain close, loving relationships with each other for many years that are devoid of competition or attempts to deride or tear each other down. Those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy such enduring friendships with other women understand their value, and it was thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing to read a book written from that perspective.
This was my first experience reading Scott’s work, but it won’t be my last. She is the author of the popular Wine Lover’s Mysteries that I hope to read in 2011 with my book club, “Literature and Liquor.” After all, we have all been friends for decades, and we live in wine country. We usually discuss the books we read while enjoying a glass or two of wine and some good food so we have a lot in common with Scott’s characters. Happy Hour would also make an excellent selection for a women’s book club.
I enthusiastically raise my glass to Michele Scott and congratulate her on penning a thoroughly enjoyable story!
I read Happy Hour in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review challenge.