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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Book Review: "Brut Force" by Peter Stafford-Bow

The wines are quite open; they have clearly been aerated.
If you've read this book then you understand that quote. If you haven't read this book then you should. Felix Hart is back! It's been two years since I reviewed Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer, and I am really excited that there's a sequel! This one is called Brut Force: The further, staggering adventures of a professional wine buyer.

I absolutely loved Corkscrew. It's one of the funniest (and funnest) novels that I have ever read, with no exaggeration. But Corkscrew covered Felix's rise into the business and becoming a Minstrel of Wine, and it was mostly a collection of fun adventures that came together in the end.

Brut Force is more structured, and it's focused on a main plot from the very beginning with adventure in its subplots, although with less wilderness and wildlife. And things get very serious for Felix, as his life is on the line from one major threat for the vast majority of the story. So even though Brut Force doesn't have as many outrageously ridiculous moments as Corkscrew, it's the better book. Peter is clearly growing as a writer.

It's been two years since Felix became a Minstrel of Wine, and now it's time for him to decide which House he'll join. Would he choose House Archevist, House Terroirist, House Mercantilist, or House Hedonist? If you know anything about Felix than you know that House Hedonist is the House for him. But his plans have to be changed against his will, just like many things are about to happen against his will. Like, spoiler alert, almost being drowned in a wine barrel.

I wondered if she was wearing stockings. Perhaps she only wore stockings when she drowns people.
A double blind tasting called The Judgment of Basildon is about to go down where France's best Burgundies will go up against the best Pinot Noirs from around the world. Wine juggernaut Paris-Blois has a lot at stake as their most prized Burgundy, Domaine Henri-Leroy, was entered into the competition without their consent. Because Sandra, their head of marketing, has a great working relationship with Felix, the senior wine buyer for the big retail chain Gatesave, they've enlisted Felix as their representation for a blind taster in the event. However, business friendships aside, that does not mean there are just financial stakes involved for Felix.

Because now Felix has to find a way to make sure that the Domaine Henri-Leroy takes first place to keep his head, and he also has to join House Terroirist to investigate a secret organization trying to damage Paris-Blois' reputation. To do this he must team up with a beautiful young woman named Lily, who is part of the blind tasting process for the event, so he can identify the correct wine and say the phrase that will let the other corrupt judges know which wine it is. But he needs to convince Lily, who is also an activist against major corporations like Paris-Blois, that he's trying make Domaine Henri-Leroy fail instead of win. And Lily is very smart. Is she actually playing him while he thinks he's playing her?

Things inevitably go wrong, as you would expect. With what could very well be, or as he imagines, men with thick necks and murderous pygmies trying to kill him, Felix's light-heartedness is tested as he spirals further in to peril. There's also another thing, putting his roommates in danger: One of the wines in the competition was made from their own vine in Little Chalfont. Will Felix get out alive? How high will Fistule get? How often does Woden clean his tie-die shirts, if at all?

And... what is this feeling that Felix is suddenly experiencing for the first time? It's almost like he's feeling... guilt. Like he's doing something wrong to someone he cares about. Is that.... is that LOVE???

Speaking of love; I freakin' love this book. I love this series. I love the characters and the world that Peter has created. And I think anybody who has any interest in wine, and most importantly a sense of humor, would love it too. So check it out!

Some people take life too seriously, I suppose. Not a mistake I intended to make.
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