Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Guest Blog by Carlene O'Neil and Review and Giveaway of One Foot in the Grape - May 13, 2015

Please welcome Carlene O'Neil to The Qwillery. One Foot in the Grape, the first novel in the Cypress Cove Mysteries, was published on May 5, 2015.

Hi, I’m Penny Lively, owner of Joyeux Winery. Joyeux is a smaller winery in comparison to several of our neighbors, but enjoys a great reputation. As it happens, I’ve also managed to gain a reputation for my knack for finding bodies. I don’t know if knack is the right word…Connor would call it a gift, but the statement would be said under his breath and likely dripping with sarcasm. Connor’s my winery manager. My manager and nothing more. Yup, nothing more. He’s the best manager on the central California coast and I’m lucky to have him in that capacity, which is why I’ve stifled any urges I might have for him in any other capacity…

Where was I? Right. So after a long career as an investigative photojournalist, I came home to the winery I’d inherited. I’d been worried small town life would be too slow. Instead, I’ve been back less than a year and so far I’ve managed to find more bodies than I did in an entire career investigating situations where one might reasonably expect to find bodies. The local police can’t decide what to do with me, but it’s not like I’m asking for this. Although, I have to admit, once I’m involved I’m not about to walk away. Either the police manage to get it wrong, or someone I care about is a suspect and asks for my help. The first time it happened, my neighbor, Antonia Martinelli, thought someone was sabotaging her winery. She didn’t want to go to the police because she thought one of her children might be involved. Simple, right? Nobody mentioned murder. They never really do.

Between running the winery and running just ahead of whatever mess I’m no doubt in, I stay pretty busy. Connor does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the winery, so I have free time on my hands. I spend most of it with my camera, a holdover from my last profession. My focus is on the landscape now, and this is a part of the country where it’s easy to find inspiration. The winery is beautiful, vineyards stretched across rolling hills in tones of bronze and umber, and just a short drive from Monterey Bay, Pebble Beach and the fabulous town of Cypress Cove.

That’s another thing; murder just shouldn’t happen somewhere so beautiful. The mean streets of Los Angeles? Sure. The underbelly of Chicago? Who’s surprised? Nobody. Here, when you find a body set against such beauty, it seems so much more shocking, vicious, and wrong. There’s a Latin saying, “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.” After what I’ve just been through I would include finding a body in your neighbor’s crusher. Just saying.

One Foot in the Grape
Series:  A Cypress Cove Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime),  May 5, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425274019 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

In California wine country, the town of Cypress Cove may seem peaceful. But someone’s about to pop their cork…
After losing her job as a photojournalist, Penny Lively is trying to get her life back in focus. Inheriting the family winery from her late aunt may be the fresh start she needs. Thankfully she’s got her niece Hayley and her handsome winery manager Connor to help. But the person in need of more urgent assistance is Antonia Martinelli, the owner of the neighboring winery, who has her own barrel full of problems. Someone’s spoiling her wine, and with the upcoming Autumn Festival, she needs Penny’s nose for clues to sniff out the culprit.

But Penny’s search for answers sours after the body of a staff member is found in a grape crusher. Since Hayley was the last to see him alive, she’s the prime suspect in the case. Now Penny must hurry to find the real killer before Hayley withers on the vine…

Jennifer's Review

Carlene O’Neil’s new Cypress Cove Mystery series begins with the novel One Foot in the Grape, and follows Penny Lively as she is starting to rebuild her life after being fired from her job as an investigative photojournalist for putting her integrity over sensationalism, deals with the death of her Aunt Monique, and becomes the owner of Joyeux, the family winery in Cypress Cove, California. Antonia Martinelli, a long time friend of Penny’s aunt and neighboring winemaker, asks Penny to look into who has been tampering with her wine. Before Penny can make any headway on the sabotage, she finds Antonia’s staff member, Todd, brutally murdered in the grape crusher at Martinelli Winery, turning Penny’s simple exploration into sour wines into a dangerous murder investigation.

All of the characters in this novel are complex, having multifaceted personalities and motivations, that make them realistic and relatable. Penny makes no apologies for her intensely curious nature or the fact that she is a darned good liar and can fake her way into or out of many types of situations. She is also outspoken, candid, and headstrong, rarely thinking before she jumps into a situation. She is often tempered, if not outright scolded, by Joyeux winery manager, Connor, who is handsome and very protective of Penny, indicating an interest in her that is more than that of an employee. Penny’s niece, Hayley, resides with her at the winery and has taken on the role of assistant manager. She is young and enthusiastic, two traits that often seem to go hand in hand, and is determined to prove herself as a vintner. Penny also has a few close friends who figure prominently in the story. Annie, a local veterinarian, is Penny’s cousin and best friend, with a take charge attitude and forthright manner. Ross and his partner, Thomas, are a loving couple that often provide Penny with local gossip that proves useful in her investigation.

Martinelli Winery is owned by Antonia, who has a stately bearing and cool manner, priding herself on the success of her winery. She seems to always be in control and is passionate about the legacy of her family and of Martinelli Wines. Her children and their spouses play important roles in the mystery. Francesca, a high powered attorney, unscrupulous business person, and bitter eldest daughter, is married to Brice, a smarmy doctor who is notorious for his philandering; Stephen, due to inherit the winery over Francesca, despite his seeming incompetence, is married to Veronica, who is mousy and nervy and mildly annoying; Chantal is the baby of the family, with an appetite for drugs, alcohol and men, making enemies everywhere with her flirtatious ways and wild behavior. Other significant characters in the story are Marvin, Antonia’s wine manager, who comes off as sleazy and smug, and Lucas, the local sheriff.

The novel flows fairly well, with the exception of a couple of choppy parts that do not take away from the story. The clues to the mystery are subtle and well blended within the plot. The real gem of the book is the aforementioned complexities of the characters. The author makes each and every character, no matter how minor, important in his or her own way, making them more than just window dressing. The conclusion of the mystery comes after an exciting action scene and is completely satisfying. The ending leaves open a few tantalizing questions that readers will want to see resolved in subsequent installments.

About Carlene

Carlene O’Neil grew up in the heart of Northern California Wine Country and is accredited by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. A former television writer, she currently makes her home outside Los Angeles, where she can be found sailing in the Santa Monica Bay or doing research for her next novel.

Clearly, any novel set in wine country requires extensive research. ONE FOOT IN THE GRAPE is her debut novel, coming out in spring 2015 from Berkley Prime Crime.

Website ~ Twitter @Carlene_ONeil ~ Facebook ~ Google+ ~ Pinterest

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of One Foot in the Grape by Carlene O'Neil from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on May 20, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Looks great, hope to get a chance to read it :)

  2. This sounds like a great beginning to an interesting new series, one I'm looking forward to reading. Thanks for the chance to win.

  3. I've been reading a lot of cozies lately, glad to find a new series.

  4. Wine--plus a dog and cat on the cover---this book sounds like one for me. Thanks for the contest.

  5. Sounds like a great cozy! i'd love to read it.
    Theresa N

  6. LOVE this title!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!!
    cyn209 at juno dot com

  7. I love the title of the book and think the cover is just perfect! Thanks for the guest post and for the review - this sounds like a good start to a new series and a book I would enjoy reading
    ringpop2010 at gmail dot com

  8. This looks like a good beginning to a new series

  9. The book sounds captivating and unique. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com