Pairs with Life: A Novel

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Hurn Publications, 2020 - Redemption - 280 pages

Forty-eight-year-old Corbett Thomas, a one-hit wonder of the 90s, now works as the lead sommelier at Napa Valley's hippest restaurant. Set to become one of the few Master Sommeliers in the world, Corbett self-destructs during his final exam, ruining his last chance at capturing the stardom and adoration he got a taste for in his youth.

When billionaire game designer, Brogan Prescott, asks Corbett to consult on a major vineyard acquisition, Corbett sees it as a shot at redemption, until he learns of Brogan's ridiculous vision of a virtual-reality, Woke Ant Colony Winery. Disgusted, Corbett decides to buy the vineyard himself and preserve its magic and history. Cashless, clueless, and with his reputation in tatters, Corbett enlists the help of his bass-player-turned-lawyer Seamus O'Flaherty, who may have finally lost his stomach for Corbett's bad ideas; his uber-rational daughter Remy, who wants Corbett to uncork some family secrets he'd rather leave in the cellar; and Sydney Cameron, whose sudden appearance in Corbett's life may repair his heart or shatter it forever.

With their help-and sometimes despite it-Corbett discovers what Brogan has known all along: a four-billion-dollar gold deposit lies beneath the vineyard. If Brogan acquires the property, the ensuing gold rush will destroy Napa Valley.

But if Corbett can get out of his own way long enough to purchase the vineyard first, he'll be faced with the hardest decision of his life: take the fame and fortune he desperately craves, or save the soul of the valley he loves so much.

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Reviewed by Ray Hosler for Readers' Favorite
Pairs with Life by John A. Taylor is a story about a down-on-his-luck, middle-aged wine steward who has a chance to own his own Napa Valley vineyard and
live happily ever after. His path to success requires that he pass the extremely difficult Master Sommelier exam given in a San Francisco hotel. After the exam, the main character, Corbett Thomas, meets a woman named Sydney in the hotel and a romance begins. Thomas is good friends with an aging vintner who wants to sell his land in the Coombsville wine region, but Corbett needs to raise more than one million dollars to make the purchase. He finds out that a Silicon Valley billionaire investor also vies to own the property, which has more going for it than just grapevines. A well-developed plot plays out its twists and turns to the very end. The story’s satisfying conclusion has a lot to do with a strange little bug called a firefly. And, yes, they do live in California.
John Taylor writes his first novel fittingly in the first person, ideal for a witty writer to showcase bright, bubbly dialogue that goes down like a fine bottle of Domaine Chandon. The author strings together one over-the-top expressive sentence after another, and idiomatic expressions and metaphors will leave you laughing and craving more. For example: “And with that notch on my wine key, I could kiss the world of one-bedroom apartments and Top Ramen goodbye forever.” (Sensitive palates may find the salty language disagreeable.) The author’s characters are well developed with unique identities and backgrounds that mesh well with the plot. You’ll find yourself rooting for Thomas as he faces one hurdle after another in his quest to own a vineyard. Wine aficionados will do cartwheels as the author name-drops fine wines throughout and delves into the intriguing aspects of this colorful industry. His description of the Master Sommelier exam will leave you in stitches. Snuggle up with a fine wine on a winter’s evening and read Pairs with Life! It’s a must-read for wine lovers and teetotalers alike.
 

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About the author (2020)

John Taylor, a journalist for more than two decades, has been a contributing editor at New York magazine and a senior writer for Esquire. He lives in East Moriches, New York.

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