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From beloved and acclaimed author Jamie Brenner comes BLUSH, a blockbuster summer novel about winemaking, romance novels and family secrets.

Founded in 1971, Hollander Estates has been the premier setting for lavish parties, romantic weddings and boozy day trips for anyone willing to journey to the North Fork of Long Island. Family-owned and operated from the start, Hollander is renowned not only for its wines, but also for its matriarch, Vivian, a stunning, Bvlgari-wearing icon in her own right, best known for dropping in and dazzling guests as they kick back with the east coast’s best Merlot. Vivian always dreamed of handing down the vineyard to her children. She and her husband, Leonard, have done just that, though perhaps not to the child who most deserved or wanted it. Along with their feckless, too-handsome-for-his-own-good son Asher, Vivian and Leonard have seen the vineyard through mold, hurricanes and money-hemorrhaging trends, with no end in sight.

"Full of heart, spirit and longing, BLUSH is a tender novel with a perfectly accessible premise that tricks you into staying for much more. Brenner’s writing is heartfelt but never overly sentimental, and her takes on themes of feminism and romance are sharp and clear-eyed."

Meanwhile, their daughter, Leah --- raised with her father’s business savvy and her mother’s passion for hosting --- has found her own success with Bailey’s Blue, a cheese shop she runs in Manhattan with her husband, Steven. Though Leah always dreamed of running Hollander Estates, she has made her peace with cheese, the eternal companion to wine, and delights in the knowledge that while her brother has continued an infantile existence, she has stepped out and made it on her own. Her daughter, Sadie, recently published in The New Yorker, is further proof of that. Bookish and focused, Sadie is the workaholic of twenty-somethings, and though her latest research project has her tied up for the summer, she is dating a handsome man from a good family. All is well…or so it seems. Leah has recently learned that her building is being sold, and she will need to find a new location for her shop, if she even wants to continue running Bailey’s Blue. Sadie, too invested in her work to make time for life, has just been dumped by her boyfriend.

When Leah and Sadie return to Hollander Estates for an escape, they are met with the shocking news that it has suffered financially, and Vivian and Leonard must sell not only the family business, but also the family home. Change is natural, and while the men seem resigned to the news, Vivian, who has long resented her husband’s “men only” business practices; Leah, who knows she could do a better job running the vineyard than her brother; and Sadie, who has just discovered a treasure trove of romance novels and secret diaries in the mansion’s library, feel certain that there is a way to keep and revitalize the vineyard, knowing that there are some things they can teach the men around them. Fighting back against the misogynistic ideals of the wine world and the Hollander vineyard itself, Vivian, Leah and Sadie find comfort, encouragement and inspiration in Vivian’s beloved “trashy” novels from the 1980s (classics by Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz and more) and learn to stand up for themselves, their dreams and their romantic lives.

Though the premise of BLUSH is straightforward, Brenner packs a ton of magic and wonder into this boozy book. While Hollander is an instantly appealing setting --- idyllic, storied and luscious --- it is the women who truly sweep you off your feet. Smart and beautiful Vivian is a powerhouse, and Brenner unpacks decades of her frustrations with compassion, heart and lots of emotional insight. Though Leonard is ostensibly the “bad guy” of the book, her love for him runs deep, and her determination to see the best in him and their life together adds a sense of wisdom and weight to her character arc. Leah, meanwhile, has found success in business but a significant dwindling in her marriage with Steven. She loves him dearly, but working with him at Bailey’s Blue has turned him more into her roommate than her lover. Already feeling demoted by the loss of the family business, Leah brings a real sense of fight to BLUSH, and her marketing know-how and fresh perspectives on the business make her a total girl boss, a woman who gets things done.

Rounding out the cast of Hollander/Bailey women is Sadie, a workaholic who has never had much luck with love, and has found herself trapped between her own desire for happiness and the decidedly anti-feminist ideals championed by her married female relatives. Sadie wants a partner who knows as much as her, who can teach her things and treats her like an equal. When she finds a man who checks all these boxes at Hollander, her attraction is amplified by her grandmother’s romance novels and the illicit sexuality to which they expose her.

Each woman from each generation has a full, satisfying character arc, and Brenner juggles their various motivations, dreams and conflicts effortlessly, tying them together at the best times and pushing them against one another not just to stir drama, but to amplify their voices and bring out the best in each character.

Full of heart, spirit and longing, BLUSH is a tender novel with a perfectly accessible premise that tricks you into staying for much more. Brenner’s writing is heartfelt but never overly sentimental, and her takes on themes of feminism and romance are sharp and clear-eyed. Much like a crisp glass of rosé on a summer day, the book goes down easy, but to devour it too quickly would be a mistake. The plot deserves much more focus, and you will find yourself rooting for Vivian, Leah and Sadie until the very end, and thinking about them long after. I can think of no better novel to throw into your beach bag this year, and I know I will return to it again when I am in need of empowerment and courage, or have a desire to escape.

Packed with the family dramedy of LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL and the romance of IT HAD TO BE YOU, BLUSH will turn Jamie Brenner into your next instant-buy author. Just don’t forget the rosé!

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on June 26, 2021

by Jamie Brenner

  • Publication Date: June 22, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0593085752
  • ISBN-13: 9780593085752