By Michelle Mairesse
Kindle download 412kb
221 pages at $9.99
How long has it been since you eagerly devoured a book in one sitting because the characters and era were so compelling? For me, Family Fortunes was such a book. And the author’s descriptive writing style brought each nuance of the locations, characters, and plot to vibrant life.
The story begins in San Francisco, circa 1905 with the Allister family. Col. Andrew Allister is the powerful patriarch and head of a respected law firm. His son Will dallies at being a partner in the firm, but focuses most of his energy on legal secretary and paramour, Vera Venturi, despite being engaged to marry the wealthy, beautiful Marjorie Huckfeldt. Jenny Allister is strong and sensible but inexperienced when it comes to men.
Jenny is mesmerized by Paul de la Tour, a handsome titled Frenchman who cruelly rapes her. The plot and characters quickly thicken to a rich stew as the Allisters clash with the Huckfeldt, and de la Tour families. Marjorie breaks her engagement to Will and focuses her affections on Paul de la Tour. The battle is on, and the Huckfeldts and de la Tours intend to win by any underhanded means at their disposal.
Andrew Allister arranges a marriage of convenience between the pregnant Jenny and Frank Venturi. Frank is Vera Venturi’s brother, moving west from New York because he’s ill with consumption. Jenny and Frank move to Oak Hills, the Allister family winery in Napa. Jenny is a born vintner and excels at managing the winery, caring for her son and looking after Frank, while Frank broods and works at making her life difficult.
Jenny’s troubles are compounded when the San Francisco earthquake topples homes, businesses, family fortunes, and the city. Her parents die in the earthquake and Will’s mind and spirit are broken. A neighboring vintner, John Braga, offers to buy Oak Hill, or help Jenny in any way he can as she fights to hold on to the Allister winery.
What each character dishes out to others comes back to them in the form of good or bad karma. I relished seeing the evil punished and the good rewarded, but the beauty of this story is how the author takes readers from beginning to end with exceptional skill as a wordsmith. If you enjoy well-written fiction of any genre, this one is highly recommended.
Review by Laurel Johnson, Senior Editor, Midwest Review