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.
So this book. Wow. What can I say about this book other than I loved it? I read this in a single shot. I started it this afternoon and finished this evening. I could barely put it down to go to the bathroom. That’s how much I wanted to continue Corbett’s story… Most of all, I loved that the characters are just human. There is so much more to this novel than just vineyards and wine. It’s a story about self-discovery and second chances, and realizing that sometimes, dreams do pay off. Pairs With Life is a funny, laugh-out-loud-while-simultaneously-ripping -your-heart-out novel that is wonderfully written and one hell of a debut. Thank you Voracious Readers and John Taylor for my copy! I will be looking forward to his next book!
-Mc Chanster, Goodreads Reviewer
Corbett, the main character, has made many poor choices in the past, and these choices have given him a bad reputation. He wants to redeem himself and have the fame and fortune he always dreamed of, but there is a consequence, he must give up what is very close to his heart. Many of us probably must choose between what we want or do the right thing once in our lives, and we all know that it is a decision that is not easy. This book covers many significant situations that we probably have dealt with something similar at one point in time. The characters are relatable, funny, and fascinating. A story that will capture your heart and show you that second chances are possible and beautiful.
Jen, Goodreads Reviewer
I though I was going to read this over the course of several days, an hour at a time. Instead, I finished in two sessions. Yes, it was that hard to put down!
John Taylor has a unique “voice” and he packs a lots of into every paragraph. The story explores wine, music, wine, romance, family, wine, and self-discovery.
I’m going to put together a suitable soundtrack and read it again. Too bad I can’t find a recording of “Sensitive Ponytail Guy”
-Anthony Medley, Goodreads Reviewer
John Taylor’s debut novel offers a hilarious look into the Napa Valley wine scene from the perspective of a self-involved sommelier who can’t seem to catch a break (though it’s mostly self-inflicted).
This is the first book I have read in a long time that has actually made me laugh out loud – and often! Taylor certainly has a way with words, and comes up with the most startlingly accurate similes, spot-on observations, as well as amazing, quotable expressions (“precious awake juice” as a synonym for coffee comes to mind).
The protagonist’s charm quickly wins over the reader, and your fingers are crossed the whole time that he will follow his heart in the end. No spoilers though!
Definitely recommended to all wine-loving bibliophiles.
Mel, Wining With Mel
Pairs With Life…this story has a little bit of everything. Corbett, the main character, is given a second chance to find his happiness in life, however, the journey there is lined with bumps along the way. From confronting and dealing with his past to making the ultimate decision on what holds more value to him. A second chance to grasp that fame he lost long ago or doing what’s right.
This story has that life lesson of, “it’s never too late to start over” embedded into it. It’s a great read that you won’t be able to put down.
Derra Nic, Author of Slumberland
First of all, the cover very quickly captured my attention. It is absolutely stunning. I’m also a sucker for a good vineyard story. I’m sure part of that is my proximity to the Finger Lakes wine region and love for wine tours and tastings. But this book really surprised me.
The story is told in first-person from Corbett’s point of view. It’s been a really long time since I read a book told strictly from the male’s perspective, let alone in the first person. It made me relate even more to this already relatable character. He is just a few years older than me, so a lot of his age-related memories are familiar. I’ve had a couple of brief stints in the food industry and still have a lot of friends currently working in it. So I can definitely say that he captures that scene pretty well.
And then there’s just how he is constantly getting into his own way, stumbling over himself when he thinks things are finally looking up, yet having an unwavering faith that life is going to improve. The situations he gets himself into make you cringe while also laughing out loud. (Be careful reading this one in public!) I say he gives his female counterparts a definite run for their money!
But his foibles make him such a real character. All of the characters I came across had a strong realism about them, despite this being a work of fiction. I could even see myself hanging out with Corbett. The wine alone would be a good reason, but the former grunge band musician is a clincher.
John Taylor also has a way with words. The banter between the characters, the descriptions of the situations and settings really made me feel like I was right there, almost as if I was Corbett myself, going through the whole story. I haven’t been this immersed in a story in a while. And it’s not an easy one to put down. You never know what is going to happen next! I kind of want to hop on a plane and head to the Napa Valley, too.
If I understand correctly, this is John Taylor’s debut novel. If this is an indication of the kinds of stories he has to tell, then I strongly recommend he keep on writing so that I can keep on reading! I loved it!
I’m sure you are wondering why I choose to review this book. As most people know, I don’t drink wine. I’ve never acquired a taste for it. I’m more of a beer/whiskey/rum kinda gal when I do drink. What drew me to the book is the author himself. A one-hit wonder in music. I will admit that I don’t remember the band at all but his face is familiar. I was curious to see what type of author he is and boy was I NOT disappointed.
I kept wondering if I was reading a seasoned author and then I found out that I wasn’t. His ability to make me love and then hate all the characters in this book is magnificent. Corbett is one flawed individual. He could be considered the king of bad decisions and I don’t just mean from his younger days. He is still making them and it is really wearing thin on his relationships with everyone. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse…it does. Mr. Taylor does a great job of making Corbett human and relatable. I loved how much he grew in the book and it wasn’t easy for an older man/child.
Mr. Taylor knows his stuff when it comes to wine. I really liked being immersed in the wine scene in California. I might not like wine but I do appreciate it. My husband loves wine so it was interesting to learn about it. The secrets that Remy wants answers to and Sydney’s appearance just add to Corbett’s decisions or indecision. I loved how they are integral to Corbett’s growth in the books. Mr. Taylor, I think, wrote Corbett with a bit of him in it but I’m just ballparking it at this point.
This is a fascinating, funny, relatable, and highly entertaining. I was smiling, laughing, and frustrated while reading. Frustrated at the characters, though. The writing is solid and engrossing. I had to put the book down so I could sleep. Ugh! This is a great second chance book in life. Corbett is that man/child that you love and then hate. Then want to punch out, then hug and have a drink with. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Taylor brings to the table next. I’ll be the first to sign up.
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About the Author
John Taylor has been writing about wine since 2012, but his meanderings on life began way before that. Born and raised in San Diego, California, John moved to Los Angeles in 1982 to pursue dreams of screenwriting and filmmaking. He attended the University of Southern California, where he majored in Shattered Dreams and False Hopes, with a minor in Getting Gut Punched By Reality. After being handed a degree in Journalism in 1987 as a consolation prize, John dove into a career in music. Because getting gut-punched just isn’t painful enough.
By 1996, John and his band, The Uninvited, had produced four independent albums and became one of the most popular acts in the western United States. This lead to a deal on Atlantic Records, which released the band’s self-titled debut album in 1997. The band had two Top 100 hits, and toured nationally with Dave Matthews, Blues Traveller, Third Eye Blind and many other acts. Their music appeared in the TV shows Beverly Hills 90210 and Party of Five, and in the motion pictures The Commandments and North Beach. The band can also be heard in several HBO Documentaries, video games and on that annoying “One Hit Wonders of The 90’s” station your co-worker always plays on Spotify.
In 2001, John’s vast experience in shattered dreams was once again called into play as the band hung up their touring shoes for good. After a brief but horrifying career in real estate, John got wise and made a career out of his favorite hobby – wine – and has held various sales & marketing positions in Napa Valley since 2011. John’s writing career started in earnest at this point, with blogs, essays and short stories appearing in various publications. John is the author of three novels, including the aptly-titled Pairs With: Life, which will be released by Hurn Publications in September 2020.
John, thanks for being with us today. Congratulations on your upcoming novel! We’re excited to jump into this interview, so let’s get to it! Tell us your ‘path to publication’ story:
When I finished with PWL in 2018, I went the slush-pile route in an attempt to find an agent. For four months, I submitted to a total of 126 agents. I received 41 form rejections, 7 “encouraging rejections,” 5 full manuscript requests, and then in February of 2019, an offer of representation. Though my agent was very excited about the project, he wasn’t unable to get either a yes or a no from any of his submissions.
This even included friends in the industry. Flummoxed, we mutually agreed to part ways, and I began approach publishers on my own. That lead to a submission to Hurn Publications, which eventually agreed to publish the novel.
What’s your writing style/process like?
Voice-driven, emotional, entertaining and insightful. I am a serial plotter. In the Plotter v. Pantser argument, I am utterly pantless. I plot out all the beats that need to occur on my living room wall: inciting incident, first plot point, the call to action, etc., then start filling in those beats with scenes, dialogue and/or actions. I develop backstories for my characters and make sure their character arcs do all the right arcing at all the right times.
Once the story is completely laid out, beginning to end, I start writing, chronologically, from Chapter 1. By midway through, the characters have developed a life of their own, and often take the book in a different direction than I thought it would go. But I love that. I love to flesh out a world so detailed and intricate that it creates the story on its own.
What are some fun facts about Pairs With Life?
“Corbett Thomas” is a derivative of “Tom Corbett,” an homage to the first book that got me interested in reading, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet: Stand By For Mars!
Reality Star, the name of Corbett’s 90s band, was a name that my own bandmates rejected for our own group back in the 90s;
The gold mine mentioned in the book is real. Back in the 1980s, they pulled nearly a billion dollars of gold from the hills just north-east of Napa Valley;I was fortunate enough to have a screenwriting class taught by the legendary Bob McKee back in college. After the class, he pulled me aside to let me know that I was the most improved student in the class, but I still shouldn’t consider a career in writing.
Tell us about you in a Few Sentences.
Writer, musician, single father, wine guy and sci-fi nerd, though not always in that order. A bon vivant without a budget and a responsible raconteur.
Can you give us a few autobiographical words?
I was born, and then all this stuff happened, and now I’m trying to have a career as a writer. I’m also very tall.
Do you have any formal education, credentials or honors you’d like to share? We love giving authors an opportunity to show off.
Miss Kim’s Happy Daycare (Sigma Cum Laude)
Orange Glen High School (yes, it was in a glen full of oranges)
University of Southern California, B.A., Journalism
Speaking of showing off, do you have bragging rights on anything that you’d like to share?
My band was once signed with Atlantic Records. Bill Paxton was apparently a big fan.
Why do you I write. Is there a philosophy behind the words?
I want to be able to write the thoughts and emotions that people empathize with but are unable to communicate themselves. Insights to the human condition would be great, too. And making people laugh is cool.
Can you share with our readers what your favorite books are and why they’re on your list?
The Sinaloa Story, Barry Gifford’s masterpiece. Visceral, exciting, compelling – Gifford has a unique way of developing complex characters in the course of three paragraphs and then killing them. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman. My fave book from my fave sci-fi writer. Showed me that characters mean everything, despite the book’s genre.
Do you have any Professional & Literary Affiliations:
Member of the Author’s Guild
What’s your publication history?
Several online articles, features and blogs; three short stories in the anthology Harvest Tales and Midnight Revels (Bald Mountain Books).
What are you working to accomplish?
A general state of happiness would be nice; a safe world for my kids would also kinda rock; The ultimate goal would be enough financial stability to pursue the creative project of my choice.
Do you have any works in-progress?
The TV adaptation of Pairs With Life; my third novel, Tiffany & The Nightmare Hunters.
Anything else you’d like to let our readers know about you?
I have a cat named Jazzy who is practiced in the arts of cuteness and annoyance.