Book Review: Dial M for Merlot; by Howard K

To view a complete list of all the books I have reviewed on The Academic Wino, visit my Wine Book Library page and browse! To purchase any of the books I’ve reviewed, check out my Amazon.com storefront! Cheers!

Today, I present to you a short review of the most recent book I’ve read: Dial M for Merlot by Howard K.


Many of the books I review on The Academic Wino are of the nonfiction genre, though every once in a while, I fall upon a fiction book to lighten things up a little bit. Today’s book, Dial M for Merlot, is the very first novel for author Howard K.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Howard was able to self-publish his first out of what he hopes to be a series of novels focusing on “the story of how one man’s discovery of his passion for wine radically changes his life”.

The first pitch I received for the book read:

Dial M for Merlot: One man’s discovery of his love of, and passion for, fine wine.

On a Friday night, after being stood up for the zillionth time, a lovelorn nerd wanders into a wine tasting at a local shop that opens his eyes, turns on his taste buds and totally changes his life.

Join Justin on an exhilarating, intoxicating and potentially dangerous voyage of discovery and transformation that leads him out of his shell and into the world of fine wine and fine living.

From Florida to France and back, Justin discovers there is so much more to life than just Star Trek, Star Wars or Harry Potter—stimulating, seductive things like fabulous wine, fantastic food, hot sex…and murder. But not necessarily in that order.”

What did I think of the book?

For his first novel, I think Howard K did a nice job telling the story and keeping me wondering what the heck the protagonist, Justin, was going to get into next. I will be honest, I thought some of it was a little too much, or well, a little unbelievable. I realize this is fiction and therefore you can make a character do anything you want, however, there were a few times where I found myself thinking “yeah right, that would never happen in real life”. This is probably my fault for reading so much nonfiction, but I swear this Justin character came off in the beginning like he had some significant mental health issues related to his inability to let go of his grandmother’s death that I never felt was sufficiently resolved. This issue was revisited at the very end, but I don’t think it was quite enough based on how ill he sounded based on his behavior in the beginning of the book.

Photo from LinkedIn

Photo from LinkedIn

Technicalities aside, Dial M for Merlot is an entertaining first novel by author Howard K, and knowing that he has a second book in mind (and has started writing it already, according to Howard), I am curious to see what could happen next and how he plans on developing the characters further. Perhaps my qualms with the lack of resolution related to his past and possible mental health issues will be resolved in the next book, though I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else!

Dial M for Merlot is an easy read, complete with wine, love, sex, drama, murder, and intrigue, that would make a nice gift for someone who enjoys fiction and has an interest in wine. In my opinion, I think there is some room for improvement on the part of the author, Howard K, but for his first novel, I think he does a nice job with it (certainly better than I could do!).

To purchase Dial M for Merlot by Howard K, head on over to Amazon by clicking here.