Sophia Stone is a widow on the brink of an empty nest, stuck in an unsatisfying job managing the vineyard for a mediocre Napa vintner. Faced with an uncertain future she wonders how do you choose between making a living and making a life? Between protecting your heart and sharing it? Five years ago, after her husband was killed in an accident, Sophia put her heart and dreams on ice to care for those around her. Now her home, her dreams, and her family’s legacy grapes are threatened by the greed of the new money moving into the Valley. Sophia has a choice—give up and let them take what is hers, or risk everything fighting a battle everyone says she can’t win.
Nico Treviani has one goal in life: make brilliant wine. A woman would be an unwanted distraction. So, while recognized as one of Napa’s premier vintners, Nico finds himself alone… until his brother’s death drops not one, but two women into his life—his thirteen-year-old twin nieces. In an instant, Nico gains a family and loses his best friend and partner in the winemaking business. Struggling to care for his nieces, Nico accepts a job as head winemaker for Avery Specter, one of the new-money crowd. And he learns the hard way that new money doesn’t stick to the old rules.
When Sophia Stone gets caught in the middle of Nico’s struggle to remain true to himself or sacrifice his convictions to make stellar wine, both Sophia and Nico are faced with a choice they never imagined. A choice that might extinguish the hope of a future neither expected.
A Sneak Peek Inside…
Nico Treviani’s mood stood in stark contrast to the collegial spirit of the throng gathered at the annual meeting of the Napa Valley Vintners Association. Housed in a LEED-certified, open and airy, steel-and-glass building near the library in St. Helena, the Vintners Association was Mecca to winemakers both experienced and novice—a repository of their collective knowledge and a gathering place to commiserate over the fickle affections of their shared mistress.
Had he had a choice, Nico would’ve done anything other than be a winemaker, but choice was not an option—he’d been born to it, a family heritage so strong that Nico suspected his blood was half Cabernet. As his father’s first-born, he was handed the reins to something that was less a business than a calling. On the other hand, his brother, Paolo, had been given the option, and, fool that he was, he chose wine. And the fool had died before he knew the brilliance of the last Cab vintage they’d crafted together. 100 points. Liquid perfection. Not many wines reached those lofty heights—not that it translated into much more than bragging rights, which were a damn poor substitute for food on the table. Without his own land, his own grapes, he was nothing more than the hired help. Oh, he could buy grapes and custom crush, but that wouldn’t be the same—he’d have no real control, and folks would take too keen an interest in watching him work his magic … assuming he had any left without his brother. No, he needed his own space far from prying eyes … and he needed very special grapes.
Their mother had always said while you’d be hard-pressed to make a good living out of winemaking, you could make a great life. Nico wasn’t sure he agreed. And now that he had Paolo’s, children to house, feed, clothe, chase down, and send to college, he was feeling the pinch. How his brother had done it, he didn’t know. Especially after his wife had fled to the city. Preferring a quiet, sophisticated life, she’d turned her back on her family, her children. Nico was sure that was one of the unforgivable sins, the kind that ensured an eternity roasting on a spit over the open fires of Hell. And if it wasn’t, when he got there he’d be sure to figure a way to make it so.
As he eased into the back of the large room and leaned against the wall, Nico thought about the price a life of wine exacted. He recognized the back of every head filling the rows in front of him as the speaker droned on. He knew their histories almost as well as they did. One guy was a recovering alcoholic—no longer able to risk tasting his wine, he still made it, slaving over every nuance of the process. One or two had hit a home run and now basked in the ability to make limited batch estate wines that sold for upward of a grand a bottle. Some scratched out an existence on the strength of their wine clubs. Most turned large fortunes into small, proving the old joke. And then there were a very few, like Nico, who had been born to winemaking or grape growing, selling their skills to those who could pay. Despite differing backgrounds, and differing futures, wine glued them together.
Who is Deborah Coonts…?
My mother tells me I was born in Texas a very long time ago, but I’m not so sure—my mother can’t be trusted. She’ll also tell you I was a born storyteller. That I believe—I have the detention notices and bad-conduct reports to prove it. However, the path from minor hyperbolist, or as I prefer to think of my former self, Grand Master of the Art of Self-Prevarication, to the author of the New York Times Notable Crime Novel and double Rita ™ finalist, Wanna Get Lucky?, the book that launched the bestselling series, was a bit tortured.
Someone once told me I lived a peripatetic life—yes, I had to look it up. And he was right. I’ve been everything from a mom, business owner, accountant, wife, pilot, flight instructor, lawyer …worse, a tax lawyer… to a writer. The three personas I’ve kept suit me the best: mom, flight instructor, and writer. And the other personas I’ve tried on then shrugged out of and discarded like an itchy coat were great grist for the story mill.
Chasing stories keeps me busy and out of jail…for the most part. Researching in Vegas can be a bit… sketchy.
Prodded by the next adventure and the police, I keep moving. Right now I have a house in Texas, but that will change soon. I lived in Vegas for 15 years—the longest I’d stayed anywhere. And I get back there often. But other places, too, are calling.
Someone asked me the other day where I lived. The question stopped me cold. Finally I said, “On Southwest Airlines, third row, window seat, either side.” Always in search of a story. And the adventure would be perfect if they could just stock a split of nice Champagne.