~ About the Book ~
When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.
And Natalie never says no to her father.
Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.
But finding freedom from the past means facing it.
~ Excerpt ~
“So I’m right?” His glare challenged the heat of the sun and won. “You want to shut the place down?”
“Do you think Maoilios should be shut down?”
He fairly spat a mouthful in her direction, choked it down, and coughed. “What kind of stupid question is that?” Tanner sat back, his expression grim. “Of course I don’t. That would put me out of a job, wouldn’t it?”
True enough. “Can you explain the losses over the last few years?”
A flash of anger ambushed his eyes. “Bad weather. A blight. And Hal—” He clamped his mouth shut and looked away.
Natalie squinted in the bright sun and wished she’d brought her shades out with her. “And Hal what?”
Tanner looked about ready to puke up all the food he’d just eaten. Resignation curled his mouth upward. “Hal doesn’t realize we’re not living in the ’70s anymore. Times have changed. We can’t get by on selling local, supplying a few restaurants and hotels. There are so many things we could do. When I suggest doing anything remotely different, he pitches a fit.” His squared shoulders and a tight jaw told his true feelings.
Natalie nodded. “Just so we’re clear, what exactly is your role here, Tanner?”
“My role?” The question seemed to surprise him. “Oh, I see. You want to know what my qualifications are.”
“If you don’t mind.”
His expression turned cold enough to chill the Chardonnay in the oak barrels down the hill. “As you know, I’ve lived here since I was ten. I can walk every inch of this place blindfolded. I know exactly how many employees we have on staff, how many children they have, all their names, and when their birthdays are. I can tell you which vines are planted on each acre of this land, when they’re picked, how long it takes to harvest, how many gallons a year we produce down to the last barrel, and how much money we make or don’t make, on average. But I suppose none of that impresses you.”
He barreled on, ignoring her. “I graduated from UCLA with full honors, my degree is in horticulture, viticulture, with a minor in business management. I pay my taxes, give to charities, go to church most Sundays, I’ve never been arrested. Oh, and I’m allergic to cats. Anything else?”
“That’ll do.” Natalie squelched her smile. “Shame you didn’t minor in hospitality too.”
The dark look sent her way almost made her laugh. Clearly, he knew the business. And that pleased her. His passion shone through, whether he meant it to or not. In the space of a half hour, she’d come to one conclusion. Her grandfather had the right man in charge.
What if her father was wrong about this?
~ Review ~
This was an immensely satisfying read. Immensely satisfying. It’s the kind of book that leaves you basking in the afterglow (or perhaps the lingering finish) of a well-earned peace and quiet joy. If I was a wine connoisseur, no doubt I could come up with all kinds of appropriate wine-related adjectives to describe the way this novel tasted on my emotional palette: rich, full-bodied, complex but balanced. But however you describe it, this novel has a finish to savour.
After her sister died thirteen years ago, Natalie suffered an emotional breakdown that took
her years to work through, so when her symptoms return after breaking off her engagement, she knows what she’s facing. Although the family-owned winery in Sonoma is the place where the accident occurred, staying there will also keep her out from under the scrutiny of her parents and hopefully let her deal with this breakdown on her own terms, and so she acquiesces to her father’s directive to take some time off work and visit her grandfather.
As you might expect, Natalie’s story tugged at my heart-strings. But what took me completely by surprise was the way Tanner’s story yanked at my heart-strings. Wow. What a maelstrom of emotions! (Hint: have some tissues handy.) Tanner’s the kind of hero who slips into your heart without you realising it—and sometimes despite all logic, because he’s a bit rough around the edges and emotionally raw, and that comes through loud and clear on occasion! He and Natalie were childhood friends—and, unbeknownst to each other, crushes—so there is a pre-existing bond between them, but it’s overshadowed by the intervening years, misunderstandings, and Natalie’s ability to take away his livelihood. It all makes for a wonderfully complex range of emotions between them, which Catherine West brings out to full effect.
Loss, guilt, forgiveness, and restoration are all explored in a powerfully poignant way in this novel, and I think the reason the ending was so satisfying was because both Natalie and Tanner (and some of the secondary characters) had to reach deep within themselves to make choices they really didn’t want to face—particularly Tanner. And, of course, the relationship that develops between Natalie and Tanner is the icing on the cake. Beneath those raw, rough edges lies a guy who can melt a gal’s heart.
Definitely one of my top picks for 2017. I’ve sent it straight to the pool room.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 28 March 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
~ Other Books by Catherine West ~
Read my review for The Things We Knew.
~ About the Author ~
Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Her first novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 and won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. Catherine’s second novel, Hidden in the Heart, released in September 2012, was long listed in the 2012 INSPY’s and was a finalist in the 2013 Grace Awards. Catherine’s latest novels, Bridge of Faith and The Things We Knew are now available on Amazon.
When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children.