Published: May 23, 2016
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories with family secrets, stories with a winery component, feisty heroines
Margaret Stokes is bitter. And not in the robust fine wine or tangy dark chocolate kind of way. She just got dumped, is fed up with her job as a glorified party-planner for the rich, and can’t possibly listen to one more veiled insult from her impossible-to-please mother. So she retreats to the comfort of her grandmother’s ramshackle bed and breakfast, where the wide open vineyards are filled with surprises, from the shockingly delicious wine to the aggravating yet oh-so-tempting man who makes it.
Ryan Camden’s easy approach to life encourages Margaret to loosen up and have a little fun, despite her better judgment. She resists the urge to micromanage every detail, embracing the welcome distractions of her surroundings and letting their relationship unfold at a natural rhythm. But when a health scare forces Grammy J to give up the B&B, Margaret begins to wonder if Ryan really is the man he promises—and whether the problems she tried so hard to escape ever really went away.
By all rights, I should not have liked this book. It is the second in the series, which I did not know (and I have a "thing" about starting series at the beginning!) and the heroine, when we first meet her, is anything but likable. While I can't use the "second" status as a strike, an unlikable main character will almost always turn me off a romance.
But, I stuck around--and I'm glad I did. Yeah, Margaret starts off as someone you would not want in your life--but she changes. Goodman does an exceptional job of showing (not telling!) the reader why Margaret is the way she is. She grew up in with an emotionally abusive mother and an emotionally distant father. She also recently went through a traumatic break up--a case where her beloved did not love her back in that way (and, guess what....that's book #1. And, yes, I have it queued up on my kindle!).
It was this past relationship that kept me reading. Her ex was not the love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy and he seemed rueful for the pain he caused Margaret. In so many other books, the ex is depicted as a jerk and left at that and I really appreciated the humanity that Goodman gives him.
Once the action moves to West Texas and Grammy J's B&B, things start to take shape. The hero, Ryan, is not going to put up with Margaret's behavior--which is one factor leading her to reform. She also learns about her family, comes to terms with her recent relationships--both with her ex and her friends, and realizes that her life just wasn't working the way she was living it and that she had the power to change.
There were two traps that I feared this book would fall into. The first would be a contrived conflict before the promised "Happy Ever After" ending. Honestly, I'd say about 80% of the romances that I read fall victim to this trap, but this book didn't. Goodman was able to keep a couple different plot forces going and then bring them together to make a conflict that was both unexpected and realistic.
The second trap was that there were many opportunities in the second half of this book for Goodman to take the easy way out. I'm not going to go into details, only because I don't want to spoil any elements, but there are a few messy situations where she could have just made things "nice" and then moved on her way. Instead, she had Margaret work through the issue, usually with humor (at least for the reader) and grow from it.
This is the first book I've read by Rachel Goodman and it definitely won't be the last. I would highly recommend this book to any romance fan.
I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.