This is Guiliana Baci and Liam Bennett's story. Their story has been heavily foreshadowed in the previous 2 books, Crush on You (Three Kisses) and Then He Kissed Me (Three Kisses). I have been looking forward to unraveling their mystery, although by the end of Then He Kissed Me, I had a pretty good hunch on how it would play out.
Very Brief Summary - The 3 Baci sisters inherit the Tanti Baci Winery after their father dies, with Guiliana (Jules) alone inheriting the land upon which the winery sits. The Bennett winery sits adjacent to the Baci land. Tanti Baci is in financial trouble, and the sisters have agreed to a one year push to make the winery profitable. In addition to wine, they offer weddings on their property, at a cabin which used to belong to the original owners. The story goes that all newlyweds who have partaken of the special Tanti Baci wedding wine are still married, and the the younger sisters, Allie and Stevie, plan to capitalize on that fact for advertising purposed. So why does this freak Jules out so much?
Throughout the series, Jules and Liam have been avoiding each other, and acting like wet cats when their paths do happen to cross. Finally, we get the rest of the story.
Liam - Liam is described multiple times as having a stick in his posterior region. He is icy, in control at all times, placid on the surface. You know what they say about still waters. Liam is still trying to reconcile the extremely manipulative actions of his father of which he was a victim from the age of ten. His internal angst comes across clearly. His desire to be with Jules wars with his belief that he is too much like his father to ever be a good long term bet. Yet, Liam can't quite let go of the longing to be with Jules. He gets crazy possesive when she talks to any other man, blowing his cool, calm façade out of the water. He gets very demanding and controlling in bed. He wants to believe he can exorcise the need he has for Jules, push that want and desire into a box until it settles and he doesn't feel it any longer.(The last line is an almost direct quote from the book) These scenes are the best in the book for me, when we get to see the real Liam. It's clear the possessive, jealous, controlling actions are dictated by his sublimation of his desire for Jules because the more he pushes her away (or allows himself to be pushed away), the more over the top he gets.
Guiliana (Jules)- So many secrets...Once she and Liam broke up 10 years ago, she retreats to L.A., and builds a life for herself, only returning to the Napa area when her father dies. Having to deal with Liam brings back all the pain of losing him. Jules is trying to bring resolution to the Tanti Baci issue. As the oldest, she takes a great deal on herself rather than sharing the burden with her sisters. She tries hard to keep her distance from Liam, but events transpire against her, forcing her to move in with him temporarily. She struggles to reconcile their teenage romance with the reality of their grown up lives. She can't move past the pain of the past nor does she understand how everything went so wrong. While she is a strong, independent woman, Liam affects her as if she were still a teenager in love.
Liam and Jules together - Oh, the pain these two have. Deep feelings and dark secrets do not a relationship make. Only when they are able to be honest with each other do they make any headway. I found this book to be an interesting study of how first love lingers with an intensity often unmatched in later, more adult relationships. There are several flashbacks to their younger selves, and Jules, especially, longs for the Liam that was not so shuttered. After the layers are peeled back, the secrets are exposed, seeing the details with adult lenses eases some of the pain of their initial breakup.
What worked for me - Liam - a tortured hero if there ever was one. He takes his role of big brother seriously and does not allow himself to be emotional. He loves Jules desperately but can't figure out how to have her without hurting her. Kohl and Grace - a lovely subplot/secondary romance. Jules - really liked the younger Jules, but understood how the circumstances of her life completely shut her down emotionally. Great character growth. The theme of young love surviving tragedy to be resurrected as an adult partnership. The epilogue. I love Christie Ridgway's series ending epilogues. Strong romantic/sexual scenes. When Liam and Jules are in sync, they set the pages to smokin'.
What didn't work for me - I would have liked a little more information about how Liam dealt with his father's manipulative ploy to bring him home from Italy, which was a true turning point in the story. More specifics as to what exactly happened when Jules left him the first time. The ending was too abrupt, as well, for my taste. Perhaps these issues could be due to editing for length?
Overall, I liked this series a lot. It made me think about a lot of issues. The three books are perhaps more serious in nature than some of Ms. Ridgway's work, but there are comedic elements to lighten the mood. I would almost classify it as chic lit, except for the very strong romance elements and the HEA's. The last two books, especially, deal with how childhood trauma can manifest itself in behaviors that are not only counterproductive, but ultimately downright destructive. Worthwhile reading, in my opinion.