This has been sitting in my virtual reading pile since HQN first introduced their free holiday reads program at the end of the year. I finished this recently and although Harlequin Presents titles bring me into fits of giggles, I thought I'd take a looksie to see why this is the bestselling series imprint under the Harlequin name.
The blurb describes the heroine, a "self-described plain Jane" as a defiant woman and the hero set on marrying her against all odds. He banked on a bride but not a baby!
Well, I don't know what book the blurb writer was talking about 'cause it sure wasn't this one.
*Beware of possible spoilers below*
There's a pretty interesting plotline focusing our heroine Arlene Russell trying to learn viticulture in order to care for the Northern California wine vineyard she inherited from her Great Uncle. She goes to Sardinia, Italy to study under billionaire Domenico Silvaggio d'Avalos's family vineyard. She pushes herself a little bit too much in order to prove that she can take care of herself under the watchful eyes of the hard working Domenico. Despite being a longtime bachelor, he's attracted to her and plans on indulging a little while she's there. Soon he finds himself becoming more enamored with her as he cares for her heat exhaustion then takes her to meet his (very large) family. The scenes with his family are heartwarming and we see how much Arlene (coming from a not so good family background) wishes to identify with such warmth and comfort of her own.
Domenico, being the huge billionaire he is, wines and dines Arlene across Europe as he takes her to extravagant bistros and his various homes. The descriptions of France and Italy are lush and like a vacation for the reader. This was one of my favorite parts of the novel and I can see why most of the heroes in Harlequin Presents are millionaires, billionaires and CEOs. It offers lots of room for that 'spared no expense' romance factor.
The great breakup-to-makeup scene that's inevitable in most books of the romance genre happens, naturally, toward the end of the book. I almost knocked off a star because it's due to a character who seems to come out of nowhere late in the story. She's also one that neither the hero or heroine like much but yet still tears them apart. It's one of those situations that could have been fixed if the the h/h talked to each other rather than the heroine running out and returning back to Northern California.
At the same time I'm grateful for it because we wouldn't have had a chance to meet one of the awesome side characters introduced in this book. An old gentlemen by the name of Cal. I loved Cal! He was a bit crochety, always saying what's on his mind as he helps the heroine focus on what's really important in life. The last few chapters where Arlene returns to her vineyard is probably one of the best because of her interactions with Cal and the realizations of her actions. Not to mention the sweeping romantic gestures from our guy Domenico.
The last few pages are literally where the baby situation comes in as apart of the HEA. The blurb was way off in alluding to her pregnancy being apart of the overall plot, but considering it's 90% off anyway...
Overall, I liked this book and would definitely check out another Presents. Unfortunately, it may not be for a long time unless it's another free eread. The blurb situation puts me off and since that's what I go by in purchasing books, I can't really trust another Presents blurb to be representative of the book rather than sounding like every other one in the series.
This one will probably go on my keeper shelf because I love the family scenes, the cultures, the landscape and the sweet yet sexy romance between the hero and heroine. I wouldn't mind re-reading this one again in the future.