The Villa [NOOK Book]

Overview

Sophia Giambelli has never worried about competition. For three generations, the Giambelli wines have been renowned for their quality-- from Napa Valley to Italy, and throughout the world. The pride of the Giambelli family and a top PR executive, Sophia loves her job-- and excels at it. But things are about to change at Villa Giambelli. Tereza, the matriarch, has announced a merger with the MacMillan family's winery-- and Sophia will be assuming a new role. As a savvy businesswoman, she knows she must be prepared...
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The Villa

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Overview

Sophia Giambelli has never worried about competition. For three generations, the Giambelli wines have been renowned for their quality-- from Napa Valley to Italy, and throughout the world. The pride of the Giambelli family and a top PR executive, Sophia loves her job-- and excels at it. But things are about to change at Villa Giambelli. Tereza, the matriarch, has announced a merger with the MacMillan family's winery-- and Sophia will be assuming a new role. As a savvy businesswoman, she knows she must be prepared for anything . . . but she isn't prepared for Tyler MacMillan. They've been ordered to work together very closely, to facilitate the merger. Sophia must teach Ty the finer points of marketing-- and Ty, in turn, shows her how to get down and dirty, to use the sun, rain, and earth to coax the sweetest grapes from the vineyard. As they toil together, both in and out of the fields, Sophia is torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry. At the end of the season, the course of the company's future-- and the legacy of the villa-- may take an entirely new direction. And when acts of sabotage threaten both the family business and the family itself, Sophia's quest will be not only for dominance, but also for survival.




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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
With the release of The Villa, the latest romantic saga from Nora Roberts, it's easy to understand how this prolific writer hits the top of the New York Times bestseller list time and time again. Roberts's writing skills -- like a fine wine -- have improved with age. For this latest effort, she combines intimacy and intrigue in an intoxicating tale of one family's struggle to find peace, happiness, and love amid mounting scandals that involve both the family name and the family winery.

There have been Giambelli vineyards in both California and Italy for centuries, and when the steel-willed matriarch of the family, Tereza, was widowed at a young age, she merged her life and her vineyards with those of her neighbor, Eli MacMillan. Their combined vineyards have produced some of the highest-quality wine to be found worldwide. Now that Eli and Tereza are in the twilight of their lives, they are looking to hand off their legacy to their descendants, a task that proves exasperating when they discover that some of the family members are philanderers, embezzlers, and gold diggers. Tereza offers to hand over her control to her granddaughter, Sophia, who is already in charge of marketing, while Eli offers to do the same for his grandson, Tyler, who for years has lovingly worked the fields. But first Sophia and Tyler must learn each other's jobs and deal with the acrimony created when Tereza brings in an outsider to serve as CEO.

Sparks fly whenever Sophia and Tyler are together, their opposing personalities clashing even as their libidinous sides are meshing. When Sophia's father is murdered, the family becomes divided, a split that only grows when more killings follow. When someone dies after drinking a bottle of poisoned Giambelli wine, it triggers a scandal of international proportions that leaves both the business and the family teetering on the edge. Forced to look deep within their own ranks, the Giambellis discover not just incompetence but betrayal and sabotage. But they also discover some surprising strengths and learn that the true definition of family goes way beyond mere blood ties.

Roberts's characters are as fascinating as they are diverse, and the business-savvy women in the matriarchal Giambelli family are delightfully strong, ambitious, and determined. Roberts's keen sense of pacing pulls it all together, and, as a final bonus, she treats her readers to an intriguing insider's look at the ins and outs of the winemaking business. (Beth Amos) Contributing Editor Beth Amos is the author of three novels, including Cold White Fury and Second Sight.

Jill M. Smith
Take a mesmerizing trip through the vineyards of Napa and Italy as the amazing Nora Roberts delivers yet another exciting, sensuous and fantastic tale of love, murder, revenge and family.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Another novel rich in emotion and rife with conflict from the prolific Roberts (From the Heart; Carolina Moon etc.), this sweeping saga of Northern California wine-making steeps the reader in a heady mix of sex, scandal and the excesses of the supremely wealthy. Sophia Giambelli, sophisticated head of marketing for the family-run Napa Valley winery, is the heiress to the Giambelli empire. She's often compared to her grandmother Tereza, La Signora, who still runs the business. The Giambelli holdings include the 100-year-old Castello di Giambelli in Venice, Italy; Villa Giambelli, operating in the Napa Valley for 64 years; and nearby MacMillan, a 92-year-old firm added to the family holdings when La Signora married Eli MacMillan. The wineries have always operated independently, but now La Signora announces that she wishes to merge all three, occasioning a major restructuring of responsibilities. She orders Sophia to replace Tyler MacMillan, Eli's grandson, and become the wine maker for both families' vineyards. The monosyllabic Tyler will spearhead marketing for the new joint venture. Laying the groundwork for heated fireworks, Sophia and Tyler fight not only each other but also a corporate saboteur who's being fed inside information. Dramatic personal confrontations are exacerbated by La Signora's designation of a new CEO, David Cutter, the only non-Giambelli to hold a position of power. Cutter brings his two teenage children with him to live in the winery guesthouse and immediately falls in love with Sophia's newly divorced mother, Pilar. Other juicy subplots involve manipulative mistresses, dilettante husbands and emotional Italian wives. As usual, Roberts provides plenty of intriguing background information, this time on wine making, and snappy dialogue. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Something is turning sour in the Giambelli winery when the family matriarch decides to consolidate and reorganize her vast holdings before she dies. Since she "dies" about every six months, her heirs Tyler McMillan, the manager of the vineyards, and Sophia Giambelli, the head of public relations are less than excited when they are required by La Signora to exchange jobs during the course of the merger. Soon, Tyler and Sophia are pressing more than grapes, but as their relationship heats up, other problems surface. An executive is murdered, the Giambelli women are threatened, and poison shows up in the wine. What should be a light, sparkling champagne listening experience turns to vinegar early on. There are so many characters that none is fully developed and the plot never seems to gel. The reason behind the sabotage is pretty laughable. This is the worst Roberts this reviewer can remember. Then there is the narration by Laural Merlington: the continuous faux-Italian (Giam-BAY-lee) is teeth grating. With all the wonderful audiobooks available, libraries would do well to bypass this big-name title and spend their money elsewhere. Barbara Perkins, Irving P.L., TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
As the successful head of marketing for her family's Napa Valley winery, Sophia Giambelli has never failed. However, her grandmother Tereza throws Sophia for a loop when she announces the merging and shuffling of responsibilities for the three family holdings.Sophia must teach marketing to Tyler MacMillan while she must learn wine making from Eli. To make matters worse and more complicated, Tereza announces that David Cutter, an outsider, is the new CEO. As Tyler and Sophia squabble over processes, they fall in love with one another just as David falls in love with Sophia's mother. However, a snake in this Eden wants nothing less than to destroy the Giambellis out of vengeance and so adds to the turmoil that love and realignment have already caused. The Villa is an exciting, action-packed romantic suspense novel filled with the Nora Roberts trademark of charming characters, especially strong female protagonists. The story line is filled with emotion and passion as love is obviously in the air. Ms Roberts, through meticulous and accurate research, shows the reader just what goes on in the winemaking industry. Although the villain is apparent early on and the reasoning for the reshuffling is not fully explained, neither of these faults fails to slow down a typical ardent tale that will send Nora back to all the best seller lists.
Kirkus Reviews
Megaselling Roberts (River's End, 1999, etc.) goes to Napa Valley for the tale of an Italian-American family wine producers rocked by scandal and a series of murders. Dynasty head Tereza Giambelli knows that her granddaughter Sophia is the only family member capable of running a multimillion-dollar wine business-and no one contradicts La Signora. It's just as well the lovely young woman is still single: Tereza has plans for her. The matriarch has recently married Eli MacMillan, the American founder of another famous wine company. Eli's grandson Tyler knows everything there is to know about producing wine, from the vineyard to the vat. Ruggedly handsome, intelligent and earthy, he's a perfect match for public-relations whiz Sophia-or so thinks Tereza. The two young people begin to work together; Tyler teaches Sophia the fine art of making wine and making love. But other family members hope to claim their share of the Giambelli fortune, and people start dying mysteriously, including Sophia's good-for-nothing father, Tony Avano. Long divorced from long-suffering Pilar Giambelli, Tony led an opulent, self-indulgent life that provides plenty of murder suspects. He might have been killed by the mob, or a jealous mistress, or his spoiled brother-in-law, Tereza's lazy son, who's produced a passel of brats with his foolish Italian wife in the hopes of making Tereza happy. Everyone has a motive, and nothing is what it seems, Sophia discovers, but Tyler stands by her. Then a bottle of tainted merlot kills a company exec. A tragic mishap caused by poisonous plants growing near the vines? Or deliberate product tampering intended to destroy the company? Sophia and Tyler will need todelveeven deeper into the convoluted and sometimes unsavory history of the family and its three-generation business. A smooth blend of suspense and romance. As ever, the author's trademark effortless style keeps a complex plot moving without a hitch.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101146347
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/19/2001
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 4,057
  • File size: 612 KB

Meet the Author

Nora Roberts is truly a publishing phenomenon. With over 250 million copies of her novels in print, she has come a long way since she wrote her first novel in a spiral notebook using a No. 2 pencil. Now she has published over 150 novels and her work has been optioned and made into films, excerpted in national magazines and translated in over twenty-five different countries. "I always have stories running around in my head," she explains. "Once I start putting them down on paper, I just keep going; I just keep writing." In addition to her amazing success in mainstream fiction, Nora Roberts remains committed to writing for her category romance audience that took her to into their heart in 1981 with her very first book, a Silhouette romance.



Nora Roberts continues to write futuristic romantic suspense as J.D. Robb, and her characters Eve Dallas and Roarke have become two of her most popular creations ever. Her J.D. Robb titles are hailed as "a perfect balance of suspense, futuristic police procedure and steamy romance...truly fine entertainment" by Publishers Weekly.



Reviewers agree that Nora Roberts deserves praise. The Los Angeles Daily News describes her as "a word artist, painting her story and her characters with vitality and verve." Kirkus Reviews comments on True Betrayals saying "Roberts' style has a fresh, contemporary snap." Roberts is said to be "reminiscent of Jacqueline Briskin and Sidney Sheldon" by Booklist, and Rex Reed lauds her saying, "Move over Sidney Sheldon: the world has a new master of romantic suspense, and her name is Nora Roberts." Publishers Weekly claims "Roberts keeps getting better...[her] prolificness shows no sign of abating." They add, "When Roberts puts her expert finger on the pulse of romance, legions of fans feel the heartbeat." USA Today calls Nora "a consistently entertaining writer."



The remarkable Ms. Roberts did not become a success overnight. By the time her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981, she already had three years of hard work behind her and several rejected manuscripts languishing in drawers. Today, according to Entertainment Weekly, "her stories have fueled the dreams of twenty-five million readers." One of America's leading novelists, her books are published around the world. She is frequently invited to promote her novels in other countries. Her recent travels took her to England, Italy, Australia and Japan to meet fans, fellow authors and aspiring writers.



Sanctuary was made into a television movie which aired in 2001 on CBS as "Nora Roberts' Sanctuary." The cast includes Melissa Gilbert, Emmy-winner Kathy Baker and Costas Mandylor. CBS has also optioned The Reef for another television movie. Montana Sky has been optioned by TriStar Television for a two-hour television movie. Her book This Magic Moment became the television film "Magic Moments" starring Emmy-winner John Shea and Jenny Seagrove. Sacred Sins has been optioned for film by Kaleidoscope, and Private Scandals has been optioned by Burt Reynolds Productions. Reflections and The Law is a Lady were selected by Good Housekeeping magazine for presentation as condensed novels. Honest Illusions and Private Scandals were featured as Readers Digest's Condensed Books.


The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly have all featured or mentioned Nora Roberts in articles about writing and the romance genre. She has appeared on ABC-TV's Good Morning America and Cable News Network, and has been featured on the television programs To Tell the Truth, Entertainment Tonight, and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. She has been interviewed by local television and radio programs across the country, and she has been featured in dozens of newspapers, including the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, Washington Times, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, and Atlanta Constitution.

Her extraordinary accomplishments have also received recognition from her peers. The first author ever to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame, and the first author to receive their Centennial Award when she published her 100th novel Montana Sky, she is the recipient of almost every award given in recognition of excellence in romance writing. In 1997, she was honored at the Romance Writers of America National Conference when she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to her awards from the Romance Writers of America, she has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Waldenbooks, and she has been honored by B. Dalton Booksellers, the New Jersey Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and BookRak Distributors.



Nora Roberts is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America, and a member of their Washington, D.C. chapter. She was the keynote speaker at their 1994 national conference in New York. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, The Crime Writers League of America, and Novelists Inc.

The youngest of five children, she was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. She now lives in Keedysville, Maryland.



Biography

Not only has Nora Roberts written more bestsellers than anyone else in the world (according to Publishers Weekly), she’s also created a hybrid genre of her own: the futuristic detective romance. And that’s on top of mastering every subgenre in the romance pie: the family saga, the historical, the suspense novel. But this most prolific and versatile of authors might never have tapped into her native talent if it hadn't been for one fateful snowstorm.

As her fans well know, in 1979 a blizzard trapped Roberts at home for a week with two bored little kids and a dwindling supply of chocolate. To maintain her sanity, Roberts started scribbling a story -- a romance novel like the Harlequin paperbacks she'd recently begun reading. The resulting manuscript was rejected by Harlequin, but that didn't matter to Roberts. She was hooked on writing. Several rejected manuscripts later, her first book was accepted for publication by Silhouette.

For several years, Roberts wrote category romances for Silhouette -- short books written to the publisher's specifications for length, subject matter and style, and marketed as part of a series of similar books. Roberts has said she never found the form restrictive. "If you write in category, you write knowing there's a framework, there are reader expectations," she explained. "If this doesn't suit you, you shouldn't write it. I don't believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn't read for pleasure."

Roberts never violated the reader's expectations, but she did show a gift for bringing something fresh to the romance formula. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred (1981), had as its heroine a strong-willed horse groom, in contrast to the fluttering young nurses and secretaries who populated most romances at the time. But Roberts's books didn't make significant waves until 1985, when she published Playing the Odds, which introduced the MacGregor clan. It was the first bestseller of many.

Roberts soon made a name for herself as a writer of spellbinding multigenerational sagas, creating families like the Scottish MacGregors, the Irish Donovans and the Ukrainian Stanislaskis. She also began working on romantic suspense novels, in which the love story unfolds beneath a looming threat of violence or disaster. She grew so prolific that she outstripped her publishers' ability to print and market Nora Roberts books, so she created an alter ego, J.D. Robb. Under the pseudonym, she began writing romantic detective novels set in the future. By then, millions of readers had discovered what Publishers Weekly called her "immeasurable diversity and talent."

Although the style and substance of her books has grown, Roberts remains loyal to the genre that launched her career. As she says, "The romance novel at its core celebrates that rush of emotions you have when you are falling in love, and it's a lovely thing to relive those feelings through a book."

Good To Know

Roberts still lives in the same Maryland house she occupied when she first started writing -- though her carpenter husband has built on some additions. She and her husband also own Turn the Page Bookstore Café in Boonsboro, Maryland. When Roberts isn't busy writing, she likes to drop by the store, which specializes in Civil War titles as well as autographed copies of her own books.

Roberts sued fellow writer Janet Dailey in 1997, accusing her of plagiarizing numerous passages of her work over a period of years. Dailey paid a settlement and publicly apologized, blaming stress and a psychological disorder for her misconduct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      J. D. Robb; Sarah Hardesty; Jill March; Eleanor Marie Robertson (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Keedysville, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Silver Spring, Maryland

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The bottle of Castello di Giambelli Cabernet Sauvignon, '02, auctioned for one hundred and twenty-five thousand, five hundred dollars, American. A great deal of money, Sophia thought, for wine mixed with sentiment. The wine in that fine old bottle had been produced from grapes harvested in the year Cezare Giambelli had established the Castello di Giambelli winery on a hilly patch of land north of Venice.

At that time the castello had been either a con or supreme optimism, depending on your point of view. Cezare's modest house and little stone winery had been far from castlelike. But his vines had been regal, and he had built an empire from them.

After nearly a century, even a superior Cabernet Sauvignon was likely more palatable sprinkled on a salad rather than drunk, but it wasn't her job to argue with the man with the money. Her grandmother had been right, as always. They would pay, and richly, for the privilege of owning a piece of Giambelli history.

Sophia made a note of the final bid and the buyer's name, though she was unlikely to forget either, for the memo she would send to her grandmother when the auction was over.

She was attending the event not only as the public relations executive who had designed and implemented the promotion and catalogue for the auction, but as the Giambelli family representative at this exclusive, pre-centennial event.

As such, she sat quietly in the rear of the room to observe the bidding, and the presentation.

Her legs were crossed in a long, elegant line. Her back convent-school straight. She wore a black pin-striped suit, tailored and Italian, that managed to look both businesslike and utterly feminine.

It was exactly the way Sophia thought of herself.

Her face was sharp, a triangle of pale gold dominated by large, deep-set brown eyes and a wide, mobile mouth. Her cheekbones were ice-pick keen, her chin a diamond point, sculpting a look that was part pixie, part warrior. She had, deliberately, ruthlessly, used her face as a weapon when it seemed most expedient.

Tools, she believed, were meant to be used, and used well.

A year before, she'd had her waist-length hair cut into a short black cap with a spiky fringe over her forehead.

It suited her. Sophia knew exactly what suited her.

She wore the single strand of antique pearls her grandmother had given her for her twenty-first birthday, and an expression of polite interest. She thought of it as her father's boardroom look.

Her eyes brightened, and the corners of her wide mouth curved slightly as the next item was showcased.

It was a bottle of Barolo, '34, from the cask Cezare had named Di Tereza in honor of her grandmother's birth. This private reserve carried a picture of Tereza at ten on the label, the year the wine had been deemed sufficiently aged in oak, and bottled.

Now, at sixty-seven, Tereza Giambelli was a legend, whose renown as a vintner had overshadowed even her grandfather's.

This was the first bottle of this label ever offered for sale, or passed outside the family. As Sophia expected, bidding was brisk and spirited.

The man sitting beside Sophia tapped his catalogue where the photograph of the bottle was displayed. "You have the look of her."

Sophia shifted slightly, smiled first at him-a distinguished man hovering comfortably somewhere near sixty-then at the picture of the young girl staring seriously out from a bottle of red in his catalogue. "Thank you."

Marshall Evans, she recalled. Real estate, second generation Fortune 500. She made it her business to know the names and vital statistics of wine buffs and collectors with deep pockets and sterling taste.

"I'd hoped La Signora would attend today's auction. She's well?"

"Very. But otherwise occupied."

The beeper in her jacket pocket vibrated. Vaguely annoyed with the interruption, Sophia ignored it to watch the bidding. Her eyes scanned the room, noting the signals. The casual lift of a finger from the third row brought the price up another five hundred. A subtle nod from the fifth topped it.

In the end, the Barolo outdistanced the Cabernet Sauvignon by fifteen thousand, and she turned to extend her hand to the man beside her.

"Congratulations, Mr. Evans. Your contribution to the International Red Cross will be put to good use. On behalf of Giambelli, family and company, I hope you enjoy your prize."

"There's no doubt of it." He took her hand, lifted it to his lips. "I had the pleasure of meeting La Signora many years ago. She's an extraordinary woman."

"Yes, she is."

"Perhaps her granddaughter would join me for dinner this evening?"

He was old enough to be her father, but Sophia was too European to find that a deterrent. Another time, she'd have agreed, and no doubt enjoyed his company. "I'm sorry, but I have an appointment. Perhaps on my next trip east, if you're free."

"I'll make sure I am."

Putting some warmth into her smile, she rose. "If you'll excuse me."

She slipped out of the room, plucking the beeper from her pocket to check the number. She detoured to the ladies' lounge, glancing at her watch and pulling the phone from her bag. With the number punched in, she settled on one of the sofas and laid her notebook and her electronic organizer on her lap.

After a long and demanding week in New York, she was still revved and, glancing through her appointments, pleased to have time to squeeze in a little shopping before she needed to change for her dinner date.

Jeremy DeMorney, she mused. That meant an elegant, sophisticated evening. French restaurant, discussion of food, travel and theater. And, of course, of wine. As he was descended from the La Coeur winery DeMorneys, and a top account exec there, and she sprang from Giambelli stock, there would be some playful attempts to pry corporate secrets from each other.

And there would be champagne. Good, she was in the mood for it.

All followed by an outrageously romantic attempt to lure her into bed. She wondered if she'd be in the mood for that as well.

He was attractive, she considered, and could be amusing. Perhaps if they both hadn't been aware that her father had once slept with his wife, the idea of a little romance between them wouldn't seem so awkward, and somehow incestuous.

Still, several years had passed....

"Maria." Sophia neatly tucked Jerry and the evening to come away, when the Giambelli housekeeper answered. "I've a call from my mother's line. Is she available?"

"Oh, yes, Miss Sophia. She hoped you would call. Just one moment."

Sophia imagined the woman hurrying through the wing, scanning the rooms for something to tidy when Pilar Giambelli Avano would have already tidied everything herself.

Mama, Sophia thought, would have been content in a little rose-covered cottage where she could bake bread, do her needlework and tend her garden. She should have had a half dozen children, Sophia thought with a sigh. And had to settle for me.

"Sophie, I was just heading out to the greenhouse. Wait. Catch my breath. I didn't expect you to get back to me so quickly. I thought you'd be in the middle of the auction."

"End of it. And I think we can say it's been an unqualified success. I'll fax a memo of the particulars this evening, or first thing in the morning. Now, I really should go back and tie up the loose ends. Is everything all right there?"

"More or less. Your grandmother's ordered a summit meeting."

"Oh, Mama, she's not dying again. We went through that six months ago."

"Eight," Pilar corrected. "But who's counting? I'm sorry, baby, but she insists. I don't think she plans to die this time, but she's planning something. She's called the lawyers for another revamp of the will. And she gave me her mother's cameo brooch, which means she's thinking ahead."

"I thought she gave you that last time."

"No, it was the amber beads last time. She's sending for everyone. You need to come back."

"All right, all right." Sophia glanced down at her organizer and blew a mental kiss goodbye to Jerry DeMorney. "I'll finish up here and be on my way. But really, Mama, this new habit of hers of dying or revamping every few months is very inconvenient."

"You're a good girl, Sophie. I'm going to leave you my amber beads."

"Thanks a bunch." With a laugh, Sophia disconnected.

Two hours later, she was flying west and speculating whether in another forty years she would have the power to crook her finger and have everyone scrambling.

Just the idea of it made her smile as she settled back with a glass of champagne and Verdi playing on the headphones. Not everyone scrambled. Tyler MacMillan might have been minutes away from Villa Giambelli rather than hours, but he considered the vines a great deal more urgent than a summons from La Signora.

And he said so.

"Now, Ty. You can take a few hours."

"Not now." Ty paced his office, anxious to get back into the fields. "I'm sorry, Granddad. You know how vital the winter pruning is, and so does Tereza." He shifted the portable phone to his other ear. He hated the portables. He was always losing them. "MacMillan's vines need every bit as much care as Giambelli's."

"Ty -- "

"You put me in charge here. I'm doing my job."

"Ty," Eli repeated. With his grandson, he knew, matters must be put on a very basic level. "Tereza and I are as dedicated to MacMillan wines as we are to those under the Giambelli label, and have been for twenty years. You were put in charge because you're an exceptional vintner. Tereza has plans. Those plans involve you."

"Next week."

"Tomorrow." Eli didn't put his foot down often; it wasn't the way he worked. But when necessary, he did so ruthlessly. "One o'clock. Lunch. Dress appropriately."

Tyler scowled down at his ancient boots and the frayed hems of his thick trousers. "That's the middle of the damn day."

"Are you the only one at MacMillan capable of pruning vines, Tyler? Apparently you've lost a number of employees over the last season."

"I'll be there. But tell me one thing."

"Of course."

"Is this the last time she's going to die for a while?"

"One o'clock," Eli responded. "Try to be on time."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Tyler muttered, but only after he clicked the phone off.

He adored his grandfather. He even adored Tereza, perhaps because she was so ornery and annoying. When his grandfather had married the Giambelli heiress, Tyler had been eleven years old. He'd fallen in love with the vineyards, the rise of the hills, the shadows of the caves, the great caverns of the cellars.

And in a very real sense he'd fallen in love with Tereza Louisa Elana Giambelli, that whip-thin, ramrod-straight, somewhat terrifying figure he'd first seen dressed in boots and trousers not so different from his own, striding through the mustard plants between the rising rows of grapes.

She'd taken one look at him, lifted a razor-sharp black eyebrow and deemed him soft and citified. If he was to be her grandson, she'd told him, he would have to be toughened up.

She'd ordered him to stay at the villa for the summer. No one had considered arguing the point. Certainly not his parents, who'd been more than happy to dump him for an extended period so they could fly off to parties and lovers. So he had stayed, Tyler thought now as he wandered to the window. Summer after summer until the vineyards were more home to him than the house in San Francisco, until she and his grandfather were more parents to him than his mother and father.

She'd made him. Pruned him back at the age of eleven and trained him to grow into what he was.

But she didn't own him. It was ironic, he supposed, that all her work should have formed him into the one person under her aegis most likely to ignore her demands.

Harder, of course, to ignore the demands when she and his grandfather unified. With a shrug, Tyler started out of the office. He could spare a few hours, and they knew it as well as he. The MacMillan vineyards employed the best, and he could easily have absented himself for most of a season with confidence in those left in charge.

The simple fact was he hated the big, sprawling events the Giambellis generated. They were invariably like a circus, with all three rings packed with colorful acts. You couldn't keep track, and it was always possible one of the tigers would leap the cage and go for your throat.

All those people, all those issues, all those pretenses and smoky undercurrents. He was happier walking the vineyards or checking the casks or plunking down with one of his winemakers and discussing the qualities of that year's Chardonnay.

Social duties were simply that. Duties.

He detoured through the charming ramble of the house that had been his grandfather's into the kitchen to refill his thermos with coffee. Absently he set the portable phone he still carried on the counter and began rearranging his schedule in his head to accommodate La Signora.

He was no longer citified, or soft. He was just over six feet with a body sculpted by fieldwork and a preference for the outdoors. His hands were wide, and tough with calluses, with long fingers that knew how to dip delicately under leaves to the grape. His hair tended to curl if he forgot to have it trimmed, which he often did, and was a deep brown that showed hints of red, like an aged burgundy in the sunlight. His rawboned face was more rugged than handsome, with lines beginning to fan out from eyes of clear and calm blue that could harden to steel.

The scar along his jaw, which he'd earned with a tumble off a stand of rocks at age thirteen, only annoyed him when he remembered to shave.

Which he reminded himself he would have to do before lunch the following day.

Those who worked for him considered him a fair man, if often a single-minded one. Tyler would have appreciated the analysis. They also considered him an artist, and that would have baffled him.

To Tyler MacMillan, the artist was the grape.

He stepped outside into the brisk winter air. He had two hours before sunset, and vines to tend.

Donato Giambelli had a headache of outrageous proportions. Her name was Gina, and she was his wife. When the summons from La Signora had come, he had been happily engaged in eye-crossing sex with his current mistress, a multitalented aspiring actress with thighs strong enough to crack walnuts. Unlike his wife, all the mistress required was the occasional bauble and a sweaty romp three times a week. She did not require conversation.

There were times he thought Gina required nothing else.

She babbled at him. Babbled at each of their three children. Babbled at his mother until the air in the company jet vibrated with the endless stream of words.

Between her, the baby's screaming, little Cezare's banging and Tereza Maria's bouncing, Don gave serious thought to opening the hatch and shoving his entire family off the plane and into oblivion.

Only his mother was quiet, and only because she'd taken a sleeping pill, an air-sickness pill, an allergy pill and God knew what else, washed them all down with two glasses of Merlot before putting her eye mask in place and passing out.

She'd spent most of her life, at least the portion he knew of it, medicated and oblivious. At the moment, he considered that superior wisdom.

He could only sit, his temples throbbing, and damn his aunt Tereza to hell and beyond for insisting his entire family make the trip.

He was executive vice president of Giambelli, Venice, was he not? Any business that needed to be conducted required him, not his family.

Why had God plagued him with such a family?

Not that he didn't love them. Of course he loved them. But the baby was as fat as a turkey, and there was Gina pulling out a breast for its greedy mouth.

Once, that breast had been a work of art, he thought. Gold and firm and tasting of peaches. Now it was stretched like an overfilled balloon, and, had he been inclined to taste, flavored with baby drool.

And the woman was already making noises about yet another one.

The woman he'd married had been ripe, lush, sexually charged and empty of head. She had been perfection. In five short years she had become fat, sloppy and her head was full of babies.

Was it any wonder he sought his comfort elsewhere?

"Donny, I think Zia Tereza will give you a big promotion, and we'll all move into the castello." She lusted for the great house of Giambelli-all those lovely rooms, all the servants. Her children would be raised in luxury, with privilege.

Fine clothes, the best schools and, one day, the Giambelli fortune at their feet.

She was the only one giving La Signora babies, wasn't she? That would count for quite a bit.

"Cezare," she said to her son as he tore the head off his sister's doll. "Stop that! Now you made your sister cry. Here now, here, give me the doll. Mama will fix."

Little Cezare, eyes glinting, tossed the head gleefully over his shoulder and began to taunt his sister.

"English, Cezare!" She shook a finger at him. "We're going to America. You'll speak English to your zia Tereza and show her what a smart boy you are. Come, come."

Tereza Maria, screaming over the death of her doll, retrieved the severed head and raced up and down the cabin in a flurry of grief and rage.

"Cezare! Do as Mama says."

In response, the boy flung himself to the floor, arms and legs hammering.

Don lurched up, stumbled away and locked himself in the sanctuary of his in-flight office. Anthony Avano enjoyed the finer things. He'd chosen his two-story penthouse in San Francisco's Back Bay with care and deliberation, then had hired the top decorator in the city to outfit it for him. Status and style were high priorities. Having them without having to make any real effort was another.

He failed to see how a man could be comfortable without those basic elements.

His rooms reflected what he thought of as classic taste-from the silk moiré walls, the Oriental carpets, to the gleaming oak furniture. He'd chosen, or his decorator had, rich fabrics in neutral tones with a few splashes of bold colors artfully arranged.

The modern art, which meant absolutely nothing to him, was, he'd been told, a striking counterpoint to the quiet elegance.

He relied heavily on the services of decorators, tailors, brokers, jewelers and dealers to guide him into surrounding himself with the best.

Some of his detractors had been known to say Tony Avano was born with taste. And all of it in his mouth. He wouldn't have argued the point. But money, as Tony saw it, bought all the taste a man required.

He knew one thing. And that was wine.

His cellars were arguably among the best in California. Every bottle had been personally selected. While he couldn't distinguish a Sangiovese from a Semillon on the vine, and had no interest in the growing of the grape, he had a superior nose. And that nose had steadily climbed the corporate ladder at Giambelli, California. Thirty years before, it had married Pilar Giambelli.

It had taken that nose less than two years to begin sniffing at other women.

Tony was the first to admit that women were his weakness. There were so many of them, after all. He had loved Pilar as deeply as he was capable of loving another human being. He had certainly loved his position of privilege in the Giambelli organization as the husband of La Signora's daughter and as the father of her granddaughter.

For those reasons he had, for many years, attempted to be very discreet about his particular weakness. He had even tried, a number of times, to reform.

But then there would be another woman, soft and fragrant or sultry and seductive. What was a man to do?

The weakness had eventually cost him his marriage, in a technical if not a legal sense. He and Pilar had been separated for seven years. Neither of them had made the move toward divorce. She, he knew, because she loved him. And he because it seemed like a great deal of trouble and would have seriously displeased Tereza.

In any case, as far as Tony was concerned, the current situation suited everyone nicely. Pilar preferred the countryside, he the city. They maintained a polite, even a reasonably friendly relationship. And he kept his position as president of sales, Giambelli, California.

Seven years they had walked that civilized line. Now, he was very afraid he was about to fall off the edge of it.

Rene was insisting on marriage. Like a silk-lined steamroller, Rene had a way of moving toward a goal and flattening all barriers in her path. Discussions with her left Tony limp and dizzy.

She was violently jealous, overbearing, demanding and prone to icy sulks.

He was crazy about her.

At thirty-two, she was twenty-seven years his junior, a fact that stroked his well-developed ego. Knowing she was every bit as interested in his money as the rest of him didn't trouble him. He respected her for it.

He worried that if he gave her what she wanted, he would lose what she wanted him for.

It was a hell of a fix. To resolve it, Tony did what he usually did regarding difficulties. He ignored it as long as humanly possible.

Studying his view of the bay, sipping a small vermouth, Tony waited for Rene to finish dressing for their evening out. And worried that his time was up.

The doorbell had him glancing over, frowning slightly. They weren't expecting anyone. As it was his majordomo's evening off, he went to see who was there. The frown cleared as he opened the door to his daughter.

"Sophie, what a lovely surprise."

"Dad."

She rose slightly on her toes to kiss his cheek. Ridiculously handsome, as ever, she thought. Good genes and an excellent plastic surgeon served him well. She did her best to ignore the quick and instinctive tug of resentment, and tried to focus on the equally quick and instinctive tug of love.

It seemed she was forever pulled in opposing directions over her father.

"I'm just in from New York, and wanted to see you before I headed up to the villa."

She scanned his face-smooth, almost unlined and certainly untroubled. The dark hair wisped attractively with gray at the temples, the deep blue eyes were clear. He had a handsome, squared-off chin with a center dimple. She'd loved dipping her finger into it as a child and making him laugh.

The love for him swarmed through her and tangled messily with the resentment. It was always so.

"I see you're going out," she said, noting his tuxedo.

"Shortly." He took her hand to draw her inside. "But there's plenty of time. Sit down, princess, and tell me how you are. What can I get you?"

She tipped his glass toward her. Sniffed, approved. "What you're having's fine."

She scanned the room as he walked over to the liquor cabinet. An expensive pretext, she thought. All show and no substance. Just like her father.

"Are you going up tomorrow?"

"Going where?"

She tilted her head as he crossed back to her. "To the villa."

"No, why?"

She took the glass, considering as she sipped. "You didn't get a call?"

"About what?"

Loyalties tugged and tangled inside her. He'd cheated on her mother, had carelessly ignored his vows as long as Sophia could remember, and in the end had left them both with barely a backward glance. But he was still family, and the family was being called to the villa.

"La Signora. One of her summits with lawyers, I'm told. You might want to be there."

"Ah, well, really, I was -- "

He broke off as Rene walked in.

If there was a poster girl for the trophy mistress, Sophia thought as her temper sizzled, Rene Foxx was it. Tall, curvy and blonde on blonde. The Valentino gown showcased a body ruthlessly toned, and managed to look understated and elegant.

Her hair was swept up, slicked back to leave her lovely, pampered face with its full, sensuous mouth-collagen, Sophia thought cattily -- and shrewd green eyes.

She'd chosen diamonds to marry the Valentino, and they flashed and shimmered against her polished skin.

Just how much, Sophia wondered, had those rocks set her father back?

"Hello." Sophia sipped more vermouth to wash some of the bitterness off her tongue. "Rene, isn't it?"

"Yes, and it has been for nearly two years. It's still Sophia?"

"Yes, for twenty-six."

Tony cleared his throat. Nothing, in his opinion, was more dangerous than two sniping females. The man between them always took the bullet.

"Rene, Sophia's just in from New York."

"Really?" Enjoying herself, Rene took Tony's glass, sipped. "That explains why you're looking a bit travel-frayed. We're about to leave for a party. You're welcome to join us," she added, hooking her arm through Tony's. "I must have something in my closet that would work on you."

If she was going to go claw to claw with Rene, it wouldn't be after a coast-to-coast flight and in her father's apartment. Sophia would choose the time, and the place.

"That's so considerate, but I'd feel awkward wearing something so obviously too large. And," she added, coating her words with sugar, "I'm just on my way north. Family business." She set her glass down. "Enjoy your evening."

She walked to the door, where Tony caught up with her to give her shoulder a quick, placating pat. "Why don't you come along, Sophie? You're fine as you are. You're beautiful."

"No, thank you." She turned, and their eyes met. His were full of sheepish apology. It was an expression she was too accustomed to seeing for it to be effective. "I'm not feeling particularly festive."

He winced as she shut the door in his face.

"What did she want?" Rene demanded.

"She just dropped by, as I said."

"Your daughter never does anything without a reason."

He shrugged. "She may have thought we could drive up north together in the morning. Tereza's sent out a summons."

Rene's eyes narrowed. "You didn't tell me about that."

"I didn't get one." He dismissed the entire matter and thought of the party and just how he and Rene would look making their entrance. "You look fabulous, Rene. It's a shame to cover that dress, even with mink. Shall I get your wrap?"

"What do you mean you didn't get one?" Rene slapped the empty glass on a table. "Your position at Giambelli is certainly more important than your daughter's." And Rene meant to see it remained that way. "If the old woman's calling the family, you go. We'll drive up tomorrow."

"We? But -- "

"It's the perfect opportunity to take your stand, Tony, and to tell Pilar you want a divorce. We'll make it an early night, so we'll both be clearheaded." She crossed to him, slid her fingers down his cheek.

With Tony, she knew, manipulation required firm demands and physical rewards, judiciously melded.

"And when we get back tonight, I'll show you just what you can expect from me when we're married. When we get back, Tony..." She leaned in, bit teasingly at his bottom lip. "You can do anything you want."

"Let's just skip the party."

She laughed, slipped away from his hands. "It's important. And it'll give you time to think of just what you want to do to me. Get my sable for me, won't you, darling?"

She felt like sable tonight, Rene thought as Tony went to comply.

She felt rich tonight....

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 211 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 211 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2012

    if you only read one

    I have read many books by Nora Roberts and hands-down, this is my favorite. If you have never read any of her books, you will not be disappointed with this one. Enjoy!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2012

    Please, please tell me that this book is part of a trilogy or th

    Please, please tell me that this book is part of a trilogy or that Norah Roberts will continue the story of the Giambelli-MacMillan family. I loved this book. Grazi!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    Must read

    Love this book. I have read it so many times I have had to replace my paper back 2 times. So happy I got it on my nook color. It's a must read. Love Nora Roberts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Books on CD Are Awesome

    Listening to this book about the wine country in California and Italy was wonderful. I never enjoyed Nora Roberts print books, because I got bogged down in all the descriptive stuff. The well paced voice of the 'reader' kept me engaged in the intricate plot and steamy characters that Roberts develops. I did not see the ending coming as I listened and made guesses about the killer. I have enjoyed listening as I drive around my city, and as I said, I learned so much about the growing of grapes and what is involved in producing a tasty product.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2014

    I've never really read a bad Nora Roberts book.  This one was go

    I've never really read a bad Nora Roberts book.  This one was good - I liked the characters and the story did build...but, the ending was a little anti-climactic.  All in all, a good book an well worth reading.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2014

    Wonderful, classic Nora

    Really enjoyed this Nora Roberts book. It was a great summer, easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    Rhondahop2258@gmail.com

    I NEVER thot id say this about a Nora Roberts book but here goes: I made myself read this book. Turned out ok but ive never had to do that b4. I paid money for it on my nook tab so i told myself to finish it. I had also just got thur w THE SEACH& THE ONE W THE FIRE JUMPERS and they were soo good, so i was comparing them. Not one of her best. Sorry

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2014

    Great read

    Entertaing and captivating

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is one of the author¿s older novels, but don¿t hesitate to

    This is one of the author’s older novels, but don’t hesitate to read it on that account. This is the story of a wine making family. Generations of their family have created an empire that spans from Italy to California. Greed and competition combine to create murder and mystery. However, the drama doesn’t prevent sex and romance from also developing. Another fun story for any Nora fan.
    Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    B&N Asked for a Review

    B&N asked for a review of this novel. My review is.........
    It's Nora Roberts. Enough said.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Good Read

    This was my first Nora Roberts book. I was a little weary at first because I usually read fantastical and mystery books. I wanted to try something new and I actually liked this book. Roberts did a good job with character development, you knew what the character's were feeling and were able to identify each character. It was a slow read, but Roberts did a good job with jumping back and forth between the mystery and not forgetting about what was going on in the character's lives. There was romance, mystery, family and kept you at the edge of your seat. I will look into more of Roberts' books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Reason

    I've had my Nook for two years and have read most of Nora Roberts books either on it or in paperback form. I resisted this one. Can't really say why. Finally gave in. Am I glad I did. Great story. Kept my interest, even all the info on winemaking and vine maturing, which normally would have skimmed over. Ms. Roberts made it impossible to skip it. Would put it in the top ten for her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2012

    My favorite Nora Roberts' Novel

    Read this you won't be disappointed. This has to be my favorite Nora Roberts' novel! I re-read it frequently. It featues strong female characters and themes of strong family love, loyalty and honor whether family by blood or choice. Excellent writing by Ms. Roberts as always.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    Nora Roberts fans will not be disappointed! The Villa is a multi-generational love story that interweaves the commitment to not only family but to the family's rich history in the wine industry. With turns and twists richly painted on both the California and Italian landscapes, it is a wonderful and satisfying read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Cole

    Cale r u still on

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    Jade

    Quickly applies bandages to wounds. Puts some food next to her and leaves. ~Jade

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    The unknown jack

    Looks groggily around. Sees no one but notices food next to her and bandages on her cuts.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    Cyrostar

    He doesn't post here anymore and I'm locked out of his old house.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommened

    I really enjoy all the characters in this Novel

    Nora never disappoints!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    HELP

    Is it worth the money i dont want to waste

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 211 Customer Reviews

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