On February 2 of this year, I wrote a review of Marina Adair's Kissing Under The Mistletoe. I gave it a 3.0, thought it was solid entertainment. Now she's back with her 2nd book in the St. Helena Vineyards Series (also a 3.0, also solid). Marina has a formula that works. The DeLuca's are a big wine-growing family in St. Helena. In book 1, a woman leaves a bad relationship and comes to St. Helena. She ends up with the oldest of the DeLuca boys. In book 2, Summer in Napa, guess what happens? Give up? That's right. A woman leaves a bad relationship, comes to St. Helena, and...yeah, I'm not going to tell you. Suffice it to say that there are similarities in the 2 books.
Lexi Moreau and her husband own a restaurant in New York. They're struggling to make a go of it, but this is Lexi's dream, and she intends to make it work. Then, Lexi walks in on her husband and the sous chef (she's a she) discussing more than the next day's menu. Lexi, heartbroken, comes back to St. Helena, her hometown. Her grandmother has a bakery, and Lexi is going to convert it into a bistro.
What she doesn't count on is her grandmother fixing her up with countless (not really, but a lot of) dates. To stop the onslaught, Marco DeLuca, who is her husband's best friend and who Lexi knows very well (platonically) from their high school days, offers to act as her boyfriend (platonically). Need I go on?
Here's the deal. It doesn't matter that you know what's going to happen. And I've said this before. It's a romance. They're supposed to get together for crying out loud. What matters is that you care about Lexi and Marco. You boo Lexi's husband. You cringe when the woman obsessed with Marco is scorned and seeks revenge. These things are okay. I have read many books (I just finished one over the weekend) where you don't know what's going to happen - and you don't really care. I definitely cared about these 2.
Besides the romance, there are other elements of the book that I really enjoyed. Lexi's grandmother and her semi-elderly, nosy, meddlesome friends are a hoot. In the 1st book, the female protagonist has a 5-year old daughter who is absolutely adorable. In this one, Marco has a dog called Wingman (great name, don't you think?), who gets quite a bit of story time. And even though you all know I'm not a dog person, I enjoyed Wingman's antics. Finally, Marina has the ability to take a romance and inject a lot of humor without diminishing the story. I got a bunch of chuckles from Summer in Napa.
I like my mysteries and my ex-CIA, ex-Mossad guys; my Mitch Rapp's, my Gabriel Allon's, and my Jack Reacher's. I like my historical fiction - Ken Follett, Jeffrey Archer, and John Jakes. I even like a little fantasy (A.R. Silverberry and Terry Brooks) and some religious fiction (Joel Rosenberg and Adina Senft). And I like my romances. Marina Adair doesn't have to take a backseat to any romance writer. In fact, her books have substance, great characters, and a good story. Marina, keep on keepin on.