Let It Breathe
I gave Tawna Fenske’s 2011 Making Waves a B at AAR. Somehow, Ms. Fenske fell off my radar until I saw this on the review list, for which I’m grateful. The hero and heroine are fully developed with an interesting shared backstory. I found this an enjoyable read, and if not for a few annoying characters my grade would be even higher.
Reese Clark manages her family’s vineyard; it’s a true family business with her parents, cousin, and grandfather living on the property and helping run the business. Even her ex-husband Eric – now married to one of Reese’s friends – is the winemaker.
Working with an ex-husband may seem complicated, but Reese and Eric were only married for one of the fifteen years they’ve known each other, and mutually realized the marriage was a mistake. But a major relationship complication occurs for Reese in the form of Clay Henderson. Reese and her family are planning a large expansion of the vineyard, and the construction company they’ve hired is sending Clay to oversee the project. Clay is Eric’s best friend, and Reese had a secret crush on him in college. We quickly discover Clay had feelings just as strong for Reese.
Clay spent his college years partying and drinking. The last time Reese saw Clay he was drunk and in a bar fight that led to his arrest and a broken nose for Reese. In the intervening years Clay entered rehab and has turned his life around. When Clay shows up at the vineyard, the longings he and Reese felt for each other 15 years earlier come through clearly and believably.
While Clay and Reese have clear, strong feelings for each other, they don’t instantly hop into bed. Clay doesn’t want to jeopardize his friendship with either Reese or Eric, his two remaining friends. And Reese is reluctant to start a relationship, wary of Clay’s past behaviors.
While both Clay and Reese are fully developed characters, I particularly like Reese. She’s committed to the environment, planning to make the vineyard fully green, and living in a tiny house on the vineyard to reduce her carbon footprint. Her environmental commitment never feels preachy, but lends depth to her character. She also has fun with friends including having Bachelor viewing parties. She’s also committed to helping animals of all kinds, and keeps an odd assortment including an alpaca who regularly head-butts men in their groins.
In addition to her feelings for Clay, Reese deals with numerous threats to the stability of the vineyard. I like that we get to see both Reese and Clay at work, dealing with problems in their professional as well as personal lives.
Reese’s family – all quirky — plays a major role. Her parents are wildly in love and demonstrative, often embarrassing Reese, while making her feel like a marriage failure. But it’s her grandfather and his friends who are my least favorite part of the book.
Reese’s grandfather insists everyone – including Reese – call him Axl. Axl and his buddies have a motorcycle gang and have been arrested numerous times. Axl repeatedly tries to grow pot at the vineyard. All of that is enough. But the men appear in numerous scenes, are often high, and find things amusing that genuinely threaten Reese’s business or animals. Without going into spoilers, Axl does come through in the end for Reese in multiple ways, but I could have done with a few less jokes from him. In contrast, I laughed out loud several times from situations Reese got into (such as the time her front clasp bra comes undone in a bar).
Despite Reese’s grandfather, I enjoyed this lot. The author threw in a few surprises – including some secrets from Clay’s drinking days – that I didn’t expect but enjoyed. I will definitely look for more books by Ms. Fenske in the future.
Buy it at A