I pride myself on my loyalty. I always root for the Denver Broncos, I never miss an episode of ER, and I buy every single book by Nora Roberts the very second it’s released. Lately though, I’ve found myself thinking maybe I should wait for paperback. I’ve found her last few hardcovers disappointing. So when I was offered the chance to review The Villa, I jumped at it. I didn’t have to pay and no waiting required – perfect!
After twenty years of marriage, Eli MacMillan and Tereza Giambelli (a.k.a. La Signora) have decided to start a new joint venture, merging their two wineries into Giambelli-MacMillan. Irritated by the change are several family members, whose lifestyles will be irrevocably changed. Marketing whiz Sophia Giambelli, granddaughter of La Signora, is not thrilled to learn she’ll have to relocate to the Napa Valley villa and ruin her manicure actually tending the grapes. Farmer Tyler MacMillan, grandson of Eli, is no happier to learn he’ll have to start wearing a suit, going into the city, and … shudder … talking to people. But when these two start working together, what really throws them for a loop is their growing attraction to one another.
Meanwhile outsider and new COO David Cutter, is probably the only person who looks at this merger as a positive thing, especially when he arrives at the villa and is greeted by Pilar Giambelli, La Signora’s daughter. Pilar is facing the dissolution of her thirty-year marriage when David shows up on her doorstep with his two teenage children. Pilar isn’t sure what’s more shocking: the changes in her life, or that a younger man is interested in her.
The rest of the family are even less thrilled. One family member tries to cover up their less than honest business practices and ends up dead. This is only the first of several tragedies to strike the Giambellis, and they soon realize someone is out to destroy them. The question is who? And can they put a stop to it before someone else dies?
So starts a fascinating tale of corporate intrigue, mysterious deaths, one family’s strength, and of course love.
As always, Roberts’ ability to spin a tale keeps the reader turning the pages and could result in sleepless nights because you don’t want to put it down. The strong point of the story is of course the relationships between the characters. This book explores the relationships of couples in the thrill of first love and those giving it a second go, as well as the relationship between parents and children, and of course as Roberts does so well friendship.
With those relationships come some of the best dialogue. Roberts allows us to see inside her characters and relate with through their words. One example is the following exchange between Pilar and her best friend Helen:
“But I’m not twenty. And my body sure as hell isn’t twenty. How can I possibly let him see me naked, Helen? My breasts are heading to Mexico.”
“Honey, mine landed in Argentina three years ago. James doesn’t seem to mind.”
In dialogue like that, not only does Roberts show us why she’s the best at what she does, but in one line gets to the heart of Pilar’s dilemma in dating a younger man.
With all this glowing praise, why only a B+ grade? Because there was just something missing. I admit it; I’m spoiled. As good as The Villa is, I felt gypped in the romance department. There was so much going on and something had to suffer, and it was the amount of time devoted to Sophia and Tyler. Especially at the end, when their connection was eclipsed by that of three Giambelli women.
In the end, my loyalty to buying Roberts’ books the minute they’re released has been restored. Those patient enough to wait for this book in paperback several months hence will definitely be rewarded, but those, like me, who tend towards impatience, should feel confident their hard-earned money will be well spent on this book if they can’t hold out for all those months.