I believe I have read every one of Nora Roberts's romantic suspense novels. Maybe because I have read so many of this genre, I can often guess "who done it" halfway through the book. The beauty of Roberts's writing is that, even if I guess the "who" part correctly, there are enough subplots and twists that I keep reading to the end to discover the "why."
Roberts's latest novel, THE VILLA, centers on the wine industry. Known around the world for both their Italian and California vintages, family owned Giambelli Wines are about to celebrate their centennial year. Matriarch Tereza Giambelli, in order to preserve the winery's excellent reputation for the next 100 years, forms a merger with her husband Eli's winery, MacMillian Wines. In order to ensure that this happens, she decrees that her granddaughter, Sophia, top Public Relations executive for Giambelli, and Tyler MacMillian, heir apparent to his grandfather, must work together as partners for a year. Sophie will teach Ty the business end of marketing fine wines, and Ty will teach Sophie the fine points of running a successful vineyard and winery. In addition, La Signora, as Tereza is known, has brought in an outsider, David Cutter, to be COO of the new company.
Neither Sophie nor Ty are happy about working together. Although they have known each other for most of their lives --- after all, their respective grandparents have been married almost 25 years --- they are in many ways opposites. Ty considers himself a farmer and is most comfortable tending the vineyards or overseeing the bottling of the wine they produce. Sophie is at home in the executive office suite creating new advertising and marketing campaigns. Now they must spend at least half of each day learning the other's trade. Added to this is the fact that several bottles of Giambelli wine have been tampered with, resulting in the deaths of two employees and the subsequent police investigation.
As Sophie struggles to learn the production side of the winery and combat the negative press surrounding the wine tampering, she must also deal with her strained relationship with her father, Tony Avano, a sales manager for Giambelli who has been estranged from her mother Pilar for many years. He has finally asked Pilar for a divorce so that he can marry Rene, a tough social climber who has only her own interests at heart. The day after the divorce is granted, Tony marries Rene and appears with her at a Giambelli charity function intended to eliminate some of the distrust caused by the wine tampering. Rene creates a public scene between Tony and key members of the family, including Sophia. The next day, Tony is discovered murdered in Sophia's San Francisco apartment.
I read most of THE VILLA while on vacation. Lying on the beach, at least five women saw me reading the book and asked where I had found it. The same thing happened on the plane ride home. When I explained that I was reading a reviewer's copy, and the book was due in the stores in about 2 weeks, all of them just about cheered. Everyone said they would look for it in their favorite bookstore as soon as they returned home, reserving a copy if it was not yet available. This attests to Nora Roberts's continuing popularity and her remarkable ability to write one engrossing bestseller after another.
Reviewed by Debbie Ann Weiner on March 19, 2001