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.
Set in beautiful Napa Valley, California, Nora Roberts's latest novel portrays a rich world of family-owned wineries, complete with enough romance, sophisticated business intrigue, betrayal, and murder to cow the Medicis of Florence. The Villa focuses on the merger of two prominent winemaking families, the Giambellis and MacMillans, and the incendiary combination of the two upcoming leaders of those dynasties, Sophia Giambelli and Tyler MacMillan. Tyler is the manager of the MacMillan vines and the distilling process, a job that suits his frank and no-frills personality. Creative and flashy, Sophia is head of Giambelli's public relations, and her job has been to put the best spin on whatever her family business produces--hard to do when the merger requires that she and Tyler switch jobs, and particularly hard to do when her own heart seems to spin out of control whenever they're together.
Soon after the merger goes through, Tyler and Sophia learn that they have bigger problems than their conflicting work styles. Tony Avano, a Giambelli executive and Sophia's father, is murdered, and threats surface against the Giambelli women. As a quiet woman, Sophia's mother, Pilar, has made few enemies, except for Tony's new wife, Rene. The matriarch of the family--known simply as La Signora--may have knocked some rivals aside as she clawed her way to the top, but few would have reason to threaten her now. When poison is discovered in Giambelli wine, Sophia and Tyler learn the killer is much closer than they thought.
In description, dialogue, and plot, Roberts's talent and control are as fine as ever. But while the relationship between Pilar and David, the new COO, feels complex and mature, Sophia and Tyler's romance can at times feel slightly forced. As Roberts explains repeatedly, Sophia approaches sex "as a man does," which apparently means with no strings attached. And while that does tend to take the "romance" out of the romance to some extent, the positive aspects to be found in The Villa outweigh this flaw, ensuring another hit for the talented and prolific Roberts. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien