There’s some interesting out-of-the-box news out of the romance world today—Harlequin is launching a new line of wines, with a branding link to vintage Harlequin covers. The wines were developed in collaboration with Vintage Wine Estates in Northern California and include a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon, and a red wine blend.Right now, they’re available on Amazon to U.S. customers only.
Now Harlequin has always been something of a maverick, and this new venture is a cool, unexpected direction for the revered publisher. But since I’m all about books, I thought I’d turn a spotlight on books and romance with a wine/vineyard focus.
Of course you can’t have this conversation without mentioning Kristan Higgins’ Blue Heron books, but since I seem to mention her in every other article, I’m going to skim right over them. They’re great. They involve a family vineyard. Read them.
Lisa Kleypas had a book out in August and has another one releasing in October, but I want to go back to two years ago, when she published Rainshadow Road, part of her Friday Harbor series. I loved this book. A stained glass artist and a vineyard owner move cautiously into a relationship, wary of their past missteps and burdened with emotional baggage. I love how Kleypas includes magical elements in each Friday Harbor novel, and this one was especially poignant and redemptive.
Jane Porter’s Brennan series is sexy and sweet, and The Good Woman explores the choices of a woman who has always done the right thing, but feels restless and disconnected to her life—as well as her husband. Traveling to the London Wine Fair with her sexy vintner boss is confusing enough, but when he expresses a long-standing interest in her, the whole experience changes the path of her life and makes her question everything.
Laura Moore is an author I’ve had my eye on for a while and have heard great things about, but I haven’t read anything by her yet. Once Tasted includes a golden boy rancher’s son who is roped in to helping with the winery next door, which is unfortunately being run by a woman who doesn’t trust him an inch, ever since he broke her heart in high school. Sounds satisfyingly aching and intense, yes?
Finally, Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave has made a splash this year in many of the places that love romantic women’s fiction and tend to ignore or scorn “romance”—Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Elle; goodness, even Wine Enthusiast—but I’ll put aside those sour grapes (you can’t blame the author for the fans) and agree that this book really was a great read. There’s a lot of family drama and unexpected twists, many of which leave this die-hard happily-ever-after fan a little cynical—really? all of that in one family?—but the main storyline is satisfying and authentic, if slightly more transparent than it seems to want to be. Some online friends who don’t read romance (insert typical supercilious tone) highly recommended it, a seal of approval which I’ll pass along. It was compelling and engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
So what about you? Can you think of any romances that have wine or vineyard elements? And are you tempted by the new Harlequin wines? They do sound fun, and I always applaud creativity and trailblazing spirit. What do you think?