Valentine Vineyards, Book #1
Heat Factor: Fade to gray? There’s some sex but we see more afterglow than details
Character Chemistry: Outstanding
Plot: Chandra and Julian are new to a small town, and they keep meeting—but Chandra insists they can’t have a relationship
Overall: It felt like a filler book
First thing first: if you’re picking this up because you’re looking for a holiday special, look elsewhere. Christmas might be in the title, but there’s only one Christmas-adjacent scene—that doesn’t even happen on page.
The second key piece of information to know is that this is a bridge book. We’re kicking off a new series—Valentine Vineyards—so there are a bunch of single, unhappy siblings to meet. This new series is tangentially related to Reese Ryan’s Bourbon Brothers series (long-lost cousins, same small town), so there’s also a lot of checking in with previous characters and their HEAs.
The plot is also a bit all over the place. Chandra and Julian find themselves in the same small town—Chandra because her father bought a vineyard there and summoned the family, Julian because he reluctantly returned to the town where he grew up to serve as the town’s doctor. They meet on the plane there, then Julian rescues Chandra from her crashed car, then Chandra goes to see Julian about her hurt wrist, then Chandra pretends to be Julian’s girlfriend so that all the single ladies in town will leave him alone at a party. But the book doesn’t commit to any of these set-ups; rather it flits from one to another, until Chandra and Julian find themselves having a casual fling before Chandra goes home to San Diego. Even that doesn’t last long. After a single scene back at her old job in California, Chandra decides that joining the family business is actually the way to go. (And then there’s the thing that pushes them together in the end, which I will not spoil but which I found irritating and thought called their HEA into question.)
The main conflict here is that Chandra doesn’t want to get into a relationship with Julian, for a whole bunch of reasons. She’s too old for him. She’s not staying in town. She’s only there to reconnect with her family. As with the plot, none of these reasons really sticks.
However, this book is not all bad. Julian and Chandra have excellent chemistry. They seem to really like each other and have great banter. Bonus points for pop culture references that are age-appropriate to the characters, but aren’t intrusive. So I am interested to see where Ryan goes with this series, now that the groundwork has been laid and Ryan can focus in on the unhappy siblings falling in love.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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