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    THE VILLA by Nora Roberts ( See the Nora Roberts website)

    G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001

    The Giambelli wine business is under attack both from within and without. Three women, three generations, battle to save their heritage, initally without even knowing who is responsible for the escalating disaster that seems to strike everything they touch.

    Sophia Giambelli, heir to the family winery, knows marketing and P.R. Now, on her grandmother's orders, she is forced to become exposed to every aspect of wine production. Her tutor, Tyler MacMillan, is a rugged and handsome hunk who loves the grapes and has nothing but contempt for the suits that make the business go. Even in normal times, this partnership would be difficult. With the Gambelli business under attack, the partnership is put to the ultimate strain--sparks, of all flavors including the romantic, fly.

    Although Sophia and Tyler get caught up in the romance of winemaking, the escalating threat to their business keeps them moving. When Sophia's father is killed, the family becomes suspected. When a sales woman is poisoned, Gambelli wine is implicated. Yet the winery is completely controlled by the family. Could one of their own have turned against them--or is someone even more sinister manipulating the family's weak men to his own advantage?

    Picking up a Nora Roberts novel guarantees a good read (see other reviews of novels by this author). THE VILLA provides both a terms-of-the-will type of forced togetherness between Sophia and Tyler and a suspense plot to keep up the readers interest. I found the details of the wine business and wine growing both interesting in themselves, and also aptly used to describe the flowering relationship between Sophia and Tyler. The secondary romance between Sophia's mother and David added to the novel's emotional depth and author Roberts' descriptions of the children was especially genuine.

    Although the suspense element was central to the novel, Sophia and Tyler did not really understand that their business was under a concerted attack until near the end. As a result, much of their flailing around was without direction. Fortunately, Roberts' writing is strong enough to carry the novel despite a relatively weak motivation for hero and heroine (basically each wants to preserve the status quo rather than seeking a more active result).

    Three Stars

    Purchase THE VILLA from (hardback)