“No, this was the part where Mal broke Luke down into tiny component pieces and put him back together different. When this was over, Luke didn’t know who he’d be. Just that he’d be Mal’s, maybe forever. And even though it terrified him, he couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to.” — Ashlyn Kane
Author: Ashlyn Kane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 220
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Luke Scherer has turned bad romance into an art. When he catches his latest deadbeat boyfriend selling Luke’s belongings—and his own body—to cover his debts, Luke decides he needs a vacation. He just doesn’t expect his Napa Valley retreat to be a step into his past.
Eight years ago Mal Kuijpers was grieving his wife while his vineyard floundered. Hiring Luke for the summer put the business back on track and a smile back on Mal’s face.
Nineteen-year-old Luke had just gotten out from under his father’s thumb and started saving for his education, his last screw-you to his old man. Then he made the mistake of falling for his boss, his dad caught up with him, and Luke panicked—and fled.
Now they have another chance. Mal has his own share of closet skeletons, including a family he doesn’t talk to and a dead wife he sometimes does, and he’s gone without romance for years. He works hard to convince Luke he’s worth more than a casual fling and asks for nothing in return, but Luke needs a relationship of equals. If Mal can believe in himself and Luke can believe in love, two hot summers might yield a lifelong reward.
Review: I have been a huge Ashlyn Kane fan since I read the first in her Lost Boys and Love Letters series. She is one of my auto-buy authors. She has never disappointed me and A Good Vintage is no exception to that. I love a second chance at love story, and this was a great one.
When Luke was in college, he worked part of a summer at a vineyard in Napa, CA. He was trying to escape his jackass of a father and earn money to further his education. He was nineteen at the time. When he was hired, the owner of the vineyard, Mal, was eight years his senior. Mal was grieving the death of his wife, who had died of cancer.
The attraction between the two was fast and strong. Mal thought Luke was too young and Luke thought Mal was straight, so while they both had feelings for each other, they were slow to explore them. Too slow, as it turned out. Luke’s father tracked him down and instead of subjecting Mal, his family, and employees to his father, Luke ran, leaving only a brief note for Mal.
In the following eight years, Mal hasn’t dated at all. Luke, on the other hand, has had a long series of one offs in bars, followed by a string of boyfriends who weren’t worthy of him. His most recent live-in boyfriend was a gambling addict who sold Luke’s belongings and then his own body in the bed that he and Luke shared to cover his debts. When Luke saw this, he fled to the only family he had left: his big brother Val.
Deciding that Luke could use a vacation, Val books it for him. He just doesn’t tell Luke that it is at the same vineyard where he spent that summer eight years ago. Luke and Mal are both shocked to see each other after so much time has passed. They each have things in their pasts they need to tell the other. They want to try to have a relationship, but is it possible with all the things they have yet to learn about one another?
Ashlyn Kane has again created characters who feel completely real. Luke and Mal struggle with the same questions, insecurities and family skeletons as many of us. They both have so much to overcome, and personality flaws that need to be hurdled if they are to be successful as a couple. The supporting characters play more than minor roles in A Good Vintage. They are as important as Mal and Luke to the story. They move the story along and are valued parts of each man’s life. Without them, Mal and Luke would never be able to come together.
I really loved this book. I have heard some people say they were uncomfortable with the writing style Ms. Kane used. The story was told in present time, alternated with flashbacks, which Ms. Kane called “Interludes”. I personally enjoy reading the past and present unfolding alongside each other. Reading bits of the past helps to understand why the characters are behaving the way they are in the present. The time that Mal and Luke spent apart, and their lives before they met the first time, are important components of who they are now. Without knowing their histories, we can’t really know them.
I loved the writing style. I loved the characters. I loved the second-chance at love. I loved the setting, the beautiful Napa Valley, which, in and of itself, seems like a magical place. A Good Vintage is just a good book. If I had to find a flaw, it would be that it ended rather abruptly. But the way it ended left it wide open for a sequel or for your imagination to take Luke and Mal wherever you think they will go. I like to do both. I’ll dream up their future and hope like hell for a sequel because these characters deserve more page time! You have to read this book!