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Sweeter Than Wine
by Michaela August

Category: Romance/Historical Fiction EPIC eBook Award Finalist
Description: In Sonoma just before Prohibition, Alice and Siegfried join together to make wine. Will their lies destroy everything?
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 2003
eBookwise Release Date: August 2003


10 Reader Ratings:
Great Good OK Poor
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [546 KB]
Words: 119175
Reading time: 340-476 min.

"Sweeter Than Wine is a riveting story of second chances in life and love. I enjoyed this story, Alice's determination to be a good business woman was admirable, while I was reading about her learning the wine making business I was thinking 'You Go Girl'! I thought Siegfried was very sexy and imagined what his accent sounded like. All I have to say is, I like it! 4 1/2 Roses."--Ronica, A Romance Review

Chapter One

Healdsburg, California

Tuesday, May 13, 1919

"Alice, you've got to make up your mind. Either sell Montclair to me, or tear out the vines and plant prunes." Hugh Roye said, his high forehead wrinkling with exaggerated concern. "This is not the best time to run a winery. Even Lake County voted dry!"

"I loathe prunes." Alice Roye set down her fork, unable to take another bite of the tough chicken her brother-in-law was serving for lunch. His cluttered, dusty dining room seemed suddenly close despite the window opened to the early afternoon air. The sharp smell of chicken manure came from the yard outside, and she fought an unladylike urge to sneeze.

"I wish I knew why you were being so stubborn. I can't imagine why someone like you--a city girl, I mean." He slanted a look at her, then smiled charmingly as if he hadn't meant that comment at all, "--would want to sully her hands with such work anyway. I'd give you a fair price. You could reestablish yourself in San Francisco, and perhaps--marry again."

"It's too soon." Alice shook her head, patting her lips with the linen napkin, her heartbeat quickening until she could feel each heavy beat in the tips of her fingers against the cloth. She didn't care about being married again, but she did not want to return to San Francisco. And she would die before she revealed to anyone in Sonoma County the reason why.

"It's been over a year since Bill--" Hugh's mouth set in a stubborn line, an expression she had seen only occasionally on her young husband's face. Bill had always smiled and joked to fend off any unpleasantness. Sometimes she wondered, when she couldn't help herself, if Bill's good humor had survived the rigors of the Western Front, if he had been smiling and jesting with his men, until--

Alice bit her lip, and Hugh, obviously realizing he had pushed too hard, relented in his attack. He poured gracefully from the bottle of wine she had brought to serve with lunch and remained silent as they both sipped at the delicate Gundlach-Bundschu Traminer.

The wine was delicious, dry and fragrant, but Alice grimaced inwardly, remembering the failures of this last year. Bill had only been the first loss. Montclair's vintner, hired by Bill's grandfather at the winery's inception, had succumbed to the Spanish Influenza before they finished crush last fall. Alice had done the best she could, but the Traminer had all spoiled in transit to the East Coast. Park and Tilford, her distributors, had refused to pay for the vintage, and had, in fact, billed her for shipping costs and damages.

She hoped that her new vintner would know how to avoid spoilage this year. She had to turn a profit. She just had to hang on until harvest.

Truce over, Hugh set his glass down, and leaned forward. "I worry about you, all alone out there. You can't take care of that property with only field hands."

"Surely you're not calling Mrs. Verdacchia a fieldhand, Hugh," Alice laughed, determined to dispel the adversarial mood. "You never refuse an invitation to dinner if Maria's cooking! Really, it's good of you to be interested, but I believe I have a buyer for this year's wine."

"Montclair's profits were always in champagne, but you won't make champagne, will you, dear?"

"It's too much effort," Alice protested. "And I don't want to make wines just for the liquor trade--"

Hugh pushed his chair away from the table. "You don't seriously believe you could obtain a sacramental wine license, Alice! You?" Hugh laughed unkindly. "So, the Archbishop is a family friend?"

"I'm sorry, but I really must return to Sonoma." Alice spoke through gritted teeth as she stood up. She picked up her long-handled suede handbag and said with imitation cheerfulness. "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I won't be quite alone this summer. Your cousin has arrived from Europe and I promised your grandmother I would hire him."

"What cousin? You don't mean Siegfried? Coming here? He's got some gall." Hugh's long face turned an ugly red. "It was bad enough that Aunt Betty married that foreigner--"

"I thought your grandparents were happy to be connected with an established European winemaking family," Alice reproved gently.

"That was before the Huns killed Bill."

Copyright © 2003 Michaela August

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