Fans of angst and second chances would like this book. The heroine returns to her hometown after leaving ten years ago as a troubled teenager. Intending only to stay long enough to bury her grandfather, bottle his wine and sell his estate off, her plans hit a snag of sorts in the shape of the estate's neighbor. The hero wants to add her grandfather's vineyard to his estate's holdings, but with their messy shared history, secrets come out and what once seemed so straightforward turns out to be anything but.
Lots of emotion in this one. The secrets behind Zoe's banishment as a teenager are big ones, with shockwaves that leave cracks in both of their adult lives. Their revelation forces them to reexamine assumptions they'd labored under for ten years and unleashes all sorts of feelings they don't really want to deal with right now. Upstanding, responsible Hugh just wants to buy her family's vineyard and get back to his role as CEO of his family's winemaking business. Restless, rebellious Zoe wants to wrap up their business then get back to California, and away from the bad memories. Walking down memory lane is hugely uncomfortable for them, but they just can't seem to stop the momentum and go back to how they were before the secrets came out.
I thought Dark did a good job pacing the characters through their journey of rediscovery. She dispenses bits of intrigue and backstory gradually throughout the story, neither character ever launches into a monologue of angst nor are the salient details dangled just out of the reader's grasp over and over. I felt that the characters discussed and processed their feelings in ways that were unique to their personalities - Zoe giving up information and emotion only under duress, and Hugh relentlessly pursuing further discussion to try to make things right. It's a dynamic that not only suits the storytelling, it shows me a couple well-matched for an HEA. Their communication styles complement each other perfectly.
The dialog felt a little forced at times, especially when Mr. Plot Expediter Morris is on screen, and I didn't love how the conflict was finally resolved. I wanted more initiative from Zoe after she flew back to California. That Hugh instead flew to her to make a declaration felt more like the author indulging her own love of the Grand Gesture than the natural outcome for the characters. It was heavy on the style and short on substance. It's also SOP for the genre.
I picked this up on a whim during an ebook sale, and I'm glad I did. This new-to-me author is now on my list of Harlequin authors to keep an eye on.