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The Winemakers

The Winemakers

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A young winemaker. A devastating family secret. A truth that could destroy the man she loves.

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Book Description

Napa Valley, 1956: Winemaker Caterina Rosetta and her mother Ava harbor family secrets and face threats that could ruin their family winery, Mille Étoiles Vineyards. Concealing her husband’s past in Tuscany, Ava Rosetta struggles to manage the vineyard, while her high-spirited, passionate daughter Caterina—a wine-blending savant—has inherited Ava’s talent for crafting wine and guarding damaging secrets.

Caterina hides a truth that could ruin her in the eyes of her mother and traditional society: An illegitimate child. The father, Santo—Caterina’s childhood best friend—abandoned her without explanation, leaving her with nowhere to turn. Devastated, Caterina journeys to their ancestral vineyard in Montalcino, Italy to claim an inheritance from her grandmother and seize the chance to start a new life. There, for the first time, she meets her unknown, extended family and discovers shocking secrets that could destroy the man she loves—who still loves her. Caterina realizes her happiness and the entire future of Mille Étoiles Vineyards depend on her ability to unravel the mysteries of the past—if she has the strength to face them.

Originally published by St. Martin’s Press, this beloved, bestselling saga returns and has been optioned for a television series.

Read A Sample

“Sign here, Miss Rosetta.” The attorney slid several typewritten documents across his immense oak desk. In his gnarled outstretched hand speckled with brown age-spots was a pointed mother-of-pearl fountain pen.

Seated across the desk, Caterina pressed her fingers against her damp collarbone. How can I do this? The writing instrument might as well have been a dagger for her heart.

Caterina fanned her face with a cherry blossom paper fan she’d bought in Chinatown. Where is the breeze off the San Francisco Bay? It was an unseasonably humid day in the city, a day so scorching it rendered her mind sluggish. Or was that only an excuse for evading the decision she could not bring herself to make?

Fumbling in her purse, she drew out a wrinkled monogrammed handkerchief embroidered by her own hand. The linen held the milky, sweet scent of her little girl, now a year old. Marisa. She dabbed her neckline and face, stalling the inevitable. She placed the handkerchief and fan on the lap of her light wool skirt and struggled to compose herself.

In the outer office, a typewriter’s staccato rhythm jangled her nerves, each strike an assault on her sanity.

“Miss Rosetta, we’ve been through this before. My clients are growing impatient.” Harold Exeter straightened his crooked frame and stood behind her. “I must have your signature today.”

Today.

This was her last day with her daughter. Tomorrow morning, Caterina would hug Marisa and kiss her good-bye forever. Her throat closed and her breath became shallow.

She swallowed the lump in her throat and fought to lift her leaden wrist, but she could not. To her horror, the lawyer clenched her hand, wrapped her trembling fingers around the pen, and positioned it over the contract. He clamped her shoulder with his other hand. All at once, the air in the office grew thick. She gasped for breath.

His bony grip on her hand tightened. “You have already agreed to their offer.”

Indeed she had. Nevertheless, she instinctively flung her hand from his grip, dropped the pen, and pushed the documents away as if they were contaminated. Dark ink smattered like wine across neat pages that threatened to extinguish the only pure joy she had in her life.

“Is it more money you want?” Mr. Exeter’s voice had an edge she hadn’t heard before.

Caterina snatched her purse, dug out the lawyer’s crumpled check, and flung it onto the desk. “I don’t even want the money you gave me,” she snapped. Distraught, she sank her face into her hands, her breath coming in short rasps.

“That was for your medical bills and rent.” The attorney shifted on his feet and waited for her to regain control. Once she did, he eased himself into a chair next to her. His demeanor softened. “Miss Rosetta, I’m a father and a grandfather. I know how difficult this is for you. But adoption is the best alternative. If you love your child, how can you subject her to a life of shame?”

Caterina’s eyes glistened, and a moan escaped her lips. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for Marisa. Yet the motherly instincts of her heart and the rational judgment of her head warred within her.

“Do you want her to suffer the brand of illegitimacy for life?” His voice dropped a notch. “Don’t make your child pay for your mistake. She needs a family.”

She agreed. And she’d tried to do just that, though she had failed. Faith, the kind woman who ran the small maternity home where she’d been living, had warned her. The longer she waited to give up her baby, the more gut-wrenching it would be.

But Caterina had to know, beyond any doubt, that this was the best decision for Marisa. She could bear nothing less. Clutching her handkerchief, she intercepted the tears that spilled from her lids. “I must meet them.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The new . . . couple,” she managed to say, instead of parents. Caterina’s skin crawled with unease.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

Caterina shoved the fan and handkerchief into her purse and sprang from the chair.

Immediately, Mr. Exeter placed a firm hand on her arm. “That is, it’s highly irregular.” He shook his graying head as if it were the worst imaginable deed. “But I can inquire.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “We hadn’t much time left. Will you sign the documents today?”

Caterina bit her lip. “If I like them.”

“My dear, they are the finest people. Your question should be, will they love and care for your daughter? I assure you, they will. However, I shall try to contact them with this unusual request. Nevertheless, in good faith, your signature will be required first.” He scooped up the documents. “If you’ll wait in the reception area, I’ll have this first page retyped.”

Caterina felt as if she were suffocating. “I need air. I’ll wait outside.”

Once outside, her step faltered, and she leaned against the brick building, gulping air thickened with humidity. She watched steam waffle from the pavement in waves. This cloying summer heat was nearby Napa Valley weather—good for ripening grapes—but it was a temperature seldom seen in San Francisco.

Although she had a decent job in the city, she ached for the panoramic views from her mother’s high perched vineyard, the scent of soil rich enough to yield the finest wine, and the sound of birdsong on breeze-cooled evenings. She had grown up at the vineyard; it was an idyllic setting for a child.

And yet, she could not return with Marisa. Illegitimate. Why did society pin labels of hatred on innocent children? Why were families robbed of their precious children, all in the name of propriety?

Marisa. All at once, Caterina sensed an inexplicable draw toward her little girl. She brushed salty tears from her cheeks.

Her skin crawled with a sudden urgency. Marisa needs me. As if in a trance, she turned and began walking in the direction of her car.

In the logical recesses of her mind, she knew she should stay and sign the final adoption papers. “It’s the loving thing to do,” Faith had told her this morning before she’d left the house. Caterina had agreed. She was not a young woman prone to dereliction of her duties.

She had seen other young women at the maternity home give up their babies, some mere hours after giving birth. A few girls were heartbroken over lost lovers, while others bravely maintained they were glad to be rid of the product of rape or incest. Yet she had witnessed the tears and agony etched on each face after they’d handed their tiny offspring to a nurse, never to see their child again. Never to feel a heartbeat flutter against their chests in the small hours of the night. Never to see the first loving smile of recognition or hear the first cry of “Mama.”

Their inconsolable sobs still rang in her ears.

Something is dreadfully wrong. Her heart palpitating, Caterina quickened her step, brushing past people on the crowded sidewalk.

At first, she’d refused to give up Marisa, hoping to hear from her child’s father, the man she loved. Praying for a miracle. “You’ve waited too long,” Faith had told her months later. “You must make a decision for the good of the child.”

Caterina sniffed the air, detecting a trace scent of thundershowers. Clouds shadowed the sun.

“Excuse me.” Caterina pushed past a group of meandering students. She stepped off the curb and dodged a taxi pulling to the corner. Her chest tightened. Her car was parked in the next block down the hill. She shed her jacket and broke into a trot.

Breathing heavily, she increased her pace. She had to reach Marisa. Was it a mother’s instinct? Frantic now, Caterina ran down the hilly street, her purse knocking against her side, her high heels clattering on the sidewalk.

She reached her car and flung open the door of her turquoise Chevrolet Bel Air with pointed rear fender fins. Her mother had given her the car when she’d moved to San Francisco for college. She turned the key in the ignition and pumped the gas pedal. She had to reach Marisa as soon as possible. She didn’t know why, but she knew it was dire.

A fat raindrop splattered her windshield, and then another, and another. She flicked on her wipers and pushed the large sedan as fast as she dared on city streets. By the time she arrived at the maternity home, sheets of rain were battering her car.

She parked down the street and then raced through the downpour past old Victorian homes, which lined the way like pastel macarons. Turning in, she hurried up the steps and passed under a canopy of ornate fretwork freshly painted in lemon yellow, mint green, and cornflower blue. Panic rose in her throat. She pushed open the door and pounded up the stairs, leaving a trail of water in her path.

Caterina gripped the doorjamb of the children’s nursery in the old home overlooking the bay. Half a dozen playpens with babies lined the perimeter. Paintings of giraffes, monkeys, and elephants adorned the walls, mocking her with their cheerful countenances.

Marisa was pulling up on her railing, teetering on strong, developing legs. A well-dressed, middle-aged couple stood next to Marisa’s playpen, exclaiming over her.

“What are you doing?” Caterina demanded, brushing damp hair from her forehead. They’ve come too soon. Terror seized her. She wasn’t ready.

Faith O’Connell hurried to her side, embarrassment stamped on her reddened face. “This is Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. They wanted to visit today while you were out. You’re back early,” she added in an apologetic tone, fumbling with the top button on her green-checked housedress.

A woman with perfectly coiffed blond hair jerked her head around and glared at Faith. “You said she wouldn’t be here.” She turned a withering gaze on Caterina.

Mrs. Anderson’s lips twitched with disdain as she took in Caterina’s rain-stained shoes and wet hair.

Caterina flicked away errant strands plastered to her flushed cheeks. She shrugged free of Faith, but before she could reach Marisa, Mrs. Anderson picked up her baby. Caterina’s heart thudded.

“How are you, darling?” the woman cooed, kissing Marisa’s cheek. “Would you like to come home with us?”

Marisa’s lower lip began to tremble, and her eyes sought out Caterina.

“Get away from her. I’m her mother.” Fuming, Caterina crossed the room in long strides, intent on rescuing her beautiful dark-haired girl from the woman’s pale arms.

Mr. Anderson wore a charcoal suit and a grim expression. “We came here to adopt this little girl. We can give her a good home. Don’t you want to do what’s best for her?”

Book Reviews

“Readers will devour this page-turner as the mystery and passions spin out.” – Library Journal

“As she did in Scent of Triumph, Moran weaves knowledge of wine and winemaking into this intense family drama.” – Booklist

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