Christine Alexander needs to prove herself as a top-notch winemaker, and in Harmony Valley she's got a chance to build something legitimate, quality and lasting. What she doesn't need is part-owner Slade Jennings poking his nose in her cabernet.
Brooding, buttoned-up Slade Jennings won't be making things easy for his new hire. Someone has to worry about the bottom line. Forced into an uneasy partnership, the pair faces two challenges: create a spectacular award-winning vintage within months…and figure out if their tenuous friendship can grow into something deeper and lasting.
Heat level: As with all Harlequin Heartwarming books, this story is sweet (has no overt sensuality, rated PG).
Season of Change
After several dress changes by his twins, Slade was feeling decidedly uncomfortable on Christine's bedroom floor,
leaning against her bed, at her feet, which were bare, the toes painted an energetic orange. They had a business relationship, nothing more. It was time to get down to business.
And so they discussed projected timelines and her preferred equipment manufacturers. They discussed in depth her preferred methods of harvesting and winemaking. He shared the partnership's views on the winery stimulating town growth. Interspersed between were ooohs and ahhhs for the girls in Christine's dresses. It was hard to b
Although he enjoyed seeing his daughters dress up, he couldn't help imagining what Christine would look like in each evening gown, until Grace came out in a black dress with a long feathered skirt. "Whoa. You did not wear that thing?" Slade glanced up at Christine. "It has feathers."elieve that one woman had that many evening gowns. Short ones, long ones, fitted ones, ones with slits and lace and shimmery trim.
Christine stared down her elegant nose at him. "Feathers were in that year."
Slade chuckled. "Grace, you look beautiful, honey, but I can't see how that dress would look good on a full-grown woman." He pointed at the dress. "I mean...feathers!"
"I'm reminding myself you're my boss," Christine said through gritted teeth.
Grace exchanged a look with Faith, who was wearing a white beaded gown with flowing long sleeves. Both girls looked at Christine and nodded.
"Excuse me a minute, boss." Christine followed them into the bathroom.
Great. Add Christine to the growing list of people who understood his daughters' silent language.
Slade got up stiffly, stretched out the kinks, and sat on the bed. It was softly inviting. With effort, he kept from flopping onto his back and sneaking a power nap.
A few minutes later the girls came out dressed in their pink checks and overalls shorts. Their hair was still prom-queen grand. They bounced onto the bed next to him. Grace leaned on his shoulder.
And then Christine stepped out of the bathroom in the black feathered gown. It fit her tight across the chest, with just a hint of cleavage, enough to catch a man's eye.
This man's eye.
She'd piled her hair above her head in a messy style that begged a man's hand to smooth it. And then she walked across the hall, revealing a dangerously high slit that exposed most of her leg with every step. A leg that ended in a bright red pump.
Slade's mouth went dry as his eyes traveled back up to her face.
Christine wouldn't release his gaze. Here was the classy, confident woman he'd interviewed. The woman who knew the power of her appearance and wasn't afraid to use it. Not that she had to wield her womanly power, given she was rocket scientist smart when it came to her craft.
Faith and Grace leaned over to look at him. And giggled.
Christine burst out laughing. "That'll teach you to make fun of a woman's feathers."
The Story Behind the Story
By the time I began writing Season of Change, Slade had already shown up in the two previous Harmony Valley books. You can track his gradual change from Dandelion Wishes (book 1, with his dissatisfaction about returning to Harmony Valley) to Summer Kisses (book 2, where he begins to care about Harmony Valley). But one constant remained – those ties. Why did he never take them off? I wrote to page 100 without knowing. And then it was as if Slade whispered a secret in my ear. He happened to whisper this at 4:30, just as I was about to take a break and attend a 5pm exercise class. I showed up at the gym in a daze and asked Sharon, the kick-my-butt instructor, if she would've dated a man with this secret. She didn't know. The next day, I asked my hairdresser, Alisha, who's single. She said no (and boy, did she mean it). I asked Anna Adams, one of my critique partners (who writes for Superromance and Heartwarming), what she'd do. She recommended I follow my instincts and write it.
And so, bolstered and afraid, I wrote Slade's story. I didn't tell my editor I was departing from the story outline I'd given her. I just kept writing. Two weeks later, the book was done. I sent it in to my editor three months early in case they hated it and wanted me to start all over. I worried my nails to the nub with each passing month that no one read the book. My rewrite window was fast disappearing. And yet, I truly believed it was the right story to tell. And then I received word that my editor was changing. During a call, I admitted to my new editor that I'd gone rogue and was concerned. She sounded concerned, too. Weeks passed. Just before Christmas, I received a revision letter. The story had been approved! What a relief.
I try to write all my books with a light approach, regardless of subject matter. I infuse them with humor and heart, because that's the way I deal with life. Season of Change isn't an angsty book. It's a book about forgiveness and moving forward. Sometimes that's easier said than done.