Right from the moment I finished my So You Think You Can Write-winning novel, The Divorce Party, I knew I had to write the stories of the other two De Campo brothers. They’d captured the imagination of readers during the contest and I was dying to get back to middle-child peacemaker, Gabriele, my seriously sexy winemaker, and Matteo, the rebel, who liked to oppose CEO Riccardo at every turn.
I’d hinted at the love-hate relationship between Gabe and Lilly’s sister Alexandra in The Divorce Party, but now to craft a story that showcased their combustible dynamic…
I knew I wanted to set An Exquisite Challenge in gorgeous Napa Valley, as it’s one of my favourite places on earth. And it would be all about wine because well—it’s a huge passion of mine and I wanted to learn more about this exotic, glamorous world. Jac Cole, the winemaker from Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain Vineyard (the vineyard used in the television show Falcon Crest by the way) offered to teach me about the fine art of blending and bringing a wine to market. And so, a story emerged. The book would open with Gabe in the middle of the biggest launch of his career—the one that would make or break De Campo in Napa after eight years of backbreaking work.
The risky Malbec Gabe creates is brilliant. Unfortunately none of the ideas his PR agency puts forward for the wine’s debut are—and he fires them in a moment of insanity three weeks before launch. Enter Alexandra Anderson, PR woman extraordinaire, the only person who can pull off this event for Gabe and save his career. Unfortunately Gabe and Alex can’t even be in the same room as one another let alone work together. And now we have big problems that have nothing to do with selling wine and everything to do with avoiding the attraction that’s always been too big for the both of them. What they feel for each other brings out Gabe and Alex’s best and worst sides, with no telling which will win.
Trust has always been an issue for these two, a product of their painful pasts. Watching Gabe and Alex learn to overcome this together was such an emotional journey for me. But what I love most about this book is the dynamic between this pair. Their constant battles of wills… The inescapable sexual tension between them and their desperate quest to convince themselves they don’t want each other when they so patently do.
This scene in the hot tub where Gabe finally crumbles and decides to seduce Alex is one of my favourites:
He pressed his fingers into her arch and she yelped. ‘Relax,’ he murmured. ‘Out of curiosity, if you were to agree to one night, how would you like it, Lex? Hot and heavy or long and drawn out?’
Her insides seized. ‘I don’t think so, Gabe.’
‘We’re just talking,’ he drawled, eyes glittering. ‘Hypothetically, of course.’
She should have shut him down, but she couldn’t resist the challenge in those to-die-for eyes of his. And then there was that curiosity about him that was burning her up.
She gave him a thoughtful look. ‘I like both. But I think I’d start with long and drawn out.’
He nodded. ‘Good choice. It’s been a while, after all, hasn’t it?’
‘Excuse me?’ She tensed and pulled her foot away, but he held it firm.
‘When’s the last time you were on a date?’
She was not admitting it had been a while. He smiled. ‘Exactly like I thought. So theoretically, if I were to be the one to break your slump, I would move my hands up over your calf like this and work those muscles too, first this leg, then the other. Make sure you were loose, relaxed.’ She swallowed hard as his fingers kneaded the tight muscles of her right calf. Dear Lord that felt good. ‘Then,’ he continued, ‘when I was sure you were in the zone, I’d move over there, slowly, making sure you knew my full intentions. You’d give me that fight or flight look of yours. I’d wait until you bit your lip in that way you do when you want to be kissed, because you would want to be kissed. That would be my cue to give you one, and I would, but only a teasing, fleeting pressure. Just enough to generate heat. When you’d gotten into it, I might want to taste that bottom lip myself.’
She closed her eyes as he dug more firmly into her calf. ‘You with me?’ he murmured.
‘Yes.’ Her voice was low, thready, nothing like her.
Oh yes, Alex is in trouble now! I hope you enjoy my two control freaks as much as I enjoyed writing them! And why not crack open a bottle of Malbec while you’re at it?
About An Exquisite Challenge:
“First move’s yours, Lex,” he murmured. “After that, all bets are off.”
Wine magnate Gabe De Campo has fired his PR company three weeks before the wwmost anticipated launch event the industry’s ever seen. Enter Alexandra Anderson—the last woman he should ever work with, but the only woman who can help.
Gabe and Alex have always been a lethal combination, and with so much at stake for them both, failure is not an option. Can they ignore the powerful attraction between them in order to maintain their professionalism…or is it only a matter of time before the cork is popped on their passion?