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Sweeter Than Wine
by Michaela August

On the eve of Prohibition, Alice Roye, a young war widow, struggles to preserve her respectable life in small-town Sonoma, California. She desperately needs a vintner for her winery, because without a license to make sacramental wine for the Church, she'll have to go back to her mother's Barbary Coast bordello.

Alice doesn't expect to marry the new vintner, but, blackmailed by the matriarch of her late husband's family, she does. Can she trust this gaunt, blond stranger--or keep from falling in love with him?

Siegfried, a refugee from the Great War with nothing left but his winemaking talents, finds in Alice's arms the home he thought lost forever. But how can he prove his love, and still keep secret that he was a soldier in the Kaiser's army--the enemy her first husband died fighting?

Will the lies in their pasts destroy everything they hope to build together?

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Michaela August
Michaela August is a writing team composed of two Northern California authors, Marian Gibbons and Karin Welss. Despite living 90 miles apart, they've been collaborating for years, using telephones and the Internet.

Marian, a native of Northern California, lives in the wine country with her multi-talented husband (who after many years has gotten used to hearing, "Honey, do we have some wall space left for another bookcase?") As well as being able to make plum jam and chocolate chip cookies, she is a member of Romance Writers of America, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Karin was born in Montreal, Canada. She grew up in California and has traveled extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia (including a stint in Sydney for two-and-a-half years, first as a university exchange student and then while working for a well-known software company). Besides traveling, Karin's other great interests are anime, baking, reading, history, and archaeology. Family members accuse her of writing historical fiction as an excuse to buy books and do research! Karin currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is owned by a small but very bossy parrot. She pays for the birdseed by working as a technical writer.


Reviews

"...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!" Reviewed by Ronica for A Romance Review, 4 1/2 ROSES

"...an outstanding novel, rich in emotion, with descriptive passages so vivid they bring to life early 20th century Sonoma with breathtaking beauty. The characters are three dimensional and alive...a breathtaking story of acceptance, faith, and love...a heartwarming and unforgettable read." Terrie Figueroa, for Romance Reviews Today

"...a nice tale of healing as well as romance. Both Alice and Siegfried has to deal with personal demons - prejudice, loneliness, guilt, et cetera - and the way they deal with these as well as each other is beautifully handled. Set amidst the rich atmosphere of wine-making and the aftermath of WWI, this story's setting is intriguing in itself. The great romance is an added and much welcome bonus." Reviewed by Mrs. Giggles


Excerpt

Siegfried put his back into the hard work. He ached all over, sweat streaming from his skin even in the artificial coolness gathered between the thick stone walls. Scrape, pull, throw. Scratch a dusty itch at elbow or cheek--careful not to rub your eyes--and do it all again. It seemed as though he had been cleaning the tanks forever, not for less than a week.

He paused and blotted sweat from his forehead on the blue cotton sleeve rolled over his upper arm. From the corner of his eye, Siegfried saw Alice, back from church, come in dressed in her work clothes. She picked up a shovel and manhandled a wheelbarrow nearby, then started removing the pile of mold he had created.

He was satisfied that she had followed his orders and was wearing thick leather work gloves over her bandaged hands.

They worked in silence for hours, changing jobs whenever the strain of repetition got too bad.

Covertly, Siegfried watched her while she scraped, reaching up high and worrying away at a stubborn patch of filth. The baggy front of Bill's old shirt molded tightly against her breasts, and Siegfried swallowed, hard, remembering how she had looked yesterday, wet as a mermaid. He stopped short. A wave of heat rushed through his body as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot to ease the sudden restriction of his jeans.

The more he saw her, the more he wanted her, and it was becoming too difficult to work side by side, and say nothing. Do nothing.

Alice finally succeeded in loosening the sticky mass from the side of the tank. She balanced it on the end of her scraper, and flicked it to her left, where it landed neatly in the wheelbarrow already piled high with other refuse. She noticed his motionlessness. "Yes?"

"Time for a break," he said, feeling as if he mumbled, the English sounds foreign on his lips. His whole body was sensitized, aware of her. Every pulse beat heightened his desire for her.

"I'm not tired. You go rest. You've been working longer than I have today."

"All right," he said, but he could not move away. He smelled her: hard-working woman with a hint of lemon cologne, and found that his feet had sent roots into the concrete floor.

Alice's scraper chewed another strip of mold away from the wood. Siegfried leaned closer to her.

"Ah-lees, I--" She turned to face him and they were within touching distance. Siegfried brushed a streak of dust off her hair, then let his fingers drift downward to touch her cheek. Her hazel eyes were questioning as she gazed up at him.

Siegfried placed his hands on her shoulders, pushing her back against the tank. He leaned close to touch his mouth to hers, hesitant and feather-light. May I?

She was tense and trembling slightly. "Siegfried, don't..."

"Alice?" A man's voice called from the entrance to the winery. "Are you in here?"

She shoved Siegfried away with a gasp.