Marina Adair’s Kissing Under the Mistletoe (310 pages, $12.95, Montlake Romance) is the first in her series of Napa Valley romances. While certain staples of romance description, especially moments of sexual intensity that only manage to tease the principle characters, leave me unimpressed, Adair has a way of creating winning characters and putting them in very amusing, if not always believable, situations.
In this novel, Regan Martin, a talented wine expert, has come to Napa to fill an important job vacancy. When she arrives, however, she finds she has stepped on the toes of the most powerful local wine families, and her job disappears before her eyes.
The family, the DeLucas, have a longstanding tradition of power-broking in Napa. Now they are a younger generation—four brothers and a single sister. It seems that Regan was having an affair with the sister’s husband. Regan didn’t know about her, Abigail, and when she did discover that the boyfriend was married, she was in the process of being fleeced by him, too. Regan has come out of this affair with a daughter and a whole family of enemies.
The oldest brother, Gabe, is the one who is commissioned to deal with Regan. And while he has blackballed her from getting a decent job in any winery in the country, he nevertheless finds her breathtakingly attractive when confronted with her face to face. Regan feels exactly the same about him, and the two characters spend hundreds of pages trying not to get into each other’s pants—or getting into them and then figuring out how to get beyond that lapse.
While this is going on, Adair creates a whole assortment of other characters in her Napa setting, and she does a wonderful job with characters' descriptions, sometimes at the level of caricature but often with a deft hand at the revealing detail or telling secret.