Feature and Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon
Title: The Vineyard at Painted Moon
Author: Susan Mallery
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Find it here: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads: Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not her family, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.
Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.
The sounds of the party engulfed them, drawing them into the rapidly growing throng of guests. Mackenzie felt her mood lighten as she took in the twinkle lights wrapped around the pergola, the tables overflowing with food, the cases of Bel Après wine, stacked and ready to be opened. Servers circulated with trays of bruschetta. There was a pasta bar and a dessert station. Music played through speakers hidden in foliage, and the delicious smell of garlic mingled with the sweet scent of summer flowers.
Mackenzie spotted Stephanie talking to one of the servers and gave Rhys’s hand one last squeeze before separating from him and walking toward her sister-in-law.
“You outdid yourself,” she said, hugging her friend.
“I’m pretty bitchin’,” Stephanie said with a laugh, then waved her hand toward the twinkle lights. “Those will be a lot more effective when the sun goes down in two plus hours.”
Because the longest day in their part of Washington State meant nearly sixteen hours of daylight.
“You exhausted?” Mackenzie asked, knowing Stephanie had spent the past three weeks making sure every detail of the party was perfect.
“It’s been the usual challenge with a few extras thrown in,” her sister-in-law said lightly. “I won’t even hint at what they are, but brace yourself for a surprise or two.”
Mackenzie immediately scanned the crowd. “Is Kyle here?” Stephanie, a petite, curvy brunette with beautiful brown eyes and an easy smile, groaned. “What? No. Not that. I told you. I’m over him. Totally, completely, forever.”
“But he’s here.”
“Yes. Mom invites him every year because he’s Avery and Carson’s father. The fact that he’s my ex-husband doesn’t seem to faze her. You know how she gets.”
Mackenzie did. Once her mother-in-law made up her mind about something, she could not, would not be moved. There was no evolving of an opinion over time. Barbara was a human version of the immovable object.
“Kyle is her oldest granddaughter’s father, and therefore a member of the family.” Stephanie wrinkled her nose. “I deal with the awkwardness of it. On the bright side, she refers to him as ‘the sperm donor,’ which I like.”
“If only he’d fought the prenup, Barbara would have turned on him like a snake.” Mackenzie paused. “You’re sure you don’t want to start back up with him?”
“Yes. Totally. I’m done with that. He strung me along for years after the divorce. No more sex with the ex. It’s been eighteen months since our last bump and grind, and I’m standing strong. I’m horny as hell, but standing strong.” She glanced around at the guests. “Maybe I’ll hook up with someone here.”
“Have you ever hooked up with anyone?”
“No, but there’s always a first time.” Stephanie wrinkled her nose. “I just don’t know how it works. Do we slip away to the barrel room and do it on a desk or something? I can’t take him home—the kids are there. And a car is just so tacky.”
“Because the barrel room isn’t?” Mackenzie asked with a laugh.
“I don’t know. It could be romantic.”
“Or, at the very least, intoxicating.”
Stephanie waved away that observation. “Fine. Not the barrel room, but then I’m still left with a lack of location, not to mention any prospects.” She sighed as they walked toward one of the wine stations. “This is why hooking up has never worked for me. It’s too complicated. They make it look easy in the movies and on TV, but it’s not.”
“I have zero experience. I’m sorry. I’ll read up on it so I have better advice next time.”
“Which is why I love you.” Stephanie shook her head. “Obviously I should let the whole man-slash-sex thing go and focus on other aspects of my life.”