Joey Wilder’s life is turned upside down when her father dies. He leaves his vineyard and winery to her, along with a shaky financial situation for the business. Making matters worse, a big chain luxury hotel and spa is going up next door, and it’s sure to change the charm of her tiny Oregon town, Whisper Wall. But Joey’s feisty and knows how to make the best of a bad situation. Besides, she’s long had ideas for how to draw more customers to Tangle Valley Vineyard, so maybe it’s time to dream big, commercial monster next door be damned.
Becca Crawford is so good at her job that head office trusted her to manage building and running The Jade. She’s excited to spend more time at the winery next door and send hotel guests there, since their ambiance and scenery is as excellent as their pinot. If only Tangle Valley’s bubbly, beautiful owner didn’t hate Becca’s guts, because Becca has a serious crush going for her.
Except, of course, Joey doesn’t hate Becca. She just hates the company Becca works for. Their chemistry is so strong even Joey can’t deny it, since she’s feeling all aflutter for the first time since her fiancee left her at the altar three years ago. Now Joey needs to figure out if she can put her feelings about The Jade and her fear of abandonment aside long enough to grab onto the amazing woman who only has eyes for her.
A new group of women to love
Well, Brayden did it again. I liked pretty much every character in this book and that rarely happens. Joey and Becca are SO lovely and are just a delight to spend time with.
Joey’s understandably protective of her heart, given the way her last relationship ended and her father’s recent death. And yet, she has so much love to give, which we see in every interaction she has with her friends and employees. I was so happy to see her eventually figure it out because I want every good thing for her.
Becca doesn’t have as strong an arc as Joey, which is fine by me because she’s the best. She’s so patient and understanding with Joey at every step of their journey and she’s probably in my top 3 leads that Brayden’s ever written (I still love Elizabeth and Jessica best of all). It also makes sense that she doesn’t have much of an arc because Entangled is the first of a trilogy with people from the winery finding love. Given that, it’s not really Becca’s book, even if she is one of the leads and gets as much time on the page as Joey.
Speaking of… Madison and Gabriella are Joey’s friends and colleagues. Madison is Joey’s best friend and the winemaker Joey brings in to fill her dad’s shoes at the winery. Gabriella is a top-notch chef who Madison recommends Joey hire. Is there a friendship version of a throuple? You know, when two best friends open their friendship up to another? Because we see that develop between these three alongside Joey and Becca’s relationship and it’s lovely. We also get a hint about whose book will be next and who her love interest will be, so I’m looking forward to that.
Why I enjoyed this book so much
Entangled has all the best bits from my favourite Brayden books. Namely:
Excellent banter between the leads. I’m not kidding. It’s seriously good stuff and I was delighted over and over again. For example, this exchange when Becca asks Joey if they can be friends instead of enemies is great:
Becca held up a hand. “Tell you what. You don’t have to decide right now. How about that?”
“Okay.” Joey wasn’t sure where Becca was going with this.
“But can we have a glass of wine? As foes, I mean.”
“You’re asking me to have angry wine with you?”
“Yes. Furious wine, if you prefer.”
I’m also awarding this excerpt extra points for the Katherine V. Forrest pun.
The friendship development is also great, which I mentioned above. This should be no surprise to anyone who’s loved the Soho Loft or Seven Shores series, because friendship writing is one of Brayden’s strengths. One of my favourite moments with these three friends happens early in the story when Gabriella is trying out new food for the winery:
“Arancini,” [Gabriella] said. “Great finger food. Perfect for a truck.”
“I’d murder my mother for one of those right now,” Madison said.
Joey gasped. “You keep making dead parent jokes.”
Madison winced. “Why do I do that?”
“I have no idea. Plus, you love your mother.”
“And Gabriella’s balls. The rice ones. Hence the internal struggle,” Maddie said matter-of-factly.
“My balls bring all the girls to the yard,” Gabriella said with sparkle.
Joey laughed and could tell she was in for a ride working with these two.
How cute is that? Joey’s hunch isn’t wrong either. She has a great time working with them and Gabriella becomes a true friend to her.
The chemistry between the leads is amazing, which means that the kissing and sexytimes are excellent. The choreography for the sex scenes is within what makes sense for a contemporary romance, but I appreciate that they’re not the same as every other sex scene I’ve read this year. And sorry friends, no excerpt for you on this one. You’ll have to read the book to see if you agree with my assessment.
A note about the setting
The smalltown setting is vivid and I can imagine all the businesses and people there. It totally makes sense as a town that wine fans would want to visit and Entangled brings that smalltown romance feeling.
That said, Whisper Wall appears to only have white people in it. According to my Very Official Google Search, that tracks with Oregon’s history and current makeup, so I’m not knocking it. I’m just noting it, since I’m seeing more readers want to know whether books have diverse casts of characters.
The narration for Entangled is solid and enjoyable, because Melissa Sternenberg brings a bubbly energy that matches the book’s vibe. The characters don’t always feel very differentiated, however, especially when Joey is with Madison and Gabriella, so I relied on contextual clues to understand who was saying what.
So, which format to choose? I recommend sticking with your preference, because there is no wrong choice here. If you typically listen to audiobooks, you’ll likely enjoy this one (especially if you’re a fan of Melissa Brayden’s books). If you prefer reading paperbacks or on an ereader, go with that instead of paying the extra premium that audiobooks cost.
Have I sold you on this book yet? Because it’s super cute and I enjoyed it very much. It may not have beaten out Beautiful Dreamer or Kiss the Girl for the title of my favourite Melissa Brayden romance, but I’m glad I read it and I’ll likely read it again when I need a pick me up.
Excerpt from Entangled by Melissa Brayden
Becca hit the sidewalk and demanded her weary smile hold strong. She hit up three more shops in the heart of town, and her reception was the same at each: enthusiastic hospitality until she introduced herself and explained what brought her to Whisper Wall. She watched as each smiling face morphed into one of polite tolerance. It angered her as a businesswoman and hurt her feelings as a human being who was excited to make connections and friends in her new community.
Lost in her thoughts and probably not looking where she was going, she shoulder checked a woman walking in the other direction.
“Oh, God. That was on me,” Becca said, turning back and holding a hand out to make sure she’d done no damage.
“Not to worry. I’m still alive and a little more awake, so thank you.” The woman was smiling and she was…striking. Pretty. Blond hair, crystal blue eyes. She wore a knit cap on the back of her head. That’s when Becca noticed the package she’d knocked clean out of the woman’s hands.
“Let me get that.”
“I got it.” The woman bent down, too, and they laughed about the awkwardness of both kneeling to retrieve the same package. Becca beat her there and handed off the bag. “I’ll try to be more alert going forward.”
“Citizens everywhere thank you.” She dropped to sincerity and added, “Seriously, though. No harm at all.” She stood, as did Becca. “Enjoy your day, okay?”
“You, too.” She stood and watched the blonde head down the sidewalk. Part of her wondered where she was off to. Another part wanted to go with her. Something in her energy snagged Becca’s attention.
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Tangled Valley Romance
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 978-1635557091
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books Inc
- Narrator: Melissa Sternenberg
- Melissa Brayden Online
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