May 21 2014 3:30pm

First Look: Laura Moore’s Once Tasted (May 27, 2014)

Once Tasted by Laura MooreLaura Moore
Once Tasted
Ballantine / May 27, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

Three siblings, an extraordinary family, a lasting heritage—in the irresistible Silver Creek Ranch trilogy, they’ll fight for the land and the people they love.

Everything has come easily to Reid Knowles, the middle son of a California ranching family. But his charmed life is suddenly complicated when his good friend and neighbor asks him to help run the winery next door. His neighbor’s niece, Mia Bodell, is in charge—and she has made it clear that she’d rather be roped to a steer than to Reid Knowles. Never one to back down from a challenge, Reid vows to win her trust.

Her life marked by loss, Mia knows that nothing comes easily—love included. In high school, her heart was crushed by Reid, and even though years have passed, the hurt lingers. Mia is achingly aware that the teen heartthrob has matured into a devastatingly handsome playboy, and the budding winemaker refuses to let down her guard. But one taste of unbridled passion changes things. From Reid’s first intoxicating kiss to his unexpectedly tender seduction, Mia is swept into a passionate affair that could tear her heart to pieces . . . or give her everything she has ever wanted.

Many of us have lived the story of a shy teenager attracted to the more outgoing, popular classmate. We secretly admired him from afar, watching him work his charismatic magic on those worthy to be in his inner circle and the lucky few whose trajectory intersected his life, even if only momentarily. We dreamed of the day when he would suddenly recognize our true inner beauty, and of course, outer beauty too—after we had our fantasized makeover.

So it is only natural that we are drawn to this type of story, especially when the girl gets the guy. Laura Moore puts her own distinctive stamp—including setting, characterization, and humor—on one of readers’ favorite tropes in Once Tasted.

The setting has both the sociability and warmth of a small town romance, since  Acacia is a small town in California.

Not many towns could boast of having a post office where you could not only pick up your mail but also cash your checks, order a stack of buttermilk pancakes or a burger, pick up a loaf of bread or bottle of Tide and get your dose of the happenings

However, there are hints of sophistication that make it stand out from similar type books. The heroine, Mia Bodell is a winemaker or vintner. Plus her closest neighbors, the Knowles, run a luxury guest lodge pampering to all type of guests – from the uber-rich to movie-star celebrities and finally every day folks.

Then there is the characterization. The Knowles’ family — from the parents to the three children: Ward (his story was told in Once Tempted) Reid, the hero in this book, and Quinn (her story to be published in Once Touched) are universally appealing.

First of all they are pleasing as a family. Like when Reid is thinking about his sister Quinn’s ability to work with animals:

Through solid work and endless patience, Quinn had reached the stage where Tucker not only accepted the hackamore, a bitless bridle, he had even allowed her to climb onto his back. For an abused horse like Tucker, his acceptance showed an extraordinary degree of trust...

Quinn’s heart must be bursting with pride for the horse’s courage. Reid’s too, was full, but for his sister. Earning the trust of another being especially one that had been badly hurt, was an amazing accomplishment.

And then there is Quinn’s defense of Reid, after Mia accuses him of being a womanizer:

“But here’s the thing about Reid. All that stuff I just said about him? It’s an accurate description and thus supremely aggravating. He’s got a lot of talent, and for all his mellow attitude, he’s pretty driven, which means he’s successful at most everything he does. But when it comes to women. I think your take on him is wrong…

“You make it sound like Reid’s immune to love. I don’t agree. I think the truth has more to do with him not having found the right woman yet.”

For a bit of humor, there is Adele Knowles’ subtle matchmaking. At least she thinks it is subtle. But her children all know that when she starts singing Julio Iglesias songs they need to cut and run because she has a match in mind. It is a very bad sign when she moves on to Tom Jones, since that means she is ramping up her efforts. And heaven forbid if she starts singing Celine Dion, which indicates that she dreaming of a wedding.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, and blushed, unsure how long she’d been staring at him. “I was just wondering how I ended up with a dog,” she said, voicing only part of her thoughts. “Your sister pulled a fast one on me, inviting me to the shelter.”

“Yeah, Quinn’s devious. Always has a trick up her sleeve. She gets it from our mother.”

“Adele? No, your mom’s sweet. She was humming Celine Dion yesterday when she came down to the corral...

Mia thought Reid paled at the mention of Celine Dion, but she chalked it up as a typical male response to the singer.

And finally there is the attraction between the Mia and Reid. It has been simmering a long while—a bit of bad history between them has kept them apart but both of them have got it bad:

It wasn’t often he got a glimpse of Mia’s skin. She covered a lot of herself up. Her clothes, shapeless and drab, were only marginally move stylish than a nun’s habit. He thought of that saying of how certain women could wear sackcloth and still look beautiful. Mia was the proof. He dressed like crap, hardly ever wore makeup, yet he was still obsessed, hungering for every glimpse of her he could get....

Why, then was Reid who made her heart thump until it hurt? Why did he cause everything to melt inside her when she wasn’t even sure she liked him and when she knew he didn’t like her?

Be prepared because this simmering attraction soon spirals out of control, leaving both Mia and Reid, wondering what hit them!

Great characters, appealing plot, and some pretty satisfying carnal attraction makes this a very engaging book.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Once Tasted by Laura Moore, available May 27, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Leigh Davis, blogger

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