Bailey, Tessa. Unfortunately Yours. (A Vine Mess #2). Avon/Harper Voyager, 2023. 384 pp. ISBN 9780063239036 $18.99
I picked this up, read the first two chapters and put it down — August and Natalie were just too mean to one another. When I realized this was a companion book to Secretly Yours, and after re-reading It Happened One Summer, I decided it was worth another chance.
Natalie Vos has come home to Napa Valley fired, broke, drinking too much and not engaged anymore. She had a hot moment with Navy vet and former SEAL turned vitner, August Cates, back in Secretly Yours, but since their one-night stand didn’t turn into something, and it turns out he makes terrible wine, they snark–nastily–at one another. (Side note: I couldn’t remember the details of their previous encounter, and a recap would have been helpful). They cross paths again at a wine competition she’s judging, are mean to each other when she doesn’t like his wine, but he’s still desperately attracted to her brains and beauty. He needs her help with making drinkable, profitable wine, and she needs to be employed and married to get access to her trust fund to finance an investment deal back in New York. They decide on a marriage of convenience–but no sex. Okay, just orgasms for her. Okay, just oral for him… the lines keep getting drawn in the sand and smashed through because of their off the charts chemistry. The sex is a little rougher and a little spicer–August is a consummate dirty talker and not squeamish about rimming, and his new wife goes wild for it.
In general, the characters are not as three-dimensional, likeable or mature as Hallie and Julian. I think I liked the cat the best, though I don’t believe it sat docilely through their wedding ceremony. Some depth of story comes from Natalie’s character growth and desire to make something of herself independent of her famous family, and August’s commitment to honor his fellow soldier’s vineyard dreams. They do seem to have each other’s back as the story progresses: she won’t allow her mother to insult him, and he is very protective of her. Her family’s dismissal of her is frustrating, and so are August’s self-deprecating remarks about his own intelligence.
Those close to them see through their sniping to their true love… but it was hard to watch people who cared about one another be so unkind. An emergency near the end of the book puts August in a life or death situation to force them to reveal their feelings, and it just felt a little too contrived. The pacing is fast and not terribly believable, either. August’s calling Natalie “Princess” reminded me of Han Solo calling Leia “Princess,” and then that’s who I imagined them as in my head, and it didn’t jive with how they are described in the book. Also, August is so exaggerated in his physical stature I actually couldn’t picture him at all.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #UnfortunatelyYours from #NetGalley.