Kathy's Reviews > Secrets of Bella Terra

Secrets of Bella Terra by Christina Dodd
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's review
Jan 23, 2012

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bookshelves: to-read, family, romance, sexy

** spoiler alert ** Setting - Bella, California. Central California, grape growing, wine developing valley.

Themes - deception, reconciliation, love, maturity, traditions (good and bad)

Background - The valley settled a century plus ago by 3 Italian families - the DiLucas, the Bianchins, and the mafiosa-like Marinos. They competed. During prohibition & the depression, the DiLucas split their property to develop a resort as the continued to grow grapes; the Bianchins put in orchards, and the Marinos running hooch. Massimo, a well known vitner, honored families with the gift of one of his wines to a newborn, to be drunk at his wedding, his 21st birthday, or some celebration. During prohibition, police raided and destroyed most of his work. He had only one bottle left with the Brianchins & the DiLucas both had a son on the same day... and though he liked the Brianchin's better, the DiLuca baby was 1st, so he gifted the wine to them. 20+ years later, when the sons were grown and loved the same woman, Sarah Marino married the DiLuca son (and was disowned by her family)... and at the end of the celebration the Brianchin's showed up and broke all of the wine, and The wine had not been brought out yet, so it was safe. the DiLuca son was shot, and made infertile - though Sarah was already pregnant. The wine was safely hidden.

Characters -

side characters:
Ebrillwen Jones - Danish born, militiristic head maid at the resort.
Madelyn - ran away from an abusive husband withher daughter, changed her name.
Marino brothers and cousin - Sephano, Greg, and Primo - rough and ready, ready to fight with the DiLuca's while expressing sorrow and concern over Sarah mid fight.
Zachary Adams - exconvict, head groundskeeper
Jenna Campbell - went to high school with the rest, head cheerleader, smart at math & computers.
Sherriff DuPey - went to h.s. with the rest - his father was sherriff, and was a cruel, bigoted sheriff. Seems kinda slow at first, but steps up and handles the investigations well.
Darren - Rafe's 17-year old hacker/computer expert.

Sarah - married the DiLuca son, they had one son, who grew up to be a self centered, egotistical, immoral, wellknown actor. He had 3 sons from 3 marriages, and was apoor father to them all.
Eli - the oldest - the award winning wine maker of the family. When young, kidnapped by angry mother, returned to grandmother - he never spoke of the years he was separated from them.
Rafe - middle - mother was an Italian actor - and he lived in the volatile household. at age 10 starred in movie about a dragon and became famous... after a few years, he decided fame was not for him, acting was not for him, that its all lies, so he insisted to be allowed to live with the grandparents at Bella. Wants to make a difference, plans to enter the armed forces.
Noah - businessman, runs the resort and their various investments.

Brooke Petersson - parents both army officers, moved a lot, parents fought. at age of 12, parents divorced, father admitted to having another family in Japan, she never saw her father again, mother took her to settle in Bella Valley. she and Rafe became friends... friends that held through high school until they became lovers in their senior year. they split (one connection her last year in college), and with her degree, she is now the head conceirge at the resort

Joseph Brianchin, inhis 70s, wants the Massimo wine, what he feels is his birth right. he sends thugs to ket it, no resmorse and get a deduction.

2nd thug,, while in Sarah's home's wine cellar comes behind Sarah when it is obvious she knows something is wrong, and hits her with a tire iron, breaking her wrist, and hitting her head knocking her unconscious. She wakes up 30 minute. later, calls for help Brooke is there first as an older gardener tells her that Sarah is hurt, and is acting guilty.
Rafe leaves a rescue of a helicopter pilot in Kassisbaczan to his grandmother. and he decidely determines he will need Brooke to help him solve this mystery. Their time together is bitter sweet - they both fight memories, they fight current attractions, they try to keep their emotions cold... but fail. When younger, he didn't talk... and she was taken by surprise by his hero / army plan, and left him as she knew she could not live that life again. In college, he returns home after being a prisoner, and finds healing and trust in Brooke's arms, telling her everything. But a week later, mom catches them in bed together, and privately tells him not to destroy her and leave - and he does so, again not talking to Brooke, and gets the psych help he needs, opens his own world wide security firm - hero on his terms. When Brooke is vulnerable after stepping into the decaying body of the gardner dumped in the dumpster - he takes her home, washes her body, and makes love to her when she asks him to help her to forget.

Finally grandma tells them about Joseph's desire for the wine bottle, and Brooke and Rafe work different angles to catch the bad guy. Rafe and Noah set up a trap, catch the garnder that Brooke has been watching, as he steals the bottle that they pretended was the one being hunted, filming him... he tries to use Brooke as a shield, but she fights back & gets free allowing Rafe to snag him. With Brooke safely in the hospital, Rafe debriefs his team who succesfully rescued the pilot finally, returns the next day to find an angry Brooke who thought he left again without talking toher. But before he gets to her (and her plans to move to Norway and start anew), the brains, who manipulated the cameras and bugged thephones, Jenna (who was angry Rafe didn't take up with her now or in high school) and who had gambling debts is going to kill Brooke - but Brooke fights her off, with Rafe bursting in right at the end of the fight.

And Rafe comes back after she has slept, after she has eaten, and brings chocolate cake and strawberries, and seduces her, and agrees to go to Norway with her (he has a office there), and hopes she is pregnatn, and asks her to marry him... ahhhh\

and Eli, in a wine conference in San Francisco, is approached by real Italian mafioso who wants his agreement to court and marry his independent minded, American granddaughter in exchange for biling out his vineyard (i'm not sure why the vineyard is in trouble, but Eli is hiding it from his brothers and is worried). hmmmm

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