A new release from Loretta Hill
The Secret Vineyard
Read a few words from Loretta and read an excerpt
Single mum Grace has no plans – and no spare time – to fall in love again. Until she moves to her ex-husband’s secret vineyard . . .
Grace Middleton knew that her ex-husband Jake was a lying, cheating, wife-abandoning bastard.
What she didn’t know – until his untimely death – was that he was also the owner of a secret vineyard in the heart of the Margaret River Wine Region. And, much to the chagrin of his new wife, he’s left the property to Grace’s three young sons.
With the intention of putting it up for sale, Grace takes the boys to view Gum Leaf Grove. And immediately finds herself both embroiled in mysteries from Jake’s past and the accidental target of the resident ‘ghost’.
Nowadays Grace believes in love even less than she believes in ghosts. So no one is more surprised than her when she finds herself caught between two very different men – with secrets of their own . . .
A word from Loretta
I am really excited about the release of The Secret Vineyard. Unlike my other books, it’s written in first person and I had a lot of fun writing in this deeper, more personal point of view.
My heroine, Grace, is a single mother with three children. Her ex-husband, Jake, aka. the bastard, left her for her best friend four years ago. As fathers go, Jake is pretty useless… until he dies and leaves his children an inheritance. The Secret Vineyard.
When Grace goes off with her boys to inspect this unexpected gift, they get embroiled in the secrets of Jake’s past and a mystery that needs to be solved. As a mum of four children, who constantly keep me on my toes, it’s not very surprising that I’ve chosen motherhood as a central theme in this very heartwarming romantic comedy.
I wanted to show how hard this can be and how desperate it can get at times. The stress, the feelings of futility, the highs, the lows – thinking you’re not going to be able to cope and yet somehow pushing through for the sake of your children. The boys are a big part of this story. Their little personalities were such a pleasure to write. There’s so much joy in motherhood, laughter and rewarding moments. At the same time, children aren’t just cute, they’re naughty, frustrating and sometimes wiser than we give them credit for.
However, The Secret Vineyard isn’t all work and no play. I give Grace two gorgeous guys to choose from. Why? Lol! Because she deserves it! Grace is not the kind of girl who needs rescuing. She’s the one who’s been saving others her whole life. Her independent spirit and jaded view on love made writing her fall so enjoyable.
Excerpt from The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill
‘Okay, okay, this game is officially over,’ I announce as I pull off the road at a public rest stop. This long row of toilet cubicles is sheltered only by a tin roof suspended half a metre above the stalls. Opposite, sporting its own high tin roof, is an open-air trough with as many taps as there are cubicles.
‘Okay, who needs to go?’
Silly question. We’ve been driving for two hours.
We hurry over to the line leading up to the toilet block. It’s lunchtime, so there are quite a few people waiting, including one of the most gorgeous men I’ve seen in a while. Tall, blond, broad shouldered. He’s wearing dark sunnies so I can’t see his eyes, but he’s definitely my type. Well, my type back when I was single, pre-babies and likely to get a second glance. This guy doesn’t even turn around when we join the line. Not that I blame him. If I heard a bunch of rowdy brats and their harried mother coming up behind me, I’d probably keep my head down too.
Reluctantly, I tear my gaze from his chiselled profile and turn to Ryan, who is tugging on my sleeve and dancing from one foot to the other.
‘I don’t think I can hold it. I’m so busting.’
‘I’m sorry, Ryan, you’ll have to try. Won’t be much longer,’ I promise, glancing nervously up the queue.
As the line moves up, Alfie starts spinning on the spot with his arms out, making what I can only infer to be helicopter noises. ‘Clear for take-off.’
I grab his arm to stop him spinning into an old lady who is standing behind us and looking annoyed.
Thank goodness Charlie seems content to just stand there sucking his thumb. He’s wearing a pull-up, so it doesn’t actually matter if he has an accident.
Then a masculine voice cuts through my scattered thoughts. ‘Why don’t you guys go before me?’
I look up in surprise and gratitude to see that the handsome man I’d been eyeing off earlier has reached the front of the line. He’s flipped his sunglasses onto his head and his green eyes twinkle at me. For a second I forget the kids and inhale deeply.
As in perfect.
Like a David Jones catalogue cut-out, with that slightly shy but earnest looking smile.
Somehow I find my voice. ‘Are . . . are you sure?’
‘Yeah. I can, er . . . afford to wait a bit longer.’ He tips his chin. ‘You and the kids go.’
Ryan replies before I do. ‘You’re a legend!’ Clutching his privates, he runs straight into a cubicle that has just been vacated and slams the door behind him. There’s an audible sigh from within.
‘Thanks. I really appreciate it,’ I say, feeling my skin go pink with embarrassment.
Two more doors open and Mr Handsome gestures once again for us to take them.
‘Thanks.’ I send Alfie down to the one at the far end.
‘Wait out here when you’re done,’ I say.
Charlie and I have to go in together. We take the door directly in front of the queue.
The cubicles are quite big. I assist Charlie first, pulling down his shorts and pull-up, which is thankfully dry, and seating him upon the toilet.
He obediently pees and I give him an encouraging thumbs up. ‘Well done.’
He smiles up at me, his cherub face the very picture of pride, and then he hops off and I pull up his shorts. Just as I start congratulating myself on another toileting success story, Charlie starts talking.
He can be a real chatterbox when he wants to be, and as I take my own turn on the toilet he decides to give a running commentary. As in, a blow-by-blow account that echoes off the high tin roof, audible to all the people in the line outside.
‘You going to pull down your pants now, Mummy?’
‘Yes,’ I whisper.
‘You got jocks on, Mummy. Pink jocks. Are those flowers, Mummy? You like flowers on your jocks. Blue flowers, Mummy.’
‘Yes, ssshh,’ I hiss.
‘Mummy, have you got a hole in your jocks?’
He sits down on the filthy floor to look at me thoughtfully, then disagrees.
‘Yes you do.’
‘Charlie, get off the floor. It’s not clean.’ I place my hand over the small hole in my knickers which is just under the waistband and not really that big at all. I told you earlier that I needed to go shopping. It’s just a little more urgent than I implied. So shoot me
‘Mummy, why you not sit on the seat when you wee? Why you stand up like that? You teach me, Mummy?’
‘Yes. Definitely,’ I hiss. ‘Now get off the floor.’
He stands up and starts running his hands across the equally dirty walls, which have smudge marks on them. I cringe.
‘Charlie,’ I squirm, unable to move because I’m mid-flow, ‘don’t touch the walls.’
‘You gotta lot of wee, Mummy. It just keeps coming and coming.’
Tell me about it.
Finally, my body completes its job. I wipe myself and practically yank up my jeans.
‘Well done, Mummy.’ Charlie nods approvingly and then gives me a thumbs up, too. ‘Well done.’
With a face as hot as an overcooked ham, I pull open our cubicle door, praying that Mr Handsome isn’t still out there.
But of course he is.
He let that cranky old lady in line behind us go before him as well and he’s still waiting, right there, outside my cubicle. His eyebrows are up and his lips curled in unmistakable amusement.
Honestly, I want to die.
God, please strike me down now. I’ve lived my life. This world doesn’t need me anymore.
But God lets me live.
The Secret Vineyard
(available in paperback and eBook from your preferred retailer or e-retailer)