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The Merlot Murders

  

Synopsis

Someone wants to buy the 500 acre farm and vineyard located at the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains which has belonged to Lucie Montgomery's family since colonial days. And they are apparently willing to commit murder to get it.

When Lucie's father Leland dies under questionable circumstances, the vineyard passes to his three children. But Lucie, who has been living in France for several years, quickly discovers that her brother and sister can't wait to nail up the "For Sale" sign while she is the lone holdout for reviving the ailing winery.

All too soon it's clear she's the new target of whoever wants her family's land. With a growing list of suspects — including the new cut-rate vintner her father hired shortly before he died — Lucie must act quickly to uncover the identity of a killer who seems disturbingly close to home.

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The Chardonnay Charade

  

Synopsis

Facing a freak late-May frost that threatens to kill the grapes in her vineyard, Lucie Montgomery hires a helicopter to fly over the vines — in total darkness — stirring up the Arctic air on the ground so the fruit will not freeze. But her luck in salvaging the harvest runs out when she discovers the body of Georgia Greenwood, a controversial political candidate, lying near the fields. Georgia’s husband Ross — Lucie’s friend and doctor — immediately falls under suspicion. To make matters worse, Ross, a renowned collector of Civil War documents, has just discovered a letter that seems to prove Confederate President Jefferson Davis had prior knowledge of the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. In the small town of Atoka, Virginia – proud home to Mosby’s Rangers, a legendary Confederate guerrilla company led by Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost” — the news is a bombshell.

Three years ago Ross saved Lucie’s life after she was involved in a near-fatal car crash. Now she intends to return the favor and prove Ross’s innocence. As the search for Georgia’s killer escalates, Lucie crosses swords with her attractive but cantankerous winemaker, Quinn Santori, and confronts her own unwelcome feelings of jealousy over his new romance and job prospects. Her worries about her kid sister’s out-of-control drinking and a second vineyard-related death further ratchet up the tension. Even though Lucie believes in vino veritas — in wine there is truth — the path to uncovering a murderer involves making a heartbreaking decision that will alter the lives of those she loves.

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The Bordeaux Betrayal

 Synopsis

When Valerie Beauvais, author of a book on Thomas Jefferson’s travels through the wine regions of France and Italy, turns up dead near Lucie Montgomery’s Virginia vineyard, Lucie is certain Valerie’s murder has something to do with a 200-year-old bottle of Bordeaux Jefferson may once have purchased for his good friend George Washington. Though Lucie plans to auction off the valuable bottle at a charity auction, others have different plans for what’s becoming a wine to die for. As Lucie and her eccentric winemaker Quinn Santori bring in the last grapes of the season, Quinn’s controversial past becomes intertwined with Valerie’s death and the rare Bordeaux. As Lucie unravels the secrets of a long-forgotten wine scandal involving fraud and betrayal, she discovers a web of deceit affecting not only the international wine world, but her own world as well.

For those interested in the riveting, real-life account of the now-famous “Jefferson bottles” — a cache of wine discovered behind a bricked-up wall in Paris in the 1980s — I recommend The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace. The true story behind the priceless, controversial bottles was the basis for The Bordeaux Betrayal and has been reported on in the press for a number of years. Wallace’s meticulously researched book, which pulls the story together, will keep you up reading past your bedtime.

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The Riesling Retribution

  

Synopsis

When a tornado rips through Montgomery Estate Vineyard, it not only destroys some of Lucie Montgomery's newest grapevines, but also unearths a grave in an abandoned field. The discovery sets tongues wagging in the small town of Atoka, Virginia, especially after Lucie learns the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department believes the odds are good someone in her family is responsible.

But Lucie has more to worry about than family secrets buried with the victim in her vineyard. Her charming new farm manager clashes constantly with Quinn Santori, her winemaker; and accidents, broken equipment, and injuries fuel the combustible atmosphere around the winery. Lucie's complicated feelings for Quinn involved in disturbing activities that could cost him his job.

Meanwhile Lucie has granted permission to a group of Civil War reenactors to use a field near the gravesite to stage the local Battle of Ball's Bluff, though she is unsettled by ghost stories of soldiers who still haunt the real battlefield and its cemetery of unknown soldiers. As the day for the reenactment draws near, the ghosts of her own family's past converge for an outcome she could never have anticipated.

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The Viognier Vendetta

  

Synopsis

When Lucie Montgomery visits Washington, D.C. during cherry blossom season she doesn't expect that her reunion with old friend Rebecca Natale is a setup. But Rebecca disappears into thin air after running an errand for her boss, billionaire philanthropist and investment guru Sir Thomas Asher. Also missing: an antique silver wine cooler looted by British soldiers before they burned the White House during the War of 1812.

The next morning Lucie identifies Rebecca's neatly folded clothes found in a rowboat floating in the Potomac River. Is it suicide, murder, or an elaborate scheme to disappear? A clandestine meeting in the U.S. Capitol, a startling revelation on a windy hill, and cryptic messages from Rebecca cloaked in eighteenth-century poetry are all part of the tantalizing mystery of whether Rebecca is alive or dead.

(Note: The Vintage Vendetta was originally published by Scribner under the title The Viognier Vendetta)

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The Sauvignon Secret

  

Synopsis

When Lucie Montgomery finds the body of prominent wine merchant Paul Noble hanging from a beam in his art studio not far from her Virginia vineyard, she is unwittingly dragged into Noble's murky past. Once a member of the secretive "Mandrake Society," Noble might have aided in a cover-up of the deaths forty-years ago of a disabled man and a beautiful young biochemist involved in classified government research.

A seemingly innocent favor for an old friend of her French grandfather's sends Lucie to California where she teams up with Quinn Santori, who walked out of Lucie's life months earlier. Soon Lucie and Quinn are embroiled in a deadly cat-and-mouse game that takes them from glittering San Francisco to the legendary vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, and back home to Virginia, as they try to discover whether a killer may be seeking vengeance for the long-ago deaths. As Lucie and Quinn struggle to uncover the mystery, they must also decide whether they have a future together, both professionally and romantically.

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The Champagne Conspiracy

  

Synopsis

Winter has come to the Montgomery Estate Vineyard in Atoka, Virginia. Lucie Montgomery and winemaker Quinn Santori have decided to make champagne, a first for the vineyard.

But then Gino Tomassi, Quinn’s uncle, turns up on their doorstep one afternoon, demanding help in solving the mystery of what happened to Zara Tomassi, the first wife of his grandfather, who died in a San Francisco hotel in 1923 under suspicious circumstances. And it seems there’s no coincidence that her death came the day after President Warren Harding passed away in that same hotel. Gino needs answers before his blackmailer takes him for all he’s worth―or exposes an explosive family secret.

Lucie searches for what happened almost a hundred years ago as she delves into Prohibition-era Washington, D.C.―a town of bootlegging and duplicity, jazz clubs and speakeasies. But then the investigation turns deadly, threatening Lucie, her relationship with Quinn, and the vineyard, as they realize someone is still out there nearly a century later who will go to any lengths to keep the truth about Zara’s death a buried secret.

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The Vineyard Victims

  

Synopsis

When Jamison Vaughn—billionaire real estate mogul, Virginia vineyard owner, and unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate—drives his gold SUV into a stone pillar at the entrance to Montgomery Estate Vineyard, Lucie Montgomery is certain the crash was deliberate. But everyone else in Atoka, Virginia is equally sure that Jamie must have lost control of his car on a rain-slicked country road. In spite of being saddled with massive campaign debts from the recent election, Jamie is seemingly the man with the perfect life. What possible reason could he have for committing suicide . . . or was it murder?

Before long Lucie uncovers a connection between Jamie and some of his old friends—an elite group of academics—and the brutal murder thirty years ago of a brilliant PhD student. Although a handyman is on death row for the crime, Lucie soon suspects someone else is guilty. But the investigation into the two deaths throws Lucie a curve ball when someone from her own past becomes involved, forcing her to confront old demons. Now the race to solve the mystery behind the two deaths becomes intensely personal as Lucie realizes someone wants her silenced . . . for good.

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Harvest of Secrets

  

Synopsis

It’s harvest season at Montgomery Estate Vineyard―the busiest time of year for winemakers in Atoka, Virginia. A skull is unearthed near Lucie Montgomery’s family cemetery, and the discovery of the bones coincides with the arrival of handsome, wealthy aristocrat Jean-Claude de Merignac. He’s come to be the head winemaker at neighboring La Vigne Cellars, but he’s no stranger to Lucie―he was her first crush twenty years ago when she spent a summer in France.

Not long after his arrival, Jean-Claude is found dead, and while there is no shortage of suspects who are angry or jealous of his ego and overbearing ways, suspicion falls on Miguel Otero, an immigrant worker at La Vigne, who recently quarreled with Jean-Claude. When Miguel disappears, Lucie receives an ultimatum from her own employees: prove Miguel’s innocence or none of the immigrant community will work for her during the harvest. As Lucie hunts for Jean-Claude’s killer and continues to search for the identity of the skeleton abandoned in the cemetery, she is blindsided by a decades-old secret that shatters everything she thought she knew about her family. Now facing a wrenching emotional choice, Lucie must decide whether it’s finally time to tell the truth and hurt those she loves the most, or keep silent and let past secrets remain dead and buried.

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The Angels’ Share

  

Synopsis

When Lucie Montgomery attends a Thanksgiving weekend party for friends and neighbors at Hawthorne Castle, an honest-to-goodness castle owned by the Avery family, America’s last great newspaper dynasty and owners of the Washington Tribune, she doesn’t expect the festive occasion to end in death.

During the party, Prescott Avery, the 95-year old family patriarch, invites Lucie to his fabulous wine cellar where he offers to pay any price for a cache of 200-year-old Madeira that her great-great-uncle, a Prohibition bootlegger, discovered hidden in the US Capitol in the 1920s. Lucie knows nothing about the valuable wine, believing her late father, a notorious gambler and spendthrift, probably sold or drank it. By the end of the party Lucie and her fiancé, winemaker Quinn Santori, discover Prescott’s body lying in his wine cellar. Is one of the guests a murderer?

As Lucie searches for the lost Madeira, which she believes links Prescott’s death to a cryptic letter her father owned, she learns about Prescott’s affiliation with the Freemasons. More investigating hints at a mysterious vault supposedly containing documents hidden by the Founding Fathers and a possible tie to William Shakespeare. If Lucie finds the long-lost documents, the explosive revelations could change history. But will she uncover a three hundred-year-old secret before a determined killer finds her?

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