ONCE TASTED – Laura Moore
A Silver Creek Novel , Bk. 2
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-53700-3
June 2014
Contemporary Romance

Acacia, in Northern California's Coastal Region

Mia Bodell's father is a mystery, so when her young mother died, she was taken in by her kindly Uncle Thomas and Aunt Ellen. That was a very good thing except for the fly in the ointment. That fly is a nasty stinging insect named Jay, her cousin who lived to make her life miserable...especially when he read her diary to the whole high school. Jay eventually moved away to Los Angelus, and Mia spent many hours watching and helping her uncle in the family grape farm and winery. Now, with a degree in wine making and Aunt Ellen passed on, it's just Mia and Thomas and their devoted staff. But then Thomas springs a surprise: he's fallen in love with a French winemaker and is moving to France to be with her. He's worked a deal with their neighbors, the Knowles family, who run a guest ranch. They have invested in the winery, and their second son, Reid, will help with the business end of Bodell's.

Mia is astounded! Not only will she miss Thomas terribly, but he's leaving her to manage everything—which is okay, as it's what she's been groomed for—but it means she will come face to face with her teen-age idol, Reid Knowles, the main topic of the fantasies recorded in her diary!

Reid Knowles spends days working the ranch, sometimes herding cows, sometimes herding tourists on trail rides, often working with the horses, many of them rescued by his younger sister Quinn, who never met an animal she couldn't love. Though Reid loves women, he doesn't chase them…he has no need to. As a hunky handsome cowboy, women come to him…but he's always careful not to make any promises. Ever since he failed to knock some sense into Jay Bodell in high school, Reid has felt uncomfortable around Mia. He'll just have to man up now and keep everything business like.

For me, opening a Laura Moore book is like re-meeting an old friend. I like her style, her true-to-life, decent characters, and her small town/country settings. If that sounds bland, believe me, there is always plenty to spice up the plot. Ms. Moore passes on information (as with running a guest ranch or winery) with a light touch that fits smoothly into the romance and suspense.

All the characters are real with unique personalities. Readers of the previous ONCE TEMPTED will already know the Knowles family: the parents, Adele and Daniel, and the children: Ward, the eldest and now engaged, and Reid and Quinn. And I can't not mention the horses who populate most (if not all) of Ms. Moore's books. If you're browsing a bookstore, and you come upon a cover with cowboy baring his yummy chest, look for “ONCE TASTED” on the cover as well. You'll be happy you did.

Jane Bowers