Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first.
Joanna Davidson Politano’s sophomore effort is even better than her first. A Rumored Fortune exhibits an utterly romantic writing style and a clear love of language. The mystery of the missing Harlowe fortune kept me intrigued. But it is the characters which really stole my heart.
Tressa is an endearing heroine. With the soul of an artist and a heart as big and deep as the ocean, I found myself aching for her as she finds everything she loves stripped from her. But she doesn’t let these challenges make her hard or keep her from caring for others in need. Yet at the same time, she is fallible as her judgments about the estate’s new vineyard manager, Donegan Vance prove.
“She certainly chooses the hardest people to attach herself to.”
“It’s not because they are so great, Mr. Vance, but because she is. An uncommon love makes her uncommonly beautiful.”
Speaking of Donegan, he is certainly a swoon-worthy hero. The man knows how to use his words like a poet, especially when he’s speaking to Tressa. Like Tressa, he quietly serves those in need around him. He also can’t help falling for his heiress boss when she keeps surprising him with her kindness, understanding and compassion. I love that the author gives us some chapters from Donegan’s point of view, because it gives us some insight and perspective on both him and Tressa. Yet at the same time, he still retains an air of mystery about him.
“Then I must say, you are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.” His words gushed in a barely controlled whisper. “Full of color and life and passion that spills out of you and lights up the gray walls and people around you. Don a dark gown and it only accentuates the color inside you, like the sky is a backdrop for the stars.”
I also appreciate that though they have some things in common, their differences lead to some interesting discussions. Considering Donegan’s more humble background, he is surprisingly less aware of small blessings than Tressa. Even though she has been raised with wealth, she is better able to appreciate the things money can’t buy than he is. Also, their debate about being honest or being kind and tempering the truth with love is one that really challenged me.
Politano utilizes the management of the vineyard to weave in a message of truth and grace for both the reader and the book’s characters. There is so much about the life and health of the vine that can also be applied to real life and which left me with much to contemplate.
A Rumored Fortune is an expert blend of gothic-lite mystery, romance and wisdom in the form of story. It’s one of those rare sophomore releases which manages to grow beyond the praise of its’ freshman sister. This is one which will be going on my best of lists for this year.
A Rumored Fortune is currently on sale for Kindle readers.