When Cassandra Martin attends Crush Weekend at Virginia’s Thomas Hall Winery with her good friends Sarah and Michael, she experiences the multiple meanings of the word “crush” in Beth Sorensen’s soon-to-be-released romantic mystery Crush at Thomas Hall.
In wine making, the crush–often called a grape stomp when it’s done with bare feet–gently splits the skins of the recently harvested grapes allowing the juice to escape. Thomas Hall’s annual Crush Weekend is a festive event in which long-time friends of the powerful Baker family gather to help with the harvest, taste the wine and enjoy each others company.
Cassandra quickly develops a crush on winery CEO and confirmed bachelor Edward Baker. The feeling is mutual. Yet, she has recently buried an abusive and controlling husband, and Edward–for all his gentle intentions–is used to being in charge. His behavior is not only emotionally crushing, but reminds her of the worst moments of her marriage.
A college professor on sabbatical to rediscover her life, Cassandra is a highly intelligent protagonist, eager to soak up not only the ambiance but the art and science of wine making. Yet, in personal matters, she is indecisive, vacillating between losing herself in Edward’s arms and running away to a safe place where she can avoid the danger of emotional commitments.
Complicating her evolving romance is talk of millions of dollars of funds embezzled from the winery, a dead body in the wine cellar, and an attack that sends Cassandra to the hospital. Beth Sorensen has spun a compelling mystery of champagne dreams and family intrigues in Crush at Thomas Hall. Sorensen’s protagonist must decide whether to continue her round-the-world travels or seriously consider whether she should make a commitment to Edward and his winery. No matter that she decides, she’s in jeopardy, for there is every indication that the killer wants her stomped dead and out of the complicated picture.
Crush at Thomas Hall is an exciting, romantic and highly recommended fine-vintage debut novel.
–Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” and “Garden of Heaven.”