Finding Thomas Hall – Author Beth Sorensen Discovers Her Passion in a College Course


Today’s guest post has been contributed by Beth Sorensen, author of “Crush at Thomas Hall” (Chalet, August 2010) and “Divorcing a Dead Man” (Chalet, August 2011). My review of her romantic mystery, “Crush at Thomas Hall” appeared here on Malcolm’s Round Table in September 2010. Sorensen lives in Delaware with her husband and three children.

Finding Thomas Hall

When I sat down to write Crush at Thomas Hall, I already knew I wanted my story to take place in Virginia. I was born and raised there and the eastern coast of the commonwealth as only a native would. Most people, however, would not necessarily associate wineries with this part of the United States. And until I was in my mid-twenties, neither did I. Until I returned to Old Dominion University in the mid-nineties, to finish a degree I had started six years earlier. My interests had changed and so did my major. I enrolled in the geography program and set myself on a track that included taking classes year-round.

As a single mom, I often took a night classes. I was fortunate to have the help of family with my son and I could knock out a three credit class while only being away from home one night a week. In the summer of 1996 I enrolled in the geography of wine. Sounds like an easy class, right? Wrong! It turned out to be two nights a week of six weeks. One night lecture, the other lab. Okay, so the lab was fun, but lecture was no joke. The history of wine, wine in early America, how and what type of grapes are grown, how wine is made, stored, and sold were all topics on the syllabus.

I fell in love with every part of the class and when I went out on our field assignment, this was a 400 level class; I fell in love with wineries as a location. I had the great pleasure of spending several hours at Ingleside Winery with their then wimemaster Tom Payette. The day left me with a true sense of what vineyard and winery life was like. I visited others that summer and discovered that they were all beautiful and romantic with a touch of mystery. And for our final, we had to design our own winery and defend its practicality.

So when it came time to choose which winery to use as a setting for my romantic mystery series I knew exactly where it would take place. A winery of my own design, named after my great-grandmother’s maiden name, Thomas Hall.

Protagonist Cassandra Martin from “Crush at Thomas Hall” returns in “Divorcing at Dead Man,” available in Kindle and trade paperback editions.

Cassandra Martin’s life is bordering on perfection. She has settled down in the Northern Neck of Virginia and has an amazing job running a winery. In addition, she plans to marry the man of her dreams, sexy billionaire Edward Baker.

However, in Cassandra’s world, perfection usually means the earth is about to drop out from under her and this time is no exception. What starts as a series of prank calls, soon reveals her abusive, late husband, Tony Martin, is very much alive and looking for her, three weeks before she plans to remarry. Now she must do the unthinkable as a devout Catholic, divorce Tony. When secrets  alienate her from her fiancé, Cassandra begins to question the advances of a man that wants more than her friendship. And when she wakes up after having been  drugged and kidnapped, Cassandra begins to wonder if she’ll live long enough to decide whether or not she wants to walk down the aisle.

Book Review: ‘Crush at Thomas Hall’

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.”