Hi Tawna! Thanks for joining us on Night Owl Reviews. It's great to have a fellow Oregonian over. I was thrilled to hear of the Oregon connection in your latest story.
Vineyard manager Reese Clark is determined to bring her family’s Oregon winery into the big leagues, and she knows building a new tasting room and event pavilion is her ticket there. Having her ex-husband’s best friend—and her secret college crush—turn up to head the construction project, however, doesn't pair well with her plans. Between her nauseating lovebird parents; her motorcycle-riding, pot-growing grandfather; and her pet alpaca, fond of head-butting groins, Reese has more than enough chaotic characters in her life.
Back in college, Clay Henderson was more likely to be sprawled over a bar than building one. But even if the new clean-living Clay has matured as deliciously as an oak-aged chardonnay, he’s still off-limits. As Reese’s well-laid plans for the winery crumble like bad cork, Clay the newly sober gentleman is sweet enough to rescue Reese from a wardrobe malfunction and still spicy enough to play “I Never” with her. Can he overcome his past rep to offer her a love too heady to ignore?
Let It Breathe is set at a small vineyard in Oregon. How did you research the setting?
I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up in the Willamette Valley, so I’ve always had a special fondness for that region and the wines produced there. But it wasn’t until I started researching the book that I really understood what happens behind the scenes to fill up my Riedel glass. I spent countless hours job shadowing winemakers and tasting room associates. I learned to work the labeling machine at a small winery, and watched a massive bottling operation at a larger one. I hiked through vineyards smelling damp earth and learning how spring onions or oyster shells in the soil can influence the taste of the wine. I stomped grapes with my bare feet and took notes about which weather conditions contributed to the greatness of 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir.
Oh, and I drank a lot of wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Your heroine Reese is responsible, hard-working, and stubborn enough to refuse to give up on her family’s wine business. What motivates her? Do you have anything in common with Reese?
Reese has an extremely close relationship with her family, which is something I certainly have in common with her. Of course, my loved ones don’t all work together at a family-owned vineyard, so Reese’s world is a little different from mine. Her grandparents started the whole operation, and while Grandpa Axl is a little more focused on his bike gang and crops of (ahem) questionable legality, he’s still very much a part of the business. Same with Reese’s over-amorous parents and her cousin, Larissa, who’s more of a sister to Reese. Throw in Reese’s ex-husband, Eric, as the winemaker, and you’ve got a big, messy ball of constant family togetherness. What could possibly go wrong when you add in Eric’s best friend (a recovering alcoholic who also happens to be Reese’s secret college crush)?
Your hero Clay is -- or used to be -- a party boy. How has he changed in the last few years?
Getting sober was a big step for Clay, though it took him a long time to get there. When he shows up at Reese’s family vineyard to build the new event pavilion, it’s the first time he and Reese have seen each other since he hit rock bottom nearly five years ago. He’s determined to atone for all of his past mistakes, but in the process of striving to become a mature, responsible grownup, he’s turned into the sort of guy who’s afraid to crack jokes or be himself. Part of his character arc involves finding the balance between the guy he used to be and the guy he wants to become.
Your couple has quite the complicated history -- Clay happens to be Reese’s ex-husband’s best friend -- YIKES! How does this affect your couple’s present relationship?
Reese and Clay’s whole courtship plays out in front of the most awkward audience imaginable—her biker grandpa, her sexpot cousin, her overly-amorous parents, her ex-husband, and his new wife. Where normal couples might enjoy the fun flirtation of a game of “I never” or a group date, Reese and Clay are attempting it in front of this mob of people who know all their secrets (well, most of them) and who have mixed feelings about whether this relationship is a good idea.
What can you tell us about the scene where Clay and Reese go from friends to something more?
Ha! I actually can’t tell you too much about that without giving away a plot twist or two, so my lips are sealed.
What I can tell you is that there are two key sex scenes that happen within the pages of the book, and that the Clay you see in the first one is a different Clay from the one he becomes by the second one.
You are known for your witty, fun writing. In your opinion, which is the most fun scene in this novel?
I’m known as a romantic comedy writer, so obviously there are a lot of zany scenes in this book, but it’s interesting for me to be lacing those into a story with a lot of intense issues like divorce, addiction, and recovery. I loved the challenge of that!
As for my favorite funny scene, it’s a tossup between the one where Leon the alpaca eats pot and the one where Reese suffers a bra malfunction in a crowded bar (something that really happened to me, which is kinda where the idea came from).
In honor of Reese’s family’s vineyard, which wine do you recommend readers cracking open before they sit down to read your romance?
Mmmm….so many good ones! Any Pinot Noir from Oregon (particularly from the Willamette Valley) would be a good choice. I especially love the ones produced in the Dundee Hills area by vineyards like Sokol Blosser, Ponzi, and Stoller.
But for readers who don’t totally love red wine, I’m also a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand (which is actually where I’ll be on the day this book hits shelves March 22!)
Tawna Fenske is a romantic-comedy author who writes humorous fiction, risqué romance, and heartwarming love stories with quirky twists. Her offbeat brand of romance has been praised by Booklist as “a tame Carl Hiaasen on Cupid juice,” and her debut novel, Making Waves, was a nominee for RT Book Reviews’ contemporary romance of the year. She is a fourth-generation Oregonian who can peel a banana with her toes and loses an average of twenty pairs of eyeglasses per year. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, her stepkids, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets.