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  • The True Purpose of Vines - Giovanna Siniscalchi - Historical romance set in Portugal, 1870. An Englishman reluctantly travels to the Douro Valley, where he falls in love with a Portuguese winemaker. When Phylloxera strikes the vineyards, he must choose between his lifelong goals or helping the unruly woman save her lands.

    Griffin watched the road for the monstrosity that would take them to Braganza. The posting inn's courtyard brimmed with passengers -- a young couple clutching a mucky toddler, two youths not older than eighteen, an old lady with a straw hat the size of a wheel of cheese, some farmers and their produce.  

    Julia kissed his cheek. "Are you sure about this?"

    Griffin squeezed her hand. "This is the fastest way."

    The sounds came first -- shouting, groaning, laughter, and the rumble of hooves. He shut his eyes -- the diligence neared.

    "You can change your mind. You don't have to do this on my behalf." She bit her bottom lip, swollen from his kisses. "We can walk the rest of the way."

    He would ride the bloody Portuguese mail coach. For her. "You are tired." His resolve faltered when the mass of wood and hooves poked their line of vision with the delicacy of a blind ox in a crystal shop. When it stopped at the post, Griffin groaned. The diligence resembled the unsuccessful mating of a stage coat, a crate, and an omnibus. Three rows of disgruntled animals chomped their bits, stomping their feet on the dusty ground. The lead horse, his front leg raised in the air, could as well be a shaggy Irish Setter preparing for the hunt.

    "All aboard!" The coachman howled.

    As Griffin helped Julia climb to the outside bench, his ears burned as if his peers back at the English Factory were watching, shaking their heads, their mouths grim lines of disapproval. He helped Julia to the bench behind the driver's box and dropped on her side, shuffling to the left, so he didn't touch the cheese-hat woman. 

    The coachman's whip flew precariously close to their heads, and they took off. Thankfully, the movement diffused the smell of sweat and poultry. 

    Julia gifted him with a brilliant smile. Griffin sighed, bringing her closer to his chest. Perhaps the diligence wasn't altogether bad.

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