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An Exquisite Challenge (The Delicious De Campos) Mass Market Paperback – January 21, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Delicious De Campos Series

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Editorial Reviews


"Hayward's latest romance is an emotionally charged drama-thon. Her bad-girl heroine and uber-macho distrustful hero battle inner demons as their desire ignites the pages in and out of the bedroom. With iconic Napa wine country as the backdrop this love story is a win-win." Romantic Times Magazine 4.5/5 star review.

From the Author

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

If life was a glass of Cabernet, Alexandra Anderson wanted to live right in the lusty, full-bodied centre of it. The thrill of the chase was paramount--the stickier the challenge the better. If she wasn't sure she could do it--that's where she wanted to be. That's when she got even better.
That's where she thrived.

As for the intricacies of that particular varietal versus California Zinfandel and Merlot? For a girl who'd grown up in the backwaters of Iowa tossing back beers with the undesirable crowd, it wasn't something that kept her up at night. Who gave a toss as long as it tasted good and did something to alleviate the interminable boredom of yet another cocktail party that was all work and no play?

Certainly not the sentiment of the man who'd just strode into Napa Valley's annual industry fundraiser for the homeless, a massive scowl on his face. Those grapes that made bubbly go fizz for her were an obsession for Gabriele De Campo, the visionary behind De Campo Group's world-renowned wines. His raison d'être.

She stood watching him from her perch on the balcony overlooking the mezzanine of the Pacific Heights hotspot, Charo, where the event was being held, with only one goal in mind. To indulge in one of those adrenalin-seeking ventures she so loved. To convince Gabriele De Campo to let her PR firm handle the two massive upcoming launch events for De Campo's most important wine in a decade. It was her chance to finally win a piece of the internationally renowned winemaker's communications portfolio she craved and she didn't intend to fail.

She took a sip of the wine she'd been nursing for an hour-and-a-half while she'd schmoozed every key player in the California wine industry, did every piece of reconnaissance she could to learn who was who, what made these people tick and what would make a knock out launch for De Campo. And watched the most interesting of them all, the irreproachable Gabe De Campo, make the rounds, a dark, forbidding look on his face.

A warning shiver snaked up her spine. Was she crazy to even be attempting this?

It had all happened in a rather mind-numbingly quick fashion. She'd been sleeping off one too many martinis from her girl's night out in Manhattan when she'd been woken at six a.m. this morning with a panicked phone call from Katya Jones, the head of De Campo's marketing department. An old colleague of hers, cool-as-a-cucumber Katya had sounded unusually flustered. Gabriele De Campo had just fired the PR agency handling his Devil's Peak launch for its 'atroce' ideas three-and-a-half weeks before simultaneous kick-off events in Napa and New York. 'I need you,' Katya had groaned. 'And I need you now.'

Alex might not have been so inclined to drag her sorry butt out of bed for a chance to work for her sister's brother-in-law, ever-so-perfect Gabriele who made her mental, if she hadn't just lost her three-million-dollar-a-year diamond client this week in a hostile takeover. It had been a huge blow for Alex's fledgling PR firm that had just taken over a ritzy new space on Fifth Avenue. If she didn't find another big client soon, she'd be closing her doors before she even got started. So she'd shaken off her fuzz, cancelled her appointments and jumped on a plane bound for San Francisco in time to make this party.

There was only one problem with the whole scenario. Katya didn't know her relationship to Gabe. Didn't know he had a strict no-working-with-family policy he'd never bent from no matter how much she'd tried to convince him to give her De Campo's business.

Didn't know her and Gabe were like oil and water. Always. When Gabe said white, she said black. It was just the way it was.

Which had no bearing on the here and now, she told herself, tucking a wayward strand of her long, dark hair back into her chignon, squaring her shoulders and starting for the winding staircase that led down to the mezzanine. Her combative relationship with Gabe was inconsequential when a two-million-dollar contract was on the line. When her future was on the line.

She curved her hand around the mahogany bannister and took a deep, steadying breath. Her steps down the staircase were slow and deliberate, designed not to attract attention. Gabe was in the middle of the crowd speaking to the head of the local Grape Pickers Union, his attention immersed in his subject as it was always--a single-minded focus his trademark. But as she continued her descent, that familiar awareness flickered across the air between them; charged, electric. Gabe's head came up. His gaze froze as it rested on her. His eyes widened.
As if he were surprised to see her.

Oh lord. Katya had told him she'd hired her. Hadn't she?

She started to get the awful feeling that no, somehow her old colleague had not passed along that crucial piece of information as she descended the second flight of stairs, her heart thumping in tandem with each step. Gabe's thick, dark brow arched high, his gaze not leaving her face.

Surprise. Definitely surprise.

This was so, so, not good.

Or maybe, she countered desperately, as he broke off his conversation and strode over to stand at the base of the stairs to wait for her, it was actually a very good thing. Having the element of surprise over control-freak Gabe could work in her favour. Allow her to slide in some sound reasoning before he brought the gavel down.

Her knees, as she descended the last flight and took him in, felt a little too weak for a woman facing a man who was essentially family. Which might have been due to the superbly tailored dark suit that fit Gabe's tall, muscular body like a glove. Or his black-as-night hair worn overly long with perfectly cut sideburns. On any other man, she abhorred facial hair. On Gabe, it was devastating.

Some women pointed out the sexy indentation in the middle of his chin as 'outrageously hot'. She preferred the drown-yourself-in-them forest-green eyes. His formidable self-control she was fairly certain would come crumbling down for the right woman...

She pulled in a breath as she negotiated the last step and stopped in front of him. Utterly to die for. Utterly off limits. Get a hold of yourself, Lex.

His mouth curved. 'Alexandra.'

The rich, velvet texture of his voice stormed her senses, sending goose bumps to every inch of her skin. His use of her full name was formal, his gaze as it rested on her face, probing. 'I had no idea you were on the west coast.'

Dammit Katya. He really had no idea. She swallowed past the sudden dryness in her throat and tipped her head back to look up at him. 'Your internal radar didn't signal I was close?'

His mouth quirked. 'Something must have been scrambling the signal.'

She braced herself against the smoky, earthy scent of him as he bent to brush his lips across each of her cheeks, but his husky, 'ciao,' decimated her composure anyway.

'What are you doing here?' he murmured, drawing back, his gaze lingering on her face. 'I can't imagine anything less your style than an industry party like this.'

Hell. She lifted her chin. 'You haven't spoken to Katya yet today, have you?'

'Katya Jones?'

'Yes, she was going to call you. She--I--' Alex planted her gaze on his and held on. 'She hired me, Gabe. To do the events.'

His eyes widened, then darkened to a deep forest green. 'That isn't possible. I approve those decisions.'

'I'm afraid it is,' she said calmly.'Have you checked messages? She must have left you one.'

He scraped his hair out of his face with a tanned, elegant-fingered hand and scowled. 'I haven't had two seconds to think today, let alone check email.'

And there you had it. She plastered a breezy, confident smile on her face. 'You have coast-to-coast launches in three-and-a-half weeks, Gabe. Katya knows I'm the only one who can pull them off at this point so she called me in to help.' She waved a hand at him. 'I'm here to save you.'

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Product Details

  • Series: The Delicious De Campos (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373132220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373132225
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.5 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,414,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Award-winning author JENNIFER HAYWARD has been a fan of romance since filching her sister's novels to escape her teenaged angst.

Jennifer emerged on the publishing scene when she won Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write global writing competition in 2012. She is the Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Best Harlequin Presents of 2014 winner for her book, The Magnate's Manifesto.

Jennifer's career in journalism and PR, including years of working alongside powerful, charismatic CEOs and traveling the world, has provided perfect fodder for the fast-paced, sexy stories she likes to write, always with a touch of humour.

A native of Canada's gorgeous East coast, Jennifer lives in Toronto with her Viking husband and young Viking-in-training.

Jennifer loves to hear from readers. You can contact her or sign up for her quarterly newsletter here: http://www.jenniferhaywardromance.com/contact/

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having enjoyed the first book in this series, The Divorce Party, I was keen to see what would happen with Alex and Gabe. We met them as sparring partners in that book but now they are getting up close and personal at Gabe's De Campo winery in the Napa Valley, right across the country from New York.

Alex is an event specialist and when Gabe fires his current events company three weeks before a major launch, Alex is ready to take on the challenge. Still growing her company, she doesn't have a lot of choice, even though she knows she and Gabe are dangerous together.

Thrown together for the launch, they start to learn a whole lot more about each other that make it harder and harder for them to resist the powerful attraction between them. Will Alex take Gabe off on his one night offer to get the attraction out of their system?

These two are good together in so many ways, business and personal. But both have issues with past relationships, and in Alex's case some serious teen angst so acting on their attraction is dangerous for both of them.

This was a great story with two very interesting protagonists. The ending was lovely and Gabe is just adorable.

There was however an issue that sort of spoiled things for me. <spoiler>...Alex had a six month affair with a married man five years ago. She thought he was divorced but he lied. While she was the victim, having the heroine in that kind of relationship gives me icky feelings so I wasn't able to relax and enjoy the story as much as I could have. This seems to be an increasingly fashionable trope to explain trust issues with modern heroines. I can count six similar ones I've read in the last twelve months off hand. None of them made me comfortable with that trope. </spoiler>
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Format: Kindle Edition
Alexandra Anderson has just lost a multi-million dollar contract in a hostile takeover when she’s told Gabe De Campo, needs a new PR company to launch his new wine in only three weeks’ time. Alex knows she’s the only one in the industry he can call to pull off a launch of this size in such a short amount of time, and she needs the business for her fledgling company. Convincing Gabe that they can help each other is the easy part; working with the controlling wine magnate is the difficult part, particularly when they generate enough sexual tension to power New York City and Naples, California.

Gabe De Campo has been fighting with Alex for year years. He knows their combustible relationship is based more on mutual attraction than mutual angst, and that the long hours spent working together are going to bring that attraction to its inevitable conclusion. Alex may be determined to fight the attraction, but he isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

When a rival wine magnate tries to steal Gabe’s thunder and a piece of desperately needed market share, and Alex’s ex turns up to complicate things, what seems inevitable suddenly seems much more complicated. Can Alex and Gabe pull of the launch event of their careers and find the love of their lives at the same time?

An Exquisite Challenge is the second book by Jennifer Hayward focused on the De Campo brothers, and this book delivers just as much passion and angst as The Divorce Party. Alexandra Anderson is a headstrong woman who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps. She’s experienced some hard knocks and been taught some tough lessons along the way. She isn’t the type to be knuckled under by anyone. That’s what makes her such a strong match for Gabriele De Campo.
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All of us have a fighting spirit within us, not all of us unleash it on a daily basis and sometimes it takes a serious push to get it out into the open and on a mission to win.

But when unleashed it can sometimes have such serious consequences that we wish we never stepped up to the plate in the first place, basically "You should have kept your big mouth shut". As is the case for the heroine, Alexandra in the new Jennifer Hayward read.

Alexandra 's business is in a hot spot and needs a new big time company linked to their client list in order to step out of the fire pit.

The client comes in the form of too hot to handle Gabe De Campo, not only does his good looks make her knees go weak but he is also the one man that has manged to bring her temper to the bubbling point of no return on numerous occasions.

But Alexandra never misses a challenge and she goes all out to secure the client of the year, only when she gets to deal with Gabe up close and personal does she realize this man is the one and only that can strip her bare of all her defenses and with this realization comes the knowledge that her past is either about to set her free or ruin them both.

The character of Alexandra was too amazing for words, I really admired her from the first introduction. She was strong and courageous ready to face whatever comes her way, all the while knowing it could all be ruined in a heartbeat. Yet, she pushes forward with a open minded attitude whilst still fighting off the demons of the past.
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