From walking among rows and rows of grapevines to exploring the chilly wine cellars to tasting the final product in chic and cozy tasting rooms, the art of wine tasting in wine country is a captivating experience.
This rather romantic setting is the backdrop for Jasmine Guillory’s eighth book Drunk On Love, which drops on September 20. The lawyer-turned-best-selling author introduces us to Margot Noble, a beautiful and brilliant woman in her mid-thirties who has just taken over as CEO of her family’s winery in Napa, California. Working alongside her winemaker brother, Margot finds that, while she’s grateful for her new role, she’s feeling the pressure to ensure that all runs smoothly now that she’s in charge. After one long day working at the winery, she meets a handsome (younger) man, Luke Williams, while out at her favorite wine restaurant in Downtown Napa. Recently departing Silicon Valley, Luke is back in Napa to clear his head and determine his next career move after experiencing burnout from the tech industry.
What starts out as a spontaneous one-night stand evolves into a bit of a sneaky link situation—and that’s because Luke becomes a new hire at the winery. Margot becomes a bit too hung up on their age difference (but we all know that age ain’t nothing but a number), and Luke finds himself trying to cover up his feelings for Margot because he doesn’t want to disappoint his mother. Over time, Margot and Luke discover that there is so much more to their connection than just good food, great wine and, of course, intoxicating sex (though this trio isn’t bad).
Sweet July caught up with Guillory to learn more about her inspiration for Drunk on Love, her evolving writing process and the other cool projects she’s been working on.
As an Oakland native, you’re a hop, skip and a jump from Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Do you frequently visit California wine country, and if so, do you have any favorite wineries or wine styles that you enjoy?
Jasmine Guillory: I love wine, and I go up to Napa all the time. My first six books were all set either in the Bay Area or in the L.A. area, so I wanted to explore a scenery that was a bit different. When I started writing this book, there was a lot that was easy to illustrate because I’ve been to so many different wineries. And while I’ve never worked at a winery, I did speak to people to get more insight on how the tasting room works and what actually happens in the vineyard.
I love visiting Brown Estate, which is a Black-owned winery in Downtown Napa. I can’t pick a favorite type of wine because, for me, it depends on the situation. I’m always down to drink sparkling wine, but sometimes I’m in a rosé, crisp white or a good red wine kind of mood.
Are there any romance authors or authors in general you’re inspired by?
JG: There are so many authors that I think of as inspirations even before I ever started writing. Romance writers like Alisha Rai and Farrah Rochon have books that I’ve easily fallen in love with, and so once I started writing, I wanted people to have that same feeling about my books.
You recently partnered with Disney Books and wrote By the Book, which reimagines Beauty and the Beast and a Disney Princess not only in modern times, but as a Black woman working in publishing. What was that process like, and did you find yourself having to pivot at all from your traditional style of writing romance?
JG: Getting to write a book about a princess who loves reading and was Black was my dream. But it was funny, because when I really sat down to write the book, I rewatched the movie, and I was like, “Oh, he locks her up?” Maybe I’ll do that in a different way. (Laughs.) There was a lot that I wanted to reinterpret and rethink about that story, and it was a creative challenge for me to figure all that out and to come up with who Isabel and Beau would be in a contemporary world.
By the nature of the story, this book had to be kind of a slow-burn romance. In the beginning, they didn’t like each other and had to slowly figure each other out, and then they very slowly fell in love—and that is not the kind of story I’ve told before. So it was really a challenge to figure out how to keep the chemistry between the two of them so that people are rooting for them, but also progress the romance at just the right pace so that it doesn’t get boring. And while their plot keeps advancing the story, you do get to experience them coming together and falling in love.
Are there any genres that you are itching to explore?
JG: I love contemporary romance, and I would love to write it for a long time. But I do think it’ll be fun to try other stuff. Maybe children’s books, maybe literary fiction, I’m not sure. But I think it’ll be fun to take some creative risks and do something that I’ve never done before. I’m not sure yet what that will be, but I’m excited to try.
What do you want readers to walk away with after reading your novels?
JG: There are Black people who do everything and that’s one thing that I think about a lot and love to write about. There are Black people who own wineries, who are stylists, who serve as chiefs of staff for politicians— all of those things. I have so much fun exploring what we can do because I think too many people think that there’s just one lane for Black people to be in. We are everywhere, and that is something I love to write about in my books.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.