Handpicking with Cheryl Adnams among the vines of South Australia

I'm squealing with excitement over the prospect of reading the final instalment in Aussie author Cheryl Adnams's trilogy set in the South Australian wine region, so of course grabbed the chance to chat with her about Handpicked, which launches today! Welcome back to Get Lost in a Story, Cheryl!

About Cheryl

Cheryl Adnams lives in Adelaide, South Australia. After discovering a love of writing in high school, she went on to complete courses in screenplay writing and a Diploma of Freelance Travel Writing and Photography.

Having travelled extensively, Cheryl lived and worked in the United States, Canada and then for a tour company in Switzerland and Austria. Back home in South Australia now, she has a deep love and pride for the Fleurieu Peninsula and Adelaide Hills regions – particularly the beauty of the beaches and wine region of McLaren Vale.

Cheryl has published three novels, a novella and a short story with Penguin Random House Australia. When she’s not writing, Cheryl is avidly reading as many books as she can fit in around her busy full-time job as a training facilitator.

Connect with Cheryl via her website, Facebook and Twitter

He who falls last, falls twice as hardHas the last bachelor of Muller’s Field  finally met his match?

Andrew Muller has always enjoyed the single life. But now that his older brothers have found the loves of their lives, he’s beginning to see that being a one-woman man might have some benefits after all. But has he missed his chance?

Taryn McArthur loves her independent life of travel and working on the harvest trail. Some of her most treasured memories are the years spent at Muller’s Field vineyard with her father. At eleven years of age, her young heart fluttered when Andrew stole her first kiss from her. On her return to Muller’s Field to help with handpicking the grapes, she is thrilled to discover that Andrew has grown into a very attractive man. 

Andrew is immediately entranced by her beauty and adventurous nature and while she is receptive to his advances, they both know that their romance can only be 
                                                                      a short-term thing. 

When Taryn’s secret life catches up with her Andrew must make a decision that will alter his easy-going life forever. 

The smallest things in life can often make the biggest difference.
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Andrew could feel the warmth from Taryn’s body even without touching her. His senses were in overdrive and he kept his gaze out across the vines so as not to do something stupid like try and kiss her again. She wasn’t like anyone he’d ever met before and he was unsure how to tread. He wanted her. He knew that. She was gorgeous and vivacious and that independent streak kept him on his toes just enough to make things interesting.

Taryn had kissed him in the pool after wine tasting and again last night in her drunken state. He’d kissed her early that morning after their argument. Not that he was keeping score. He’d just feel better when he had a bit more control over what was happening between them.

‘I should go,’ she said suddenly.

He sat up quickly. ‘Why?’

‘I . . . it’s late,’ she said. ‘I need a shower. God, I must stink after working all day in the fields.’

‘You smell great to me,’ he said grinning.

But the grin disappeared when she moved in and attached her lips to his. She kissed him slowly, lightly, nothing like the rough kiss he’d laid on her that morning. Her fingers feathered along his jaw, sending wonderful tingles of electricity across his skin.

A little sigh escaped her mouth as she changed the angle of the kiss. And he was lost.

‘Taryn,’ he murmured against her mouth.


‘You make my head spin.’

She opened her eyes and sat back, her chest rising and falling beneath the thin white tank top she’d worn picking all day as she tried to catch her breath.

‘I mean literally spin,’ he added. ‘I can’t work you out.’

‘Andrew, I’m going to be honest with you,’ she started seriously. ‘I’m attracted to you.’

He smiled.

She didn’t. ‘And that confuses me a little since you’re the boy who dared me to eat caterpillars and pulled my pigtails on a daily basis.’

‘Don’t you know?’ he asked, his deep voice quiet.

‘Know what?’

‘That’s how boys show girls that we like them.’ He reached out and tugged lightly at a strand of her hair, before curling it around his finger.

Her lips twitched a little and he watched as she looked down at his big hand playing with her hair. 

‘I’m attracted to you,’ she said again. ‘But I’m here for a good time, not a long time. Do you understand me?’

He didn’t answer, just kept staring into her eyes.

‘I’m here for the harvest and then I’ll be gone, back to Queensland, and I have no choice in that.’

‘You always have a choice.’

‘In this, I don’t.’

She looked away for a moment out towards the setting sun. He wondered briefly what was so important back in Queensland. Not a man. They’d already established that. But his thoughts were interrupted when she spoke again.

‘I’m attracted to you and I think you’re attracted to me,’ she said turning her face back to his again. ‘But this can’t be anything more than a fling.’

Again he said nothing, just stared into those green sparkling eyes. He was enjoying her candour. It took guts for a woman to put her wants out there and he admired her for it. He knew a lot of men wouldn’t be so open-minded.

She stood up. ‘This was fun. I’d better go.’

He could have insisted she stay longer, but he knew he’d lost her. For now.

‘See you tomorrow then.’

She nodded and turned to walk away. She was about to step over the low wall when he called out.


She turned back expectantly.

‘You’re here for the harvest,’ he said. ‘Two months at best.’

She nodded.

‘I dare you not to fall in love with me.’

She just shook her head and laughed. ‘You’d have more chance of getting me to eat caterpillars.’

He just chuckled, unperturbed.

‘Bye,’ she said. ‘And thanks for dinner. I enjoyed being here.’

He waved and watched her until she was out of view before he fell onto his back on the rug. He groaned, staring up as the stars began to blink into existence. They winked at him like they knew something he didn’t. Well, they probably did. Maybe they knew what made Taryn McArthur tick, because buggered if he knew.

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Let's talk... 
Avril: Can you give us a rundown of the series as a whole and where Handpicked fits? 
Cheryl: The Mullers of McLaren Vale series began with Bet On It. I didn’t write the first book consciously thinking there would be any follow-ups, but those Muller brothers just got into my blood and demanded their own stories. Bet On It follows the story of Seth and his love interest Gabby who arrives at Muller’s Field vineyard to manage the Bed and Breakfast on the property. It begins with all three brothers vying for her attentions, but while Brian and Andrew are only half-heartedly in the competition, Seth actually falls for her. His is a long road to redemption, believe me, and Gabby is hard won. 

Chasing the Flames is eldest brother Brian’s story, and this is a second chance at love trope. Still hurting from his divorce, Brian shares a New Year's Eve kiss with his high school fling and local café owner, Trisha. This is my favourite of the three books and includes ex-wives, pesky reporters and a catastrophic bushfire – all three of which threaten Brian’s newly found relationship with Trisha.

Handpicked is the final story and it has taken me a long time to finish it. Throughout the previous stories I depicted Andrew as somewhat of an immature playboy. It was most definitely a challenge to figure out how I was going to make him grow up and become a decent man. Childhood friend, Taryn McArthur returns to Muller’s Field to help with handpicking the grapes for the harvest. She is strong and independent and teases the life out of Andrew, which sets up a few really funny scenes. She has the upper hand for a good portion of their courtship. But just when he finally begins to think he has her all figured out, her little secret is revealed and that throws him into one hell of a spin. I can’t give too much away but I love the tease in the final tagline I used: ‘The smallest things in life can often make the biggest difference.

It’s been a three year love affair with the Muller boys and in this final story there are a few shocks, especially for those who have followed the Mullers all the way through and think of them as family, as I do. 
Silver Sands
Avril: Tell us the attraction of the South Australian wine area as a setting.
Cheryl: Oh, where do I begin? I have lived in South Australia for most of my life and the last 10 years or so I’ve lived less than an hour from this gorgeously stunning part of the world. There are hundreds of cellar doors to choose from in McLaren Vale and the green vineyards nestle in between stark, wheat coloured hills and the stunning turquoise blue of the Gulf St Vincent. It is paradise. The beaches are pristine and still quiet enough most days that you can have a long stretch of sand to yourself. I’m in love with this place and I wanted to share some of that beauty with the world through my stories.
McLaren Vale
Avril: If you had to describe your writing style, what would you say?
I don’t know how to describe my style really. I guess I like to think I have an easy flowing, fast moving style of writing with snappy dialogue. Even the historical romances I am now writing tend to have a more contemporary voice. I enjoy writing comedy and witty banter the likes of Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story, where characters play off each other.

Avril: Alpha or beta heroes for you?
I quite like both. I like to mix them up a bit. In the Muller’s Field books, Seth and Andrew are definitely alpha, while older brother Brian is beta. I admit I usually write more alpha heroes but just now I am writing a geeky, clumsy scientist guy. He’s a volcanologist and the story is based on the Amalfi Coast and in Sicily. But Fletch is endearing and gorgeous to look at so he gets away with the clumsiness. And of course he will be a god in bed so any nerdiness will be forgiven by readers.

Avril: What are your favourite romance tropes and why?
I admit I don’t really think about tropes. It’s not as if I think, “Hm, I might write a sexy billionaire story” (which I have) or maybe a secret romance. I just think of a situation and I guess it falls into a trope. I definitely try to have a strong heroine. Strong women can still have vulnerabilities, and the perfect example of that is in my book Common Ground. Rachel is wounded and struggling emotionally with PTSD, but she is one of the strongest characters I have ever written. I think it’s fascinating that we insist on putting labels on everything, but I guess it helps with the marketing.

Avril: I know you’re thinking about branching out into historical romance – what’s the attraction there?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I saw something on TV about the battle at the Eureka Stockade in the 1850s in Australia. It was a defining time in our fight for independence and democracy and I realised it was something that hadn’t been written about much in recent years, particularly in fiction. As I began to research the event to see what kind of story might be interesting, I discovered Claire Wright’s Stella Award winning The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. It is a fantastic non-fiction book that delves into the role that women had in Ballarat during that time of rebellion against the British government rule. I devoured all the fantastic stories and accounts Claire had uncovered and discovered that many women were also gold miners at the time. They held down jobs and were a key part of the resistance that led to the final battle at the Eureka Stockade. And from these stories, my main character Indy was born. Writing historical novels gives you the opportunity to research a time in history that you perhaps knew nothing about, and then allows you to impart some of that to readers through a fictional retelling. 

A question from Cheryl:
Are there any locations you, as a reader, prefer stories to be set?  Wine regions, 
exotic locations overseas, cities v. country locales?