BY: GEZA TATRALLYAY
Morgan Kenworthy—a Berkeley student studying abroad and a guest of the de Carduzacs, family friends who have a chateau in St. Émilion in France—uncovers a coup against the government of France. Soon after she arrives, a bombing at the Brassault Aviation plant kills several ministers. The investigation, led by General Tolbert, the head of French intelligence and friend of Joseph de Carduzac, points to jihadists. However, clues Morgan unearths about Joseph’s past suggest that the two blew up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 and committed other nefarious acts while serving President Mitterand. After another explosion, killing most of the cabinet, Tolbert announces that he is in charge. As General Tolbert suspects she knows about the plots, Morgan’s life and the life of her lover, Alex, Joseph’s stepson, are in danger. Morgan tries to leave Europe for the US but is thwarted, and Alex is captured by the general’s thugs. Now the two must rely on their wits, and their friends, for survival until they can convince the French Government who the real criminals are…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Rainbow Vintner by Geza Tatrallyay, Morgan Kenworthy is visiting friends in France while studying as an exchange student. While at her friends’ chateau, Morgan overhears a strange conversation regarding a bombing that has just taken place in France. As other clues emerge, she begins to suspect that her friends’ stepfather and his general friend are responsible for the bombing that is being blamed on Jihadists. But when they find out she knows, her own life is in danger and even her friends in the American CIA cannot help her escape their clutches.
Like Tatrallyay’s other books, this one is a page turner that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat all the way through. Thriller fans will love it.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Rainbow Vintner by Geza Tatrallyay is the story of a young American college exchange student in France. Morgan Kenworthy is visiting her friend Claire at the family chateau just after a bombing has rocked Paris. While at the chateau, Morgan overhears Claire’s stepfather talking about the bombing and begins to suspect that he had something to do with it and that it was not the Jihadists as the government is claiming. Morgan confides in her lover, Alex, who is Claire’s brother, and he tries to get Morgan to safety. But his life is also threatened, and the two of them have to use all the resources at their command to stay one step ahead of the thugs.
Combing mystery, suspense, espionage, and a hint of romance, Rainbow Vintner will keep you enthralled from the very first page. I couldn’t put it down.
Morgan sighed contentedly as she looked along the sweeping curve of the Garonne, the serene, crescent moon shaped embankment that had earned Bordeaux the moniker of the Port de la Lune. The vista was magnificent: the Pont de Pierre gracefully traversing the murky river and the spire of St. Michel slicing the clear blue sky in the distance. It all reminded her of Canaletto’s London views of the Thames and Westminster Bridge.
The decision to spend her Berkeley junior year here, at L’Université de Bordeaux, had been a good one, even though it had cost her the relationship with Michael, her boyfriend of two years. Fabulous to be free and in France though, she thought, as she turned to smile at Claire, who was just finishing a conversation on her cell phone. The two girls were lounging in the comfortable armchairs at La Voile Blanche Restaurant on the Quai des Marques, having enjoyed a croissant and a couple of noisettes—as Claire had corrected her when she ordered a macchiato.
“Maman. Inviting you to come down to the chateau with me this weekend,” Claire said, returning her mobile to her purse. “You’ll love it.”
“Thanks. That sounds awesome,” Morgan responded in English, even though she knew she should be practicing her French. Enough time for that though during the coming months.
Claire had picked Morgan up at the airport that beautiful early September morning and brought her back to the apartment on the top floor of the grand, late eighteenth-century townhouse her parents owned near the Jardin Public. Claire had invited her to share, since her current flat mate, Sandrine, was moving out. Then they had gone out for a long walk to give Morgan her first experience of the town.
The de Carduzacs were acquaintances of the Kenworthys through the wine business. Morgan’s parents owned a choice vineyard overlooking the sea near Santa Barbara, while the de Carduzacs had a first growth property just outside the charming little town of Saint Émilion. Morgan’s parents had met Claire’s mother and stepfather at Vinexpo, the biennial international wine and spirits festival in Bordeaux many years earlier, and had become friends over numerous tastings and dinners, ending with an invitation from Joseph and Chantal for Bill and Linda and their two daughters to come to the chateau. There, Morgan had met Claire, the youngest, as well as the other four children of the de Carduzac couple.
Morgan’s older sister, Carrie, thirteen at the time, came away with a huge crush on Luc, Joseph’s eldest child from his first marriage, who was already close to twenty then—although it was Chantal’s son, Alex, who had shown more interest in the older Kenworthy daughter. Morgan had hit it off with Claire, Alex’s younger sister, and they corresponded for a while as pen pals. The families had not seen each other since that June almost twelve years ago, although the parents still exchanged newsy letters every Christmas.
“Let’s go,” Claire said, glancing at her watch. “My mom asked me to pick up a dress she was having altered near the Marché des Grands Hommes. And some cheese, from Jean d’Alos, which is right there. Then we have to head out. My parents have made dinner plans for tonight, but they would like to have drinks with us first.”
The girls walked along the quay, dodging joggers, bikers and skateboarders out for some exercise and Vitamin D. Their path took them across the Quinconces, a large square—which, as Claire explained—was the site of the former Chateau de Trompette, a fort built by Charles VII in the fifteenth century to make sure the city he captured remained loyal to him after three centuries of domination by the English. They passed the Monument aux Girondins, a column that rose more than fifty meters above two baroque-looking fountains, topped by winged Liberté breaking free from her chains. It had been raised at the end of the nineteenth century in memory of the twenty-two deputies to the Assemblée Nationale in Paris from the faction known as the Girondins, guillotined during the French Revolution for counter-revolutionary activities. Claire had done a paper on them for her French history class the previous year. Largely from Aquitaine, these were the “good guys” of the Revolution, first campaigning for the end of the ineffective and insensitive monarchy, but then speaking out against the spiraling excesses of the Reign of Terror.
On the way back from the central Marché—which had long since been converted from a market of farmers’ and individual tradesmen’s stalls into a mini-mall that housed a number of posh boutiques as well as a supermarket, with a parking garage in the basement—they passed through the Jardin Public. This was a jewel of a park, full of students sunbathing on the grass with book in hand and small groups of soccer-playing boys wearing blue jerseys sporting the numbers and names of stars Ribéry or Benzema in huge white letters, a playground with its very own Guignol puppet theater at one end, so loved by countless generations of French children, and a Natural History Museum for all ages at the other.
The townhouse was just two blocks from one of the side entrances to the park, on the tiny Rue Ernest Godard. Morgan was struck by the beauty of the eighteenth-century architecture, the wrought-iron work of the terraces and the massive double-leafed door which was up a few marble steps, and in particular, the oversized handle and knocker. As they went inside, Claire explained that Joseph and Chantal rarely used the spacious apartment occupying the entire main floor—only here and there to entertain, or on the occasions when they had an evening event and stayed in town. Lucas lived one floor up and also ran Carnot & Cie., the family catering business, from the basement that had been turned into a spacious office. Claire had the entire top floor, but she liked to share since she did not relish being in the big house by herself with her stepbrother on the road a lot. Indeed, it was fortuitous that Morgan was coming for the academic year just when Sandrine had decided she would accept Luc’s invitation to move in with him. The two, having been brought together by Claire, were spending virtually all their time together now, and it no longer made sense for Sandrine to spread her life across two apartments.
It was an easy ride of just under an hour to St. Émilion in Claire’s tiny Twingo, and Morgan enjoyed it thoroughly. Along the way, Claire informed her that Luc had called to say that he would be at Chateau de Carduzac, but would arrive separately as he was on his way back from Paris. And, much to her joy, he would be bringing her brother Alex, two years Claire’s senior, who had just returned from a year-long trip traveling throughout the South Pacific.
Luc’s sisters would not come, though, since both Hélène and Martine were married with children and living in the capital.
Claire had also explained a bit of the family dynamics to Morgan: her mother, when she married Joseph de Carduzac, had taken his name, but she and Alex had—as French law stipulates—kept their father’s. De Lavallée. From Claire’s rather strained account, Morgan also got the sense that neither she nor Alex was fond of their stepfather and that some things may have transpired in the past that her friend did not feel comfortable talking about.
So she did not press with any more personal questions.
“Wow! This is awesome,” Morgan blurted out, as Claire swung a hard left in between two rectangular limestone columns and came to a halt in front of a massive, ornate wrought-iron gate. “I didn’t remember it to be so beautiful. You’ve fixed things up quite a bit…”
The vista ahead, of the early seventeenth-century chateau built from the ochre limestone of the region, magnificently restored and spreading its wings on either side of a courtyard into the luscious green vineyards, was truly a sight to behold. Claire opened her window and pressed three buttons on a white console on the driver’s side, and with an even, low hum the two leaves of the gate swung open.
An immaculately dressed woman with graying hair coiffed in a bouffant style came down the steps leading up to the grand front entrance as Claire and Morgan clambered out of the car.
“Hello, Maman!” Claire rushed ahead to kiss her mother.
“Hi, dear. And you must be Morgan. My, how beautiful you have become!” Chantal had scrutinized her as she was greeting her daughter.
“Thank you, Madame de Carduzac. You are too kind.”
A tall, thin, tanned, and fit-looking man wearing a gray cotton cardigan over a crisp blue shirt and cuffed chinos came out the door and down the stairs.
“My husband, Joseph. But you will not remember him, I am sure. You were so young! Joseph, this is Morgan. Is she not a darling?”
“Hello, Morgan—yes, yes, my dear. Just like her mother.”
“Come, let’s go inside. Claire, you can take Morgan to her room. You know, chérie, Hélène’s. And then, if you want, show her around the chateau and the grounds. Joseph and I have a dinner to go to at eight, but we will all have drinks on the terrace at seven. Luc should be here by then, with Alex. It’s so exciting that finally, we will all get to see him. It’s well over a year since he left.”
“Yes, Maman,” Claire said, rolling her eyes at Morgan as they carried their bags up the stone steps.
“No need to dress up, girls,” Chantal instructed, raising her voice a notch to make sure they heard as they disappeared into the chateau, dwarfed by the front doors.
Morgan did change, though, into a blue cotton dress with string straps, low-cut and above the knee, to show off her California sun-bronzed shoulders and long, shapely legs.
The pearl necklace her parents had given her for her twenty-first birthday added the perfect touch. She looked fabulous, Morgan ascertained contentedly, as she took a last glance in the mirror hanging above the marble mantelpiece, before making her way along the corridor past the staring portraits of de Carduzac family ancestors, and down the stairway that led to the front hall opening onto the terrace with the vineyard encircled gardens in the back of the chateau.
While she was upstairs changing, it had rained, one of those late summer evening showers, during which it pelts down hard enough so that all the vintners hope and pray that it will not damage the nearly mature grapes. But by the time Morgan came out on the terrace looking for the de Carduzac clan, the heavens had cleared, and she was greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors arching across the sky in a double rainbow.
The family was already assembled, taking in the breathtaking tableau: Claire and her mother, sitting by a little wrought iron table with a champagne bucket and six Baccarat flûtes, tartines with foie gras, and a bowl of olives, while Joseph and two handsome, much younger men Morgan assumed must be the sons were talking in low tones over by the balustrade.
“Ah, the lovely Morgan!” Joseph said, beckoning. “Come, come over here. You may not remember the boys. This is Luc—” He placed his hand on the shoulder of the taller, better-dressed young man. “—my eldest, who lives in the apartment below you. And this, Alex, freshly back from the South Pacific and God knows where else. Guys, this beautiful young lady is Morgan, whom you may remember from twelve years ago when the Kenworthys—our dear friends from California—visited us.”
“Hi,” Morgan said, stretching her hand out first to Luc, who shook it.
“Hello, Morgan,” Luc said with a smile. “You’ve certainly changed!”
Then she turned to Alex, who took her hand between both palms, not uttering a word, drowning in the deep blue sea of her eyes, and then leaned forward to kiss her on both cheeks—the French way—pulling her toward him with his muscular arms. Dressed in jeans torn above the knee, a T-shirt, and sandals, he was stockier and more tanned than Luc and had clearly not shaved for several days.
Morgan found him wildly attractive. And, as she ascertained, it was quite clear from their looks that Luc was Joseph’s son and Alex was Chantal’s son with her previous husband.
“She has changed a lot since the Kenworthys visited so many years ago, has she not?” Chantal came over and put her arm around Morgan’s waist. “But see what we have arranged for you, Morgan, a double rainbow to welcome you. It will bring you good luck.”
“Thank you, I love it!”
“Very pleased to see you again, Morgan.” Alex finally came back up for air. The attraction was evidently mutual.
“Indeed,” Luc agreed.
“Your sister, Carrie. How is she?” Alex asked.
“Oh, she’s great. She is in Los Angeles trying to get into the movie business.”
“Well, if she is as lovely as you are, she won’t have any problems,” Joseph said, taking the Dom Perignon 1990 out of the ice bucket. “Champagne?” Just then, from Joseph’s cardigan pocket, the tune of Ravel’s “La Valse” started to play. He took the cell phone out and looked at it, saying, “Sorry, but I do have to take this. Here, Luc, you pour,” as he handed the bottle to his first-born. Joseph went down the stairs into the garden, but those assembled could still hear snippets of his end of the conversation. “Yes, André, I was waiting for your call. Thank you.” And as Luc poured the champagne, “Well, that’s great news. I am sure he will be delighted.”
“Come, Morgan, have some foie gras. It comes from my sister’s estate in the Dordogne. Alex, you too. You must have really missed this delicacy in the Far East. It’s the mi-cuit that you used to love so much.” Chantal played the hostess and loving mother, while at the same time, she threw the odd glance in Joseph’s direction.
“Yes, yes, I will be at the meeting. Of course, André, you can count on me. See you then.” Joseph slipped his mobile in his pocket and came back up the stairs.
“The general?” Luc asked.
“Yes. And he has tremendous news, my son. He has made the necessary arrangements for Carnot to win the contract to cater the reception and the dinner before the meeting of the African Heads of State the president has planned here in Bordeaux in a few months’ time. The lunch, too, the next day. We will certainly have our hands full.”
“Tolbert? So he’s still around?” Alex asked.
Luc ignored his stepbrother’s question. “That’s terrific. Did he talk about other things?”
“Yes. A meeting—you know about security arrangements. But I’ll tell you later.”
“Here, Morgan, have a tartine. And Luc, pour our guest some more champagne, for heaven’s sake,” Claire’s mother said, passing the platter. Morgan had the impression that she was trying to divert attention from the call.
They drank the Dom Perignon on the terrace, peppering Morgan with questions about her family and herself, until the bottle was empty, the canapés all eaten, and the late summer air starting to cool.
“We need to leave for dinner, unfortunately,” Chantal said. “Alex, you said you want to go see some of your friends in St. Émilion, and, Luc, you also have plans you said, so it will be just the two of you, my dears, here tonight. But I have made sure Gaston will put out something for you to eat.”
When the parents left, the four lingered on the terrace, finishing their glasses.
“Too bad Joseph and Chantal had to rush off,” Alex said. “I would have liked to hear what they have to say about what’s happening here in France. Especially Joseph. His views have always been rather unique. It would have been interesting for you, Morgan.”
“Well, Alex, if you had not been gone so long and had to live through the trauma of all these terrorist attacks and the tightening security, the terrible unemployment and the ridiculously high taxes that have been imposed by this government, you might share some of those views,” Luc said in defense of his father.
“I don’t want to get into it now, but I am sure we will expose you, Morgan, to the usual family argument in due course.” Alex stood up, sucking the last drops out of his flȗte. “Anyway, I have to run off now. Enjoy Gaston’s cooking.”
“I’ve got to go too. I’m late already,” Luc said. “But I am sure we will see each other soon back in town.”
The boys left, and the girls soon went inside to enjoy the delicious magret de canard and potatoes sautéed in duck fat that was a staple of Gaston’s cuisine bordelaise. And to accompany the duck, Claire had the butler open a bottle of the 2004 vintage of the de Carduzac wine.
© 2019 by Geza Tatrallyay