By Cate Ashwood
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
There’s nothing that can’t be solved over a glass of excellent wine.
Joseph “West” Weston has paid for his wealth and success with long hours at the office and no personal life to speak of. Meetings, conference calls, and paperwork dominate his waking hours and have kept him from honoring the promise he made to his late grandfather years before.
After leaving the Marines, Robert “Rush” Coeman returns to his hometown and settles in as a Christmas tree farmer. His life is quiet and simple, and he likes it that way. When West arrives in town and buys Rush’s parents’ vineyard on a whim, that simple life is turned upside down. The animosity between them is palpable, but Rush shelves his preconceived notions in order to protect his parents’ legacy. He agrees to help West learn how to run the vineyard, and Rush soon realizes that love doesn’t necessarily come in the package he expected.
Cate Ashwood is becoming one of my go-to authors – when something pops up that has her name attached to it, I’m confident it’s going to be well-written, feature characters I’ll care about, and promise a thoroughly riveting and enjoyable storyline. Tasting Notes was no exception to the pattern, as far as I was concerned.
I’m a bit perplexed by some of the poor reviews, especially from reviewers on Goodreads, but we’re all entitled to our opinions because, frankly, each of us seeks something a bit different from what we choose to read. I chose to embrace the evolution of a relationship between two guys from entirely different worlds who didn’t shy away from their chemistry, even though Rush needed the kick in his butt from his mom when West had to return to deal with business matters in Chicago. Rush may have decided as soon as he first set eyes on West that he would punish him with hatred based on the actions of someone from his past who hailed from a similar background, but as luck would have it, the chemical reaction ignited with a bang. The reader is treated to a romantic relationship that blossoms and blooms into something very real and tangible. These two realize the importance of balance, and of being there for one another, being able to change and evolve, and finally doing what it takes to be with the one you love. The storyline is romantic, sweet, cathartic and heartwarming. It seems real.
In true Ashwood fashion, Tasting Notes is an easy to follow and satisfying read. The secondary characters in this book – especially Rosie and Sebastian – are great in their supporting roles.
The angst isn’t pre-contrived and heavy-handed – actually there is very little angst, and I’ve come to appreciate that a lot; instead the story weaves plausible, real life-type events and doesn’t mask it behind a lot of what if’s and oh-woe-is-me. The two main characters are a bit older with a few chapters of their lives already lived, and I like that aspect, too. The sex is steamy, but it’s the relationship and emotions that really sold me.
“He had two options. The first was he could pretend nothing happened and move on with their relationship the way it had been going: completely platonic – a business arrangement. Or he could man up and admit he liked the chemistry between them. He had no idea how long he was going to be in town, and hell, he had no idea what Rush was thinking, but he’d never had sex that good, and he’d be a fucking idiot if he were to give it up voluntarily.”
Rush wished he could say this was the first time he had comforted a crying man, but he was all too familiar with the grief that accompanied death. This felt the same and different. The grief was the same – the loss of someone you care deeply about is poignant for anyone – but Rush’s reaction to it felt foreign. This went beyond simple comfort. He stood there, and in that moment he realized he’d fallen in love with the man in his arms. Rush didn’t know when it happened or how, and he didn’t much care. All he knew was West was hurting, and every instinct inside of him screamed out to protect and soothe, so he held West as tightly as he dared and let him take what he needed.
“So we’re good?” “We’re good.” Rush lifted his glass and Sebastian did the same, clinking the rims together. He was happy to have his friend back.
When West tells Rush the paper weight is the best gift ever. It’s everything. And then he sells his company and tells Rush to “take him home”. Loved it.
If you like the M/M genre – and not everyone does or can – then, yes, without a doubt. Cate Ashwood writes solid stories, from start to finish, with magnificent characterization.
Original review posted on Amazon and Goodreads on October 2, 2016.