Coming out stories are nothing new to the lesbian romance genre; and, if you are anything like me, you may approach such fictional accounts with a healthy dose of skepticism and relatively low expectations. After all, we’ve all been burned a time or two in attempting to invest ourselves in stories that ended up being clumsily crafted or just plain over-the-top. At last, I am pleased to offer my most heartfelt recommendation of Something in the Wine, one of the most skillfully written narratives of a woman’s coming to terms with her sexuality that I have encountered to date.
Annie Prideaux, senior accountant at Cargill & Jones, asks for little more out of life than to conduct her career successfully, enjoy her books and avoid the incessant barrage of practical jokes of her party-boy brother, Jake. In her thirty years, she has yet to figure out how to escape falling victim to his pranks; however, when he sets her up with Drew Corbin, an old college buddy who just so happens to be female, the two women devise a plan to teach Jake a lesson by convincing him that his matchmaking has worked so well that his straight-laced sister has fallen head-over-heels for Drew.
I’ll admit, the premise is a bit contrived and requires some suspension of disbelief, but the enjoyment of the novel is well worth the humble effort. Plus, who could resist Drew? Having taken over her family’s vineyard and winery, she produces exquisite varietals from the rolling hills of her lakeside estate. Her hands are stained with tannin, and her thighs are strong from tending the vines. She is smart, funny, patient, intuitive, a good listener and comfortable in her own skin. If I were to agree to a blind date, as Annie did, I could only pray that such a woman would be awaiting my arrival.
In the process of rehearsing the loving gestures intended for Jake’s benefit, Annie gradually becomes more at ease with proximity to Drew and a friendship based on mutual caring and respect develops between them. Just as Annie nurses Drew through illness, Drew encourages Annie to speak up, set boundaries and develop a healthier sense of herself. Although Annie is initially uncomfortable sharing emotion, Drew cultivates a sense of trust within their friendship that allows for the sharing of histories and the revealing of emotional wounds.
In spite of their best efforts, Jake doesn’t buy a bit of their charade. (Is their connection a charade or something more?) Thus, Annie and Drew set their sites on the Thanksgiving holiday, when Drew is to accompany Annie to her family’s celebration. Concluding that their affectionate rapport has been too subtle for Jake, they decide upon a more obvious approach, planning to bring Annie and Jake’s emotionally unavailable parents in on the joke. What transpires around the table sets the stage for what is by far the most satisfying scene of the novel.
Given that I’ve never been shy about my sexuality, Something in the Wine provided me with an understanding of the challenges that some women may face in the process of coming out. Annie’s discomfort with the feelings that arise within her, the anxiety she experiences on the cusp of closeness, her self-judgment and her fear of the judgement of others allowed me to grasp the gravity of reaching a point where hiding from one’s truth is no longer an option. The finesse with which Jae handles Annie’s inner-landscape illuminates a sensitivity within the author that contributes to the depth of the novel as a whole.
Something in the Wine is the entire package when it comes to romance. Drew and Annie became so real to me that I felt a tugging at my heartstrings at nearly every turn. The dialogue flowed naturally and believably; and, there was a consistency in the dynamics among the characters, accompanied by supporting nuances. The novel held my interest and kept me entertained while providing insight into experiences not my own. Last but certainly not least, the images of Drew Corbin’s stained hands and muscular thighs are sure to inspire my imagination long after the final page has been turned.