Title: Tasting Notes
Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 26, 2015
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: Renée
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.8 stars out of 5
West, a venture capitalist, 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, Rush returns to his hometown and settled 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 parent’s 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.
I don’t think this author and I are meant to be. I had avoided her in the past because my reading buddies said she was light on the steam. This is the first book of hers where the reviews were coming in saying she went heavier on the steam, and, combined with a great story – I was ready to jump!
It didn’t work out. Not for lack of steam – that was fine. But I look for realism in my fiction. And this was missing that for me in subtle ways that chipped away at me throughout the story. Nothing blatantly obvious that smacked me over the head, but little things that niggled TOO MUCH. Like that tiny rock in your shoe. It gets to a point where you just can’t ignore it anymore.
So let’s start with West. The billionaire venture capitalist. Who runs the firm with two others (assistant venture capitalists?) and then a few assistants. He works 16 hours days. He gets frustrated about not being able to catch up with 60 gazillion emails, even from people with great startup companies he could easily invest in, but he simply doesn’t have the time to read their emails promoting their ideas. Here’s a thought, West…….you’re a billionaire. And yet you only have a team of 3 and a few assistants. Hire some more fucking people!!! Get some partners!! How anyone who’s supposedly that brilliant in business would miss something so completely obvious (and in chapter 1, no less) was not the best introduction for me. But I wasn’t ready to judge too harshly just yet.
We meet Rush next. Rush lives across the country in a small town in California. He meets West in an unusual way. West has taken a break to bring his grandfather’s ashes to the coast. He stops in this small town and feels an instant connection of belonging. So he offers Rush’s parents a shitload of money to buy their vineyard. He surprises Rush with this information (from him, not his parents). Rush decides instantly that he hates him. He honestly goes into a blinding rage each time he sees West for their first several encounters. WTF? Why? Who does that? Because, in my experience, people like that need a little anger management counseling……just sayin. He knows jack shit about West. And he doesn’t just make snap judgments (internally) like we all sometimes do – it’s not right, but it’s human – he actually describes his blinding rage. Rush gets over it with little explanation OR a smooth transition. Okaaaaaay then. I just keep rolling cuz the writing isn’t terrible, and I honestly want to see where this goes.
Now let’s talk about angry sex. Angry sex is hot. When is angry sex not hot? When the above mentioned guy with anger management issues is in one of his “blinding rage” moments, and the two MCs hate each other, and this is the very first encounter of anything intimate between them. One minute they’re fighting verbally and the next they’re going at it? Ok – again – an established couple having angry sex where one minute they’re fighting and the next they’re going at it – HAWT! But the first encounter??? This just didn’t work for me. It was awkward and felt like a huge letdown. It didn’t feel intimate at all. It felt contrived like the author couldn’t think of a better way to transition her MCs from enemies to lovers. Let’s use sex! Poof! Solved!
So now all is well and they’re in lurve. That’s wasn’t smooth at all. But I’m still rolling with it. Because the writing is still solid other than these weird moments I’ve mentioned above, and I want to see how this all unfolds. West has basically put his firm in the hands of the two “assistant” venture capitalists at his firm while he’s on hiatus for a few months in California. But both know he’s gotta go back at some point. And what then?
“The” call comes abruptly. There’s a HUGE emergency. Someone internally at the firm has fucked West over, and alienated a lot of clients. It’s the kind of nightmare that could sink the entire business. So West has to go, but he’ll be back. I was trying to concentrate on what was happening between Rush and West, if any promises would be made, any plans. But I kept getting sidetracked by another “rock in a shoe” moment. What would the leader in the firm do once he spoke with Rush? Get on the phone with the other venture capitalists and start digging for answers? Calling clients to do damage control immediately? Charter a jet with his billions first thing in the morning? Noooooooooo. He does none. He charters a jet for the following afternoon. He doesn’t call clients. He doesn’t call the other two in his firm. And this isn’t just so he can spend extra time with Rush. He is described as waiting for the jet. Calling his personal assistant to tell her to let “them” know he was on his way. Telling her to schedule him a meeting with one of the other capitalists two days later. This is the billionaire businessman right? I’m sorry – it’s just a niggle, just a “rock in my shoe” again, but COME ON!!! Like I said, I need a little realism with my fiction. If you’re gonna bring a business emergency into your plot and describe it, you gotta go with it!! Or don’t go into detail at all. You can’t half-ass it.
I enjoyed the resolution of the story. I liked their HEA and how these two got there. And while I went into a lot of niggles above, I did enjoy the author’s storytelling overall. That being said, it was enough that I know she and I aren’t going to mesh in the future. I can’t say that I don’t recommend this book because a lot of people have enjoyed it. It just wasn’t for me.