ARC Review – ‘Something In The Wine’ by Jae

Title:  Something In The Wine
Author: Jae
Genre:  LGBT, Romance, Contemporary
Date of Publication: 31st December, 2016 (first published 27th October, 2012)
Page Count: 347 pages (Kindle edition)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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This is a second, revised edition of Jae’s award-winning lesbian romance Something in the Wine. It includes the sexy follow-up short story “Seduction for Beginners” as a bonus.

All her life, Annie Prideaux has suffered through her brother’s constant practical jokes. But Jake’s last joke is one too many, she decides when he sets her up on a blind date with his friend Drew—neglecting to tell his straight sister one tiny detail: her date is not a man, but a lesbian.

Annie and Drew decide it’s time to turn the tables on Jake by pretending to fall in love with each other.

At first glance, they have nothing in common. Disillusioned with love, Annie focuses on books, her cat, and her work as an accountant while Drew, more confident and outgoing, owns a dog and spends most of her time working in her beloved vineyard.

Only their common goal to take revenge on Jake unites them. But what starts as a table-turning game soon turns Annie’s and Drew’s lives upside down as the lines between pretending and reality begin to blur.

Something in the Wine is a story about love, friendship, and coming to terms with what it means to be yourself.

I’m having very good luck with my lesbian romances, this makes two in a row that I’ve really enjoyed! I have to admit that my reason for requesting this was slightly narcissistic – my name is Annie, and much like the character, I’m very introverted, socially awkward and prefer books & cats over clubbing & parties! So this story was excellent wish-fulfillment for me, it was so satisfying reading about Drew falling for and wooing a character I identified so strongly with. 😀

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The best part of the ‘pretend girlfriend’ trope is the two characters having the excuse to spend time with each other and indulge in small flirty intimate gestures without the pressure of a relationship, and it appeases my insatiable craving for the slow-burn romance! In this case, since Annie wasn’t out from the start and believed she was only attracted to men, it was VERY slow-burn, which made it even more enjoyable. This isn’t the book for those looking for steamy sex scenes, but if you’re a fan of the friends-to-lovers trope, this will be right up your alley. 😀

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Since Drew and Annie didn’t think they were compatible in the romantic or sexual sense, a large part of the book revolved around Drew working on breaking down Annie’s walls and gaining her trust for no reason other than that she cared about her in a platonic way and it was LOVELY. ❤ Drew certainly faces an uphill battle here as Annie is convinced that everyone will find her boring and not worth spending time with, and her negative expectations hinder her from being able to form new relationships.

Having her brother’s friend take interest in her and go out of her way to be accommodating of her wishes is a bit of a revelation, and I adored watching Annie come out of her shell as Drew’s campaign to win her over continues. I don’t come across a lot of stories that feature female friendship and I feel like I really lucked out here as a significant portion of this one is about their growing bond as friends, before it becomes anything more.

Sometimes with romances where the relationship is the focus and there’s no other real plot (such as a mystery to solve or adventure to embark on), the story can drag, but this one had such rich characterization and a psychologically compelling story arc that I couldn’t resist. I enjoyed that the story alternated between the two leads so we were treated to both points of view, deepening our understanding of the ladies.

I adored Drew for being so caring and affectionate towards Annie even as her attraction to her grew stronger and people around her questioned why she invested so much time in a straight woman who couldn’t reciprocate her feelings – because the heart wants what the heart wants, yo! But I wondered how far she would let this play out before she decided she had to protect herself from pain, or if she’d choose to remain friends with Annie even if it hurt her that was all they could ever be.

And watching Annie realize that the person she felt most comfortable with, whose romantic gestures made her swoon, in whose company she felt cherished and secure…was a woman and grappling with all the implications of that and whether she was able to explore this new path, it was just so rewarding.

I thought the author did an excellent job with showing Annie’s struggle to examine and redefine her identity – so often people think that you realize you’re gay as a teen and come out and the process is done and dusted, but it’s not always that simple. The way we’re socialized, the manner in which society conditions us to behave and the expectations placed on us by our family has a huge impact on our identity and relationships. There are so many stories in real life about people who never realized they were gay until they were much older, having had heterosexual relationships over the years and never knowing why it didn’t work out. I personally love that this story deals with an adult who’s coming to terms with her sexuality instead of a teenager for a change!

Onto the less fabulous parts…my main issue was with Jake – there really was nothing redeeming his character. I think we were meant to find him boyishly charming and forgive his thoughtlessness because he was such a good friend to Drew, mainly evidenced by the fact that he supported her when she came out. But would a good friend set her up with a straight woman? He knew she was crushing on Annie, but still thought it would be hilarious to embarrass them both by sending them on a blind date – that’s not funny, that’s really quite horrible to play with Drew’s emotions like that and considering how shy Annie is, putting her in that situation borders on sadistic. Okay, I may be overreacting, but I would’ve DIED of mortification if that happened to me.

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The other issue I had was with Annie’s OTT awkwardness with the fake-girlfriend scheme. She didn’t have a gun put to her head, this was all her choice, and yet the way she carried on grew a little tiresome – simple hand-holding made her uncomfortable! O.o Dude, that is the LEAST that comes with the territory when you’re pretending to date someone…

I don’t entirely subscribe to her co-worker’s suggestion that Annie was homophobic, but it certainly wasn’t a good look the way she flipped out at being called a lesbian because a woman sent her flowers saying she made a ‘great girlfriend’… Er, it’s a natural assumption and that’s actually what you WANT people to think, jeez! Of course I have every sympathy for her once she does fall for Drew in earnest and their charade turns real, because it’s not easy to re-evaluate your identity and to publicly date someone of the same sex, but it was a bit tiresome how she insisted that she wanted to continue fake-dating Drew even while flinching away from her and being embarrassed at people thinking they were together.

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But I was able to overlook those minor issues; there is an inherent absurdity to the ‘fake dating’ trope and you need to suspend disbelief for its magic to work – I definitely don’t have a problem with that. I just enjoy the UST and delicious flirty vibes and ‘when will they succumb to the intimacy of the situation already’ that goes with the territory. 😉

The heroines of ‘Something In The Wine‘ are fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters who are very easy to root for and whose happiness you will be invested in. The romance that ensues is absolutely heartwarming and had me wriggling with glee at how absolutely adorable these two idiots in love were with each other. ❤

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Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Ylva Publishing  via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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