Curious Wine: A Novel
by Katherine V. Forrest
Original publication- 1983
Alyson Books (2002)
Buy it Amazon, B&N
The intimacy of a cabin at Lake Tahoe provides the combustible setting that brings Diana Holland and Lane Christianson together in this passionate novel of first discovery. Candid in its eroticism, intensely romantic, and remarkably beautiful, Curious Wine is a love story that will remain in your memory.
Along the way in my meanderings around blog land or Amazon or somewhere, I came across this book and had to read it. I read many reviews but many said something like this; “it’s one of iconic lesbian love stories that was a precursor to today’s more erotic romances.”
Published in ’83 and taking place in 1978, yes, it is one of those books that had I come across it back in the 80’s, it would have probably turned me inside out just on the depth of this erotically charged love story alone. Today, of course, it’s more tame compared to the current trend of graphic eroticism in romance, however, the love story in this book is nicely written and timeless.
A Curious Wine is a passionate love story of two women who find themselves caught up in an intense attraction for each other that for them is illicit and shocking since they’ve only been with men. This is my favorite kind of lesbian/bi love story. Both women fall in love out of the blue and it’s each woman’s first experience with a woman bringing with it all that innocence and angst around it.
I admit, this book started out really slow for me. A bunch of women, some who don’t know each other, spend a week in a cabin in Lake Tahoe together for a ski/gambling vacation. Diana and Lane have never met each other, but they have an instant rapport with each other. Diana is the friendly, nice, girl-next-door type and Lane is an emotionally cool and distant lawyer. Both Diana and Lane end up sharing the top part of the cabin, which no one wants usually and they decide to share the bed in the room with a view even though there are two beds and two rooms up there.
It’s all innocent until the next night when the women decide to do some spur of the moment 60’s encounter group therapy and shit hits the fan with some bitch slapping and female cattiness as things go on and they express their impressions of each other. This was one of things that was hard for me to follow; I don’t do well with books that start out with the introduction of many characters. I can’t keep them straight and it’s hard for me to care who they are. Plus, it was getting a bit tedious with the constant back biting. But fortunately, the focus moves towards Diana and Lane.
After this little therapy session and everyone turns in for the night, Diana, who got upset at things that happened, falls into tears and Lane comforts her. This leads to some cuddling and then a little petting, which veers into something a bit more.
Diana freaks because she’s “not a lesbian,” and pushes Lane away. But after almost getting raped by hooking up with some strange guy to prove to herself that she’s fully het, she comes to terms that her attraction to Lane is too intense to deny and decides to open up to Lane to see what’s there.
The rest is of the story is the development of Diana and Lane’s love story. It’s very clear by how it’s it written that these two have some major hots for each other since they can’t keep their hands off each other. And it does get a wee bit like “get a room already.” Oh wait, they did and we got ring side seats! But really, this felt almost like viewing a couple’s personal, intimate moments and so there was a slightly different feel to it than reading most erotic romances.
Katherine Forrest wrote those scenes in realistic, nice way though. Without using really graphic language, she managed to capture the essence of how deeply Diana and Lane need and desire each other and I found them highly sensual and full of heart, even if they did go over the top at times. It read more like a deep let go into something overwhelming for the characters than the usual frustrations of fits and starts that go on in romance often. This made this book a bit more gratifying.
For the record, this story is basically the beginnings of their love story and there’s not too much character background or development. Nor is there much interaction outside of the bedroom for the last half of the book. It focuses mainly on the first few days of their getting together.
There were some tedious bits though where I felt that when Diana and Lane did talk it was constant expressions of feelings…nothing more than feelings, which did get on my nerves sometimes. I’ve come to accept though that many f/f or lesbian romances are going to have a fair amount of what women like to do with each other, talk about what they feel. IRL it’s fine, in books, it’s glaringly annoying at times.
This book is dated to some degree due to when it was written and the attitudes around being gay was somewhat of an issue, amongst other dated ideas in this book. On the plus side it’s kind of interesting to see how things have changed. But maybe because it’s set in California it wasn’t made to be a big deal where people and attitudes were more liberal even in the 70’s. And my usual negative feelings around characters who angst about suddenly discovering or fearing they are a lesbian didn’t come up for me with this story because it was a time when realizing you’re in love with someone of your own sex was illicit and scary and carried ramifications way harder to deal with than today.
I think if you’re into reading any kind of lesbian romance, A Curious Wine is a must read, especially for those, I think, who like a more bi or first experience feeling in their story preferences. Or if you like reading historicals (the 70’s). Heh.
Heat level: 4- Sensually written in language sexual scenarios. But there’s lots of them.