1) It was by far the most enjoyable of the five books I read for the awards this year. Overall, the writing was strong, but there was an overuse of the word "as" and several clunky passages throughout the book. A few times, the author used phrases that made me roll my eyes. "Her eyes shone with tears," "tears were running down her cheeks," "her eyes filling with tears." As far as the setting, the details placing the story in 1980 were convincing, but while Pittsburgh was mentioned repeatedly, and names of neighborhoods were thrown about, I didn't get enough details about what was actually there. I thought the story started off well. I liked the emphasis on helping the homeless. However, since for 2/3 of the book, we're led to believe Dogman is Ellie's brother, when he suddenly drops out of the story and that subplot is left unresolved, I feel dissatisfied as a reader. Perhaps it's "realistic" for everything not to be tied up neatly. I don't need "neatly," but I also don't like being left hanging. I enjoyed the window display parts of the story. I can't say I "enjoyed" the banking parts, given the sexual harassment scenes, but they were compelling. The Italian family dynamics were good. The characters were believable and likable. I thought the dialogue "Do you eat like this every day" "Don't I look like I eat like this every day?" funny. I know in every romance, there has to be a problem and a temporary separation before the characters can get back together. But the emotional pain and hurt caused by the separation in the book was so profound that I'm not sure I believe their reunion at the end. It truly feels like the damage is irreparable, that there will always be deep scars which will prevent them from feeling they are safe with each other, that they are too aware of the pain the other is capable of delivering to them. I can't imagine them not always being a little bit on their guard from now on. That's okay, I suppose, as it's "realistic," but the ending as written suggests we are supposed to believe all is forgiven, and I'm not sure I buy that. The dinner conversation where Teresa's family talk her into going back to Ellie was a little forced at the end, particularly the line, "All her life, the best way to talk Teresa into anything was to plant the seed and leave her alone to think it over." I can SEE for myself that they're planting a seed and that she has to think it over. I don't need the author to tell me. It's overkill. I don't want to be told what to think. Just plant the seed and let me watch for myself as the character reflects on it. Finally, I loved the scene where the aunt tells Teresa that she'll have regrets no matter what decision she makes, that she just has to figure out which set of regrets she can live with. Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but these few errors and problems keep me from giving it as high a score as I wish I could.
2) A perfect score for what really is a perfect romance and later-in-life coming-of-age story. A subtle story that gently builds, incorporating a gritty, immersive setting, and featuring delightful and diverse characters that leap off the page. Absolutely wonderful.
Cast Me Gently by Caren J. Werlinger
Lesbian Contemporary General Fiction
Paperback: 370 pages
Publisher: Ylva Verlag e.Kfr. (October 1, 2015)
Amazon: Cast Me Gently
Amazon Kindle: Cast Me Gently
Teresa Benedetto and Ellie Ryan couldn’t be more different, at least on the surface. Teresa still lives at home. As much as she loves her boisterous Italian family, she feels trapped by them and their plans for her life. Their love is suffocating her. Ellie has been on her own for years, working hard to save up enough to live her dream of escaping from Pittsburgh to travel the world. Except leaving isn’t that simple when she knows her brother is out on the streets of the city somewhere, back from Vietnam, but not home. When Teresa and Ellie meet and fall in love, their worlds clash. Ellie would love to be part of Teresa’s family, but they both know that will never happen. Sooner or later, Teresa will have to choose between the two halves of her heart—Ellie or her family. Set in 1980, the beginning of the Reagan era and the decline of Pittsburgh’s steel empire, Cast Me Gently is a classic lesbian romance.
Rainbow Awards Guidelines: http://www.elisarolle.com/rainbowawards/r
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