Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a new contemporary M/M Romance from Cate Ashwood. TASTING NOTES is an odd couple match between a Marine veteran and a billionaire workaholic. It’s got fire AND heat! (wink, wink)
Don’t forget to scroll down and enter the giveaway for an ebook copy of TASTING NOTES.
About the book:
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.
How about a little taste?
The drive over felt the same as it always did. Rush thought his truck probably could have found its way anywhere in town, but the trip to Lennox Hill was one he’d made at least a few thousand times. It was weird to think the property no longer belonged to his family. Enough of his sweat had soaked into the soil that a part of him lived in that land.
He parked his truck in the same place as always and opened the door, calling to Casper to jump out before closing the door behind him. The door to the main structure was closed and locked. Rush peered through the windows of the wine room as he walked past, but the lights were off and the space was abandoned. Rush and Casper followed the pathway toward the house. Casper sat down as Rush knocked, waiting patiently for an answer. When none came, he knocked again with a little more force. West’s car was parked in the driveway, so unless he had decided to walk somewhere, he should be here.
A moment later, the door swung open and West stood there, naked from the waist up, his hair disheveled and his cheeks pink.
“What the fuck?” he asked.
Rush saw red, which was a blessing because it kept him from seeing the way West’s body looked beneath his clothes. The guy was sleeping, and it was nearly noon. He’d owned the vineyard for less than a week, and he was already slacking off.
“Can I come in? I want to talk to you.”
West stepped to the side to let Rush enter. He looked around. Everything was the same as he remembered it. The house was warm and comfortable, begging you to come in and stay a while. Rush had always loved this house. He peered into the living room, noting the two empty wine bottles on the coffee table.
“Is that a fucking wolf?” West demanded, breaking Rush out of his train of thought.
“What? No. That’s Casper. My dog.”
With a subtle nod from Rush, Casper sat next to his master, his eyes glued to West, but quiet.
West narrowed his eyes. “Why are you here?”
“I came to offer my help. You said you needed help, and my mom told me you didn’t know a fucking thing about running this place, so I figured I’d bail you out.”
“Why?” West looked awfully mistrustful. Rush couldn’t blame him. He didn’t trust West either.
“Because they’re my family, and you’re the dickhead who bought the place they poured their hearts and souls into. I’m not going to let you run it into the ground because you have some romantic fucking idea about being all sophisticated and worldly, owning your own vineyard. Not going to happen.”
“Look, what is your fucking problem with me?” West asked, crowding Rush’s space. “You’ve been nothing but a complete bastard to me since the moment you laid eyes on me. I haven’t done shit to you, and you’re giving me a rough time for no goddamn reason.”
Casper growled, but Rush calmed him with a gentle pat to the head. “Sue me if I don’t like spoiled little rich kids. You blow into town in your tricked-out sports car and think you can do whatever you want here because you have a shit ton of money. You take what you want without any regard for the people around you.”
“You don’t know a thing about me, but you think you’ve got my number. Well, you can go fuck yourself. You saw my car, and you made a snap decision about me. You didn’t bother talking to me or getting to know me at all before you rushed to judgment. Maybe you should give me the benefit of the doubt before you tell me who I am.”
“I don’t need to. I know exactly who you are. I’ve met guys like you. You’re arrogant, spoiled, and selfish. You put on a good front, pretending to be this philanthropic nice guy, but when it comes down to it, you’ll choose your money over everything else.”
“Oh, for fuck sakes. You storm in here, waking me up and screaming at me. In case you missed the memo, this is my home now. You’re on my property. What gives you the right to show up and give me shit about something you know nothing about?”
“Your name may be on the deed, but that’s as far as it goes, asshole. Lennox Hill is in my blood, and the last thing I want is for you to completely destroy it out of sheer ignorance.”
“Well, then there’s something we agree on. It’s why I came to your house in the first place, in case you need reminding about that. I don’t want this place to fail any more than you do, so how about you get your head out of your ass, stop being such a fucking prick, and help me?”
Rush stared at him, not saying a word. He hadn’t anticipated the conversation taking this turn. Hell, he hadn’t anticipated this conversation period. There was something there, behind West’s eyes, a kind of rawness Rush hadn’t expected. He stepped forward, his eyes locked on West’s. He felt drawn to him like a compass to north, locking onto that flicker of something unnamable.
He was not in control of his body. He pulled a quick intake of breath as the space between them evaporated. He was close enough that he could feel the crackle of electricity between them, as tangible as if West was statically charged.
“Fine, I’ll help,” Rush said, knowing West could feel his breath as he spoke.
“But this doesn’t mean I like you,” Rush growled.
“Understood,” West replied. “I don’t like you either.”
“As long as we’re clear.”
Joseph “West” Weston has no remaining family. He’s a workaholic, chairman of his own venture capitalist firm in Chicago and burned out. Five years ago his beloved grandfather died, and West is still hanging onto the ashes, instead of committing them to the sea as he promised he would. Deciding that his rut is getting too deep to see out of, he gathers his few casual clothes, the urn and the keys to his Ferrari and heads west for Eureka, California. He free-wheels it out to the coast, but three hours from his destination West stops for gas and food in picturesque Canyon Creek, CA. There he experiences a pang of nostalgia for the quiet towns he and his grandfather had visited when he was a newly-orphaned boy. Seeing a vineyard, he’s struck with a memory of the quiet vineyard location of his parent’s wedding–one of his many trips with Gramps. Impetuously, he buys it.
Rush loves his hometown of Canyon Creek. It’s the only place his mind settles after surviving the horrors of being a Marine helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He runs a Christmas tree farm on the outskirts of town, and is deeply unsettled when his parents up and sell their vineyard to an outsider. Rush never wanted to work the vineyard, but he doesn’t want the vintages of his family name to become compromised. Still, he’s not at all friendly to the flashy new owner. Nope. Rush hates “Richie Rich’s” and he’s sure West is a trust fund brat. He’s wrong, but it takes him some time to accept that, and even apologize for his rude behavior.
See, Rush isn’t his real name–but he was given that nickname as a result of his impetuous habit of “rushing in” and making snap judgements. So, West needs Rush’s help and Rush is a prickly peach of a man. Rush does agree to help, and they develop a detente. And, well, there’s a rush to physicality, which seemed impetuous–but was apparently in character with these two. Neither one has good impulse control.
While West continues on his break, he and Rush develop a strong bond. All this time the vineyard work is getting done, but West is ignoring his business back at home. I liked how the relationship developed in this part of the book. It felt very genuine, if idyllic. I fully anticipated West having a business breakdown, as did Rush and West. It happens and the necessary separation is a problem. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the book for me, as there was little discussion of longing or betrayal or abandonment, which all occur but are only briefly described. I wanted to have that ache, that need, really explored, but it was not. That said, there was a delicious grand gesture on Rush’s part, and then and even bigger one, which was not well-foreshadowed, on West’s.
Again, the initial sex scene was abrupt; it wasn’t my fave, though I did enjoy the close relationship that developed. Rush definitely rushes to judgement, and it sometimes causes problems. He’s not impressed with West’s money, in general, and that is a source of trouble, especially when West goes gift shopping. I liked how they make big in-roads in communication, though these skills seemed to evaporate once West returns to Chicago.
Expect some serious HEA, and some serious lovin’.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot-pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, her little boy, and their two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.