Cassie Parker is a talented artist living in a small town in Northern California. The animals she sculpts from the driftwood that washes up on the beaches has earned her a successful reputation. If only her social life was as fulfilling as her career. Her father is a very conservative preacher who her raised her by himself. Love and encouragement were replaced by fire and brimstone in Cassie’s home after her mother left them when she was little. She’s never been in love with a man, and she has her suspicions why, but her father taught her homosexuality is a deviant lifestyle that would condemn her to hell. She’s accepted she’s got no romantic future, but she still longs for someone to love.
Luke Winston is an architect specializing in structural designs that blend in with the natural environment. She’s just moved to the small town of Sebastopol. She’s absolutely gorgeous and every lesbian within a ten-mile radius notices her arrival, and so does Cassie.
After a few chance meetings, Cassie and Luke begin hanging out as friends. Cassie’s made it abundantly clear – she is not a lesbian. Luke takes it in stride since she’s still wary of relationships after her last doomed affair. But the more time they spend together the harder it is for Cassie to suppress her feelings toward Luke and deny her sexuality.
Cassie falls hard for Luke and the feeling is mutual. Cassie’s never felt so free and happy, but when her father unexpectedly pays her a visit, will she choose a life without love or a life without family?
Cassie and Luke compliment each other beautifully. Cassie is nervous and at times awkward around Luke. She’s never been drawn to a woman before so half of the book finds her conflicted when she’s with the charismatic woman. Her emotional struggle is poignant. She’s spent her entire life under her father’s watchful, homophobic eye, and she’s always tried to win his approval. With this kind of pressure, it’s understandable that acknowledging and accepting her sexual orientation is overwhelming. She’s a genuinely kind soul and knows she deserves happiness, but a lifetime of harsh treatment is hard to overcome. The battle raging inside her head is something I think many LGBTQ folks can identify with.
There is a quiet strength about Luke. She’s comfortable in her own skin and very kindhearted. When the story opens, she’s not looking for anything more than friendship. She’s still nursing a broken heart, and another bad experience might lead her back to her alcohol addiction. As the story progresses, she can’t help her growing attraction toward Cassie. There’s an innocence to Cassie – she’s without guile and that helps allay Luke’s fears. When Cassie accepts she wants more than friendship from Luke, Luke is beyond gentle. I think this is what I liked most about her. She’s aware Cassie is taking a monumental step, and she allows their relationship to progress at her speed.
The Writing Style
Artist’s Dream is told exclusively from Cassie’s point of view. The story is straightforward and focuses on Cassie’s journey to accept and feel comfortable about her sexual orientation. This is a serious subject matter, but Hill infuses the tale with lighthearted moments between the two women which keeps the narrative from feeling too heavy. There’s great sexual tension between the two main characters and once their relationship becomes romantic, Hill treats the reader to some very steamy love scenes. I’m always happy to find that in the romances I read.
Unfortunately, this narration didn’t wow me. I realize that Abby Craden is a powerhouse in audiobooks, but her voicing for Luke felt flat to these ears. Luke’s such a kind and compassionate woman, and she’s playful as well. This didn’t come across for me. Craden does a great job with Cassie’s father. She gives him just the right brittle voice quality to match his overzealous and judgmental nature.
It’s common in Hill’s novels to find characters who are deeply invested in the environment and protecting wildlife. This is true of Artist’s Dream. Cassie is very vocal about organic farming, and in her art, she uses driftwood she finds on the beach. Her creations are made with reverence. Luke’s approach to architectural design is that a building or house should fit in with the environment in which it’s going to be located. All of this, and both women’s choice to maintain a vegan diet shows a respect for Mother Earth that can’t go unnoticed.
I’ve got to call it like I see it. I thought Cassie’s best friend Kim was annoying. The book opens with her and her lover, Lisa heavily invested in Cassie being gay. They tell her the reason she’s not that into the man she’s dating is because she’s a lesbian. They tell her she’s a lesbian whether she thinks so or not. They tell her everyone knows she’s a lesbian and she’s living in denial. Kim treats her like a child who won’t eat her peas. Yes, during the course of the story, Cassie realizes she’s always been attracted to women, but she needed to figure it out in her own time. It’s passive aggressive bullying on Kim’s part, and I didn’t care for it.
I read this book for the first time about a decade ago, and I still find the romance between Luke and Cassie a delight. There’s so much tenderness and mutual respect between the two of them. Watching them fall in love made my heart feel all warm and fuzzy. While I didn’t care for the audiobook, I definitely recommend the book. There’s a sweetness to the story that still moves me, and Cassie’s journey will always feel touching.
Excerpt from Artist’s Dream by Gerri Hill
“If you don’t already have plans, I was hoping you’d come over for dinner Saturday evening.”
“Yes. You know, cook and eat,” Luke said with just a hint of teasing in her voice.
Cassie smiled, knowing she was crazy to even consider it but also knowing she would agree. She seemed powerless when it came to Luke.
“I don’t have plans.”
“So…that means you accept?”
“I accept,” Cassie said.
“Great. Come about six, and I’ll put you to work in the kitchen.”
When they hung up, Cassie still stood by her workbench with the fawn resting lightly in her hand. It was crazy, she knew. The one person who might be able to break down her carefully constructed walls, and was going to her willingly? That’s a laugh, she thought. What walls? There didn’t seem to be any walls where Luke was concerned. She tried to tell herself it was just the friendship she craved, but her body told her something else entirely.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781594930423
- Publisher: Bella Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Tantor Audio
- Narrator: Abby Craden
- Gerri Hill Online
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