Cast Me Gently by Caren J Werlinger is a contemporary romance set in the 1980s in Pittsburgh, PA. I liked this book a lot. The story brings you right into the 1980s and on an emotional journey with Teresa and Ellie. This isn’t a breezy summer romance. This story is at times sweet, poignant, heartbreaking, and romantic. It is the 1980s after all, which didn’t seem very long ago until I did the math. Much has changed for lesbians in the US, but unfortunately there is still much that needs to change.
In Pittsburgh in the 80s, the steel industry is declining and homelessness is on the rise. Teresa Benedetto is single and still lives at home with her traditional Italian family, and works in the family business as a pharmacist in one of their stores. She meets Ellie Ryan at the local bank when she takes a deposit there for her father. Ellie is an orphan and survived a foster home situation that started out well, but did not end that way. She’s back in Pittsburgh to find her brother, a homeless veteran with PTSD. But she dreams of traveling the world…someday.
Teresa and Ellie become friends and fall in love. If only it were that simple.
This book was a one-nighter, because I wanted to know what happens next with Theresa and Ellie. Both characters are on a journey of self-discovery and I loved how the author let these characters grow into themselves and their new love for each other. The minor characters were given just enough time and attention. They never overshadowed Theresa and Ellie, but were distinct individuals and not just cardboard cutouts of friends and family. Theresa’s best friend Bernie certainly has an individual style all her own.
The Writing Style
The chapters in this story alternate between Theresa’s and Ellie’s point of view, letting me get to know each of them as the story progresses. The book moves along at just the right pace and the author captures the simpler pre-internet time of the 1980s. I loved the way the author used Theresa’s close-knit traditional Italian family dynamic to highlight the isolation both Theresa and Ellie feel as lesbians. This was powerful storytelling.
The characters are well developed and their journey moved the story along at just the right speed. I loved the feel of the ethnic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh in the 80s. I grew up just outside of Boston and these were my neighborhoods too. I want to add that the book has a great cover (not always the case in lesfic). The woman on the cover is exposed, but facing away from the reader. Theresa and Ellie expose themselves and accept the vulnerability that goes along with the deepening of their relationship with themselves and each other. I love the cover.
There was a plot hole that I found difficult to ignore. Ellie is on a mission to find her brother who is a war veteran with PTSD and who was last seen on the streets of Pittsburgh. Teresa starts feeding a homeless man and his dog in back of the store, nicknames him Dogman and never once mentions this to Ellie. I kept waiting for something to happen with this storyline, and something does eventually, but not what I expected.
Get a cup of tea, a couple of tissues (I don’t think you’ll need a whole box) and this book. If you want to read about a first lesbian romance set in the 1980s and you want to turn pages because you just have to know what happens next with Theresa and Ellie, this is the book for you. It was my first Caren Werlinger and I want to see what else she has out there.
Excerpt from Cast Me Gently by Caren J Werlinger
“So you get to make pasta by hand? I haven’t done this since I was a kid.” Bernie went to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup. “I went by the store, but you weren’t there. What’s up with the front window?”
“All the Halloween stuff.”
Theresa looked up. “Don’t you like it?”
“No, it looks fine,” Bernie said. She pulled out her pack of cigarettes before remembering where she was. “Just not what I expect at Benedetto’s.”
“Someone suggested it, and I thought we should give it a try.” Theresa hung the neat strips of cut dough on a past rack.
“Someone like who?”
“Her name is Ellie. She’s a teller at our bank,” Theresa said. She rolled another ball of dough flat to feed into the machine.
“Why is a teller telling you how to decorate the store window?” Bernie sat, reaching for one of the biscotti sitting on a platters on the table and dunking it into her coffee. “And why are you listening?”
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- ISBN number: 978-3955333911
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Caren J Werlinger Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Cast Me Gently by Caren J Werlinger for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.