Curious Wine by Katherine V Forrest is a beautiful story about finding out who you are when you least expect it. Published in the early 1980s, it’s a classic lesbian romance that’s won the hearts of many a reader, and for good reason.
Diana Holland needs a break and her colleague Vivian convinces her to stay at a friend’s cabin in Lake Tahoe with some other people who are also looking to get away from it all for a few days. When she arrives, she’s immediately struck by Lane Christianson, who ends up being her roommate. Diana has always thought she was straight, but the more time she spends with Lane, the more she realizes that may not be the case.
Lane and Diana are a swoonworthy couple. Both women are brilliant and beautiful, and it’s no wonder that they’re drawn to each other. Their chemistry is palpable even before Diana starts to figure out her feelings for Lane, and Diana’s journey of self-discovery had me enthralled as she figures out what their relationship means for her life.
There are a bunch of side characters in the book, between Vivian and the other women staying in the cabin. I sometimes found it a bit difficult to remember who was who apart from Lane, Diana, and Liz, who owns the cabin. Because I mostly read contemporary lesfic these days, I had an even harder time remembering that all of those other women are straight. That’s not a knock on the book, because the characters are all there for a reason. Also, of course they all identified as straight, given when it was published.
The Writing Style
Curious Wine is masterfully written. It’s perfectly paced and surprisingly erotic, since it’s very much a romance novel and not an erotic romance. What does that mean? To me, romance = relationship drives the story, and erotic romance = sex drives the relationship development. Curious Wine solidly falls in the “romance” category.
There’s also a scene where the women in the cabin are playing encounter games, which are trust games like falling backwards so someone can catch you. This scene was the most compelling piece of writing I’ve read recently. Not only does it contain an important moment for Lane and Diana’s relationship development, but it also showcases some damn fine character work as all of the women interact with each other.
Oh goodness. Everything? The writing is excellent, the characters are wonderful and memorable, and Lane and Diana’s relationship is just lovely beyond words.
This isn’t a con as much as it’s a content warning because there’s a sexual assault that happens to one of the main characters on the page. It makes sense and is part of her journey, but it’s graphic so be warned if that’s an absolute no-go for you.
Curious Wine’s importance can’t be understated. When I mentioned in The Lesbian Review Book Club that I was reading it, a bunch of women—readers and authors alike—chimed in with how much they love it, many saying that it was their coming out book. It was game changing for lesbian romance, and the genre wouldn’t be where it’s at today without it (and if you want more on that, listen to Karin Kallmaker talk about why Curious Wine changed her life in this podcast).
I may have been late to the party with Curious Wine, but am I ever glad I showed up at all. I wholeheartedly loved it and I’ll be reading it again many, many times.
Excerpt from Curious Wine by Katherine V Forrest
Lane stretched lazily. “I think I can smell bacon through the floorboards. I hope.”
“People who work long hours usually have terrible eating habits,” Diana observed. “Is that how you stay so slender?”
“I eat enough for three people. I must be part hummingbird.” She looked down at her body, frowning. “I’m all angles. You look like one of those soft pretty women they grow by the bushel down in Texas.”
Pleased, Diana said, “I’ve heard that compliments from other women mean more because they’re sincere.”
“I think that’s very true.”
Diana’s smile deepened. “As long as we’re being sincere, I thought they only produced oil wells in Oklahoma, not such beautiful women.”
Lane lowered her eyes. “Thank you,” she murmured.
Astonished by her reaction, Diana said, “You’ve been told that a thousand times.”
Lane continued to look away from her. “I wonder if Field Marshal Liz has us in alphabetical order again this morning. “‘That means you, Christianson,’” she mimicked.
Diana chuckled, wondering at Lane’s self-consciousness.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781594932557
- Publisher: Bella Books
Katherine V Forrest Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Curious Wine by Katherine V Forrest.