REVIEW: Ashlin and Olivia by Aster Glenn Gray
Ice queen Ashlin has one passion: art. That shared interest drew Olivia to her for an intense childhood friendship, but after that friendship’s disastrous end, Olivia never wanted to see Ashlin again.
Years later, when the two women run into each other in Florence, Olivia is shocked to discover that she’s just as drawn to Ashlin as ever. They reconnect as they wander the city, discussing art and eating gelato, and Olivia begins to see their past in a new light – and to harbor fragile hopes for a romantic future with Ashlin.
Olivia loves Ashlin. But has cool, reserved Ashlin thawed enough to trust Olivia with her heart?
A second chance friends to enemies to lovers f/f romance, set against the drama and beauty of Florence.
Dear Aster Glenn Gray,
After the joy to me that is “The Mating Call of the Teleporting Warbler,” I shuffled through your other books and decided to try this one as I love art and it had another (possible) lesbian couple. Well, I liked parts and could definitely feel the angst but I ended up not sure about whether or not Olivia and Ashlin are now on the same page and beyond the issues that broke them up before.
Told only from Olivia’s POV, the novella takes place both in current day Italy as Olivia and some of her college art classmates are on a trip to Florence, Rome, and Pisa. She runs into Ashlin allowing them a week to reconnect. We also see six years back into the past when they first met in junior high school where they quickly bonded only to disastrously fall out.
There is a lot of angst and misunderstandings swirling around. Luckily most of the misunderstandings aren’t of the “one conversation and we could be past all this” type. Nope, we’re talking about thirteen and fourteen year old girls who are still growing up and figuring out life. At that age and stage, teens are wrapped up in their feelings and drama and perhaps not the most perceptive creatures. Olivia’s belief that Ashlin is so intelligent (many of her statements and pronunciations are but others are painfully pretentious [as teens will utter]) and her (not so secret to readers) fear that she’s not as intelligent and insightful fuel a bit of hero worship and clinginess on Olivia’s part. It also blinds Olivia to things about Ashlin.
When they begin to spend time together during the week Olivia is in Italy, many of the same issues seem like they might unfold again. Olivia is desperately eager to reconnect, slightly jealous when Ashlin interacts with others, still knows precious little about Ashlin’s life away from her, and is still willing to hurl herself into another relationship – once the two have finally talked a bit and Ashlin has (finally) told Olivia things about herself. I found myself thinking “Olivia, did you learn nothing? Are you going to repeat the past?”
I could feel the emotions between the two, their teenage actions and interactions sounded like things teens do, but when Olivia seemed prepared to make the same mistakes all over again, I wasn’t happy for her or with her. Tacking the dawn of a lesbian romance onto it all didn’t help me love this novella either. That was too out of nowhere. The novella deals with complex and often painfully bumpy emotions and relationships but not in ways that convinced me this relationship will last. C+