Rating: 4.75 stars
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Chase the Storm is the story of Elijah Morgan, the son of wealthy New York parents who want him to follow in their footsteps. He’s a student at Harvard, majoring in business, when what he really desires is to major in music. He’s known he is gay for a while now, but remains a closeted virgin, choosing instead to focus on the studies he doesn’t even really care for. One day Elijah’s had enough. Instead of heading home to New York City for a summer internship with his father, he buys a barely running pickup truck and starts out for parts unknown.
Elijah suspected his truck wouldn’t make it far, but when it breaks down in the middle of nowhere and requires extensive repairs, Elijah knows he needs to find work while he waits or he’ll be forced to crawl back to his parents, penniless. As luck would have it, there is a job being advertised for a farm hand, which means a little bit of money and room and board as well. He jumps at the chance, though almost turns back when he meets the owner of the farm.
Chase McKenzie is a man who keeps to himself and quietly trains and sells horses. He’s gruff and mean and doesn’t seem at all impressed by the city boy, Elijah. But Elijah is determined to show Chase he can do the job and works his tail off, getting up at 4:30 in the morning and working until dinner time. He almost leaves a few times because Chase is not exactly kind, doing his best to prove that Elijah is not going to make it past the first couple of days. Chase hangs in there, though, and finds himself on a farm in Nebraska, with a man who will barely talk to him.
The instant Elijah meets Chase he’s attracted to the beautiful, blue-eyed cowboy. His manner may be off-putting, but his body certainly isn’t, and Chase spends a good portion of his time trying to ignore his sexual desire. Elijah can see that Chase is fighting with ghosts of his past, and so they merely work as boss and employee for many weeks. When a natural disaster puts them in danger and makes them let down their guards for a small moment, they find a connection that Elijah has never known before. He learns everything from Chase that summer, about love and sex and himself, but he knows he must return to school in the fall. Elijah must make a difficult choice, and Chase does his best to make sure he chooses the one that he thinks will be best for him, whether Elijah likes it or not.
If you like a good cowboy story, this one is among the best I’ve read. There’s a little something for everyone here, not just gorgeous cowboys who tend to work best without shirts, but also a beautiful story about two men, one much older and experienced than the other, who find happiness when they least expect it. Sometimes, you read a story about cowboys and it tends to be a gimmick. But in this story, Waitt knows about the ins and outs of running a farm, which makes things so much more realistic. It also makes you want to leave everything behind and live in the middle of nowhere, training horses and sleeping under the peace of a starry night, after working yourself until you have no choice but to fall asleep. There’s something so romantic about the lifestyle of a cowboy, even though you know logically it’s much more work than you could ever handle.
This is an author with immense talent. This novel is well-written, emotional and extremely sexy. And frustrating. Just as a warning, for a good portion of the book, you will have a love/hate relationship with Chase McKenzie, leaning heavily toward the hate. We understand that he’s dealing with some things, but his gruff demeanor and then, later, treatment of Elijah, make you wonder what the young boy sees in the older man. He redeems himself to some degree, but I felt bad for the boy who gave his heart and soul to Chase and was continually pushed away.
This is a simple story of two very different men. There are only a couple of supporting characters, instead focusing on the isolation and peace that Elijah finds on the farm. And the horses. The horses play a big part here, oftentimes being the only thing moody Chase will show affection toward. It’s just a good story, one that will keep you reading late into the night. I highly recommend this debut novel from a very talented author.