Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
When Detective Joe Klamanth spots the gorgeous young man working at Nordstrom’s, he immediately is interested and starts the flirting. Something about the agitated guy he also sees wandering around the store sets off Joe’s radar however. Although Joe is off duty, he can’t help but get in between the man and his hot sales clerk, ending up shot in the leg when the guy loses it.
Elias Abraham definitely notices the hot guy flirting with him, but it also makes him nervous. Elias grew up in a conservative Ethiopian family and he isn’t out, nor is he fully comfortable with the public flirting and attention. But when Joe is injured, Elias can’t help but want to look after the man who put himself between Elias and danger.
At first Joe just sees Elias as a hot guy to hookup with. But the more time they spend together, the more Joe grows to care about the sweet, sensitive younger man. The men begin spending a lot of time together and slowly Elias opens up to more physical intimacy, becoming more comfortable and confident. Joe is having a really hard time dealing with his injuries however. He can’t stand the idea that he needs taking care of and the longer it takes to recover, the more snappish and difficult he becomes. With Elias having to handle family issues at home, his life is becoming even more complicated and he refuses to let Joe take out his anger and frustration on him. Both men are finding happiness together, but Joe must figure out how to accept help and deal with his injury or he is going to push Elias away for good.
So the two things that really drew me into this story were the cultural elements as well as the age/experience gap between Joe and Elias. First off, I loved that this story approaches the traditional religious parents theme from a new angle. Rather than staunch Christians, Elias grew up in a traditional Ethiopian home, although he has lived in America his whole life. He lives with his brother and sister-in-law and, although he has experimented and pushed some of the boundaries of his religious upbringing, he still is a product of his conservative family. Elias worries what his brother will think if he finds out Elias is gay, and he is very shy and tentative about any kind of physical contact with Joe. I think Harris does a nice job here really showing us a lot of Elias’ cultural background and the way he feels like he straddles the two worlds.
I am a particular fan of age differences or experience differences between heroes and here we get both of those. Because of his background, Elias is very inexperienced in sex and very tentative. Joe has kind of seen it all and he enjoys introducing Elias to new pleasures. I appreciated that while Elias is younger and definitely more submissive to Joe, he is also not a pushover. When Joe becomes difficult or surly, Elias stands up for himself and pushes back. He was a really interesting character and I enjoyed Elias a lot.
Joe is a more difficult guy however. Getting injured has him all riled up and he is grumpy and moody much of the time. He is mad that he needs help, he is mad when people offer assistance, and he is resistant to any kind of therapy or treatment to get things better. Basically he is often a big giant baby. So my first problem is just that he is often a jerk. Joe starts out pretty much only interested in a hot hookup and it takes a little while to see Elias as more than that. But even when they start to have a real relationship, he never really lets Elias in. He doesn’t share his concerns or his feelings, he just lashes out when he is frustrated. So Joe isn’t always the most likable guy, especially when contrasted with Elias’ sweetness.
The other issue is that I never really understood what was driving Joe’s behavior. I get that he can’t handle his injury, but why is he so sensitive about it? Why is it so hard for him to handle asking for help? This is such a huge part of the story, but I never really felt like I got Joe or what was causing his behavior. Then it is like one day the light goes on and in one brief conversation he is totally cured, happily going to therapy and dealing with things with a complete change of attitude. Again, for such a major issue in the story, I wanted to understand how Joe finally changes.
November Rain is the fourth story in Harris’ Fire and Rain series, but this one is only very loosely linked to the others. While the first three books had overlapping characters, here we have only the briefest of cameos from Henri from After the Rain. As far as I can tell, this is the only connection to the rest of the series. So this book totally stands alone with no problems at all.
Overall I enjoyed this story, primarily for Elias and for the unique spin on the religious and cultural elements. I liked seeing Elias’ journey to coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out to his family. I had a harder time with Joe and wished I understood him more, but I did enjoy the dynamic between Joe and Elias as Elias explores sex and intimacy for the first time. So a nice story and a good addition to a really enjoyable series.