Derek and Luke have been through a lot as a couple. At the beginning, Luke didn’t want to accept he was gay. Then, after he and Derek fell in love, there was controversy stemming from their relationship. After all, they live in a small town, and they’re both teachers at the high school (Derek, the drama teacher, and Luke, the football coach). There were protests and a showdown between them and the students who love them vs. the mayor and the town’s more conservative residents.
Now, things are good, and to celebrate overcoming that hurdle, Derek and Luke decide to go to New York City. Derek moved there when he left town and he wants to share it with Luke. There, they both meet up with old friends (and an old drag queen, but that’s a separate sub plot), and the seeds of a major conflict are planted.
The question is, can Derek and Luke work past this new challenge, or will they wind up deciding they’re better off apart?
I could barely breathe as I read This Fire Inside, and at times, I found it difficult to continue reading. I loved the first two books in this series, Home is a Fire and The Fire Went Wild, and I was excited to get my hands on this one. Derek and Luke were a great couple, and the background characters were some of the most likable I’ve ever come across. Small towns are always a great backgrounds for a good story, and Parkville, Tennessee provides lots of proper ambience.
So…on to the reason I couldn’t breathe. This Fire Inside had so much angst! In NYC, Luke met up with an old high school friend of his, Fletcher Powell. Oh my goodness, but I LOATHED him. I’m not even sure that is the right word. Fletch’s personality is so…so…Fletch is a total asshole who shouldn’t even be allowed into Derek and Luke’s orbit. It didn’t help that Luke was full of hero worship for him. He was willing to go along with Fletch and spend more time with him than with Derek, and there were situations instigated by Fletch that left me feeling queasy…uber queasy. I hated how he changed Luke from an upstanding football coach in love with his boyfriend, to a hero worshipping jerk. There was also a dreadful meeting between Luke and his ex-boyfriend, David that also caused a lot of tension. I’m still shaking my head.
Now, I don’t want to give you the impression The Fire Inside was awful. Jordan Nasser’s writing style is impressive. He provides a lot of detail so the reader can actually see what’s happening. I know what every character, bar, restaurant, and house looks like. It’s obvious Nasser put a lot of thought into the story. Everything is meticulously plotted right down to what Uncle Barry is wearing on a particular day (I didn’t mention Uncle Barry is a drag queen, but…well…he’s a drag queen. A perfectly awesome drag queen.). The entire Parkville world has been perfectly built, and through three books, I’ve never ceased to be impressed.
I mentioned background characters, and all my favorites were back again. Uncle Barry, Derek’s mom and dad, Luke’s mom and dad, and all their friends are there to support and love the guys. They were all part of the charm that is Parkville. Then, there was Fletch **shudder**. He’s the stereotypical high school football hero who is so entirely full of himself even after his career ended and he was dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood and marriage. I suppose my disgust is a testament to the author’s writing skill. It’s an impressive feat, for sure.
There are a few subplots I found to be lacking development. When Derek and Luke are getting ready to leave for NYC, Uncle Barry asks Derek to try and find an old friend, a drag queen called Chinois Zaree. He does, and they have a nice talk. Eventually Chinois and Barry do reconnect, but it felt like there could have been…more. At the airport bar, where Derek and Luke’s families met to see them off, it was mentioned a possible secret between Luke’s dad, Red, and Uncle Barry, and that Barry seemed to light up around Red. I found this to be an intriguing idea, and it was just dropped. There was no other mention of it through the rest of the book. The scene between Derek and his ex took place in a popular bar in NYC. The breakup was bitter, and their conversation is full of vitriol. While this is happening, Luke is on the dance floor going completely insane. David had drugged Luke’s drink, but the cops weren’t called, and once Derek had brought Luke back to where they were staying, they had the basic “If I ever see him again, I’ll kill him” type of conversation, but the whole thing was dropped.
I don’t really want to give away the whole plot, so I’ll just say one more thing, and I’ll be done. I was (and I hate to say it) disappointed with the ending. It seemed to wrap up too quickly, and I don’t think I can even consider it a HFN. Basically, I can only hope there will be a fourth book in the series so there can, hopefully, be some actual closure…not just with Derek and Luke’s story, but with Uncle Barry and Red, and even David.
So…if you’re a fan of enormous amounts of angst, this may be the book for you. Also, even though there was some exposition, you should read the first two books in the series to get a good idea of who’s who and what’s what. If you try to start with Home Is a Fire, you’ll be lost on a few important scenarios.