Harper Ellison is a best selling author with the pen name of Scott Harper. He left his small hometown in North Carolina three days before high school graduation due to a terrible tragedy and abuse by his peers and his father. He had to do some things he isn’t very proud of, but he survived and is now living in Colorado, where he has two wonderful friends and he can write until his heart’s content.
One night, Harper is surprised to see his little sister, Meg, in the bar where he’s hanging out. She has come to meet him for the first time in ten years. They’re thrilled to see each other, and while catching up, Meg tells him their mother has cancer and will probably be gone soon. Life has changed back home. Their mom has left their alcoholic dad and misses Harper. Meg asks him to come back for a visit, but Harper’s not sure. He still has anger and resentment to his parents and the town in general. Soon, he’s convinced to go and heads home.
Lucas Rhodes is a social worker running a youth outreach. He also rents the guest house on the Ellis family farm. He’s pretty happy with his life. He loves the kids at the center and all the volunteers, and he’s made some long lasting friends. When he meets Harper, there’s an instant connection, and Lucas feels the need to take him under his wing and help him get through his powerful emotions.
Once they’re together, Harper and Lucas embark on a personal journey through Harper’s agony. Lucas wants Harper to be happy, and maybe he wants him to stick around too.
This was an outstanding story. It’s hard to say the word “enjoy” when it comes right down to it, simply because it was very emotional, and a lot of that emotion was quite heavy. Harper was in love with his best/boyfriend Scott. When they’re caught dancing together in a closet at homecoming, they’re labeled perverts and become pariahs. They’re harassed by their peers, and their families are furious and humiliated. There’s a tragedy and Harper can no longer take it after what happened.
Oh, how I cried for Harper. Nobody should have to endure so much. I think what I loved so much about him, though, was he is stronger than he realized. Yes, he did have to do some things he wasn’t proud of, and yes there was drinking and some drugs, but with the help of his friends, Pete and Gavin, he climbs out of the bottle, withdraws from the drugs, and begins a new life in Colorado. Harper could have allowed this pain to engulf him, but he doesn’t. I was proud of him. It feels strange to feel pride for a fictional character, but Harper felt so real. Also, he didn’t get over it all in a single scene as so often happens in books like these. He carried it with him for so long, it wasn’t easy to let it go. I loved how he’s able to confront those who wronged him, and the load eased each time.
Lucas is one of the sweetest characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s a good person, and he’s a loving soul. He faces his job as a social worker, and his position as the administrator of the youth outreach, with his whole heart. The first time he meets Harper, he feels the pull and wants to help him right away. He’s very special.
Where I Belong is a love story. Harper and Lucas fall quickly, and they fall deeply. It worked for this book, though. It felt true to the characters and wasn’t any issue for me. Sometimes, characters can’t help themselves. I got the feeling Harper and Lucas completed each other, and Lucas was a balm to Harper’s soul. Their relationship was tender and loving, but it was pretty damn sexy as well. They’re past the point where random hookups are fun, and they settled in each other’s arms.
There are some pretty well fleshed out background characters. Pete and Gavin, of course, but there’s also Harper’s sister, husband, and mother. Scott’s family are involved, and the kids from the outreach play an important role as well. It may seem like a lot, but they don’t overtake Harper and Lucas in any way. They enhance the story. Some townspeople were included as well with very minor parts. Not everyone is happy to see Harper, and they make their feelings known.
My one teeny issue, and it’s not necessarily even a bad one, is it felt like the book ran a little long, maybe because there was so much in the way of emotion (and a little more angst than I’m used to). A lot of Where I Belong was heavy. Jae Moran writes that emotion well, and I think Harper and Lucas were written exactly the way they needed to be. I confess to having a bit of a book hangover afterwards. I read this one all in one sitting, and I dreamed of those men. I wish I could follow them a little further.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of angst and hurt/comfort.