Corey Ellis’ best friends have all found their perfect match. Even Daddy Charlie, the old leather daddy who is like a grandfather to him, has found himself a gentleman. And while a part of Corey is missing having someone of his own, he is also quite busy with school and preparing for his summer internship at Phoenix House, an LGBTQ+ youth center. And Corey is most definitely is not thinking about Jeremy Olsen, his sexy former professor. That is, at least, until Jeremy ends up as the interim director for Phoenix House and Corey has to see him every day.
The job at the youth center is a great experience for Corey. As a bigender, person of color who grew up in foster care, Corey (who is sometimes Kori) can really relate to the kids at the center. He really thrives on helping them as they deal with issues of uncertainty about who they are, as well as helping them face the inevitable bullies and haters who seek to tear them down. Corey also enjoys working with Jeremy and the attraction between them begins to bloom, though they both recognize that nothing can happen while Corey works for Jeremy for the summer.
Even though Jeremy and Corey can’t act on their growing feelings for each (fooling around doesn’t count if they don’t touch, right?), they still find that their connection is growing deeper. And as the summer draws to a close, the men realize that their feelings have grown more serious. With the help of Corey’s best friends, Sandy and Paul, along with the found family that now includes Jeremy and his father as well, the men have the support they need to find their way together.
Why We Fight is the final installment in T.J. Klune’s wonderful At First Sight series. This is a series that is both side-splitting funny, but also incredibly sweet and poignant, and that definitely carries over to this book as well. These people are all absurd and the most insane things happen to them. They have no boundaries with one another and nothing is done at a 10 when it can be taken up to 11. So expect hijinks to ensue and a lot of general craziness from all these books. At times, I do find things a little over the top, so you sometimes just have to close your eyes and go with it. But what I think really makes this book (and this series) work is the incredible love and tenderness that these characters feel for one another. Even as much as they are pushy and crazy and a lot to handle, they are always 100% there for one another. Things can go from silly to serious in a moment when someone needs that extra support or to know that the others care. I really love the found family element to this series so much. We see it particularly strongly here as Corey has no family of his own, but he has been essentially adopted into this loving and extended group of family and friends. We can see how much they all mean to one another and the book has some incredibly sweet moments in the midst of the silliness.
I really enjoyed Jeremy and Corey together. Klune does a wonderful job building the emotional connection and the sexual tension between them as these guys fall harder and harder for one another, but must keep things professional while they work together. And yeah, it doesn’t strictly stay within professional bounds, but I did appreciate that the story actually acknowledges the conflict of interest, unlike so many books where this issue is largely ignored. Despite the fact that the guys are “look but don’t touch” for a lot of the book, Klune manages to craft two incredibly sexy scenes with them before they ultimately get their hands on one another. I am always impressed with the way Klune can build sexual tension in creative ways, beyond his characters just jumping into bed together. Both Jeremy and Corey have a sense of loneliness, and I loved watching them find each other. It is just incredibly rewarding.
The story takes place in the summer of 2016, so this is the time when Donald Trump is securing the Republican nomination for president and selecting Mike Pence as his running mate. Although the story isn’t hugely political, Klune does bring the political climate into the book, particularly as Corey works with the kids at Phoenix House. They are scared and angry and worried about their futures as it seems like their rights are being stripped and that their very identities are being disregarded. Reading this story really brought me back to my own feelings of shock and anger during this time (which sadly haven’t abated). I remember that optimism the characters try to feel that surely people will come to their senses, that hate won’t triumph, that someone will curtail the abuses. And so it is particularly poignant reading this two years later and realizing that all the fears have come to pass, and sadly worse than most imagined. So Klune really grounds this story nicely, giving the foundation for these characters to fight for what they deserve and to not give up in the face of hate and adversity.
Why We Fight is a great ending to a wonderful series. We get some lovely closure for all the couples we have met along the way and the book brings everyone together really nicely. I will be very sad to see them all go, but we leave everyone in a good place. Klune has put together a great series here and the finale is not to be missed.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.