Dmitri Williams has a somewhat rocky relationship with Cherry Creek. The town is his home and the place he most belongs, but he also can’t quite get out from under his reputation. Between his drug-addict parents and his reckless driving incident, not to mention being Chinese and adopted by white parents in a mostly white town, Dmitri is often the source of town gossip and scrutiny. At 18, Dmitri doesn’t quite know where he is going with his life, but he knows he craves love and companionship. But now that he has come to realize he is asexual, Dmitri can’t help but wonder if he has any chance at finding a partner who will care for him, between his past and his lack of interest in sex.
Everyone in Raphael Meyer’s life tends to leave him. Raphael just wants someone who can see beyond his cerebral palsy and his epileptic seizures, someone who can love and accept all of him. But he has learned that whether it is for a quick night together, or for a relationship, most people can’t handle Raphael long term. He has his best friend, Lorenzo, who he loves and cherishes, along with a regular fuck buddy in Isaac, and Raphael can’t let himself think of more.
But despite himself, Raphael can’t help but want Dmitri. Dmitri re-entered Raphael’s life at age 18 and they have become close friends. Raphael is so drawn to Dmitri, but he can’t even let himself think of more, as he knows that loving him causes people to leave. He has no idea that Dmitri shares his feelings, as Dmitri can’t imagine how someone like Raphael would want him. The two men grow ever closer, caring for one another and building their friendship, but they are both afraid to reach for more. Now, Dmitri and Raphael have to take a chance on love and open up to one another, and they may both find everything they have ever wanted in each other.
Love Him Desperate is the fifth book in E.M. Lindsey’s wonderful On the Market series. This story stands alone more than most in this series, and you can read this one without having read the other books. However, you will miss the development of Raphael and Lorenzo’s close friendship that begins in Love Him Steady, as well as the introduction of Dmitri and a host of the other side characters we meet here. So the experience is definitely richer if you are familiar with On the Market, as well as Kate Hawthorne’s Room for Love series set in the same town.
One of the things that is a hallmark of Lindsey’s writing is her rich and nuanced character development, and I think that really shines here. This book is a slow burn, friends to lovers story that takes these men from first meeting, through several years of friendship, before they ultimately move to lovers. Over the course of the story, Lindsey really gives such a great sense of both of these characters and we can watch them grow and develop until they are men who are ready for one another and to move forward together. In Dmitri’s case in particular, he starts the book at a crossroads, unsure of how to really be the person he wants to be. Raphael is older and more comfortable with himself, but he has his own challenges accepting the love and caring he really wants and believing that he is worthy of having it. Lindsey’s books frequently feature characters with differing physical abilities and, in this case, we see the ways that Raphael’s cerebral palsy and frequent seizures have shaped him, but not defined him.
I did feel this was a little too slow a burn for me. Most of the book showcases the growing friendship between Raphael and Dmitri, and it is necessary because neither man is in the right place for their romantic connection to really grow at the start of the story. But it takes a long time for them to make that transition from friends to lovers, and when they ultimately get together, the story is almost over. I wanted more of the men together enjoying their connection and exploring it beyond their close friendship.
As a reader note, this story does feature an attempted sexual assault. It is mentioned on page and we see the aftermath, but the incident is not explicitly portrayed. However, be aware if this is a trigger issue for you.
I have really grown to love this little town of Cherry Creek, both through this series and Room for Love. The authors have done such a wonderful job building these characters and I love seeing them interact within each other’s stories. Here I particularly enjoyed Dmitri’s relationship with Ronan, who acts as a friend and mentor. So if you have been along for the ride with these books, it is so much fun seeing the gang again and seeing them happy in their lives. This was another lovely installment in a great series and fun small town universe.