Note: The White House Men series features an overarching investigation and suspense plot that carries across the books. Therefore, this review will contain some spoilers for revelations from earlier books.
The NYC Pride Bombing deeply affected Rhett, leaving him anxious, fearful, and agoraphobic. Fortunately, he has his best friend, Levar, to lean on and Levar’s support has really helped Rhett move forward. Rhett is now feeling more ready to get out there in the world, and that includes getting some experience in dating and hopefully losing his virginity as well. But he isn’t sure where to start, given his age and inexperience, and trusting people is still hard for him.
Calix followed his best friend to the White House, but he never expected an assassination would leave Del as president and Calix as the Chief of Staff. It is an intense job, but perfect for Calix’s “get it done” style. With Rhett working under him as the White House photographer, the two men have become friendly. Calix can’t help but find Rhett attractive, and his shy, sweet personality to be endearing. But not only does Rhett work for Calix, but Calix is not interested in any kind of relationship. He lost his husband during the bombing and, since that point, Calix has shut the door on the idea of dating or relationships. However, when Rhett reveals his desire to find someone to have sex with, Calix can’t help but feel protective and surprises himself by offering to be the guy.
Once they get the work side of things resolved, Calix and Rhett begin a sexual relationship that allows Rhett to explore a physical connection with a man. At the same time, the men begin to grow closer personally. But the plan was to keep things casual and just about the sex. Now, as Calix and Rhett begin to fall for one another, they need to decide if they should turn their friends-with-benefits arrangement into something lasting.
Click is the third book in the White House Men series and follows Calix and Rhett, two characters who have played big side roles since the first book. I have really enjoyed both these men so I was happy to see them get their story here. There is a nice sweetness about their interaction that I really liked. For all his intensity at work, Calix is so gentle with Rhett. He takes things slow and easy and is always checking in with Rhett. There is a protectiveness to their dynamic, but I never felt like it was too paternalistic. I also enjoyed seeing Rhett’s growth over the book as he gains in confidence, both in the bedroom and in socializing and interacting outside his small circle. There isn’t much conflict here from the relationship end, as the guys move pretty swiftly from friends having sex into boyfriends. So this is a fairly easy development into a relationship, but still engaging.
I also liked how we see Rhett’s relationship with Levar evolve from one where Levar was really a caretaker to one where he can support Rhett as a friend, but also let him spread his wings. Rhett even pushes back at times when Levar is too overprotective. There is also an interesting dynamic explored at a larger level of the relationships within the workplace versus personal ones. This comes into play not just with Rhett and Calix, but also when Calix hangs out at Rhett’s apartment with Levar, as well as between Calix and Del (the president). I liked seeing how the story plays with these relationships and finding the right balance given the complex connections. My only hesitation is that sometimes it felt weird to see the president intervening in what is essentially his employee’s love life. For example, he makes some HR arrangements to take Rhett out of Calix’s line of command, basically to free up Calix to get involved with Rhett, but without Rhett knowing. It felt a little uncomfortable to me that he would be making personnel decisions affecting Rhett’s job to essentially make it easier for his best friend to date. But overall, I enjoyed the way the different friendships are evolving and the relationships are explored here.
On the investigation side, things are fairly slow here compared to the first two books. We do get one big revelation about Henley’s source for the Secret Service article, but that just leads to a lot more questions, so while it is a large piece of the puzzle, it doesn’t really move things forward that much. I think given the projected length of this series, it is not likely that every book can make huge strides forward in the case, but I did miss the action side of things after so much happening in the first books. Part of the issue I think is that Rhett and Calix really aren’t actually involved in the investigation in any way. Calix sits in on a few meetings and Rhett overhears some information when taking pictures, so we see a few discussions through their eyes. But they are really side players. Most of the action actually happens through the POVs of Seth and Coulson, even though this isn’t their book. We see them doing some digging into the case, questioning witnesses, etc. Also, while Rhett and Calix were both at the bombing, we don’t see their experience at the start of the book like we did in the last two stories. I think it mostly works because we know so much about what happened to them both already, but I also think it takes some of that immediacy out of their connection to the events, especially since they are already on the fringes of the case.
One thing I am really enjoying is watching all the different pieces move into place and I think Phoenix is doing a nice job building an interesting cast and getting different characters involved. We get to know a few more side characters here and I am looking forward to seeing how they play into the bigger picture and if/when they will get their own stories. This is a really fun series and I am definitely looking forward to more.