Raven has been living with Clint and his son, Joey, since he was nine years old. Raven grew up with a drug addicted mother and Clint was the kind police officer who not only looked after Raven, but brought him into his home to be his guardian. Raven and Joey became best friends and Clint gave Raven a stable, happy home for the first time in his life. Now, Raven and Joey are in their early 20s and Joey is about to head off for basic training. His one request of his father is to finally start living, to do something for himself now that Joey and Raven are grown and he no longer needs to dedicate his life to them. Clint has always put himself second to the boys and now is his time to reach for what he wants for himself, and Joey wants Raven to help Clint do it.
While Raven may have grown up under Clint’s care, the love he feels for him as an adult is anything but familial. In fact, Raven has been secretly in love with Clint since he was 17 and he is no longer interested in hiding it. Raven opens up about his feelings to Clint, and while Clint needs some time to wrap his head around their new dynamic, he realizes that he has feelings for Raven in return. As the men spend the summer together, they find themselves consumed with one another. Their passion burns so bright, it takes over everything else in their lives and the men are almost obsessed by their need for each other. However, despite Raven’s encouragement to live for today, to not get mired in fears of the future, Clint still can’t help but be wary of Joey’s reaction when he finds out about them. But Raven believes it will all work out and the men begin imagining a life they could have together.
However, when things fall apart, they explode in a way neither man could have ever predicted. It is more than either one can handle, and it tears Clint and Raven apart. But the connection between them is strong, and even as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives, the love they feel for each other is not gone. Now, Raven and Clint need to figure out if they have grown enough to find a way to bring their lives back together once more.
Bad Wrong Things is an intense, often dark, lovers reunited story. It is both fascinating and, at times, a bit overwhelming as we watch this all consuming, possessive love between Clint and Raven and see how it spirals out of control. The story opens with Raven’s mother’s funeral. It is clear right away that Clint and Raven are estranged and we learn it has been eight years since the men have seen one another. The story then jumps back in time to the summer Joey leaves for basic training and the romantic relationship between the men begins. So the set up is really engaging here as we know right from the start that things go wrong, but not exactly how. And there are so many possible ways things can fall apart, as there are so many issues in play here. Clint worries Joey will never accept his relationship with Raven, fearing what will happen when Joey learns the truth. Because this isn’t just Joey’s best friend. Joey and Raven were raised alongside one another like brothers. Not to mention that Clint was Raven’s legal guardian for half his life. And while it is very clear that Raven doesn’t see Clint in a paternal way, it does take a while for Clint to have that mental shift, to stop seeing Joey and Raven and “his boys” and to start seeing Raven as an independent man. Both Raven and Clint also have a lot of unresolved issues from their past. Clint suffered a trauma that has left him feeling like he can never take anything for himself, that bad things will happen if he puts himself first. And so he has lived most of his life sacrificing everything to care for Joey and later Raven. Meanwhile, Raven still has emotional scars from being raised by a drug addict mom and the neglect and abuse that grew out of that situation.
All of these things swirl together, forming this perfect storm of emotion that creates a somewhat dark, twisted dynamic between the men. They become almost consumed by one another. Obsessed. Possessive. They cut almost everything and everyone else out of their lives, so covetous of their time with one another. Even as they fish and camp and enjoy riding Raven’s motorcycle, even as they encourage one another to move forward with their business dreams, there is this other layer to their dynamic that is just not healthy. Not necessarily the sex itself, though it is intense and demanding. The men play with non-con, enjoy a sense of possessiveness and ownership with each other, and have harsh and aggressive sex. But it is the larger way these guys are just so consumed by one another that they get so tangled together. And then when things go wrong, they go so spectacularly wrong, because their own baggage and their complicated relationship dynamic just can’t hold up under the weight of the crisis that hits them. Like I said, it is in intense and fascinating and we can feel this weight throughout the book, just knowing something is going to happen to tear things all apart.
I think from a pacing standpoint, this first portion leading to the breakup felt a little long to me. This is a fairly long story and I was ready to see the aftermath sooner than we got it, to see how these men heal and come back to each other and find themselves again, individually and as a couple. That said, even as I worried there wasn’t enough time left in the book to see them come out the other side in a satisfactory way, Harris really pulls it off. We see there is healing for both Clint and Raven. They have each gone through hell, but they have also sorted out their own issues and come out better for it. So by the time they reunite, I could believe that this time they can make it work. They have each found a measure of peace that allows them to move forward. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still intense in the way they love one another, but there is room there for more in their lives, for a sense of self amidst the need to connect. And so by the time the story ends, I felt that happy ending for them and I love how things all come together. The time and effort it all takes feels realistic and there is no magic bullet, but in the end, we get our happy ending.
This one is probably not a story for everyone, as like I said, there is a dark intensity to Clint and Raven’s dynamic for most of the book (including that playing with lack of consent). And, of course, there is that transition from guardian and ward to lovers, which is a lot, even as the men mostly minimize it. But if these are themes you can work with in your books, I think this story is really rewarding. I found myself really captured by Clint and Raven’s journey and liked this one a lot.