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REVIEW: And Call Me in the Evening by Willa Okati

and-call-me-in-the-evening

Dear Willa Okati,

When I first saw the sequel was out, I was pretty excited because I had very fond memories of the first book in the series, And Call Me in the Morning.  For various reasons I explained in my recent review, the first book didn’t work quite so well for me on re-read as it did back in 2010.  I’m always a bit nervous when a book I’ve enjoyed gets a sequel – can it live up to the prior experience? Unfortunately in this case, it provided more of the same rather than anything new and overall, it was a disappointment.

Five years have passed since the events of And Call Me in the Morning and Eli and Zane have been splitting their time working  for Medicins Sans Frontieres, in places such as Brazil, and the rest of the year in Chicago – Eli at the Immaculate Grace Hospital and Zane lecturing at Chicago University.  The problem for me, repeatedly through the book, was it felt more like it had been maybe one year since the first book, not five.  Five years into a relationship I would have expected most of the problems Zane and Eli experience to have already come up and been dealt with.

Both Zane and Eli became ill when working in Brazil, the result of drinking bad water, and were air-lifted out and repatriated to Chicago.  Zane has mostly recovered and is back at work, Eli is still a little shaky on his feet and it seems Immaculate Grace are unlikely to find work for him when he’s ready.  In this pairing, it is Eli who is the the more “stick in the mud” character and Zane who is looking for new challenges and vistas.  Eli has had enough of going overseas to practice – he wants to stay home.   But he also wants to be with Zane and he decides he will continue to follow Zane wherever he will go because that’s what’s most important to him. Rather than, you know, have a conversation about it. [insert eye roll here]

Richie and Taye are having some issues too – I found these pretty vague and ultimately unsatisfying.   Holly and Diana make a return appearance and they are much the same but in a good way.

Out of the blue, Marybeth (Eli’s ex-wife) starts texting him and wants to meet up. Eli keeps ignoring the texts and eventually Zane sees them and conflict ensues.  I didn’t really understand this. I didn’t get why it was a secret, why he didn’t just call the woman and find out what was what.  The texts themselves, coming apparently from nowhere, seemed oddly familiar and kind of sexual and there was no set up in this or the previous book for this to be so.

Just like old times, isn’t it? Looking forward to seeing you again, Eli. XXOO Marybeth.

Zane, when he sees the texts, is understandably jealous.  Which, when he reads the whole series of them must surely have been something he had second thoughts about because there was absolutely no response at all from Eli to any of them.  I felt like the authorial hand was visible here – the texts were deliberately provocative but even after the book ended, I didn’t know why – apart from, worded that way, they would push Zane’s buttons and cause a conflict.

More information comes to light about Zane’s attraction to Eli – it’s now been re-framed such that he wanted a sexual relationship with Eli all along. Was that an attempt at re-writing history? Or was it true?  It didn’t quite jibe with the earlier book in my opinion and given that I read them back to back, I felt like I would have picked up on any clues which were there.

Marybeth, when she bobs up in the story, seems to have thought that Eli and Zane were already in love when she left and the inference is that that is what her leaving was about but she is nevertheless surprised when she finds out they are together. I didn’t quite know what to do with those bits of information.  They didn’t sit well together.

Marybeth was again not demonised, which I appreciated but I couldn’t quite get a handle on who she was.

They hadn’t parted on the warmest of terms, but Eli wouldn’t have called Marybeth an enemy. More like a frustrated friend who couldn’t figure out any more than he could how things had gone so awry between them. He still didn’t know for sure when they’d started to sour. Maybe it’d been coming from day one. Cops made bad husbands, or at least Eli the Cop had. Eli the Student made no better a showing for himself.

This time, instead of Zane being at death’s door due to his strawberry allergy, it is Eli who has the health crisis.

And, after five years, Eli decides he might want a go at bottoming and spends an inordinate amount of time stressing about how to ask Zane about it and what it might be like.  If this was a few months, maybe even a year, after the first book, I could have got with the programme a bit more easily but as it was, I was dismayed by this aspect of the story.  First; because why does it have to be a thing?  Why do both partners in m/m romance so often have to take a turn at everything?  Why is this the “big sexual ta-da” *jazz hands* of the book?    Where in book one the guys don’t switch between bottom and top, it’s very often saved for book two in some kind of weird order of magnitude.  It is literally referred to in this book as “this last step” as if the relationship is invalid until Zane’s dick has been inside Eli’s arse.  That seems to me to be a very odd definition of a relationship. So, that little rant is more about how many books I’ve read where this has happened, this book being only one of them.  But second; they’ve been together for FIVE years.  This has never come up before? Ever?  Zane has never requested it?  When later, the text specifically states that Zane has had his fingers in Eli’s arse before, it made it even more difficult for me to believe the subject has never come up between them.  But there was no indication in the book that it ever had.

I kept coming back to – wait, it’s been five years?  Really? Because it feels like a lot less than that.  Ultimately, it reduced my confidence in their solidity rather than enhanced it. They appear to have learned nothing as a couple and be worse at communicating rather than better. But I’m constantly told how well they know each other.  In the first book, I put their disconnects down to the change in their relationship status throwing things off a bit.  But (and I cannot stress this enough) it’s been Five. Years. Five. Surely by now they’d have this covered (or they’d have split up)?

And there’s this:

“How are your knees, old man? Strong enough to hold you up?”

Eli blinked. Zane wasn’t suggesting—

But he was. Gentle but firm, Zane crowded Eli to the back wall of the shower. Eli spared a moment to be grateful this wasn’t a combination tub with a rim to slip and trip on. “Should I be asking about your knees?”

“They’re in tip-top condition.”

“I thought you might say that. Zane…” Eli caught him before he started his descent, checking for truth in the man’s eyes. “You don’t have to.”

Zane took Eli’s hand from its place beneath his chin and pressed his lips to the knuckles. “I know I don’t have to,” he said. “I want to. And I think you want me to as well.”

This seems to suggest that Eli getting a blowjob from Zane is a really rare event.  Um, what?

The denouement, when it came was kind of sketchy and vaguely unsatisfying.  Once again, I didn’t quite understand what they were fighting about and then Zane’s behaviour was kind of disappointing but also not sufficiently explained.

The story didn’t feel like anything new.  It felt like a rehash. After five years together, Eli still has difficulty showing Zane affection in public.  He hadn’t told Marybeth he was with Zane and he hadn’t changed his “person to contact in case of emergency” – in FIVE years.

I wanted to see this couple face a new problem, conquer a new hurdle, but basically it was just the same as the previous book and ultimately, it disappointed.  It was readable and when I was actually reading it, for the most part, it seemed harmless enough. But when I came to really think about it, just about the only things which stood out to me were negative.   I didn’t hate it but I did find it frustrating.  Grade: C-/D+

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

9 Comments

  1. azteclady
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 09:15:22

    Dang it. Now I’m really doubting whether I want to get the first one at all.

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  2. P. J. Dean
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 11:36:42

    I have kinda placed a halt on reading any more m/m romance ‘cuz I swear, like you pointed out, an established, definite checklist has been created that the men go through. There is a VERY popular series out now that I have heard women wax crazily over. I HATED book one because the main character was a guy who should have been charged with sexual harassment not kissed. And the other had been Team Vagina for 3 decades and suddenly looks at his obnoxious, harassing, alpha guy as THE ONE ‘cuz he’s cute. No. Just no. Books 2 and 3 won’t be read by me.

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  3. Sunita
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 12:08:23

    Great review, Kaetrin. I’ve stayed away from this author because I had the impression the books repeated some of the stereotypes I really dislike in m/m. The whole top/bottom, will-they/won’t-they on anal drives me batty. Your recap reminds me of the Tere Michaels trilogy, where the MCs took THREE BOOKS to work through their issues around anal sex, and the third book is basically a huge extended angstfest about whether they will or not. Of course they do, because true love etc., but I was so infuriated by the end.

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  4. Tam
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 17:09:11

    As to the time thing, well, I finally got a new will 14 years after my ex left. LOL So yeah, some of us are just lazy about stuff like that and don’t really think about it until something triggers us to get our shit together. :-) I do hate the contrived jealously conflict which a simply question would have avoided. it just makes them seem like teenagers jumping to conclusions rather than adults. And If I remember, these guys aren’t 25 years old.

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  5. Kaetrin
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 19:05:45

    @azteclady: um…. sorry? ;)

    @P. J. Dean: I don’t like the “sexual checklist” in m/f either and I think there is one there too. If I’m thinking that there’s a checklist, whatever the gender of the characters, then you’ve lost me.

    @Sunita: Thx Sunita. As I understand it, there’s a large proportion of gay men who don’t have anal sex at all. That would throw a spanner in the m/m romance works wouldn’t it?

    There are books where the sex scenes are ones I just enjoy reading and don’t feel the need to question that they were conforming to some kind of idealised checklist or schedule – even where there’s angst over a particular activity – it *can* work but it needs to come from a place organic to the characters and when it doesn’t, well, I think it becomes obvious.

    @Tam: LOL, yes Tam, they are nearly 50 in this book! I really felt like their relationship had devolved – that could have been and interesting story in itself but it just felt like more of the same and reading about characters essentially treading water isn’t terribly interesting to me.

    Maybe I’m just super organised about wills and the like. For me though, especially after the events of the first book and the dangers they face when working for Doctors Without Borders, I’d have thought things like next of kind/emergency contacts would have come up before. But, maybe because they are together overseas it was kind of irrelevant? Yeah, I can see that.

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  6. P. J. Dean
    Jul 21, 2014 @ 23:10:47

    @Kaetrin Yes, the checklist thing is an equal opportunity happening.

    @Sunita The whole will they/won’t they dance can drive one crazy. Another reason the series I basically DNFd lost me for the aforementioned reasons and because it followed the checklist religiously. And then danced around the big “ta-da” for titillation factor until it turned into “why” on my part.

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  7. Kaetrin
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 00:53:39

    @P. J. Dean: Now I wanna know *which* series you’re talking about! LOL

    ReplyReply

  8. P. J. Dean
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 12:01:33

    @Kaetrin I sent you a tweet with my answer. I could say so much more but your letter of opinion today hits the mark. It explains what put me off that series and put a halt to my m/m romance reading.

    ReplyReply

  9. Kaetrin
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 19:24:31

    @P. J. Dean: Got it, thx! I have bk1 on my TBR but who knows when I’ll get to it, if ever.

    ReplyReply

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