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REVIEW:  November Rain by Daisy Harris

REVIEW: November Rain by Daisy Harris

November-Rain

Detective Joe Klamath is used to guys falling on their backs at the arch of his commanding eyebrow. Yet he can’t seem to get a read on a cute, department-store sales guy. The vagrant who just walked in, though? He’s easy to read. He’s dangerous.

Joe’s training kicks in, but as he wrestles the gun-wielding man, he gets shot.

Raised in a conservative Ethiopian community, Elias Abraham keeps his natural attraction to men under wraps. But Joe’s heroism moves him to care for the man who saved his life. After all, Joe is hurt. Chances are slim he’ll demand the types of things boys in college always wanted. Sex acts Elias wasn’t—and possibly never will be—ready for.

Gradually, Joe’s easy confidence softens Elias’s resistance. But as Joe’s healing progresses too slowly for a man of action, and trouble brews in Elias’s family, Elias begins to wonder if he can handle the pressure. Because though he hasn’t given all of his body, he’s already given all of his heart.

Warning: Contains a sexy-as-hell cop, a shy virgin fifteen years younger, and an extremely intimate sponge bath. Underpants optional.

Dear Ms. Harris,

(Is it only me with a Guns ‘n’ Roses ear worm?)

I read the blurb when I first requested the book for review but had forgotten it by the time I actually read the story. I was kind of hoping at first that Joe wasn’t one of the heroes because I didn’t like him initially. I thought he was overly aggressive and a bit of a dawg.  Unfortunately, my opinion of him didn’t improve all that much over the course of the book.

Also, early on there was some name confusion and in more than one place Joe was called Jack – an error I sincerely hope was corrected before the book went on sale.

Actually, it’s under 120 pages so I should call it a novella.   And the problem with novellas is that there isn’t a lot of time or space to show a relationship develop believably to the exchange of “I love you” and a HEA.  In my opinion the best ones get around this by having the main characters already know each other or by delivering a hopeful Happy-For-Now ending rather than the whole box and dice.  Here, Joe and Elias meet, fall in love and get their HEA in less than 120 pages.  Frankly, my note when Elias first thinks (after knowing Joe for about a week and barely sharing any conversation with him) “I love you” was  oh honey, no.  Elias is soft spoken and shy.  He is presented as having a natural reticence which is largely influenced by his Ethiopian culture.  He hadn’t had a relationship before Joe – just some meaningless and embarrassed college fumblings and I thought he was far to naive and immature to truly know what he was doing when it came to Joe.

Because we get both perspectives, we know that Joe initially assumes that he and Elias will merely hook up and his sexual aggression (he wasn’t violent, just forceful and pushy) felt so much more alarming when I’d spent time in Elias’s head and knew how shy he was of physical intimacy.  Quite a lot of their foreplay is essentially crossed wires where Joe makes assumptions that Elias either doesn’t understand or doesn’t correct.

Joe had been in a 10 year relationship up until about a year before the book begins.  It appears to have been more of a convenience and a friendship rather than true love but it is clear that Joe is still hurt that things ended.  He is also hurt that his ex, Dan, is getting married so soon after their break up and Elias is the perfect arm candy for Joe to take to the wedding to save face.  Joe doesn’t come across as having much insight into himself or others, notwithstanding that he is a police officer in a Crisis Intervention Unit, partnered with a registered counsellor.  His communication skills are poor and talking about his feelings is difficult – so he mostly doesn’t do it.

I was interested in the Ethiopian cultural aspects of the story and I thought you did a good job of moving Joe from a fetishising racist at the start to someone who becomes far more culturally sensitive and aware of the racism of others (although I think he remains too accepting of it). The casual racism displayed by some of the secondary characters and bit players felt depressingly authentic.

Elias lives with his older brother Solomon and Solomon’s wife, Sara.  Sara isn’t coping well in America, having immigrated from Ethiopia via an arranged marriage.  She particularly dislikes the winter and is quite depressed.  Solomon struggles to understand his wife and provide support to her, and Elias is reluctant to intervene in his brother’s marriage.  Even though Solomon and Elias were raised in the US, their cultural identity is very much Ethiopian.  Arranged marriages are very common (apparently) and overt displays of affection are rare. Being gay, for an Ethiopian male is even more fraught. Elias knows that his parents (who have returned to Ethiopia) will disown him if he comes out and he is terrified that he will lose Solomon and Sara (his only family in the US) if he shows himself to be openly gay.

I understood the attraction for Joe in Elias – Elias is younger and prepared to do just about anything for Joe (honestly the servile nature of some of it was uncomfortable for me) – but I struggled to see what was so great for Elias about Joe.  Yes, Joe is good looking but, particularly at the beginning, he treats Elias as little more than a piece of meat.  In fact, during the course of the story, Elias does stand up for himself on occasion (something for which I was very glad) and tells Joe that he will not be treated that way.  But Joe keeps crossing Elias’ boundaries with no compunction. The best example of this comes later in the story. I have hidden it under a spoiler tag, so readers can choose to read about it or not. 

Spoiler: Show

When Joe is invited for Thanksgiving dinner to Solomon’s house, Elias makes it abundantly clear that there can be no physical contact and Joe must appear to be a friend only – the risk to Elias here is significant; he could lose his family and his home.  However, Joe doesn’t hesitate when he decides he wants to kiss Elias in the kitchen.  And this, after Elias specifically warned him against such conduct. I was annoyed that Joe didn’t respect Elias’ boundaries and given this occurred later in the story, I wasn’t confident he ever would.

The writing was sometimes confusing. Within one paragraph there would be an apparent shift from one character’s POV to another.

Elias sealed their mouths together like he had something to prove, but he deserved to get his nut on, to scrape Joe with his teeth. Joe deserved to get manhandled because he’d been stupid enough to let Dan’s dumbass remarks follow him home.

I felt the depiction of Joe’s injury was inconsistent. It was initially a “graze” but he needed way more time off work and therapy than that would suggest.  The PT doctor was obviously there to teach Joe how to be a better man and that felt heavy-handed.

I think I may have enjoyed this one better if there had been more time for the relationship to develop but things moved very fast and I felt Elias was steamrollered rather than seduced. While I liked Elias, he felt very young, and I didn’t really like Joe all that much.  The best parts of the book were those which dealt with the culture shock Sara suffered when she emigrated but even then, the word count meant this didn’t get enough page time either and the resolution felt pat.

Ultimately, November Rain was not a success for me.  I had initially graded the book at a D+ but on reflection, I think the multicultural aspects of the story raised it to a C-.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Knowing the Score by Kat Latham

REVIEW: Knowing the Score by Kat Latham

Rugby player Spencer Bailey is determined to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. But with a month break before the selectors start watching him, he’s eager to have fun with a woman who knows the score: the relationship will end when rugby season begins. The lovely American Caitlyn Sweeney seems perfect for the role of temporary lover, since her visa will run out soon anyway.

Caitlyn works for an international disaster relief organization and can handle the world’s worst crises, but she flinches from her own. Her past has left her with a fear of intimacy so deep that she has trouble getting close to anyone—until she meets sexy Spencer. His hot body and easygoing nature are too much for even her to resist.

Neither Caitlyn nor Spencer expects to fall hard for each other. But with their relationship deadline approaching, the old rules of the game seem less important than before…until past secrets surface, challenging everything they thought they knew about each other.

Dear Ms. Latham,

These were some of the thoughts I had while enjoying “Knowing the Score.” “I’m floating through reading this. It’s awesome when I connect with characters and a plot. The book is almost reading itself.” Needless to say when I finished it, I knew it would be one of my recs for this month.

Knowing the Score by Kat Latham, recommended by Jayne

Knowing the Score by Kat Latham, recommended by Jayne

Why did I check this book out? The hero is a rugby player and I wanted to know more about the sport. Being an American basketball fan, all I knew of rugby was 1 – the New Zealand All Blacks, 2 – the 1995 Rugby World Cup game won by South Africa (I saw a great documentary on that game) and 3 – rugby players look hot. Now I know all kinds of stuff about player positions – ahem, naughty songs – also ahem, that the ball must be thrown backwards to be moved forwards and the players don’t wear athletic cups. Yikes. See? I’m learning.

But wait! There’s more. The book is funny and real and the dialogue is fantastic. I love the relationship between Spencer and his granddad. The laddish kidding sounds like what I’ve heard in British shows I’ve seen. Spencer’s grandmum also sounds like a woman I’d have loved to sit and talk with. And Caitlyn has an amazing job that actually helps do good in the world. I’m with Spencer in being in awe of her.

Caitlyn’s virginity situation may sound a bit extreme but when viewed in terms of confidence and self image, it seems believable. Her background hasn’t exactly built up her self esteem to begin with and as she says, as time goes on, her worry over it has just grown. The plotus coitus interruptus that occurs before Spencer and Caitlyn finally deal with that pesky condition of hers might have annoyed me in lesser authorial hands but here the lead up foreplay is hot enough that I didn’t mind as much. Certainly not as much as poor Spencer’s blue balls.

I want Spencer. I want to marry this man. We’ve had some reviews recently that mentioned heroes winning their heroines by treating them nicely and that fits here in spades. Not only is he patient and a sweetie, he’s sexy as hell. Spencer should be cloned and mass produced for export. Britain would have a trade surplus that would be the envy of the world. I mean really, a man who will carefully look after his sick-as-a-dog heroine, sees to her sexual needs before his own as well as mentally devising ways to pulverize the twat who hurt her in the past (not that he’s going to go out and waste time on the bastard but he does imagine how much the wanker deserves it) and who gives up what he gives up to be there for the birth of his child? Me wants.

When Caitlyn’s bemused question of Spencer – “do you come with subtitles?” appeared, I laughed out loud. The difference between US/UK English slang is hilarious. Note to self – never use the term “fanny” in England. Spencer’s whispered statement to Lily “That’s your mummy, but she’ll probably ask you to call her Mommy. You’ll notice she talks funny, but we love her anyway.” cracked me up too. But how did they work out the visa issue?, I still want to know.

It’s too bad that all the lovingly developed horrible issues that Caitlyn has are seemingly healed in an instant. It’s a lovely conceit that Spencer’s heartfelt assurances of Caitlyn’s “beauty in his eyes” and that he’ll never physically hurt her will be all that she needs for the mental scars of a lifetime to be wiped clean and banished from her mind but I’m afraid it takes a bit more than that regardless of Caitlyn’s nicely delineated inner strength.

But having said that, Spencer and Caitlyn do finally talk and get everything out in the open. All those nasty little secrets that we the readers knew all along would come out at the worst time do just that and the fall out is crushing but I do get the feeling that Caitlyn has finally opened herself totally to love and will trust Spencer forever. Do girls play rugby because I get the feeling that Lily is going to learn how to spin the egg at a very young age. B+

~Jayne

 

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Kat emailed us and asked if we would be interested in tacking on a giveaway to our review. Why not, right?

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