Monday, November 10, 2008

Chasing Winter by Rowan McBride

TITLE: Warm Rush, Book 1: Chasing Winter
AUTHOR: Rowan McBride
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 65k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $7.00

At 26, Jesse Winter is on the brink of life. The store he opened at 19 is about to go international, he’s healthy, and he lives his dream in a middle-class Connecticut neighborhood, complete with the teenager across the street who seems to idolize him. Then he goes off to Europe to open the overseas stores and his entire life changes. Three years later, he returns to Connecticut crippled, scarred, and barely going through the motions. The last thing he expects to see is little Keith Taylor from across the street. Keith has had more than one growth spurt in Jesse’s absence, and now, he’s a muscled sex god claiming to have wanted Jesse for years. Jesse tries to refuse at first, but Keith has a way of getting what he wants…and he wants Jesse.

There’s a lot more going on in this story than a simple May/December romance. Written in 1st person from Jesse’s POV, it clings to its contemporary vibe with a stubborn tenacity, while at the same time hinting that all is not as it seems. The publisher has this marked as paranormal, but that is only true in the loosest of terms. The reason for this is Keith’s growth spurts, and though those play definitive roles throughout the story, the mechanisms and story behind them never cloud the otherwise bittersweet contemporary romance.

Jesse is a broken man, struggling just to survive. He actually died on the operating table after the horrific accident that crippled him. A large part of him is convinced he should have stayed dead. But while he fights, he never seems to wallow in his depression and anger. Instead, he seems resigned and sad, even while he’s fighting not to be an invalid. Keith’s intervention is exactly what he needs, a source of unblemished devotion, a font of strength. Because of his relationship with the young man, he’s able to slowly but surely start to recover.

While I adored and admired Jesse, Keith gave me a few problems. It’s not his youth that bothers me; I really like May/December stories. It’s his attitude. Keith admits to Jesse that while he was gone, when Keith had his growth spurts, he got too cocky. He started to think he was privileged and terrorized those who opposed him, including his family. He’s suitably contrite and trying to mend his ways when Jesse returns, but there remains an instinct to lash out physically whenever Jesse gets threatened. People get hurt. People get scared. He feels very much like a bully at these points, which makes it very hard to like him, even though I know he’s doing it for Jesse. There were even times when I wondered if this attitude wouldn’t at some point turn back on Jesse, resulting in him getting hurt. Because of this ongoing discomfort, I never warmed to Keith the way I did Jesse.

But Jesse’s arc intrigues me enough to stay engaged, in spite of my reservations about Keith. It’s his journey from broken to better that pulled at my heart strings. This is McBride’s greatest strength, I believe. The emotions he infuses into his protagonist always resonate deeper than the few words on the page would suggest. This is why I trust him so much as an author.


9/10 – McBride is a master of few words conveying great emotions

Hero #1

8/10 – Broken by the best

Hero #2

5/10 – His sometime violent nature made it very difficult for me to fully accept him.

Entertainment value

7/10 – This works as well as it does because of the author’s sensitivity to Jesse’s pain and need.

World building

8/10 – Ultimately, there are questions raised by the slight paranormal elements of the story, but I imagine those will be answered in subsequent books.



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