WAITING FOR RAIN
SUSAN MAC NICOL
GENRE: homoerotic, contemporary gay romance
The village of Stamford, the quintessential chocolate box English scene, seemed an impossible dream for foster kid Toby Prentiss. Now he’s found a home among the haystacks and village fairs as the general manager for the Duck and Drake Hotel. With the fears and demons from his youth hidden away in this bucolic oasis, he’s very protective of who he lets in. Until he stumbles across shirtless carpenter Rain Engel building the hotel’s new custom-designed bar.
Working in the countryside, Rain prepared to face his biggest fear: sheep. He didn’t expect to deal with his second biggest fear: commitment. Toby’s controlled tough guy façade coupled with his “find happiness where you can” optimism calls to Rain like nothing before. While Rain may be an exhibitionist, his romantic history forces him to hold his emotions close. As their relationship develops, secrets from their pasts drive a wedge between them: the ex-boyfriend who tore apart Rain’s trust and Toby’s history with the law. But can the secrets hiding among the quirky villagers bring them together? With missing sheep, pole dancing at the winter festival, and a crippling drought, everyone is waiting for Rain.
Susan Mac Nicol hits one out of the park with a heartwarming, sometimes suspenseful, often laugh-out-loud funny tale of two men falling headfirst into lust, then taking those small, tentative steps toward friendship and finally love.
Toby Prentiss has a tortured history that leaves him with a record of poor choices and problems with anger management. Yet, with the help of a man who becomes his mentor, he rises above situations that would have crushed other men.
Rain Engel had his heart torn in two. It makes him wary of relationships but not taking those first steps to satisfy his attraction to Toby Prentiss, the general manager of the hotel where he is employed as a contractor. Rain is no shrinking violet. He knows what he wants and he doesn’t mind expressing himself in rather unique ways.
Their small village is bucolic, quirky and—on the surface—lacking in choices when it comes to potential gay partners. It also has a bounty of vociferous homophobes, some downright nasty and dangerous.
The large cast of supporting characters provides a wonderful backdrop to Toby and Rain’s tentative steps on that path of discovery. From the farmer who solicits help thwarting a sheep rustler to the BFFs of Toby and Rain, and the sometimes bittersweet attraction between Toby and Simon, his boss and mentor … each one adds breadth and depth to the story, along with many humorous moments.
And call them what you will—the setting, props, even the weather—all contribute in delightful ways to bring this story to life. There’s a phobia, a shed, a pole, a sauna, a haystack, leather products, a drought, a festival … each and every one an integral part of Toby and Rain’s journey. They provide the kind of feel-good moments that make a story sigh-worthy and memorable.
The author made some interesting choices in telling Toby and Rain’s story: using first POV, she alternates chapters with each man given a unique voice. With their radically different upbringing and personalities, that is a difficult task to pull off successfully, particularly since “lust” with a capital “L” drives the bulk of their relationship from the get-go. What we learn about each man is cleverly related via their interactions with minor characters: best friends, working relationships, acquaintances, even their encounters with antagonists … all bring to light the best and the worst that comprise the complex personalities of Toby and Rain.
Make no mistake, this is homoerotic romance. The sex is plentiful, it is hot and it works to drive each man’s emotional growth. It is the glue that keeps them together when outside circumstances and their own frailties work to tear them apart.
Waiting for Rain is a satisfying story on many levels. Rife with romance, humor, and charm, this is a book you can read and enjoy many times over. The men are real, their inner turmoil believable, the resolution to problems they encounter are often creative and surprising, and the supporting characters will grab your hearts and minds.
I give Waiting for Rain an unconditional FIVE STARS.
SUSAN MAC NICOL
GENRE: Gay literature and fiction, homoerotic literature, erotica
Abused horrifically as a boy, Nick Mathers has come to terms with his existence as a man. Mostly. Other days life seems a little much. Especially when Nick knows he’ll always be alone.
On those days his thoughts turn black. He walks the Norfolk coast and considers the frigid embrace of the waves. And then, one stormy night, he finds someone who’s tasted just that. The beautiful stranger on the beach is near death, and Nick rushes him home to slowly nurse back to health. As he does, he finds a love unlike any other. Owen Butler’s body is as warm as the sea was cold, his heart as big as an ocean. And Owen is a man who swears to repay the favor. Nick can yet be saved from himself, and he will see that he is indeed a man… worth keeping.
Two men, both damaged souls, come together at the nadir of their will and ability to deal with crushing emotional trauma. Nick was abused as a child, and that abuse is so horrific, one can understand how and why this tortured soul acts out as he does. And the abuse continued into adulthood with in a damaging relationship with a domineering, viscous bully. Nick’s solution is to hide, yet he cannot hide from the nightmares consuming him.
Owen cannot move past losing his lover to an act of violence, the man dying in his arms. It’s a blow to the heart that cuts him off from all but the most transient relationships, leaving him hollowed out, unresponsive but not uncaring. Compared to Nick, his choices seem self-indulgent, perhaps because we spend less time inside his head than we do with Nick. That doesn’t make his pain any less, nor does it trivialize the emotional baggage he carries with him everywhere.
The character of Nick is beautifully crafted: with sympathy, not pity; with understanding and compassion for the darkness that haunts his existence. How and why he has survived to that point is a miracle, yet at no point is it set in stone that he will continue to do so, for that kind of pain can overwhelm and destroy everything in its path. Owen is an enigma, traumatized yet keeping up appearances, so much so that at first he comes across as shallow. But it doesn’t take long to determine that here is a man willing to stay the course, especially when his protective instincts kick in as the puzzle that is Nick unfolds.
The author treats the subject matter with honesty, never going for the easy solution, staying the course with her characters, never dodging the realities, the legacy of this kind of abuse.
The cast of supporting characters adds depth and color, and the subplot of impending danger is artfully woven into the fabric of two men learning to overcome their own limitations, to open to the possibility of love and to redefine who they are.
When and if this comes out in print, I will want a copy, because, quite simply, this is a novel… Worth Keeping.
FIVE STARS, and a highly recommend.