Summary Review: Brandon and Dustin navigate two years of being together and show that their love is the real deal.
Brandon Stewart and Dustin Walker started dating two years ago after meeting in the local bar over a game of pool. Dustin has struggled to come out to his homophobic family and come clean about his relationship with Brandon, and now they’re planning to get married. Now, in a bid to fix broken ties, Dustin’s brother Tristan is trying to reconnect with him, which makes Brandon wonder if he, too, can mend fences with his own estranged brother. But is sixteen years of silence long enough for old wounds to heal?
Brandon and Dustin are back after Rules of Engagement reviewed here. This is the fifth book that I have reviewed by this author, with mixed results. There is no doubt that L.A. Witt is a talented and experienced author and I love her prose and dialogue, but sometimes I have difficulty with the insecurities and flip flopping of her characters. I was pleased to see there was none of that here, the guys are still in love and in lust and they are now engaged to be married, but they haven’t set a date for the wedding despite Brandon’s mother’s efforts to get them to the altar as soon as possible.
The story opens with Brandon getting an unexpected visitor at the college where he teaches, Dustin’s homophobic brother Tristan whom we met in Rules of Engagement. He was an unpleasant, over-the-top character in that book and I wondered if there was a chance at redemption in Rain. When Tristan showed up in Brandon’s office he was clearly uncomfortable and had difficulty meeting his eyes or talking to him, as if he couldn’t bear to be near someone who was gay. Eventually he stated his reason for seeking out Brandon - he wanted his brother to phone him. Obviously he thought that Dustin should do his bidding and it never occurred to him to pick up the phone and make the call himself. When Dustin found out about Tristan’s visit he was stressed out and it took him a while to calm down enough to call. They arranged to meet at their sister’s home and Dustin insisted that Brandon should be there, but would it go well? What about their mother who was even more homophobic than Tristan, if that were possible?
Brandon had his own problems. His brother Russell hadn’t spoken to him in 16 years since he came out, and he was obviously hard wired to his way of thinking that sex should only be between a man and a woman. When Brandon took a chance and decided to visit Russell, would there be a red carpet welcome from the brother he had missed for so long?
This book is aptly named. It rained throughout the story and at times I thought I would drown. The rain was used very effectively by L.A. Witt in setting the mood, and it was almost like another character at times because situations were made more sombre due to the weather conditions. Even driving through a rainstorm or standing on a balcony in the pouring rain was a clever use of the climate.
Rain is told in Brandon’s first person POV and I loved his ‘voice’. He was so much in love with Dustin that he was determined to protect him, even from his own family. His caring was evident as he helped Dustin through the stress of meeting Tristan again and their relationship seemed stronger because of all the difficulties they had faced from family members since they met. In Rules of Engagement Dustin was newly divorced from his unfaithful wife of 10 years and when he met Brandon in a bar the attraction was powerful and immediate. The intensity of their feelings for each other when they played a killer game of pool was palpable, but for Dustin, being attracted to Brandon was something he couldn’t understand because he had never been even the slightest bit interested in another man before. Throughout the book he struggled with his feelings. At times the angst was too much for me as Dustin spent much of the latter one quarter of Rules of Engagement trying to figure out if he was gay, bisexual, in love with Brandon, or on the rebound.
In Rain there are no more doubts as Dustin is fully committed to and in love with Brandon. Even Tristan saw that Dustin’s feelings were fully engaged when he made it clear that he was willing to walk away from half his family because of his love for Brandon.
There were a few supporting characters that rounded out the cast who were just as well drawn as Brandon and Dustin – Brandon’s mother and his sister as well as Dustin’s sister and husband were a good foil to the other members of the family. The one niggle I had about the story was the insistence by both Dustin and Brandon that they were not gay but bi – I don’t know why this was important since there were no women in their lives other than family.
In this sequel the author attempts to show how family relationships are broken because of intolerance and homophobia, and that sometimes ingrained prejudices can never be overcome because the only way to build a bridge was to burn another one. Rain was a reaffirmation of Dustin’s and Brandon’s love and I was very happy to see them 2 years later still in love and determined to fight for that love. I really liked this story but I missed the sexual tension and intensity in Rules of Engagement.
This is not a standalone book and I recommend that you read Rules of Engagement before Rain. Definitely recommended.