Author ~ Andrew Grey
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 11th January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Carlisle Cops: Book Three
Since the death of their mother, Josten Applewhite has done what he’s had to do to take care of his little brother and keep their small family together. But in an instant, a stroke of bad luck tears down what little home he’s managed to build, and Jos and Isaac end up on the streets.
That’s where Officer Kip Rogers finds them, and even though he knows he should let the proper authorities handle things, he cannot find it in his heart to turn them away, going so far as to invite them to stay in his home until they get back on their feet. With the help of Kip and his friends, Jos starts to rebuild his life. But experience has taught him nothing comes for free, and the generosity seems too good to be true—just like everything about Kip.
Kip’s falling hard for Jos, and he likes the way Jos and Isaac make his big house feel like a home. But their arrangement can’t be permanent, not with Jos set on making his own way. Then a distant relative emerges, determined to destroy Jos’s family, and Kip knows Jos needs him—even if he’s not ready to admit it.
“Fire and Rain” is the third book in Andrew Grey’s Carlisle Cops series. It’s well-written, consistent with the previous books, and brings back the main characters from the previous installments, which gives it a certain familiarity that will be welcome to fans of this series.
Unfortunately, “Fire and Rain” struck me as the weakest of the three. Not that the characters were anything less than endearing and authentic. There’s Jos and Isaac, two brothers orphaned when their alcoholic mother dies. Jos is twenty, Isaac is four, and they’re having a terrible time making a go of it on their own without support of any kind. Jos’ recent loss of his job and the brothers’ illegal eviction from their apartment left the two homeless. Honoring both his mother’s will and his love for his brother, Jos has custody of Isaac, and he feels like he’s failing him miserably.
Kip is an officer in the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Police Department. On routine patrol, he spies a bundle of clothing in the entryway of a closed store, downtown. Upon investigating, he finds a beautiful, but down-and-out young man and his bright and innocent little brother. The weather is lousy. He can’t leave them out on the street like this, but he can’t find any room at any local shelter – the bad weather has filled up every spare bed in town.
So he takes the two home with him. This is the theme of the whole series – families of choice and compassion built from the wreckage of families of birth. Kip has never raised a kid and isn’t at all sure whether it’s wise to invite these homeless brothers into his home – cops have to be awfully careful about keeping a distance from the people they protect and serve, or the job will break their hearts. Still, he doesn’t see any other option, and is immediately taken by the beautiful little boy and the young man with the stunning blue eyes, both of which speak deeply to his soul.
Kip just got rid of a manipulative boyfriend when his patience with mind games expired, leaving him stomping around, all alone, in the huge empty house he inherited from his parents. And his heart goes out to these two kids, especially as he knows first-hand what it’s like to be raised by an alcoholic mother.
“Fire and Rain” is the story of how these men get together and create a new family, one built on trust and caring, one built on friendship and shared experiences.
Andrew Grey is one of my all-time favorite authors, but I wouldn’t put this book up against his best. In “Fire and Rain”, he tends to leave stuff hanging. The boyfriend who occupied much of the first chapter? Irrelevant. He has almost no bearing on the story, and hasn’t even left Kip with enough sorrow or disappointment to have any effect on his growing feelings for Jos. There’s also a brief encounter with the slumlord who illegally evicted the boys (and other tenants) without notice, so he could knock their building down without delay. The cops ruminate that they never seemed to be able to get this guy, and one reason is that a cop from a nearby jurisdiction is in on the scam with him. Nothing happens to the landlord or the corrupt cop. They disappear from the story. And then there is a street-rapist who preys on homeless kids, stealing what little they have and then raping them, to teach them some kind of “lesson”. He gets arrested when he goes after Jos, gets jailed, gets bailed out and then he disappears into the same ether as the other characters. There’s even a “wicked stepmother”, in the person of Aunt Kathy, the aunt neither boy has ever met, who suddenly decides to try to take custody of Isaac from Jos. That story gets wrapped up in about three sentences, late in the book.
I’m not quite sure why Andrew Grey left so many threads dangling, or introduced so many secondary characters who had little or no impact on either the plot, or the development of the relationship between the three main characters. Perhaps they show up in the next book. Who knows? But it’s almost as though parts of the story were excised, parts that expanded and explained all that sturm-and-drang – that somehow seemed to morph into “Much Ado About Nothing”.
What saves “Fire and Rain” is what drives every Andrew Grey book – his wonderful writing and first-rate storytelling. No one writes children better. Grey never condescends to the young. He imbues them with innocence, resilience and energy, galore, while acknowledging that they know more and understand more than any of us old people would ever give them credit for. Their reactions, as penned by Grey, are priceless and heartwarming. In fact, the whole book is heartwarming, but not in any special way: cute kids; older, more experienced guy saving younger one (and his kid brother); people without families, for a variety of reasons, finding family with each other. It’s been written so many times – and many of those times by Andrew Grey himself. Sadly, “Fire and Rain” feels like a book written on autopilot, and I have come to expect so much more from this immensely talented, passionate, and often brilliant, writer.
Still, if you’d like to spend a few hours with a heartwarming story, or catch up on the beloved characters from “Fire and Ice” and “Fire and Water”, give this book a go. The characters will charm you and the plot, while not exactly unique, will still leave you with a smile on your face.