I bought Daisy Harris’s gay romance novel After the Rain (Fire and Rain) because of it’s description. It’s summary talked about firefighters, tight jeans and sex in a tent. Why wouldn’t I want to read about that? As I read the first chapter, I began to eye roll. Henri (with an “I” of course) is described in skinny jeans and as having a heroin chic look. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘another gay stereotype’, but I was wrong.
As the story moves on, Henri becomes a fleshed out character and much more than the expectation I had in my head. Especially, after he meets Logan, who’s is grounded and real in his description.
Logan is a man just taking his first, few tentative steps from the closet. After a break up with his long-term-relationship-since-high-school girlfriend, Logan is ready to meet a man. He just isn’t sure where. But plot machinations are about to give him that chance.
Logan and Henri are thrown together because Henri has no other ride to the big camp out event weekend that all the Pacific Northwest boys are going to. Henri’s buddy’s car is full up before Henri confirmed he needed a ride. So, Henri is left with no choice but to ride with the rugged, country and innocent Logan.
At first Logan gets on Henri’s nerves. One because Henri is still bitter over a break up with his cheating ex and two because Logan isn’t Henri’s usual type. Henri tends to go for the A-Gays; business suits, classy apartments and all. But close proximity in the campsite of the upper northwest region will have its effect on Henri; changing his mind about just what kind of type he should be with.
Logan on the other hand has no question about his attraction to Henri. From the moment Logan sees him, he knows Henri is going to be his first. But there is a dilemma, and it’s more than just Henri’s habitual poor choice of men from his past. Henri may have an STD. But he won’t know the results until after the trip.
What are two men who have an attraction to each other; huddled up in a tent in open space with beautiful scenery to do?
What I liked most about most about After the Rain was the central hurdle of the STD that the characters had to overcome. I won’t spoil it for those who want to read, but I was glad that it was not HIV.
We, as the gay community, talk often of safe(er) sex in terms of protecting ourselves from HIV. Rarely, do we cover the topic of other STDs when related to sex. Most typically, it’s only covered if we are in a mixed; straight and gay, sex-ed class. It was good to see a gay male love story with another reason for protecting yourself beyond just HIV, and see the concerns and solutions around this subject fleshed out.
Both characters, Logan and Henri are fleshed out, too. They go beyond the strong, silent, butch, gay firefighter and the more feminine, stylish, metrosexual guy. Though Henri starts out as seeming stereotypical, through their interactions and dialogue you really get to know the characters beyond the ‘I’m hot for you’ plot device. I especially liked the scene when Logan tried to ask out his firefighting buddy. I felt like it was a situation that could happen to any of us. As is the story of Henri and Logan meeting and falling for one another. It’s natural, organic and aside from the reasons why they get thrown together, not contrived. The camping trip weekend gives the two main characters natural ways to interact with each other and learn about each other through activities which take place over the camp weekend.
The only thing that I did not like was the jilted housewife scenarios that start the plot in motion and are cause for some tension once Logan and Henri really start to get into one another. There’s another camper who is hot for Logan and makes a incomplete pass at him which Henri sees. This plot seemed transplanted right out of a heterosexual romance.
We talk about how our relationships aren’t always the heteronormative of monogamy. We have monogamish and open relationships as well as triad aka throuple in our community. I’d like to see those kinds of elements explored in fiction rather than rely on the old trope of jealousy because I saw you with someone else. Even if couples wind up monogamous, I’d like to see some discussion of how they get there rather than it’s just assumed. I think there is much more that could be explored with a story that has that angle. It would create a richer piece and one that is more reflective of the community.