I’ve reviewed both of the previous books in the Fire and Rain series by Daisy Harris. Book one, From the Ashes told the story of Tomas and Jesse. The second book, After the Rain, featured Jesse’s friend Henri and another firefighter and co-worker of Tomas’s, Logan. Both were sweet romances that were enjoyable and sexy. Nothing But Smoke, is the third book and tells the story of Michael and Nicky. After reading the previous two books I wasn’t exactly jazzed to read Michael’s story. He didn’t seem to be the most likeable character as I thought he came across as bossy and just a bit stuck up. But I like this author’s voice and really wanted to carry on with this series, so I requested for review.
When Michael first meets Nicky it’s in a local hook up spot in the park. Nicky rides up on his motorcycle and his big, muscled, leather clad body is just what Michael wants for a little anonymous fun. Once they get behind the bushes its clear to Michael that Nicky is uncomfortable and not at all at ease with what they are doing. Almost like he’s a straight man by day and only let’s his true self out of the closet under the cover of darkness, which is the type of man Michael has sworn to himself he’ll never get involved with again. Since he doesn’t plan on seeing him ever again it’s not that big a deal, they’ll get each other off and then go their own ways.
That is until they see each other again at a local firefighter charity event.
Nicky spends all his time either at home taking care of his dying mother or at work. The only time he takes anything for himself is when he sneaks away to the park. He’s unsure, tentative and a little shy about meeting men the way he does. But since discovering his interest in boys as a teenager he’s never fully admitted his sexuality to himself much less his extremely religious mother. Now that she’s sick and has so little time left he can’t bring himself to upset her. Everything changes when he runs into Michael again. He feels compelled to keep seeing him. Michael is the only person in his life that knows and understands his desires. What starts out as a purely sexual arrangement quickly moves to a deep friendship and an emotional intimacy that transcends Michael’s need to have an out and proud partner and Nicky’s confusion over coming out while also grieving over his mother’s illness.
This book was so much deeper than the others in the series. While the first two also dealt with coming out of the closet and being true to yourself, Nothing But Smoke has an added layer of conflict because of the impending death of Nicky’s mother, and I thought it was all handled beautifully by this author. Because of a past relationship that ended badly Michael has serious issues about being with a man who wants to be his lover when they are alone, but won’t even hold his hand in public. Michael has some tough decisions to make regarding this new relationship and what he will give up in the process. How far should he push to have their relationship validated? How long should he wait for Nicky? Does it even matter if Nicky’s mother ever knows of their relationship?
Nicky is in a dark, scary place knowing his mother’s death is close. Even while he is building something new with Michael and navigating through his feelings over what that means for his life, he is moving in and out of the classic stages of grief and loss. As someone who has taken care of a terminally ill parent I connected with Nicky and his struggles with his feelings over his mother and her illness almost immediately. I can not imagine how much more trying that time would have been in my life if I had to struggle with my sexual identity as well. Michael becomes his rock and I adored him in this story because he sets aside his own issues in order to be who Nicky needs. So while I might have had reservations over Michael when the story began, I had a soft spot for him by the HEA.
This is a deep, emotional story that deals with grief, acceptance and finding happiness and a measure of peace. In the end this was my favorite of the series so far. I connected with this couple and completely enjoyed their journey and happily ever after. Final Grade- B+
“Yeah, she would have, Nicky. She would have told you she loved you no matter what, and that she’d always be your mom.”