Title: Painting in the Rain
Author: Dev Bentham
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Love is a Light
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: extended novella (34K words)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan
Review Summary: Not perfect, but an entertaining summer read.
Helping teenagers is tough. They face so many dangers—peer pressure, drugs, pregnancy, STDs. As a trained social worker, Mike knows all about it. He’s taken a temporary job on the Oregon coast working with at-risk kids. But when he meets Gabe, the father of one of his charges, he finds himself in another type of danger—that of falling in love and getting stuck in a small, conservative town, not to mention living with an angry teenager. And yet, he’s drawn to Gabe in a way he never imagined possible.
Gabe, whose own father left before he was born, stays in a town where he no longer feels welcome. He’s living the life of a lonely artist so that he can be a father to his son, a bond that’s been threatened by divorce and Gabe’s public coming out. When he meets Mike, Gabe is bowled over with a longing so deep that he finds himself willing to risk everything.
But there are plenty of dangers in a small town, and when a gay kid gets hurt and they refuse to leave him to his fate, Mike and Gabe may be risking more than their hearts.
Mike Malone is using his social work degree to work with at risk teens in a small Oregon town. He lives in a house with three other counselors; his friend Jessica and two douchebags, Frank and Billy.
One of the kids he works with, Trevor, is an extremely promiscuous teen who is acting out because of his parents’ divorce. Mike brings Trevor home one day and meets Trevor’s dad, Gabe Thompson. They seem instantly attracted to each other—a bit too quick for my taste, but it is a novella, so things do have to happen quicker than full length novels.
Gabe and Trevor’s mother, Carol, have gone through a divorce. They were friends in high school and slept together once, and Trevor was the result. Carol knew Gabe was gay when they got married, but married him anyway because of Trevor. Gabe stayed faithful for years, but they had no sex life, so eventually he had an affair with another man. They had agreed to come out together, but the other man lost his nerve, so Gabe had to deal with it alone. Carol found out and, even though she knew the nature of their relationship, she made the divorce bitter because she was embarrassed. Because of the small town scandal, Trevor is angry with both of his parents and lashes out against his father for being gay.
Mike and Gabe begin dating, and Trevor eventually finds out. This calls into suspicion Mike’s position as a counselor, although he does get to keep his job. However, when evidence comes to light that one of the kids has been molested, and someone anonymously accuses both Gabe and Mike. While Gabe and Mike are eventually cleared, the same kid nearly being killed sparks an interesting whodunit. The coastal Oregon setting was really beautiful, too. It made me want to visit there.
Although they did sort of suffer from a case of insta-love, I really enjoyed Mike and Gabe. Gabe is a junk sculpture artist, and coming from an art background myself, reading about him was fun for me. I would have liked to read even more about his art. As it was, he was adorably quirky and somewhat socially awkward, which is pretty accurate for an artist.
Mike seemed like a cool guy. I felt bad for him, having to live with his two homophobic housemates, but he always had witty comebacks for their insults. While I felt the connection between Mike and Gabe was rather rushed, it was written well. They had a lot of chemistry, but the book also wasn’t stuffed full of gratuitous sex. They were mindful of the situation with Trevor, and the way they handled their relationship around him was believable.
I won’t give away too much about the big showdown at the end with the person who abused the kid, but I didn’t see it coming. This felt a bit rushed as well, but it didn’t end the way I expected it to, so that was refreshing.
It was also good to see Trevor somewhat come to terms with his parents’ new situation, and Gabe and Mike’s relationship. I would have liked to see that dynamic explored a little bit more at the end. It ended hopeful but not completely resolved on the Trevor front. This story had lots of great elements and it could have delved a lot further into the new family dynamic that Gabe, Trevor, and Mike were building.
While there were a few areas that I found lacking, this was a nice summer read and I would recommend it if you’re looking for something light. The drama at the end and the problems with Trevor kept it from being too far on the sweet side. And as I’ve found every time with Ms. Bentham, it was very well written style-wise. This one won’t disappoint!