Title: Where I Belong
Author: Jae Moran
Publisher: JMS Books
Release Date: May 27, 2017
Genre(s): Gay Contemporary
Page Count: 337
Reviewed by: LaurasPassion
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Bestselling author and erstwhile musician Harper Ellison started running from his troubled past before he graduated high school. When his sister tracks him down ten years later at the request of his dying mother, Harper hesitantly agrees to visit the family and small North Carolina community that rejected him when he needed them most.
Harper doesn’t do relationships, but he can’t ignore his attraction to Lucas Rhodes, the buff, blond social worker living on his grandparents’ farm. Lucas quickly becomes Harper’s anchor in the maelstrom of his homecoming. Together they wade through the wreckage as Harper confronts the pain he buried six feet deep a few miles from his childhood home.
Accepting that no amount of apology or regret will ever change the past and choosing to forgive are the only ways Harper will ever find peace. But, can he learn that lesson before it’s too late?
“Love’s Warm Embrace…”
This is a powerfully-themed story. There is no denying that. Of all of the reviews which I have written, this will be the most difficult one to write. It will be written differently. As I have always spent solid time trying to come up with ways to accurately describe what had been running through my head throughout the reading of a particular book, I have always written each and every one of my reviews without many, if any, spoilers, because I’ve always believed in preserving the reader’s ability to experience the entire book without any spoilers. However, as previously mentioned, this review, will be completely different. Why? Because it needs to be done that way. It really does. So bear with me as I go through one of the most difficult reviews which I have ever written.
First and foremost, I absolutely adore, truly a-dore, the main, and I mean main, characters. Harper and Scott. There isn’t a word or set of words which would accurately describe how I feel about them. At all. All I wish to do right now, and throughout the reading of this story, is, squeeze them so tightly together and hide them away permanently, for safe keeping. And so, I did…deeply within my heart… And, so……
This particular story has loads of triggers that readers should be made aware of. This is a story about physical and mental abuse, attempted rape, bigotry, forced gay conversion, forced gay therapy, and a consistent aura of death and suicide.
Where I Belong, by Jae Moran will break you. Yes, it is a story of unconditional love, strength, tenacity, true grit, and dedication that I could feel. Yes, it has additional moments of love and the beginnings of the healing process. However, it unfortunately was so difficult to feel, as a whole, and due to the overall theme of the story, it so very much needed to be felt all throughout the story. So, for that, this story will break even the most hardened individual. I’m not going to lie nor sugar coat it. Period. Regardless of encountering these triggers, I chose to finish this story of soul-binding love and bone-crushing pain. This is a story about Harper Ellison and how he painstakingly attempts to..live.
This was a very long and exhausting book that immediately broke me on the very first page. GAH..how utterly heartbreaking to have a loving, wonderful, artistically-talented seventeen year old, who had felt the need, with no other options, to leave home with everything he had, and, unknowingly walk into the abyss of the unknown, as a young man who simply wasn’t developmentally ready to face the world. Unknowingly walk into a future of unknown destruction. Trying to survive, and at times, barely doing so, as he tried to grasp onto life, by the thinnest of margins. Reaches for economy-sized box of tissues again.
From that moment on, I found it to be emotionally draining and extremely difficult to be able to read due to its pace, and to actually be able to sort through the multitude of plots and sub-plots, in an attempt to try and follow the incredibly heart-breaking, and, beautiful, main plot. There were too many plots, with so many possible directions, that I actually believed that there could have been additional books instead of just this one. There was way too much information, and, yet not enough of the necessary information, and, way too many secondary characters. I found that there should be one single plot, with its arc, along with the possibility of a HEA. Instead, I found that the plot was underdeveloped and inconsistent, and it contained an ever-present suspenseful tone of, “continue reading through these hints of something more, and wait to see what the whole plot is.” But yet, at the same time, all of the additional sub-plots were brought in, without effectively even dealing with the original plot, which was seemingly being brushed under the rug.
As previously mentioned, there are many secondary characters, which, minus four, were difficult to keep up with. And, again, that’s a shame because there were a few who I would have enjoyed getting to know further. Of the four I really connected with, I felt that I could really feel their pain, their emotions, and their genuine connection with Harper. One of the characters who I was able to connect with, at times, despite slight confusion, was Lucas. Amongst the extra bits of information, I was able to sense the kind of person he was, and, was glad for his presence in Harper’s life. Even though it did seem to be, at times, an insta-love kind of relationship, I was glad for his solid presence for Harper. And..did I mention their chemistry? Yep, it does exist with the strong and warm protection for Harper.
So. I wish, I wish, I wish. That seems to be what is currently running through my head, as I begin to wind down my review. I truly wish Where I Belong was written differently. In addition to another run through the editing process, I would have loved to have felt more of the beauty of Harper’s music and his books, as I had felt in the bone-infused love between Harper and Scott. I would have liked to have seen more of a direction of the main plot, as it is something that is very realistic to those who are part of the LGBTQ Community. One thing I do know, is that, Harper will put one foot in front of the other, with Scott firmly in his heart, as well as right by his side, as he continues through life with his strong support system guiding him along the way. With that loving thought, I’m done. Drained. Elvis has left the building.