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I heard recently that Derrick McClain would be narrating one of Rhys Ford's upcoming books, so I searched him out specifically to get a feel for his style. (I'm a huge fan of Greg Tremblay/Boudreaux and love it when he & Rhys collaborate, but I can understand why it's unrealistic & not preferable to have him ALWAYS perform her books) When I saw 'Learning to Love' as part of the Romance Package, I figured it was a good opportunity to check Derrick out. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Granted, I didn't finish the book, but for good reason. The story & the characters were just ridiculous and the narration was annoying.
Gideon has come back home after 10 years to prove his worth and that he has made something of himself. One of the very first things he does is to throw a temper tantrum and yell childishly at an elderly woman at the synagogue. It's later revealed that he has a learning disability (if this wasn't already ascertained from the backwards 'R' in the title), but his 'coping mechanism' seems to be lashing out at people and storming off like a child. Way to show everyone how much you've grown up.
In comparison, Jonah seemed a likable enough character. He was certainly more level-headed and behaved somewhat like an actual adult, but some of his actions (specifically his interactions with Gideon) were still extremely unrealistic. I can appreciate someone being a bit forward and going for what they want as much as the next person, but I found it rather upsetting that after having not seen each other in 10 years and having no past intimate relationship with each other, Jonah (who is a rabbi, btw!) would just show up banging on Gideon's door at 7am and, with no declarations of feelings or anything, just unzip & whip it out. Really?!?
I was SO over this story after only the first few of chapters, but kept listening just to get a feel for Derrick's narration. I don't know if it was because he also felt the juvenile nature of Gideon in general, but the narration quickly grated on my nerves. Every sentence ended with an upswing or dramatic push of air that just made everything sound sarcastic or pouty. It made me think of having a conversation with a teenager going through that 'know-it-all' stage of constant eye-rolling and "duh!" attitude. Try as I might, after just another chapter or two, I couldn't handle it anymore. With neither story nor narration to make it worth my time, I had to throw in the towel.
Always one to give someone at least a second chance, I've moved on to another book narrated by Derrick. Only 2 chapters into A Case for Christmas by Josh Lanyon (also part of the Romance Package and an author I already have an established history of enjoying) and the narration is MUCH better. This gives me hope for Rhys' upcoming release. I will give Felice Stevens another shot, as well, but I sincerely hope the characters and story of her next book that I read (listen to) have more depth. When it comes to M/M romance, I expect men, not petulant teenagers.
Gideon Marks left Brooklyn 10 years ago. He has fought his way back to NY, building a successful catering company. He is out to prove that everyone was wrong about him.
Rightly or not, he has a huge chip on his shoulder. That anger extends to Jonah Fine. Gideon’s recollections of their teenage years was that Jonah was perfect and Gideon was the screw-up. To him, leaving town was a no-brainer. Plus, perfect Jonah was heading off to Boston for law school. Tired of being viewed as a failure, Gideon ran.
Upon his return, he caters a small event at his old synagogue. Not only does he find the same Rabbi Fine, but now there is a younger Rabbi Fine. Jonah is working through the process of replacing his father as the head of the congregation, but his appearance is a shock to Gideon, who had convinced himself Jonah was long gone.
But Jonah as a rabbi?
A gay rabbi?
Gideon is forced to re-examine his entire set of beliefs. It turns out Jonah has always had feelings for Gideon and is willing to do whatever it takes to prove it. Over and over, Jonah supports Gideon in his goals. In turn, when Jonah needs help, Gideon is there. So happily ever after, right?
Of course not. There has to be a dark moment. Whether Gideon overreacted to Jonah’s well-intentioned interference in his life or not is debatable, but it did solidify the relationship between the two men when they did reunite.
Gideon has to face his past, though, and Jonah is there to support him with his issue. In turn, Gideon encourages Jonah to take his rightful place. When Gideon opens up his business to help others, his world begins to expand. Helping others brings extra meaning to both his life and his relationship with Jonah.
My biggest issue with the book is Gideon. The book is told entirely from his point-of-view. Sometimes, he comes across as whiny, and without Jonah’s point-of-view, it felt unbalanced. By the end of the book, though, I felt Gideon had grown as a character and I liked him a lot more.
Derrick McClain is a great narrator. He is consistent and reliable, which might sound boring, but is actually wonderful. When he narrates, I know it will be a quality performance.
It was a nice book. I’m a huge Felice Stevens fan, so this was enjoyable. I’m really happy that the next few books in the series are available. Book 3, “All or Nothing” is now out on audio and I’m excited. I can’t wait to hear Rico and Adam’s story.
Where does Learning to Love rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Learning to Love left me with a lot of mixed feelings. Their story was good but at times i wanted to smack Gideon upside the head, he annoyed me some what. Then other times i just wanted to hug him because he was obviously hurt and a little lost and held all this against everyone. Gideon Marks chip on his shoulder left him feeling he had to prove to people that he had made something of his life. After losing his mother and grandmother in a car accident Gideon was raised by his alcoholic, emotionally abusing father. But while trying to prove himself he could never see that the people around him were proud of him.
When Gideon returned to his home town he never expected to find his childhood crush as the new Rabbi; Gideon isn’t ready to deal with Jonah and no matter how much Jonah tries to get close to Gideon, Gideon tries his hardest to push him away. Good thing Jonah isn’t a quitter and he’s determined to have Gideon, the man he’s always loved.
Jonah had a lot of walls to break down with Gideon. As well as his own struggles with taking over from his father. But his love was strong enough for the both of them when Gideon was struggling to except that his feeling were true. I really would have like Jonah's POV i think it really would have help the story more. Mainly due to the fact that like i have said Gideon's behaviour at times grated on me. I would have liked more from Jonah to balance it out. All in all it was an interesting story that ended with a HEA.