Rating: 3.85 stars
Cain Elliot is desperate beyond measure and about to give up all hope. His grandmother entrusted La Terreza, her 1920’s Spanish courtyard apartment complex to him after her death. La Terraza is special in so many ways, its beautiful architecture, its magical courtyard and of course, the unique group of characters that have come to live there over the years, including himself. And now he is about to let them all down. La Terraza needs a multitude of repairs to meet code and Cain doesn’t have the money. He has been to bank after bank to no avail and he is close to bankruptcy.
To make matters worse, there is a real estate developer who is hounding Cain to sell, its tactics almost feeling like harassment in intensity. Feeling like an absolute failure after his last meeting at the bank, Cain heads over to Sully’s Tavern to meet up with his group of friends. Also at the bar is Henry Abrams. Henry came to town to accept a position in the architectural firm Hamilton-Bach, so he is new, lonely and out looking around town. He finds Cain and is immediately in lust but after their conversation and a night spent together, Henry finds that they have so much in common. Cain and Henry really like each other, and Cain’s vulnerability brings out the need to protect him in Henry.Henry also falls in love with La Terraza, it’s magic and architectural beauty capturing his attention and admiration as much as its owner. In a short amount of time, Cain and Henry finds themselves on the road to a real relationship, the first for each of them in a long time. And then Henry and Cain realize his new firm is the one working with the developer to acquire La Terraza.
Henry is horrified to find they want to tear it down, and Cain worries about Henry’s ties to a firm whose methods he thinks is disreputable. As the stress and tensions mount up, their new found relationship starts to fall apart. Then the plumbing starts to fail at La Terraza and Cain has no money left to fix it. Henry wants Cain to find happiness with him but at what cost? Cain must overcome doubt and his past. Henry must decide if what he wants is what Cain needs. In the middle of it all is La Terraza’s future.
I have been a fan of Ethan Day’s since Sno Ho made its debut. Ethan Day has such a winning way with his characterizations, snappy dialog and portrayals of love relationships from disastrous to dynamic that I eagerly await each new story from him. Love in La Terraza is no exception. It has all the earmarks of Day’s earlier lighthearted stories while still capturing some of the darker elements of his latter works. Cain Elliot is absolultely a Ethan Day creation. I could tell that immediately. From his snarky voice, easy tolerance of quirky personas that surround him, and the “oh so happy to hop in bed with you, gorgeous” attitude that he presents Henry with the first night they meet, he is everything I love about Ethan Day’s writing. I adore Cain. He is lovable, vulnerable, loyal and insecure about his abilities. Henry is his wonderful counterpart. Solid, ambitious, hardworking to a fault, still he yearns for something more to his life and recognizes it in Cain. It’s their hesitant fumble towards a relationship and mutual understanding that is the heart of this story. Hearfelt, realistic, and full of missteps that occurs in most beginning relationships, it will speak to every person reading this story.
Also true to a Ethan Day novel are the wonderful oddballs that live in La Terraza and make up a core family group for Cain. There’s the Scalia brothers, Vito and Tony,a pair of elderly men who play Frank Sinatra tunes, blasting them out into the courtyard, Mrs. Ruth Robinson, a grey panther married many times over and still going out on dates nightly, Eddie, blind and a teacher at the school for the Blind and his boyfriend Matt, musicians Pixie and Thrash. Thrash speaks as though he’s from England but is actually from the Midwest, both are in a band, and Nic and Stu, her husband, a recently married couple playing at being hippies and close friends of Cain’s. Each a splendid portrait of eccentric individuality. These people will absolutely engage your affections. They did mine. I wanted to get to know all of them so much better. In fact I wanted to move right into La Terraza and make myself at home with all of them.
La Terraza herself is that grand dame of Spanish buildings the shout out romance at every cobblestone and ooze amore from it’s stuccoed walls. I wanted to be strolling through the courtyard myself, so vividly did Ethan Day describe her. La Terraza is a character in her own right, sumptuous, a true classic beauty. I wonder if La Terraza exists outside of Ethan Day’s imagination, I hope so. But either a figment or reality, La Terraza lives on these pages.
There is so much to like here that I find it hard to bring up the quibbles I had with it. And that would be the secondary plot surrounding the group of firms trying to take La Terraza away from Cain, no matter the legalities. I won’t go into more details but I felt at times I was in another novel with this storyline. It just did not seem to fit in with the romance between Cain and Henry because the way Day built up the relationship between the two men was so well done that the second section seemed almost clumsy in comparison. I knew without a doubt before I even got halfway through the story what was going on with the building, who was doing it and who was the ultimate “bad guy” at the top of the evil chain. In these economic times, it is easy to believe that Cain is having money flow issues to go with rehabbing an older structure without bringing in a melodrama that seeks to drown out everything with it’s exaggerated accompanying score. Without the melodrama, this is a solid 4 star story. Unfortunately, with the cloak and dagger stuff thrown in, it takes away from a wonderful romance and pulls it all back into a “nice story” category.
Ethan Day fans won’t want to pass this one up because it is an Ethan Day story. For those of you new to the author, seek out his other books before you read this one. Try Sno Ho for a wonderfully comedic bent on romance or At Piper’s Point, a more serious contemporary romance that gets it all right from beginning to end. There are so many wonderful Ethan Day books out there. I am just not sure this is one of them.
Cover art by Adrian Nicholas. The two men are lovely but the building standing in for La Terraza is a misstep.