"What is it?" Gavin's hands stroked his shoulders as Derrick hesitated.
"Teach me." Derrick whispered without any forethought or consideration, his heart hammering in his chest. "I want to know what you like, what you want. Help me learn you."
Gavin's hands stilled for a moment, his voice warm with understanding when he murmured back, "Gladly."
-Review by Kazza K
** CONTAINS SPOILERS**
This is a terribly hard book to review because the official blurb already gives you a good idea of the book without saying too much. It is also a book that is not so much about the parts but the whole, so that makes it hard to pull out quotes. I guess what I can say, and the blurb can't, is just how lovely the main characters Derrick Chance and Gavin Hayes are, and how charming the book is.
Derrick is a thirty one year old handyman who continues to live in his grandparent's house. He lived with them after his parent's died when he was fourteen. He is a private, insular, quiet man of routine. He looks after his dog, Chelsea, he works at something he enjoys, something that has an association with his mother. He has a couple of good friends, Hannah and Devon, and LeeAnn, his ex girlfriend, who still stays in contact with him and pops in when she is visiting her parent's in Detroit. It is on her latest visit that she makes him think that, sure, his life is not bad, but he could do with some action and some fun. That he needs to push himself out of a comfort zone that is more like an eighty one year old than a thirty one year old. He likes men, and yet he has never had a relationship, or sex, with one. He's not in the closet. His best friends Hannah and Devon and LeeAnn all know, as does the ever-knowing Miss Ingrid, an octogenarian neighbour, who was his grandparent's good friend. I loved Miss Ingrid. She is a terrific character and I hope I'm like her at her age.
I liked Derrick. He is not terribly exciting as a person but he is rock solid and, more importantly, a decent man. After the loss of his parent's, his grandparent's took over his care moving him from Tennessee to their home in Detroit. Then, between eighteen to twenty one, he nursed both of his grandparent's until they died. For a young man he's had a lot of tragedy to deal with. Derrick and LeeAnn, who were together for seven years, also split up when he was twenty one. So some important people have all left. He has become quite used to being solitary and he feels like his life is pretty good, nothing can hurt him if he has nothing to be attached to....but LeeAnn has a point.
Gavin Hayes is an accountant. He hires Derrick to build some shelves in his home office. Derrick's happy to have a job which involves building something, using wood. Gavin is also an interesting person to Derrick. He seems to be flirting with him, but Derrick is not sure. He's been celibate for ten years, so his flirting game is rusty as rusty can be. The initial job ends, but suddenly Derrick is being called back for extra work at Gavin's place. It is obvious that Gavin has sabotaged whitegoods, and his toilet, but Derrick is a bit flummoxed as to why the confident suit, Gavin, is doing that. Why is he interested in him? And what's worse, once he gets some flirting going on himself, which is no mean feat, why Gavin shuts him down every time. Then there is one more occasion for Derrick to come back. Something that is of an angry nature to do with a door that needs repairing. Did Gavin do that? If so, why? If not, who did?
By and large, this is a very gentle book. The build of the relationship between Derrick and Gavin is slow but lovely. The relationship Derrick has with his friends, his love and care of his dog, Chelsea, the times he looks in on Miss Ingrid and takes her shopping is sweet. But there is a big black cloud hanging over Derrick and Gavin's burgeoning relationship. Gavin's relationship with his ex has left marks on Gavin, not least of which is the fact that Gavin may have been infected with HIV. Gavin has had unprotected sex with his ex, which is realistically explained by Ms Gormley, and it appears there is a fair risk of Gavin having been exposed. His tests, thus far, have been negative but he is not out of the woods yet. The test only works when there are enough antibodies in your system for the test to pick it up, so it can take months after being exposed to HIV for the results to be considered reliable, and Gavin waits.
When Gavin tells Derrick about his possible HIV status they have been kissing and getting pretty aroused - fully clothed - then Derrick walks out. Derrick doesn't leave because he isn't man enough to support a (possible) love one with an illness. It's not that he is freaked out or prejudiced. It's not because he thinks he won't be safe with Gavin. It's because of two things - 1) he has spent a lot of his life as an independent person. You know from a young age there had been a fair bit of solitude in Derrick's life, which has become the status quo for him, and now he is feeling like he wants another person, Gavin. Relationships are scary and involve things Derrick has long since shut down in his life. 2) He has experienced a lot of loss. He's not sure if Gavin - who is growing on him, and makes him feel good - has HIV if he can stand to watch a vibrant man waste away or die prematurely, it scares him how he would deal with that.....again. It's not about the illness, rather loss - loss of independence, loss of someone who is finding their way into his heart -
I won't call him. I won't. He couldn't put himself in a position to go through that again, to watch another person sicken and die, to lose...
...someone who mattered to him.
Derrick kicks his feelings around in his mind, tries to bury them, and keep his distance from Gavin for a week or so. However, the ever astute Miss Ingrid is the amazing voice of reason for Derrick. And he finds himself back at Gavin's door and wanting back into Gavin's life. Possible HIV and all. I loved Derrick for his decision. I loved Gavin for his acceptance of Derrick. Letting him (back) into his life. It has to hurt to feel you have been rejected by someone you do feel something for. I also enjoyed seeing him patiently guiding a man who is essentially a thirty one year old virgin - yes, he's been with LeeAnn, but that is it. I loved the way there was a dominance in the relationship that was younger man over older man. Not in a full-on BDSM sense - just little things -
"What's this?" Gavin's hand slipped back into his hair, fisting around it near the scalp. Another surge of arousal swept through Derrick, riding the breathless edge of danger mingled with arousal.
"Use your tongue."
As it had when Gavin's hand clenched his hair. Gavin's words did something to Derrick, something that felt both safe and exciting. Not just the words. His voice. Derrick felt like he could do anything as long as that voice kept murmuring quiet demands.
Here is something else that I liked in Inertia. There is no penetrative sex, which was safe and sensible at the beginnings of a new relationship. For all intents and purposes they are dealing with a serodiscordant relationship and Ms Gormley wrote it very sensitively and sensibly -
"...fuck. Derrick...." Gavin's moans choked off as he went still, shuddering, sliding through his fist as warm streams crossed the cooling mess on Derricks belly.
Derrick stared at the mingled splashes, fascinated by them as he'd never been by his own. He wanted to touch it, feel it. Swirl it and play with it. Learn it. But Gavin caught his hand as it twitched toward his abdomen.
"You work with your hands, he murmured, almost managing not to sound remorseful. "There could be cuts...."
The reason why I did not give Inertia 5 stars was purely because I missed Gavin's POV. It was well written but in the beginning I was concerned that the on-again-off-again-flirting from Gavin was game playing with Derrick. It wasn't until there was dialogue later I understood, that I embraced Gavin. I also missed Gavin's POV when Derrick walked out. I would have given anything to know how he was feeling at that time. Gavin's quick acceptance of Derrick coming back without knowing why Derrick initially retreated would have been welcome as well.
Also, know that this book ends in the middle of things - that's the best way I can describe it. In and of itself Inertia is not a stand alone book. I'm not concerned as I can go straight onto book two and three as it is a competed trilogy now. I'm now off to read book #2, Acceleration.
Inertia is a lovely read. Beautifully written with excellent characterisations, both primary and secondary. There is nothing outlandish here. The telling of a story that does not mock a serious issue, yet it is sexy, sensible and has hope. There is no insta-love, rather a building of a potentially beautiful relationship between really genuine and likeable characters - who are not without personal demons, for understandable reasons. Highly recommended reading.
4.5 Hopeful Stars