When the River Rises
When the River Rises is the fifth book in Rachel Ember’s Wild Ones series, and it’s a sweet and sensual second-chance romance between the mysterious Jake Chase and Cameron Kosta, the young man Jake is charged with protecting. The events of this book take place in two different timelines – one in the present (in Jake’s PoV), the other two years earlier (in Cam’s) – and because there is a little bit over overlap with some of the events in book four (As the Tallgrass Grows), we get to see a couple of the scenes from that book from Jake’s perspective and learn how they fit into the bigger pitcure. Although Cam and Jake’s story is self-contained, I’d strongly advise reading the other books in the series so as to gain a better understanding of the complicated family dynamics and the unresolved plotlines that are concluded here.
Despite the fact that his aunt Edith is head of the local motorcycle gang. Cam Kosta lives a quiet, routine kind of life; he keeps out of Edith’s way and she keeps out of his and that’s the way Cam likes it. He has good friends, is enjoying training to be a teacher and although he’s yet to find a special someone, his life is pretty good. He’s out with friends one night when the bad boy of his dreams – dark haired, wiry, leather-clad, hot – saunters into the bar he’s at; taking his courage in both hands, Cam approaches him, they get talking and a bit flirty, and Cam thinks things are going well – until the guy suddenly brushes him off. Embarrassed, Cam beats a hasty retreat intending to go home, but before he can get to his car, he’s attacked by two men. Terrified, Cam tries to avoid the kicks and punches when they stop suddenly and he sees Jake is fighting with them. When one of them draws a gun, Jake brazens it out, and the guys run off at the sound of distant sirens. Jake hustles Cam away, explaining that Edith sent him to keep an eye on him.
Jake takes Cam to his dad’s remote, dilapidated trailer in Nebraska, where they can lie low until such time as it’s safe for them to go back to LA. Cam slowly begins to adjust to his new surroundings, doing what he needs to do in order to feel comfortable (he likes things clean and precise, and was teased for it a lot when he was younger) and starting to enjoy the slower, simpler pace of life. He and Jake spend a couple of months there together, the spark of mutual attraction that had lit between them back in the bar that first night growing into something more lasting as their enforced proximity promotes a closeness and understanding that grows into love. But Cam’s dreams of happy ever after are shattered when he wakes up one morning to find Jake gone.
Two years pass and Cam doesn’t see Jake during all that time – not until the day he sees him being arrested and taken away in the back of a police car. In the intervening time, we learn (from Jake, in his PoV) that he’s working for the FBI as an informant or inside-man, and that he’s almost reached the end of his part of whatever bargain he’s made. While in custody, he receives the visit from Johnny Chase (his cousin) and Owen (his childhood best friend) we saw in As the Tallgrass Grows. He’s surprised to see them considering he’s the black sheep of the family (sort of) and has been estranged from Bo and Dylan for some time, but is annoyed at the same time, worrying they might screw up the operation and cause him to have to spend more time doing the FBI’s dirty work.
After Jake is released, he’s surprised to get a text from Cam giving him a time and place to meet, and although knows it’s a bad idea, the pull Cam exerts is as strong as ever, and he can’t not go. Cam is clearly still pissed over Jake’s disappearing act two years before, but even so, he invites Jake to stay at his place until everything blows over. Jake knows he doesn’t deserve Cam’s generosity and ruthlessly squashes any hope that maybe Cam might still feel some affection for him – he doesn’t deserve that either and still can’t tell Cam why he left or what he’s doing now. Their second-chance romance gets off to a rocky start, but it’s immediately clear that they’re still both hung up on each other, no matter how much they wish they weren’t.
Rachel Ember’s writing is understated and thoughful, her characters are complex, likeable and well-drawn and she has a real gift for scene-setting in a way that brings both landscape and community to life. I enjoyed getting to know Cam and Jake and watching their slow-burn romance unfold (twice!), and was pleased to finally have answers to some of the questions posed in the earlier books. The downside to that, though, was that I had to go back to them in order to refresh my memory!
I liked the alternating timeline/PoV structure, which helps to build tension and anticipation, although I have to admit that sometimes I was frustrated by it because I wanted to know what happened next in one storyline before switching to the other. That only happened once or twice though, and on the whole the structure works very well. My only major criticisms of the book as a whole are that the issues between Jake and his family are wrapped up a little too quickly and mostly off page, and I’d have liked more clarity as to why Cam was targeted and by whom – his aunt being a gang-leader is thrown in and kind of glossed over which made it feel a bit contrived.
But in the end, the well-crafted characters, their obvious chemistry and personal growth, and the skillful interweaving of plotlines and complex family relationships mean that, despite the reservations I’ve expressed, When the River Rises merits a strong recommendation.
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|Review Date:||October 9, 2022|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||Male/Male romance | Nebraska | Queer romance | Wild Ones series|
Ok, I’m in. But starting with book 1 ;-)
I never did go back and read this series after your reviews of Burning Season and As the Tall Grass Grows, but I think I’ll add them now. It looks like most of the series at least in on KU now.
Do, I think you’ll enjoy them.
On my TBR pile!
I enjoyed this one too and thought it was a fitting end to the series (although it does seem that Ember has some secondary characters that might warrant their own books in the future). I agree completely about reading the previous books in the series: without reading the other books, some of the references and character interactions in WHEN THE RIVER RISES won’t make a lot of sense. There have been a number of storylines threading through the previous books, and WHEN THE RIVER RISES is the book that sews them all together. I recommend WTRR, but I do think you need to read the rest of the series first to get the full overarching story of the Chase family and their tangled history. (By the way, the family name is Chase, not Chance. Chance is the name of one of the horses Jake & Cam care for.)
Slightly o/t: Ember published two books last month—WHEN THE RIVER RISES and WONDERLAND, both very good. WONDERLAND is part of the In Vino Veritas series (itself an offshoot of the Vino & Veritas series) from Sarina Bowen’s Heart Eyes Press. It’s a second-chance romance that, in part, involves an abandoned amusement park.
I’ve only read a short story by Rachel Ember so far, but I enjoyed it. I’ve put this series on my TBR list and I’ll add Wonderland, too. Thanks for mentioning it!
I’m planning on picking up Wonderland in audio – it’s just a case of finding time (as usual). I’m pretty sure there’s a book six in the Wild Ones series in the works.
I’ll certainly read any new Wild Ones books—perhaps involving Parker or the high school kid (a few years older, of course) who had a crush on Cam. And wasn’t there another Chase brother who hasn’t had a story yet? It does seem that Ember has wrapped up the series’ dangling story threads in WHEN THE RIVER RISES, but I’ll definitely be interested in anything new.
Yes, at the end of this book, she says the next book is Every Single Fall and it’s Danny’s story.
I read the previous books in this series over the past few months and really liked them, especially Burning Season. I am saving When the River Rises for when I have an uninterrupted stretch of time, which is hopefully soon! I could swear that I read somewhere (maybe in an author newsletter) that there will be one more Wild Ones book and it would be Danny’s story.
I haven’t read Wonderland yet but I have it. I’m trying to read the six In Vino Veritas books in order and have only made it through the first 3 (Wonderland is the fifth). One of the main characters in Wonderland appears in the 2nd In Vino Veritas book called Counterpoint, which is by J.E. Birk. I liked Counterpoint but not quite as much as her Vino & Veritas book called Booklover, which is about 2 young men who bond over a love of reading romance novels! The In Vino Veritas series seems to be more tightly linked together than the Vino & Veritas series – there are many more cameo appearances by characters in the other In Vino Veritas books.
I tried Counterpoint but it didn’t work for me. I dnf’d about 40% in. It was more new adult than I generally like. I thought the characters acted young for their ages. I enjoyed Booklovers a lot more.