The guys kick off the show talking about the Netflix series The Order. Jeff reviews A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian. Will reviews The Amorous Attorney by Frank W. Butterfield and I’ve Got This by Louisa Masters.
Jeff & Will talk to Louisa Masters about her new book I’ve Got This, the first in the Joy Universe series. Louisa tells all about the book’s origins, the fun she had developing the theme park and what’s coming next in the series. She also discusses Out of the Office, how she fell in love with romance and what else she’s working on.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- The Order on Netflix
- A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian on Amazon
- The Amorous Attorney by Frank W. Butterfield on Amazon
- I’ve Got This by Louisa Masters on Amazon
- Louisa Masters Interview
- Louisa Masters: website | Newsletter Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Out of the Office by Louisa Masters on Amazon
- Mills & Boon publisher website
- Joanna Lindsay on Amazon
- Julie Garwood on Amazon
- Julia Quinn on Amazon
- Connie Mason on Aamzon
- Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling on Amazon
- The Bunny and the Billionaire by Louisa Masters on Amazon
- The Athlehte and the Aristocrat by Louisa Masters on Amazon
- Seymoure Books with Masterful Men group on Facebook
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
Interview Transcript – Louisa Masters
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Louisa, welcome to the podcast, we are so happy to have you here.
Louisa: Oh guys. I’m so thrilled to be here.
Jeff: And it’s release week for you. You’ve got a new book coming out tomorrow, that’s September 24th, and it’s called ‘I’ve Got This,’ which is a great title by the way. I feel like it should have an exclamation point almost. Tell us all about it.
Louisa: Well to start with, that title drove me insane. I’m useless at titles. It took me literally weeks to come up with that. So ‘I’ve Got This’ is actually set in a fictional theme park complex called Joy Universe. This is my first book in The Joy Universe series. By theme park complex, I mean that we’re talking if you’ve been to Disney World you probably understand the concept.
It’s four theme parks about 20 hotels – sort of a village for entertainment and dining. And all the rest of it and the book opens with Derek who is one of the assistant directors at the complex, at Joy Universe, and he’s having a very bad morning. He comes to work on a Monday morning and finds that there’s been a very grisly murder in one of the hotels he’s responsible for and then, soon as he’s handed that over to the police, he finds out that over a hundred of his staff have gone down with food poisoning. So Derek is not having a good day. And that’s the day that he meets Trav and Trav is a visiting Broadway performer. He’s on tour with his show for a season at Joy universe and it’s very very unfortunate, but Derek rubs Trav up the wrong way.
So their first meeting is not a good one. And the second meeting is not a good one. The book is not a murder book. I suppose I should say that right up front because I have had people say, oh look it’s a murder mystery with an amateur sleuth and its really really not.
It’s mostly about them kind of coming to terms with their own internalized angst issues that they’ve had in the past. They’ve been ignoring for a long long time and how that relates to each other, and then building a relationship, and then just when you think that everything is sort of settled and they’re ready for a happily ever after, that murder does come back to bite them in the butt. The aftermath of that does kind of cause problems for Derek at work and brings up a lot of personal issues for him as well. It’s not an angsty book. I don’t think I’ve ever written an angsty book, but it will leave you feeling really, really good and I’m really, really excited about this one.
That’s a little bit different for me.
Will: I think the setting is really fascinating. I’ve always been interested the illusion or the artifice of things like Disneyland and Disney World. What made you decide to set a love story in a theme park?
Louisa: The short answer to that is that I went to Disney World in 2017.
It’s a very long trip from Melbourne where I am to the US. It’s 15 hours just to get to LA, and then I went to Romantic Times in Atlanta in 2017. And that’s another four and a half hours on top of that. So I don’t like to keep it short when I make that trip. So I added another five days and went down to Disney World.
And if you’ve been there, I hope it’s not just me that feels this way. But when I was there, I felt very much like I was in a completely different world. I felt cut off, even though Orlando is right there. It felt very much like I was in this little society and I started thinking about things like how much effort would it take to run this? It’s like a little mini country. Look how smoothly the staff are always leaping in to solve things and what would happen if… And who’s responsible for… And then it’s like, you hear about people being proposed to and meeting people at theme parks and randomly running into people in a crowd and I thought that could work. It’s like, now let’s make it more interesting. Let’s sort of have someone coming in, and part of this I think is influenced by the setting. I put Joy Universe in the middle of nowhere. And so I go, let’s take somebody from the outside and bring them into this very isolated little world, and then have somebody who’s an intrinsic sort of support for this world.
And then just cause problems for them both. I felt like I discovered a lot, being cut off by from everything and sort of just being so involved in this little world and it’s like well, this is like writing a fantasy novel but in a contemporary world.
Because it’s a completely different world, but not… does that makes sense?
Jeff: The real world is just over there.
Louisa: Exactly, but nobody ever leaves. No one ever. I mean, I don’t know about everybody else but I didn’t set foot outside the doors, the gates until after my five days were over.
Jeff: Oh, yeah. Because once you’re there you really don’t have to leave they’ve got the buses to take you around the park the hotels and…
Louisa: Exactly. There’s a tedious TV, but who watches TV when you’re at Disney? I was on Facebook to upload photos and maybe do a quick skim while I was eating, but other than that, I don’t think I spoke to anybody outside of Disney the whole time I was there.
Jeff: Where did you s et Joy Universe? Like, where is it?
Louisa: It’s in southern Georgia. I’m very, very vague about exactly where because, I’m gonna be completely honest, part of my decision for choosing the setting – there were actual legitimate reason plot reasons for choosing the setting – but also because I was lazy and didn’t want to do the research on a major city to hook it up to.
It is in southern Georgia because I like the weather there and I think that it’s suitable for a year-round kind of park, but I haven’t sort of pinned it down very much
Jeff: Did you have to do a lot of research? There’s part of me that imagines this had to be a lot of fun coming up with your own theme park. I envisioned almost playing Sims to build your theme park a little
Louisa: I had so much fun with it. I came back from Disney and the idea was sort of percolating there, but I didn’t actually do anything with it for quite some time, and then I got on the website, and if you get on the Disney World website, there’s maps and there’s lists and there’s all sorts of interactive things that you can look into.
So I had a lot of playtime with that and then I thought well, I don’t really want it to be exactly the same. So I did also let my imagination run wild a little bit. I have a hand-drawn map somewhere, but my artist artistic skills are really really poor. So there’s no way no one’s everyone anyone is ever going to see that. But one day I may have somebody with a little bit more skills sort of reinterpret it.
Will: This is the first proposed book in this ‘Joy Universe’ series. What are your plans for the future?
Louisa: So at the moment it’s a three book series is the plan. The second book is written. It’s going through revisions right now. I’m going through and replacing all of my question marks and weird symbols with actual words.
So that should be edited and hopefully released early next year sometime, I don’t know exactly. Once you’ve read the book. You’ll meet Dimi who is Derek’s assistant and the whole book Derek is talking about how Dimi has outgrown his role and he needs a promotion. The second book is where he gets that promotion, but I can’t tell you much more than that because it does spoil the ending of ‘I’ve Got This’, so the second book is Dimi’s. The third book which is not yet written, but I that I hope to release in the future is, you’ll also meet one of the main characters for that book in ‘I’ve Got This’, it’s Grant who’s another assistant director at JU and a friend of Derek’s. The plan is for three books, but the benefit I suppose of creating my own little world is that there’s so much potential.
The theme park, the complex itself has like a satellite Village that’s been created for the staff to sort of live in, and that’s just grown a lot since it was first built. So there’s also like, spin-off series that are possible, so I don’t know exactly ,but the plan is for three books.
Jeff: My mind immediately went to the idea of like Joy Universe Europe and Joy Universe Australia and Joy Universe China…
Louisa: Originally I did think about setting it in Australia because I love reading books that are set in Australia. I love seeing the things that are so familiar to me .
I decided not to because the population here is just not sufficient to support that kind of complex and it’s so far, that to bring in the tourists from elsewhere is a lot more difficult. So I thought that I’d kind of test the waters with one in the US. I mean, hey, who knows what the future holds?
Jeff: Disney expansion plans abound and I envision nice merchandise to and swag to go with Joy Universe.
Louisa: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: Now earlier this summer, you released a workplace novella called ‘Out of the Office.’ What’s going on with that one?
Louisa: I’m one of those people that firmly believes that workplace romance usually don’t work out, and this year I’ve written three of them. So ‘Out of the Office’ is actually a story that’s at quite near and dear to me.
I used to be a resource manager at a global telecommunications company. And this book is basically about a resource manager at a global telecommunications company. So Duncan is in his early 40s. He’s achieved career Utopia. He’s kind of his at the top of his career, all his goals have been met and he’s bored out of his mind because it’s so much more fun to be out there doing the actual resourcing than it is to sit behind the desk and direct the team.
So when a friend of his who has the same position in a different company, a rival company, contacts him and says, “Hey someone here has really stuffed up. I need someone to fix it. I want that to be you.” He’s like, yes. Okay. Let me throw in my permanent full-time great job and take a two year term contract.
So his biggest hurdle in this new job is Paul Hanks. And Paul is a project manager who’s looking after a massive part of the project. This book is set in Australia because that’s the part of the industry that I’m most familiar with. So Paul is actually responsible for literally half the continent, the rollout of the network. And the resource manager that was running the project before Duncan really screwed him around so he is now not willing to talk to anybody in the team and Duncan’s like, “Right. I know that I can get this project back on track. I can help this all happen. If only I can get him to listen to me.” But there’s like no returned calls, ignore emails, like oh, whoops. Sorry when breaking up kind of thing. And so Dunk decides. “Well, that’s it. I’m just going to have to leave the office and head across the country and confront him face-to-face”, and that’s what he does. It’s only a short one. It’s 18K. But I had so much fun writing it and I really, really hope that nobody I ever used to work with rings.
Look, I’ve taken liberties with reality, but there are also some reimagined events that actually did happen that appear in the book So…
Jeff: Based on true life stories.
Louisa: Kind of. Yeah.
Jeff: So what got you into writing romance?
Louisa: I’ve always been about the romance. I started reading them very young. But even before I started reading romance novels, the books that I liked the best were the ones that had a romantic plot or subplot or strong romantic thread. So I’ve always liked that.
It’s always been romance, romance, romance, and I loved writing short stories as a kid. I think when I was about 11 or 12, I wrote a couple of really really terrible short plays that I made my brother and my cousins act out with me. We did one at Christmas and one at Easter I don’t think they’re forgiven me.
There are still videos floating around. I literally made my grandparents and my aunts and uncles and my parents all come and watch. I was a very bossy child. And they were truly terrible, but it’s just little things that I always used to write. And so when the time came that I sort of said to myself if I’m going to do this, I want to do this.
I need to write something, like you can’t just think about writing, you have to actually write it, it was always going to be romance. There was never any other option.
Jeff: Your bio does mention that you started reading romance earlier than your mother thought you should. How old are we talking here?
Louisa: I was 11. Oh, the first one I ever read was a Mills and Boon, a Harlequin, that I snuck off the shelf at my grandmother’s house and it was the only one there, and I’m pretty sure it belonged to my aunt from before. She left home and got married. So this is a book from the early 70s I think. Thinking back on it, I re-read it as an adult and it is wildly racist and wildly sexist and the prose is so purple that even as an adult I’m not sure if they got beyond kissing or not because it was just all rainbows and sparkles and explosions and whirling thingamabobs, it was one of those those really really 70s Harlequins.
But it was my gateway drug. My mom had a box of them in a cupboard from when before she’d gone back to work. So I sort of started sneaking those and then the next year I started high school because we do high school from ages 12 to 17 and across the street from my school was a public library in our Public Library Network. When I say across the street, it was a six-lane road across the highway.
I had it timed because I was still 12 at this stage. If I missed the bus people worried, so I had it timed. I got out on the spot on the bell. I had to get across that street, into the library, borrow a book, get back across the street to the bus stop. I had 12 minute window. I’d got it down to an art form and the librarian began to recognize me.
He was amazing. His name was Peter. I’ll never forget him because after a while he realized that I was in a rush and if there was a line at the counter it meant I had to abandon my books and just go. Once he got to know what I liked to read, he started putting books aside and checking them out under my card so that when I came in I just had to grab the books and go.
I started with the Harlequins. And then historical romance. So your Johanna Lindsay’s, Julie Garwood. I think Julia Quinn had just started writing around then, Connie Mason was for the American westerns… All that kind of thing. And once I got a little bit older I discovered the rest.
Jeff: That’s awesome. And I particularly like Peter the librarian.
Louisa: He was awesome. Seriously. If I knew his surname was, I would track him down today just to say thank you. He was just amazing. For years he did that.
Jeff: That’s like the early version of mobile ordering, just to have your order ready to go when you get there so you could be back on your way.
Will: Now when it comes to romance. You write both M/M and M/F. Do you have a preference for what type of romance that you write, or is it just sort of like whatever the muse dictates that you tackle next?
Louisa: It’s whatever the muse dictates pretty much at the moment. My preference is leaning strongly towards M/M and it’s M/M contemporary.
I started out writing M/F and I think that was because my first book especially is quite, in many ways, autobiographical except there’s a lot of other elements of me in that book, and it felt easier to write what I knew the most, which was me. And so coming forward from that as I sort of started exploring myself as a writer more, I got a little bit more creative and and I love reading M/M so much, its most of what I read, and so it felt very natural to transition into that as an author. I still do write the occasional MF and I had one a short story come out earlier this year, and I’ve got one which is part of my billionaires series coming next year, but for the most part at the moment, I see my path being M/M with the occasional M/F thrown in, when the muse won’t leave me alone.
Jeff: What attracts you to M/M so much as both the reader and the author?
Louisa: I wish there was a really simple answer for that. The first time I ever read anything with a M/M sort of romantic subplot. I was I think 17 years old, and it was I don’t know if I pronounce your name correctly. So, please please forgive me if I’m wrong, but it was Lynn Flewelling’s ‘Nightrunner’ series.
I was reading a lot of fantasy then as well and I was raised Catholic and I went to Catholic High School. So the nuns tried to be open-minded, but they really weren’t, so we really just didn’t get exposed to anything beyond what they saw as normal in their insular world. So for me, it was quite an eye-opening experience to see this and I was curious about it and I wanted to read more, so I started actually searching it out.
At the time I didn’t really know that M/M romance existed and I think this is back in the late 90s. I think it was a little bit more difficult to find than it is today. So I was looking mostly at fantasy books with M/M and then M/F/F subplots and sub romances. I don’t know that there’s anything in particular that I can say attracts me to it.
It’s just another branch, I suppose, on the romance tree that I particularly enjoy.
Will: Now you briefly mentioned the ‘Billionaire’ series and those who listen to the show know, I was absolutely bonkers in love with ‘Bunny and the Billionaire’ and ‘The Athlete and the Aristocrat.’ Those books are absolutely amazing. When it comes to a Louisa Masters book, do you think there’s a certain feel or certain trope that you like to return to again and again?
Louisa: I had a reviewer call the ‘Bunny and the Billionaire’ crack, which I interpreted as–and this is my interpretation–as being something that makes you feel so, so good. And I love that, and that’s what I really want to adopt as I suppose my brand.
I want books that make people feel good. I feel like that’s what I’ve been injecting into each story. I’m sure that if I’m wrong, someone’s eventually gonna correct me, but that’s basically how I see my recurring sort of theme in every book, just a heartwarming story that makes you feel good when you finish the book. You know that it’s going to end well, even if maybe you’re not sure how they get there. It’s just definitely going to be a happy ending. I’m sort of doing that in contemporary novels, but I’d really like to write a fantasy one day. We’ll see how that goes.
Jeff: So fantasy’s the book that you really want to get to it at some point?
Louisa: I think so. I am not sure if it’s what I want to change my career into if I just want to write that one fantasy novel just to give it a go. I’ve got a few that have been started and kind of abandoned and a few ideas. It’s just a matter of getting into the right headspace and I think that’s the case with every book, you have to be in the right head space for that book at that time.
And ‘Out of the Office’ is actually a great example of what happens when I’m not in the right head space to write another book because I sort of left that one half finished because it wasn’t working for me. And then ‘Out of the Office’ just came, I wrote that in like a week. So it just happens that way.
Jeff: What’s your general process? Are you plotter, pantser, hybrid?
Louisa: I’m a total pantser. People have walked me through plotting for pantsers a million times and it just does not work. It starts off with, well, okay. This is the scene. I can see the first scene. It’s perfect as fully visualized I write it out.
It’s all good. And then it’s like, okay. So what happens next? I have no idea. I actually worked out last year when I was beating myself up over it. The best thing for me to do is just put my fingers on the keyboard and type the next word and it’s the next word that’s going to lead to the next sentence.
It’s going to lead to the next scene because if I finish a scene and finish up for the day and then start thinking, okay. Well what’s going to happen now tomorrow I end up with nothing. And then I start beating myself. Oh my God. I’m a terrible writer. How could I ever make a career out of me?
Jeff: I ask that because I think, to me, it always feels like fantasy requires more plotting because there’s so much of the world building. You kind of built a world with Joy Universe, having built the theme park and you’ve got the murder too, and I always feel like if there’s a murder involved there’s more plotting, because you have to know why that happened, how it happened, who did it blah blah blah.
Louisa: So yeah, I think that’s why fantasy hasn’t worked for me yet because I’m just not at that whole plotting, and build the world, and write down all the details. I think I said earlier that part of when I write a book there’s a lot of question marks left in there and other weird symbols that I then go back and find and replace.
And I think that when you’re writing a fantasy novel, you have to have those details beforehand because they all tie back together into the plot. That’s how I’ve always felt it is and I think that’s where my fantasy novels kind of get stuck because I just haven’t got that level of preparedness in place yet.
So maybe one day I’ll kind of be ready to sit down and nut it all out, you know, in a bible and prepare it all but that day is not today.
Jeff: As a long time romance reader, do you have favorite tropes and do those connect to what you like to write?
Louisa: Yeah, definitely. So I think that when I started I had, because I started off with the Harlequin type books, there’s always been billionaires obviously. A marriage of convenience is always a big one. I wasn’t a huge fan of the unexpected baby. But hey, it comes up occasionally not so much in M/M. Unless you sort of want to branch off into into MPreg. But yeah, I tend to write what I like to read.
I would absolutely love to write an angsty book. I love books that make me ugly cry, not so much now because there’s a lot going on and I don’t have time to handle that, but I have a goal that one day I will try my hand at an angsty book. But so far it hasn’t worked. I kind of think I had this book,
I’m going to make it a little bit more conflict intense, and then I get to the point where that has to happen. So I go, but they’re also having so much fun. And they’re so in love. Why would I want to ruin that for them? So I don’t think I have the killer instinct for an angsty book.
Jeff: You two are very much alike. Your Trope likes and everything.
Will: Exactly the same way I 100% agree.
Louisa: Well, you’re my new best friend.
Jeff: So I have to know do you like forced proximity?
Louisa: I do. yeah
Jeff: Yeah. You guys are new best friends right there.
Will: Now despite the fact that ‘I’ve Got This’ has just come out, we are very curious about what you have coming up next?
Louisa: So I think I touched on that briefly. Dimi’s book is next, book two in the ‘Joy Universe’ world, which is coming early next year. I’m not sure exactly when but I’m thinking probably March or April. We talked about my ‘Billionaires’ books, ‘Bunny and the Billionaire’ and ‘Athlete and the Aristocrat.’ There is a third book and this is a book that people have asked me about, it’s Danni and Malik’s book. So it is M/F and that’s the M/F book that I was referring to earlier. But I have been asked about it so much that I decided that I just had to ride it, and it was a book that I’ve really enjoyed writing because these two have been the sidekicks for two books.
Now, you’ve really gotten to know them and they just had to have that story. So that one’s coming also in the first half of next year. I’m not sure exactly when yet, but those two books are definitely going to be in the first half of next year. The third Joy Universe book will either be late next year or early 2021.
I haven’t sort of written it yet, so I’m not sure. I’ve also got another one – here’s a trope for you – the master of the estate’s housekeeper. So that one’s half written, that’s the one that got stopped for ‘Out of the Office’ because the housekeeper does not want to be a housekeeper anymore.
He’s got very definite ideas about what his plans are going forward and I have to try and work out how that’s going to fit with what I’ve built so far, but that’s one that’s half done and I’m hoping that that will also be out late next year. You should have three books and, I don’t know, novellas tend to pop up every once in a while, so there might be a Christmas one. Maybe this year and there should be at least one next year.
Jeff: Cool. Wow. Even maybe Christmas this year. Cool.
Louisa: It really depends on what happens. Now that I’ve finished Dimi’s book and I have to do the revisions once I’m done with those, if I feel like getting sucked back into another book, that’s great, but it might just be a palate-cleansing new novella type time.
Jeff: So what’s the best way for people to keep up with you online and know when all this stuff is on its way out?
Louisa: My newsletter has all the information about upcoming releases, sales and all the rest of it. So that’s a good one. And you can get to that through my website louisamasters.com. I’m always on Facebook. So if you really want to get in touch with me ,come and find me on Facebook my page there is facebook.com/LouisaMastersAuthor or I have a group that I share with my bestie Becca Seymour – if you haven’t read her books and you’ve liked mine, then you really should read her books.
She’s amazing. So that’s Seymour Books with Masterful Men. So come and join us there because we always have good giveaways and other fun stuff going on.
Jeff: We will link up to all that good stuff in our shownotes so people can find it easily. Louisa, it has been so great talking to you. Can’t wait to read these books. I’m very into the theme park idea.
Will: Oh, yeah definitely.
Jeff: Wish you all the luck with ‘Joy Universe’ and look forward to seeing what’s coming next.
Louisa: Fantastic. Thanks guys. Thanks so much for having me. I had such a good time.
Here’s the text of this week’s podcast and book reviews:
A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastain. Reviewed by Jeff.
I loved Cat Sebastain’s It Takes Two To Tumble so much that I went directly to the next book in the Seducing the Sedgwicks series with A Gentleman Never Keeps Score. As much as I adored Ben and Phillip’s book, the story of Hartley and Sam got my heart even more.
We met Hartley in the first book as a scandal from his past was revealed and rocked his family. This book picks up shortly after the events in the first and we find Hartley ostracized by London’s society folk to the degree that even his servants are quitting. One night someone breaks into the house. Sam Fox wants to recover a revealing painting on behalf of his best friend Kate who is soon to marry Sam’s brother. He doesn’t find the painting, but he does discover Hartley. Even as they’re planning how to recover artwork–Hartley is also the subject of one of these paintings–the two men find a very unexpected spark flare up between them.
Great romances often have characters who are extremely different from each other and this one definitely does. There’s Hartley who came from humble uprinings, found his way into London society and then lost it all in disgrace. Sam is a former boxer and now runs a pub that caters to London’s Black population to give them a place to be away from the often racist society. Sam also helps and looks out for those in his community who need it. Neither of these proud men thought they’d need each other. The men are so different, and in their own ways broken, that they don’t quite know how to behave around each other. They each have blind spots in some cases with how society would expect them to behave because of race and class differences–and then of course there is the inappropriateness of liking men.
Hartley agrees to help Sam recover the painting of Kate. He more than understands what happens if it impropriety gets around and how it destroys reputations. By the time they’ve figured out what to do, their banter and behavior becomes completely adorable. They are smitten and each man wants to make sure the other is happy. The intimate moments Hartley and Sam share are so powerful. Hartley has issues being touched by men because of his treatment as a teenager and Sam takes care to make sure Hartley is able to enjoy himself without fear. It’s truly touching.
Along with Sam and Hartley are a delightful array of friends. We don’t see much of Ben in this book, but we see Hartley’s other brother Will, who lives a bit of a bohemian lifestyle. He tries to encourage Hartley to get back out into the world. Sam’s brother Nick is a similarly strong influence on Sam. Hartley’s servants, 18-year-old Alf and later young and pregnant Sadie who was rescued from the streets by Alf. These two play a huge role in getting Hartley out of his self-imposed exile. And, saving the very best for last. Kate–I loved her so much–she’s a fiercely strong woman and I love everything about her. She’s caring when she needs to be, but she won’t hesitate to tell Sam and Hartley exactly what they need to hear to get off their high horses and do what they should. Everyone should have a Kate in their life.
So much goes down as you get into the last quarter of the book. Hartley and Sam can’t figure out how to be together as all kinds of bad things start to happen. In true romance form, however, pieces are picked up and barriers cleared for the lovers. Cat puts Hartley and Sam’s lives together in such a wonderful way. She wraps up all the friends well too into one of the best examples of found family coming together ever.
And wow, Joel Leslie. Joel always does tremendous work but here the emotional punch packed into Hartley and Sam as they reveal their inner demons, navigate tender moments and ultimately find peace together was outstanding. He delivers more excellence with the friends, especially Kate and Alf. This is one of those books where the voice work adds a great nuance to the fantastic story that was already on the page. If audio is your thing I can’t recommend it enough for this series.
You should definitely pick up the Seducing the Sedgwicks series from Cat Sebastain, they’re both great but A Gentleman Never Keeps Score takes the lead as my favorite in the series.
I’ve Got This by Louisa Masters. Reviewed by Will.
Derek Bryer is very good at what he does, and he loves his job as one of key managing directors of the sprawling theme park complex, Joy Universe. But he’s having one of the worst Mondays of his career. Not only does he have to deal with a grisly murder at one of his resort hotels, but half of the performers from the main theme park are down with a severe case of food poisoning.
Trav Jones, an actor/singer/dancer who is part of a touring production that is playing in one of the Joyville theaters, gets the call to come work in the theme park. Quadruple pay for a couple days work? Sure, why not?
Derek comes to the rehearsal hall to personally thank the performers for stepping in on such short notice. Trav is immediately attracted to Derek but is also put off by his cocky bravado and take-charge attitude. Derek is immediately attracted to Trav but is thrown for a loop when Trav doesn’t seem swayed by his charms. He’s aloof, stand offish.
What’s that about? Everybody loves Derek.
While putting out fires at Joy Universe, Derek can’t stop thinking about Trav, so he does some digging and finds out that Trav is the most famous Broadway performer that no one has ever heard of. Critics and audiences adore him, but he never plays a lead role and seems unwilling to take his career to the next level.
After a few days, things finally calm down and Derek takes the opportunity to go see Trav in his show. Derek is mesmerized by his performance and afterward goes backstage to congratulate the cast and chat up Trav.
Derek’s personal assistant, who probably know Derek better than he knows himself, mentions that Trav is volunteering at a local community theatre and needs some reliable transportation. Derek offers Trav his old car which he has yet to sell.
They go out to dinner and Derek learns that the reason Trav was so uncomfortable when they first met, was that he reminded Trav of the alpha male jocks who used to torment him in school. They talk and get to know one another during dinner, Derek showing Trav that there’s a real person beneath the golden boy persona he projects to the rest of the world.
There’s definite chemistry between them and a sizzling goodnight kiss proves to be an auspicious start to a whirlwind summer fling. Things get serious rather quickly and their relationship is soon tested when, through a strange set of circumstances, Trav is forced to go on in his show in the lead role.
Derek passes this boyfriend test with flying colors, instilling confidence in Trav, calming his anxiety, assuring him that he has more than enough talent to pull this off, and generally being awesome by supporting the man that he loves in every conceivable way.
The next test comes in the guise of the sociopath who murdered her husband at Joy Universe, spinning a wildly improbable conspiracy theory to shift blame and get her off the hook by disparaging the theme park, Derek specifically.
It’s a PR nightmare and Derek is at the center of the storm. Trav is furious that Derek seems intent on handling it all himself, unwilling to share the burden. Derek eventually comes to realize that there are, in fact, many people in his life who genuinely care about him, including Trav and the entire team at Joy Universe.
Some shrewd legal moves from Joy Universe and Derek’s expert handling of the challenging situation repairs the momentary damage to the park’s reputation and cements Derek’s position within the company. Which leaves the situation with Trav.
With the current run of his show now over, it seems like the only option for Trav is to return to work in New York City. But with a bold, audacious new plan from the team at Joy Universe, there might just be a way for both Derek and Trav to stay together and achieve their perfect fairytale happily-ever-after.
To put it simply, I think everything about this book is perfectly swoon-worthy. I loved Derek and Trav. Their chemistry and heat was sweet and genuine.
Not only were the characters wonderful, but I thought Louisa Masters really brought this story to life with the unique worlds that our heroes were a part of – careers in the theatre world and theme park hospitality/entertainment. So much fun, so interesting.
It’s clear that the author thought things through in regard to the fictional world of Joy Universe, and the glimpses that we get behind the scenes were intriguing and fun, but it’s not bogged down in detail. No worldbuilding overkill. No info-dumps.
Derek and his assistant often do a lot of ‘walk and talk’ scenes like on TV’s The West Wing. It’s a fun, active way to get across a lot of information without the characters having to sit and spout a lot of exposition.
I’ve Got This is a terrific sweet romance, with to-die-for heroes in a wonderfully unique setting.
The Amorous Attorney by Frank W. Butterfield. Reviewed by Will.
The Amorous Attorney picks up just a few days after the events in The Unexpected Heiress, the first book in the Nick Williams mystery series.
Eager to get his new business venture off the ground, Nick needs the services of his lawyer friend Jeffrey Klein, who’s gone missing, presumably too busy canoodling with Taylor Wells, his movie star boyfriend.
At the request of the foulmouthed fixer at MGM, Nick and friends head to LA and quickly find Jeffrey shacked up with his beau at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Jeffery wants to run away with the handsome hunk, but Nick makes sure he understands what a truly terrible idea that is. Heartbroken, Jeffrey returns to San Francisco with Nick and Taylor goes back to work.
One day later the news hits the gossip columns that Taylor is engaged to co-star, an up-and-coming Hollywood ingénue. Taylor promptly goes missing again. So Nick, his boyfriend Carter, and a whole passel of their friends and collogues head south of the border to Ensenada where they find Taylor and Jeffrey at a hotel on the Mexican riviera.
Jeffrey is ready to chuck everything for the man he loves, but after a few days, he comes to realize that he and Taylor might not have what it takes to make it in the long run.
That evening, in a very Agatha Christie turn of events, everyone gathers together, including Taylor’s fiancé Rhonda, who has her girlfriend in tow. Dinner doesn’t go as expected. Jeffrey gets sloshed and drunkenly muses about what might have been if things hadn’t ended with Nick, who is harassed by Don Maldonado, a local corrupt politico who is convinced that millionaire Nick wants to buy the hotel.
The next morning, Nick and Carter are awakened by a gunshot. They find Taylor dead and Jeffrey is nowhere to be found. The handsome and flirtatious Captain Esparza takes statements from the hotel guests, but it’s clear that he has his eye set on both Nick and Carter, inviting them to his home later that evening.
They arrive at the soiree and are shocked to find what must be every gay man within a fifty-mile radius in attendance. The odd evening ends without any clues as to who killed Taylor.
Esparza questions Nick and later sequesters him, along with Carter and the rest of their friends, on a yacht. They’re busy enjoying their detainment when the plot involving Esparza, Moldanado, and others comes to light. It’s all a scheme to gain local political power. Nick uses his quick wits to diffuse the situation, but it also helps that Carter is an excellent shot.
Jeffery is found and cleared of all wrongdoing, while Taylor’s killer faces karmic justice.
Our heroes return to the city by the bay, ready to face the next chapter in their lives.
Author Frank W. Butterfield does a wonderful job with this, the second book in the Nick Williams series. It builds on the previous installment, telling us more about the lives of the characters that we’re getting to know (and love), while showing us the bond that’s beginning to form between the large cast of intriguing characters.
We get to know Nick and Carter even more this time around, and its impossible not to root for this pair of mystery solving lovebirds. They’re seriously nuts about one another and I like the little moments between them that show how two men, in a committed relationship in the 1950’s, continue to grow and evolve together.
It’s also cute how, in this installment in the series, they’re ‘trying out’ calling one another husband, which is pretty progressive considering the time in which they’re living… there might’ve even been a ring involved in one of the quieter moments of The Amorous Attorney.
I’d like to quickly mention that I also enjoy the author notes that Butterfield includes at the end of each novel, explaining what is based on fact, or is fictional, and the research he did into the specific time and events depicted in each book.
I loved this installment in the adventures of Nick Williams and am looking forward to what he and his friends get up to in the future.