Jeff & Will announce the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for June: Heartache & Hoofbeats by Maz Maddox. Maz stops by to tell us what this shifter romance is about.
Jeff reviews Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. Jeff & Will jointly review The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover.
Philip talks with Jeff about The Hideaway Inn and the diverse cast of queer characters he created for the small town romance. He also talks about his Love Beyond Boundaries series and shares how he got started as an author. Philip also kicks off our Pride month series of readings with an excerpt from The Hideaway Inn and he tell us what Pride means to him.
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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.
- Heartache & Hoofbeats by Maz Maddox on Amazon
- Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner on Amazon
- The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover on Amazon
- Philip William Stover Interview
- Philip William Stover: website | Twitter | Instagram
- The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover on Amazon
- The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron on Amazon
- Just Like That by Cole McCade on Amazon (pre-order through June 30, 2020)
- Better Than People by Roan Parrish on Amazon (pre-order through August 25, 2020)
- Thomas Kinkade website
- The Women (1939) on Amazon Prime Video
- The Women (2008) on Amazon Prime Video
- There Galapagos My Heart by Philip William Stover on Amazon
- Jenny Han on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – Philip William Stover
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Phillip, welcome to the podcast. It is so great to have you here.
Philip: I’m so excited to be here.
Jeff: Congratulations on the release of “The Hideaway Inn” which came out last week as one of the first books out in the Carina Adores line.
Philip: I’m so excited that it’s coming out and it’s finally here. You know, you wait so long for something to actually make its debut.
So now that it’s here, I’m thrilled.
Jeff: Well, you should be. I just loved everything about it. It just made me so happy… the story of Vince and Tack. Tell everybody what “The Hideaway Inn” is about, from your point of view.
Philip: I really wanted to write a summer romance.
So this is a book that has picnics and lemonade and fireflies after sunset and skinny dipping and all the things that are part of a summer romance. The story is about Vince who returns to a place he was raised after reinventing himself, and he’s created this armor, and Tack the boy that he loved in high school.
He expects him to respond to him differently than he did when he had a crush on him. But Vince learns that his armor is really pushing people away instead of having the desired effect that he wants. During this, it’s about the relationship between protecting yourself from the world and letting the world in.
And making a balance. And I think that is really a story that queer people can relate to and that we balance somehow being in the world and protecting ourselves while we’re there, if that makes sense. And Vince really learns what it means to find love and be himself.
Jeff: He goes through what I think many gay men do, where things go sideways in high school, and you’re always kind of battling your way back from that.
Philip: Yeah, I think that is such an astute way of putting it. You’re always battling your way back from that. And I know that sounds insane in some ways like it sounds like, Oh, it’s such a long time. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in high school, but I can tell you wounds like that and the way you make decisions about who you will be in the world, and certainly in terms of when you fall in love and when you kind of open yourself up to love in that way are really impacted by that.
And I really wanted to write a story about it.
Jeff: Did you have specific inspirations for the story? Touchstones that you had out there? Things that you wanted to kind of tackle with it and present to people?
Philip: The inspiration for this particular story actually came a few years ago when my husband and I were in Beacon Hill in Boston. There have these brownstones and some of them have these random purple window panes.
And yeah, and it’s very strange, and I learned that in the 1880s when they were transporting these windows from England, they had an imperfection in them. And it turned the pane’s purple during transit, but they installed them. And at first they were considered a flaw and a defect. And then later, they became a sign of status and something that was coveted and something people really thought was beautiful.
And I remember hearing that story and thought, Hmm, one day I’ll write a story about something where somebody thinks it’s a flaw, but it’s actually the thing that makes them beautiful. And that’s what this story became. Vince thinks he has to be a certain way, that his flaw is something he has to cover up, but he learns that he doesn’t have to cover it up.
That’s the thing that makes him beautiful. So that was really the inspiration for these. These windows, which are actually called, they’re actually called lavender’s, which I think is lovely for a gay story.
Jeff: Is this place real?
Philip: It’s real in my head. New Hope is actually a totally real place. It’s halfway between New York City and Philadelphia. It’s on the bank of the Delaware River where Washington crossed, but it’s not far from Washington’s crossing. It has been historically a gay destination, similar to fire Island or P-town. New Hope has always had this type of a weekend getaway for a queer people.
In fact, the area, and I’m in Bucks County right now, this area used to be called the Genius Belt, but because Dorothy Parker’s house was about two miles from where I’m sitting, and James Michener, his backyard was behind our backyard and Rogers and Hammerstein composed and lived here so this area has always had a strong artistic background, and that grew and grew with some drag history in the sixties and seventies, and disco in the eighties.
So New Hope is definitely a real place.
Jeff: Does this inn exist or did you put an inn where you wanted it to be?
Philip: In the words of Stephen Sondheim, I put an inn where there never was an inn.
There is no Hideaway Inn, but there is an inn that this is based on, that is in the same area. There isn’t, the shops are wrong or you know, there are different places. The one place that is real is the Quack Shack where he goes to feed the ducks. There is this little shack in New Hope called the Quack shack where you put like a quarter in and you get some duck food and you feed the ducks.
Vince is really scared of these ducks. I am terrified of swans.
Jeff: Swans are no joke. I’ve seen that. I’ve never personally had a swan go after me, but I’ve certainly heard tales.
Philip: I have. They have a very distinct network. So if one swan does not like you, it seems like all the swans know, I am like a swan target. So that part’s very real. The bridge is real, all of the other parts are definitely based… actually the 4th of July festival that they go to is a real festival that happens here and it’s exactly sort of what happens in town.
Jeff: That’s so cool. I like that this is a real place that has real history.
As I mentioned at the very top of our discussion, this is one of the very first books in the Carina Adores line of LGBTQ romances. How’s it feel to have that designation?
Philip: Oh my God, it’s so exciting to be of a start of something. I’m thrilled and I sort of fell into it in a very lucky way. I read Harlequin romances growing up as a kid. I have always been involved in that. That said, it’s also totally terrifying if I’m being honest, because the other people who are launching this, like Chelsea Cameron and Cole and Rowan are like master storytellers of romance and have wonderful followings and wonderful books, and I am totally new to this party.
I’m little self-conscious. I’m not sure if I’m wearing the right clothes or if I’m arriving at the right time or if I should have brought like a hostess gift or not, I’m not sure. But, I’m still excited and I’m hoping that when this comes out, there will be plenty of people who want to either dance with me or sit in the corner and watch other people dance.
This is my first gay romance novel. I’ve written a lot of books in other genres, but this is the first actual gay romance novel I’ve ever written. So that’s why I say I am brand new to the party. If you see me and I’m wearing a newcomers badge, please come over and sit with me for a little bit because I am really anxious to make new friends.
Jeff: Well, if we ever get to not socially distance, we will come sit next to you.
Now you’ve got a very inclusive book here because not only do you have your heroes of Vince and Tack, who are obviously, you know, gay, but you’ve populated this town, your supporting characters, with a broad spectrum too, from Tack’s child to the bookstore owner to the farmers.
I really love that aspect of it. And really how you use the supporting characters too. To just expand on the overall queerness of the town. How did you decide how you were at a populate New Hope and what characters you were going to, you know, make sure we got to know pretty well.
Philip: Well, I definitely wanted to write a cozy town with like a Mitford you feel, but gay. The gayest Mitford you could ever imagine. I’m like, I want it to, I wanted to actually make like a gay Thomas Kinkade painting. Which is maybe redundant, I’m not sure. I love Thomas Kincaid, and my husband is like disgusted by Thomas Kinkade.
So we had this clash of aesthetics there, but I wanted to write something that had a real range of queer people in it. Because at the heart of this story, and I think I’m making it sound, not sound like a very romancey romance, it is. Underneath that is a story also about gender expression, coming to terms with your own, and I want it to populate it with people who would have that range.
I don’t, did you ever see, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie, The Women from the 1930s right? And you know, they redid it in 2008 with Diane English, and I remember really well. In that movie on set in the library, there were busts of men like there were like two or three like way in the background and the whole thing about that movie is they want it to have only women on screen from start to finish.
In both versions, like if you notice in both of them, all the extras, all of the smaller parts are women, and I remember way back then hearing that and thinking, wouldn’t that be interesting if you could do that with gay and queer people. So that’s how I populated this world.
I don’t know if every single person in the book is gay, but I think so.
Jeff: Which is just really wonderful. It gave me such a warm feeling because it is very romance forward. I mean, the romance of Tack and Vince is the story. But it’s their support system around them and the people in their lives that just really flesh the world out.
Philip: And I wanted that part to have some more fantasy to it. And I want it to balance that with making sure, for me, the voice was as authentic as I could make it. So I was okay if the rest of it felt like, you know, that that town might have non gay people in it. So I, I really wanted to balance those two things, but I’m so glad that you found that community as a character in the book also because I really tried to make it that.
Jeff: Yeah. Very, very much so. Were there any aspects of the story that, I’m going to make you pick among your children now, that were more fun for you to write that others, because the book has so much heart, it just seems like by and large, it would have been kind of fun to come up with a story and to put it on paper.
Philip: I’ve always had like a love for Americana, for kind of country fairs and small town things like that. Sort of anything you would see in the “Little House on the Prairie,” like that type of aesthetic, that kind of Americana. And as a gay man I’ve always liked that, but I’ve also felt a little outside of it.
So any time in this book where I could sit inside that world, I was so happy. They go to a 4th of July festival and hold hands there that I love. They, go to a lavender farm and go to the goat cheese farm. They tube down the river. All of that type of things that to me, growing up, I never knew if I would have access to those things.
Giving these characters access to it made me feel really good. Does that make sense?
Jeff: it absolutely does.
Philip: I wanted there to be a place for them and I wanted these characters to know like, yeah, there’s a place for you here.
Jeff: So this particular episode is our very first one within Pride month and all of this month we’re having authors come and read some selections from their work for us, and we’re going to get to kick that off with you and a little bit of “The Hideaway Inn.” So what part of the book are you going to give to us?
Philip: So I’m reading a section from actually very near the end of the book, and this is where Vince is really questioning some of the choices and the mistakes that he’s made since he returned to New Hope. And also since leaving New Hope. And he goes to the Museum of Modern Art, which is where I had my very first internship in college.
He’s really thinking about those choices and the experiences of – they come from the experience of myself of being a young adult, and this part I’m going to read is somewhat personal to me in that when I was in high school, there was this guy, and if he saw me, my day was miserable. If he saw me, he would find me and start calling me names and teasing me or pushing me or shoving me or getting a bunch of other people to gang up on me and it was awful.
As a teenager, I remember laying in bed and thinking, Oh, if this, if I could, if this guy has a good day tomorrow, then I can have a good day. Or if this guy sits in a different part of the lunchroom than I can be okay that day. I remember thinking, I just want to, I just want to be able to control my own experience as a kid going to school. Does that make sense? Like I wanted to say, and I always thought, and because course I was teased for being effeminate, so I always thought, Oh, if I could just not act that way. Then I could control how other people treat me.
I couldn’t actually pass for being very masculine. So I never really was able to develop that. But in the book, Vince is able to do that, and it’s to his detriment because he thinks he’s controlling the world by protecting himself from that. And this is the scene where he sort of begins to think that might not be such a good idea.
Finally I go to the Museum of Modern Art to visit my old friend, Cezanne’s The Bather – a painting I’ve sort of had a thing for since I first saw it as a teen.
The museum is crowded but I’m able to stand right in front of the masterpiece. A teenage boy painted in somber shades of blue stands at the edge of the water in his swimsuit with his hands on his hips. He looks down, avoiding eye contact with the observer. He is shy and unsure of himself but also present in his surroundings. He is almost naked but not in a sexual way. He is exposed but also without pretense, without a facade.
I used to identify with this boy so much. I used to think it was a portrait of me but now I have much more in common with the suits of armor a few dozen blocks uptown at the Met. I’m rarely vulnerable like the boy in the frame before me. I’m always wearing a shield that has been polished and maintained over the years but I wonder if there is still a boy underneath.
I used to think the painted boy was weak, like I was as a kid. But I realize now he isn’t weak at all. Being a man isn’t something you become or something you show people. I don’t know what it is. I used to think it was the most important thing in the world. If I was man, I could be safe. I wouldn’t have my fate decided by the people around me. If I could be a man, in the way the world wanted me to be, maybe I would be worthy of love.
I always thought that was the thing that stopped Tack from being with me. I wasn’t worthy. I thought he was embarrassed of me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be worthy and now I don’t even know what that is. What’s worse, I don’t think it even matters.
I think about Jules and their lack of interest in defining themselves. If I wasn’t so worried all summer about showing Tack who I’ve become, maybe I’d have found a way to tell him the truth about everything. Maybe I would be at The Hideaway Inn right now sitting on the porch with both of them.
I take in the blues and greens of Cezanne’s brush stroke. I just stand in front of the painting like it’s only me and the canvas and nothing else exists in the world. I study it not for the composition or use of color but for what it says to me privately.
“Sir, I think you may need this?” A frail woman with a walker says to me, pulling out a tissue from her sleeve.
“Excuse me?” I say breaking the spell.
“Here,” she says. “Take as many as you need.” She gives me her compact package of tissues and walks away. I hold them in my hand and suddenly see a drop of water dampen the tissue waiting to be pulled from the pack. For a moment I think the ceiling at the museum has a leak but then I realize it’s a tear. I’ve been standing in front of the painting crying and I didn’t even know it.
Jeff: Thank you for sharing that. It became one of my favorite scenes in the book because it captures Vince so well and what he goes through.
Philip: He thinks he can protect himself from that. And he thinks that being an alpha is being a man, and that’s all he knows from being in the world.
And also he thinks that – I mean, I have felt so many times, especially as a kid, oh, that person’s embarrassed of me because I’m effeminate. I teach at NYU and over my years there I’ve noticed students change in these profound ways. When I was in on campus as a student, I hid so much of myself because I was scared. In the beginning it was like the students kept being themselves more. Gay students who were feminine or anywhere, and it changed over these years, whereas they were not trying to cover up anything at all.
As a gay teacher watching this, it was so transformative for me. And I was with a student just this past semester, and they were telling me the story of their pronouns and their gender expression. And you know, I’ve never really cried in front of a student before. I usually make my students cry if I’m being honest. But, I was so moved by their Pride in themselves and their, their ability to be who they are without consideration of the things around them. And I told my husband this and we both cried, and I didn’t know if I was crying, like I was happy for him, but I also thought that is such a long time ago. I wonder who I would be if I was able to live my young adult life in that way.
And the fact is, I don’t know.
And I don’t know if you have that experience at all, or if you think that sometimes, or have that, I don’t know.
Jeff: Most of my name calling came out of the fact that I lived in Alabama and didn’t like football. I was very bookish, very into writing, even at a young age, and that kind of thing. So that, more than how I looked or sounded played into why I got called names and I didn’t date either, but that was a whole other thing.
Philip: Were you able to pass?
Philip: And that’s where this book comes out. So when people see him as a dick, they are seeing somebody who got there because of being a target of ridicule and a target of people’s aggression. And when that happens to you long enough, you learn how to stop it.
And if you’re Vince and you can, because you can pass, that’s what you do. Or that’s what he does.
Jeff: So, “Seasons of New Hope” is a series, and this is book one. Are there things you can tease us about the future installments?
Philip: Next book takes place in winter because I really wanted to write a seasonal series, and it’s about an antiques dealer in New Hope.
And here he’s all set to move in, and he is an expert in the second empire and ornate candlesticks and furniture and pewterware and everything matches and is perfect. And as he’s moving into this antique store, he looks in the window and he sees a guy dressed in a Fozzie bear t-shirt putting a Muppets lunchbox on a pedestal in the window of the store he’s going to have to share with this guy.
It’s about a collector who has things like Happy Meal toys and Barbies and Holly Hobby glasses and Snoopy stuff and a guy who collects very staid metallurgy letter openers. All the characters in the community from book one, they all returned to save these two historic buildings that are possibly going to be torn down.
And they’re two very different buildings that actually exist in New Hope and the real New Hope. One is a mid century bank and the other is a second empire, building next to it on the river. So it takes place in winter. So there’s hot chocolate and ice sculptures and pot bellied stoves and sledding and all the fun winter things.
Jeff: Do you have a release date for the winter book?
Philip: January or February of 2021.
Jeff: Perfect. It releases in the right season.
So you’ve got one other novella out and you re-released it in April. It’s called “There Galapagos My Heart.” Tell us a little bit about that book.
Philip: Well, that book is part of a series I’m working on called “Love Beyond Boundaries” and they’re all really travel books.
I grew up, always choosing mine… and I still do. I choose my books by location. And I’ll sort of read anything if it takes place in Paris or if it takes place in Napa Valley, like if that’s what I feel like at that time. So I love heavy location books. “There Galapagos. My Heart” takes place, obviously in Ecuador, in the Galapagos Islands. “Kiss you at Machu Picchu” takes place in Peru and “My Cotswolds Crush” it takes place in one of my favorite places in the world, the Cotswolds.
My husband and I, my husband used to be the director of school programs at the Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art. And we did a lot of travel with the Met where we both lectured.
So he would lecture about art and I would lecture about my area of specialization. And most of these travel books are sort of based on those experiences traveling with donors from the museum.
Jeff: Very cool. Do you have a timeline for the other books in the series?
Philip: Is as soon as I can a timeline or is that not really a timeline?
Jeff: That’s a timeline.
Philip: Okay. Timeline is as soon as I can get to it.
Jeff: Coming soon.
Jeff: So you mentioned also that you have written books in other genres. Kind of going back to your origin story, what got you started as a writer?
Philip: Well as a kid, I was definitely in a lot of creative writing programs and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do that.
As I say, when you’re a boy and you’re at the little league game playing left field, but you go out to the outfield with a copy of “Family Circle” or “Ladies Home Journal” and you’re sitting in the outfield reading that they pretty quickly ask you to take a creative writing class instead.
And that’s sort of where I was, what I did. I didn’t really identify as a writer for very long time, but really started, what I’m gonna tell you is edited a version of the long story. I went to a spiritual meeting of a guru of sorts and I went with a friend, and I know you’re thinking, where is this going?
I’ve gone from little league to a guru. I promise I’ll get there. So I went to this meeting and they said, Oh, we’re now going to sing this special song. And they sang this special song and it just was so bad it made me laugh so hard. I started getting the giggles during this solemn time and this woman who I didn’t know this stranger next to me started getting the giggles too.
And so we had to leave the event and we were sort of got enough dirty looks to leave the event. And she and I escaped to the hallway and became friends. And it turns out she was a very well known writer of women’s fiction and she was the type of writer where if you were at a bookstore in an airport, there would be multiple books of hers on the shelves.
So I became friends with her and the real story of this, how I started writing with her and then for her, we were friends and I was paying my student loans in graduate school and she had to meet with her architect and I was upset about like making a bill and she said, Oh, well come up with an idea and we’ll pay off your student loans.
And I was like, okay. So she went to meet with her architect and I came up with an idea for a book/movie like that, like later that day, a couple hours later, and she said, Oh, I like that. Okay, I can sell it. She made a few phone calls and by the end of the day we had a deal memo that not only paid off my student loans, but also gave her large cut of it.
And that’s how I became a writer.
Jeff: Well done.
Philip: Well, so I wrote for her and with her, and I don’t say I ghosted, although it wasn’t like she said she, I wrote it and she like signed her name at the end. We collaborated, but I was not mentioned in the, you know, she got all the credit for that and we had a division of the money and it was going great.
And she was incredibly successful. And I thought I would do that for the rest of my life. And then she died suddenly and very publicly. I thought, Oh boy, what am I going to do? She was, of course, my friend, but also my boss. I was writing women’s fiction and chick lit, mostly like Upper West Side divorcee voice, which is also my personal voice.
So I wrote some chick lit and I wrote a book that we were going to do next and it went to auction, which is great, and I did it, you know, I never mentioned her. I did it all on my own. It goes to auction and the day of the auction they find out I’m a man. And you know, it was, we’ve been speaking about masculinity. It’s like, Oh, here it comes to bite me in the ass the other way. And, actually, the auction is like canceled. No one goes, it’s at a time where this is like, how could we promote this? You know, this wouldn’t work.
So that dies. And then I think, well, yeah. Hi, I’m with that agent. And that agent says, you know, there’s a call for these tween books from Simon and Schuster. Do you think you could come up with something? So I took our ideas that we had written for divorcees on the Upper West Side and translated them to 13 year old girls. And then I wrote multiple series for Simon and Schuster. And I was happily writing tween books and I would do readings.
And because we’ve been talking about this, I’d do readings and, it would be me, Jenny Han, who’s of course, you know, gone to incredible success and some other various successful writers, and we do a school assembly and they would have all the boys leave and go play basketball while I and the other writers spoke to the girls.
I mean, like awful, right? I just kept thinking about the boy in the basketball gymnasium who is like peeking through the window, desperate to see us talk about our books. And that kid is obviously me. I wrote tween books and people would be surprised that I was a guy and I would say, well, you know, I’m not a 13 year old girl, but neither are any of the people writing the books. We’re all using our imagination. And then thanks to the overlord algorithm, I kept getting gay romance in my algorithm feed. And I started reading that and I was like, Oh, this is a thing. Let me try that. So that’s how I got where I am today writing.
Jeff: That’s awesome. That’s a great story. We haven’t had one like that on the show, I think ever.
Philip: A weird long one. I’m sorry.
Jeff: Besides more in the two series that we’ve talked about, is there anything else you can kind of tease us about what’s coming up next?
Philip: I have the “Love Beyond Boundaries” books that are coming out with travel. And then going back to my roots and doing a romcom. It’s called “Miles of Style” and it’s a bit of a prince and the pauper that takes place at a queer lifestyle television program over New Year’s Eve.
Jeff: Oh, fun. And what’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you online so they can keep track of all this stuff?
Philip: I’m most active on Instagram. I can really relate to things visually, so you can find me there.
I have almost no followers on Twitter and I don’t really tweet, but you can find me there. You can become one of my many, many dozens of followers and not even up to dozens. You can also join my newsletter, which I’d be so thrilled about because I have about 12 people on it. I’m related to six and married to one. So please sign up for that. And because I wrote for tweens, I always respond to emails. I’ve never not responded to an email that I can think of from a reader. So you can always email me. Very cool.
Jeff: Well, of course, we will link to all that stuff in the show notes so that people can track you down and start following you as this book comes out.
Now, before we wrap up, because it is pride month, tell us what pride means to you.
Philip: In my twenties, when I was in New York, Pride was really about flipping the script like it made New York gay for a day. And like, there’s a very powerful way, like everything was gay. And that was absolutely what Pride meant.
It meant like being part of a large group. Now that I’m older and married for a long time. We go to smaller pride events out here in Bucks County and for us, I think that those, I think there are as many people who identify as gay as there are people who probably don’t, and it’s not about flipping the script as it was in New York.
It’s more about being in a place where everybody is acknowledging our differences, but coming together in a way through sameness. So pride has meant different things to me over the years, but small town pride is where my heart is these days.
Jeff: Thank you for sharing that with us. I like that small town pride kind of thing. Cause it’s not a piece of the pride puzzle that we hear a lot. It’s all centered in the bigger cities.
Philip: Small town pride is growing. We have two small town prides within 10 minutes of each other. Doylestown and New Hope. Both have pride celebrations.
Jeff: Well, Philip, thank you so much for coming on the show, kicking off Pride month for us and telling us all about “The Hideaway Inn.” I wish you the most success with that book.
Philip: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been so much fun to talk to you.
Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. Reviewed by Jeff.
Meryl Wilsner debut novel Something to Talk About is a wonderful workplace romance that is wonderfully romantic with a Hollywood setting.
Jo Jones is a powerhouse in TV as the force behind a successful TV show. She’s looking to make the move into features by taking on the next Agent Silver film–a job some in the biz don’t think she’s qualified for. Jo’s determined though, she started as a child actress–an outspoken one having taken on how her Asain character was treated on her TV show. These days she doesn’t take crap from anyone.
Emma is Jo’s long time assistant, on the cusp of moving on from the assistant job and on to a larger production role on Jo’s show. She enjoys her job, her boss and her life. When Jo invites Emma to the Screen Actors Guild awards, Emma says yes since Jo wants her to be a shield against unwanted questions surrounding the Agent Silver film.
When Emma plays the buffer role on the red carpet and her and Jo share a laugh, the paparazzi snap away and a rumor is born. Since Jo’s never commented on her relationships, she doesn’t start and that means the story continues drawing the attention of friends, family and far too many others.
The thing is, Jo and Emma are attracted to each other. It’s a wonderful slow burn romance as they battle their internal fears about being a couple all the while ending up showing affection for each in random ways that make them happy in the moment but then freak them out and make them reconsider everything their doing. The slow burn is so very good. It kept me very engaged rooting for Emma and Jo get to their happy place.
I loved the Hollywood setting too. The producer slash writer and her assistant was a great setup. The ins and out of Jo transitioning from TV to movie was enjoyable and provided a great backdrop for her move into a relationship too. There’s also a ripped-from-the-headlines plot too involving some sexual harassment when a visiting director to Jo’s TV show makes inappropriate moves on Emma.
The romantic overtures small and large between these two are swoon-worthy. Jo totally goes into caring mode when Emma has a minor medical emergency. Emma takes care of Jo beyond her assistant duties, making sure she eats and has when she needs to make her days easier. Then there’s the more hardcore romantic moments, like a call from Jo over Hannukah.
Emma’s got a wonderful family too with her parents and sister. It’s a stark contrast to Jo’s controlling and judgemental father. I really wanted to punch him for behaving terribly to her but I may have cheered out loud with the way she dealt with it. Jo’s got a great longtime friend though, who just happens to be an attorney which you can bet comes in handy when there’s a snitch that keeps feeding the press tidbits about Emma and Jo.
This is a terrific debut novel and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I loved how Meryl captured Emma and Jo’s doubts. It’s not just about disrupting their working relationship, it’s about being able to give their heart and wanting to do the right things for the other person. The internal back and forth both women have struck exactly the right chord. But then there are the looks, gestures the worry over if they’re doing the right thing. It was all the feels.
The audiobook is a great way to read Something to Talk About too. Narrators Jorjeana Marie and Xe Sands do a sublime job giving life to Emma and Jo. I was glad I read the book with them reading because it just added to an already excellent story.
The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover. Reviewed by Jeff & Will.
Jeff: Philip William Stover’s The Hideaway Inn was everything I want in a romance. It’s a small town, second chance romance that also brings a peace to a long-suffering guy who has lived with his shields up for way too long. Like any good Hallmark movie, there’s also a “we must save the inn” plotline. The story has amazing queer representation across its characters. It’s a spectacular debut for the Carina Adores line.
Vince has come home to New Hope after losing his job following a disastrous workplace relationship. He’s set his sights on The Hideaway Inn, which he’s bought and is hoping to flip it and sell it to a hotel conglomerate. He’s also hoping to show the town the man he’s become since the days he was bullied in school. He’s thrown off balance shortly after arriving in town as he’s thrown together with his high school crush and the guy who broke his heart, Tack.
Part of Vince’s plan for the Inn is to make the restaurant–the only part of the Inn that’s working–into a profit center. But he immediately loses his chef. It’s none other than Tack to rescue because in the intervening years he’s been going to culinary school and has become a quite good farm to table chef…and exactly what the Inn needs.
But Vince and Tack are like oil and water. These two do not mix. Vince’s armor only grows around Tack as he’s determined to show Tack that he’s not the kid that was a target. Tack, however, is a softie in the best way. He’s determined to be nice to Vince, help Vince and hopefully get Vince to let his guard down so they can get to know each other. This is only aided by the by some forced proximity as Tack moves into the Inn’s owner’s quarters along with Vince. The reasoning is good to reduce Tack’s commute but it only forces the two together to deal with their past and present.
One of the places Vince visits where he’s got good memories is the local book store run by Toula, who has transitioned from being Tom. The bookstore was a haven for Vince and while he still has a hard time relaxing here initially we do learn significant things about his past. Toula’s also good at kicking him in the butt and see that things have really changed.
Vince and Tack though. Wow. In some ways there’s an enemies to lovers vibe here because Vince very much views Tack as an enemy at first. But Tack slowly but surely shows Vince what’s changed with him–including why he and his wife divorced and the amazing kid–Jules–they’re co-parenting. Jules is one of the best kids I’ve ever read. They’re such a free spirit and can’t help but spread joy. As much as Tack shows Vince what life can be like if he’d free himself of the past, so does Jules.
Philip does such a wonderful job of bringing Vince and Tack together as they work on the Inn and truly start to see its potential. They take day trips out to farms to source ingredients. They end up hanging out at the creek. They spend an amazing July 4 along with Jules. At the same time, Vince battles himself over what he came to New Hope to do and how his life and priorities are changing.
The moment where all is lost comes and it’s rough. Philip gives Vince a beautiful moment of soul searching that is only topped by the HEA that of course comes.
I have no doubt this book is going to end up on my best of list for this year. While it takes a minute to warm up to Vince, I totally get why he’s the way he is and it makes his journey all the more satisfying that he’s able to find his happy. And Tack is simply a great, adorable guy. The Hideaway Inn is everything I want in a romance and it’s so unabashedly gay that I absolutely adored it. I can’t wait to see what Philip does next in this series.
Will:I loved it for all the same reasons you did. I think this is a wonderful trope, heavy, small town romance, and I really loved getting to know the characters tack and Vince and understanding their specific viewpoints about life and love and the town of new hope. And how through the course of the story they set some of their preconceived notions aside and find love together. I just really enjoyed it.
I happened to listen to the audiobook and I want to call out narrator James Cavenaugh. I think he did a really lovely job of not only voicing these two main characters, but the diverse secondary cast. I think he did an excellent job. This is the first time I’ve listened to this narrator, and I’m certainly looking forward to any future books that he does.
So yeah, if you can’t tell, we are definitely fans of Phillip William Stover, and we’re looking forward to whatever titles come up next in the series that he’s working on.