Jeff & Will talk about TV they’ve been enjoying including Love, Victor on Hulu, Legendary on HBOMax and the short film Out on Disney+. Will reviews Connor by Daryl Banner while Jeff looks at The Rational Faculty by Gregory Ashe and The Astonishing Life of August March by Aaron Jackson.

Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach share some of their favorites from this past Spring, including books by C.S.Poe, Gregory Ashe, Annabeth Albert, Kevin van Whye, KJ Charles and Allie Therin. They also have a special Pride Month reading recommendation and share what Pride means to them.

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Show Notes

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.

Interview Transcript – Lisa & Jay

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Jeff: Jay and Lisa. Welcome back to the podcast.

Jay: Hi Jeff.

Lisa: Hello. Good to see you both.

Jay: Yes.

Jeff: Happy pride month.

Jay: Thank you. You too

Lisa: Very much to you too.

Jeff: We’ll be talking a little bit of Pride stuff after you guys expand my TBR by what I’m sure it’s going to be six books.

Jay: We’re book pushers. That’s the fun.

Lisa: It’ll be interesting to see if we come up with any of the same books this time. We were really diverse last time.

Jay: Yes, for sure.

Jeff: Or if anything that I might’ve done recently too, cause I’ve been reading some super good stuff lately as well. There’s been like an embarrassment of riches this spring time.

Lisa: Yeah. It’s been a little hard. My reading has slowed down a little bit though. I can tell that.

Jay: Yeah. Hard to concentrate.

Jeff: I’ve definitely had some of that too. I’ve been getting back into it. I will tell you, cause I actually will have reviewed it in this show before the segment. Moving into a Gregory Ashe book, the first of the “Union of Swords,” was probably not my best choice for thing to read in the current climate, but it was still so good.

Lisa: Yeah. We’ll be talking about Gregory here in just a minute.

Jeff: I told Greg recently on his Facebook live that I might have to send you a therapy bill. So anyway, Jay, we will kick it off with you. What have you got for us first?

Jay: Sure. I tried this time to be wide ranging in my pics in terms of three very different books. The first one I want to talk about, I just read recently, “The Engineer” by C.S. Poe. Have you read that one? It is, I love her writing and this is the start of a new series, “Magic and Steam.”

And it is sort of a mashup of, steampunk, magic, paranormal, and wild west all together. So it’s not sort of a traditional Victorian steampunk. It’s a wild west set steam punk, and it’s also an enemies to lovers, two people on opposite sides of the law. The premise is that, Gillian is a law enforcement officer who is sent out west to try to catch a bad guy known as The Engineer who has destroyed Baltimore and created all of these really sort of nefarious steampunk gadgets.

And when he thinks, because of he has a strong magic ability that, you know, there should be no sweat. And it turns out that it’s much harder than he expected. And then he encounters, Gunner who is a outlaw slash Robin Hoodish type character who, sort of, publicly as a bad guy, but we find out really sort of is looking out for the little guy and the two of them decided that they are going to temporarily team up to take down The Engineer.

So, of course while they’re fighting, they also are falling for each other. And, it’s a novella. So it’s a fairly short, quick read and sets up for the second book. So the relationship is not fully resolved here nor is the conflict with the bad guys, but it was so much fun, such a great quick, light read and really so creative.

I’m really a sucker for world building and the way she combined the magic and the steampunk together, which is not something that you always see together. And then the wild west setting was really a lot of fun and I’m really excited cause it looks like the other one is already sort of queued up to come out and going to be a full length novel.

So I assume we’ll see more relationship progression there as well, but lots of fun.

Jeff: I’m excited to do you pick this because I was enamored with the cover when she revealed it as it’s gorgeous. And the blurbs struck me too, even though I don’t really go off into steampunk very often. And now you’ve said this, of course, like, okay put that on the list.

Jay: Did you read it Lisa?

Lisa: I Did. It was fun. It was fantastic. And one of the things that I was so impressed with is for the length of the novella, how rich the world building was.

Jay: Absolutely.

Lisa: Absolutely amazing how she spun everything and didn’t like, she just didn’t waste detail. I just thought it was phenomenal.

Jay: It’s funny that you say that, because in my review, I actually said like, this is an example of how, even in a shorter length format, you can have a really complete story. I mean, obviously it doesn’t fully resolve the relationship or anything, but it feels like a full story with layered characters, rich world building.

And it doesn’t just feel like someone sort of shortcut and wrote something you know, only a few pages. It really is a full story, even in that short length. And I was really impressed by that, how much went into it.

Lisa: You were dumped into the middle of this world and misled story where you missed something that wasn’t told previously. She just did a phenomenal job. I thought it was a great, great book.

So let’s talk about Gregory Ashe book four in the second compilation of Hazard and Somerset books and “The Union of Swords” series “Wayward.”

Jeff: Do I need to plug my ears for this?

Lisa: I will not give you any spoilers because you know, it’s just a lot of the same of what I always say about Greg’s work.

Hazard and Somers they’re always kind of a two steps forward, one step back kind of couple. And they have so many, they have so many things to work through personally in their relationship. And, when I opened “Wayward” and I started reading and I was like, I probably said a few cussy words about Greg. How can you do this to me every time, every time I think, okay, these guys have really got it now.

They’ve got it together. They’re good. And then something happens, you know, something does happen with them with, John Henry’s dad and there are some issues between them, between Emery and john Henry that, they have to work through and, they always do. And that’s the thing that you can always count on Greg, even when he throws all of these obstacles in their way.

By the time he gets everything worked out, you’re like, well, okay, so they needed to go through this so that they could make this next step forward. This had to happen to them so that they can have this discussion because if it didn’t happen, they wouldn’t talk about it. You know? So, so there’s that. And then of course there was still the overall story arc with the keeper of bees, which “The Keeper of Bees” is the fifth and final book in this particular collection of Hazard and Somerset books. And I know it’s written. Because I know, I know Steve Leonard has beta’d it.

Jeff: I think Greg revealed the cover in his group too. Maybe. Cause I feel like I’ve seen the bees.

Lisa: Yes. So the “The Keeper of Bees” is still out there. And so now it’s going to be, I think Emory and a race against the clock, trying to figure out who the keeper of bees is. I’m sure that I will have no idea who it is until I read it on the page. That’s one of the great things about his books is that –

Jeff: I don’t even try to figure it out anymore.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Well, and every time I do, I think, okay, is this a red herring or is this really the person? I’m always wrong anyway.

But “Wayward” is just another step in their relationship and another step towards figuring out who the keeper of bees is. And then, you know, there’s all of the relationships revolving around John and Emery to the friendships that they’re making and how the dynamics of them bringing, you know, John Henry being very outgoing and Emery being very much not. And how, you know, Emery’s really finding that he’s got these friends who really enjoy spending time with them and how he’s putting that all into his frame of being when that’s not something that’s been a part of his life. And that’s one of the really great gifts I think that that Sommer’s has given him is that he’s giving him all of these exterior motivations, you know? Excellent stuff. And, and I think that, “The Keeper of Bees” comes out at the end of August if I’m not mistaken, so not too much longer.

Jay: All right. My second one, also just released recently, through Sourcebooks “Conventionally Yours” by Annabeth Albert and I was really excited about this because Sourcebooks has just started making some forays into LGBTQ romance.

And in fact, I believe they have an Alexis Hall book coming out this summer, I think. I was really excited about that because, whenever you get new publishers who are reaching out into the community, it’s always great. And this one was really fun. It features, sort of a game or premise if you’ve read her gamer series has a lot of the same tones to that.

The premise is there two guys Con and Alden who are part of a table game Dungeons and dragons-esque kind of game, called Odyssey, which interestingly she completely created. And it’s amazing to read about it through this whole story because the rules and the way the strategy and all that is built into the story and it’s completely made up.

The premise of this is that their little group gets a free tickets to this big Odyssey convention that’s in Vegas and because Alden is not happy with planes, they decide to drive. So, it is an enemies to lovers because Con and Alden start out hating each other, which is always a big theme that I love combined with road trip as they travel across the country.

They end up becoming enemies to friends, to ultimately lovers, and then they arrive in Vegas. And they come to this big tournament, which both of them have major reasons why winning is, not just wonderful, but really life changing for them. And then realize of course, that they need to compete against each other for this ultimate prize, because it comes with being on the pro tour and money and other things that both of them need.

It’s a lot of fun. It has that sort of road trip feel. But one of the things that I think she does so well in all of her books is so much research that there’s just little details dropped in everywhere that never feels like an info dump, but makes everything so rich.

Like as they’re driving the places they go, the things that they, where they stop and the people they encounter and the pools for this game and how it’s built in. I am not a gamer by any stretch, and I had no trouble sort of following along with the premise as well as getting into the excitement of watching them play.

And one of the things I really liked is the way that their strategies and the way that the two guys each approach the game is very much in keeping with their personalities and the way that they live. So all that’s just put together really well. First in the series, so we do meet some side characters, other gamers, people who are in their group who I assume will be fodder for future books, but, I’m really excited.

You know, I really loved it. I read Annabeth’s work a lot, and this was one of my favorites in a long time. It reminded me a lot of, some of her sort of older works that I loved. So lots of fun and great. If you’re looking for enemies to lovers, like contemporary, with a lot of richness to it.

Jeff: I’m not counting this as an add either. Cause it’s already been on my list since I first read about it. Cause the whole convention things sounded really cool. And the road trip, I’m waiting on the audiobook because it’s a Kirt Graves, Joel Leslie combo.

Jay: Yes. I know. I’m really excited about that. I talked to Joel about it before I read it and they were still figuring out, you know, who was going to do which part, and then afterwards, and he told me, and I was like, yes, exactly. I can completely see. So I think it’s gonna be really interesting to see the dual narration, but I think they’re going to do a good job with it.

Jeff: Yeah. I have no doubt.

Lisa: All right. Well, my number two book is actually it’s a young adult book. It is a book by a debut author, Kevin van Whye. And his book is called “Date Me, Bryson Keller.”

Jay: We’re reviewing that but I haven’t read it yet.

Lisa: It is such a great book. And it’s one of those kinds of books where it’s got the spirit kind of feel good, feel to it. And yet it’s not all sweetness and light. It’s got a little bit of bite to it.

The premise is very much a fake boyfriend , which is always just kind of fun. It takes place, they’re seniors in high school. Kai Sheridan is very much not out of the closet. And Bryson Keller is, the kind of a soccer golden boy at the high school. And he hasn’t been dating much.

And then they’re all at a party one night and someone dares Bryson to go on a date with someone new every week up until spring break. And because he doesn’t believe that high school relationships are lasting relationships. And so, the furor begins – all the girls are racing to ask him out every Monday morning to be the girl that he dates that week.

And, you know, the dates are very much, you know, just innocent, straight forward kind of dates. One day, Kai is late for class because of this rush to see who can be the first to ask Bryson Keller out on that Monday morning. Well, it turns out that that Bryson and Kai ended up in class together and Kai just on a whim says “date me, Bryson Keller.” And so, so Kai and Bryson are dating through the course of that week. They develop a very sweet friendship and in the back of Kai’s mind, while Bryson is being very attentive and very sweet to him, Kai is wondering what in the heck is going on.

He, you know, Bryson is acting very much like he is taking these dates very seriously. And so as their relationship grows and it comes towards the end of the week as it turns out, Bryson was dating very seriously. And so, that creates its own set of problems. And there is, you know, of course you get the high school angst and all of the pathos that goes along with that.

And there is this, there’s an instance that I do want to warn folks about an instance of forced outing. And so that that’s explored a little bit. I’ve heard, you know, I hate to say that if you love “Love, Simon,” you’ll love “Date Me, Bryson Keller,” but it really is very similar in the tone of just the hope and the, you know, just wanting something so much, but not thinking that you can have it. And so Kevin van Whye I thought “Date Me, Bryson Keller” was just a fantastic book and it just was one of those right book at the right time kind of things for me, where I needed something to just put a smile on my face and that one did it.

Jeff: I’ve had this one lurking in my TBR and I haven’t been able to pick it up yet. I’m glad it’s good.

Lisa: It is. I loved it. I thought it was great.

Jay: All right. So my third book, like I said, I tried to go three very different books. My third book is “Slippery Creatures” by KJ Charles. So I went historical and this one was a lot of fun.

I really, didn’t know what to expect. It’s set in the 1920s. It sort of has that, twenties pulp feel. And the setup is that Will has returned from military duty to find a country that isn’t so interested in thinking about him or worrying about him anymore. And he is pretty close to destitute when an uncle takes him in who’s a bookstore owner.

When the uncle dies, Will inherits the bookstore. One day, someone comes in demanding information that he believes Will has. They ended up, they happen to have the same name. And he has no idea what they’re talking about. And then people from the war office come in and suddenly he realizes that his uncle has had this piece of information that both this sort of bad guy gang wants and that the war office wants, and that he doesn’t have, or know where it is, but he having come back from the war and seen some things and seeing the way that the soldiers were treated when they returned home, he is very skeptical of the war office as well. So while they seem like they would naturally be the good guys in all of this, he is not willing to trust either party and he needs Kim who comes in and comes to his aid. And the two of them began sort of the mystery of figuring out what it is that his uncle received and slowly over the course of the book, they both find it as well as find out what it is and what repercussions there might be if this information gets out into the world and becomes a thriller as everybody once, once will and wants the information that he has.

So it’s sort of a historical romance combined with a nice suspense plot to it, which I really liked. I mean, I pretty much would read anything that KJ Charles writes. In fact, I have read pretty much everything that she writes, but this was really interesting because slightly different time period than she typically writes in.

And it was just a really interesting tone and vibe. It really picked up that twenties energy and was really exciting and had a nice mystery component and first in the series. So there’s more adventures for with Will and Kim. So I’m really excited to see where she takes things for them, but it was a lot of fun.

Jeff: Nice. KJ Charles is a gap in my reading.

Jay: Oh,

Lisa: You must fill that gap.

Jay: You know, things that I’ve read for her was the “Magpie” series and that must’ve come out eight years ago, I still, there are scenes that are still just burned into my head from reading that, I mean, I have a million favorites of hers, but yeah, you’ve got to, if you want really good historical and then she has a lot of historical paranormal, definitely one to read for sure.

Lisa: My third book is also historical. It’s also set in the 1920 days, except mine has lots and lots of magic in it. Starcrossed is, is the second book in Allie Therin’s, “Magic in Manhattan” series. It is the sequel to “Spellbound” and “Starcrossed” picks up where “Spellbound” left off pretty much – Rory, he’s an antiques appraiser, but he’s also a scriber. So he’s very good at what he does, because he can tell what is fake and what is not. He is hardscrabble Rory he’s grumpy. And he’s just a poor boy from a poor family, you know, he’s just a grumpy little guy.

And then there’s Arthur Kenzie and Arthur could not be more opposite from Rory, he is wealthy, he’s sophisticated , if there could be more opposite side of the tracks, Arthur and Rory are on them. Some of this book deals with that in, especially in the 1920s setting, which is already challenging for gay relationships to begin with, but then for them to be on such opposite spectrums of the social order.

They face some of the, some of that is especially on Rory’s part of how, you know, how could he possibly ever fit into Arthur life, even from the standpoint of what excuse do they even have to be seen together because they are that far apart on the social spectrum. And so some of that is dealt with in this book, but then there’s also the presence of the magic.

There is this nefarious Baron Sepler out there who still is, is threatening the magical world. And this book just had, it had suspense, it had danger, it had action, it had romance drama, it just had a little bit of everything. These magical artifacts being, on kind of, not even the black market, I guess you would call it, where they’re trying to acquire the bad guys are trying to acquire these things to do magic and mayhem in Manhattan basically.

Allie Therin. It’s a carina Press book “Starcrossed.” It’s just got, it’s got so much charm and the world building is great. The characters are great. It’s just a really fun series. So that’s my recommendation for my third book.

Jay: Yes, totally agree. I love the series as well.

And your comment, which I thought was really interesting as well, the class differences in the way that that’s explored. You know, as this add on to the fact that these relationships weren’t even accepted at all. And, at one point when they’re talking to Arthur’s ex, who is from the same class, and basically he said, you know, we could be together.

And no one would ever question two wealthy men traveling together, even living together, but nobody will understand why, you know, a man of Arthur’s class is socializing with Rory. So it’s not even just that they can’t be in an obvious relationship, but they can’t even. Have an explanation for why they would be socializing or interacting as friends.

And I really do think it was the shift there in this book where they focus so much on that relationship dynamic and, you know, from both of their perspectives, you know, Arthur is so upset to see Rory sort of treated like the help and the fact that this whole mayhem is going on and he’s being pulled in the direction of his sort of family, societal responsibilities.

And then you have worry who is so insecure about both his wealth level and so conscious about taking any money from Arthur or doing anything to sort of ease his life. And Arthur’s just like, I have more money than I know what to do with, and I just want to give it to you. And I really thought that was the relationship and was really explored so well in addition to their super exciting craziness going on.

Lisa: The rise in Rory powers to the way that Arthur’s his anchor. So you have kind of, kind of that romantic element there where Arthur balances him out. And the things that Rory starts thinking about, even making a sacrifice of himself, you know, to protect Arthur and he, it just, it’s just a really, really fun series.

It’s fun. I can’t wait until the next book, which I think is the last one if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s just a trilogy. So looking very forward to that one.

Jeff: This is a series I’ve wanted to try. I think, I think it was you Lisa who recommended “Spellbound” last year.

Lisa: Best of the year.

Jeff: Yes. And you were excited for this book? I believe so. Yeah, locked on the TBR. I need more time.

So pride month – we definitely want to hear from the both of you a book that really stands out that should be on somebody’s pride TBR list. So kind of shifting from, what’s been new this spring, let’s talk about something good for the pride TBR. So Jay we’ll come back to you.

Jay: Okay. So, I really thought about what pride felt like and what it meant to me and try to find a book that I felt like expressed that. So I think that the sense of pride month as, having that joy in yourself, the acceptance, the openness coming to sort of understand who you are and what you want. And even more to sort of know and believe that you deserve to have those things.

Everyone from people who are just sort of exploring their sexual identity and maybe their gender identity, all the way to people who are coming out or who are out, have been out for a while and having that pride of self and sense of self and understanding. So I tried to find a book that sort of reflected that feeling to me.

And I went way back to, “A Forbidden Rumspringa” by Keira Andrews. And I picked this one because I felt like it incorporated a lot of those feelings that I think about when I think about pride, it takes place in an Amish community.

Isaac and David they’re in a very, very, regimented lifestyle and where, you know, sort of any kind of diversity, even beyond, you know, how tall your wagon wheels are, is frowned upon. And certainly where being gay is not accepted and they are working together and begin to develop feelings for each other.

And they are sort of facing the situation where first they’re coming to even understand that they’re attracted to men and then dealing with the issues of they’re not in a society where they can explore that in any way. And then sort of making that transition to deciding that, not only is this relationship important to them, but their ability to be out is important to them.

And what steps are they willing or able to go to, to sort of live this authentic life that both of them want to live. So, It’s such a great story. And like I said, I feel like it incorporates a lot of those messages about, you know, what pride is all about, finding yourself, recognizing your true identity, and then being able to live your life how you want and how you deserve to live.

So, it’s the first of the trilogy. and I always have a soft spot for this book also because, the origins of the story, just as a funny side note, one day I was on the blog and I was looking at some of my backend statistics and it shows me how people, what people searched to find the blog. And one of the things that people searched was like, Gay Amish porn sex or something like that.

I was like, what possibly could have been on the blog to have somebody find Joyfully Jay from that search term. And I posted on Facebook because I got such a laugh out of it. And it actually is what inspired Kiera to write the series because she’s like, if someone’s looking for it, let’s see what we can do.

And it is certainly not porn by any stretch, but it just always makes me laugh because I can’t figure out what I possibly had on there that got that search engine, but it did end up inspiring the series. So, I always think that’s a funny side note.

Jeff: Amazing. You’ve hinted a little round with this book so what does Pride mean to you?

Jay: Well, I think that, as I said, like for the month, I think it’s about coming to that understanding of who you are and accepting of who you are and having the comfort and, you know, hopefully being in a place where you can safely express that. So, I think that this story and a lot of the books we read really talk about people in all sorts of places on that spectrum of coming to have self awareness and understanding, and acceptance and gain acceptance from other people and having that confidence and comfort and safety, to be able to express it to other people. So that’s sort of what made me pull that one out.

Jeff: Excellent. Lisa, I think I actually recognized the book sitting on your table.

Lisa: Well, I brought visual aids, I had a really hard time with this because, you know, after you read however many, you know, thousands of books over the years, it’s difficult to settle on one. When you think about one that miss that, that impacted you the most, but I finally settled on “A Faithful Son” by Michael Scott Garvin.

And one of the reasons I know, I remember this very clearly. I read this book in 2016 and it blew me away and it ended up on my best of, and I believe that that we’ve discussed this book and went as I was discussing and I started. Right, because it’s just, it’s one of it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Even in terms of the way Michael Scott Garvin, the way he turns a phrase is just, it’s almost poetic the way that he writes. And so this, this book is the story. It begins in 1959, Durango, Colorado, and follows Zach almost 20 years into the future and it’s, it’s a coming out story.

It’s a story about being the son, in a strict Baptist family in rural Colorado, in the 1950s and sixties. And it’s the story of family. It’s the story of a son’s love for his mother and how she would feel about if she knew that he was gay and if, why would you indulge me for just a minute?

I want to read this is, this is from the prologue. This is the final bit of the prologue. And by the time I got to this part of the book, I knew that I was absolutely going to be in love with it.

I am an old man now, and no matter the years traveled, I carry an aching feeling that something has been lost and that the missing pieces may be found somewhere there—the only home I’ve ever known. Good or bad, right or wrong, I am left with the memories of these people and the small white house on County Road 250.


Perhaps if Parker’s Path greets me once more, I will find them waiting—Laura and Katie, laughing, with their bare feet dangling off Mancos Rock. Together, hand in hand, we can jump into the clear waters below. And if the lifting of the morning mist through the aspens clears an unmarked path, and if the Colorado clay breaks easily beneath my hands, maybe I can unearth some answers and, like a buried treasure, find what is lost. In that moment, kneeling on the banks of Rainbow Lake, I will wash it all clean and, finally, leave it there. I will then rest in the shade of the pines and wait for the echoes of my mother’s distant voice to hasten me home.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m getting all choked up again, but that is just the smallest example of how beautiful and how emotive this book is in terms of knowing that this is, this is an older man who is coming back to tell his story and that his greatest hope is acceptance and that he, that he does ultimately, he finally leaves Durango in the 1970s moves to Los Angeles. He begins his own business and he finds the love of his life finally. And he can look back as an old man now and tell this story of all the, the losses and the triumphs and the love and, and, and the turmoil within himself and within his family.

It’s just a beautiful, beautiful book. So “A Faithful Son,” Michael Scott Garvin,

Jeff: Excellent choice. Brilliant book.

Lisa: It’s one of those books that you finish and you just know that no matter how many books you read from now until the end of time, you’ll always remember that book. It’s so, so beautiful.

Jeff: Yeah. I’m super glad you picked that one. So I’ll ask you the same that I asked Jay, what is pride mean to you?

Lisa: Well, you know, as a mom, it’s a year and a half ago, it took on a whole new meaning for me – pride to me is pride in, in my child.

I’m going to cry again. Pride in the fact that he knew his dad and I were a safe place for him to land. Pride is to me about feeling safe, being who you are, loving, who you love, celebrating who you are, celebrating your friendships, celebrating your family. I guess to me, most of all, it’s just the acceptance.

You know, we see so much ugliness going on in the world right now and it’s important for us to remember that there is still, there are still things to celebrate out there. I think that that’s, to me, I celebrate you. I celebrate Will. I celebrate all my friends and my family and my son. Bless you all.

Jeff: Lisa, thank you so much for sharing that, much appreciated and happy pride to you and your family. Happy pride to both of you. Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful reads of spring these important books for pride and, and those meaningful messages too. Very much appreciate it.

Lisa: It is my pleasure always to be here, especially with all three of us.

Now it’s so much fun to be able to talk to each other. Yeah. It’s great.

Jay: Getting to talk to you.

Lisa: Thank you for doing the podcast and thank you for giving us the chance to come on and, and.

Jay: And having a chat. Yeah,

Jeff: Totally our pleasure. It doesn’t do any good for our TBRs, but it’s great to get together.

Jay: We never promised to be good for your wallet. It’s only good conversation.