Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff and Will reveal the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for August: Troubled Waters by HJ Welch. They also talk about the documentaries We Are Freestyle Love Supreme and Howard.

Jeff shares a listener recommendation before Will reviews Boyfriend with Benefits by Allison Temple. Jeff reviews two books by Jim Provenzano: Everytime I Think of You and Message of Love.

Davidson King sits down with Jeff to talk about her Haven Hart universe, which includes her latest book To Die For that is part of the spin-off Joker’s Sin series. Davidson also discusses Sticky Fingers, what got her to take the leap to writing her own book and the Diverse Reader review site. Plus she talks about some books she’s been enjoying this summer.

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Show Notes

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Jump to Book Reviews

Interview Transcript – Davidson King

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Jeff: Davidson, welcome to the podcast. It is so wonderful to have you here.

Davidson: I’m so excited to actually finally be here.

Jeff: I fell in love with “Sticky Fingers” and after I read that and reviewed it back in episode 248, I had to have you on the show to just talk about your books and the timing is so good because you’ve just released “To Die For,” which is the second book in the “Joker’s Sin” series. Now, before we get into all of the stuff about the new book, tell us about this series.

Davidson: Joker’s Sin is a nightclub in Haven Hart. Actually it’s in the same universe as one of my other series, but it’s completely standalone. And the books follow characters that are within the nightclub that worked there, like the owner, the bartender, the DJ, and the head of security.

So there’s going to be four books in the series and it follows their four stories.

Jeff: Very cool. What inspired you to get into this series? What were the pieces that for you formed “Joker’s Sin?”

Davidson: Joker’s Sin actually, became an inspiration when I was writing “Haven Hart” because the nightclub does play a part in one of the books and when I wrote that place in there. I was just like, there’s a story there. And it just wouldn’t leave my head. So I just started like jotting things down here and there, and suddenly it was just like, I’m going to come back to this universe and I’m gonna write this story.

Jeff: Oh, so “Joker’s Sin” is a spinoff?

Davidson: It’s a spinoff. Yeah. But one thing I wanted to be really, really careful is I wanted to also make it if you never read “Haven Hart,” it was totally fine. You could just read “Joker’s Sin” and you wouldn’t be lost.

Jeff: That’s tremendous to just keep building out this universe that you’re writing and after is it seven books of Haven Heart now you’ve extended it out a little bit more.

Davidson: Yeah. I thought that was going to be the end. I thought it was going to be seven books on and that was going to be it. And then I knew “Joker’s Sin” was coming, but I couldn’t say anything. So when it was ending, people were getting sad and I was like, you won’t be sad. I promise.

Jeff: What’s it like to have such a big universe because there are several authors in our genre who start something and then it branches over here and it branches up here and then it connects over here. Did you anticipate doing that with your own writing at some point?

Davidson: I always knew that I was going to create a fictional universe because, and it’s not because I don’t like geography. It’s just because when you are writing a real place you have to be very, very careful. Especially if a person lives there, they will rip you apart. They’re like that’s not there anymore.

But my imagination has always created make-believe places. So I wanted to write a universe that had a coffee shop I’d want to go to, and a restaurant I’d want to go to, but I also wanted it to make a place that I don’t necessarily think is on the up and up. It’s very sheisty. It has an old town, like mafia feel to it, but everyone just still stays there and they don’t know why they stay there. They constantly say, I don’t know why I’m still here, but it’s just that I love the whole place. And when I came back to, when I was writing “Joker’s Sin” after leaving it for a little while, it just felt like home. So I’m happy to be back there.

Jeff: That’s very cool. Tell us about the new book, “To Die For.”

Davidson: So “To Die For,” it’s book two and it’s a standalone within the series. So if you didn’t read book one you’re okay. And it’s Max the bartender’s story and it’s a patron who goes there quite often. His name is Sparkles, but he has a real name. He’s a dance teacher and Sparkles has quite an ugly past that Max knows nothing about. He’s just enamored by him cause Sparkles has pink hair and he wears outlandish clothes. And he’s just a lot of fun and Sparkles wants nothing to do with them. And Max wants everything to do with them.

And Max lives at home with his mom and his sisters. And he’s Italian and they’re interfering and Sparkles is all alone with him and his dog. So the clash of the two is kind of crazy. And when Sparkles past catches up with him, Max has to pretty much saves the day.

Jeff: I love the name. Just having somebody who just goes by Sparkles is just pretty awesome.

Davidson: Yeah. Well, and it was funny too, because Sparkles, in book three in “Haven Hart.” I don’t know how many people caught it, if they read the “Haven Hart” series, but in book three, you met sparkles for about 30 seconds and he got the name Sparkles by one of the characters in Haven Hart who happened to pass them by and saw it was all glittery and he just called him Sparkles because he needed a favor. So when I went back to write the book and I realized Sparkles was still there in my head, I said, I have to keep that name because someone’s going to pick up on it.

Jeff: So as you were building Haven Hart, and you mentioned it as this skeezy place cause this was a romantic suspense thriller sort of series. There’s a lot that goes down in this town.

Davidson: Yes. I’m shocked. It hasn’t been like bombed out of the world or something.

Jeff: Tell us a little bit about that series as a whole, and because it’s seven books long at this point, you mentioned it’s complete, which is great for anybody who wants to go off and binge some romantic suspense. But what is it about Haven Hart that makes it such a home for so much suspense to go on?

Davidson: The best way I was able to describe it to myself, to convince myself that it’s okay, that I’m writing this is that if none of the characters in there, or at least one of them characters that play off of each other has some sort of a past and the best place to hide for somebody who has a past is a place that everyone’s trying to hide. So, when the first book starts in that series, you have Snow who’s living on the streets and then you have Christopher who’s a mob boss in Haven Hart. So those two stories kind of went together. And then you had people who worked for Christopher and then you bring in assassins. And then all of a sudden you have mobsters and assassins and the men that love them. And you realize that the men that end up loving these horrible people are actually genuinely nice people. One of them’s a professional hugger who falls in love with an assassin.

Jeff: A professional hugger?

Davidson: He’s a professional hugger hired by the guy’s sister because she thinks he’s depressed. And then he realizes what’s happening. And he’s like, I murdered people and this guy wants to hug him and it was just, I love there’s goodness there and you see it within Snow and Teddy and Quill, and then there’s bad there. And you see that in Black and Christopher and Reardon all of them. And they just balance it. Balances the universe.

Jeff: Had you always planned it to be seven?

Davidson: Nope. When I wrote the first book, I thought, well, I wrote a book. There you go. Bucket list crossed off and I never thought anything else was going to happen.

“Snow Falling” was pretty successful. So I said, all right, I’ll do it again. And it was one, actually I wrote book two that I realized that this is going to be an ongoing series. So book one was written and then book two kind of really starts it off.

Jeff: One’s almost a prequel in some ways, I guess.

Davidson: Yeah. I mean, it is. You can read that and like literally never read the rest of the series. You wouldn’t feel like you lost something. But I know that once you start the series, if you want to get all the answers, you have to go to the last book.

Jeff: I love series that kind of click you over, not necessarily with cliff hangers, but that overarching arc.

Davidson: Yeah. I had to have a finality to each one. It’s like kinda like “Stranger Things” where the series would end, but you still had questions and you’d have to wait till the next season to get some answers.

Jeff: Yes, because that thing is lurking over there somewhere.

Davidson: We forget about that.

Jeff: Did you enjoy building the world out as you kept going? And did you run into any particular plot points that needed more research than others?

Davidson: Because the world is so not believable at all. II’ll be honest with you. I don’t think there’s a place in this entire world that is like Haven Hart. And there were some times, one of my betas picked up on it once and they were just like, How many things can you possibly have on fifth Avenue?

And I’m like, is there a lot of things like, yeah, you really have to give another road. And I’m like, okay. I didn’t even think about that. I would just like, you know, fifth Avenue, why not? Like in New York. That was kind of a thing. Cause even though I created it, I had to realize how much I was putting in a certain area.

Jeff: I love that it’s more than main street. It’s everything street.

Davidson: Yeah. No, it’s just a big circle of fifth Avenue.

Jeff: Do you have a particular favorite story that you told in that universe? I know that’s a little bit like picking your own child, but I think every author has one book in a series it’s like that one’s kind of the pinnacle right there.

Davidson: Yeah. I think it’s always cheesy to say that it was my first one. But your first book is always something special. Any author will tell you like that. First one is your baby, but I actually had the most fun writing the last one because I brought every single character from the series back for that final book.

And, well, it was tricky and very hard. And there was a book bible. It was so much fun to write, have them all interacting for the first time. So I would definitely say that “Raven’s Hart,” which is the seventh book, was my favorite to write.

Jeff: And I would guess that you must have Haven Hart people making cameos in Joker’s Sin since it’s the local bar.

Davidson: So that’s funny. Cause I had to be careful because I said it’s a standalone, but I do have Easter eggs thrown into it for those who did read it. T here’s a character or somebody has art on their wall and it’s from one of the characters of Haven Hart. So somebody picked up on it and then you have an in the next book.

You have someone renting from another one of the characters that were in Haven Hart. So, there is that. I haven’t actually physically put anyone in and I’m still trying to figure out how to do it without confusing. people who haven’t read it.

Jeff: Well, you’ve got two more books to go to put that in, but at least the Easter eggs are there and that those are always fun to come across.

Davidson: Yeah. And it’s been fun to hear people go, Oh my gosh, you put this in. And I’m like, Oh, I’m so glad you saw that.

Jeff: What are the plans for the next two books? What can you tease us with?

Davidson: Book three is the DJ, Ledger’s and Shane’s story. That’s not a secret. People picked up on that. And then the last book is the head of security and I was totally making his book last because he’s by far the most mysterious and the third book, it’s a stalker story. And in the fourth book, the last one is a serial killer story. And there’s been mention of a restaurant called Vayne’s and you actually know Vayne’s from Haven Hart and Joker’s Sin. And this one, you actually have the owner of Vayne’s in the fourth book, and that’s who’s paired up with the security guy.

Try to make each one different, but you know, violent because apparently that’s what it is there.

Jeff: Apparently. Yes.

Davidson: Why do

Jeff: people live there? I don’t know.

Davidson: I don’t know either. I’m like, why aren’t you people here?

Jeff: Do we get to go back to Haven Hart later for something else?

Davidson: It was funny because my husband, he’s my soundboard. And I’m always just like, what do I do next? Cause I love going here. And he was just like, you can either have someone that’s from there and give them another story. Or you can have somebody else who just that’s their home base, but they go around.

So I do have a series coming, but I don’t think it’s going to happen till the end of next year. And it’s, a hitman. I don’t know if anyone ever saw “The Accountant” where he’s like a loner in a sense. And he has his handler. So it’s like him and his handler and his base is going to be in Haven Hart. So that’s how I’m going to work that back in again.

Jeff: So you don’t always write these intense romantic suspense books because “Sticky Fingers” was more, I would call it maybe romantic suspense light in terms of the way that it ultimately panned out. But it’s more a contemporary billionaire trope romance that’s got, it’s also an age gap.

Davidson: Yeah.

Jeff: Where did this come from after all that you’ve written? That is so on the heavier, romantic suspense side, in this terrible town.

Davidson: I know it was kind of weird to not write there. I had to very much keep it apart. Cause I had to remember it wasn’t in the same universe. So because of that, I did need to make it lighter or else I think someone might’ve called like a therapist for me. But, “Sticky Fingers” came to be because I went to the beach one day with my mom about three years ago.

And it was this little private beach area that kind of reminded me of like Cabot Cove from “Murder, She Wrote.” But everyone was rich, except for me and my mom, we were sitting outside of the cafe and I was looking around and there was just like mansions, like in the distance and stuff like that.

And, there’s people walking by and this whole thing came as like somebody who stayed here for a summer could totally like pickpocket all these people and probably be rich by the end of the summer. And from that kind of “Sticky Fingers” just came to be. And I was just like, what if somebody did get a job for the summer and got rich off of that, but I needed to obviously make it a little bit more. I needed to give Kyle a good reason why he would do something like that cause he’s not a bad guy.

Jeff: His friend certainly is though.

Davidson: His friend is not a nice person. No. But I knew it wasn’t going to be, you know, murdery, kind of book because it just didn’t feel like it was, and it was a little weird to not write murder and it, to be honest with you. I did actually get a review once that I read that somebody said that it was so different from Haven Hart books that they weren’t even 100% sure that I even wrote it.

It was like, Oh, I don’t know if that’s good or not, but yeah. I think that an author can be versatile and sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Jeff: You still had a suspense element in it though.

Davidson: Yeah. I mean a little bit. I think so. Yeah, but it was, I think more, you actually said it like really, really well in your review. It was very like “Dynasty”-esque. Like it was very soap opera-ish in a sense. And it was funny, you said that cause when I was writing it and I was just like this wouldn’t never happen. Maybe joan Collins would make this happen.

Jeff: Alexis would totally do that.

Davidson: Yeah. So, I mean, it was kind of funny that you said that, and I’m not these things don’t happen. My books, these things don’t. I mean, maybe they do, I don’t know these people, but no one, I know if this happens too, so it’s not believable. Like these people, I don’t know them.

Jeff: And I liked how you play with that billionaire trope a lot and keep the power dynamics between the two characters, really balanced out in how they view what they bring to the table to essentially help and fix each other.

Davidson: Yeah, I’m more of a emotional author than I am a like… if you’re looking to read a book for sex, you’re not gonna find that in my books. I mean, it’s there. It’s just not my main thing. I’m about connection in the emotions and while I would love to write a billionaire who is a jerk and just forces Kyle to do horrible things – it just wasn’t their story and it just, I wanted people to not, I didn’t want them to look at Maddox and think, Oh, he’s just another typical billionaire, blah, blah, blah. I wanted them to know that just because somebody has money doesn’t necessarily make them a jerk. And someone who doesn’t have money who’s stealing doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person.

It was just kinda like showing maybe you can be the same and your bank account really shouldn’t matter. And that was just really what I was trying to push with that book.

Jeff: It was Maddox too. I was more into his story of essentially coming into his own, in the business and to himself, then the fact that he had all this money that he could throw around, if he wanted to.

Davidson: We should all have that problem.

Jeff: This looks like a standalone book at the moment. Do you think we’ll revisit what you’ve set up here at some point?

Davidson: I have gotten a few requests for Evan, his brother, but nothing is talking to me right now. Probably because I have 800 other things talking to me right now, but I will. Never say never. I never thought I’d come back to Haven Hart when I started writing it. So who knew?

Jeff: Coming back to the brothers is interesting. I was thinking coming back to the resort, but coming back to the brothers is interesting too.

Davidson: The resort’s an idea too, see, look at you helping.

Jeff: I give that to you if you want it… more interesting people at the resort.

Now the core of your books that we talked about it a little bit is really kind of murdery and a little dark. What intrigued you about working inside that realm?

Davidson: My mom asked me that one. She’s like, what’s wrong with you? I raised you to be a good girl, didn’t I? Cause she reads all my books and she’s like, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

And then she, of course, tries to make parallels. Is this supposed to be your father? And I’m like, no. I’ve always been fascinated with, I love the history channel and I literally watched like all the crime dramas and the mafia, things like that. And while I don’t ever want to be in the mafia and I never want to have the attention of an assassin, I’m intrigued by that life.

I like watching stuff about serial killers, but I don’t ever want to be their victim. And, I just find the whole mindset of it to be so much more interesting than my life. So I just wanted to see what I could do with it and almost humanize them. I have fun with the antihero.

I have fun showing the not so bad guy and the person that I think we all sometimes want to be the vigilante and so many cases and they can, so it just like a therapy. So I kind of enjoy it.

Jeff: And everybody needs their little bit of therapy.

Davidson: Yeah. And if it means murdering bad people and I feel good about myself afterward, then good.

Jeff: You mentioned that the first “Haven Hart” book was really on your bucket list. Okay. I’ve written a book. How did writing a book get onto your bucket list? What kind of propelled you to pick up pen and go for it?

Davidson: It was more of a challenge when I was in – if you anyone even just opens up the “Snow Falling” book and looked at the dedication. It makes sense. When I was in junior high school, I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to be a writer. And she told me that I didn’t have the… I wasn’t for lack of a better word, “smart enough” to be a writer. She said that I lacked the discipline. She’s like, you’re just not there. And she’s just like, I would stick to something that’s more you. And of course she never told me that and her guidance was terrible. And so I never really wrote, I just read all these books for years and years and years, and I never told anybody.

And on the side I was just dabbling with it and one day, I mentioned it to a friend and she’s like, I’d like to read it. And I was like, no, no, no. Oh my God, it’s never going anywhere. And so I sent it to her and she’s also an author. So she’s just like, this is, I love this. And she’s like, you have to publish it.

And her and a group of my friends got together. They got a cover for me, a formatter. They just kind of basically without them, they kind of invested in that book for me. So when the book was published, I dedicated it to my guidance counselor.

Jeff: I hope you sent it to her too.

Davidson: It’s funny. I don’t know where she is now. She might even be dead, to be honest, she was kind of old, but I dedicate to her cause, it’s just a reminder to me every time I opened that book that just because someone says you can’t doesn’t mean you can’t. So I just kinda did it to show that I could do it. I never knew anything more would come of it though.

Jeff: Love that story. Not the guidance counselor part, but that you just persevered and did it.

Davidson: Yeah. I have kids, so, I’m always listening to what their teachers and stuff are telling them and sometimes they’ll be like, that’s the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

Jeff: How did you come to write m/m romance as your first book?

Davidson: I used to write fan fiction and it’s funny because N.R. Walker and I were talking about this the other day, we wrote fan fiction at the same time in the same universe.

Jeff: And what was your universe of choice?

Davidson: It was the TwiFic Universe and we had no idea who we were, until I told her my name and she told me hers. And I was like, Oh my God. And we like read each other’s stuff. And we had no idea. And then my friend, who also reviews on my blog. Actually she, told me to read a book called “The Coil” by L.A. Gilbert, cause it had an autistic boy in it.

And my son’s autistic and I was just like, Oh, okay. And it was the first m/m book I ever read. And the second I read it, I was just like, Oh my gosh. I’m like, this was really, really refreshing and good. And she was just like, well, then read all these. And I just kinda never, I never looked back.

Jeff: That’s awesome. And you’ve mentioned the blog, which is Diverse Reader. What pivoted you into reviewing and blogging?

Davidson: So I was reading these and I realized that, and I was always talking to my friend about it and stuff. And she’s like, you should just open up some sort of like space for yourself, so you can get all these thoughts out because you have so many. So I did, and I started this little thing that was nothing. She would review with me and we just started throwing it up there. And Edmond Manning was actually the first author I ever had on my blog. cause I said to him, can I ask you some questions?

I’m curious and stuff like that. And he was like, you want to put it on your blog? I’m like, Oh, do you think people would want to read that. And he’s like, yeah, let’s do it because that’s just who he is. I was like, okay. And then it just took off after that and then grew. And now, I’m just like, well, now it’s a thing.

Jeff: And it’s been around for quite a while now. I think you’re one of the few blogs that’s been around for quite a while at this point.

Davidson: Yeah. It’s going into its seventh year.

Jeff: Congratulations. That’s awesome. The longevity is great to see, cause the bloggers are an important part of what makes our community and our universe go. And we’ve lost a few over the years, so it’s good that there are some long timers still in there.

Davidson: Yeah. Every time one goes, my heart breaks a little bit. I’m just like, don’t go anywhere, come back.

Jeff: What are some of your favorite reads from the past few months?

Davidson: I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into books lately. My mind is all over the place. But the last couple that I read that were really, really good is I read “Pretty Sweet” by Riley Hart and Christina Lee. And it took me right out of my funk, which was really nice because it was a light, happy story. A little heartbreaking at times. But, it was a really good story and I just love that. They have a book one, “Pretty Perfect.” It was just also really, really good.

“Thorn in His Side” by Helen Juliet. I read that too. That was really good. It was a very Beauty and the Beast-ish kind of a story. And that was really good. Those two, probably in the last few months have been the only two that I can think of that are standing out for me.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, when you have that book, that cause like that book right there, that’s what pops.

Davidson: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s sad because I’ll start a book and then my mind is just, I don’t know what’s going on. Well, I know what’s going on. I’m just like, come on, I was really enjoying that. Gosh, darn it. It’s just, it’s frustrating and I feel bad, but I always go back to them later.

Jeff: Yeah. We’ll get back to where everybody can focus and read again hopefully.

Davidson: That’d be nice.

Jeff: So we mentioned, the two books yet to come in the”Joker’s Sin” series. Anything else on the horizon, you can tease us with?

Davidson: So much. I have too much, Simon’s book from “Haven Hart” is actually a standalone book and that is coming out at the beginning of next year.

And, I get harassed about that one a lot. And I’ve been putting that one off because I really, I want to get the joker sin books out and then I actually have a vampire book coming. I’m so excited. I’m so excited because I’ve never written a vampire book, but obviously I didn’t the fan fiction, but this book won’t leave me alone.

I’ve been thinking about it for a year and I’ve been talking to a few people about it and everyone’s like, do it, do it, do it. And I’m like, all right, so we’re going to give it a shot. I hope that works really well.

Jeff: Can’t wait for that. I love a good vampire story sometimes. I don’t read enough of them.

Davidson: Yeah. I think I went through that whole thing where I read a lot of them, like everyone did, and then I get tired of them and then I went to something else and now it seems to be coming back again. I’m finding myself, reading them more and I’m like, Hmm, I think I’m going to write one.

Jeff: It’s a good diversion from the world that we live in, be in that kind of place.

How can everyone keep up with you online?

Davidson: I have a website which is I also have a reader’s group, I’m there a lot and that’s King’s Court on Facebook. I’m also on Twitter. I’m pretty much everywhere. I just started like joining everything I’ve even on MeWe.

Jeff: I don’t even know what that is.

Davidson: I know. Right. Sometimes I forget I’m on there. But if you go to my website or my reader’s group, those are the two places that I’m mostly at.

Jeff: Fantastic. And of course we’ll link to Diverse Reader also so that folks can check in with what your reviewers are doing.

Davidson: Yup. You could always get me there too. There’s a contact thing there.

Jeff: Davidson, thank you so much for coming to talk to us about the worlds that you’ve created. It’s been wonderful talking to you.

Davidson: It’s been wonderful being here.

Book Reviews

Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:

Boyfriend with Benefits by Allison Temple. Reviewed by Will.
I want to talk about Allison Temple’s Boyfriend with Benefits. Now I started off the week reading something else, but it really just didn’t capture my interest, which would normally send me into a funk. You know, you look forward to reading a book but once you crack open those Kindle pages, it just doesn’t do it for you. So I had an unexpected reading slot open up in the middle of the week. The cover of this one caught my eye and I said, “Well, I’ll give Allison Temple a try. And I am so glad I did. It ended my week on a high note. This is exactly what I needed.

Boyfriend with Benefits is about Bailey whose work life has been turned literally upside down when a company merger means that he’ll have to work with his high school nemesis, Jack the Jerk. Now because of reasons, Bailey asked his roommate, Gordo, who he assumes is straight, to play as boyfriend while they’re in Vegas for a corporate retreat.

Gordo. What can I say about Gordo? They’re just there just aren’t words. He is this big gentle giant. He is a quiet guy, a bit of an enigma. But remarkably kind, he rescues exotic pets and fosters them like turtles and snakes and lizards.

While in Vegas, Bailey realizes that Gordo is in fact not so straight after all. And once they get the fact that they’re both remarkably attracted to one another, he also learns that Gordo is bonkers amazing in the sack.

But as I mentioned, Gordo is remarkably kind and he does numerous things for Bailey, both big and small, to help him navigate the difficulties that he’s dealing with with his job.

Boyfriend with Benefits gives you literally everything you could ever ask for in a book with the fake boyfriend trope. In the end, our two heroes are head over heels in love and Jake the Jerk gets his comeuppance.

Like I said, this book was exactly what I needed and I really, really enjoyed it. The most memorable part being the character of Gordo. He is just a big, giant Teddy bear of a cinnamon roll hero. And, I highly recommend everyone check out Boyfriend with Benefits.

Everytime I Think of You and Message of Love by Jim Provenzano. Reviewed by Jeff.
I’ve been in the wayback machine this week in more ways than one. Jim Provenzano released Everytime I Think of You in 2011 and followed it up with Message of Love in 2012. The first book won the Lamdba Literary Award for Gay Romance and the second was a finalist in the same category.

These books follow the love story of Reid Conniff and Everett Forrester who meet as high school seniors in 1978 and continues through their college graduation in 1983. In that regard, it’s also a historical novel as it looks at a gay couple more than 40 years ago, but it also tracks through the beginning of the AIDS empdeimic and how that affected members of the LGBTQ community. Don’t think, however, that these books get mired down in struggle and strife, the story of Reid and Everett is wonderfully romantic and I loved every minute I spent with them, and this glimpse at the past through these characters.

Their meeting is quite happenstance. There houses were separated by woods and with Reid going to public school and Everett attending a prep school, their paths hadn’t crossed until one holiday evening in December when they both had a mind to get off in the woods. Reid discovered Everett and the shared moment began a relationship neither could shake. Even as they went back to school they managed to stay in touch through letters and occasional visits. Everett certainly shakes Reid’s life up as he encourages him to go on adventures with him, like a trip to visit Everett’s sister that includes some needed alone time with them, but also a run in with a guy they try to buy pot from.

Their lives are thrown a major curveball though when Everett’s injured in a rugby game and becomes paralyzed from the waist down. Reid’s the rock that Everett needs to get into rehab and figure out what comes next–which leads them off to college and another phase of their lives.

It’s not always easy for these guys as they sort out being away from home, living together, finding new friends, figuring out what they want to do with their lives. I loved how Jim didn’t make everything easy for them–even with Everett’s monied parents–but, as I mentioned, he doesn’t make everything a downer either. Certainly over the years, they have their arguments and moments where they consider what life might be like if they broke up. But the foundation they’ve built keeps bringing them back to being right for each other.

Best of all, the story doesn’t make a victim of Everett. Yes, he has to deal with the transition to live in a chair, but he is also determined to live life to the fullest. He and Reid also become advocates for accessibility in a time that’s a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act was published. There’s also limited homophobia present and what is there is quite realistic and adds richness to the story with how Reid and Everett manage it.

No book about this era could take place without AIDS coming up and it does provide some poignant moments, and questions for them both about their relationship. As with everything else, Jim presents this in a way that doesn’t take the focus away from Reid and Everett’s relationship but it is something they have to grapple with as it unfolds.

As I said, I loved everything about these books. The multi-year journey of Reid and Everett was a great escape from the present, even with what life throws at the couple. There’s something about these two and their palpable energy of love and life that made it difficult for me to put down. I’ve read some other books by Jim and enjoyed them, but I’m so glad these two found their way to me because of the recently released audio versions. I highly recommend these fantastic coming of age novels that feature such a rich romance between two wonderful characters.

I have to note alongside the recommendation that these books won’t meet the expectations of some romance readers as Reid and Everett do have, as they put it, dalliances while they’re a couple. Hopefully that won’t put you off of meeting Reid and Everett because these guys have a relationship worth reading.