In this episode full of reviews, Jeff looks at the first two books in the Vino & Veritas series, Featherbed by Annabeth Albert and Heartscape by Garrett Leigh. He also talks about the romantic comedy Revenge of the Brobot by JC Calciano. Will has three historical novellas with Ava March’s Object of His Desire and Pleasures of Somerville Park, plus Eden Blake’s One Good Lord Deserves Another.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
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.
- Featherbed by Annabeth Albert on Amazon (audiobook also available on Libro.fm)
- Roommate by Sarina Bowen on Amazon
- Episode 281 – Sarina Bowen Introduces “Roommate” and a New Series
- Heartscape by Garrett Leigh on Amazon (audiobook also available on Libro.fm)
- Episode 288 – Roommates to Lovers with Garrett Leigh
- Object of His Desire by Ava March on Amazon
- Pleasures of Somerville Park by Ava March on Amazon
- One Good Lord Deserves Another by Eden Blake on Amazon
- 100 Days, 100 Stories on WillKnauss.com
- Revenge of the Brobot: A Steam Room Story by JC Calciano on Amazon
- eCupid on Amazon Prime Video
- The 10 Year Plan on Amazon Prime Video / IMDBtv
- Steam Room Stories: The Movie on Amazon Prime Video
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re going to visit a wine bar bookstore, travel back in time and find love with a robot.
Will: Welcome to episode 295 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hi everybody.
Will: Hello rainbow romance readers. We want to wish you a belated St. Patrick’s Day. For those that choose to celebrate the holiday we hope you did so responsibly and aren’t too hung over
Jeff: And that maybe you got to enjoy some lovely green food, like maybe a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s or something.
Will: Hmmm. Good stuff. Now, while we didn’t eat any green food, you know, we have been doing? Reading. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.
So I’m going to have Jeff kick things off with a series that I know he’s been enjoying an awful lot.
Featherbed by Annabeth Albert
Jeff: So, so much. Following Roommate by Sarina Bowen, which is probably my favorite book of 2021 so far, I was so eager to get my hands on the books in the new Vino & Veritas series.
We got to visit this bookstore wine bar ever so briefly in the epilogue to Roommate. And let me tell you so far, this series, which is a spinoff from Sarina’s True North universe is off to a great start. If you haven’t heard my interview with Sarina from back in episode 281, go check that out because she not only talks about Roommate, but she talks about the creation of Vino & Veritas and the other spinoff series that she’s doing from True North.
The first book, Featherbed by Annabeth Albert, is out this week and it is so incredibly wonderful.
Vino and Veritas is a bookstore and wine bar in Burlington, Vermont owned by Harrison Fletcher. He’s gotten out of the big city, along with his mom, to open this bookstore. As he puts it, the dream is more hers than his as she’s returning home, but he’s happy doing it for now–he’s just not sure what the future me bring.
Harrison meets Finn Barnes because of chickens. A delivery of baby chickens arrives at the bookstore by mistake and Finn has to retrieve it, but not before some of the chicks escape and have to be rounded up. This has got to be one of the cutest meet cutes ever. Fussy, fastidious bookstore owner dealing with hot chicken farmer, as Finn is called at one point, over misdelivered chickens. Harrison isn’t happy they’re in his story and Finn’s not too happy about the city slicker failing to collect his rare birds. But then there’s Audrey, Harrison’s mom, delighted by the chickens and the vibe between her son and Finn so some subtle matchmaking begins.
Annabeth makes great use of city boy versus country boy throughout the story, and the shifts in Harrison as he comes to embrace life not only in Burlington, but out at the farm too. Finn invites them out and the first visit is a hoot, but also endearing, as Harrison misjudges completely what to wear. Luckily it’s Finn to the rescue with some spare boots.
Both guys have reasons not to look for a relationship. Harrison’s trying to open a business, he’s not sure he really wants to be in Vermont, he for sure doesn’t see himself on a farm, and he’s got concerns about his family medical history. Finn on the other hand has a ton of work to do on the farm and his family who relay on him alot. And he’s also pretty sure Harrison will end up and flee back to New York at the first chance.
The fairly quickly get into a friends with benefits situation as they spend more time together. All of it leads to true feels though. I adored the dates they had over dinner–and Finn trying to get Harrison (or Harry as he’d call him to just be annoying) to try more comfort food rather than all healthy all the time–the projects they help each other with and the super great banter they have.
These guys are stubborn though. Harrison is convinced he shouldn’t get into a relationship as he’s convinced he’s living on borrowed time since other men in his family have died young. Then there’s Finn who is absolutely sure that Harrison will bail out of Burlington at the first chance he can. They also think they know what’s best for the other and make choices without discussing it. Annabeth plays this so well. I love how she had the guys rising and falling on these topics–one minute it seems forgotten and then it comes rolling back more forceful. It was a roller coaster ride of will they or won’t the sort it out.
These guys have awesome family though. I loved Harrison mom, her love for her son and her wish for him to be happy and settled. Finn’s mom and sister were great to him and also want him to not be totally obsessed with work all the time and finding that special someone too. They’re good at nudging these guys when needed.
I loved everything about Featherbed and these wonderful characters. As usual, Annabeth Albert writes vibrant characters with a romance that gives all the feels as they find their way to getting the happy they deserve. It’s a wonderful first book in Vino & Veritas and I’m going directly into book two.
Heartscape by Garrett Leigh
When I talked to Garrett Leigh in episode 288, she said that Heartscape, her entry in Vino & Veritas was very different that Annabeth’s Featherbed. She was not kidding and I loved meeting the other half of the team at Vino & Veritas.
We got a glimpse of wine bar Tanner in Featherbed as Harrison hires him. In Heartscape we get his story and it’s quite a story. The job at the wine bar was a life line he needed after some tragedy he experience in his previous job as a wildlife guide. He went through a lot of trauma and it pushed him to the brink. His brother, a PI out of town a lot, is constantly worried for him. The wine bar helps to ground him with purpose and it’s a start.
Everything shifts for Tanner when he meets Jax. Jax has been displaced from the hostel across the street that caught fire and Tanner takes him in since they have a mutual friend in Tanner’s brother’s girlfriend. Jax has been through hell and back to with a serious injury and a really terrible relationship. He’s moved to Vermont to start over, with the wildlife company Tanner used to work for.
I loved how Garrett brought these two different yet similar people together. Neither looking for love, in many ways they are just trying to get through the day and make life better for themselves by finding stable ground. At the same time, they each have this understanding around what each other needs because they’ve been through traumas. They never push each other to reveal the past. That comes in its own time in a beautiful organic way. From the beginning though Tanner and Jax have a spark, a certain something that draws them together, makes them comfortable around each other and over time lets them even use each other for therapy. It’s never about fixing the other, but about sorting things out for both of them.
The small ways they start to help each other is also brilliant. Tanner gives Jax guidance about what he’s doing out in the wilderness trying to capture wildlife footage–telling him about the terrain and what to expect. Meanwhile, Jax lends his talents to the bar by shooting video to use on social media. It’s a wonderful partnership and romance to watch develop.
There’s a wonderful array of support for the guys too. Tanner’s brother Gabriel certainly looks out for him or at least as best he can given his travels. Gabriel’s girlfriend Eve is close to both Tanner and Jax and gently nudges them along. The staff a Vino and Veritas root for them both, and the guys actually end up and help out Molly with some troubles she’s having — another great moment for Tanner and Jax to show what a great team they’re becoming. I loved everyone of these characters and if we’re lucky maybe we’ll see some of them get their own spotlight in a future book.
Most of all, what I loved in Heartscape was the finale and what cemented Jax and Tanner. There were a lot of ways it could’ve played out and Garrett gives a final act that his nail biting, emotional roller coaster where each guy confront some of their deepest fears head on. It seals their fates of happily ever after with each other and also paves the way for them to have more peace in their lives. It’s one of the most satisfying final acts of a book that I’ve read.
Garrett created such amazing characters with Jax and Tanner. Their damaged and very similar, yet very different ways and how the approach the world is influenced so much by that. The ways they’re able to find peace with each other that was also not a cure all for their issues. Believe it or not, even with the angst, I still found this to be a comforting read because of the peace our heroes found. A second brilliant entry in Vino & Veritas and I really loved the one-two punch of Annabeth and Garrett’s debut entries in the series. Just absolutely brilliant. I think I’ll be reading Vino & Veritas all year long as this multi book series continues to roll out. So I definitely recommend you add both to your TBR.
Will: Fantastic. I’m so glad that you’ve had a good time reading those.
Object of his Desire and Pleasures of Somerville Park by Ava March
Will: I know I’ve certainly had a good time as I continued to read for my 100 Day Project project reading a hundred stories in 100 days. That so far is still going strong.
In addition to those short stories and novellas that I am reading, I also promised myself at the beginning of the year that I’d read more gay historicals because that’s a genre that I enjoy and I just wasn’t getting enough. So I’d like to talk about some historical novellas that I’ve read recently.
The first is Object of his Desire by Ava March.
And boy does this story start off with a proverbial bang because. A debauched orgy is the culmination of a week-long house party at the Somerville estate, but Henry is bored by the carnality on display because all he is really interested in is their host, Arsen, Lord of Somerville.
His lordship unexpectedly pulls Henry aside and, over drinks, they discuss why Henry is his only guest who did not partake of the pleasures on offer. Arsen admires the steadfastness of his heart, whoever it may belong to.
Their conversation is interrupted when word of an unruly guest is brought to Lord Somerville’s attention. Henry helps take care of the drunkard, but some wine is spilled in the kerfuffle. They go to Arsen’s bedchamber where he changes his shirt and lets his appreciation of Henry’s large frame be known. Their kisses and caresses soon turn desperate as Somerville takes charge of their desire, giving Henry every pleasure he’s ever wanted.
During the night, Arsen ties up Henry for a bit of fun, but it sends the big man into a panic. His last lover had restrained him and was abusive. Arsen has no intention of ever hurting Henry and they spend the rest of the night demonstration the depth of their passion and trust.
In the morning, a reckoning comes. Henry is in love, but he won’t settle for scraps. It’s all or nothing. Arsen will gladly give his all to be with Henry, explaining that he’s done with life in London and is retiring to his country estate. Hopefully, with Henry by his side.
Slowly and tenderly, Henry proves just how willing he is to give everything to his new lover… today, and for all the days that lay ahead.
You want a scorching hot historical romance? This story does not disappoint. Though our heroes are only together for a single night (and what a night it is) Ava March brings to life the sizzling chemistry of Henry and Arsen in such a way that there’s no doubt that their intense erotic attraction will burn brightly for many years to come.
And how do I know that? It’s because the author herself tells us so Henry and Arsen’s story continues in the short story Pleasures of Somerville Park.
In this story, Arsen is frustrated that his youngest brother has been sent from London to spend several days at Somerville Park going over ledgers and dealing with the family’s large estate. He’s most frustrated by the fact that, with a guest in the house, he and Henry must be discreet about their relationship.
One evening, after dinner, Arsen finds Henry in the stables, forlorn that Arsen must return to London with his brother. He assures him he’ll never do such a thing and that he is steadfastly committed to Henry. To prove his devotion, he bends over a saddle stand and begs his beloved to do what he knows how to do so well.
Taking place a few months after Object of his Desire, it’s should come as no surprise that Arsen and Henry still can’t keep their hands off each other and are still very much in love. If ever there were a couple who could assure that the halls of Somerville Park are filled with happiness, it’s these two.
Now Ava March has been on my radar for a while. I’ve been wanting to read her stuff and several of her books are in my TBR on, I finally took the plunge on Object of his Desire and boy, am I glad I did. Crazy, sexy, a lot of sweet, genuine emotion. I really enjoyed Henry and Arsen’s story an awful lot, and I think you will too.
One Good Lord Deserves Another by Eden Blake
Will: Another historical that I read recently that I really, really enjoyed is One Good Lord Deserves Another by Eden Blake. And in this story, Edmund is tasked with turning the newly christened Lord Alec into a respectable gentleman. Keeping the devastatingly handsome and flirtatious Lord in check may be a bigger task than he first imagined.
Alec cannot believe that Edmund has found his way back into his life. Years earlier, when he was a child, Edmund payed him a kindness, one that Alec has never forgotten, and ever since that time he has been smitten with the older gentleman.
Their days are spent doing the things gentlemen do during the season – making calls, taking a promenade in the park. One afternoon, the two of them are sharing an eel pie from a street vendor (don’t get grossed out, it’s apparently really good)
Jeff: I totally just made a face when he said eel pie.
Will: It’s when they’re eating that Alec saves Edmund from a pint-sized pickpocket. The compassion Edmund shows the little street urchin, despite the attempted theft, makes Alec love him all the more.
At a ball Alec insists he only has eyes for Edmund but does his prescribed duty and dances with several eligible young ladies… and a few gentlemen, which raises Edmunds ire. Could he possibly be jealous?
Alec finds Edmunds possessiveness a turn on. They go outside to take some air. In a dark corner of the rose garden Alec is finally able to steal the kiss that he has wanted for so long. He explains their meeting from years ago and then whispers all the wicked ways he intends to explore his irresistible lover.
They both share the same intense attraction but falling for Alec is the last thing Edmund should be doing. Alec’s uncle is heavily invested in Alec finding a good match and producing an heir.
Both of their futures are at stake.
They carry on through the season, and Edmund goes to great lengths to show Alec there is only one responsible choice to be made. But He is having none of it and soon has his beloved naked in bed, proving he knows exactly what he wants, and that is Edmund. They start slowly, but Alec is soon worked into a frenzy. If this is truly the only moment that they’ll have, then he is going to take all that Edmund is willing to give.
Afterward, Alec comes up with a scheme. With the help of a friend who has a reputation as a rogue, Alec pretends to be “ruined” so that the only honorable way out of the scandal is to marry Edmund, who is penniless, but titled, nonetheless.
They open a shop where Alec will ply his trade as a barber for the upper-class. They will make their own way, beholden to no one. A perfectly adorable HEA for a perfectly adorable couple.
Okay, where do I begin with how much I loved this novella? One Good Lord Deserves Another was historical age-gap perfection. Alec’s passion for Edmund practically leapt off the page. And can we please talk about how amazing it was to see an older, thicker hero, coming into his own and finding his one true love? Alec, who is a traditionally irresistible handsome hero, simply cannot get enough of Edmunds roundness which is described as plump and sturdy. His bulk is heavy and full. At one point, Alec even describes his lover a “perfect armful”. It’s all very sweet, and very, very sexy. I’d love to see more husky heroes just like this.
I also liked how in Eden Blake’s historical world, Alec and Edmund were able to marry. The only objection wasn’t to the fact that they were two men, but to the question of an heir to Alec’s title. If the rest of the stories in Eden Blake’s world are this openly accepting, and unrelentingly sexy, then sign me up! I definitely want some more.
Jeff: I am so glad you’re finding some super good and hot historicals to read as you continue your year of historicals. And that the 100 Day Project is continuing to go well for you. As we’re recording this, we’re actually on day 41 of the project.
Will: Yeah. We’re still trucking.
Jeff: Trucking along close to the mid point. And if you want to follow Will’s reviews on the 100 Day Project, you can find them all if you go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/100days. You can see everything that he’s writing. We also put them out on Twitter and on our Facebook feed every day when they come out.
Revenge of the Brobot: A Steam Room Story by JC Calciano
Jeff: So I’m going to now zip us forward into a maybe not so distant future as I talk about Revenge of the Brobot: A Steam Room Story by JC Calciano.
What a fresh, fun, funny rom-com JC has released with Revenge of the Brobot: A Steam Room Story. Calciano, known for his films eCupid, The 10 Year Plan and Steam Room Stories: The Movie, has taken the Steam Room universe into some new territory. As you can possibly tell from the title, there is a robot at the center of the story.
The story opens at Hot Bot-y Robotics Corp as Dr. Herbert, or Herbie, is watching Rob, aka Robot with an Organic Body, going through his paces with several partners. A sex robot, however, isn’t what the US government thought it was purchasing–it expected soldiers even though Hot Bot-y’s business was essentially built on sex toys. No matter, robots can be reprogrammed and the muscular Rob is a perfect model for a soldier. The general whose come to get his robots isn’t happy and Hot Bot-y CEO Betnley Burns scrambles to make everything okay since super soldiers can propel the company to the next level. Unfortunately the spcs given to Herbie were for a perfect human specimen, without mentioning solider.
Jeff: Yeah, big oops I know how project management works. You’ve got to give all the specs.
Now, the general wants Rob reprogrammed and ready for duty in two weeks. Herbie refuses to let Rob be harmed, he’ll make another robot. He gives Rob the instructions to hide, find some place safe and never come back. Rob does just that, leaving the Hot Bot-y factory clad only in a towel. Where’s a hunky robot to go? To the gym!
Meanwhile, Chase is wrapping up his day at the design firm he works for. Chase is the creative director on a project overseeing a new museum exhibition that opens in two weeks. He’s excited about the exhibit, but stressed about getting it to the finish line. So he’s off to the gym for a steam session and to catch up with his bros, who add a great element of support and comedy. What Chase ends up with by the time he leaves the gym is agreeing to have Rob come home with him so he can crash for the night since he needs a place to stay.
It turns out currently single Chase might just be bi. He can’t help but admire Rob’s physique when they meet. But during the time Rob’s staying with him, Chase grows a lot of feelings for him. Rob, always happy to help out, initially seems to be cooking and cleaning in return for the safe place to stay but it soon changes into more than that as even the robot shows signs of truly caring for Chase. The evolution of the feels from both men is so super sweet and it grounds this story because you can’t help but root for Rob and Chase–even while Chase has no idea that Rob isn’t real. One of my favorite moments between them involves and Apple Watch and its heartbeat function–so swoony.
Rob’s super sweet and learning all the time how to navigate the world on his own. He’s smart, but also full of childlike wonder too so it’s fun to watch him navigate the world, sometimes he reminded of Data from ST: TNG when he’d have to sort out very human behaviors. Rob also has the issue that his batteries don’t want to hold a charge, which can put him into some precarious situations.
What Rob and Chase don’t know is that the military is coming for Rob, but so is Herbie, who knows the battery is having problems. Corporal Matthew is on the hunt for Rob at the general’s orders, scouring the area for him. Herbie’s trying to track Rob so no one else can find out. Meanwhile, Chase is falling more in love and trying to figure out what that means with the help of his steam room bros.
Rob, unfortunately, makes a miscalculation on what Chase actually wants right as Chase is trying to make a grand gesture. This drives them apart and leaves Rob in danger. The finale of the book is some rather whacky shengiangs with a standoff between the military, the bros looking ot save Rob and bring him and Chase back together, and a bunch of sexy, hunky robots.
JC weaves a sweet love story–actually a few love stories because quite a few couples end up together by the time the story is done–alongside a manhunt (or maybe that should be robot hunt) with a bit of a sci-fi/Pinocchio bend as Rob outgrows his programming and becomes more of a sentient being. I loved everything about this sexy, romantic, at times over the top comedy blend that at the core was a cute story about a man and the robot he loves. Add some breezy fun to your TBR and pick up Revenge of the Brobot. And a shoutout on the audio, I enjoyed R.K. Beth’s narration, he really nailed the vibe of this story. As a side note, I have to say I loved the many varied ways JC came up with for penis–things like “pleasure python” and “rigid rocket.” It added to the comedy in such a perfect way.
So I enjoyed this in from left field comedy that I just didn’t know I needed that featured a robot. And frankly, I hope that he makes this into a movie. I don’t know if there’s any plan for that, but this would be a super cute movie, too.
Will: Now, if you’re interested in links or learning more about any of the books that we discussed in this episode, I think you know what to do. Go to the shownotes page for episode 295 at biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Jeff: And I do want to let you know that the Vino & Veritas books are available on Libro.fm. You know we love them because they’re a great way to get audiobooks and at the same time, you’re supporting a local bookstore of your choice. So both Featherbed and <Heartscape are there. All you need is the really great to use Libro.fm app, and you’ll be set up and good to go. Listeners of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast can get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. All you have to do to get details and take advantage of that is go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm. And you can be listening to audiobooks with them in no time at all.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for this episode. I hope we’ve piqued your interest enough to add some of these stories to your TBR. But coming up on Monday in episode 296, N.R. Walker is going to be joining us to talk about her latest book, Bossy.
Jeff: Yes. That book came out just a little bit earlier this month so we’ll have all the details on that. Plus N.R. is our selection for this month’s Big Gay Fiction Book Club with her book Throwing Hearts. So, you know, we’re going to be talking about that book too.
Will: Thank you so much for listening until next time, please stay strong, be safe and above all else keep turning those pages and keep reading.