Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonThe guys celebrate some Christmas cheer as they discuss the recently announced Netflix gay romance holiday movie.

Jay from the Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach share some of their favorite books from the past few months, including titles by Tal Bauer, Con Riley, KJ Charles, C.S. Poe, Kat Silver and Jordan L. Hawk. They also shout out books from Layla Reyne and Jenn Burke that they are looking forward to.

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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.


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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, Lisa from The Novel Approach and Jay from Joyfully Jay are here with book recs for your springtime reading.

Will: Welcome to episode 298 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: Hello everybody.

Will: Welcome back rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode. Now, before we jump into the recommendations, we’ve got a bit of holiday news. This is fun.

Jeff: And you know what? We aren’t going to talk about Easter, which is just around the corner. We’re going to be jumping forward into our favorite time of year, Christmas. So, after three LGBTQ Christmas movies last season with Lifetime’s :The Christmas Setup,” Paramount Network’s “Dashing in December” and Hulu’s “Happiest Season,” Netflix announced this past week that it is going to be giving us the gift of a gay romance this coming holiday season.

Now let’s talk about this amazing cast that they have lined up for a movie called “Single All the Way.” You’ve got “Ugly.Betty’s” Michael Urie. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie star, Luke MacFarlane, “Schitt’s Creek” star Jennifer Robertson, and for those of you who don’t recognize the name, she played Joscelyn. We’ve got Barry Bostwick, Kathy Najimy, and Jennifer Coolidge. Oh my God!

Now the plot that they’re going to do here also happens to be one of our very favorite things. They’re going to have the fake relationship. Now it seems Peter, who’s going to be played by Michael Urie, wants to avoid his family’s judgment over his continued single life. So, of course, he convinces his best friend to come home with him for Christmas. However, his mom has already planned to set him up on a blind date with James who will be played by Luke MacFarlane.

I can’t wait to see this. This cast list is amazing. Netflix does good Christmas movies already. So, you know, it’s only nine months until Christmas. Let’s just hurry up to get there already.

Will: Before we get to the book recommendations from Jay and Lisa. Let’s take a moment to hear from Frannie and Sophie from “Girls Like Us, which is another show in the Frolic Podcast Network,

Girls Like Us Promo: Girls Like Us Promo: Hey guys, I’m Frannie. And I’m Sophie. And we’re the hosts of “Girls Like Us,” on the Frolic Podcast Network. You can check us out every Monday asking the question “What does a degree in literature get you?” With the answer, “a podcast about children’s books.” We cover “The Click,” “Pretty Little Liars” and this random YA book sent to us by listeners. New episodes come out every Monday. Bye.

Jeff: As always, I had a blast talking with Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach. They’ve got something for nearly every taste coming up. We’ve got romantic suspense. We’re going to do historicals, contemporary, steam punk, urban fantasy, along with a couple of titles that they’re looking forward to in the coming months.

Hang on to your book, budgets folks, because here we go.

Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach

Jeff: Jay and Lisa, welcome back. It’s wonderful to have you here. Happy spring.

Jay: Hi, Jeff. Thanks so much.

Jay: Hi, Lisa. Great to see you guys.

Jeff: It’s always our one chance to catch up. I’m excited to hear what you guys have been reading this first part of the year, because I feel like so much awesomeness has come out these three months. I read so many things. Like, I’m on a higher trajectory of books read in these three months than I was last year. Even if you put aside any early pandemic holdup in reading, I’m just, like, blazing through such awesome books this time-out.

Lisa: It’s great to be able to focus when you’re reading now, too.

Jeff: Exactly.

Lisa: I find that I’m zipping through books like crazy, yeah.

Jeff: So, Jay, we’ll kick it off with you. What’s top of your list?

“The Night Of” by Tal Bauer

Jay: Sure. Okay, so, I tried this time to come up with authors that I don’t always talk about, because I realize, looking back, I tend to focus on the same authors, or a lot of the same authors, over and over again. So, I stretched a little bit here beyond some of the people that I talk about all the time. And, so, the first book I wanna talk about is called “The Night Of” by Tal Bauer.

Lisa: Yeah.

Jay: So, Tal writes unbelievable romantic suspense and tends to write really long series, the “Executive Office,” “Executive Power” series, and then some really great…in fact, I might have talked about this way, way back when about the book that talked about Afghan War, 9/11, CIA agents, the “Hush,” which is a super-long book. But, recently, Tal’s put out a couple of shorter suspect stories, so good if you wanna get a feel for the writing. And “The Night Of” is a lovers reunited story about a secret service agent named Sean who had a very brief relationship with the vice president, who was closeted, Jonathan. And we know from the start that something went bad, but we don’t know what. So, they have really separated, and Sean has taken a way-back seat in terms of secret service role. And they are at Camp David for a big summit, and the president dies by gunshot in his cabin, supposedly all alone.

So, the mystery here is both, how did he get access to a gun, or how did somebody get access to a gun there? Everybody believes the president killed himself, but Jonathan, the vice president, who’s his best friend, said, “Absolutely not,” and he has reason to believe that it was murder. And because they know the nature of the job, they were at Camp David, it’s such a high-security area that, chances are, somebody on the inside was involved in some way. They really have to, the two of them, figure this out together without involving a lot of other people who may be the bad guys in disguise.

So, it’s a really fun mystery suspense. The whole case about how they figure out what happened and how the president died and who was behind it all, and then also an interesting romance between the two of them as you slowly learn what happened between them this year ago and then see them, of course, find their way back to each other. So, a lot of fun, romantic suspense, and a fun inside-the-White-House, inside-the-Secret-Service-type situation that I really liked.

Jeff: That sounds a lot of fun. And I think you’ve both talked about Tal, over time, between our segments, too.

Lisa: Tal is an author I need to read a lot more of. I love, yeah, everything that he’s written that I’ve read. I own so many of his books, but you know how that is. You buy, buy, buy, buy, and there’s always that next book. So, yeah, I’ve got to. Got to.

Jay: I just actually got a chance to listen to the “Executive Office” series, which, interestingly, is also a, in this case, president and secret service agent. And I listened to the first…I guess it’s three books in the first series, and then there’s a spin-off series. So, the main series is out in audio, and both series are out in written. So that’s gotten…whet my appetite. And those are slightly more…I mean, those are like Tom Clancy gay romance, like, very much. If you like that style, those books are for sure that sort of very intense political maneuvering, five different plot threads happening at once that sort of all coalesce.

This is a little bit simpler and shorter, so it’s a good, maybe, jumping-in point if you’re not sure you want something so invested, and it’s a stand-alone. But, yeah, great romantic suspense writer.

Jeff: On the TBR, along with a lot of other Tal books, some of which, like Lisa, are in my Kindle just waiting for attention.

Lisa: I have like 50,000 books on there. What I love is when I see a book and I’m like, “Oh, that sounds really good.” And then I go, and it’s like, “Oh, you bought this in September of 2014.”

Jeff: I’m glad Amazon has a long memory, you know?

Lisa: Yeah.

“His Compass” by Con Riley

Jeff: Lisa, what’s first up for you?

Lisa: My first pick…I kind of tried to throw some different things into mine, as well, couple of familiar authors that we’ve talked about. But I also tried to go back a little bit, because when I’m doing these with you all, I usually…it seems like I’m picking what I’ve read in the moment, like, what I’ve just recently read. And so I went back to January for this one…actually for two of my picks. And this author is, I feel like, an author that I have not given nearly enough love to over the years when we’ve been doing these podcasts. My first pick is “His Compass” by Con Riley. Again, I like my mystery suspense. I love my urban fantasy. I love fantasy, so I don’t tend to gravitate towards contemporary romance a lot, but when I’m gonna read a contemporary romance, it’s gonna be…and we’ve talked about Lily Morton before. Con Riley, she is an author who I will read every book she puts out. I don’t even care what it’s about. I don’t have to read the blurb. If Con’s written it, I want it.

So, “His Compass” is the second book in a shared world. Each of the books can be read as stand-alones. And one of the things Con does so well is she writes these very quiet, lovely books about found family, about grief and loss, about just finding someone against the odds who just becomes the person that you can’t see yourself living without. You don’t get a lot of flash and bang. But she just writes so beautifully, absolutely gorgeously. She writes the human condition just so, so resonantly.

And “His Compass,” again, is the second book in this shared verse, and it’s the story of…he’s an accountant of a charter yacht, Tom Kershaw. And you meet him in the first book, “His Horizon.” And Tom has a crewman, Nick, who you don’t really meet him on page, but you know of him. And Nick is a kind of a flighty, enigmatic kind of guy who was temporarily on Tom’s crew and just up and left, just completely left without another word. And he shows up again when Tom is asked to sea-trial a new yacht for the company that he works for to make sure she’s seaworthy, to see what kind of upgrades she might need to make her one of the premier charter yachts for the company.

Well, turns out that Nick is the crewman on board, and Tom has, probably rightfully so, some bitter feelings toward Nick because Nick just left him high and dry with an empty spot on his crew. And, so, you get a little bit of close proximity. You get a lot of close proximity, actually. And it’s just a very lovely unweaving of the two men connecting, and there are things that Tom doesn’t understand about Nick that Nick does not offer very freely because…with something that he kind of just keeps to himself. They end up having this unexpected connection. I’m not gonna give anything away, because it’s just something you just really…I didn’t see it coming. It just furthers their bond just that much more, and it’s just… Not only does she write characters that are so compelling and so relatable and so…they’re kind of just every-guy kind of people, but then she writes in such a way that…like, when these guys are out on the yacht and they’re sailing, and you just get the feeling and the atmosphere of what they’re experiencing at every single moment.

And, yeah, so this is just a very lovely…she’s got several lovely series, her “Seattle Stories” series, “After Ben,” “Saving Sean,” “Aiden’s Luck.” My favorite of her books will always be “Must Like Spinach,” because what’s not to love about a book called “Must Like Spinach”? But she just…again, it’s just the finding family and finding not only a home, but finding someone who means home to you. And that is a lot of what “His Compass” is about as well, is these two people just finding each other on the high seas, and they become each other’s North Star, kind of. And it’s just really lovely. So, “His Compass” by Con Riley. The third book, I’m so excited, comes out April 21st. It’s called “His Haven.” And the lead character, you’ve also met in “His Compass.” So, shared world, but you don’t necessarily have to read all of the books, but you really should read all of the books, because Con Riley…

Jay: And really, read all of the books.

Lisa: Yeah, Con Riley…again, I just love her writing so, so much, and I feel like I have done her a disservice by not singing her praises before now.

Jeff: It says a lot that you put that much into a contemporary, because you’re right. If I go back through the list, the number of actual contemporary romances, like, romantic suspense aside and those kinda things, but just regular contemporary romance are probably countable on one hand.

Lisa: Yeah. It’s true. I do. I tend to like the suspense and the action and the danger. And I love horror. I mean, I cut my reading teeth on Stephen King, so I tend to gravitate towards that. But, yeah, if someone said, “Hey, recommend a contemporary author to me,” yeah, you can’t go wrong with any of her books, really.

“Band Sinister” by KJ Charles

Jay: All right. So, I’m gonna actually…I don’t talk very often about audiobooks, so I’m gonna bring back…this is an audiobook that I absolutely loved when I read it a couple of years ago, and then just had a chance to re-experience it in audio, I think, last month. And that is “Band Sinister” by KJ Charles. Loved the book. I think it was one of my best of the year, at the time. And, sometimes, you forget how much you love something until you read it again, and then you remember, like, “Oh, my god.”

So, I listened to this on audio. The premise of the story is, one of the characters, Guy Frisby, his family had…this is a historical, I should clarify…had a big scandal that basically threw them out of society, and, as a result, he and his sister Amanda now live in a small village, pretty much at the mercy of a wealthy aunt who supports them because Amanda has been shamed, and he is not able to get additional work, and she says to them, “You need to hide out here in the corner and don’t let anybody see you, because you’re an embarrassment. But, for the sake of my sister, I’ll support you.”

So, Amanda has written this gothic novel that is loosely based on their very well-known neighbor, Lord Philip Rookwood. But what is interesting is that it’s Philip’s brother and Guy’s mother that have this big scandal, so the families are very much feuding, and Philip is part of what they call…a group that’s called the Murder, which is a group of scandalous artists, philosophers, political thinkers, people of different race and religion that society generally thinks are all inappropriate, and they don’t really much care what society thinks of them, and have this very close friendship, but then it has this very scandalous reputation. So, Amanda is very intrigued, and she writes this gothic novel where this Philip character is the villain.

And she falls off of her horse and severely breaks her leg on Philip’s property, and so they have no choice but to stay there. And so Guy, of course, has to come with her because, otherwise, she’s a woman alone with a man in their house. So, that’s the setup, which is a little complex. So, the bottom line is it gives Guy not only exposure to Philip and to ease this feud and to get to know each other and fall in love, but it also sets up sort of the exposure of Guy to the world outside his very insular life, and he’s very much, you follow the rules, and what people think of you is very important, because he grew up under this big shadow of scandals. So, he’s very concerned with others’ impressions of him and living this regimented life, but this life is killing him because he can’t do anything that he wants and go where he wants and, again, under the mercy of this aunt.

And Philip and his friends are sort of, like I said, this group that doesn’t really care much what society thinks. And through his association with Philip, Guy suddenly comes into his own and claims the life he wants and gets all of these new ideas about science and medicine and all these things that they’re talking about. And starts out this shy, sheltered virgin, and lo and behold, that doesn’t last long, and had never really even thought about the idea that he could be with a man, although, secretly thoughts, but not realistic thoughts.

So, the story is great and romantic and sexy and just really fascinating to read about people who are considered on the fringe of…who believed in geology, and the earth was formed instead of created by God, and just all of these concepts that were, like, heresy at the time. But then the audio, by Cornell Collins, I think really adds a lot to it, because one of the really fun parts of the book is seeing the way the members of the Murder interact, and they have this banter and this irreverence around each other. They challenge each other. They speak out. They interrupt each other. And he does such a great job. Characters from different countries, so there’s lots of accents and people who are talking over each other and around each other, and he really captures that well, which is a lot of fun. As well as being able to do a good job with Amanda, which is not always easy to have a major side character who’s a woman.

So, I really thought…I mean, I loved the book the first time, but I really thought that the audio was very well done and really enhanced the story. And if you like historicals, I would say, for sure, this is one to grab, because it’s just a great story and, like I said, romantic and sexy, but also just a really interesting… KJ Charles always gives such a good picture of, like, the politics and the setting and the life that’s going on at the time. And definitely, in this book, you get that sense, too, of what is considered societal norms and what’s outside of that and how those two things are playing in this story.

Jeff: Yeah. Will’s having a year of historicals, as he’s calling it, to really kinda get back into historical fiction more than he’s been. And for the January book club pick, we read “An Unseen Attraction” by KJ Charles.

Jay: Yes.

Jeff: And absolutely loved it. And you’re so right how K.J. just nails those small pieces about what life is like, what the politics are like, what class is like in these books. It was such a good scenario. I wanna read more in that series because I love those characters.

Jay: Oh, yeah. The whole series is great.

Jeff: But I also wanna move into other books, as well, because each one of them seems to have their own little interesting thing that just wants to pull me into them, and I think there’s certainly more on Will’s list from K.J., as well.

Jay: I started years ago with the “Magpie” series, which is always one of my all-time favorites, which is a paranormal historical, and features the same three characters. But I’ve loved everything. You know, in fact, I may have talked about the Robin Hood…did I talk about that last time? Maybe not. Now I’m blanking on the name of the book. But it, also, again, talked about class and culture, and the role of women often comes up. In this case, it is partly the scandal and the way that you do something that’s perceived wrong, and you’re immediately shunned, but also the fact that the doctor is, you know, a Spanish doctor, he’s also Jewish, and he has very liberal progressive medical ideas, and then their family doctor, who’s just like, “Bleed them all,” and very…the way that you see what was considered, like, new ideas and new politics, new culture, and how that sort of butting against the time was sort of very traditional ideas at the time.

Lisa: Yeah. My favorite of her characters, still, to this day, is Simon Feximal.

Jay: Oh, yes. Love Simon.

Lisa: I love, love him so much. And then when he did the crossover with the Whyborne and Griffin…

Jay: I was just gonna say…

Lisa: That was so great.

Now, K.J. never over-writes her historicals, and she never under-writes them. She always just has that very, just…everything is just perfectly nuanced so you get the feeling of the time, but yet it’s not like, “Okay, we get it. Let’s move on.” She’s just such an amazing author.

“The Gangster” by C.S. Poe

All right, well, this book, we actually talked about. I think it was like last quarter. This is the sequel to C.S. Poe’s “The Engineer.”

Jay: Oh, yes.

Lisa: Yeah, it’s called “The Gangster,” and it also came out in January. And this book gave me such a hangover. I was like, “Oh, my god. Carol, what have you done to me?” But, so, she is carrying on steampunk. That’s another one of my faves. I’ve loved steampunk since the minute I picked up Gail Carriger’s “The Parasol Protectorate” series many years ago. And, so, this book continues on with her very much opposites attract kind of characters. Gillian Hamilton, who is a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam, and Gunner the Deadly, Constantine Gunner, who is this outlaw. This is Gunner and Gillian back together again, and they are working against the clock, so to speak. There’s a new bad guy in town, a criminal, and his name is Tick Tock, which is just so great. Steampunk, gears, cogs, tick tock. And, so, they are working together to, basically, try to save the city. And there are some things that come out, at the end, that made me like, “Are you kidding me? You’re leaving me with this cliffhanger? Carol, how could you do this to me?”

But she really…again, this is another example of an author who takes a city that we know and just… Well, it’s historical, first of all, obviously. But it’s kind of this real-world feeling with all of these out-world sort of gadgets and gizmos, and she just put her imagination to work so beautifully. And we talked about how, in “The Engineer,” which is a novella, how beautifully she built that world in so few words. And she really continues to just build on that in this book, and it’s suspenseful. It’s got just danger and tons of action, and her action scenes where…again, I don’t wanna spoil anything, but catastrophic things are happening, and you just get so sucked in, and my heart was racing, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

The relationship between Gunner and Gillian is still in the building stages and still in the growing stages, and then we get to that ending. And we’ll get to see, in the next book, where she takes these two and where she takes that particular bombshell she dropped at the end. So, just lots of fun, lots of action, lots of suspense, tons of imagination, great characters. So, yeah, yeah, “The Gangster,” C.S. Poe, excellent book.

Jay: Yeah, I think I talked about “The Engineer” on the podcast, and I continue to just love the two of them together. I mean, as much as I agree, like, that the suspense and the setting and everything, they’re dynamic. I don’t know, for whatever reason, like, I just completely fell in love with them together, and I’m so into this dynamic that they have with each other. I love the way they work together. I love their relationship. I’m, like, so invested in them.

Lisa: Yeah. It’s not like the black hat/white hat, old western kind of good guy/bad guy thing, but Gunner kind of has that old western kind of…not villain, but he’s the kind of dark horse, whatever you wanna call him, and then you’ve got Gillian, who is an officer of the law, and how they’ve come together is just really great.

Jay: Yeah, yeah. And you were talking about the setting. One of my favorite pieces was when he goes to Grand Central Station, or the version of it, and describes the airships that are parking at the top and how it’s this multi-level thing, and the ships come in, and the…and I thought it was so clever the way that she reimagined something that almost everybody has seen or seen pictures of and turned it into this steampunk version of it, and it was so clever.

Lisa: You can picture the levels of platform.

Jay: Yeah, right, with the ships coming in.

Lisa: …the airships that are parked and docked at the different levels of the platforms. That was brilliant. Yeah, yeah, I agree. That was so great.

“Dark Flame” by Kat Silver

Jay: All right. So, I’m going back to my old favorite, which is urban fantasy. This is a new author, I believe a debut author, and first book in a new series. It’s called “Dark Flame” by Kat Silver. And the setup for the book is, the main character, Michael Blakeley, he’s having all of these weird things happening, electronics shorting out around him. He’s feeling weird. He’s feeling, like, super horny and sex charged. Like, something is off, but he doesn’t know what or why. And he’s out one night, and he sees this sort of hot, Viking-looking guy, but he’s never…I mean, not interested in men, just notices this guy who looks a little atypical.

And Michael’s attacked, and the guy, Gabriel Flanagan, ends up rescuing him and reveals to him that he is of a group of people who are flame born, meaning that they have the ability to control this sort of supernatural energy called the flame. And most people who have this ability learn long before now and also have family who have these same abilities, so he is rare in that he is coming into it having no idea what’s happening to him or why he’s having all these weird side effects. So, Gabriel is the guide into this world and brings him to their compound where Gabriel oversees this group who are in charge of the guardians, who are in charge of training people and policing this whole sort of supernatural group. And, Michael, because he’s coming into this so late and no idea what’s he’s doing, he’s all out of whack. So, he’s dangerous to himself and to other people until he gets through this initial period, which means that he has to be, I guess, kept locked down, which, of course, he does not like, and causes a lot of conflict between him and Gabriel.

And, at the same time, there is an antagonist, Alexei, who is a fae/vampire combo, and he…for reasons that we learn, Michael is very drawn to him to the point that even though he knows he’s the bad guy and is trying to kill everybody, finds himself really compelled to wanna be with him. So, this is another reason that Gabriel and the gang have to keep him locked down, because he can’t control this compulsion.

So, the story has a dual conflict. There’s the battle with Alexei and there’s a, you know, sort of big battle at the end, huge fight scenes, and the fact that he’s trying to use Michael and lure him in and manipulate him in this battle that he has, a good and evil battle. And then there’s the conflict between Gabriel and Michael as they work through this enemies-to-lovers-type situation. It’s also an out-for-you book in that Michael hasn’t previously been into men, and he’s very drawn to Gabriel.

One of the things I thought was interesting is that this is a book that’s, like, super-high chemistry but also super-slow burn, because it’s…I don’t wanna say it’s like a heat kind of situation, like in an Mpreg, but I think it’s slightly akin to that in that he’s not necessarily in control of himself all the time. He’s having to be locked down, and so Gabriel is very conscious of not taking advantage of Michael in this sort of vulnerable state. And Michael is not so sure how he feels about getting involved with this guy who he doesn’t…sure he even really likes but yet is super drawn to. So, I thought it was an interesting skill on the author’s part that she was able to create this tension between incredibly high chemistry, even though it’s not a particularly sex-filled or physical book and that the develop happens very slowly over the course of the story. So, we get a happy-for-now ending, and it’s the first of a series, so I know that more will develop.

But one thing that I thought was particularly fun is that the author also wrote a short story novella called “Two Nights and A Day.” And this is a period that’s referenced in the book about how Michael is basically, like, out of his mind in this sex haze craziness, and he doesn’t really remember what happened during that time. And, so, this is a short story that actually fills in that blank that we didn’t get in the main book. It’s a freebie that you can get on the author’s website, and it is, like, super erotica. So, it’s funny, because the book really isn’t, and then if you want, like, that giant piece of heat that you missed in the middle, you can go back. And you definitely wanna read this after, because it does spoil some events of the book.

But it’s an interesting…aside from being incredibly sexy, there’s a bittersweet quality, because Gabriel and Michael haven fallen for each other in this encounter, but Gabriel knows that as soon as Michael comes back to himself, he’s gonna have forgotten it. So, we know, because we’ve read the book, how, after this, Michael has no memory of what’s happening, and they slowly fall in love more naturally. But in this story, we see Gabriel having these real tender feelings, and Michael in return, that he’s gonna forget as soon as it’s over. So, it’s an interesting dynamic the way she makes that little piece of a story. And as long as you’re comfortable with the high heat, I think it really rounds everything out nicely, because it gives you that little dip into something that’s referenced in the book, but isn’t actually covered in detail, and you get this sort of backstory woven in afterwards.

So, again, that was “Dark Flame” by Kat Silver, first in the series, so I’m really looking forward to seeing where that goes. And I was really impressed for, you know, a debut author. It’s a really great book, and it seems to be getting a lot of buzz, so I’m excited about it.

Jeff: That’s fantastic. Always good to hear about new authors putting out some amazing stuff, especially a genre you like so well, of urban fantasy.

Lisa: I have missed that book, so I’m gonna have to check that out.

Jay: Yeah, take a look. It has a really pretty cover, too.

“Blind Tiger” by Jordan L. Hawk

Lisa: All right. My last book is a book that I picked for my most anticipated book in our end-of-the-year podcast, Jordan L. Hawk’s “Blind Tiger.” Yeah, it just came out this month, and this is a continuation of, or a spin-off of his “Hexworld” verse, except where “Hexworld” set in the 19th century, this series and this book leaps that world ahead into the 20th century, into the 1920s. And, so, we’re talking prohibition era, speakeasies, rum-running, gangsters, in the streets of Chicago. No Al Capone or Baby Face Nelson or Dillinger or whomever in the books, but it’s very much got that gangland, gangster vibe. And, so, this particular book features a guy named Sam who ends up in Chicago. He’s a small town, sweet, soft, you would say, naïve fish out of water…ends up in Chicago, kind of on a whim. It was definitely not a planned trip, but there is a whole backstory for Sam that inspired him to come to Chicago where he has a cousin who lives there.

And, so, he’s staying with his cousin. And Sam finds himself suddenly in the midst of a murder. And he has gone to a speakeasy called The Pride, and he encounters a family, the Gatti family, who owns and operates the speakeasy. And Alistair is the cheetah familiar who recognizes Sam as his witch. Well, Sam has no idea he’s a witch, because he has never tested to be a witch. It was something that was very much forbidden in his family life in this small, little Illinois town, and his parents never show up on page, but they’re just absolutely hideous, odious people, and I hated them, and they never even were on the page. So, go Jordan.

So, Alistair is, I might say, a survivor of World War I. He came home, not unscarred. He has some post-traumatic, what they called shell-shock back then but what we know now is post-traumatic stress. And there was an event that happened to him and the witch that he was bonded to that, subsequently, it ended tragically, and Alistair has vowed that he will never, ever bond with another witch. And, so, through the investigation of this murder and the crime boss over the territory where The Pride is located, there is very much a race to find this one particular hex that Sam’s cousin was kind of double-dealing. And, so, there’s brewing gang war getting ready to start, and the relationship between Alistair and Sam is not an easy one because of Alistair’s post trauma, and Sam being kind of just so naïve. And you don’t see him as a strong person at the beginning, but then you suddenly see this spine of steel emerging when he finally finds this place where he feels like he’s fitting in for the first time in his life.

Jordan, his atmosphere in his books, and his settings, are just always such a big part of, almost a character in his books. And he does that with Chicago in the 1920s just so beautifully, just kind of draws you into what it must have been like back then with gangsters, driving down the street and spraying Tommy gunfire in this brewing gang war. And I was anticipating this book. I had no doubt that he was gonna wow me with it, and he absolutely did. He absolutely did. So, “Blind Tiger,” Jordan L. Hawk. He really extends this world, and it’s not a replica of the Hexworld. It’s its own verse, and he just really blew me away. Great book.

Jay: Yeah. I liked the time jump, as well as the Hexworld is New York and is a law enforcement theme, whereas this is Chicago, different timing, and civilians, I guess you’d call them, although, obviously, still the witch and familiar. So, I like that he took how the world works, the idea of hexes, the witch familiar bond and brought it into another time, another place, another atmosphere, and picked that up really well.

Lisa: Yeah. Well, it’s so great, and you’re dealing with law enforcement in “Hexworld,” and you’re dealing with gangsters and the gangland wars and stuff of Chicago in the 1920s. He melds the magic beautifully, but they’re completely separate verses. He didn’t just write a replica of the Hexworld in the 20th century. Great book.

Jeff: I need to read that, because I’ve been…not only do I love the cover, I mean, the cover is gorgeous…

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff: …but setting it in Chicago in the roaring ’20s just interests me quite a lot to see a spin of magic and witches and stuff. So, as we head towards wrapping up, let’s talk a little bit about something that you’re excited that’s coming in the next few months. Jay, what’s on your radar?

“Silent Knight” by Layla Reyne

Jay: So, I’m looking forward to “Silent Knight” by Layla Reyne. This is the fifth book in her Fog… Yeah, see? In her “Fog City” series. The first three books…this is a law enforcement assassin trilogy, the first three books, and they feature the same couple throughout. And then that series finished up maybe a year or so ago, and then Layla’s added two new books, “Queen’s Ransom,” which just came out a little bit ago, which features Hawes’ sister, Helena, and her love interest…this is a lesbian female story…and then now Hawes’ brother, Holt.

The three siblings are really the core of the series, and the relationship they have there…they’re an assassin family, and they run an assassin business. And Holt is the techie, and he has gone through a lot of trauma, which I won’t spoil in the event that you haven’t read the first three books. We learn a lot about Holt’s background, and he is paired with Kane, who, we learn over time, the two of them have been friends for years. And Kane is a police officer in the city. And they don’t really run afoul. He looks the other way, a lot of the things the Madigans are doing, and they have definitely a working relationship with him, but then, as we learn, Holt and Kane have a past.

And in “Queen’s Ransom,” we actually do get even a little bit more of a tease. We can see both of these guys are upset, and something clearly has happened between them in the subsequent time between the third and the fourth book, so I’m really excited for the fifth story to see. But these are characters we’ve been following all along, and we’ve definitely been teased that something happened, and finding out exactly what that is. So, I’m really excited for that. It comes out May 3rd, and that’s “Silent Knight” by Layla Reyne in the “Fog City” series.

Jeff: I cannot wait. Oh, my god. I loved “Queen’s Ransom.” I reviewed that back in episode 294, because I loved Helena for so many reasons that I was glad to get her story. But Holt’s I’ve been waiting for since the beginning, because he’s always been an intriguing character, and then with what went down in the original trilogy…if you haven’t read that, everybody go read it…I needed to see him come out on the other side.

Jay: That’s for sure.

Jeff: So, I am so eager to get my hands on that book.

Jay: Yes.

“All Fired Up” by Jenn Burke

Jeff: Lisa, what’s on your anticipation list?

Lisa: All right. Well, I chose a book called “All Fired Up.”

Lisa: And you’re familiar… Yeah.

Jay: I have it sitting in my TBR right now.

Lisa: I have it as well. So, Jenn Burke wrote an urban fantasy series called “Not Dead Yet.” And it is set in Toronto, right? I’m not mistaken. It’s Toronto. Yeah. So, this is Canadian urban fantasy. So, it’s a world of vampires. And “All Fired Up” is book one in the new “Ashes and Dust” series, so this is a spin-off from the “Not Dead Yet” series. And Evan Fortier is going to be the lead character. He was introduced in the “Not Dead Yet” trilogy. And he is going to be the lead character in this new set of books. I was so in love with the “Not Dead Yet” series, and the imagination between the vampire who falls in love with the guy who’s not quite dead, but he’s also not really alive, and all of things that they got involved in and mixed up in, and the action, and, again, so much action and suspense and great romance. It was a second chances romance. I was so in love with that trilogy that I’m interested to see where she’s going to take Evan now and see where she’s going to expand her vampire world to and introduce some new characters. So, that comes out May 18th from Carina Press, “All Fired Up” by Jenn Burke.

Jeff: That one’s in my TBR, too, because I haven’t done the original trilogy, even though it’s lurking somewhere on my Kindle. But I thought, “I’m gonna jump into this one.”

Jay: He’s an interesting character in the original trilogy because he’s this sort of baby vampire that gets turned into a vampire and is suddenly thrust into this world in the first series. So I think it’s gonna be really interesting to see him as the lead, because he’s a prominent side character, but he also has this traumatic introduction to coming into this world and suddenly having his life changed. And then he’s coming into himself as the books continued. So, I’m really eager to see him take on that lead role and how his journey’s gonna continue.

Lisa: It just sounds like it’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if it’s anything like the “Not Dead Yet” trilogy, it’s gonna be fantastic. So, yeah, hopefully, we get to see some cameos, too, from the other guys.

Jeff: Fantastic. Well, I think we’ve probably done some damage to a lot of people’s TBRs, which is what we set out to do. We’ll, of course, have links to all of the books that we’ve talked about, plus the reviews from your websites, in the show notes so that everybody can find all that material. As always, thank you so much. It’s such a blast talking to you both about books, every single time, and we will do it again at the end of June as we wrap up Pride Month, then.

Lisa: Yeah, that sounds good.

Jeff: Right.

Jay: Thank you, always, for having us, Jeff.

Wrap Up

Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by your community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at And, don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve discussed in this episode.

Jeff: On the show notes page, you’re also find notations for a number of books that are available from, including titles from KJ Charles, Tal Bauer, Layla Reyne, Gail Carriger and Jenn Burke. When you get an audio book from, you’re supporting a local bookstore of your choice. So we hope you’ll give them a try. The app is super easy to use. Plus as a listener of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, you’re eligible to get started with a two month audio book membership for the price of one. To get details on that deal, simply head on over to
And thanks so much to Jay and Lisa for sharing their book, recs. So much good stuff there as always. I have added to my TBR in a number of ways and I’m looking forward to reading some great books in the coming months.

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Thursday and episode 299, we’ve got some book reviews and we’re going to be telling you about some of the titles that we’re looking forward to in the month of April.

Jeff: Yes, it’s a whole week of book recommendations here on the show. So we’ll see you on Thursday and you’ll find out what we’re looking forward to.

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.