Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonThe Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for April is announced: Striking Sparks by Ari McKay. The guys also share the news of a new online book convention called IQARUS as well as a new fiction podcast from JC Calciano, Steamy Stories.

Jeff & Will discuss books they’re looking forward to in April, including titles by Rebecca James, Annabelle Greene, Jaxon Knight, and Kris Ripper along with two anthologies, Taking a Chance and Fables Retold. Jeff also reviews The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch and Will reviews his re-read of Served Hot by Annabeth Albert.

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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.


This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at


Will: It’s April fool’s Day, but I assure you this episode is no joke. We’re going to be talking about upcoming books starting right now.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 299 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams and with me as always is my co-host and husband Will Knauss.

Will: Bon jour.

Jeff: And apparently he’s gone French for April fool’s Day.

Will: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I did the whole episode in French,?

Jeff: It would be.

Will: Be hilariously strange. I don’t know.

Jeff: As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thank you to Theodore for recently increasing their support of the show. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons go to

Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. You’re going to want to get a notepad and pen or your favorite note taking app because we’ve got a whole lot of amazing books to talk about it in this episode.

But before we get to that, it is, of course, the beginning of the month and that means we have got a book club announcement. And I am very pleased to report that we have chosen Ari McKay’s “Striking Sparks” as our book club selection for the month of April.

This is a really delightful, charming, small town romance. I think you’re really going to like it. Now, members of our Patreon community have early access to a preview of that episode. So if you support us on Patreon, keep an eye out. That episode is coming your way imminently. And I am pleased to let you know that the book club episode will be dropping here into the regular podcast feed on Thursday, April 29th so mark your calendars.

Jeff: And if you haven’t read “Striking Sparks” already go pick it up so you can join us in that conversation later this month. It is such a good book. My husband is the best picker of books for book club. It’s really awesome.

We want to take a moment to tell you about a new online book con that’s coming on May 8. It’s called IQARUS, which stands for International Queer Authors and Readers Uniting Stories. This event’s going to run two tracks. There’s going to be one for readers and fans and another for authors. The event starts at noon Eastern time on May 8 and runs throughout the day. Among the authors attending are several who have actually been on this show, including Christian Baines, J. Scott Coatsworth, Liz Faraim, Gillian St. Kevern, R.L. Merrill, Rick Reed, and Jamie Sands. To see the full lineup of authors and the events, and check out everything going on with the con, you can get information

We’ve also got a new podcast we want to tell you about. Back in episode 295, I reviewed JC Calciano’s new book “Revenge of the “Brobot,” which is a hilarious rom-com. If you haven’t picked it up, you should definitely check it out. Now. JC has a new fiction podcast based on his Steamy Stories shorts. The podcast debuted last week with the story “Threesome with My Ex” and we just loved it. It was a wonderful little story. It was less than 15 minutes long. So it’s this little bite-sized nugget of a story. All of the stories are written by JC and they’re voiced by Ben Palacios, who was one of the stars of JC’s “Steam Room Stories” as well as “The Ten-Year Plan.”

Now here’s a quick preview of what you can expect from steamy stories.

Steamy Stories Promo: Welcome to “Steamy Stories,” the podcast where bromance becomes bromosexual. I came up with that. Ever wondered what a sexy stable man is thinking or what the two hottest guys in school really get up to on prom night? Let’s just say you’re in the right place. Each episode will be a new steamy story written by JC Calciano, the creator of “Steam Room Stories, and narrated by me, Ben Palacios. So subscribe now and lose yourself in hot bromantic bliss. Later bro.

Jeff: “Steamy Stories” is available anywhere you listen to podcasts and you can find out more about it at And I’m happy to note that JC is actually going to be joining us here on the show in the coming weeks. We’ll talk about “Revenge of the Brobot,” the new podcast, and all sorts of things. So looking forward to that.

Will: Yeah, a brand new book convention, a brand new podcast. So much to look forward to this spring season.

Want to talk about some upcoming books?

Jeff: Of course I do one of my favorite topics.

Will: So we’re trying out a new segment, talking about books that are available for pre-order and are coming your way stories that we’re certainly looking forward to and think you might be as well.

“Out of Harm’s Way” by Rebecca James

Will: So for the very first book, you’re not going to have to wait for very long. It’s releasing on April 5th and that’s “Out of Harm’s Way” by Rebecca James. And this is the first book in her “Balls and Brawn Bodyguard” series. Here’s the blurb.

You’re going to pay for what you did.

The terrifying text message from Mick Water’s abuser, recently escaped from prison, sends him spiraling into panic. His life is just getting back on track, and now he’s constantly looking over his shoulder and barely able to sleep at night. When his friends arrange a bodyguard for him, Mick feels a confusing combination of relief at having protection, dismay at the sheer size of his new bodyguard, and arousal due to his attraction to big men.

Oxford Bradley enjoys his job with Foster Security, which includes a mixed bag of high-stakes cases–some of them dangerous–and dull babysitting-type situations. When he isn’t working, he prefers a serene life devoid of drama. Assigned to protect a terrified man from his abusive ex, Ox is horrified at his body’s reaction to not only Mick himself, but also Mick’s admission to a Daddy kink–he’s never had an unprofessional relationship with a client and he isn’t starting now.

As Mick warms up to Ox and the two men get to know one another, the attraction between them grows. Ox refuses to break his professional code, but what about when the danger’s over? The temptation to explore with this intriguing man is undeniable.

Will one night send Ox running back to his comfortable vanilla lifestyle, or will Mick help him find a new favorite flavor?

Jeff: I do like a good bodyguard story, which of course is a great reason to have this book on our list of upcoming things. I love that he’s both intrigued by the size of his bodyguard and dismayed by it. He’s got himself an interesting dichotomy there.

Will: ”Out of Harm’s Way” is available for pre-order right now and we’ll be releasing on April 5.

“The Soldier and the Spy” by Annabelle Greene

Will: Another intriguing title, this one releasing on April 20th, is “The Soldier and the Spy.” This is a gay Regency romance by Annabelle Greene.

You all know I have an interest in historicals So my interest was already peaked. But, when I actually sat down to take a closer look at this particular blurb, I think someone at this publishing house was having a little too much fun. I’m going to read it to you and I’m going to see if you agree with me.

“The Soldier and the Ppy is about a beholden man who finds himself falling for the war hero he’s destined to double-cross.

Three hundred pounds for one night of protection. It’s a job offer, but it’s also a ruse. Captain Benjamin Frakes, war hero and de facto head of the Society of Beasts—a club for gentlemen who prefer gentlemen—is tempted to turn it down. But August Weatherby, the sexy, brazen stranger making the offer, has captivated him completely.

August is hardly the flush flirt he claims to be. An indebted man, desperate to save his infirm sister, August makes an ideal pawn for a lord eager to bring down the Society of Beasts once and for all. But August’s charge to find evidence against Frakes is at odds with his own virgin desire to entice the captain into showing him the true meaning of pleasure.

As August’s infiltration pushes him deeper into the beguiling world of delights behind the Society’s closed doors, he and Frakes discover new ways to push the boundaries of their own cravings. But with mounting pressure to complete his devious mission, August finds himself torn between the man his heart yearns for and the sister whose life depends on his betrayal.

So, this has already got me interested. It’s got a lot of great and intriguing hooks here. But I just have to say with mounting pressure, pushing him deeper into the beguiling world of delights, this book had better be wall to wall banging.

Jeff: Oh, my goodness.

You and I may have to battle for this one. Cause I mean, soldiers and spies is one of my favorite things anyway. Maybe it will be one that we can end up in read together and talk about at the same time because this one’s been on my radar for a while too cause it sounds really good.

Will: “The Solider and the Spy” is book too. In Annabelle Greene’s “Society of Beasts” series, the first being The Vicar and the Rake.” That book was available in audio. There’s no word yet on whether The Soldier and the Spy” is going to be making its way into audio. I really hope it does because there’s nothing I prefer more than having sex scenes read to me with a British accent.

Jeff: There is a certain plus to that isn’t there because everything does sound better with a British accent.

Will: It sounds so good.

“The Trouble with Order” by Jaxon Knight

Will: Now the next book that I’m really looking forward to is “The Trouble with Order” by Jaxon Knight. That’s going to be releasing on April 21st. And this is the newest book and the author’s “Fairyland Romances” series.

I Love these books so very, very much. And we actually had the pleasure of talking to Jamie Sands, the author who writes under the Jaxon Knight pen name. We talked to them about this series in February last year in episode 228. So, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to that episode, yet we highly recommend it. Talking to them was an absolute delight, but here’s what we have to look forward to with “The Trouble with Order.”

Link’s past was difficult but he learned to skim through life and have things work out right, Teayang has worked for what he has and sacrificed things along the way. When Taeyang is cast as Lord Order, the villain opposite Link’s fun-loving Fairy Mischief, there’s instant chemistry that can’t be denied.

Outside of acting at Fairyland, Link’s life is falling apart and he has no idea how to handle it alone. But years of putting up walls and projecting a happy image makes it impossible to ask for help.

Taeyang may love playing a villain, but in real life, he yearns to reach out to his acting partner, if he’d only accept that help. Can a villain become a friend? Or something even more?

“The Trouble with Order” is a slow burn, opposites attract m/m sweet romance featuring team building, silliness, troublesome parents, assumptions, green smoothies and a HEA. It can be read as a standalone but is best read as part of the “Fairyland” series.

Which is something I concur with. As I said, I am this series’s biggest cheerleader. I adore every story that takes place in this wonderful theme park. “The Trouble with Order” is the fifth book. If you want it to use this as a starting point, I’m sure you wouldn’t have any problem understanding what’s going on. But as with each book in this particular series, certain characters are recurring because essentially what we’re talking about is a workplace romance. It just so happens that this workplace happens to be a theme park.

Jeff: I am so glad that you get to spend a piece of your spring going back to fairyland because you have absolutely loved every one of these books.

Will: Oh, I can’t wait.

Jeff: And I’m sure you’ve already pushed pre-order right?

Will: Maybe.

Jeff: You’re just waiting for that to deliver.

Will: Yeah. “The Trouble with Order” is going to be headed your way April 21st.

“The Hate Project” by Kris Ripper

Will: The next book I want to talk about is the newest title from Kris Ripper. It’s called “The Hate Project.”

This arrangement is either exactly what they need–or a total disaster

Oscar is a grouch. That’s a well-established fact among his tight-knit friend group, and they love him anyway.

Jack is an ass.

[Jeff laughs]

Jack, who’s always ready with a sly insult, who can’t have a conversation without arguing, and who Oscar may or may not have hooked up with on a strict no-commitment, one-time-only basis. Even if it was extremely hot. Together, they’re a bickering, combative mess.

When Oscar is fired (answering phones is not for the anxiety-ridden), he somehow ends up working for Jack. Maybe while cleaning out Jack’s grandmother’s house they can stop fighting long enough to turn a one-night stand into a frenemies-with-benefits situation.

The house is an archaeological dig of love and dysfunction, and while Oscar thought he was prepared, he wasn’t. It’s impossible to delve so deeply into someone’s past without coming to understand them at least a little, but Oscar has boundaries for a reason—even if sometimes Jack makes him want to break them all down.

After all, hating Jack is less of a risk than loving him.

Jeff: I couldn’t help, but laugh with the very matter of fact, Jack is an ass. Just put it right out there. To me, that’s even more than being a grouch is being an ass. So I have been intrigued by this series. It’s been lurking on my TBR, because this is the second book in Kris Ripper’ss “Love Study” series. The first one is like hanging out, waiting for me to get to it. It’s bumping to the top of my list so that I can be ready to read this one, because these books all sound just delightful.

Will: ”The Hate Project’s” release date April 27th and it’s going to be the Corrina adores title for the month of May.

“Taking a Chance: Charity Anthology”

Will: And to wrap up his book preview, I’m going to talk about a couple of anthologies that caught my interest.

The first is Taking a Chance.” Now, what intrigued me about this particular charity anthology is that 17 authors were challenged to take a chance to write something new and outside their normal box to help celebrate International Take a Chance Day. These authors went above and beyond by writing 16 stories that span the gender and sexuality spectrum.

They’ll make you laugh, cry, shout with joy and take you on a journey through their contemporary, paranormal, science fiction, and adventure stories. Some of the authors taking part are Toshi Drake, C.W. Gray, Gianni Holmes, G.R. Lyons, Shane K Morton and Lynn Van Dorn. It’s certainly an all-star lineup. And that’s just a few of them

Proceeds from this anthology will be donated to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is a global nonprofit providing cutting edge medicine and advocacy for over a 1 million people in 43 countries. And they are currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the United States.

This anthology we’ll be releasing on April 23rd and it’s worth noting that it will be available for a limited time. So be sure to either pick it up on the 23rd or pre-order it right now.

Jeff: A very worthy cause being supported by that anthology. What an interesting idea to give authors a reason to write outside of their box and try something new. That’s an awesome idea for an anthology. So good job to the organizers of that volume.

Will: Yeah. I can’t wait to dig into these stories.

“Fables Retold: An MM Urban Fantasy Anthology”

And lastly, to wrap up the segment, I want to talk about “Fables Retold: An m/m urban Fantasy Anthology” that offers tales as old as time, re-imagined.

What if your favorite fairytales kicked some serious urban fantasy ass? Fueled by magic, steam and scorching men. This m/m romance anthology has just the thrill that you’re looking for. Six paranormal and urban fantasy authors. Six fairytales retold in modern day. Six gorgeous couples to fall in love with. This is a limited edition anthology that you don’t want to miss that comes with happily ever afters guaranteed.

Some of the fairytale reimaginings contained in this anthology are going to feature a Beauty and the Beast story by Rhys Lawless. Sam Burns with their take on “Puss in Boots.” Thrilling new take on “Bluebeard” by W.M. Fawkes. This I thought was amusing. Morgan. Brice is going to take on “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

Jeff: I can’t imagine to see how that will turn out in her very capable hands.

Will: Meghan Maslow’s going to re-imagine “Rumpelstiltskin.” And Richard Amos is going to take on “Snow White.”

If these urban fantasy re-imagining sound interesting to you, “Fables Retold” is going to be dropping on April 26th.

Jeff: I think that’s going to be pretty incredible. It’s such a lineup there of authors who really know how to handle urban fantasy so well. So I think that’s going to be a lot of fun.

”The Sky Blues” by Robbie Couch

Jeff: So I’m actually going to take a moment here to review a title that is coming out in just a few days. On April 6th, “The Sky Blues,” which is the debut novel from Robbie Couch will be out. This book is so terrific.

“The Sky Blues” has elements of “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda” and the Broadway and movie musical “The Prom” mixed in with something all his own. Set in a touristy town on the coast of Lake Michigan. The town has a rich population right along the lake, but the rest is working class and mostly conservative.

For high school senior Sky, he’s just trying to navigate the last year of school as the gay kid. He’s been thrown out of his house and has been living with his best friend Bree and her family over on the rich side of town. Bree’s family is amazing and I loved them from the moment I met them, taking in Sky, taking care of him as if he’s their own.

Sky’s obsessed with classmate Ali, who he finds very cute. There are no signs that Ali might be gay, but there’s a plan for a promposal to take place during the senior beach party, 30 days away as the book starts. The plans–or at least all the ideas on what the plan could be–take up an entire wall in sky’s room. He and Bree have been working on this thing for months, adding ideas, putting post-it notes, up, writing things on the wall. He’s got the advantage of living in an unfinished basement right now, and the renovations are ongoing, so he can really scribble on anything that he wants.

All hell breaks loose when pictures of the promposal wall, along with a picture of Sky and Ali talking during a party at Ali’s house, are sent in a very homophobic email blast to all of the seniors. Not surprisingly, Sky is devastated and horrified that the wall has been made public.

He’s worked hard to make sure he didn’t come off as “too gay,” liking walking more straight. Even around his other best friend, Marshall, he’s never wanted to show all of who he was, including the promposal plan.

When Sky is eventually coaxed into returning to school, he finds far more support than he expected–and from some unlikely sources, including Ali. Ali’s always been friendly to Sky, and he’s into helping uncover who did this because he’s often seen as everything from “the nerdy brown kid” to “terrorist.”

What happens is an incredible banding together of an array of people to support Sky and push back against the racist, homophobic bigots at school. At the same time, Sky, Bree, Marshall and Ali try to find out who hacked the email since the school is being painfully slow about it…while at the same time trying to force the student body to go back to “normal” rather than protesting. I don’t want to give up too much on what happens here–there’s an interesting, fun mystery to unfold on how the email blast and even more there’s the stories of so many people who surface along the way. Sky’s high school had more people than just him trying to fly under the radar and all of you should have the same thrill at discovering these as I did.

At the same time, Sky is also getting more clues about his father, who had passed away when Sky was too young to really remember him. While his mom and older brother are quite simply terrible people (I really wanted to punch both of them), Sky’s father turns out to be quite remarkable. Sky needed to find out about this man at this moment in his life. This subplot is so tender and such a perfect counterbalance to what’s happening at the school.

Got to give a shout out just awesome adults in this story too. It’s always important. I think, for young adult novels to have a solid adult supporting cast around them. I mentioned Bree’s parents and the certainly top the list of great adults. Sky means as much to them as their own kids and they make sure he’s equal parts supported but also nudged back on track when needed. Yearbook advisor Ms. Winter is also the kind of teacher every kid needs–she’s tough, caring and helpful. Ms. Winter goes above and beyond too in so many ways.

Sky has a hell of a ride in “The Sky Blues” and I loved it. Robbie has done a great job of blending so many story elements together, including rom com and a couple of mysteries, to create a story with great emotional impact. It shows how you need friends who see you for you. But that you also have to believe in your friends enough to show them who you are. At the same time, it shows how little we all know about each other and the dangers in assuming you know what’s going on for somebody else. Luckily, Robbie delivers these messages in a tremendously satisfying way without getting too preachy.

I can’t wait to see what Robbie delivers next. And I definitely recommend his debut with “The Sky Blues. And I’m happy to note that Robbie is actually going to be joining us in episode 301 on April 8th, to tell us more about this.

Will: And when does that come out?

Jeff: The book will be out on April 6th. So just in a few days.

Will: Good. Something else to look forward to.

”Served Hot” by Annabeth Albert

Jeff: So to break away from this episode’s unintentional theme of looking forward, I would like to talk about a book that has been around for a while.

Jeff: Do I need to push the buttons on the way back now?

Will: Recently I came across, “Served Hot” by Annabeth Albert again. I noticed that it’s got a fresh new look. The publisher gave it a new cover and it really caught my interest. So I decided to give it a reread. And no surprise, I enjoyed it just as much now as I did a couple of years ago, when it first came out.

For those of you who haven’t yet read this series by Annabeth Albert “Served Hot” is about Robby and he’s got a pretty big crush on David, the cute business guy who stops by his coffee cart every afternoon. They run into each other at Portland Pride, the only problem is that Robby is terrible at flirting and David is pretty bad at picking up the hints that Robby is trying to drop. Despite the awkwardness, they do share a really intense kiss. When Robby asks David out, he says no.

A few days later, David stops by the coffee cart to explain that he’s still working through the grief of losing someone he was in a relationship with for more than a decade. He likes Robby a lot, but ‘getting back out there’ is hard.

They make a date for brunch and it becomes their regular thing. David is the sweetest, most kind and thoughtful guy Robby has ever dated, and he’s okay with taking things slow – but he’s getting antsy and wouldn’t mind if things got more physical. David doesn’t seem to be in any rush though.

He brings Robby to a soccer game that his company has box seats for. He sems to be testing the waters of being out and in a relationship at work. Later they go back to David’s place to finally indulge in the carnal activities that Robby has been craving. It was definitely worth the wait.

After the amazing night (and terrific morning follow-up), Robby sees a framed photo of the dead boyfriend, prompting a discussion of the topic they’ve long avoided. He was closeted sheriff’s deputy who insisted that his relationship with David be kept a secret. After the traumatic way he died, David wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to sleep with another man, let alone have any kind of serious relationship.

For several months everything is great, but Robby doesn’t always know how to ask for what he wants, which isn’t helped by the fact that David doesn’t know how to offer. It seems their relationship is always one step forward, two steps back. David choses to spend valentine’s weekend with his family instead of with Robby, putting a further strain on things.

When David doesn’t seem able to commit to their future, Robby calls things off, which leaves both of them miserable. After a week, David comes over and opens up about everything that has been holding him back, primarily anger at his ex and how it kept him from embracing what was so special about his relationship with Robby.

A successful visit with David’s family leads to them picking out paint colors for their new place in the Spring. The happiness and security they’ve both craved for so long has finally been found… they’ve found it in each other.

One of the things I feel was so special about Robby and David’s story is that the author navigates their issues without bogging things down with a ton of angst. That certainly doesn’t mean that Annabeth Albert glosses things over… not by a long shot. But there was a sweet simplicity to this story about two nice guys, doing nice things, and falling in love, that I really responded to.

Jeff: It certainly becomes something that we both like a lot these days, nice guys doing nice things

Will: Yeah, after the last four years. I think these kinds of stories I’m being drawn to more and more.

I also liked how David was able, with Robby’s patience and guidance, to work through the issues in his past. There was a lot of toxic baggage that came from his closeted relationship with his ex. It was Robby who really opened David’s eyes to the possibilities of what a genuinely loving and supportive relationship could be.

Isn’t that what romance fiction is all about… the hope and joy of loving someone and being loved in return? I think that’s the real reason “Served Hot” makes me so dang swoony, it’s a wonderful example of the possibilities of love and romance in fiction. This novella serves as an irresistible introduction to the author’s “Portland Heat” series. And if you haven’t given it a try, I highly recommend it.

Wrap Up

Jeff: All right. So we hope we’ve given you some good ideas of some things to read in the month of April.

Now, this episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation for yourself, Simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode Don’t forget the shownotes page also has links to everything we’ve talked about in this episode.

You’ll also find on that page notations for audiobooks that are also available on, which will include “The Sky Blues.” Remember when you buy an audiobook from, you are also supporting a local bookstore of your choice, which is such an awesome thing to do. The app is super easy to use. Plus, as a listener of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, you are eligible to get started with a two month audio book membership for the price of one. To get details on that deal, simply go to

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for this episode. Coming up on Monday in episode number 300 Everina Maxwell will join us to talk about her debut novel, “Winter’s Orbit.”

Jeff: I can’t believe you just got to say episode 300. It is so cool.

So if you remember back in episode 287, I actually reviewed this sci-fi romance about a prince and a duke who are forced to marry for the sake of an intergalactic treaty. I adored this book so much and I had a really great time talking to Everina. So look forward to bringing that to you next week.

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.