Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff & Will talk about movies they’ve watched recently: the HBO documentaryTina, Late Night with Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson, the Amy Poehler-directed Moxie, and documentary The Last Blockbuster.

They also have book reviews, including Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera, The Gentleman and the Lamplighter by Summer Devon, A Friend in the Dark by Gregory Ashe & C.S. Poe, Bridesmates by Sydney Smyth, and Schooling the Jock by Eli Easton & Tara Lain.

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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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.


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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re going to tell you all about the incredible books we’ve been reading and the movies that we’ve been watching.

Will: Welcome to episode 302 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss with me as always is my co-host Mr. Jeff Adams.

Jeff: Hello everybody.

This podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thank you to Kati and to Maartje for joining the community recently. If you want information about the bonus content we offer our patrons, go to

Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad she can join us for another episode.

Jeff: Yes, indeed we are. Before we get into all of our reviews for this week, I’m going to tell you about a little bit of a chance that you may have already noticed on our shownotes page. Of course, we always link you to all of the books that we talk about in the show, and we’ve offered Amazon links since we started the show back in 2015.

Last year, we added links to to provide you another place to get audiobooks. And as you know, if you’ve heard us talk about it on the show, we love because of their support for local bookstores.

Now we’ve also recently added links to Kobo so that you’ll know when a book is available outside of Amazon. We heard from a couple of our listeners who, for various reasons, need or want to make a purchase outside of Amazon. So as we put the shownotes together for each episode, anytime that we find a book that’s not in Kindle Unlimited, which is usually a sign that it’s available on a wider basis, we’ll look to see if that book is on Kobo. If it is, we will put that link into the shownotes as well.

Of course, book availability is always subject to change. But, at least as an episode comes out, you will know what the options are. And thanks to the folks who got in touch with us to encourage us to make this change. We’re very happy to make the book buying experience as easy as possible so that you can add books to your TBR.


Will: So before we get to this week’s book review segment, Jeff and I wanted to talk quickly about some of the movies that we have been watching recently. Some things that we’ve enjoyed, things that we found inspiring.


The first that we think is definitely worth mentioning is the recent documentary “Tina,” available on HBO Max.

Tina Turner’s talent is a secret to nobody with all of her hits, her incredibly long and successful career. The details about her life story featured in her book, “I, Tina” and the bio pic “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

You might think that a documentary covering her life and career might be a little bit redundant. But, we are here to tell you that is not. It is spectacular. It is wonderful. It’s entertaining. It’s inspiring.

“Tina,” the new documentary essentially covers the entirety of her life and career up unto this point from her humble beginnings to her time with Ike Turner to her breakout solo career and her life is she currently lives it in Zurich.

Jeff: I’ve been a fan of Tina for forever. I discovered her music first in a class I actually took in college. I took a class in rock and roll music. It was a summer class. It fulfilled a humanities credit, and I was really into music in my high school and college years. I got introduced to some of the groundbreaking part that she and Ike played in some of the music, back in the sixties and seventies. And then really focused on some of the work that she did with Phil Spector as well because Phil Spector played such a piece of rock and roll history, of course.

And then everything that she did through the nineties and the early two thousands. So it was really interesting to see this laid out again in a new way, from how it was done in “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and how it went forward from there. Essentially, she made her farewell appearance in the States late in 2019 when she attended the opening of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” on Broadway. That was designed to be her farewell to her US fans.

To hear her sit down and go through everything essentially one last time to put her story out there, it was, as you said, really inspiring. To see everything that she’d overcome and all of the success that she achieved to really hopefully finding a little bit of peace with her current husband living in Zurich.

I absolutely loved this. HBO is doing such amazing music documentaries. Recently we talked a few weeks back about the BeeGees documentary as well. So yeah, some really good stuff there.

Will: This documentary’s entertaining and inspiring in a number of different ways. Something that struck me as I was watching it is, I think sometimes when you live your life alongside an artist’s career that you forget about the volume of content that they’ve created over their lifetime. I felt that way when I went and saw the musical based on Gloria and Emilio Estefan, as that show was packed with hit after hit, after hit. And you’re like, Oh yeah, I love all these songs. And I felt the same way as we were watching this documentary. It’s like, oh God, yeah, Tina’s been around for forever. She’s been kicking ass for forever.

And that documentary highlights that with some really spectacular historical stuff that’s probably never been seen before, or at least hasn’t been seen recently.

Jeff: Hmm, like the Olivia Newton-John, Toni Tennille TV special

Will: Oh my God. That was beautiful. I would give anything to see that.

Jeff: Yeah. I don’t even know what network did it, but it was back in the day where they would do all these wacky TV musical specials. It with an Olivia Newton-John special that somehow Tina and Toni were involved in. We need to track that down on YouTube. If it exists.

Will: If it’s out there, that would be amazing. But yeah, rare footage and footage that has not been seen in high definition ever. The documentary features a lot of really spectacular concert footage, most of which has been released to the public on VHS and all recorded in standard def. So the chance to actually see this remastered in HD is kind of rare and unique and kind of wonderful and a real showcase for her talent.

Late Night

Will: Jeff and I have also been catching up on a few movies lately. We saw “Late Night,” and it’s available on Amazon right now and most other streaming services.

This is a really delightful and insightful comedy written by and starring Mindy Kaling, who gets her shot as a diversity hire to be part of the writer’s room of a long running late night television show, hosted by Emma Thompson. The interactions between Thompson’s character and Mindy Kaling are of course, really funny and insightful as they sort of deal with the certain levels of hierarchy between talent and the writer’s room. And what goes on behind the scenes of a late night show.

The plot of the movie really focuses on how Emma Thompson has been doing this for a really long time, perhaps, maybe a little too long. She’s grown complacent and the network is threatening to replace her. It’s through the new set of eyes provided by Mindy Kaling that they start to shake things up and started to rediscover their joy and their passion.

Jeff: It was an interesting look behind the scenes of a late night show. There’ve been other movies and documentaries that have done it, but this one did it in a really interesting way, because not only was it just behind the scenes of late night but it was a woman hosting the late night show. Of course that hasn’t happened in US television in decades since back when Joan Rivers had her show on Fox.

But also I really love the trajectory of Mindy’s character because not only is she the diversity hire to this show, she came to the show from a chemical plant. She was working as some quality assurance person at this chemical plant, but she had been studying the show that she went to work on for years. She was a super fan. She understood the show. She even understood how the show had become complacent before she went to work there. The fact that she got in there as somebody with no writing history at all and what she did. It was a really nice kind of dual plotline running between Mindy coming into this job and being able to essentially play with the big boys, but also how Emma Thompson’s late night host’s character evolved as she was having her career threatened by the network and really seeing where her career had gone wrong. It was funny, but also had some really nice dramatic elements to, I really enjoyed it.


Will: Something else we really enjoyed recently was the Netflix comedy “Moxie.” It was directed by and costars Amy Poehler. It’s about a teenage girl who’s living her life and doing her thing in high school when the new girl in school shakes things up and sort of opens her eyes to all of the patriarchal bullshit that surrounds their everyday lives.

And she’s really angry. And she talks with her mom. She wants to know what she can do about it. She takes inspiration from her mom, Amy Poehler, and her riot girl past. And what she decides to do is she makes a zine and calls it “Moxie,” and she starts distributing it trough school. It’s sort of a feminist manifesto that riles everybody up. She ends up forming a Moxie group with some of her like-minded friends.

This, of course, leads to clashes with the school administration who are heavily invested in upholding the patriarchy. So hilarious, and drama and enlightenment ensues.

Jeff: Was such an enjoyable film. I mean, Amy Poehler for one thing. Having Amy Poehler direct something it’s like having Mindy Kaling writing something. These two women are just brilliant at presenting comedy that also makes you look at important themes.

Will: Social commentary.

Jeff: Social commentary, yes. And it just all came together here.

I feel like this movie sits alongside other shows like HBO Max’s “Generation,” “Good Trouble” on Freeform. Books, like the one we talked to Robbie Couch about last week with “The Sky Blues.” These all have similar social commentary themes and are really pushing back on the patriarchy for all of the, just as you put it, bullshit they’ve put everybody through. This movie just nailed what it was doing and some of the nuances too. The girl who starts the Moxie club, it causes a lot of friction with her very best friend in the world who was comfortable living the life that she had on her trajectory to college. She didn’t understand why her friend was all of a sudden causing all of this uprising. So it was interesting to see that too. How the two friends had their falling out, but then came back together at the end. It was really enlightening and fun and more people should be shaking up the patriarchy.

The Last Blockbuster

Jeff: One last thing that we watched recently was “The Last Blockbuster” over on Netflix. This is a documentary about the very last Blockbuster Video that is still open in Bend, Oregon. They’ve even managed to survive the pandemic and continue to be a video store in this small middle Oregon town.

It’s a very interesting look at the cycle of the Blockbuster Video company from being the dominant force in video in the U S to having essentially been wiped off the map everywhere except in Bend, Oregon.

I knew a lot of the Blockbuster story. There were pieces of it that I didn’t know, that it wasn’t really Netflix that destroyed the company. There were a lot of other factors going on besides the rising of DVD distribution by mail and then eventually streaming. But the interesting thing to me in the whole story was how this one Blockbuster has managed to keep itself going, managed to keep the name of the store and really be this community spot in the town that they’re in. Reminded me in a lot of ways of what the local, independent bookstore can be in a community.

It also was extremely nostalgic for me because I spent about three years during college working in a mom and pop video store in Alabama. And so revisiting the concept of renting out videos and interacting with customers, and getting the returns back from the return bin, and people circling to see what people are returning on a Friday night. It was like, Oh, I remember those days.

I never worked at a blockbuster. And in fact, Blockbuster did ultimately, in Tuscaloosa, wipe out most of the independent video stores ultimately including the ones I worked at, although I was already had moved on by the time that Blockbuster did that damage.

But it’s a really nice documentary that tell us a little bit about how Blockbuster died, but really the heart of the movie is the family that runs this last Blockbuster. So if you want to have a little nostalgia on video stores and also hear from a lot of celebrities who either have fond memories of video stores or who actually worked in Blockbusters in the early part of their careers check out “The Last Blockbuster” on Netflix.

Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera

Jeff: So moving over to books.

Adam Silvera left us on a big old cliffhanger at the of “Infinity Son” with many characters in peril, including our two heroes–one on the brink of death and one making an incredibly bad choice. I’m going to do my best to dodge and weave around spoilers for either book. I’ll say right here that I loved “Infinity Reaper” even more than the first book as things get even more intense for Emil, Brighton and their gang of friends and heroes. Now if you want to avoid that possibility of spoilers, go ahead and skip forward about five minutes.

I will say that “Infinity Reaper” opens exactly where “Infinity Son” left off as we get through the end of the big battle over the phoenix’s blood and who might drink it. Brighton showed exactly how desperate he was for powers by drinking it down before getting Emil to safety. When I talked to Adam in episode 291 about “Infinity Reaper” he said “everything that could go wrong goes wrong” and that only scratches the surface of it.

I loved how many plot threads are in this book, and it’s all made possible with the multiple characters who have points of view. The core is, of course, Emil and Brighton. Emil wants desperately to bind his powers, and that of all like him, to put an end to the ongoing battle. Emil is also desperate to do right by everyone close to him, even if it’s not doing great things for him. Brighton crackles with eagerness as he figures out, mostly, how to use his powers. He’s a bit power mad really as he seems to have lost a fair bit of common sense because he mainly wants to shoot first and ask questions later. Maribelle’s also out to avenge her lost love by any means necessary.

The major plot centers with presidential candidate Senator Iron, who happens to be Ness’s father. We met Ness in the first book–is he a good guy, bad guy, something in between? He and Emil had some spark too. Turns out Ness is pretty damn awesome, but also underprepared for some of the things he has to do. His father is simply evil as he works to manipulate the American people into electing him by using the very people he wants to destroy to help him push his message. It’s intense, intriguing and Adam did an amazing job making this into a page turner.

Among my favorite things in this book, Emil and Brighton’s trip to strong hold where the phoenixes live. In this alternative world where so much is recognizable, this is truly a place of magic and wonder where phoenixes and their human counterparts live. Watching Emil move through this place, learn more about the animals he loves and finding company with some people just like him made me crazy happy, but also provided some of the more heart wrenching moments in the story, while also providing some really emotionally powerful moments too.

I am very much Team Emil and rooting for him to accomplish his goal of helping to end the war in the most peaceful way possible, and to find peace for himself. That said, I also quite enjoy Brighton’s story–he’s so eager, so excited to jump into the fray and yet he’s so volatile if he perceives that anyone is trying to slight him for doing what he thinks is right. Of course, what he thinks is right, often isn’t truly right. The interesting thing, at least in the way I read it, is that Brighton could easily go down the same path as the very people he’s trying to stop. Most of all, I love how Adam brings Emil and Brighton to the page, different sides of the same coin. There are fundamental things they both want–such as safety for their loved ones–but very different approaches.

One of the other things I loved is how there’s so much action on the page and so many different types. There are some tremendous escapes and really incredible rescues and fight sequences. I love how Adam presents these, often shifting around points of view during the battle so we can to get action from multiple sides. Just as important though are the quiet moments between battles, especially with Emil but also some great moments with Brighton and Prudencia.

I loved my second visit to this alternate New York with Infinity Reaper and can’t wait for the third and final book to come out next year to see how Adam Silvera ends this saga.

The Gentleman and the Lamplighter by Summer Devon

Will: Well from your urban fantasy, I’d like to switch things up and talk about the historical, “The Gentlemen and the Lamplighter” by Summer Devon.

So in this story, Giles can’t sleep after the loss of someone dear to him, so he walks the streets of London alone in his sorrow. One night, just before dawn, he encounters a lamplighter shutting off the gas lamps on his street. They end up chatting. John has always been curious about Giles, the man he’s seen so often taking solitary walks, that he comes up with fanciful tales to explain Giles’ nocturnal constitutionals.

Giles finds he looks forward to accompanying John as he makes his rounds. Strolling through the quiet and darkened streets, they talk about a number of things, ranging from benign pleasantries to the emotional burden of their own individual losses.

John admits that, before he lost his wife, they had a unique understanding concerning their preferences for companionship. This leads Giles to safely confide, in the most vague and gentlemanly way possible, that he loved the man that he lost.

John’s invitation for tea gives them the opportunity to explore their interest in one another. A gentle kiss, a soft caress, leads to an enthusiastic and emotionally freeing tumble in John’s bed.

His newfound happiness leads Giles to finally face talking to the widow of the man he loved. While he is out of town getting some closure, John interprets Giles’ absence as a rebuke of their night together. It is too painful to walk past Giles’ house every night, so he switches routes with another lamplighter.

When John no longer shows up on his rounds, Giles goes for a walk and comes across a bookstore that John mentioned that he liked. Johns love of books and the theatre were often a topic of their conversations. The shop keep explains to Giles that John is not only fond of literature and the theatre, but he is a playwright as well.

When John walks in, they are joyfully reunited and Giles explains that if his short time with John has proven anything, it’s that he’d much rather choose happiness over sorrow. The gentleman and the lamplighter/playwright definitely have a lot more happiness in their lives together to look forward to. okay.

What struck me about this story is there’s a wonderful sense of gentle kindness at play in this charming historical novella. When Giles and John take their walks, they’re able to discuss things and support one another in ways that no one else in their lives can. They are both working through feelings of loss and it’s through those discussions they realize that, not only are they in love, but they’re capable of coming to terms with their sadness to find joy on the other side.

So thank you to summer Devin for writing such an incredibly sweet and gentle story. I also want to give a quick shout out to Mark James, who I thought did a particularly good job in narrating the audiobook as well.

Jeff: Just the title of this book sounds so swoony. Perfect. I mean, the gentleman in the lamplighter, it just sounds like you’re going to get something very sweet.

I’m so glad you enjoyed that and got to continue your historical track a little bit as well.

A Friend in the Dark by Gregory Aske & C.S. Poe

Jeff: I’m going to swing us back to New York now, although modern day New York, and we’re going to dive into a mystery.

“A Friend in the Dark” by Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe was such a treat. As I’ve been working my way back into romantic suspense this year, I’m glad to be back reading Gregory, who is one of my favorite authors in the genre. This is also my first mystery suspense book from C.S. Poe as I’ve previously only read her contemporary romances (which is actually quite a gap in my reading and one I’ve known that I need to fix for some time now).

“A Friend in the Dark” is book one of the “Auden and O’Callaghan Mysteries “and we open with Rufus O’Callaghan finding a dead body. Among the things that Rufus does to earn a living is being a confidential informant to the police. An officer he works with has called him to come get details on something that needs to be picked up. On arrival, Rufus finds the detective dead.

Sam Auden makes the trip to New York City because of the death of his friend. The detective and Sam served together in the Army and were quite close, and at times intimate friends. Word that his friend died by suicide doesn’t seem right to him at all–that’s not the guy he knew. He comes to the city to find out what happens. When he arrives at the apartment, he finds Rufus hanging out eating a bag of chips. I have to say that this moment is one of the cutest meet-cutes that shouldn’t be a meet cute ever. Rufus tries to play off that he belongs in the apartment and Sam trying to explain why he broke in. Neither of these guys is particularly gone at playing their roles in this moment and try to bluster their way through it. It’s a wonderful bringing together of two men who don’t want to work with the other, but see the need too…. Along with the slightest bit of spark too.

Rufus and Sam both want to figure out who killed their friend. On the other hand working together doesn’t come easy at all. Sam has so many issues, especially being in the hustle and bustle of NYC. He’s got some PTSD and other things going on and, except for down and dirty hookups he’s not much for people. Rufus on the other hand has lived on the streets for much of his life. He’s not trusting, but he’s wildly smart and is more apt to steal a book than anything else. Rufus and Sam complement each other in many ways because their minds approach issues differently that can often lead them to some breakthroughs. But they’ve got to push through a lot to get to the place where they’re actually good at working together.

The mystery at hand here is as twisty and turny as anything I’ve ever read from Gregory’s “Hazard and Somerset” or “Borealis Investigations” series. And Greg and Carol together have created an intense, interesting case to solve that also doesn’t get overly dark even as it deals with some quite serious issues. Essentially, there’s a double mystery here because it’s not only what happened to their friend, the detective, but why it happened in the first place and what he was investigating that put him in such danger.

It was just brilliant as Sam and Rufus, neither of them being in law enforcement in any way, unless you want to count Rufus’s side thing as a confidential informant, do some incredible sleuthing. Jessica Fletcher would have been so impressed with the amateurs thing in progress here. And I was really blown away by the reveals. It was truly jaw dropping what happened here.

The mystery actually goes much better than the romance here. It’s quite difficult for these two, even with the definite desire between them, to actually come together. In the moments when it does they are amazingly sweet but when it doesn’t it’s rough going. That these two quite different people with all that the carry have a shot is wonderful. Full disclosure, book one does not end with a happy for these guys. That said, knowing how long it too Gregory to finally let Hazard and Sommers have a happy, I’m sure that Sam and Rufus will sort it out in the coming books because I loved everything about this mystery and these guys.

Speaking of coming books, “A Friend in the Fire” releases on April 29. And I’m happy to say that Gregory Ashe and C.S. Poe are going to be on the podcast on Monday, May 3 to talk all about the “Auden & O’Callaghan Mysteries” and what brought them together to write. Spoiler alert. It actually started at GRL 2019 in Albuquerque during a panel that will moderated. And you’ll have to tune into the interview to hear more about that.

So congratulations on bringing these two authors together for such a good book.

Will: You’re welcome world.

Bridesmates by Sydney Smyth

Will: So from a mystery thriller to a really delightful romcom, I want to talk about “Bridesmates” by Sydney Smyth.

Cooper is accused of being commitment-phobic and he gets dumped by his boyfriend just before leaving for a weekend wedding. Cooper heads to Montana where he’ll serve as maid of honor (or Bridesmate) for his best friend Lisa, who is marrying her long-time beau Travis.

After arriving in Big Sky county, he is pulled over by the local sheriff’s deputy, who just so happens to be former high school star quarterback and small-town golden boy Will – the guy Coop shared a very sexy kiss with ten years ago, after a Friday night football game.

Cooper is having trouble handling his rental car (it’s a stick shift), so Will drives him into town. On the short ride there he learns that Will is now out of the closet and he will also be Travis’ best man, so they’ll be seeing whole lot more of each other over the next few days.

In a conversation with Lisa involving copious amounts of wine, she asks Cooper that since he and Will are both single, why not have some fun? On their drive, Will didn’t mention The Kiss. That means Will either doesn’t remember it, or it meant nothing to him. A heartbreaking thought since it meant so much to Cooper.

At the wedding rehearsal, Coop and Will are asked to wrangle the ringbearer, Lisa and Travis’ Great Dane, Fred. Once that’s handled, and after rehearsal dinner is over, they share a few tequila shots and a rousing karaoke duet of ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’. It’s then that Cooper decides to take his shot and kisses Will. He shoots. He scores. Will invites Cooper back to his place.

After a passionate night together (and a sexy morning follow up), Coop realizes that his commitment issues might be due to the fact he’s been in love with someone for the past ten years. Hint: that someone is Will.

It isn’t until the ceremony that they’re able to talk about what happened the night before. Cooper’s insecurity about that long-ago kiss, and Will’s inability to acknowledge whatever it is that they have, leads to misunderstanding and miscommunication.

The ceremony is beautiful and at the reception, Cooper concludes his bridesmate’s duties with a heartfelt toast about the bride and groom and the joy of ‘finding your person’.

Sick over his missed opportunity with Will, Coop leaves the reception early.

The next morning, driving his rental car to the airport, he gets pulled over again. It’s Will, sleepless and still in his tux from the day before. He explains that Coop left before he could give his toast in which he agreed with everything Cooper said in his speech, and that he ‘found his person before he truly even found himself’. And by ‘his person’, he of course means Coop.

On the side of the road, they share the cutest, rom-comy admission of love. Six months later, we get a brief glimpse of their life together in Montana, and the wonderful things their future holds.

Now, you all know, I love a good small town, contemporary romance and “Bridesmates” delivered, everything I could have ever wanted and a whole lot more. And also, hey, nice guy heroes, ding, ding, ding. Cooper and Will are likeable and endearing – a pair of guys that are easy to root for. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, who in their own ways were all working hard to make sure our guys achieved their happily ever after. This novella has got so much heart and humor. A genuine, feel-good read if ever there was one.

A small town romance filled with charm also a second chance romance and you all know, I love those. So thank you to Sydney Smyth for crafting a story that I absolutely adored and also kudos to Teddy Hamilton. He does a wonderful job giving voice to the characters and bringing the story to life.

I want to quickly note that bridesmaids is an Audible Original and is available through the Audible app and on Amazon. Because it’s an Audible Original, it is not available at this point in time in either ebook or paperback.

Jeff: That sounded absolutely delightful, as a romcom should be. I’m glad you got to try out an Audible Original. I keep seeing the ads for those and I’ve been wondering kind of what they’re jumping into, essentially what I would call audio fiction, given that there’s no paperback or ebook connection to it. It has been quite interesting. So I look forward to maybe digging into some more of those.

Schooling the Jock by Eli Easton & Tara Lain

Jeff: So I actually do have one actual romance to talk about after doing a mystery and doing some urban fantasy.

I love the jock/nerd trope and all the goodness that it can bring as each person usually discovers something more about themselves. As soon as I saw that Eli Easton and Tara Lain were bringing out a new series about nerds vs. jocks I was intrigued and then the stunning cover for “Schooling the Jock” dropped and I knew this had to vault to the top of my TBR. Holy crap folks did I love this book so, so much as it played with the jock/nerd trope so perfectly.

We’ve got rival frat houses on opposite sides of the street–the super smart Sigma Mu Tau–or the Poindexters as the jocks call them–and the football players of Alpha Lambda Alpha. House, or the A-holes as the nerds call them.

[Will laughs]

Jeff: Right? It’s a good name.

They play pranks, talk trash and generally don’t like each other. One prank goes very wrong though as the SMT’s nearly burn down the ALA house. The dean of students has had enough–either these guys learn to work together or the houses disband. He directs that the SMT’s have to add members of the ALAs to their quiz bowl teams and the ALA’s have to add SMTs to their flag football teams. This is serious because these aren’t just leisure activities, they’re very competitive, nationally ranked competitions.

Quiz bowl captain Dobbs is stuck with footballer Jesse and has just a matter of weeks to get Jesse ready to compete at a regional quiz bowl that is now a requirement since the SMTs are bringing on a new-to-quiz-bowl-competitor in the middle of the season. No one is happy. Dobbs doesn’t want his team messed up. Jesse has a ton of other commitments between training and the nursing degree he’s pursuing. But no one wants the houses disbanded, plus there’s a side bet on which house will do better in the new competition they have to play in.

And here’s the first thing I loved about this book. Usually the jock is the alpha in these scenarios, bringing the nerd out of his shell and things like that. Dobbs doesn’t need any confidence boost or to break out of a shell. He’s just as much alpha as Jesse is. What makes this so good though is there’s slightly different alphas–each has their thing, but when they clash they both know how to wield their power.

Despite all the rivalry, both guys feel a bit of a pull toward each other in the looks department. Dobbs is out and proud, but Jesse not so much. He’s not quite sure what to do with his feelings because he’s suppressed himself for so long because being gay just can’t work for with the life he has. The more time he spends with Dobbs, the more some of his defenses crumble though. It’s cute, it’s sweet, it’s tender…but also terrifying for him.

Dobbs discovers there’s a lot more to Jesse than he ever imagined. When he’s forced to go home with Jesse because of a family emergency, but yet they also have to study, he finds that he was raised on a farm, has autsitc twin brothers and parents who are good people and trying to take care of their family. He sees a whole different side of Jesse as he works to take care of things at home, and balance school. These sequence warmed my heart so much, and honestly made me weep at times not only seeing Jesse in this environment but also how Dobbs was–taken far out of his element but the amazing affinity he had for Jesse’s brothers.

And the romance… oh wow. As these guys let their defenses down and really get to know each other it’s just so wonderful. For all the bluster, Jesse’s truly a nice guy who just wants to do right and Dobbs learns how to look past the surface and finds that there’s more to books and learning as he makes a real connection. It’s not always easy, especially with the both of their frats caught up in the competition, which sometimes overrides these guys’s decision making. Of course the romance all works out in the end and I adored the epilogue so much.

This is a brilliant world and story set up that Tara and Eli have created. I got caught up in the competition aspect of it, but also Dobbs and Jesse have elevated to be one of my all time favorite couples because their story hit on so many things I love, especially, hey guess what, letting your true self come through and taking care of family and friends. So many awesome feels and I have no doubt this book is going to end up on my ‘best of’ list for the year.

I’ve already started “Coaching the Nerd,” which flips over to looking at one of the nerds who has to go play flag football so you’ll be hearing about that soon. Plus, we’ve got Tara and Eli coming on the show on May 17, which is just a week before the third book, “Head to Head,” comes out on May 25.

Wrap Up

Jeff All right, that will do it for book and movie reviews.

This episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation and the reviews for yourself, you can simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at Don’t forget that shownotes page has a link to everything we talked about in this episode as well.

Will: That will do it for this episode. Coming up next in episode 303, Anna Zabo joins us to talk about their newest book, “Cinnamon Roll,” which is part of the “Bold Brew” shared universe.

Jeff: I’m so excited if we get to have Anna on the show, we’ve wanted them for so very long. And I was excited to see that they were part of this “Bold Brew” universe. So not only did we get to find out about the universe itself, set in the coffee shop, but this book is so very good. So it’s going to be a good conversation.

Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else, keep turning those pages and keep reading.

Jeff: Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you’ll love at Our original theme music is composed by Daryl Banner.