Jeff & Will talk about how happy they are to find m/m romance and LGBTQ+ YA books at their local Barnes & Noble and Target stores. They also discuss some comfort television, including HGTV’s Bargain Block and Nick’s The Barbarian and the Troll.
The guys highlight books they are looking forward to in May: A Husband for Hartwell by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry, May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor, The Guncle by Steven Rowley, Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick, Hard Sell by Hudson Lin, and Just A Little Mischief by Merry Farmer.
Reviews wrap up the show as Jeff talks about Silent Knight by Layla Reyne and Cinnamon Roll by Anna Zabo. Will takes a look at Temple by Avril Ashton.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Cat Sebastian on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Amy Aislin on Amazon | Kobo
- Adam Silvera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Becky Albertalli on Amazon | Kobo | LIbro.fm
- Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Bargain Block on HGTV
- The Barbarian and the Troll on Nick
- A Husband for Hartwell by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry on Amazon (pre-order until May 11, 2021)
- May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until May 18, 2021)
- The Guncle by Steven Rowley on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until May 25, 2021)
- Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until May 25, 2021)
- Hard Sell by Hudson Lin on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until May 25, 2021)
- Just A Little Mischief by Merry Farmer on Amazon
- Silent Knight by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Temple by Avril Ashton on Amazon
- Cinnamon Roll by Anna Zabo on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re taking a look at some of the amazing books coming your way this month.
Will: Welcome to episode 307 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.
As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons, go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Jeff: And as we get started in this preview episode, it seemed like a good idea to talk about some things that we’ve been seeing in our own local bookstores lately. Now it’s always been the case that a lot of independent bookshops carry a nice selection of m/m romance, but lately here in our town, which is just outside of Sacramento in Northern California, we’ve been finding the bigger box stores carrying some wonderful selections of m/m romance and gay YA books as well. At our local Barnes and Noble, we have found books from Annabeth Albert, Cat Sebastian and even independently published titles, such as some by Amy Aislin recently have shown up there. They always seem to carry the latest Carina Adores titles. And it’s been really wonderful to see that representation there. Similarly, good representation has been happening over in the YA section as well with authors like Adam Silvera, Becky Albertalli, and some of the newer YA titles that we’ve seen, including some wonderful ones by authors of color as well. So expanding representation in that store.
And even this past week, which surprised me quite extensively, was finding Alexis Hall’s “Boyfriend Material” in our Target as one of its featured selections. So really excited to see this expansion of m/m romance into stores like that.
We certainly buy a book or two, every time we find a title like that in the stores, so that we show the store that there’s community support for those titles. And we certainly encourage you to do the same if you can pick up those paperback titles when you see them in the big box stores. And hopefully we’ll continue to see that as the publishers continue to roll out these titles into the romance and YA sections.
Feel Good TV
Will: Not only have we been shopping for books recently, but we’ve also been enjoying some feel good television.
Jeff: First up there’s “Bargain Block,” which is a new house flipping show on HGTV. It features partners Keith and Evan who are going through some rundown areas of Detroit, picking up houses for as little as a thousand dollars through a program that’s offered by the city, and then flipping them into some really amazing houses that help to reinvigorate these blocks and reinvigorate these neighborhoods. And give people a beautiful place to live. It’s really amazing watching their couples dynamic. Like I can’t imagine flipping a house by myself, much less with my husband. Cause I think we would drive each other crazy, but these two do it.
And. I would live in any of these houses that these guys have done, because the design aesthetic is really, really something. Even as I look at it as they’re doing it going, “we’re going to do this thing and these colors” and I’m like, really? Then it all turns out beautifully in the end. If you want to check out the work these two are doing you can catch it on HGTV Wednesday nights at nine Eastern.
Something else we’ve been enjoying is a show over on Nickelodeon called “The Barbarian and the Troll.” I don’t really know how well to describe this other than the fact that the title is exactly what it’s about. It’s a barbarian and a troll, and they go off on quests together and do all kinds of really cooky and fun shenanigans.
There’s some great musical numbers that get thrown in here because the troll is essentially singing the exploits of the barbarian. It is ridiculously fun and has become something we look forward to each and every Friday.
Will: It’s funny, and it’s a reverent. It skewers classic fantasy tropes. And it’s got puppets. As Jeff said, we find the adventures of Evan the troll, and Brendar the barbarian utterly hilarious. It’s a comedy that I think all members of your family will enjoy.
Jeff: And if you want to check it out, it’s on Nickelodeon Fridays at seven, and also available on the Nickelodeon app and Paramount Plus.
Will: You keep calling it Nickelodeon. That’s not its name. Only people of our generation know what we’re talking about. It’s on the Nick channel.
Jeff: They don’t call it Nickelodeon anymore? It’s only Nick.
Will: Nick, that’s it?
Jeff: Oh my gosh. Well, there you go. Go to Nick and find it. Seven o’clock on Fridays.
May Book Preview
Will: The month of May is positively jam packed with some amazing book releases. So many books that Jeff and I are looking forward to, and we thought we’d share some of them with you this week.
A Husband for Hartwel by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry
Will: Now for those of you who didn’t think “Bridgerton” was nearly gay enough, and truthfully it wasn’t boy, have we got a book for you? It’s called “A Husband for Hartwell” by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry.
He must marry, or risk his fortune.
The whole of London Society has long assumed Lord William Hartwell will marry his childhood best friend, Lady Rebecca Warrington. After two Seasons, Hartwell remains quite content with bachelorhood–his parents do not. When Hartwell learns they intend to cut his purse strings unless he makes a match this Season, he resigns himself to a marriage of convenience with Becca, and yet he can’t help but be drawn to her younger brother, Warry.
He must marry, or risk his sister’s ruin.
The Viscount Warrington, Warry, is used to being viewed as the tagalong little brother. Now a grown man about to enter his second Season, Warry is desperate to be seen. When Lord Balfour, a handsome older peer, takes Warry under his wing, Warry thinks his dream is finally coming true. Until Balfour reveals his true intent—to make public a letter that will destroy Becca’s reputation, unless Warry agrees to marry him.
Time is running out for both of them.
When an injury forces Warry to recover at Hartwell House, the two succumb to a secret flirtation. But Warry’s sudden announcement of his engagement to Balfour drives Hartwell near mad with jealousy—and right into Becca’s arms. With the clock ticking for Warry to save his sister, will Hartwell discover the truth of Warry’s feelings before it’s too late?
Jeff: You know, six months ago, I wouldn’t have understood a lot of what you just read. The concept of the seasons and how worked up people could get about marriage and not being married at what goes on, and all the society. But of course, I’ve now watched “Bridgerton” and I understand everything you just said.
And I could actually see that story playing out with Lady Whistledown reporting it over here, somewhere adjacent to all of the other news. I kind of want to read that after my “Bridgerton” binge back over Christmas. Kudos to them for building on all the “Birdgerton” terminology that some of us may have learned back there in December too.
Will: Yeah, I think this just sounds too damn delicious. I cannot wait to dig into this particular one. Lots of romance and secrets and behind the scenes social machinations. Ooh, that’s so good.
Another reason I’m definitely interested in reading this particular title is how the authors are exploring the idea of marriage between two men. This was something I also encountered in a story that I read during my 100 Day Challenge. There was a short story where our hero was being wooed by an older, inappropriate suitor. So the other hero had to swoop in and come to his rescue.
And I’m not sure what to exactly call that where the authors are exploring the gay romance tropes in a historical setting and not necessarily remaining true to the actual history of record. Meaning, of course that any men who had a relationship had to keep it secret.
And I’ve certainly read many historicals where that is certainly the case. But coming across some of these newer titles, I think it’s interesting where the relationships between the two main characters are simply a matter of everyday life and we’re taking the gay romance and putting it front and center as part of the social machinations that are so important to historical romance.
I don’t know if there’s an actual term for this particular sub genre of gay historical romance. I think there needs to be so that readers who enjoy this particular exploration of romance in this time period can easily identify it and find their trope catnip much more easily because I’m certainly intrigued by it. I’m definitely more than willing to dive into more books that explore the relationships in this way.
Jeff: So there’s the challenge for everyone. Let’s find a name to call this thing, so it can be properly categorized in blurbs.
Will: That’s “A Husband for Hartwell,” which is the first book in the “Lords of Bucknall Club” series by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry. And that is headed our way May 11th.
May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor
Will: The next book I want to talk about is “May the Best Man Win” in which a trans boy enters a throwdown battle for the title of homecoming king with the boy he dumped last summer in Z Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.
Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?
Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.
When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.
Jeff: This title’s been on my radar for a while, along with several other trans-focused YA books that are on the way this summer. These books are always important, but even more so now in the anti-trans culture that we’re living in, in the U S with so many state legislatures having bills on the table that target trans, especially trans youth. I think books like this are super important to get into people’s hands. And this story, I think, sounds like a real winner.
Will: Yeah. I can’t wait to give this one a try. I think it’s a really interesting and intriguing twist on the lovers to enemies to lovers again, trope. I can’t wait to give it a try. It’s “May the Best Man Win” by ZR Ellor and that’s going to be releasing on May 18th.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Will: The next book I want to talk about is from bestselling author Steven Rowley.
And a tagline reads. a warm and deeply funny novel about a once-famous gay sitcom star whose unexpected family tragedy leaves him with his niece and nephew for the summer.
If that’s not a set up for a sticom, I don’t know what it is.
Jeff: Exactly right.
Will: It’s “The Guncle” by Steven Rowley. Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick, GUP, for short, has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is, honestly, overwhelmed.
So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled acting career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting–even if temporary–isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
Jeff: I’m looking forward to digging into this book. It sounds completely adorable and heartwarming. I mean, just kind of everything you would want in a nice summertime read. Throw in a couple of kids, you know, it’s got all the setup of a book that I imagine will make me laugh and make me cry at the same time.
Will: Yeah. This gay Auntie Mame setup is just too delicious to resist. I can’t wait to read this one either. It’s called “The Gungle” by Steven Rowley and it’s coming out on May 25th.
Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick
Their love story captivated, the world. The crown Prince and that guy from New York.
And that’s a tagline for “Playing the Palace,” the new romantic comedy from author Paul Rudnick, whose name may or may not sound familiar to you. He is an essayist and playwright best known for his play “Jeffrey.” He’s also a well-respected screenwriter. He wrote “Addams Family Values” and the movie “In and Out.”
In this new book, a lonely American event planner starts dating the gay Prince of Wales and in a royal uproar ensues. Is it true love or the ultimate meme? Find out in this hilarious romantic comedy. Here’s the blurb for “Playing the Palace.”
After having his heart trampled on by his cheating ex, Carter Ogden is afraid love just isn’t in the cards for him. He still holds out hope in a tiny corner of his heart, but even in his wildest dreams he never thought he’d meet the Crown Prince of England, much less do a lot more with him. Yes, growing up he’d fantasized about the handsome, openly gay Prince Edgar, but who hadn’t? When they meet by chance at an event Carter’s boss is organizing, Carter’s sure he imagined all that sizzling chemistry. Or was it mutual?
This unlikely but meant-to-be romance sets off media fireworks on both sides of the Atlantic. With everyone having an opinion on their relationship and the intense pressure of being constantly in the spotlight, Carter finds ferocious obstacles to his Happily Ever After, including the tenacious disapproval of the Queen of England. Carter and Prince Edgar fight for a happy ending to equal their glorious international beginning. It’s a match made on Valentine’s Day and in tabloid heaven.
Prince trope. Prince trope!
Jeff: Which you know, was one of my very favorite things. I think it’s going to be a battle to see which of us gets to this book.
Not to mention that it’s Paul Rudnick. I mean, I love his previous books. I love his plays. I love his movies. It can’t help, but be a wonderful book especially because prince trope.
And hopefully it’ll just become a movie as well. Cause I would be all over that.
Will: Oh, God. Yeah. That’d be amazing. “Playing the Palace” comes out on May 25th.
Hard Sell by Hudson Lin
Will: Another title that we’re each also looking forward to is “Hard Sell” by Hudson Lin.
And for these two characters, one night wasn’t enough.
Danny Ip walks into every boardroom with a plan. His plan for struggling tech company WesTec is to acquire it, shut it down, and squeeze the last remaining revenue out of it for his Jade Harbour Capital portfolio. But he didn’t expect his best friend’s younger brother—the hottest one-night stand he ever had—to be there.
Tobin Lok has always thought the world of Danny. He’s funny, warm, attractive—and totally out of Tobin’s league. Now, pitted against Danny at work, Tobin might finally get a chance to prove he’s more than just Wei’s little brother.
It takes a lot to get under Danny’s skin, but Tobin is all grown up in a way Danny can’t ignore. Now, with a promising patent on the line and the stakes higher than ever, all he can think about is getting Tobin back into his bed—and into his life for good.
Okay. Number one, this cover. It’s amazing. From the moment both of us saw it we were like, hell yes, they are serving up high fashion, executive realness. It is so hot. It’s like a blend between Harlequin Presents and “Dynasty.” It is glamour. It is everything. I love it this book cover.
Jeff: They are such the power couple on that book cover. You just know they sat for that portrait once they got to their happy ever after at the end. That’s like the next thing that they did probably. It’s such a good cover. As we opened the month, I’ve read the beginning of the book and it just starts off and these two pop on the page so much.
Yeah, it’s, it’s a good one.
Will: If best friend’s younger brother is your trope catnip. Then definitely check this one out.
Jeff: And make sure to join us on May 24th because Hudson Lin will be here talking about this book. And we don’t only talk about “Hard Sell,” but we also talk about a couple of other amazing projects that she works on as well. So you don’t want to miss that
Will: Keep an eye out for “Hard Sell.” It is coming your way May 25th.
Just a Little Mischief by Merry Farmer
Will: And lastly, I’d like to close things out with another historical recommendation. It’s called “Just a Little Mischief” by Merry Farmer.
Valet Xavier Lawrence hasn’t seen much of the world. So when his employer, the Duke of Selby, takes him along on a transatlantic voyage in pursuit of his missing son and heir, Xavier is thrilled with the opportunity. But the excitement over his first taste of salt air and the sea is nothing to the thrill of an opportunity for a secret affair.
Dancer Alexander Plushenko is on his way to New York to see his family, no idea whether they will accept him or not after a slip in St. James’s Park ended with him spending time in jail for Gross Indecency. The last thing he needs with all of that hanging over him is to meet the dashing and fresh-faced Xavier as soon as the ship leaves port.
Falling in love is easy, but conducting a steamy affair on a crowded ship with few places to hide is another thing entirely. And when more than just Xavier and Zander’s reputations end up at stake, and with a limited time together before the voyage ends, can the two men prevent a disaster and find a reason to stay together?
I’m thinking they’ll find a way to figure it out.
Jeff: I think they probably will. And what a nice twist on forced proximity to stick them in the cruise ship, but also not be alone. I mean, they can’t go many places, but they’re also surrounded by people at the same time.
Will: Yeah, this is an intriguing setup and I can’t wait to see how our two heroes fall in love in this unique situation.
Jeff: I’d be willing to bet it’s not as easy as sharing a cabin together.
Will: “Just a Little Mischief” by Merry Farmer is actually book nine in her “Brotherhood” series and that we’ll be releasing on May 28th.
Silent Knight by Layla Reyne
Jeff: So while we’re looking at May, let’s drop back just a couple of days to a book that came out earlier this week, and that is “Silent Knight” by Layla Reyne.
This is the book I’ve been waiting for since I began Layla Reyne’s “Fog City” series. I’ve been captivated by Holt Madigan, the hacker member of the Madigan clan who often stays back at the base making sure ops run smoothly and using his computer skills to help get things done. He’s essentially the digital assassins in the family of assassins. He’s also dad to an adorable baby girl, Lily, has had his heart and trust stomped on multiple times and is referred to by his brother and sister as the heart of the family and the best of them.
Holt finally gets his story in “Silent Knight” and it was worth the wait for this extraordinary conclusion to “Fog City.” Taking a departure from the other books in the series, “Silent Knight” starts off in the past–fourteen years in the past as 18-year-old private Madigan steps off a plane in Afghanistan, one of many soldiers Captain Braxton Kane has to take through orientation on the base. Brax is immediately drawn to the big man, the most beautiful man he’s ever seen, but who also looks terrified.
When sirens go off in the middle of the night, Brax finds out who scared Holt is when he hides under the bed instead of going where he’s supposed to. Brax kindly helps Holt calm down and that begins years of friendship that we see played out in several vineigttes–some while they serve together in Afghanistan and continuing as they return to the states and taking us through how Brax ended up in San Francisco and ultimately landing us in the present day.
I loved this look at how Holt and Brax met and how their relationship grew over the years. It brings a new richness to everything we’ve seen in Fog City so far, and we know exactly why these men would risk every thing for each other.
Once we’re in the present, we find out why Brax has been keeping a distance from the Madigan’s. He’s being targeted and he wants to keep the family safe, especially Holt so he’s trying not to let them help. Of course, that’s not how the Madigans operate, and it for sure isn’t going to stop Holt from helping his best friend who is also the man that he loves and means the world to him. Holt and Brax can be so stubborn when it comes to who is protecting who–it’s endearing, sometimes frustrating and totally wonderful.
It’s really mindblowing who’s pulling the strings in an effort to take down Brax. My mind spun many scenarios, but of course I did not figure out the who, the how, or the why to any of it. As always Layla builds quite the startling thriller.
Beyond who is behind everything though, is the stunning coming together of the family and so many members of the extended Whiskey-verse too as characters we know and love from “Agents Irish and Whiskey” and “Trouble Brewing” make appearances. Despite the Madigans being a family of assassins, they’ve forged incredible alliance. None are stronger than that of family, the support that Hawes and Helena gave to their brother wasn’t really surprising given the importance of family to them, but it still made an indelible impression and only heightened the emotions and power of the story.
I have to say, it was wonderful to see Holt finally get angry and to put an end to the conflict once and for all. It’s a stunning scene in the finale.
While I’m sad the Fog City series is done, I could not be more happy with how it ended. It’s one heck of a love story for one of my favorite characters in the series. I really can’t emphasize how wonderful I found the flashbacks. I know flashbacks are always kind of a tenuous thing for some people, but I think because the story is really told in a linear fashion, going into the past and then coming up to the present and going forward. It really makes for a continuous story that gives us critical backstory on how Brax and Holt met, how their friendship grew and how the love grew to be as strong as it is. Just really delightful and such a satisfying read.
And, of course, with Layla she’s never completely done with characters. She’ll join us next week, on Thursday, May 13 in episode 309, to talk about the end of this series and also the awesome things she’s got coming next.
Will: Definitely something to look forward to there.
Temple by Avril Ashton
Will: Well, this past week I read an older title by Avril Ashton. It was called “Temple” and it is the first book in her “Freelancers” series.
So at the beginning of the book, Temple still feels the pain and guilt of the night his best friend was killed on a job that went sideways. Henry was the closest thing to a brother Temple ever had. They grew up in a group home together and later worked with a group of mercenaries, taking jobs that no one else would. It was Temple who convinced Henry to take that one last job and it was Temple who had to tell Henry’s inconsolable fiancée Vik, that Henry was never coming back.
Two years later, Temple finds himself back in town during the holidays, and it’s by chance that he gets coffee at the shop that Vik owns. They finally have a chance to clear the air and Vik apologizes for the accusations he made that night. He doesn’t hold Temple responsible for Henry’s death.
After a few days, they both reach a comfortable place together – a new normal. But now Temple has something else to feel guilty about, his desire for Vik.
One night he invites Vik over for pizza and a few beers. They settle in on the couch and watch a Christmas movie and they explore their feelings with a scorchingly sexy kiss. It’s late, and it’s snowing out, so Vik decides to spend the night, but ends up sleeping in Temple’s bed alone. Their attraction is undeniable, but are their feelings a betrayal of the man who meant so much to them?
To answer that question, Temple goes to see Vik and hash out just what exactly it is that each of them want. What they each need is each other. Temple temporarily sets aside his guilt and unleashes his intense primal need for Vik, taking him on the kitchen counter, and later on the couch.
After their remarkable night, Vik knows he wants more, but is concerned with the radio silence from Temple. Does he not feel the same way?
Yes, he most definitely feels the same way, but is still grappling with what he and Vik being together would mean. It’s then that a former collogue offers him a job opportunity. Walking away from Vik would mean he wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of his past.
When Temple tells Vik about the job, Vik begs him not to leave, something he wishes he’d done with Henry in a nearly identical situation two years earlier. Vik doesn’t need to worry though, Temple said no. Henry wouldn’t want them to remain unhappy and staying miserable is no way to honor his memory.
They visit Henry’s gravesite on Christmas eve, secure in the knowledge that their future is with each other. For the first time, in a long time, Temple and Vik have something to look forward to.
Now, normally I would say that ending a romance with a visit to a cemetery doesn’t exactly scream happily ever after. But for these two characters, it makes perfect sense. Vik and Temple share the traumatic loss of someone who was an important part of their lives, and ending the story in this way shows that, while there is still grief (it’s not something they can just ‘get over’), they are moving forward and starting to live life fully once again.
Kudos to Avril Ashton for writing such a deeply emotional romance that explores the themes of grief and guilt without veering into dark melodrama. I’m not a huge fan of angsty romances. What I thought was so great about this story is that it honestly deals with the pain these characters feel, but doesn’t dwell on it. Temple and Vik aren’t the ‘woe is me’ type. They work hard to figure out the emotionally complicated situation they find themselves in. Their HEA is hard fought and well deserved. Also, their sexual chemistry happens to be off the charts. Seriously, the loves scenes are scorching. So, if you’re looking for a story with lots of heat, that doesn’t scrimp on emotion, then this is definitely the romance for you. It’s the book that kicks off her “Freelancers” series. That’s “Temple” by Avril Ashton.
Jeff: That sounds really quite delightful, even though it does have that element of grief in it. It sounds like those two really came together nicely.
Will: Yeah, Avril Ashton is kind of known for her dark romances, dealing with really hard, difficult subjects that the characters have to work through. Stories that are generally pretty angst heavy. And this story, from what I understand from this particular author, is her light and fluffy romance. Which is, you know, why I enjoyed it so much. Like I said, it’s got realness, it’s got sexiness. It’s kind of the whole package. I really, really loved it.
Cinnamon Roll by Anna Zabo
Well, I took a turn into a different genre for myself with Anna Zabo’s “Cinnamon Roll.”
is one of the sweetest, most romantic books I’ve ever read. We talk a lot on the show that we love nice guys, doing nice things and Max and Tom are very much those guys. This is my first book with BDSM at the forefront, and it completely changed my idea of what BDSM could be in a book and if this is it, sign me up for more. Anna wrote two sweet, caring, albeit someone broken people and brought them together in such a beautiful way that I was sad to see this book end.
“Cinnamon Roll” is one of the books in the Bold Brew series and this one is the story of Tom, who really sucks at finding men. The doms he’s connected with in the past don’t respect his boundaries and really don’t care for him. While the sex and pain is good in the moment, it’s not offering him the fulfillment he needs. He knows he’s missing something, but isn’t quite sure what that is.
Then there’s Max, a dom who does occasionally demonstrations at Bold Brew. As the book opens, he finds the ad Tom has posted at Bold Brew looking for a dom, and he also watches the quite painful string of interviews Tom goes through as he meets people who’ve responded. While Max and Tom have been in the same circles for quite sometime, neither has approached the other. That finally changes as the two talk at the coffee shop about why Tom’s ad won’t attract the right person. It’s an interesting conversation that, in relatively short order not only begins a friendship but also finds Tom helping Max do a demo at Bold Brew.
From the beginning, as Max walks Tom through the planned demo and works to understand what Tom’s likes and dislikes are we have the beginning of one of my favorite romance things: talking. These guys talk a lot and it’s freaking awesome. Consent is a huge part of their discussions, and not just around the BDSM aspects of things–and it’s also not one sided either. It’s not all about Tom laying out what he does and doesn’t want, Tom asks just as many questions to Max because he wants to make sure Max is getting what he needs too.
What surprises both guys is the attraction they feel for one another–it goes beyond the sex and pain, and beyond the friendship they’re building. It moves slowly but surely into love. It even seems to sneak up on them as they’re both not sure what to do with it, or even how it fits into their lives as they currently know them.
They’re dates are so delightful, and give even more insight to who they are–from going to dinner at various locations (including a very swanky place that told us even more how wonderful Max is), to beer league hockey games, to skating together. It was perfect, and hey, guess what made these more perfect, the talking that went on.
Some of that talking belonged to their friends. Max has many friends and colleagues he works with at the university and a few of them had opinions on the burgeoning relationship between the guys. Tom’s friend and law firm partner also weighed in often on how good Max was for him. Plus, there’s the crew at Bold Brew who also cheered them on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the sex in the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was damn hot. While pain isn’t my thing, it’s very much Tom’s and Max very much likes inflicting it. However, they only enjoy if their partner’s enjoying it. The constant looking after each other, which is something Tom hadn’t had with other partners, and caring through the pain took the sex scenes to another level. It did exactly what sex in a romance is supposed to do, heighten the intimacy and connection between the characters.
I’m so glad I picked up “Cinnamon Roll.” Not only did it open me up to a genre I hadn’t explored before, but it showed me exactly how sexy and hot it can be. Anna’s got two characters with Tom and Max who are wonderful and kind and going after exactly what they want. I can’t recommend this book enough. And if you missed it, you can catch the wonderful conversation Anna and I had about this book back in episode 303.
Will: A worthy addition to the bold brew universe of books.
A quick reminder that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation and book reviews for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode biggayfictionpodcast.com. As always, the shownotes page also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: The shownotes will also include links to Libro.fm for the audiobooks that are available there. As always, we love Libro.fm because when you buy an audiobook from them, you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to take advantage of a two month audiobook membership for the price of one. All you have to do to get information on that is go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for this episode. Now coming up on Monday in episode 308 JC Calciano is going to be joining us and talking about his latest book, “Revenge of the Brobot.”
Jeff: They should get you to do the title on the audiobook with that kind of voice.
It was really great talking with JC about this wonderful romcom with a futuristic edge. And we also talk about some of his movies and his brand new podcast.
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 frolic.media/podcasts. Our original theme music is composed by Daryl Banner.