Jeff & Will dive into the second book in the Walker Boys series from Ari McKay as they talk about Breaking Bonds, a charming, food-filled romance set at a rustic resort. As always, in our book club discussions there are spoilers ahead so keep that in mind if you haven’t read the book yet.

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Show Notes

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Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Book Club on Thursday, June 24.


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Will: Welcome to episode 312 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Mr. Jeff Adams.

Jeff: Hello everybody.

Will: We want to give you a big, hearty hello, and welcome back rainbow romance readers. This is the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode for May. And this month’s pick is the small town romance “Breaking Bonds” by Ari McKay.

Jeff: Before we start our deep dive discussion of this month’s book, we’d like to quickly thank members of our Patreon community. It’s because of them that we’re able to bring you podcast episodes every single week with interviews from your favorite authors and reviews of some of the best books our genre has to offer. On the Big Gay Fiction Podcast Patreon page, members get early access to the book club episodes and author interviews, as well as an exclusive monthly bonus episode that can’t be heard anywhere else. Patrons help keep this podcast running and fund the transcription of the author interviews making sure that this show is accessible to all readers and listeners. If you’re in a position to help the podcast grow and would like more information simply head on over to podcast.

Now, in addition, we also want to remind our patrons that we’re collecting mailing addresses for anyone who would like a Pride card this year. Look for the Pride card post on Patreon for all the details. And if you’d like a card, make sure to let us know by May 31st.

Breaking Bonds Discussion

Will: Okay, let’s discuss “Breaking Bonds.” When big time New York chef Liam Walker sits down to dine at the rustic Overlook Resort in the hills of North Carolina, he is not impressed. The food is subpar by any standards. It’s so bad that he complains to the manager, Carter, who is startlingly young and very handsome. He also happens to be the beleaguered owner and he is clearly trying his best, although his best ain’t great. Liam offers to run the kitchen during his stay at the overlook. It’s a little unorthodox but Liam has spoken before really thinking and he’s never backed down from a challenge before. He meets Rocky, the also startlingly young chef, who cooked his meal earlier. With Rocky as his sous chef, Liam quickly prepares two steaks au Poivre for waiting guests. Everyone is duly impressed. And he figures he can handle this for 2 weeks.

Jeff: Well, it’s simple for the big fancy New York chef to come in and cook for a simple resort. Right? The beginning of this book, I’m thinking at the same time, Liam’s really kind of a douchebag. But he’s also like this really sweet guy who just gave up a portion of his vacation to run someone else’s kitchen. I have to say that the initial bits reminded me of Robert Irvine, in “Restaurant Impossible,” where he would come in and be like, “This is all crap but we’re just gonna fix this,” except Liam was actually a little nicer than Robert tends to be. But it was certainly a nice opening to this book.

And, immediately, I liked…well, I can’t say that I immediately liked Liam because he needed to get into his more, “I’m gonna help you,” but I felt so bad for Carter right from the beginning, because you’re right, he’s beleaguered.

Will: You see, in New York, Liam runs the kitchen of an upscale restaurant of his celebrity chef mentor. And when a bad review leads to him punching out the food critic, his boss suggests some time away for some perspective. And he does so reluctantly but he’s starting to realize this might just be what he needs.

It’s also in these opening moments of the book that we also learn a little bit more about Carter. You see, instead of building new, he purchased and refurbished an existing resort. Money is tight and one way to stay in the black would be to have a successful dining room popular with both tourists and locals.

The next day, Liam asks him to accompany him to the local farmer’s market for supplies for that evening’s dinner service. Carter should come along to approve any purchases and start relationships with the local vendors. Carter likes Liam and enjoys working as a team to find the best produce at the fairest price. During their shopping excursion, they kind of realize that they like each other but agree to keep things professional during Liam’s stay. They discussed the resort as a business and different ways to boost revenue, with the restaurant as the cornerstone.

Carter is open to any suggestion, since Liam has far more experience in that arena. And since money is tight, Liam offers to finance an open house, a sort of re-opening for the restaurant to create positive buzz and get things moving in a positive direction before he goes back to New York.

Jeff: Liam is so much our ongoing definition of nice guys doing nice things. While he does have this little anger streak that does rise up periodically, at his core, he just I think wants to cook good food and help people out, which is really lovely. I really like the farmer’s market scene as they work together. And I don’t think these farmer’s-market vendors quite knew what to expect when Liam was like starting to pit them against each other to get the bid to do the business at the lodge. It was quite brilliant. And I could just imagine Carter sitting there going, “Wow, he just did all that in like a matter of minutes.” It’s a lovely scene and just, as you mentioned, shows how well they work together.

Will: Yeah, there’s sort of an easy charming way that Carter and Liam fall into this relationship. And both of them are secretly hoping that this business relationship will lead to something more. Liam is really enjoying running the Overlook kitchen and teaching Rocky various culinary techniques. And Carter certainly appreciates everything that he’s doing, and he appreciates being appreciated.

Jeff: It’s a whole bunch of appreciation going on.

Will: Though Carter is an unrelentingly cute distraction from the task at hand, Carter asks if he’s doing anything later. Liam is intrigued by the possibilities of adding some pleasure to their temporary business relationship but he knows Carter doesn’t do flings and he’s going to return to New York eventually. So, getting close in that way probably is not the best idea.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s the way that this is set up because there is a relatively tight clock here. The open house is just 2 weeks away and Liam has to go back to New York right after that to get back to his restaurant, to get back to restaurant week that’s happening. And, so, you know, [inaudible 00:04:47] knowing the fling isn’t supposed to happen, they also have a clock to sort the rest of this stuff out.

It’s nice watching Liam relax here a little bit too. You could already see that he’s kind of getting into the vibe of cooking in this small kitchen, working with this smaller staff than he’s used to. It’s almost like the vacation he needed was to cook in a different location. It’s really nice watching him relax.

Will: In just a few days, things really seem to be turning around. But it’s then that the fridge gives out. And an industrial refrigerator is something that Carter just cannot afford. Liam, on the other hand, can call in a few favors and he gets it taken care of.

Jeff: He’s like a culinary kitchen superman. He’ll deal with the farmer’s market, he will get you a refrigerator, he will teach Rocky, he can just kind of do it all.

Will: Yeah, poor Carter. Liam is so generous and he’s talented and he’s smart and he’s funny and he’s just too damn good-looking but there are still legitimate reasons Carter should be keeping it professional.

Jeff: Unfortunately, yes. But, at the moment, it’s true for Liam too. Because he does have to go back to New York, he’s got a job and he’s got a life there. And, at this point, they can’t really see beyond that 2-week window.

Will: So, Liam was going to need to use his mentor’s good name in order to get the refrigerator, since his own reputation has recently taken a beating. He calls up Marco, who gives his blessing, and then Liam sweet talks an appliance vendor. With that done and out of the way, he tells carter the good news and, later, over drinks, Carter explains why he is so determined to keep the struggling resort afloat. Working in hospitality and having his own place means everything to him. His homophobic family expected him to toe the family line and join the family law firm, but he rejected that to follow his own dream. If he fails, he’ll have nothing left and he’ll be forced to go down the prescribed path his family originally set out for him. Success on his own terms is really important to Carter. And after hearing his story, Liam will do just about anything to make that success a reality.

Jeff: Liam knows what it’s like to have something to prove because he’s had a mentor of his own that he’s trying to prove something to. And, so, you know, being on your own and going for what you want speaks to him. And I think he also sees this as a way to pay forward. He’s not only teaching Rocky how to be a chef, as somebody once took him under their wing, but he’s also helping Carter find his way into business, that he understands slightly better. At least from the restaurant side, not necessarily trying to run an entire resort but the restaurant thing he’s got down.

Will: So much is riding on the open-house event. Success or failure for the evening could mean success or failure for the Overlook and decide Carter’s future. But the night goes off without a hitch, the food is wonderful, and everyone seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Including a guy named Daniel who shows more than just a passing interest in Carter, who proudly shows off some of the recent Overlook renovations. And, as the party winds down, Carter goes looking for Liam. Rocky mentions that he seems pissed and he hasn’t seen him. Carter eventually finds him out on the back deck fuming at the fact that carter seemingly prefers Daniel over him…

Jeff: Jealousy rears its ugly head.

Will: You see, the sexual tension that has been bubbling beneath the surface for so long leads to an amazing first kiss. They both want the same thing, and that’s each other, but all the reasons that it won’t work, they still exist. It is time for Liam to go and he reluctantly says, “Goodbye.” The next morning, Liam finds Carter at the front desk making his checkout a little more emotionally difficult than he would prefer. But after their second round of goodbyes, Rocky rushes up in a panic at the sight of Liam leaving. Business at the restaurant has already picked up and Rocky doesn’t feel he’s good enough yet to handle everything on his own. Liam eventually capitulates promising to stay until after a group booking with the local arts council. Liam, if he’s being perfectly honest with himself, wasn’t in any big rush to get back to New York anyway.

Jeff: No, he is less than happy there. He’s really still working through some of the things with the bad review and kind of where his career trajectory was kind of going. And let’s face it, he’s got the feels for Carter, he’s got the feels for this place too. It’s starting to really seep into him. And the excuse of the arts council and trying to stay on to help Rocky navigate his, essentially, second big event, it’s just one more reason to hang out a little bit more.

Will: So, after telling Chef Marco that he won’t be back for another week, which he is not thrilled about but he sort of kinda understands…

Jeff: You know, what he is is just being a condescending asshole. But anyway, he does kind of sort of understand.

Will: Liam prepares for the big arts council banquet and asks Carter to be his taste tester. And, as they say, “The way to a man’s heart…” Carter loves everything, especially the chocolate cake. And while they’re taste testing, they’re able to return to the familiar casually flirty banter that they do so very well.

Jeff: The whole chocolate cake thing is really cute. There’s nothing like giving somebody a dessert. Because that was more than just the taste test, that was that nice little cute chocolate cake that was like, “This is for you. We’re not serving this at dinner tonight, this is yours.”

Will: Yeah, I think, as the story progresses, we’re like slowly peeling back the layers of the onion that is Liam. I think, over the course of his stay at the Overlook Resort, he’s not only enjoying the more casual pace of the work that he’s doing but he’s also rediscovering the more giving side of his personal nature. Like you said, the thing with the chocolate cake, you know, a relatively simple gesture that he just enjoys, making food for his man. And there’s also he’s starting to realize he’s really enjoying sort of the mentorship with Rocky, passing on what he knows, teaching things that he’s passionate about. So, I really enjoyed those elements of the story of Liam kind of coming into his own and rediscovering a particular side of himself.

Jeff: It ties back to the first book really well too, in this series, because I think Liam is also discovering what he enjoys outside of New York and flashing back a little bit to what it was like growing up in Buffalo Lick, working at the family restaurant, discovering his love for cooking there and how maybe that’s been distorted a little bit with everything that has gone on in New York. And this is more back to that family and home sort of vibe that he had in his past.

Will: And you just mentioned the town where the first book in this series took place. One of the heroes in the first book was, of course, Beau Walker, he owned and operated his family’s barbecue restaurant. And Liam is, of course, one of the Walker clan, one of the many many cousins that seem to exist in this world, It’s a very large extended family. So, that’s how these two stories actually connect.

It’s also in this taste-testing chapter we get a little more of the casual flirtation. We kind of experience it first when Liam and Carter go to the farmer’s market, there’s just a really interesting relaxed way that they interact and their flirtation is so kind of mellow and nice and gentle and cute. There are some books where the sexual tension really crackles and you know that, when the heroes eventually get together, it’s gonna be an atomic explosion. But with these two, it’s still very sexy. But, like I said, there’s just a really interesting relaxed way that they go about it that I think is super charming, and I love it to pieces.

Jeff: Sometimes I even wonder if they know they’re flirting. Because it is so easy going. And sometimes it’s like they maybe start not knowing it, but then they push it a little bit further. I don’t know, but it’s a really nice vibe that is created here between these two.

Will: Since Liam has spent his entire vacation in the Overlook kitchen, Carter invites Liam out for a day of seeing the local sites, eating some local cuisine. And, you know, sure, why not? A date with a friend it is.

Jeff: With lots more of that, this little flirting yet to come. This gave me a little bit of childhood flashback because I once was on an RV trip from [inaudible 00:13:04] where we toured around Tennessee and the Carolinas. And I’ve actually been to Clingmans Dome. And the one thing that I do remember is some of the stunning views from that area. It’s truly an amazing part of the country and I thought Ari McKay really captured that here really nicely as they were checking out the view and hanging out in this particular area. It was nice to see them really outdoors like this and not in a restaurant and not over food. I love how food plays into this book. And I think food scenes, overall, work so well in books because you’re having a meal, you’re cooking a meal with somebody else. But this outdoor scene I thought just worked so well, giving them a moment separate from everything else.

Will: You know, this story would really make an ideal hallmark movie, for a number of different reasons. But from a production standpoint, a majority of the story takes place in a single location, which would help save on the budget. But there always needs to be one moment, in the movie, where, you know, they get out and explore a little to kind of open up the narrative. And that’s what the authors are doing right here, they’re exploring the surrounding, natural wonder of the Carolinas.

Liam is awestruck by the view of the valley from the top of the observation tower, at the peak of Clingmans Dome. And the inspiring view has him reflecting on the reason that brought him there and how his time with Carter, helping with the Overlook, has really put things a little more in perspective for him.

Jeff: Which he really needed. Nothing like a little natural splendor with your man to help that out.

Will: Unfortunately, the day comes to a disappointing end when they come back to the hotel to find Carter’s parents waiting, paying an unexpected visit.

Jeff: Not just unexpected but really unwelcome too.

Will: Seeing how Carter shrinks under the disapproving glare of these judgmental homophobes, Liam goes into full-on diva mode. Because you don’t get to where he is in the industry and not know how to deal with shitty posers.

Jeff: And yet, to his credit, he does keep his raging anger to a degree inside but it’s hard for him. I love some of his internal monologue here of like, “I really wanna hurt these people but I probably really shouldn’t.” It’s a lovely scene and it was nice to see him really stand up for his man.

Will: Exactly, exactly. He reads them to filth, which is completely satisfying.

Jeff: Oh my god, it was.

Will: And when they cause a scene, Carter, perhaps for the very first time ever, stands up for himself and makes them leave. Once they’ve stormed out, Liam helps Carter back to his room where they share a bourbon to celebrate Carter’s victory in what must have been a long fought battle. It’s been a really long day and Carter is feeling kind of wiped out. Once he’s gone to bed, Liam is left to wonder how in the world is he ever going to leave this wonderful place and this amazing man behind.

Jeff: Yeah, the Overlook takes on a little bit of a magic quality in this book. I would love to go there and hang out in the woods in this lovely natural surrounding. And I think it’s what Carter needs to heal himself from his parents, which he’s finally kind of made the big stand over, it’s what Liam needs to heal himself from everything that’s been going on in New York that’s not right in his life. It’s just one of those places in fiction where like the healing can happen for people.

Will: Things are going remarkably well in the kitchen during the arts council event. Liam and Rocky work together very smoothly and Carter is manning the front desk when, in strides, Marco Cabrisi, Liam’s mentor and boss. He’s come all the way from New York to speak with Liam. Carter finds him a little superior. Marco is cordial but he’s still dismissive. Carter is not thrilled that what little time he and Liam have left is going to have to be spent with dealing with whatever this guy wants.

Jeff: People keep showing up during events. This is one of the interesting parallels that happen in this book. You know, Daniel showed up during the initial open house and caused issues. And now Marco’s here, at the arts council event, causing issues. They shouldn’t have events perhaps at the Overlook because people just show up and like mix in in the ways that they should not.

Will: At the hotel bar, Marco and Liam sit down for a quick chat, Marco cooly poking fun at him after seeing the adorable owner. He understands why Liam is reluctant to return. But all kidding aside, return he must. Restaurant week is fast approaching and he needs Liam at his post where he belongs. Liam owes Marco a lot and reassures him that he will return in time just like he promised.

After dinner service, the staff throws Liam a going-away party with cake and champagne. Liam is thankful and gracious. It’s all of their hard work that have turned things around and made the resort a success. He raises his glass for a special toast to Carter, without whom he wouldn’t have been able to rediscover why he loves cooking. And that new passion is something he’ll take back with him to New York.

Jeff: Even though he doesn’t really wanna go.

Will: Liam says goodbye to each individual until it’s just him and Carter and they go out on the back porch for one last drink together.

Jeff: And the key revelation is here for Liam because he actually admits to not just himself but he says it out loud that he’s just not sure where his dreams are anymore.

Will: Yeah, this is a real opportunity for the two of them to have a heart-to-heart. Liam wishes that he could stay but he needs to make good on his promise to Marco. And he might not have a lot of experience with relationships but he sure is curious what one with Carter would be like. Here, in this place, that means so much to both of them. But the timing is all wrong, and they both know that. Wishing the timing was different doesn’t change anything. Carter asks for a goodbye kiss that neither one of them will ever forget. It’s hot and it’s passionate and it’s slow and it’s tender. And they say their final heartbreaking goodbye.

Jeff: This is a really heartbreaking scene because of the conversations that they have around, essentially, how long we’ll wait for each other. Because, in just these few weeks, they know that this is not a relationship that they’re just gonna move on from. Carter’s just not gonna go, you know, running back, check out Daniel, and maybe go on that date to Asheville that they pushed away in favor of Carter and Liam going instead. And Liam knows he’s not gonna just go hop in, you know, with somebody back in New York, these two have really impacted each other in a very short amount of time. And this conversation is just one of those of like, “Oh, don’t go. Don’t leave. Don’t do this.” And yet, you know they must.

Will: Yeah, it’s pretty sad. I think they’re both openly acknowledging that the heart wants what it wants but they can’t really have it because they each have their own obligations. And those obligations happen to be several thousand miles away from each other.

Jeff: Oops.

Will: So, 6 weeks later and back in New York, Liam is back in the swing of things and totally miserable. He doesn’t really care about what’s on trend in the New York culinary scene anymore. The staff at the restaurant have been expertly trained so he’s kind of superfluous to the actual running of the kitchen. The success he once worked so very hard to obtain now seems hollow. Marco informs him that [inaudible 00:20:20] with a rival restaurant tour will be paying off big time for Liam. There will be some major capital invested in Liam’s own restaurant. And he should be thrilled but, like I said, it’s hollow.

Jeff: Yeah, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

Will: Liam calls up Rocky to check in on things. Rocky and the restaurant are doing great but the success means that Carter has thrown himself even further into his work. And Rocky tells it like it is. Carter seems miserable and is fast on his way to burnout and it’s Liam’s absence that is the obvious cause. Liam has a follow-up call with Marco that truly starts to bring the reality of his new restaurant and all of the strings attached into focus. Sure, Liam’s name might be on the door but continued obedience and gratitude to Marco are the price for this next step in his career.

Jeff: I mentioned the parallels earlier between like Daniel showing up at the event and then Marco showing up at the other event, here’s another parallel. Marco is to Liam what Carter’s parents are to him. Marco may care for Liam, to some degree, but it’s more about manipulating Liam into what he wants Liam to do. And he’s really just…he’s an asshole and he has been for the first time he was on the page just trying to coax Liam back to New York. But this shenanigan with how the restaurant week thing has gone down, I think, has really clearly shown Liam where some of his loyalty was just wildly misplaced in his mentor, unfortunately.

Will: Yeah, I think certain things are finally starting to come into focus for Liam. I think it’s one of those situations where, when you’re in it, you can’t really see it, but he’s finally had this light bulb moment and he realizes that the situation with Carter and his parents in his situation with Marco are practically identical.

Jeff: I’m glad he had his aha moment like Carter did with his parents.

Will: Yeah, the love, the relationship that they have with these people is conditional.

Jeff: Exactly right.

Will: What Liam truly wants is to be happy with Carter, at the resort, tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina. Now he just has to go get him.

Jeff: Luckily, it’s only a plane flight away.

Will: So, when Carter sees Liam, he practically leaps into his arms. And once they have a quiet moment together, Liam explains that his big dream in New York wasn’t what he wanted after all. Dreams can change. Now, he wants Carter and the partnership of the business that they have both made so successful. And they are finally at a place where they can happily combine business and pleasure. Liam whisks carter off to bed where they finally do what they’ve always wanted to do. It’s wonderful and amazing, of course. And afterwards, they cuddle up and plan their amazing future together.

Jeff: I really like how that moment was really, at the end of the book, they held fast to the no fling thing, so, there was only those flirtatious moments and the smoking hot kiss goodbye and all of that pent-up sexual frustration that had built up really came to, you know, that very satisfying conclusion right here towards the end of the book. It was really wonderful.

Will: Now, Jeff knows I have a particular pet peeve, and I don’t know if I’ve openly discussed it here on the show before, but I really dislike sex scenes at the end of a book. And I feel that, for a sex scene to be genuinely effective, there has to be emotional stakes, something has to change for the two characters. And when the characters have sex at the end of the book, I generally feel, in most cases, when I’ve come across it, it’s really just filling pages. The story is done. They’ve overcome whatever, you know, external obstacles there are, they’ve come to terms with whatever internal emotional conflicts they’ve had. The story is like over with, so, the sex, generally, isn’t going to mean much.

In this particular case, I’m not thrilled that the sex scene came at the very end but I think the authors did something very smart. The sex itself is very hot and appealing but what makes it engaging and kind of cute is that, before, during, and after the sex, Liam and carter are continually talking about how they’ve solved their problems, how happy they are now, and what they’re going to do in the future.

Jeff: Yeah. I think, in this case, with it at the end, and especially because it’s the only sex in the book, it does what the sex scene is supposed to do, which is to give them a bit of an emotional growth and continue to move the plot forward. And, in this case, it’s really them joining together and, you know, all of their emotions coming together into this moment.

The other obvious place that you could’ve put sex in the book, to me, would have been between the Clingmans Dome trip and the parents. Because there would’ve been something there if you’d done it at the end of that trip that had been so nice and then had to deal with the parents on the other side of that. But, leaving it out there continued to let their sexual tension crackle, while also continuing their journey towards finding each other, so, this worked because it was the only sex in the book and because of how it brought them together. Had they done it anywhere else and then done it here too, I’d been right where you are, like, “Why did we have this little last bit at the end?” but because it’s the only one, I think it just works wonderfully.

Will: So, the last chapter in the story serves as a bit of an epilogue, an adorable little bow on Carter and Liam’s story.

Jeff: It’s the perfect bow on Carter-Liam’s story, and especially Liam’s.

Will: A year or so later, Liam proudly whips up something for his man in the kitchen, as they’re finishing up weekend brunch service. And they take a moment to kind of stand there and admire their handiwork, the newly remodeled and renamed restaurant Dreams, which has become a resounding success. Business has been great. And everything is perfect for their special guest that evening, the New York critic who once dissed Liam’s food, and accepted a free vacation at their scenic resort. The meal Liam prepares for him is perfection. And, after the dessert course, he proudly strides into the dining room to reveal himself. Revenge is a dish best served, in this case, perfectly.

The only thing that could make it better? Perhaps a wedding proposal. Liam and Carter, along with their friends and employees, celebrate the beginning of something truly special and the fact that dreams do in fact come true.

Jeff: Indeed they do. I was so happy to see the critic get his, I didn’t expect that nice little coda on the end of the book, to see that happen. And the proposal’s so sweet, everybody’s there, Rocky’s come home from culinary school for like spring break or something. It was just a nice little end to the book. Yeah. I see why you like these “Walker Boys” books so much because they’re just sweet and they’re nice and it’s nice guys doing nice things and having a good emotional journey while they do it. I just…so nice.

Will: Let’s take a moment to compare and contrast for a second. What did you think of this book, “Breaking Bonds,” as compared to the first book, “Striking Sparks.”

Jeff: He asked me this question and gave me no time to prepare an answer.

Will: We’ll see [inaudible 00:27:35] here. Let me help you out. Both books certainly thematically revolve around food and family. They have that in common.

Jeff: I think where the books are similar but different are where some of the conflict lies. “Striking Sparks” was very much, you know, enemies to lovers. There was childhood rivalry and they had to come back together and navigate their way through the cooking competition. And they were able to make that transition from enemies to lovers that way. In that book, you had a family all around them who was extremely supportive and kind of even nudging them together. Here, you’ve kind of got the almost a flip sort of thing. These two guys don’t know each other at all when they come together. And they come together, essentially, over a common cause. And, in these cases, their family, whether it’s Carter’s parents or Liam’s mentor, are trying to, essentially, pull them apart and dominate over their lives. So, there’s some interesting parallels here. While, at the heart, both of these books are just super sweet small town romances. Is there even a town around the lodge? There must be, there was the farmer’s market. It’s that very, you know, kind of down home small town community sense. So, in that way, the books are very similar. But the characters and the people surrounding the characters are, you know, quite different.

One of the things that does join them together, from a character point of view though, are the friends. There are strong friends around these characters. In the case of this book, it’s the staff of the Overlook who take very good care of Liam and Carter. And, in the case of “Striking Sparks,” it’s just kind of the townspeople around with the rodeo who are like, “You two are great. You really should kind of nudge yourselves together.”

Will: I think, while both books have a lot in common, one of the biggest differences for me was kind of the emotional temperature of how the relationships evolve. Like you said, in the first book, “Striking Sparks,” we’re dealing with an enemies-to-lovers scenario. So, there’s a lot more antagonism, a lot more angst coming from both characters because of what they’re dealing with in their lives. There are a lot of outside forces affecting the scenario that they’re in. But that angst doesn’t keep it from being a feel-good romance. And to contrast, like I said earlier, there’s a very relaxed vibe to this book, even though, in both stories, there’s a lot at stake. So, I thought that was interesting, just the different approaches, the way they problem solved in these different scenarios.

Jeff: Yeah. So far, I really like both books. And Hallmark should just make a series of movies out of these books. Because, you know, it might be a little…well, they’ve staged cooking competitions before in Hallmark movies, they know how to do that and get away with it. So, it shouldn’t be a problem at all from the first book.

Will: Yeah, Hallmark, give us a call. We’ll broker that deal. We got lots of opinions.

Jeff: And we could hook you up with Ari McKay too.

Will: Okay everyone. I think that’ll do it for this month’s Book Club episode. We obviously enjoyed “Breaking Bonds,” and we hope that you’ve enjoyed our discussion of this story. If you haven’t read it yet, we hope that you’ll consider giving this book a try.

Wrap Up

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday in Episode 313, there’s a lucky number for you, we’re going to tell you all about what we’ve been reading recently and about what we’re looking forward to in the month of June.

Jeff: So much good stuff to talk about. You’re not going to want to miss out on that.

Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, everyone please stay safe, be strong 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.