Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff & Will welcome back Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach to find out what they’ve been reading recently. Recommendations include books by Alison Cochrun, Penny Aimes, Vawn Cassidy, Rory Michaelson, TJ Nichols, Aden Polydoros, Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning, and Hailey Turner.

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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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Will: Coming up on this episode, Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach are back and they’ve got book recommendations.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 334 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always is my co-host and husband Will.

Will: Hello everyone. Welcome back rainbow romance readers

Jeff: So before we get into talking about a bunch of book recs, I want to tell you about something that’s coming up here on the show. In November, we’re going to be doing a special crossover episode with Sarah and Amanda from “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.” And it’s going to be an ask us anything episode.

If you listen to “SPTB,” you know they’ve done a few ask us anything shows over the summer. And they seemed like so much fun that we asked if we could join them. They said, yes. And we decided that members of our Patreon community are going to have the opportunity to send questions for us to answer on that episode.

Now we need to get your questions by October 10th, there’s going to be a link in the show notes to the Patreon post, where you can leave your questions in the comments, or you can message us directly on Patreon. And if you’re not a member of our awesome Patreon community, you can join us now and get access to all the bonus content we’ve got there. Plus, you’ll be able to submit a question for this very special episode. All you have to do to get all that information is go to

And now let’s get on to the book recs. Jay and Lisa have a fantastic list for us this month, so we’re going to dive right in.

Jay & Lisa Book Recommendations

Jeff: Lisa and Jay, welcome back. It’s great to have you here for our kind of fall check-in.

Jay: Hi, Jeff, how are you doing? Hey, Lisa.

Lisa: Hi.

Jeff: Doing fantastic.

Before we actually get started with the books, Jay we have to take a moment with you. Congratulate you on 10 years of the blog this month.

So fabulous.

Jay: Thank you, yeah, I can’t believe it. It seems like forever. And also the time just flew by. I can’t believe it was our ten-year anniversary a few weeks ago.

Jeff: Do you remember I going to put you on the spot? Cause I didn’t prepare you for this at all. Do you remember what the first book was?

Jay: Yes, I do. The first thing that I reviewed was actually a dual review of “Cover Me” and “Trust Me” by L.A. Witt. It was a police procedural series if I’m remembering correctly. And yes, first reviews, September 6th, 2011. And yeah, that kicked us off. And then it was sorta full-speed from there.

Jeff: Amazing. Congratulations. That’s just really wonderful.

Lisa: Congratulations.

Jeff: So let’s get into this and find out what you’ve both been reading. Jay we’ll celebrate the anniversary, kick it off with you. What’s first up on your list.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Jay: All right. So first on my list is a book called “Charm Offensive” by Alison Cochrun.

I, did you read it? I’ve been seeing this one advertised all over the place. Absolutely went crazy for it because this is one of my cat nip books. The story features a man named Dev, who’s a producer for a “Bachelor”-type reality show called “Ever After,” which has the premise that the prince is looking for his princess and dates all these women at once. Again, very similar to the “Bachelor,” with the goal of ultimately falling in love and getting married.

Dev is a producer on the show and his job is normally to be the handler, the wrangler for the princesses, but he gets called into work with Charlie, who is the prince this season, because Charlie is just all kinds of awkward in front of the camera.

And the goal is to warm him up and help him get used to this process. So Charlie is this IT genius prodigy, and he only agreed to this job being on the show because he had just got, let go from the company that he founded. He has all kinds of OCD, anxiety, other sort of panic attacks and basically his co-founder of the company decided he was too much work and they pushed him out.

So now he’s been blacklisted from all of these tech companies, and he’s hoping that if he can come on board on the show, maybe he can rehab his image. He and Dev spend a lot of time together over the course of the show because Dev is trying to help relax him and work them through it and coach him up through the cameras. And of course over the course of this period, they end up falling for each other.

But this is a complicated situation because contractually Dev is of course not allowed to date the talent. Contractually Charlie is required to get engaged and stay engaged for six months. So they’ve got that whole conflict happening.

And then, Charlie is having his own coming out experience because he’s never really had attraction to anybody it’s not officially clarified anywhere, but the assumption is he’s somewhere on the a spectrum, most likely demi. And so he’s experiencing this attraction to Dev for the first time and he really wants to explore it and Dev is caught in this, not just all these contractual obligations, but he has a lot of, emotion built up into the fairytale that this show presents. And even as a producer, knowing how much is contrived, there’s a part of him that believes that this true love is possible and what the show represents to him.

And so he keeps thinking yes, he and I are going to have this relationship, but of course Charlie’s still going to marry one of these women. And it takes him to them some time to reconcile that idea that he deserves to have his own happily ever after that he deserves to find love and then how they’re going to get out of this complicated contractual situation that they’re in.

I loved the sort of behind the scenes reality show vibe. If you happen to be a fan of that type of show, I think you’re going to love this because you really get down and dirty into how things work, but it’s also just super sweet, romantic, sexy, fun.

They’ve got great interaction. Watching Charlie come in to his own and lose that stiffness and that tension when he’s with Dev. It addresses sort of mental health issues nicely. Dev deals with depression and that comes into play. So there’s a lot of deeper issues in addition to the frivolity of the reality show. So I really went crazy for this one and definitely found it a lot of fun.

Lisa: Such a great book. I agree. I loved it so much.

Jeff: Oh good.

Lisa: Yeah. I love the way that it, like you said, de-stigmatizes self care, therapy, medication.

I just love that Alison handled all of that with so much compassion and understanding between the characters between their friends and those characters. And it just, yeah, I thought it was a really beautiful book. It was really beautiful in the sense of Dev, standing by and just letting this steam roller go ahead so that they could get to the prince crowning the princess, even though he knew he was doing it at the expense of himself and that it was, that he had believed in this fairytale, that wasn’t really true, but yet he was willing to give up Charlie, if that’s what it took to get the show to the final ending.

I just thought it was really sweet, too. Excellent pick. I love it.

Jay: Oh good.

Jeff: I Read the audio book and the audio presentation is really wonderful. A trio of narrators actually. There’s a narrator for Dev and a narrator for Charlie. And then there’s a female who actually reads, if you’ve read the book already you know that there are the production notes that are in there and so that narrator takes the production notes elements.

I loved the book, too. I like that kind of slow ramp up and exploration with Dev and Charlie sorting themselves out. I thought Alison struck such a great balance between some truly rom-com elements to everything that’s going on, but also the more serious mental health issues that both Dev and Charlie had.

This is a debut book for her.

Jay: I know. That really blew me away.

Jeff: I cannot wait to see what comes next because this book just ticked every box I had.

Lisa: I also love the whole full circle thing where, Dev as a little boy fell in love with this show, even though he never saw himself represented as an Indian American and as a gay kid. He knew he was gay at the time, but he never saw himself represented. And then the whole end of the book was like just a celebration of diversity and being able to see yourself represented finally. And I just thought that was really neat too.

Jeff: Yeah. The end had somebody nice surprises, especially where some of the allies came forward.

Jay: Right.

Jeff: So many things happened. It was just like, oh, so good.

Jay: It’s an interesting, cause it’s a romcom. Definitely laugh out loud moments, but also there was, I think a lot of depth there, which is always what I look for in a humorous book.

Jeff: All right, Lisa, over to you.

For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes

Lisa: All right. My first book this month, first of all, this was why I had the hardest time whittling this down to just three books, because I feel like it was just an embarrassment of riches, the last couple of months reading.

My first book is another debut by author Penny Aimes. And this book is called “For the Love of April French” and it is part of the Carina Adores Line. It is a transgender romance. It’s an interracial romance and April French and her love interest, Dennis Martin, meet in a… it’s a BDSM club for lack of a different term for it.

April is a submissive and Dennis is a dom and they meet and it’s one of those things where you can just feel the chemistry immediately between them. And the book deals a lot with April’s identity as a trans woman. And it’s another one of those books where you just, you read it and you think, boy, I can’t imagine how important this book is for trans women in the reading community who get to see themselves in April and her falling in love and the way that she and Dennis interact with each other.

April is a woman who just through historically through her adult post a divorce history is, she doesn’t think that love is for her. She’s she sees herself as the stepping stone. And then, with the other dominance and then they move on and she’s just not ever meant to find somebody just hers.

And so a lot of that plays into the way that she interacts with Dennis in the very beginning is that she just doesn’t allow herself to get too emotionally attached or involved with him because she just is sure that he’s going to move on from her.

This book, it’s a really deeply sensual book about just the building of the bond between these two just completely lovely people. And it’s a book about kindness. It’s a book about being kind to yourself. It’s a book about being kind and compassionate to each other.

They’re just such great characters and Penny gave them depth and allowed them, especially Dennis, who is not by any stretch of the imagination, like the perfect dom and he does make mistakes. And she allows him to learn from those mistakes and he pursues learning in such a sweet and gentle and compassionate way.

But one of the things I, did end up watching… there was an interview with author May Peterson and Penny Aimes, and I watched their interview. And one of the things that Penny was talking about, and I’m paraphrasing this really badly so my apologies to Penny for this. So April through her, through her submission is her way of, being in control of herself physically. So it’s a really gorgeous story about how two people who have a symmetry in understanding what it’s like not to be a white cis heterosexual person. It’s not a situation where they’ve ever said I’ve had it worse than you, but more of an I understand where you’re coming from.

The building of the relationship, again, for a debut novel, I thought Penny just hit this one out of the park. I think that her writing is just so beautiful and so just lush and vivid and the emotions in this story were just so well played out. The sincerity, the compassion, the depth of compassion that she wrote between these two characters was just a really, really beautiful book.

And one of the things I do want to throw in, there is a, part where in the book where Penny does pick up May Peterson’s book, “The Calyx Charm” to read. And I thought that first of all, that was a really great nod to May because her books are also just so phenomenal I’ve read all of her books. In the “Sacred Dark” series, she’s got three books in that, “The Calyx Charm” being the third book and her books are just full of magic and fantasy. And “The Calyx Charm” also stars a transgender woman.

And so it was fun when April picks that book up and it was like, oh, April and I, we can talk about books like nobody’s business. Yeah, we would definitely be able to have book chat. And so that’s, you know, what greater way to connect with people then through books.

I really feel like I haven’t done this book as the service that it deserves because it just really is such a beautifully written, compassionately written, deeply emotional, just a beautiful romance, about two people who connect with each other.

And in the end, there’s that third act tension where they have to work things out because Dennis has brought some baggage. April has brought some baggage. There’s there is one pretty big secret that April is keeping that, of course secrets always out in the end, but Penny allows them to work on this individually so that they can come back together and work on their relationship together and get their happily ever after which, that’s what we want in a romance is the happily ever after.

“For the Love of April French” by Penny Aimes, just a beautiful transgender romance. Loved it. Can’t recommend it enough.

Jeff: This is still really high up on my list of things to read. And you’ve even underlined even more why I should, because I love books that deal with people being kind.

Those books just mean so much to me right now, when I can read about two people going through whatever, but having a kindness as they deal with each other.

Lisa: There is one moment and I’m not going to spoil it because it is a really pivotal moment in the book for April where Dennis, where she is so vulnerable and she finally builds up the courage to, let Dennis see her be that immensely vulnerable. And you just feel how much he adores her in that moment. And it just really, it was such a beautiful book.

Jeff: I got to host a Bookstore Romance Day event with Penny and another Corrina Adores author Verity Lowell, back in August. It was so good to hear Penny talk about this book and the writing of the book, and both authors talk so much about representation in romance. It was really great. And if people missed that on bookstore romance day, it’s actually going to be coming up in the podcast feed in late October, right at the time that Verity’s book is actually going to be released. So people can look forward to that about a month out from this particular episode.

Lisa: Yeah. And one thing about this book, absolutely representation matters, but this was one of those instances where own voices mattered too, because I don’t think that unless you knew April from an intimate sort of personal standpoint that this book couldn’t have been written by someone who was just maybe feeling their way around what it was like to be a transgender woman.

I think Penny just so beautifully encompassed everything about her character, her experiences, and what she needed, what she was looking for. But believe she could never have it. it’s such a beautiful book. I just loved it.

Suddenly Beck by Vawn Cassidy

Jay: My next book is one that I read about a month and a half ago. It’s called “Suddenly Beck” by Vawn Cassidy. It’s the first book in the Belonged To Me series. And in this story lead character Nate Elliott, super wealthy guy who has a very domineering father who essentially wants to control his life. And he finally just hits the breaking point as the book starts. And he is essentially fleeing from his life. He’s got his backpack and he ends up at the train station and it’s a flip of the coin that sends him on a train headed west. And he intends to go all the way to the western side of England, which defies my geography.

But what ends up happening is that there is a huge storm going on and because of that, the train ends up hitting a blockage on the track and he ends up instead in a little tiny beach town in Cornwall. And so it’s a twist of fate that lands him there. And he is in the middle of the storm and wanders down to the beach and near drowns.

And he is spotted fortunately by Beck Ainslee who grew up in this town. An artist, his family is there. Recently lost his father who ran the family restaurant, but the rest of his siblings and his mother are there. And they’re very close in this wonderfully warm, loving family that likes to give each other a hard time.

But also, has these enormous family dinners together that everybody comes to. So, we see the juxtaposition between these two families and Nate ends up working in the family restaurant, which gives Nate and Beck that opportunity to get to know each other.

And, Nate’s future is very uncertain. He is assuming that he is going to have to, at some point, return to his normal life. You know, his family doesn’t know where he is. But there’s only so long that can continue. And Beck is a guy who doesn’t really do relationships. So as all romance readers will know, they decide they’re going to keep it casual until of course it doesn’t stay casual anymore.

What I really loved about this. There were so many things that were great in the story. There’s this really lovely, small town feel, coastal town, the sense of setting and the sense of place is just so robust. And I read this actually at the end of July, so height of summer read season.

And I could just feel like I was at the beach reading it. The way that the setting is described this beautiful little village and the way that the characters interact is just such a great sense of place. For a contemporary, which often that kind of gets overlooked and contemporaries, great chemistry between the guys.

Nate is not out, so he’s never been with a man before. And so we get all of that kind of exploration of this romantic and physical connection that he has with Beck Just super sexy, super intense and sensual. So if you’re into high heat, this has that as well. And then just a really fun sort of snarky playful banter among Beck and his brothers and his best friend and just a really fine, easy contemporary.

As I said, it’s the first in a series and it looks like two of his brothers are up next and he has a best friend who I assume is going to get a story. But if you like that more traditional contemporary storyline, but something that was really just like I said, warm, romantic, sexy, and just a great sense of place and that sort of small town that’s not small town America, small town, England, which is a different setting, then definitely check this out cause I really liked it a lot.

Jeff: Nice and that is a new to me, author too. I did not recognize that name.

Jay: Yes. I know that it is a pen name. Author writes romantic suspense under Wendy Saunders. So I don’t know if you know that one. I believe that it was a debut under this pen name, but I’m not a hundred percent sure.

Jeff: Okay, two new to me, authors to check out. Awesome.

The Bone Gate by Rory Michaelson

Lisa: All right. My next book is called “The Bone Gate” by Rory Michaelson. This is book two in the “Lesser Known Monsters” series. Book one was actually called “Lesser Known Monsters.” And, it can not be read as a standalone. So I will say that too. You have to read “Lesser Known Monsters” before you read “The Bone Gate” or you’ll be just, you’ll just miss out because “Lesser Known Monsters” is just amazing too, but you’ll just miss out on so much.

So this book takes place in a contemporary London, but the world is definitely not a contemporary world. It is populated by monsters. So main character, Oscar Tundale is I suppose maybe you might call him a cinnamon roll or a Chelsea bun as her English hero. Oscar is, he is just one of the, just most wondrous characters. I just adore him and he just keeps accidentally sacrificing himself to save the world is basically what he does. He is compassionate and he’s so sweet and he’s so loving and he eventually learns to in really one of the most touching scenes in the book learns how to extend that grace to himself.

But he is the target of this monster in “The Bone Gate” and this monster, it nourishes itself on hate. And so of course, we live in a time where that is plentiful. So this monster just keeps feasting and getting stronger and has Oscar in his sights.

But there are also then, oh, there are so many, there are so many characters and so many things going on in this book that it’s hard to summarize it easily, but, there are some of the monsters, who are friends and acquaintances of Oscar and his romantic interest, his love Dimitri, who is also a shifter.

There are monsters that are dying, disappearing and people showing up on Oscar and Dmitri’s doorstep just complicating things while they are in pursuit of, and stopping this monster because this monster wants to annihilate the world. And so along the way, they have their friends who are family and new allies.

Oscar and Dimitri after surviving the last attempt to end the world, Oscar took, six months to convalesce and then they spent a year just out around Europe, hunting monsters. And so this 18 months past the end of the first book, they think they’re going to come home. They’re going to go back to their routine. That life is just going to be dull.

Rory’s Nope, I don’t think so. We’re just going to go ahead and bounce this right from the start. And so they are searching for this monster who is out to destroy the world and it’s just action, it’s suspense, but it it’s a story also that’s very much about love. It’s love of family and friends, and it’s love of Dimitri and Oscar’s love for each other. Rory just encompasses impressively so many different creatures in this verse. And I have to say this has nothing to do with the story, but the inner artwork of this book is just absolutely brilliant. So it even draws you in that regard where you can really picture his monsters as you’re reading the book, thanks to this beautifully brilliant artwork.

The whole culmination of this story. If you don’t like cliffhangers, you might… The third book comes out next year, but it left me, absolutely, I was just so stricken by the way he ended this book and I was sobbing and my family looking at me like… Shut up, I’m reading.

But he promises that he’s going to fix everything in the next book, but you have to wait until he releases it. I think it’s not coming out until summer of 2022. But yeah, “The Bone Gate” by Rory Michaelson. There’s action. There’s suspense. There’s adventure. There’s so much imagination and just so many different levels of kindness and compassion and love and learning to love yourself and learning to forgive yourself and learning to be selfless.

And it just is a really beautiful book. In fact it’s definitely, it’s gonna make my best of 2021 list this year. It was a really fantastic book and just loved it. Both books are fantastic, but sometimes you get into a trilogy and that second book feels like a bridge between the first and the third book.

This book was absolutely, not only integral, there was no bridging between book one and book two here. This was a fully encompassed story that will lead to book three. It just, it blew me away even more so than “Lesser Known Monsters.” And I love “Lesser Known Monsters”. So this was an absolutely phenomenal follow up to that book.

So let’s come on 2022 because I need to know what happens next.

Jeff: And I’m glad you were able to brace people for the cliffhanger aspect of it.

Lisa: I know a lot of people are like, okay, I’m just going to wait until the entire series comes out. Cause they don’t like the cliffhanger. I liked that pins and needles. Okay. I’m on the hook now. Let’s just get that next book here.

I won’t try to talk you out of not liking the cliffhangers, but it was really, it was so necessary. It was such a necessary thing and such a perfect way to end this particular part of the overall arc in the story. It was just so beautiful. So beautiful. So way to go Rory Michaelson. You’ve got me.

Captured Earth series by TJ Nichols

Jay: Alright, so for my last one I’m going very different than my first two. I’m actually going to talk about a trilogy because they are very closely connected set. It’s the “Captured Earth” series by TJ Nichols and the three books are called “Resist,” “Regroup” and “Revolt.”

“Revolt” is actually coming out in, I believe the day after this airs. And I will say that I’ve only read the first two thus far. But I’m really excited about the series so wanted to talk about it. So the premise here is that the story takes place in Australia. And the premise is that these aliens have come and invaded earth and landed in six deserts across the world, so one of them being Western Australia.

And they are lizard aliens. They refer to them as the geckos. And our main character, Josh, he’s our point of view character. And when we join him, he is with a small group of people from the military who has been tasked with canvassing the area and finding any human survivors who are still in this portion of Western Australia and shepherding them to the coast, to Perth, where there is a ship that is waiting to take them to safety.

Because basically Earth’s resistance collapsed pretty quickly and the geckos have essentially taken over Western Australia. And in fact, Australia has ceded the entire Western half of their country to the aliens. So he is now suddenly with his group, in what is no longer Australia in enemy territory. And his job is to do this sort of helping move everybody as well as to do some recon of the base that the geckos have set up in the desert.

When we start the book, that’s where we are. In addition to tired and stressed and exhausted and fearful because of these alien seemed to have technology that’s so far superior to their own. They’ve destroyed all air traffic, all satellites, there’s very little communication happening across the world, but his partner Xavier is also in the military and with another group. And the last signal he got from Xavier is suggesting that they’d been attacked. And so he is assuming that his boyfriend is in fact dead.

As he goes in for the recon, unfortunately Josh and his group are captured. This is on the blurb. So I’m not giving anything away here. And he ends up inside this sort of alien base and with the ultimate goal, obviously of escape because he knows he has limited time. The ship is on the Western coast. It’s only there for a few more days. And if he doesn’t either get there or at least get word to them, then they’re going to take off without him. And he’s going to be stranded.

Over the course of this book, the first book “Resist”, we see Josh trying to figure out how to possibly escape from the stronghold. He learns again, that’s in the blurb, that Xavier is in fact alive and is there. And so they are reuniting and then there’s this move to try to get to the coast with, the two of them, as well as a few other people who have managed to make it out of the base. Ends with a massive jaw-dropping cliffhanger at the end of the first book, like I said, I read the second book, which picks up immediately after and then there’s a third book that’s about to come out.

I thought this was really a lot of fun. They’re three shorter books, probably novella length. So they’re very tight and high suspense. I think because they’re shorter, you can really keep that intensity high the whole time. And the world building the way that we follow along with Josh in such a close point of view, as he’s navigating all of this personal responsibility of taking care of his team of then trying to help these other prisoners, most of whom were civilians and figure out a way to get everybody to safety.

It’s a scary book. I mean, there’s horrible, scary, gross things that happen to the prisoners. And so just has a lot of sort of suspense and excitement and humans against the aliens vibe to it. And I felt that a lot of fun and really exciting, and I really liked the way that it’s actually chopped up into three, because I think it really builds that suspense. They were originally released. I think about a month or two apart, I reading them like a week apart because I’ve been so impatient, once I read the first one to keep going. So they were written, with the idea that he would get this adventure and everything was really exciting. And then it cuts off and you have to wait for the next one. But for those who like their instant gratification by the time this airs, you will be able to get all three of the books. And I think that, TJ really put together a great overall story. Again, I haven’t finished the last book yet, but I really liked the way that there is this excitement. There’s a little bit of an urban fantasy vibe, a little bit of a military vibe, a little bit of futuristic alien vibe, although it does take place in contemporary Australia, alternative world. So a lot of those tropes and genres that I really like.

Jeff: I am super intrigued by this. I don’t read a lot of that kind of thing, but this also pushed all the buttons of when I was a kid and watched “V.”

Jay: Yeah, very much. Yes. I remember “V.” Yes, very much it has that vibe because and again, it’s a very close POV for Josh. So we are really in his head as he’s the forefront of the fight through this one character, even though, obviously there was a lot more people involved, so yes, a lot of that vibe.

Jeff: All right. Yeah. That’s another new to me author that I think I may have to do that and just I’ll wait to do the three all in a row and revisit some of my fun eighties sci-fi kind of times. This sounds like it will be darker than “V” for sure.

Jay: Yeah, it’s not horribly scary and intense, but definitely there are some queasy moments as they face danger. TJ also writes some urban fantasy as well as some paranormal. So I’ve read several series. But this one is the only one, at least that I’ve read that has this sort of aliens versus humans vibe.

The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

Lisa: All right. My last book is called “The City Beautiful” by Aden Polydoros, and this book… there’s just so very much I loved about this book. It’s hard to know where to start. It is a historical book. It’s set in 1893 in Chicago during the Chicago World’s Fair. It’s a young adult book, but it’s not in, in the sense that yes, the characters are teenagers. The main character is 17 years old, but he’s been forced to grow up. He’s not struggling, with first boyfriends and it’s not like the contemporary sort of young adult novels that, that we would call YA.

It is a book about immigration and it is a book about anti-Semitism, it is a book about discrimination, exploitation, and just all the other horrible things that, that kind of outline the history, throughout in the way that that immigrants were and are treated.

Alter Rosen is 17 years old and he has been in this country, for a while. The crossing that he made with his father from Europe ended tragically. And so Alter is working in the country all alone, working to earn enough money to bring his mother and sisters over as well.

And so in the midst of all of this, where you think of the World’s Fair, of the advancements and the world stage, and this was meant to show the best of what the country and the world was at this particular point. There is a series of murders happening. There’s a serial murderer who is killing Jewish young men. This strikes very close to home for Alter when his roommate and the boy who he was falling in love with becomes a victim is found out in the lake at the World’s Fair.

Alter makes it his mission to try to discover who killed not only Yakov, but also who is killing all of these other boys. And there is a paranormal angle to the story then which I don’t want to give too much away, but Alter, is possessed, I guess I would say by a dybbuk. And so he’s got the spirit of this deceased person taking over his body and so through him trying to find who Yakov’s killer is, he ends up reconnecting with his kind of first love, I guess I would say.

And there’s a sort of a close proximity angle to that then and that they work together to try to discover who this serial killer is. So it is really an intensely deeply, evocative, emotional book. Everything is just covered so exquisitely and in an, a very poignant way to when you’re thinking about Alter, who kind of wars between wanting to assimilate and yet not, and yet want to still honor his faith. And so he keeps his sidelocks short and tucked behind his ears and he doesn’t wear his yarmulke in public unless, he’s knows that he’s not going to have slurs yelled at him just walking down the sidewalk or whatever.

This is such a beautiful book and it really goes into the whole American dream and how the American dream was built for some people and just was not for others.

And, comparatively his father thinking that this was the golden land, this is the land of opportunity and he was going to bring his son and his wife and his daughters here, and they were going to be able to live the American dream and of course it just… it did not work out that way. And so you’ve got the facade of the World’s Fair and all of the beautiful buildings and the extravagance, and when it’s done, it’s just an illusion, it’s all a facade. And that became such a beautiful metaphor for this idea of this golden land and how, it looks beautiful on the outside, but when you get beneth the surface things were not so beautiful for everyone.

And so Alter is just, he’s such a great, beautifully drawn character. So much depth. Again, it was easy to forget that he was just a 17 year old boy because he had so much responsibility and the supporting cast of characters around him were just so beautifully written and the depth of his commitment to his faith and the way that he struggled with the idea of being American and not being terribly fluent in the language. And, so speaking Yiddish for him is so much easier. And you get that sense of community in the tenements on Maxwell street in Chicago, where he was in his community and then speaking to the police and them not working real hard to find these boys’ murderer.

And I thought it was really interesting too, which I had never, I did not know this, but there was actually really in real life, a serial killer that was terrorizing women during the Chicago World’s fair. And his name was H. H. Holmes and he had purchased a building specifically, they called it the murder castle, I think it was or something like that, where he would take women and torture them. And it was just, yeah, that was an interesting thing apart from everything else that I learned in this book.

It was the first time I’ve ever read Aden Polydoros, and it will not be the last time I read him. He’s such an incredible storyteller. Writes with such sincerity and really just I felt like it was 1893 and I was looking at the things that Alter was seeing. That’s how absorbed I was in this book. So “The City Beautiful” by Aden Polydoros is a gorgeous book. Absolutely loved it.

Jeff: That sounds incredible. I think it’s something that I want to read, but that would need to be in the right mental space to take all that in as well, because that sounds pretty heavy at the same time.

Lisa: Yeah. So much depth to this book. It really is. There’s definitely not a lot of lighthearted moments in it. It’s really just an emotionally effective book. It’s really beautiful. I just absolutely loved it.

Jeff: An amazing diversity of books, which is really awesome. So as we wrap up really quickly, want to know something you’re looking forward to, as we head into October, November and December. Jay we’ll come back to you.

Blood in the Water by Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning

Jay: This one actually comes out very soon. It comes out on October 1st. I just got a review copy, so I’m really excited to start it. It’s called “Blood in the Water” by Kate Hawthorne and E. M. Denning and it features Adrian who is a Mer prince. So merman royalty and he is fleeing his arranged marriage and somehow ends up almost drowning and is rescued by Chad, the vampire who brings him home and then presumably hi-jinks and love ensues.

So I’m excited for this first off, because I love both of these authors both separately and together when they co-write. Second of all, because it sounds like super craptastic and awesome to have a merman and a vampire, and I love kind of crazy paranormal pairings. And yeah, I’m really excited to see what they’ve done with this because I haven’t read a lot of paranormal from either of them and it seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Jeff: Merman and vampire. I don’t even know how to process that. But it sounds really awesome.

A Veiled & Hallowed Eve by Hailey Turner

Lisa: I thought we pick the same book because mine also comes out on October 1st. I had to go with that seventh book in the “Soulbound” series.

Jay: Ah. Yes.

Lisa: Hailey Turner’s “A Veiled & Hallowed Eve.” I am so sad to see this series end. And yet I can’t wait because this is the culmination. This is everything. This is Patrick. This is his father. This is going to be the final…

Jay: show down.

Lisa: It is. And if Hailey Turner’s work… she’s going to write the crap out of that battle scene because she writes battle scenes like no other author. She’s so phenomenal. I just, couldn’t not pick that book. I think I’ve, I have talked about the previous six on every podcast I’ve done. So book seven, “A Veiled & Hallowed Eve” by Haley Turner comes out October 1st. This is it. This is for everything.

Jay: Very exciting.

Lisa: This is going to be a big one. So can’t wait.

Jay: I actually, I almost used that as mine and I didn’t because figured one of you would have it, as yours. But yes, I have that penciled in for that release day. I’m super excited about it. I’ve loved the whole series. We’ve reviewed both the books and the audio books and can’t wait to see how it ends.

Lisa: Yeah, but yet I don’t want it to end.

Jay: I know. Seven books, we get very emotionally invested in characters after such a long time. So yeah. I’m excited to see how it all comes together. I know I’m going to be crushed before… like I just know she’s just going to wreak havoc before it all comes together, so I’m trying to steel myself for it.

Lisa: I know. Yeah. It’s going to be a nail biter for sure. There’s just no way around it, but I feel like Patrick and Jono now this is going to be, they’ve got the New York God pack. I think that this is going to be just an amazing ending to the series, but ultimately it’s going to come down to Patrick and his father and his sister.

Yeah. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, but yeah, this is one of those series that I’ll go back and read it again, back to back one of these days, just because, when you wait, for periods of time.

Jay: You miss little things when you come back.

Lisa: You do you miss little things so it’d be great to be able to go through and read them book one through seven. And I definitely will. I own them in ebook. I own them in paper back. I just love this series. Love it.

Jeff: Fantastic. And nobody has to wait very long for the books that you’ve recommended. Cause they’re coming around just days after this episode drops. So that’s awesome.

As always wonderful to catch up and talk books with both of you. I can’t believe we’re going to be doing this again to do the best of 2021 because we’re barreling right down the line towards the end of the year here. So thank you again for being here and we’ll see you again in about three months.

Jay: Bye guys.

Lisa: Bye.


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

Jeff: And thank you so much to Jay and Lisa for coming to talk about books. Always one of my favorite conversations that we get to have, when we get to just sit down and I get to find out everything that they’ve been reading. Such a great list this month. As always my to-read list has grown so much more. As if I needed any more books to read in my Kindle right now.

Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Thursday in episode 335 it’s the return of the Big Gay Fiction Book Club.

Jeff: That’s right, after a summer hiatus we’re back and we’ll be talking about the swoony Hollywood-based romance, “Running Lines” by Jeris Jean.

Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.

Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.