Jeff & Will kick off the show with the announcement of the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for October: This Is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer.
The guys talk about four musicals they’ve watched recently: Diana on Netflix, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on Amazon Prime, Come From Away on Apple, and Dear Evan Hansen at the movies.
Books coming in the first half of October are previewed, including titles by Casey Cox, May Archer, Macy Blake, KD Casey, J.M. Dabney, Farhad J. Dadyburjor, Amiee Nicole Walker, and Briar Prescott. Jeff and Will also review their recent reads: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune, Drawing Lines by Jeris Jean, and Busy Ain’t the Half Of It by Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz.
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.
- Episode 335 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club September 2021: “Running Lines” by Jeris Jean on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- This Is Not A Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer on Amazon
- Tracker Hacker by Jeff Adams on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (e-book 99 cents through October 10)
- Diana on Netflix
- Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on Amazon Prime
- Come from Away on Apple
- Dear Evan Hansen movie website
- Got Me Wishing by Casey Cox on Amazon
- Pick Me by May Archer on Amazon (pre-order until October 5, 2021)
- Gideon by Macy Blake on Amazon (pre-order until October 12, 2021)
- Unwritten Rules by KD Casey on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until October 12, 2021)
- Cold Cases and Second Chances by J.M. Dabney on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until October 12, 2021)
- The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor on Amazon (pre-order until October 12, 2021)
- Bad at Love by Amiee Nicole Walker on Amazon (pre-order until October 14, 2021)
- The Underdog by Briar Prescott on Amazon (pre-order until October 14, 2021)
- Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Episode 328 – Stories of Strength, Hope and Kindness with TJ Klune on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Wolfsong by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo
- Murmuration by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo
- The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Drawing Lines by Jeris Jean on Amazon
- Busy Ain’t the Half of It by Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz on Amazon | Kobo
- In Case You Forgot by Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz on Amazon | Kobo
- American Love Story by Adriana Herrera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- 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 welcoming October with reviews of what we’ve been reading and watching. Plus, we’ve got to look at some books we’re excited for this month.
Will: Welcome to episode 336 of the Big Gay Piction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will and with me as always is my co-host and husband. It’s Jeff.
Jeff: I can’t help but laugh at the way you said my name, that was so awesome. Hello, rainbow romance readers. It’s great to have you back for another episode of the podcast.
As always, this show 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: So last week we wrapped up the month of September by going out on a high note. I particularly enjoyed our book club discussion of “Running Lines” by Jeris Jean.
Jeff: As did I such a good book.
Will: If you haven’t had a chance to listen to that episode, please give it a try. And if you’re interested knowing more about the “Hollywood Hopefuls” series, don’t worry. I got your back. I’ll be talking about it more later in this episode.
Now, since it’s the beginning of the month, I have the great pleasure of making the October book club announcement. It’s going to be the thrilling new adult romance “This Is Not a Horror Movie” by Sarah Dobie Bauer. It’s about two young guys whose families have summered alongside each other for several years, but this is the summer that they’re making it happen. They’re finally dating, but something dark and mysterious is going on in Longboat key. And our two heroes are the only two people who can save the world from supernatural annihilation.
If that sounds good to you, members of our Patreon community will get exclusive early access to the book club episode later this week. So keep an eye out for that, or your ears peeled, whatever the case may be. The book club episode, featuring “This Is Not a Horror Movie” will become available in the regular podcast feed just in time for Halloween on Thursday, October 28th.
Jeff: We’ll have even more about this book coming up a little later this month as Sara Dobie Bauer joins us for episode 340 on October 18th. So we’ll get to find out all kinds of cool things about this book. I am super eager to ask her how much horror movie research she had to do for this, or is that already in her head because she’s a super horror fan already. So looking forward to that.
And I’ve got some book sale news for you. “Tracker Hacker,” which is the first book in my young adult techno thriller series, featuring a high school hockey player who is also a covert agent is on sale for just 99 cents this week. If you haven’t given this series to try it yet, this is a great time to pick up that first ebook while it is at this special sale price. You can find “Tracker Hacker” for 99 cents at all ebook retailers. And I hope you will pick it up and give it a try.
Will: So before we get to this episode’s book talk, we thought we’d quickly mentioned some of the musical offerings that have been coming up lately on television.
Diana on Netflix
Jeff: We haven’t been able to go to the theater but there have been some excellent things to watch on the streaming services and in the movie theaters in the past few weeks.
Just last night we watched the very latest of those offerings as the musical “Diana” made its premiere on Netflix. In a unique turn of events, this film version of the stage musical has premiered in advance of the show opening on Broadway. So everybody gets a little sneak peek before the show opens it a theater next month.
Yes, this is a musical adaptation of Princess Diana’s life running from just as she got engaged to prince Charles to the point where they got divorced and then gives a quick look at her untimely death.
So in just about two hours, the show covers 15 years basically. I didn’t really know what to expect with this musical cause there is a lot of time to cover there, but I enjoyed this take on Diana’s life. And there were elements that I learned that I never knew before. Like the relationship that she had with the man who was teaching her boys how to ride a horse.
Will: So Actress Jeanna de Waal plays Diana. She’s really quite good. I certainly enjoyed her performance, as the show kind of takes us through the ups and downs of her complicated relationship and dealing with the Royal family. Biographical musicals have been all a rage for several years now. And I think the show Diana does an acceptable job. It’s good, but certainly not groundbreaking.
But, I don’t think a work of art or in this case, a piece of musical theater, really has to turn the world upside down in order to be entertaining, which is what I think their show manages to do.
Jeff: As you can imagine, because princess Diana had such good fashion sense that the costumes play a big part of this musical too. William Ivey Long, a Tony award winner for many, many shows with amazing costumes, has done a great job capturing the fashion side of Diana. Some amazing quick changes even happen right on stage that are really stunning to watch.
So here’s your chance to see a Broadway musical before it even plays in New York. ” Diana” is streaming on Netflix and the musical is slated to begin previews in New York on November 2nd.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on Amazon Prime
Will: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is the film adaptation of the popular West End musical based on a BBC television documentary about a boy who wants to wear a dress to his prom and the hubbub that, that causes. And here, the story is brought to life with fabulous songs, terrific costumes, and really wonderful performances.
Jeff: Yes, this musical is such a bright ray of light as it exudes so much joy as Jamie fights for what he wants. And essentially gets his happily ever after becoming the person that he really wants to be. Max Harwood delivers an amazing performance as Jamie and the movie really captures the stage musical well.
We had the opportunity a couple of years ago to go to the movie theater for one of those Fathom Events kind of things, and see a film presentation of the West End musical. And the film is quite faithful to that as I remember it, and I was so happy to see it arrive on Amazon. It was just so wonderful to see that musical come to life on film.
Come From Away on Apple TV
And a couple of things that I have watched recently. Apple TV debuted the musical “Come From Away,” which was filmed this past summer on its Broadway stage in front of a live audience. “Come From Away” is the story of Gander, Newfoundland which became the hub that many airplanes landed on September 11th when the U. S. Airspace closed. Gander was already a small town and its population doubled because of the number of passengers on the planes that landed there.
Gander’s population stepped up and took in the plane passengers, who had to stay there until the planes were allowed to leave a few days later. It’s really a story of people coming together, of kindness, of working through what was happening in the world around them. It’s such an uplifting musical. And I was so glad to finally get to see it. I’ve tried to see this onstage several times and have failed. So I was really happy to get to watch a film capture of it.
And it brought back together many of its original cast members alongside members of the North American touring company and the current Broadway cast for this film event. So if you’ve got Apple TV, I highly recommend “Come From Away.” It’s a really great musical.
Dear Evan Hansen movie
Then this past week, I also went to see “Dear Evan Hansen” at the movies. We’ve talked about “Dear Evan Hansen” on the show each time that we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it three times, including once with the original star Ben Platt on Broadway.
The film adaptation about this high school senior, Evan, who through a series of pretty terrible lies spins a tale that he is best friends with a young man who has committed suicide in an effort to give his parents a little something to hold on to from their son.
I enjoyed the film adaptation. I thought they managed to translate the stage musical fairly well to a filmed format. I will say as many people have commented in reviews that Ben Platt is unfortunately too old to play that role. Occasionally it was a distraction on the screen. On the other hand I, thoroughly enjoyed hearing him sing the part once again and inhabiting Evan.
There are wonderful new things in the film too, with a couple of new songs that expand a couple of character’s roles pretty well. There’s some great new material at the end of the movie, as we actually get to see Evan start to make amends for what he did, which is something that you don’t get in the stage musical.
There’s a lot of reason to recommend “Dear Evan Hansen” at the movies. Certainly a great opportunity to hear Ben Platt sing this amazing score. So I would recommend if you’re a musical theater fan to check that out at the movies or it’ll be very soon on video, on demand.
October New Releases Preview
All right, it’s a new month and that means we are looking forward to some great new books. So tell us what we can expect in the month of October.
Will: Well, starting off on October 4th, which just so happens to be the day that this episode goes live, “Got Me Wishing” by Casey Cox is going to be releasing. It’s about a veterinarian, who’s the proud Papa to eight rescue cats. And when he meets a handsome stranger, he finds himself reassessing his stance on relationships. Could a half birthday, plus a second chance equal a love that is forever true.
Jeff: I think that’s just the perfect equation for some good love. And I love that somebody who’s clearly an adult is celebrating a half birthday. Cause at some point, you know, the half birthdays kind of get passe. So good on this person for celebrating the half birthday.
Will: On October 5th, the newest title from May Archer is going to be releasing, it’s called “Pick Me.” It’s about a young man with big city dreams who finds temporary work at a Vermont apple orchard, where his reluctant roommate is a grumpy, burly, older guy named Knox. Neither of them are looking to put down roots, but there’s no denying this sinfully, sexy chemistry that they share. Eventually they must decide, which is more important, their own ambitions or the possibility of a love of a lifetime.
Jeff: So, if you had to guess what piece of this blurb makes me want to read this book? What do you think it is?
Will: I don’t know. You have a thing for apples.
Jeff: It’s the Vermont apple orchard setting. Is that terrible of me. I don’t know. But I also, I mean, grumpy, burly, older guy, you know, this guy with big city dreams ending up at a Vermont apple orchard. There’s a lot there that ticks the boxes, but Vermont apple orchard was the thing like, Ooh, an apple orchard. I want that. Yeah. This is the first book in May’s “Sunday Brothers” series and I think I would pick him this one up. Plus apple orchard fall. It all connects so well.
Will: On October 12th, we’ve got the newest title in the “Chosen Champions” series, “Gideon” by Macy Blake. Now Gideon is a centuries old vampire who uses his skills with a sword to protect the human realm. Taj an incubus banished to this world is Gideon’s ex. If they want a chance to set things right, together they must find out who’s responsible for a series of brutal attacks while also breaking down the wall of secrets that divide them.
Jeff: I love seeing how Macy continues to broaden out the “Chosen” universe, and a vampire who uses a sword that one kind of appealed to me too. Cause I’m down with swords, you know, sword play is good. So I expect at least one good sword fight within this book.
Will: Yeah. Sword fights are good. “Gideon” comes out on October 12th.
And also releasing on the same day is “Unwritten Rules” by KD Casey. Years ago, baseball player Zack made a choice he’s always regretted. He can’t get his ex teammate Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. When they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back. Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio once a relationship, he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
Jeff: All star games are such a great time for sports people to reunite. That has happened in other sporting series that I’ve been reading. Cause it brings everybody together those all star games. This one sounds good. I am always down for a second chance romance. So yeah, I might have to be checking out KD Casey here.
October 12th is a big day. You’ve got still more things to tell us about on the 12th.
Will: Yep. “Cold Cases and Second Chances” by J.M. Dabney is also coming out on the same day. The stakes are high in this workplace, colleagues, friends-to-lovers romance. When a burnt out homicide detective is assigned a young, new partner. A whole world of possibilities are opened up for Robert and Remy. It might finally be time for them to bravely take a chance because in their line of work, second chances don’t come cheap.
Jeff: I’m excited for this book because not only do I like age gap romances already, but when they’re done with the workplace setting and you’ve got like the seasoned veteran with the newbie partner that always has so many good sparks because usually the newbie’s trying to prove himself in this role but something goes wrong and the mentor has to help. And then you’ve got the relationship building on the side. This ticks so many boxes for me in terms of a book. Plus I have to imagine there’s a little bit of a romantic suspense vibe in here too. Yeah. I need this book. Something else for me to read on October 12th.
Will: One more title coming out on the same day is “The Other Man” by Farhad J. Dadyburjor. Bowing to the expectations of his wealthy family, Ved agrees to an arranged marriage. Days before his elaborate engagement party, he meets Carlos in intriguing American in Mumbai on business. As their relationship grows deeper, can Ved find the courage to embrace his true self and go after what he really wants?
Jeff: I am super excited for this book since it came across my desk on a list of ARCs. I haven’t read it yet because I want the audio book, which I’ve already pre-ordered. We don’t often get gay romances in the Indian culture and I’m super excited to dive into this story.
Will: The next title we want to mention is “Bad at Love” by Aimee Nicole Walker. That’ll be releasing on October 14th. Kendall always falls for the wrong guy. Case-in-point his sexy new roommate, a U.S. deputy marshal who’s recently been burned by love. A rebound fling? Totally bad idea, but their chemistry is undeniable and their resolve is fading fast.
Jeff: It’s always fun to get a roommate book because there’s just that little bit of forced proximity sort of, because you’re living in the same place and it’s hard perhaps to get away from each other. Yes, you can leave, but you always have to come back.
I’m curious about this one because of it’s cover too, because the person on the cover looks like a party boy a little bit, or somebody who’s at like a masquerade ball or something, and then you put a U.S. deputy marshal with it and that just so opposites attract there. There’s a lot in this book that I think would be really fun.
Will: Yeah, you’re right. The guy on the cover wearing a mask. It’s like, what is that all about?
Jeff: It does not say U.S. deputy marshal.
Will: Yeah, that one has definitely piqued my interest.
And lastly, we want to mention “The Underdog” by Briar Prescott. In this one it’s a match made in sunshine, grumpy heaven. When Wells Montgomery is forced to act as personal trainer for a relentlessly upbeat guy, who’s undertaking his first triathlon. Neither of them wants to do it, but as they spend more and more time together, they realize there’s no other place that they would rather be.
Jeff: I’m intrigued by this one, simply because I would imagine that the sunshiny person here would actually be the trainer, as opposed to the guy who’s about to run the triathlon. Cause trainers to me are always relentlessly happy and trying to pump you up and get you going. And so, since it sounds here like the grumpy guy is the trainer, I’m very curious to see how that dynamic works itself out.
Will: “The Underdog” by Briar Prescott is releasing on October 14th.
And if you’re interested in any of the titles that we just talked about, you can find the complete list on the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Jeff: All right, so let’s move into some book reviews.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
And the first title I want to talk about is the latest from TJ Klune. And what exactly do I say about “Under the Whispering Door?” I mean, if you’ve listened to this show for any time at all, you know, I’m a huge fan boy and TJ doesn’t disappoint with this book. Like many of his stories, this one is difficult to talk about, even more so than usual this time out, because I don’t want to spell things that you as a reader should have the wonder of discovering for yourself.
So I’ll start with the easy part, the basic setup of the book. As the book opens, we meet Wallace, a high strung, not very likable attorney as he’s actually firing an employee for a single slip up that had no real consequence. He’s just being a dick because he can. Wallace is not nice. And he’s all about his job and the status and privilege that that affords him. The high pressure, high strungness of his life, however, catches up to him and he dies of a heart attack. We find him later watching his sparsely, attended funeral, listening into some of the conversation and basically being annoyed at the whole reception he’s getting at his funeral.
One person, however, can see and hear him. Mei has come for him. She is tasked with bringing him to Hugo who is a ferryman and will help Wallace cross crossover to whatever it is that may come next, Wallace, gripes and complaints and bitches all the Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats. Yes. He’s being taken to a tea shop, which happens to be the waystation where Hugo and Mei work, serving up yummy tea and treats while also helping the dead.
Now, if you’ve heard TJ talk about this book, and if you’ve missed that, you can actually hear him in episode 328, he says that this book is part of his kindness trilogy. “Whispering Door” isn’t connected to last year’s “The House in The Cerulean Sea,” but just like “Cerulean Sea,” kindness radiates from this story. And that’s what I love about it so much. As Wallace examines his life, and not just the person that he was, but who he could still become, TJ offers us so many messages of kindness and hope. How people can change, find healing and comfort. The journey that Wallace is on in this book is simply extraordinary and the realizations that he makes while he’s in the tea shop with Hugo, Mei and a couple of other ghosts are sublime. There’s power in kindness and being helpful and Wallace finds that out in ways, large and small.
Then there’s Hugo. TJ has written characters that I adore and carry in my list of all time favorites. There’s Ox from “Wolfsong.” Mike from “Murmuration.” Nick from “The Extraordinaries.” And now there’s Hugo. Hugo’s dual job between serving tea and treats to the community while also having the emotionally taxing job as a ferryman is certainly unique. But his, and again here’s this word, kindness and grace, while still being a flawed human are truly incredible. I’m captivated by Hugo and would love to read more about his life, including what happens after the events in “Whispering Door.”
I loved everything in this story. And I expect I’ll actually come back to visit it again in a few months. I know there’s even more depth to this story for me to explore with a second reading, or in my case it would be a second listen. Kirt Graves handles the narration of “Under the Whispering Door” and it’s no secret I’m a big fan boy of Kirt’s too. But his work here is truly next level. The voice that he’s given to Hugo is like being wrapped in the most snugly of blankets or sweaters that you can possibly imagine. I really don’t even have the words to fully express how captivated I was. And of course, Kirt handles the rest of the characters perfectly, but Hugo just warmed me through.
So just to recap, I loved “Under the Whispering Door.” TJ’s writing is masterful, and seriously how does he just keep writing better and better with each and every book, and Kirt’s narration is perfection. And, while this is a book that begins with death, I can assure you that while there is some grief, there’s also laughter and joy and tears and kindness and love and romance. It’s all of the emotions. And it’s just beautiful.
Drawing Lines by Jeris Jean
Will: So earlier I mentioned I was going to be talking more about the ” Hollywood Hopefuls” series and that time is right now. I want to talk about “Drawing Lines” by Jeris Jean. At the opening of the story, Hollywood lovebirds, Grayson and Finn, who he met in the first book in the series “Running Lines,” which we talked about extensively in the September Book Club episode, they are trying to help their friend Felix, with his love life.
Flirtatious Felix has always had feelings for. Ethan, Gray and Finn’s agent, Ethan is young and smart and talented, and surely will run most of Hollywood someday, while Felix is the guy you ask how many squats to do for a tighter booty.
After helping Finn move in with Grayson, Felix and Ethan go for a walk on the beach and get to know each other better. They almost end the evening with a kiss, but Felix chickens out and gives him a bro hug instead. Not long after that, he sees Ethan at a sushi restaurant with a hot guy. Don’t worry, it’s just a business meeting. But Felix is overwhelming jealousy of seeing Ethan with someone else, forces him to make a move, no matter how scared of rejection he might be.
They begin a text exchange and that begins as fun turns flirty and soon gets very sexy. After getting off, the sexting steam between these two is crazy off the charts, Felix asks Ethan out on a real date. They go out to dinner, walk along the Santa Monica pier and kiss under the colorful lights of the ferris wheel. On the surface. They may not have much in common, but somehow they just click with the sweetest and most sincere chemistry.
Felix loves spending time with Ethan’s family, almost as much as he likes spending quality alone time with Ethan. If you get my meaning. In one adorable sexy scene, the morning after they spent the night together, Felix comes back from his run with bagels. And Ethan is so charmed by the simple domesticity of it all, that they go at it right there in the kitchen. It’s so flipping cute and ridiculously hot. Like I said, chemistry.
As the holidays approach, Felix comes up with the perfect date night. They go to a special showing of Ethan’s favorite movie “Love, Actually.” Since Ethan secretly wants to be a screenwriter, this gesture means a lot. Later, Felix comes up with the perfect Christmas Eve date, tree and lights and good food and presents. It all feels so right that Felix says, I love you, and they spend a blissful night together in Felix’s bed.
It’s not all smooth sailing though. Ethan’s confidence is shaken when he sees Felix training, an equally buffing and gorgeous celebrity client. His insecurities have been wondering what’s Felix doing with a guy like him. His sudden hesitancy has Felix worried that he has regrets about the seriousness of the relationship, saying I love you and everything.
Thankfully, Ethan receives a good talking to from his sister and Grayson. They’re right, of course. But if he’s going to have a future with the man of his dreams, he needs to make some changes. Starting with his job. He hates being a talent agent. So he accepts a position as script writer on the new show Grayson and Finn are creating.
Felix has been doing some thinking too. He is not giving up on love without a fight. Taking a cue from Ethan’s favorite character in his favorite movie, Felix goes to see him and in front of Ethan’s entire family spells out his feelings with giant pieces of poster board. His heart belongs to Felix. Always has, always will.
They’re happy tearful reunion, complete, Felix even mentions that he’s found the perfect place for them to live. Moving in together? That is a-okay with Ethan. And an epilogue finds our two heroes one year later, hosting their burst holiday gathering in their own place, packed to the rafters with friends and extended family. And afterward they go for a walk on the beach, just like they did that first night. And Felix does something that once again, proves that he is the undisputed king of grand romantic gestures, completely and utterly swoon-worthy.
So needless to say, I am bonkers in love with this story and the “Hollywood Hopefuls” series Grayson and Finn were romantic perfection in “Running Lines” and Felix and Ethan are also a match made in gay romance heaven.
Though, I will say that these two were really their own worst enemies. Each battled with a form of insecurity that, if this book were longer, would have been crazy annoying. You would have wanted to punch them in the face. But since “Drawing Lines” is the perfect category romance length, not too short, not too long, the characters quickly realize their mistakes and get back to the business of being the perfectly sexy, romantic couple they were destined to be, which made me a very happy reader indeed.
Oh, and one quick thing. Though this story ends up taking place at the end of the year, I wouldn’t classify this in the strictest sense as a holiday romance. The season is an incidental part of the setting and isn’t integral to the plot. So if you’re the type of reader who only reads Christmas books in November and December, do not fret. I think this is a perfect read no matter the time of year.
Special shout out to Iggy Toma, who is the narrator of the audio book. I’m a big fan and have been for a while. He’s just real damn good. And he’s doing a kick ass job with this series.
So in conclusion, if you’re a fan of feel good contemporary romance, and you’re not reading Jeris Jean, I think you should be. Jeff and I really loved “Running Lines” and if you’d like to listen to our in-depth discussion of that book, I’m going to quickly remind you that you can always check out the book club episode that it was featured in. It’s available to listen anytime you’d like.
And to reiterate, I love Ethan and Felix love story and “Drawing Lines.” The author has done such a good job with this series that I just might have to pick up book three, even though I do not have time to continue a series. The problems of a book lover.
FYI, we will be talking with author Jeris Jean soon, and our interview is scheduled for an episode in November so keep an eye out for that.
Jeff: I am so glad you read this book. I’m a little jealous that you read this book before I got to it.
Will: You should be it’s really damn good.
Jeff: I’m so happy that Ethan and Felix got there happily. I liked both of those characters, so, so much and “Running Lines.” Although I am a little concerned that Grayson and Finn now have to get yet another agent. I hope Ethan hooks them up with somebody good.
Will: They’re taking Hollywood by storm. You do not have to worry about them.
Busy Ain’t the Half of It by Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz
Jeff: So I’ve got one more book for you, and this is “Busy Ain’t the Half Of It” by Frederick Smith and Chaz Lamar Cruz. Now I loved their debut collaboration with “In Case You Forgot” from 2019, and I’m so glad to come back to their Los Angeles and this group of family and friends and loves that they created. “Busy Ain’t the Half Of It” is just as wonderful and satisfying as the first book with some excellent plot twists along the way.
This book focuses on Elijah and Justin. We met Elijah in the previous book where he turned up from time to time. And here we find him and Zaire as boyfriends who might be looking to move things to the next level of coupledom. Zaire was one of the main characters in the first book. And it’s great to pick up his story here, although it’s mostly through Elijah’s point of view this time out. Elijah is a struggling actor, trying to make it in LA, working a few side jobs and pushing to find his big break.
One of his side jobs is working for his uncle, Justin Monroe. Justin’s a big shot news anchor for an LA TV station. He’s got two teenage kids, or young ones as he likes to call them, who are seniors at a private high school. Elijah tutors the kids and also has a bit of a nanny role when Justin’s working. Justin is cautious with his private life because of his job and protecting the kids. He also has a longstanding crush with his best friend, next door neighbor, and rivaled TV anchor, Trevor. Neither man has dealt with these feelings through the years, though t hey both know that they have them. And it’s only complicated further since Trevor’s in a relationship.
Elijah and Justin trade off POV’s through this book, which is a little abnormal because we essentially have two different relationships trying to build here as Elijah is with Zaire and Justin is trying to figure out exactly who his love life involves. We see Elijah work through his fear, taking the leap to move in with Zaire. The back and forth is fraught with ups and downs and sideways for these two, as they alternatively communicate well. And at other times, communicate not well at all. It’s also interesting how much baggage Elijah works into his decision-making. How much does his past matter given how excellent the present is and how good the forecast for the future actually looks? Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.
Justin meanwhile has too much going on for his own good. He’s busy taking care of everyone else, having set himself up as the breadwinner, not only for his kids, but for the extended family as well. His romantic life is complicated as he and Trevor dance around each other. But then Justin meets the principal at the kids’ school. Justin and Jabari have sparks that fly off the page, right from their first meeting in an official capacity, and then moving right onto all their other unofficial meetings that they have, which includes ending up on vacation together.
Family and friends run deep in this book just as they did with “In Case You Forgot.” Justin is dedicated to his kids and making sure they have a great education and are set up to succeed in life. The interactions that we see between Justin and his kids, Justice and Junior are so good. As much as I love nice guys being nice guys and talking, there’s something special about watching a father being a good father. And I absolutely love to read it. It’s all one big family too since Justin and Elijah are related. Elijah’s also got solid friends that help him deal with his hangups about moving forward with Zaire.
Just as they did in “In Case You Forgot,” Frederick and Chaz dig into some of the real concerns that come with being Black in America, Justin’s kids are talking about issues that they encounter at school. Justin also deals with a particularly bout of nastiness towards the end of the book that had been cheering with how he dealt with it. Elijah also navigates being a Black actor in Hollywood. All of this is organically woven into the story because it’s part of life for these characters and Frederick and Chaz do a tremendous job of weaving real life America into these books. It really reminds me of Adriana Herrera’s “American Love Story,” which dealt with law enforcement unfairly targeting young men of color and how well she dealt with that in that particular book.
If you recall in my review of “In Case You Forgot,” I said that while it was categorized as a romance, that it wasn’t one because it strayed too far from the conventions and what readers might expect. “Busy Ain’t the Half Of It” is much more of a romance with the stories of Elijah and Zaire and Justin and Jabari. I’ll caution readers who look for every single romance beat to be hit, however, that you won’t find that here. You will get what you want from a romance though, because there’s happy at the end, but the road to get there won’t always be what you expect.
I absolutely loved it just as I did with the first book. The characters Frederick and Chaz bring to the page are incredible. You root for them. You turn the page to find out what’s going to happen. The only thing I’m left wanting is more with these characters to see how they get on, to learn more about their friends. I definitely hope that Frederick and Chaz bring us more. And in the meantime, I very much recommend the excellent “Busy Ain’t The Half Of It.”
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation and reviews for yourself, you know what to do. Head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. The show notes page has links to everything, like literally everything, that we have talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Also in the show notes page, you’ll find links to the audio books that are available on Libro.fm. Of course, Libro.fm is the place that when you buy an audio book, you’ll also be supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. For details, and to take advantage of that offer, simply go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for this episode. Now coming up on Thursday in episode 337, we’ve got three of our favorite authors, Adriana Herrera, Fredrick Smith, and Chaz Lamar Cruz.
Jeff: This is a conversation Adriana hosted on Instagram Live with Frederick and Chaz about “Busy Ain’t the Half Of It” as part of their book tour. Not only do we find out more about Frederick and Chaz’s book, there’s also a great discussion about diversity and intersectionality, and we’re excited to bring this conversation to you in case you missed it live.
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 frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.