Jeff & Will kick off the show with a brief recap of the Big Gay Fiction Fest. They also talk about NBC’s Annie Live and ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience featuring classic episodes of Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes.
They preview books that are coming before the end of the year, including titles from E.M. Lindsey, Merry Farmer, Emma Lyon, Lily Morton, Ariella Zoelle, J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry, and Jayce Ellis.
The guys also review four seasonal books: The Nutcracker by Robin Knight, Dallas Christmas by RJ Scott, Ginger Snapping all the Way by Gabbi Grey, and The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely.
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.
- Big Gay Fiction Fest website
- Annie Live on Peacock
- Annie (1982 movie) on Amazon Prime
- Annie (1999 Disney) on Disney Plus
- Live in front of a Studio Audience on Hulu
- Shades of Winter by E.M. Lindsey on Amazon (pre-order until December 14, 2021)
- Games Lovers Play by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until December 14, 2021)
- Episode 341 – Falling in Love with History with Merry Farmer on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Not So Perfect by Emma Lyon on Amazon (pre-order until December 16, 2021)
- On a Midnight Clear by Lily Morton on Amazon (pre-order until December 17, 2021)
- Gaycation in Paradise by Ariella Zoelle on Amazon (pre-order until December 26, 2021)
- A Sanctuary for Soulden by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry on Amazon (pre-order until December 28, 2021)
- If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until December 28, 2021)
- The Nutcracker by Robin Knight on Amazon
- Fathoms Five series by Robin Knight on Amazon
- Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Netflix
- Dallas Christmas by RJ Scott on Amazon | Kobo
- Ginger Snapping all the Way by Gabbi Grey on Amazon | Kobo
- The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- Men of Summer series by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- The Best Men by Lauren Blakely & Sarina Bowen on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until January 18, 2022)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- 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.
Will: Coming up on this episode, we’ve got so many books to talk about. Ones that we’ve read and are going to be reviewing and ones that will be releasing before the end of the year.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 351 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 there. Welcome back rainbow romance readers
Jeff: As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thanks to Kellie and to Schmusirike for recently joining the community. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons, you can go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
So, it was just over a week ago that the Big Gay Fiction Fest premiered, and it has been so cool to see how many people have joined the Fest from around the world. In addition to the U.S., we’ve had attendees from Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Israel, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Peru, New Zealand, and Japan. It truly became a global event, which was just amazing to see the different countries pop up in the information that we got back about the Fest.
And I have to say it was really wonderful hanging out in the live comments that came back while the Fest premiered on December 4th. Now, one of the comments I think all the authors out there need to know about is that there are readers in Australia and New Zealand who would love to see holiday stories set there. So, something in the warmer climates of the Southern hemisphere, instead of all the snowy mountain towns and whatnot that we usually get. Frankly, I would love to read that too, to get a little vibe of the holiday season down under. There are so many authors located in that part of the world. Maybe we can get one of those stories for 2022. Or, if they’ve already exist, and you’ve got recommendations for one that’s actually set there, send them on over. We would love to see what those look like. It was also great to see the comments around the reactions to our guests talking about some of their family holiday traditions and favorite childhood gifts.
Now, of course, if you haven’t been to the Fest yet to hear from our featured guests Annabeth Albert, Garrett Leigh, Lucy, Lennox, and Charlie Novak, and to get a special holiday story written by E.J. Russell and read to you by Kirt Graves, replays of the Fest are always available at biggayfictionfest.com.
Now, before we get into all those books, there’s a couple of things on TV that we want to talk about.
“Annie Live” was on NBC back on December 2nd, and I have to say that we absolutely loved it. Now I’m going to cop to something here. You know, I’m a big musical fan, but for some reason “Annie” has never really connected with me until this particular production. I was blown away by the whole thing. The young actress, Celina Smith, who is Annie lit up the screen from her very first appearance. And I was sold on the entire thing.
It was just so beautifully produced, with amazing dancing and some amazing performances. This may be one that I actually go back and watch again because I was so blown away by it.
Now you’re kind of the “Annie” connoisseur in the house. He grins at me with his cute little smile. It’s like, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Will: And an eye roll. You always say this.
Jeff: It’s true.
Will: Yes, I enjoyed the musical “Annie” when I was a kid. It was a big part of my growing up. The movie adaptation by John Houston came out when I was in the third grade. We also had a copy of the original cast recording in my house, so I listened to that on repeat quite a lot. It was a big part of my love of musicals growing up.
And what I really appreciated about “Annie Live” is that, for the most part, it used the original stage production as it’s template. Despite my fondest for the show, I’ve never actually seen the show on stage. My frame of reference has always been the big screen movie, and the TV movie that “Wonderful World of Disney” did, gosh, over a decade ago now. So, I really enjoyed seeing “Annie” presented with so much love and care, with such an amazing cast.
And if you’re a person who already knows that they hate the show, I don’t think this production is necessarily going to convert you, but I think it was the perfect holiday gift for fans of this particular show.
Jeff: It’s certainly converted me to being a fan of at least this particular production. You mentioned the cast and it’s the cast that brought me in here. Nicole Scherzinger was Grace. Taraji P. Henson was Miss Hannigan. Tituss Burgess was Rooster. Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks. Seeing all that in the commercials brought me to the screen. And, I have to say, Nicole needs to do more musicals. She’s done a few stage musicals over the past few years. She needs to do a lot more. Cause she was just incredible.
If you missed “Annie Live” and want to catch it, you can see it in a replay on the NBC app or streaming on the Peacock service.
Will: Another live production that recently aired was the newest version of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” presented by Jimmy Kimmel. This time they tackled classic episodes of “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Facts of Life.” A wonderful modern cast, doing classic television scripts. As with the previous presentations, I thought they really hit it out of the park. This was so much fun.
Jeff: Yeah, it absolutely was. They cast everything perfectly. Jennifer Anniston as Blair was so inspired. But I have to say it was “Diff’rent Strokes” that really worked for me because it was Kevin Hart as Arnold and Damon Wayans as Willis, and they were so hysterical. It was really interesting to see adults in all of these teenage roles and it really played out well. I was so excited to see it and really, really enjoyed it. If you miss that, it is streaming on Hulu so you can pick that up and check out all of the sit-com hilarity.
Year-End Book Releases
Jeff: All right. Shall we get into what we’re really here to do, which is talk about a bunch of books. Tell us about what’s coming out before the end of the year.
Will: Yeah. When it comes to romance writers, you know, they can’t stop, and they won’t stop.
Jeff: Nor do we want them to stop.
Will: Here’s some of the stories headed our way before we flip the calendar to 2022.
First up, let’s talk about “Shades of Winter” by E.M. Lindsey. That’s coming up on December 14th. Dante is nothing if not professional but being hired to protect the young cellist he once hooked-up with isn’t high on his list of things to do for the holidays. It doesn’t help that Liam starts pushing every single one of his buttons after they find themselves snowbound with Liam’s stalker hot on their tail. Dante must make a choice between duty and pleasure, a risk that just might be worth everything.
Jeff: As soon as I read that off the list that you gave me, I hit pre-order. There’s romantic suspense. There’s clearly going to be a second chance, enemies-to-lovers thing going on here. There’s some forced proximity. Who’s after a cellist? I also kind of need to know about that because that doesn’t seem like the kind of career that gets you pursued. So yeah, I’m all into this book because it sounds just incredible.
Will: Another book coming out on December 14th is “Games Lovers Play ” by Merry Farmer, the newest book in her “After the War ” series. Lucas accepted Redmund’s invitation to spend the summer on a remote estate for one reason—he’s been hopelessly in love with Red for years. It’s his last chance to capture Red’s heart and prove that he is more than just a friend and a distraction. Can he help Red find redemption and the love he deserves before Red’s demons get the best of him? Or will Luc’s lingering injury be a constant reminder of all the ways Red has failed?
Jeff: We’ve talked about this series before, and Merry’s finding such interesting stories to tell of this group of people who came back from the war. It’s really interesting to see the people she keeps bringing together. And of course, if you want to know more about this series, you can actually check out our interview with Merry in episode 341 from back in October.
Will: On December 16th, “No So Perfect ” by Emma Lyon is coming out. Shane never thought he’d see Quinn again. But he needs a lawyer, and Quinn’s still the best. When they’re together, it’s like they’re back where they were three years ago. Shane can give Quinn what he wants and needs, if only he’ll let him in. But Shane is afraid that this second chance might mean having his heart broken a second time.
Jeff: Always the risk was second chance, isn’t it? That it could go horribly wrong yet again. Although I’m sure in this case, it will not. And second chance being one of my favorite things, I was glad to see this on the list.
Will: Yeah. If you’re into second chances or stories about alpha male lawyers who like to give up control in the bedroom, “Not So Perfect” might be just the ticket.
Next up, let’s talk about “On a Midnight Clear” by Lilly Morton. Lord Barnaby Greenwood is up to his eyeballs in debt and about to lose his estate. A little bit of holiday magic enters his life in the form of Cosmo, and for the first time, Barnaby falls in love. But how can this lead to anything but heartache, when on the last stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, Cosmo will go back to being a statue and take Barnaby’s heart with him?
Jeff: So, as I read that one in preparation for this, my immediate thought was like, wait, what? Statue? What? What’s happening here? And it’s one of those, you know, when you’re reading along the way that, that’s coming, it’s like, how on earth will they fix this? That’s going to take a lot of Christmas magic. And of course, in Lily Morton’s hands, this is going to be pretty fricking outstanding. So, a late holiday entry there from Lilly sneaks its way in, to attempt to read for me before the end of the season.
Will: If you’re interested in finding out how Barnaby and Cosmo make it work, “On a Midnight Clear” comes out on December 17th.
Next let’s heat things up a little bit with “Gaycation in Paradise” by Ariella Zoelle coming out on December 26.
Rook’s acting career is on the brink of disaster after a paparazzi video of him kissing his male costar goes viral. He escapes to an exclusive resort where Aldo is assigned as his live-in butler. His laid-back attitude and quick wit make Rook feel like he’s on a real vacation with a good friend… who he occasionally hooks up with because Aldo’s entirely too tempting to resist. Can love win the day in this age gap, forced proximity, opposites attract, romance?
Jeff: Now, before I even get into the romance aspect of this, I think it is really smart to issue this kind of book on the day after Christmas. You’ve done all the holiday hullabaloo, and now you’re going to go off on a gaycation to an exclusive resort.
Will: Yeah. I could use one of those about right now.
Jeff: Right? I think we all could.
I’ve also been wanting to try out a book by Ariella’s, and I think this one might be it because this sounds perfect for a cold winter’s reading time. And you’ve got your Hollywood person. You’ve got the Butler. Age gap. A lot of things ticked here for me, so I think this’ll be my first book to read from her.
Will: From gaycation to historical intrigue. Next up is “A Sanctuary for Soulden” by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry, coming up on December 28th. When Phillip is shot while spying against the French, he plays dead. A local autopsy cellar is a suitable place to lie low. Imagine surgeon Edmund’s surprise when the corpse before him rises from the exam table. While Phillip remains with him in hiding, Edmund finds he’s growing fond of the adventurous viscount. Love is one thing, but trusting each other could mean the difference between life and death.
Jeff: There were certainly things here, of course, that ticked boxes for me. You’ve got the suspense side of it. Frankly, reading through the scene of him getting up from the autopsy table also sounds like a whole bunch of opportunity for a little bit of fun and flusterment. This is the fourth book in “The Lords of Bucknall Club” series. Every time we talk about one, I’m like, I need to read that. I need to read those. I need to read those. They sound so good. These covers are so wonderful. These illustrated covers that they use. Maybe this’ll be one of my things for early ’22 is to get through these books because I really want to read them.
Will: And last but not least, squeaking in just before the new year, coming out on December 28th is “If You Love Something” by Jayce Ellis. DeShawn is shocked to learn that his grandmother willed half of her estate to his ex-husband, Malik. The only problem is the divorce didn’t quite go through. When a shady uncle contests Grandma’s will, there’s only one path back to justice—they need to act like a happily married couple just long enough to dispense with the lawsuit. But once they’re back in each other’s lives, it’s easy to remember all the reasons they fell in love in the first place.
Jeff: What a nice twist on fake dating. You just have to come back and have a relationship that you thought you didn’t have anymore. So excited to see a new book come out from Jayce Ellis. Of course, we both love Jayce and it’s going to be really exciting to see what this new book brings us.
Will: Yeah, this is an interesting twist on the having to get married for an inheritance trope, in part, because they’re already married, making this a sort of a lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers story. This one should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it. “If You Love Something” by Jayce Ellis is coming out on December 28th.
Jeff: And of course, if you want to get quick access to any of those books, they are just a click away from you if you go to the show notes for this episode on biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Jeff: All right. Let’s talk about some holiday books that we’ve been reading.
The Nutcracker by Robin Knight
Jeff: I’ve been on a little tear through some holiday stuff, and I want to kick it off with Robin Knight’s “The Nutcracker.” And, this is a story that’s a bit difficult to categorize, but I fell in love with this holiday short from one of my very favorite authors.
Now, for those who don’t know, earlier this year Geoffrey Knight changed his pen name over to Robin Knight. And of course, I love Geoff’s work, especially the “Fathom’s Five” series, which, oh my God, there’s another book coming out soon. He covered revealed it and I’m so excited, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about folks.
For “The Nutcracker” I’m going to start off saying that I don’t think I would categorize this as a romance, even though there’s a very nice meet cute and the couple at the end is very much on a path to an HEA. What this book has in spades though is holiday magic, all the heart you could ever ask for and some red hot sexiness too.
Jordy Donovan is back home in Coopers Mill at Christmas time facing the task of moving his grandmother into the Cedar Village assisted living facility. Jordy wants nothing more than for his grandmother to remember her husband, the love of her life. She hasn’t been the same since his passing. She remembers so many things though, but she can’t quite seem to latch on to the memory of Jerry and it’s Jordy’s biggest Christmas wish for her to be able to get some of those memories back.
Now After Jordy gets her settled, he heads back to his grandmother’s house where he’ll be staying for a while. In the snowstorm though he runs off the road in the downtown area. Somehow the toy store that’s been closed for years is suddenly light up, and it seems like there may be someone there who can help. Inside the store is warm, inviting and seems to just crackle with magic. And that includes the man who greets Jordy. His name is Curtis.
Now Curtis brings Jordy to the back of the store and behind a curtain where the Nutcracker resides. And I loved how Robin described this place, it sounded like something out of last year’s Netflix holiday movie “Jingle Jangle ” with all the gears, tracks, and mechanisms. Jordy’s told to make a wish, and to work with the machine to help make sure it can come true. What goes down in that back room is pure holiday magic from the moment that Jordy drops a nut into the Nutcracker and then watches as various things move through the room, helping give him clues on what he’s wishing for. it is holiday magic to an extreme.
I don’t want to give up too much here, because I really want you to experience this joy and magic for yourself. Robin created some truly unexpected things here. You know, since this is a holiday story, it’s not really going to be a spoiler to say that everyone gets exactly what they need. But Robin, gets us there with a lot of imagination and heart. The epilogue was a great payoff for the story, and frankly, I would love to come back to Cooper’s Mill sometime for another holiday season to see what magic might happen for someone else. So, I definitely recommend that everybody pick up Robin Knight’s “The Nutcracker ” for a little bit of a different twist on a holiday romance.
Dallas Christmas by RJ Scott
Jeff: I also picked up an older holiday short from RJ Scott called “Dallas Christmas ” because I really wanted a holiday moment that involved a hockey player, and I hadn’t done one of those yet this season. This is a wonderful second chance romance that I’m so glad I put on my reading list.
Logan, a winger for the Burlington Dragons, is stuck in Dallas for Christmas along with his teammates. He’s homesick, and also not a fan of the city because Christmas in Dallas just doesn’t feel right. Add to that, he’s stuck in a rental house with the other single guys from the team, all a good 10 years younger than he is.
It only gets more complicated when Archie shows up. Archie is the guy that he had a one month relationship with that absolutely terrified him. Not only is Archie the brother of the Dragon’s captain, but Logan is very much not out even though there are other out guys in the league he just doesn’t feel comfortable making that leap. He let Archie go because of that.
Archie, however, didn’t let Logan go, and since Archie lives in Dallas it’s a chance to get back together. Initially they’re thrown together because Archie offers up his place to his brother and his sister in-law. Where does he go to crash? In the house where Logan is. Logan does everything he can to resist, but you know where this story’s going–they are going to find their way to love, and I love how RJ gets them there. In particular I love how Archie’s giving it everything he’s got to fight for the guy he wants.
I also love the teammates in the house with Logan. They are younger players, but RJ perfectly cast them in various ways into the role of being the ones to talk Logan out of the semi-panic he gets into over Archie, and even help to let him know it’ll all be okay if he just takes the step forward. He finds out early on that they’ve got his back.
RJ packs a lot of story into this short package, and it was the perfect holiday read with some Christmas merriment, with some food, and the season also helping play a part in Logan and Archie’s ultimate coming back together again because of some little holiday things that they do. If you haven’t picked up this story yet, I certainly think “Dallas Christmas ” by RJ. Scott could be a great part of your seasonal reading this year.
Ginger Snapping All the Way by Gabbi Grey
Jeff: And besides those two shorts, I also read the novel sized “Ginger Snapping All the Way ” by Gabbi Grey. And if that title isn’t one of the most perfect that you might’ve ever heard for a Christmas book, let me just tell you it is. Yes, there’s a ginger at the center of the story with a strapping redheaded, lumberjack, burly kind of guy, and he also snaps at people because he’s a little bit on the grumpy side. So, kudos Gabbi Grey on the titling for this book.
But it gets better from there, let me tell you. Gabbi’s story has some great forced proximity, a modest amount of angst for both characters, though one of them is definitely more sunshine to the other’s grumpy. And there’s some hurt comfort going on here too.
First off, we’re introduced to Maddox, who is the aforementioned ginger who snaps. He spends his time holed up in a well-appointed cabin that’s near, but not too near, to a Canadian town. He’s very happy to keep to himself, and only begrudgingly accepts calls from those closest to him because he knows if he doesn’t accept those calls, that those very people may turn up on his door to check on him. He’s clearly got a lot of baggage that he’s not dealing with.
Maddox’s solitude is interrupted very close to Christmas by one of those close friends who asked for help to retrieve someone from the local airport who was ended up stranded due to mechanical issues and a snowstorm that’s on the way. Maddox, of course, doesn’t want to do it, but he’s also not going to deny this favor. And he’s also at his core, a nice guy, so he’s not going to leave somebody to spend potentially days in an airport. So off into the snowy night he goes.
To say that Ravi is having a crap day might be an understatement. After hours of flying time from the Philippines to get to the birth of his goddaughter, he’s now stuck with Maddox who isn’t very talkative, and Maddox’s dog Sophia who seems friendly enough, but also put out that Ravi’s along for the drive back from the airport.
I absolutely love how Gabbi used the forest proximity of being back at the cabin and how Ravi got stuck there longer than he expected because of the snow. Ravi had Maddox are on shaky ground for quite some time, especially when Ravi gets himself and Sophia lost outside in the woods near the cabin. Gabbi deftly has these guys finding out more about each other, while also cluing the readers in about some of the heavy baggage they both carry. The reader doesn’t get the full story until the guys finally open up with each other, but when they do open it up it only brings them closer together especially since their growing romance brings some much needed light into their life. Each time the load was lightened for Ravi and Maddox, it just made me smile as it happened.
And I admit I was a little trepidatious taking on a more angsty holiday read, but Gabbi really balances Maddox and Ravi’s angst and hurt with some of the more lighthearted times as well as some good old fashioned romance between the two, as they start to get into being in the same space with each other, and really leaning in to finding somebody who might be their right person. The heat level is pretty scorching here too. Neither of these guys has been with anyone in quite some time, so the first encounters are full tilt steam and it’s wonderful to see as the romance takes over how their sexy times further deepen their connection.
Gabbi wrote an amazing dog in Sophia. She’s so clued into to Maddox’s mood, but also has Maddox wrapped around her paw to get him to do virtually anything she wants. Of course, Maddox also knows exactly how to bribe her. Their interactions are warm and funny, and at times she’s always like a third person around. It’s great watching Ravi start to learn how to interact with her as well.
With all the past these two carry, I really liked how much these two talked too. While there was snapping sometimes, especially from Maddox, he and Ravi got into a pretty good communication pattern. It rarely happened–although it did in a couple of places–where I wished they just had a conversation. That talk also included a lot of consent conversations in the bedroom which were great to see, and also good for the guys given how unsure they were about engaging in sexy times after such a long dry spell. So, it was really great to see those conversations on the page.
This was my first Gabbi Grey book and I quite enjoyed it. The balance between the angst and the romance worked well for me and I rooted so much for Maddox and Ravi to get past their respective histories so they could have an amazing HEA–which is exactly what Gabbi sets them up for. I definitely recommend “Ginger Snapping All the Way,” which by the way has a great audio with narration by Michael Dean. And I’ll be looking to pick up some more of Gabbi’s books in the new year as well.
Will: Fantastic. I’m so glad you enjoyed that one.
Jeff: And I have you to thank for that one too, cause you’re like, I think you might like this. And, sure enough. I did.
The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely
Will: So, one of my most recent holiday reads was “The Bromance Zone ” by Lauren Blakely. It’s about two guys, River and Owen, and they have been friends since college and their friendship is so important to them that they made a pact to never sleep together because sex always complicates, or outright ruins, a perfect friendship.
Owen invites River to a Friendsgiving get-together in Tahoe. It should be a fun weekend. As they each individually get ready for the trip, they talk with friends who ALL seem to know that the two are meant for each other. Admittedly, they’ve each secretly thought about “going there “, but it’s not going to happen. This trip is about friends having fun… it’s not a romantic getaway.
As they leave the Bay Area, River mentions a quick pitstop to check on a friend’s vacation cabin in the mountains, making sure it’s ready for any bad weather. He’s downloaded some podcasts for the dive he thinks Owen might like, since he hates River’s preferred true crime/murdery ones.
They chat as they River drives, and the topic turns to past relationships and what Owen is looking for in Mr. Right. River wonders if he’s the guy for Owen and shamelessly flirts with him while buying snacks at a gas station. Whether looking at pics of River’s beloved dog, or parsing life lessons from the movie Clueless, they flirt their way through the rest of the drive.
When they reach the cabin, the weather has taken a turn. Snow has started coming down hard and fast which is how River will fall if he’s alone with Owen, insisting that they can still finish their trip to the rented Airbnb in Tahoe.
But they’re not going anywhere. After messaging their friends about the situation, they settle in for some booze, snacks, and a game in front of the fire. A possessive shock runs through River when he catches a glance at Owen’s phone, and the dating app he’s downloaded.
Now, concerning that game, they look up dirty questions for a game of ‘Would you rather’, and after a few rounds of telling each other what they like sexually, and exactly how they like it, their flirtation from earlier is taken to a whole other level.
River is all, “I’m going to kiss you. ”
And Owen is all, “Not if I don’t kiss you first. ”
This is something they’ve both wanted for years. They toss the friendship pact out the window and Owen gives River the best blowjob of his life. River returns the favor. Later, as they cuddle in the outdoor hot tub, they now feel closer than ever because they can finally be honest about what they want… and what they want is each other if you haven’t guessed yet. They take the romance into the bedroom and it’s crazy hot, which is to be expected considering the chemistry that these two have.
In the morning a friend arrives to drive them to the party house in Tahoe. But with all his friends and colleagues there, Owen can’t catch a moment alone to talk privately with River.
At dinner the topic of meet cutes comes up and when Owen and River explain that they’re just friends, the conversation turns to what they’re each looking for in a guy. The answer is each other (of course), but neither is willing to pull the “we’re boyfriends ” trigger, especially not in front of everybody, and not without talking to each other about it first.
The discussion goes on and on and Owen is the first to crack. He blurts out that he has met someone special and that someone is his best friend. He makes a break for it, but River catches him outside and they sweetly express (in their adorably flirty way) their heartfelt love and adoration before going back inside to officially declare themselves boyfriends.
And on the drive back from their momentous weekend, they decide that since the friendship rule is kaput, they need a new pact. A boyfriend pact – to always be good to each other, both in and out of bed. And since this is Owen and River we’re talking about, they prove just how good they can be to each other as soon as they get home.
So, this book, oh, what can I say? I loved every moment of it and fell in love with the round-about way these two best friends finally found their happily ever after.
From a storytelling perspective, the plot is pretty straight forward – short road trip, snowed in, hook-up, HEA. What makes this book so special, in my opinion, is the characters themselves. Author Lauren Blakely has crafted two very believable friends who, through their witty banter and fun flirty dialog, have obviously been through a lot together, and care for one another deeply. The dialog is so fun and real that I bought into River and Owen’s romance from page one. It’s so real that I wish I could hang out with these two in real life.
“The Bromance Zone ” is a standalone that’s loosely connected to the author’s “Men of Summer ” trilogy. River and Owen are introduced in those books, and the “Men of Summer ” heroes make an appearance here, but reading those previous stories aren’t necessary to enjoy “Bromance. ” The audiobook, with shared narration by Vikas Adam and Evan Parker, is wonderful. Each voice actor does a great job bringing these distinctive characters to life.
This book ticked all the boxes for me. Great characters who know how to talk to each other, explosive on page chemistry, a fun riff on the classic friends-to-lovers/forced proximity trope. I mean, really there, isn’t just one thing to recommend about “The Bromance Zone ” because I enjoyed the whole damn thing.
Jeff: I am so glad you did. That sounds a lot of fun. I’m trying to imagine how the topic of meet cutes come over friends hanging out together. That sounds really awesome.
I’m happy to say too, that Lauren’s actually going to be joining us here on the show in January and we’re going to talk about her new book, “The Best Men,” which Lauren co-wrote with Sarina Bowen. So, look for that coming in January.
Jeff: Now this episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation and the reviews for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. Don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything we’ve talked about in this episode.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday in episode 352, Jay from joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach will join us to share their favorites from 2021.
Jeff: That’s right. The first of our 2021 wrap-up episodes, and you won’t wanna miss what Lisa and Jay’s favorites were. Plus, they’ll share what book they’re looking forward to in the new year.
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.