Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonThe show kicks off as Jeff talks about his recent interview on the Activated Author Podcast. Jeff & Will also talk about their recent appearance on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books as they joined host Sarah Wendell to recap, and dish about, the 1982 YA romance Cover Girl.

The guys preview a dozen books coming up in March, including titles by Merry Farmer, C. Travis Rice (aka Christopher Rice), Lucy Lennox, Travis Beaudoin, Leta Blake, Brooke Blaine, Samuel York, J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry, KD Casey, Hudson Lin, Meg Bawden, and Sienna Sway.

Will reviews two historical novellas from Ava March, Brook Street: Fortune Hunter and Brook Street: Rogues. Jeff discusses two romantic suspense stories from Tal Bauer, “Never Have I Ever… Been on a Date” from Heart2Heart Volume 5 and the novel Never Stay Gone.

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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, we’re going to be talking about what we’ve been reading lately. Plus, we’ll be taking a look at some of the books coming out in March.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 364 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, rainbow romance readers. Welcome back.

Jeff: As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, simply go to


Will: Now, before we get to our discussion about books, we’ve got a couple of podcasts that we wanna tell you about. Last week, you happened to be on a show called “Activated Author.”

Jeff: Yes, I was. Daniel Wilcox invited me to be one of his experts in his “Activated Author” community. And because I love the work that Daniel does with authors, I very happily said yes. In our interview, we discuss all kinds of things, from the mindset I try to keep around writing, how stories with queer characters have worked their way into the mainstream, as in big five publishers. We also talk about this podcast, and even a little bit about my day job, and how authors should be thinking about making their websites accessible for everyone.

Now, if you wanna catch my conversation with Daniel, you can find it at, or you can find it on your favorite podcast app. And if you’re an author, you can also find out more about the “Activated Authors” community that Daniel has, and see if it might be a good fit for you. I could tell you that they are an amazing group that he’s got in his community. I have very much enjoyed being in that group with them since the start of this year.

Now, besides me being on “Activated Authors,” we also got to hang out with Sarah Wendell on “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books” in the episode that dropped this past Friday. The three of us do a recap and discussion of a young adult romance from the 1980s.

Will: Sarah, as you know, is one of our absolutely favorite people, and she’s been doing recaps of the “Sweet Dreams” YA series. And when she asked us to join her and talk about the book, “Cover Girl,” we couldn’t say yes fast enough. It’s a story about Renee, an average New Jersey girl in her journey to become a teen cover model.

Jeff: It was an amazing read. And Sarah has actually sent over to us one of her favorite moments from this episode to share with you. This is as we’re getting into recapping one of the craziest chapters of the book, and Will gets to set the scene as we dig into it.

Sarah: So then things really go off the rails. We had some rails. They’re gone now. Chapter 10 is where we leave the rails far, far behind. This could have gone so much worse, and it goes terribly. Renee has a very early morning modeling assignment on a school day. Her mom and the agency want her to look older so she can book more jobs. So she has this makeup job scheduled. She doesn’t go to school, and they drive into Manhattan into an old warehouse neighborhood. She’s very uneasy where she is. And then her mom makes a terrible decision. She tells Renee that Renee can handle it. She is on her own for this modeling job, so her mom can go and do some shopping. What the fuck? This is where the ominous music starts playing in a movie or one of those lifetime movies.

Will: Very, very much so. I wanna set the scene just a tiny bit. New York City in the ’80s. New York City in the ’70s was a whole thing, not a good thing.

Sarah: Not a good thing. No.

Will: They went bankrupt several times, and this city was a dumpster fire, and the ’80s was a whole other thing.

Sarah: Oh. It was bad.

Will: And right now, Renee and her mom are driving to this photographer’s studio. And I’m gonna make an assumption that this studio was most likely somewhere on the west side, where all the old pier buildings used to be. But by this point in the 1980s, they were all really sketchy and dilapidated and run down, and it was actually very cheap for artists and photographers to live and do their work there. Essentially, before the West Side got gentrified, it was living hellscape. Renee’s mom…

Sarah: It’s like, “You’re on your own.”

Will: …is dropping off in 1980s Hell’s Kitchen. Okay. Scene is set. Let’s continue.

Sarah: Like, this is so bad.

Will: Bad doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sarah: Deeply.

Jeff: I would love a chapter from Renee’s mom’s point of view of, like, “I’m leaving my daughter here. This is fine. I’m gonna go do the things.” Just know what was going on in her head.

Sarah: Yeah. “I’m just gonna go on over to Bloomingdale’s. It’ll be fine.” Like, are you kidding me?

Will: As you can see, we had opinions.

Jeff: Yes, we did. We had so many that for this 130-something page book, we actually recorded with Sarah for two and a half hours to discuss it. I have to say, Sarah did a brilliant job turning the episode into something that runs just over an hour. You could find “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books” on your favorite podcast app or at the link in our show notes. And in case you missed it before, you could check out more fun that we had with Sarah, as well as Amanda from “Smart Bitches.” You can check out our crossover episode from last year, and you’ll find that is episode 344.

Will: And one more quick note about “Smart Podcast,” this coming Friday, Sarah will celebrate the show’s 500th episode. We wish her and everyone behind the scenes a very happy 500th. That’s an amazing accomplishment, and we look forward to hundreds of more episodes.

Jeff: Yes, we do. Happy 500th. All right. That’s all of the podcast talk. Shall we talk about some books?

March Preview

Will: Yeah. We’ve got a lot to discuss.

The first of which is “One Good Deed Deserves a Lover,” by Merry Farmer. This is her latest historical. It’s going to be releasing on March 1st. “Lieutenant Clarence Bond is the last man one would expect to find at a gentleman’s house party. When fellow guest Percy accidentally finds a lost child, he ends up lauded as a hero. Clarence isn’t fooled, but he is so amused by Percy’s attempt to play the hero that he offers himself as a lover, to give Percy the reward he truly deserves. What starts as a laugh turns into love, as both men discovered that they aren’t quite the rigs they thought they were.”

Jeff: Just something about that last sentence about not being the rakes that they thought they were, you know, I’ve read a fair number of historicals that involve rakes, and they’re always some of the most intriguing people around. So, these two rakes coming together, because it’s usually a rake and a duke, or a rake and, you know, somebody of a higher social status. I’m very intrigued by this, and I’m super excited that Merry has yet another installment in the “After the War” series. And if you wanna know more about that series, you can actually check out our interview with Merry back at episode 341, where we talk all about it.

Will: Incidentally, this is going to be the last book in her “After the War” series. Every single one of them is on my TBR, and I cannot wait to read them.

Jeff: Now you can binge the whole series.

Will: One thing that I’ve particularly enjoyed is I think the cover for this particular series is absolutely beautiful. Sexy historical dudes, rich, saturated covers, and thematically, each book features a single hero, with an off-page hand reaching or grasping towards him. But I especially appreciated this one. It prominently features sexy Lieutenant Bond, but in this case, the hand is holding out a single long stem rose.

Jeff: I have loved these covers too, but I had missed the element of the hand, and now I feel really lame for having missed that. I’m gonna have to go back and study these again, because I have also really liked these. I thought they would make a really nice, if you had all the paperbacks, you know, just line them up on your shelf so they could be face out or something, just to have the artwork there, because they are so gorgeous.

Will: “One Good Lord Deserves a Lover” is releasing on March 1st, and coming out on the same day is “Sapphire Sunset.”

Jeff: Is that not, like, a soap opera name? Can you just not see that being a soap opera?

Will: This one is by C. Travis Rice, which is the brand-new romance pen name from Christopher Rice. “Logan works security at a luxury beachfront resort. Connor is the irresistibly handsome son of the family that owns Sapphire Cove. Frustrated by their off-limits attraction, they find themselves hurled together when a headline-making scandal threatens to ruin the resort they both love. Will saving Sapphire Cove help forge the union they both crave, or will it drive them apart forever?”

Jeff: They’re gonna save the resort and get a happily ever after. I have to say, I have loved Christopher Rice’s mysteries that he’s been writing since… Gosh, I feel like those initially came out somewhere back in the early 2000s. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he does with a contemporary romance. I’m also very into the resort setting. Somehow, all of a sudden now, I want books that take place at resorts. I think Ariella Zoelle’s a little bit to blame for that. So I’m really looking forward to this. Plus, you got the whole workplace thing, you know, the son of the owner and the head of security. This one’s gonna get a read sooner than later from me, for sure.

Will: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see what this particular author does with this particular sub-genre. “Sapphire Sunset” is a big, thick beach read, and you’re right, I can’t wait to get my hands on that one.

One more title making its debut on the first of the month is “Thick as Thieves,” the latest book from Lucy Lennox. In this one, Julian has been in love with a straight best friend since forever. When Parker is left at the altar, Julian whisks him away to drown his sorrows at a snowy cabin in Aster Valley, but some tentative physical exploration and a few intimate true confessions has them rethinking their relationship. After 20-plus years of being friends without benefits, is it truly possible to change who they are to each other?

Jeff: Well, all I could say about more Lucy Lennox and the Aster Valley series is yay. I love the quick visit to Aster Valley I had back over Christmas, and this friends-to-lover story, with what has got to be some forced proximity, with a snowy cabin, and you’ve got the whole left-at-the-altar setup, this just might bring me back to the valley for springtime.

Will: Each of those titles comes out on March 1st.

Just a few days later, on March 4th, is “Too Like the Lightning” by Travis Beaudoin. When Andrew’s perfect life implodes, he has one summer to figure out his next move. He just has to keep his head down, finish his book, find a new job, and put things back on track. He didn’t plan on making a friend. Coley has a green thumb and an easy smile. Their time together reminds Andrew what having a purpose feels like, and suddenly, his long, lonely summer feels all too short.

Jeff: I was so glad to see this one on your list because this has also been floating around on mine for a little bit. Something about Andrew dealing with his imploded life, having to get it back on track, and the part about finishing a book. Now, let’s face it, I’m always down for a book that features a writer of some kind. Plus, Travis is a new-to-me author, and that certainly adds to my eagerness to check this out.

Will: “Too Like the Lightning” releases on March 4th.

Next up on our list is the newest title from Leta Blake. This one is called “Punching the V-Card.” Carl has a pesky innocence problem that requires a solution. His best friend’s brother, Devon, is the perfect answer. Everyone says the first time should be special, and what could possibly be more special than sharing it with the guy of his dreams? The thing is, it goes better than either of them expected, but Carl’s moving across the country soon. It’ll never be possible to have more, no matter how much both of them want it, right?

Jeff: Somebody’s either going across the country, or nobody is moving at all. Best friend’s brother is a reliably great trope. And I just know that Leta Blake is gonna knock this out of the park. And I have to say, I love the title, “Punching the V-Card.” I mean, that just says everything you kind of need to know about the book, even without the blurb, really. I expect a lot of fun and romance with Carl and Devon’s story.

Will: If first times and lots of emotion sounds good to you, “Punching the V-Card” by Leta Blake is coming out on March 10th.

Next up, let’s talk about the newest title from Brook Blaine. Coming out on March 15th is “Bedhead,” the newest title from the “USA Today” bestselling author. This one is a sexy M/M, enemies-to-lover romance in the brand-new “Hate to Love You” series. Hudson and Drew are rivals in every sense. When the chance to publish the most scandalous book of the year comes down to their separate companies, each is determined to do whatever it takes to take the other down. Playing dirty has never been this much fun.

Jeff: Ooh, ooh. Another book about book publishing. We had the writer before, now we’ve got the publishing. And rival publishers, no less. I am super into this setup. Hudson and Drew sound like very bitter enemies, and I am there for all the dirty moves, both in the battle for the book, and I am sure, in bedroom.

Will: This one is for sure going to be sexy. “Bedhead” is gonna be coming out on March 15th.

And on the 17th is the newest title from Samuel York, “Hidden Truth.” When Ethan stumbles upon not just one dead body, but two at a true crime podcasters convention, Stone, the sexy cop next door, might be his only hope of surviving. When Ethan refuses to give up any details about his personal life, the lack of information makes Stone dig deeper, but all he finds is more loose ends. Now involved in a triple homicide, he must decide if he trusts the mysterious Ethan or if he’s the suspect they’ve been searching for all along.

Jeff: I want this book right now. Romantics suspense at a true crime, podcasters convention? How awesome is that going to be? And it’s honestly been a while since I’ve read a book from Samuel, so I am looking forward to picking this one up.

And in a brief side note, Samuel has recently re-rereleased the “Southern Thing” series. I loved this series about two young men who fall in love, and then endure way too much stuff at the hands of their conservative parents, to finally get to their happily ever after. I will say it’s a very intense series, but I think it’s so worth the read, and honestly, even more so with what’s happening right now in some of the Southern states. So, look for that series as well. Like I said, it’s not new, but it’s so worth the read. And meanwhile, I’m gonna be going to Samuel’s true-crime podcast convention.

Will: But if that’s not your thing, we’ve got another historical coming up for you, “An Affair for Aumont,” by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry. When Aumont and Darling join forces to help someone in need of a temporary bodyguard, they’re not expecting to risk their hearts as well as their lives. A rising threat soon drives them to flee to the country, a journey that puts them face to face with their pasts, while showing them a chance for happiness is within reach, if only if they’re courageous enough to grab it.

Jeff: Once again, J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry, every single time one of these books shows up in our preview, the need to read the entire series comes up. It’s kind of like you and the “After the War” series. Now we’ve got five books out here. I also adore these covers, the illustrated gentlemen who are on them, the flowery borders, right down to the script of the title, everything about this just screams for me to read it. And this particular one, with the whole bodyguard peril thing going on just ratchets up my need to read these. We should have a historical binge, and you’re gonna read “After the War” and I’m going to read the “Lords of Bucknall” series.

Will: You’re on. Let’s do it.

Jeff: Let’s do it. Springtime reading-palooza, coming right up.

Will: “An Affair for Aumont” is coming up on March 22nd.

And just a few days later, on the 25th, is the newest sports romance from KD Casey called “One True Outcome.” Jamie is on the verge of being cut from his major league baseball team. If he wants to stay on the roster, that’ll mean extra work, and extra time with Big Mack. And incidentally, I’m not talking about the hamburger. This is the big, sexy other hero of the story. If only Jamie could keep his attraction to the charming generous team veteran under wraps. Easier said than done, especially when the heat between them begins to ignite. But nothing in baseball comes with a guarantee, and the only outcome they can be certain of is the one they make for themselves.

Jeff: It’s March. It’s springtime, and that means the start of baseball, or at least if the MLB can sort out their labor problems. But, you know, that doesn’t matter here in the land of romance books. I have to say that KD’s books have really been moving up my TBR because of the praise that Lauren Blakely gave to KD’s books back in episode 357. I need to get in on the sporty goodness. And with this book’s age gap angle that’s in play there, that just ratchets up its appeal to me, because that’s like some catnip.

Will: If spring sports are your thing, “One True Outcome” releases on March 25th.

And coming out on the 29th is the newest title from Hudson Lin. It’s called “Going Public.” Elvin has been Raymond’s assistant for years, and he’s been in love with the charming, ruthless playboy for just as long, when long nights at the office lead to whispered confessions and a new-found intimacy. It seems like a dream come true for both of them. But with the prospect of a disastrous financial failure on the horizon, can they beat the odds and come out the victors in business and in love?

Jeff: Hudson’s first book in this series was absolutely wonderful, and I am so excited for this sequel. This combo of the workplace romance and that external stress of the possible financial failure, I just know this is gonna make for a great read. And if you wanna know more about this particular series, we talked to Hudson about it back in episode 311. She even gave us a little sneak preview of what going public was gonna be about, so you might wanna check that out if you missed it.

Will: Also, coming out on March 29th is the new sci-fi title from Meg Bawden, “King of Uranus.” Thank you, Meg. I need this book right now. But let’s see what it’s about. When his planet faces certain disaster, King Drexan must ask for help from the greatest scientist Earth has offer. But all of Drexan’s attention is stolen by a strange and handsome human. The only answer to his newfound obsession is to mate him, and make him king consort. Convincing Kiel of the depth and intensity of his emotion seems nearly impossible, but Drexan can smell the attraction on him. Kiel will be his by the time he returns home.

Jeff: So, you know all those disaster movies that we watched back there in January? All I kept coming back to was all the love stories that tend to foster in those movies. And for some reason, I was fixated on “Meteor,” with Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. I have no idea why that’s what this blurb makes me think of, but that’s where I went. And there’s a little space thing going on there. So, I don’t know. But anyway, love in the midst of disaster is one of my favorite things to read. And then you’ve got this king from another world getting together with a human, so you’ve kind of got the royalty trope going on in there too. I’m with you. Give me this book right now, and let me just see what’s going on in here.

Will: It’s coming out on March 29th.

And wrapping up the month the March, coming out on the 31st, is “The Elf’s Prince” by Sienna Sway. Fenian has always rebelled, but this time his latest stunt will end with his banishment, lifelong imprisonment, or worse. When the crown prince of all humans arrives in Elvin land, Fenian sees him as an opportunity. After all, marriage binding himself to Prince Allard is a small price to pay for his life.

Jeff: Crown prince of the humans. That’s quite the title. I’m intrigued if nothing else on how one gets that title. Sounds like there might be a little bit of a marriage of convenience in there too, since he’s trying to save himself. I’m not really sure about that, but I’m also, like, into that idea, too. Of course, there’s absolutely going to be true love that comes of it, so I’m down for that. There’s some favorite tropes here. What can I say? And it’s all wrapped up in a fantasy package. So, while fantasy’s not one of my go-tos, I may have to be checking this one out.

Will: “The Elf’s Prince” comes out on March 31st, and it wraps up our list of upcoming books here on the podcast. But if you’d like even more recommendations, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Jeff: Just like we did last month, we have an extra list on the show notes page of even more titles that are coming out in March. If you thought this list was good, there’s so many more books to pick from, including titles from Nora Phoenix, Rick R. Reed, E.M. Lindsey, Annabeth Albert, and A.J. Truman, to name just a few. So you’ll find that list on the show notes page so you can add even more to your TBR for this month.

What books are you looking forward to in March? Something from our list, or something different? We would love to hear from you in the comment section of the show notes page, or on any of our social media channels. Tell us what you’re planning to read in March.

Book Reviews

Jeff: Let’s look at some of the things that we’ve been reading recently, just to add to your TBR some more. What have you got for us?

Brook Street: Fortune Hunter and Brook Street: Rogues by Eva March

Will: Well, I recently returned to the “Brook Street” trilogy by Ava March. Now, as you may or may not recall, I talked about the first book in this series, “Brook Street Thief,” back in October, in episode 339. I absolutely adored it. And since I was in the mood for a sexy historical, I thought I’d return to “Brook Street.” And I’m very glad I did. Not only do these stories not disappoint, but I realize that this particular trilogy is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Jeff: Oh. Happy anniversary, Ava. That’s very cool.

Will: Yeah. This definitely proves the old adage. If you haven’t read it yet, then it’s new to you.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Will: So, book two in the trilogy is called “Brook Street Fortune Hunter.” And it concerns Julian, who has returned to England after a decade in America for the express purpose of finding a wife. And for him, a financially advantageous arrangement is a necessity. While attending a ball, he befriends Oscar over a game of cards. They get along well, and when Oscar learns that Julian is staying at an impersonal hotel, he offers a room in his townhouse while Julian is in London. Oscar’s home is quite grand, genuinely spectacular. And Julian is honest about his current financial situation. But Oscar isn’t put off by his predicament, leading Julian to hope that the rapport could lead to something more, something like meaningful glances across a crowded ballroom, or desperate kisses in the dark confines of a carriage ride home, or a satisfying night in a shared bed, doing all the things that they’ve both dreamed about. It should be no surprise that they do all of those.

Jeff: Well, I would hope so.

Will: When a boorish aunt and uncle make a scene after arriving at Oscar’s, and expecting to be put up for the season, Oscar refuses, and Julian does all he can to support his devoted friend in dealing with some loathsome family members. Later, an evening out, they go to dinner in the theater. It’s cut short when Oscar makes it very clear that there are other more satisfying amorous activities they could be engaging in. Seriously, these two are so perfect for each other. Oscar is a very enthusiastic power bottom, who knows exactly what he wants, and Julian is more than happy to give him absolutely everything he needs. At another society affair, Julian proves to be quite popular, leaving Oscar to his own devices. To make up for his unintentional neglect, Julian later joins Oscar in his bed chamber to lavish him with all the attention that he can handle.

The season continues, and Julian, who is not particularly good at cards, must find a way to pay off some poorly-placed wagers, and pawns an expensive gift that Oscar had given him. When Oscar notices that he is no longer wearing the pocket watch, he feels betrayed by Julian’s need for high society acceptance, and his mercenary search for a rich wife. Oscar does not appreciate being used. Why can’t anyone just like him for himself? Julian is keenly aware of how badly he’s betrayed Oscar’s trust, and he pays his cousin Benjamin a visit to borrow some money to get the watch back. Benjamin and his lover, Cavin, whose relationship is explored in the first book of the series, “Brook Street Thief,” they read Julian to fill for treating the man he obviously loves so very badly. Julian makes the decision that he’s no longer going to marry for money. All he wants is the man who can no longer stand him. He sends a letter to Oscar, who has retreated to his country house, to tell him that he’s returning to Philadelphia, and one day, he hopes to earn back Oscar’s trust and friendship.

Okay. So, here’s when the author does something that generally I don’t appreciate. There is a time jump in the story. Now, to be clear, if we’re talking about a time jump in an epilogue, where we get to see the heroes of the story and an exploration of their HEA, I’m all down for that. I’ll read those all day long. My personal problem when it comes to time jumps is when they happen before the resolution. I think to me, as a reader, that feels like kind of a cheat, like the author hasn’t given the characters the emotional wherewithal to work through their problems before the end of the story. But also, I think a time jump before the actual end of the book kind of lets the air out of the tires. The book, for me, kind of comes to a stop, and then has to restart when the characters meet up again.

Jeff: Yeah. I’m kind of a mixed bag with the time jump. There are times that it works and times that it doesn’t. And I’m with you. Usually, it doesn’t, because it’s like, “Well, what exactly did they do in that spot? And why weren’t they fighting to get back together sooner?” So, yeah, I’m with you. How exactly did Ava make it where this wasn’t something that you hated?

Will: Well, I think in this particular instance, it contextually makes sense in the story. So, while I didn’t love that it happened, I was kind of okay with it. So, in this particular instance, two and a half years later…

Jeff: That’s a major time jump.

Will: I know.

Jeff: I thought you were gonna tell me, like, a month or something.

Will: Julian returns to England after making his own way in business as a print shop owner in America. During all of this time, he has continually written to Oscar, and he shows up on the doorstep of his country estate to plead his case, sort of a grand gesture, mixed with a mea culpa, that he is finally the man worthy of Oscar’s love. Oscar, for his part, wholeheartedly agrees, and their grand love, once interrupted, can now finally resume.

Jeff: I like that. And that time jump does make sense, especially back then, when it would take a minute to launch a print business and to pivot your life that way.

Will: Yeah. Julian and Oscar found a way to make it work, and I really enjoyed their story. I also read the third and final book in the trilogy. This one is called “Brook Street Rogues.” And the rogues of the title are friends, Rob and Linus. Rob generally prefers the ladies, while Linus prefers the company of gentlemen. And they occasionally fool around. The fact that they live next door to one another is quite advantageous to their bros-with-benefits arrangement. Lately, though, Rob has become frustrated with the number of male lovers Linus has taken during the social season. At one affair, Rob interrupts Linus’ flirtations, and takes him home to remind Linus of his renowned skills. And they have an amazing time, just like always, but Rob can’t dismiss his jealousy at the thought of Linus in anyone’s bed other than his own. He suggests that they become exclusive. Linus dismisses this. It’s an utterly preposterous idea. And Rob is understandably hurt at first, but he knows his friend, and he knows that they’re damn good together. So, now, it’ll be his sole mission to convince Linus of that.

Several social events later, Linus is frustrated by Rob’s unrelenting attention, never once letting him have even the briefest of moments alone with another man. It’s then that Rob asks Linus to top him, which is not how things usually play out between them. Linus happily obliges, though he’s increasingly frustrated by his inability to resist Rob’s stubbornly sexy flirtations. Such a chore. He reiterates that they will never be the perfectly platonic devoted lovers that Rob envisions, and this forces Rob to really consider what it is he exactly wants. Does he want Linus? Definitely, yes. And does that mean forever? Well, yes, to that as well. When Linus returns from business at his country estate, they finally are able to have “the talk,” and hash out all of their misgivings.

It seems because of events in his childhood, Linus has lived his whole life under the principle that all good things, including relationships, come to an end. Any changes in their lifelong friendship might put that friendship in jeopardy. And Rob does all that he can to address his concerns. He has always been there for Linus and he always will be, but are his words enough to convince his friend of his sincerity? As it turns out, yes. Linus has a think, and realizes that everything he wants, Rob is ready to give. The bad boys of the high society set are officially off the market, and exclusively, blissfully forever in love. Now, I really enjoyed Rob and Linus. I think they’re a terrific couple, and they have very sexy chemistry. And watching them navigate the journey of love of a friend to the kind of love one shares with a partner was a really nice twist on the friends-to-lovers trope. And also, in this particular story, I thought it was interesting that there wasn’t a traditional dark moment for these two.

In the end, they kind of just talked things through, carefully considered what they wanted, and they ended up happily ever after, which is, I mean, certainly less dramatic than a regular all-is-lost moment. But in this case, it’s no less compelling, and it’s just as romantically satisfying for the reader. I’ve really enjoyed my time with this particular trilogy, “Brook Street Thief,” “Brook Street Fortune Hunter,” and “Brook street Rogues.” You can read them all individually, or pick up the whole set in the “Brook Street” collection. You can listen to the audiobooks for each individually as well. Charlie Belmont provided narration for the first two novellas in the series, “Thief” and “Fortune Hunter,” while B. Townsend voiced “Brook Street Rogues.” So, from historical to romantic suspense, Jeff, what do you have for us?

Never Have I Ever… Been on a Date by Tal Bauer

Jeff: So, we’re gonna talk about Tal Bauer. Now, Tal’s been sitting on my TBR for quite some time, because Lisa from “The Novel Approach” just likes to keep recommending his novels. I finally dove in because of something Leslie Copeland said when she was talking about this year’s heart-to-heart anthology, back in episode 361. Leslie mentioned that, “Tal Bauer put his own spin on things in a very Tal Bauer kind of way, so it fits the anthology, but it’s also very different for us as well.” Now, I had to find out what exactly that meant, so I checked out Tal’s story, “Never Have I Ever Been on a Date,” from “Heart2Heart” volume five. It’s certainly very different from anything I’ve read in a heart-to-heart anthology, particularly a contemporary anthology. And I have to say that I loved every second of it. The title doesn’t give up anything that you’re about to embark on, because what we’ve got here is a murder mystery with some tinges of horror, that takes place in Antarctica.

Yes, you actually heard all of that right. Murder mystery, horror, Antarctica. We do know something is up early on, as helicopter pilot, Cletus, is taking the guy who manages the U.S. base on Antarctica out to see one of the scientists doing research. Damien, who’s also known as “Dino Doc,” has been at the south pole for four years, making him nearly a permanent resident. And as you could probably tell by his nickname, he’s doing research on dinosaurs, and is routinely out leading expedition with his students. Things are about to take a turn, though, as Damien and Cletus are tasked to go out to find a missing astrophysicist, and all they’ve got to go on is where Cletus had previously found a blood-soaked parka out on the tundra. Now, of course, since this is a romance story too, Damian and Cletus very definitely have feelings for each other.

And in a recent gathering that they had at the station, Damian had tried to get the pilot’s attention, but it ended up not going right, for many reasons, to be honest. And Cletus is also not the best at speaking his feelings, so much so that he’s usually just focusing on his job and kind of keeping a distance from people. There’s nothing quite like a long helicopter ride to give us some forced proximity, or being stranded out on the tundra to give these two time to get to know one another better. And hey, what can be better as a bonding experience than going through some very harrowing events while cut off from literally everybody else? This is a short story, so I don’t wanna give up too much here because, wow, did Tal write a tight, gripping thriller that I loved. And yes, there are true moments of horror here as well, as neither Cletus or Damien, or the reader for that matter, is really clear about what’s going on.

At times, I had very much vibes like John carpenter’s “The Thing,” even though there’s not an alien involved here. I will say that. There was none of that going on, but it had that very creepy vibe, you know, out in the Arctic, middle of nowhere. Now, besides the thriller, I really love how Tal gave us flashbacks about Cletus and Damien’s previous attempts to make a connection, and how their connection grew sharply as they were thrust into danger. There’s always the risk that a budding relationship has to take a back seat to the present danger, and Tal very sharply paced things, so we get the best of both worlds with the nail-biting, but also some sweet moments that are perfectly placed. And, oh, my goodness, the epilogue was so absolutely perfect. Now, I don’t know if Tal has future plans for this story. So if you wanna read it, you need to get “Heart2Heart” volume five before it disappears at the end of April.

And as I mentioned, you can also hear me talk more about this year’s edition in episode 361, where I not only talked with Leslie, but four other authors who were in this year’s edition. I’ve loved all the stories that I’ve read in this year’s anthology so far, but I absolutely had to call this one out from Tal, because it’s so special in how it departs from the norm of the anthology series.

Never Stay Gone by Tal Bauer

Jeff: And since that story whetted my appetite for Tal, I moved right on to “Never Stay Gone,” which is the first book in his “Big Bend Texas Rangers” series. Now, while that book came out last October, the audio version just came out back at the beginning of this year, and wow, did John Solo do a great job on this narration. The story of Texas ranger Dakota Jennings and sheriff deputy Shane Carson is really kind of epic in nature.

This was a very strong, very good second chances story, where Tal gives us so much of the couple’s history right alongside the present-day story, as he forces them back together, as they have to work a grisly and twisted murder case. Dakota ends up back in his west Texas hometown, after being sent there by the governor of Texas because one of her closest aides has gone missing, and she just might be one of the people discovered in a grave along with five other people. Dakota, much to his shock, ends up working alongside his teenage love, Shane, who has now become a deputy. They haven’t seen each other in 13 years, but they’ve also never stopped loving the other. For Dakota, that has meant never getting into a relationship beyond hookups. And for Shane, it’s kept him in the closet in his small town, and possibly getting ready to marry somebody.

I wanna talk about this love story first. Tal spun it out through this story in an impeccable fashion. Even as Dakota arrives in town, the feelings of what he left behind overtake him. And then when he finds Shane working the crime scene, well, the snap crackle and pop of the air around them was absolutely stunning, as they realize that they’re both occupying the same space for the first time in more than a decade. Memories immediately flood back for both of them, and they have to manage those feelings as they begin to work the investigation. The way Tal presents the past so organically and so connected to the story, it never feels like we’re taking a break from the present to look at the past. And flashbacks like that, much for you like time jumps, flashbacks where you get pulled out of the present usually bother me, but the way that Tal wove it through, either through conversation or through the characters thinking about the things that they left behind, just worked so beautifully. And what a past love it was.

We had two boys in West Texas, with one being a football hero trying to carve out carefully-hidden moments that he could hang out with his boyfriend. It was beautiful in what they were able to create for themselves, but also sad, because at the same time, they had to hide. And then came the end of the line for them, and what separated them for so long. It makes this reunion and getting their second chance so very powerful, and Tal just brings all of the emotions out of it. I just loved it so, so much. And, of course, it’s not easy for them to reconcile their past, because they both have stories that they have to share about what went on, to help them bring their love into the present, because then there’s the issue of these murders going on as well. It’s always difficult to talk about stories like this because, much the same way as I did with the short, I don’t wanna give too much away, and I don’t want anybody to have any less surprise than I had as I got deeper into this story.

And I will say that this story reminded me so much of why I love romantic suspense. Suspense, when done well, as it is here, adds such a terrific element to the romance, as the heroes have to deal with something completely separate from the romance. It makes for incredible external conflict. I haven’t read much romantic suspense in a while, for many reasons, and I think this book is actually gonna be the breakthrough that I need to kind of get me back into the genre. And I totally get why everyone’s been recommending Tal Bauer to me. That short story from “Heart2Heart” was amazing, but digging into this novel link story was absolutely incredible. Tal gives a tight murder mystery, with all the twists and turns that you want. And I have to say, the reveals were just as shocking to me as it was to Shane and Dakota.

It was absolutely amazing and incredible, and I don’t have enough adjectives to accurately describe what goes down here, and the twisted motivation behind why the people were murdered. I think my mouth probably hung open in shock during most of the final act of the book. As with the short story, Tal tops everything off with a great epilogue that gives Dakota and Shane a great sendoff for their HEA. It just made me go, “Aww,” seeing them find their way back to each other and start to create a future that they had wanted so badly a decade before. As I mentioned, the audiobook was also outstanding. John Solo handles the narration perfectly, capturing the tent scenes of the investigation with the very tender scenes as these two men come back together. It was absolutely spot on. The emotions also run all over the place in this book, and John just captures all of the characters shifting in their feelings so very well. And in particular with Dakota and Shane, it just made Tal’s story even more thrilling hearing John tell it. So, if you like romantic suspense, I definitely think you should give “Never Stay Gone” by Tal Bauer a try.


Will: All right. That’s a lot of reviews and recommendations. I think that’ll do it for now.

Just a quick reminder that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. Thank you, Patreon peeps. If you like to read our conversation and reviews for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at The show notes page has all the links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

Now, coming up next in episode 365, we’re going to talk about more books, this time with a focus on biographies and young adult titles coming out this spring.

Jeff: I am so excited about the spring lineup. I’m gonna have a couple reviews for you as well, including one of the new book from Julian Winters, that I have to say is just off-the-charts amazing.

Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we wanna 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.