Jeff & Will kick off the show with the announcement of the Spring Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection, Kosoko Jackson’s I’m So (Not) Over You. They also introduce the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, the official newsletter of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. The recent New York Times article about LGBTQ romance is also discussed.
Will chats about his recent binge of the Angélique movie collection, and the movie Werewolves Within. Jeff talks about his recent trip to New York, the Broadway revival of Company, and the new Disney+ film adaptation of Better Nate Than Ever.
The guys reveal nine books they’re looking forward to in April, including titles by Elizabeth Hollows, CD Rachels, Jordan L. Hawk, V.L. Locey, Emmy Sanders, Eden Winters, Rachel Reid, Kris Ripper and Liz Bowery. Jeff also reviews the forthcoming book by Ariella Zoelle, Play by Heart.
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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. Books are linked with Universal Book Links so you can see a variety of places to purchase ebooks and audiobooks. All links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson
- Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson
- Rainbow Romance Reader Report Subscription Sign Up
- “Long Relegated to Back Shelves, L.G.B.T.Q. Romance Is Booming” by Elizabeth A. Harris in The New York Times
- Angélique movie collection on Amazon
- Werewolves Within on Amazon Prime Video
- Company on Broadway website
- Better Nate Than Ever on Disney+
- Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
- April Romance Preview
- Rising Heat by Elizabeth Hollows
- The Moves We Make by CD Rachels
- The Forgotten Dead by Jordan L Hawk
- The Batchelor and the Cherry by V.L. Locey
- Virgin Hearts by Emmy Sanders
- Something Wicked by Eden Winters
- The Long Game by Rachel Reid
- Episode 329 – Hockey Players in Love with Rachel Reid on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Book Boyfriend by Kris Ripper
- Love, Hate & Clickbait by Liz Bowery
- Play by Heart by Ariella Zoelle
- Episode 366 – A Trip to Sunnyside with Ariella Zoelle on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- 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.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we have announcements, a preview of books coming out in April, and reviews of what we’ve been watching and reading.
Will: Welcome to episode 369 of the Big Gay Fiction 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, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance reader. It’s great to have you here with us for another episode of the show.
As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. A big thanks to Katie and Tobias for joining the community recently. If you’d like more information about what we offer to our patrons, simply head on over to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: So, it’s the start of a new season, happy spring, everyone. And we’re gonna kick things off with some announcements. And, boy, we got a lot of them.
Spring Big Gay Fiction Book Club Announcement
First off, it is my great pleasure to announce that the Big Gay Fiction book club selection for spring is going to be “I’m So (Not) Over You,” the wild wedding weekend rom-com from Kosoko Jackson. We love this book and we think you are going to as well. Our deep-dive discussion will be available early to our supporters on Patreon. It should be available in the next few days, so Patreon peeps, keep an eye out for that. The book club episode featuring “I’m So (Not) Over You” will drop here in the regular podcast beat on April 28th. So, there’s still plenty of time to read this fresh and funny spring title.
Jeff: It’s such a wonderful book. I loved it so so much. Kosoko is actually gonna be here on the show with us in episode 372. So, that’s just a couple of weeks away. We’re gonna talk about this book as well as the young adult thriller that he released a few weeks ago called “Survive the Dome.” So be looking out for that in your podcatchers in the next couple of weeks.
Will: So, on top of this fresh new book club…
Jeff: Springtime fresh. I couldn’t help it. Ever since you said, “Happy spring,” I’ve actually had, like, I don’t know why it’s this tune but a little flute tune playing in my head like somebody jumping around all happy for spring playing a flute. I don’t know. My brain works in mysterious ways sometimes. What’s our other announcement?
Rainbow Romance Reader Report Announcement
Will: Well, I’m also happy to have mentioned something else that Jeff and I have been working on behind-the-scenes here, and we are both really excited about. We’re launching the “Rainbow Romance Reader Report.” Gee, Will, do you like alliteration? Yes. Yes, I do.
Jeff: It is one of our very favorite things.
Will: The “Rainbow Romance Reader Report” is the new official newsletter of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. Now, when you sign up, each week you’ll get updates about what Jeff and I have been up to, news about new releases and upcoming titles, as well as looks ahead at what’s coming up on the show. Like I said, we’re both really excited about it, and the very first report will be coming out this Friday. If this sounds interesting to you, you can sign up at biggayfictionpodcast.com/report. That’s kind of a long URL, so I’ll repeat myself one more time, biggayfictionpodcast.com/report.
Jeff: And, of course, you could also find that link in the show notes for this very episode too, in case you don’t wanna have to remember that.
Will: As an extra special thank you for joining us in all this rainbow romance reader goodness, Jeff and I have created something special just for you. Now, have you ever thought to yourself, “This podcast is great and all, but what I really need are more book recommendations?”
Jeff: As if we don’t break your book budget enough.
Will: Well, don’t worry because we’ve got you covered. It’s a new e-book called “Happily Ever After,” a collection of reviews and recommendations of books for readers of gay romance. So, whether you’re in the mood for contemporary, or historical, or holiday stories, we’ve got suggestions, a whole bunch of them. It’s the very first time we’ve ever put something like this together, and we’re so happy that we’ve got a chance to share it with you. To get your copy of ‘Happily Ever After” and sign up for the “Rainbow Romance Reader Report,” go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/report.
New York Times article on LGBTQ Romance
Jeff: Something else worth mentioning is that on March 30th, “The New York Times” ran an article called “Long Relegated to Back Shelves, L.G.B.T.Q. Romance Is Booming.” This is a wonderful story by Elizabeth Harris. And it looks at the trend of L.G.B.T.Q. romances becoming more mainstream in the past few years as they’re now available at more bookstores and even big box stores like Target and Walmart, and for that matter, even advertised in the New York subway. The article features authors Casey McQuiston, Alyssa Cole, and Lana Popovic Harper. Leah Koch is the co-owner of the Ripped Bodice, one of our very favorite bookstores, and a friend of the podcast, also appears in the article. It’s got other booksellers and publishers talking about L.G.B.T.Q. romance. Even I have a quote in the story talking of tropes.
I have to say that I really enjoyed my conversation with Elizabeth as she was researching the story, and it was a highlight of my week to read what is essentially a love letter to the genre that we all know and love.
And here’s a great statistic that Elizabeth highlighted in the story. According to NPD BookScan which tracks the sales of most printed books in the U.S. And remember, I just said printed books, so this doesn’t even cover e-books and audio. About 850,000 L.G.B.T.Q. romance books sold at traditional retail outlets in 2021, a 740% increase over a five-year period and more than double the number sold in 2020. So, that’s really great news about, like I said, this genre that we love. We’ll have a link to this in the show notes. It is behind the paywall, so some of you may not be able to access it, but if you’re able to read the article, I highly recommended it. It was really wonderful to read.
Movie and Musical Reviews
Will: So, this past week, Jeff was away on business. He’ll be talking about that in just a few minutes.
Jeff: It’s been a long time since you’ve said that on the podcast.
Will: I know, right?
Jeff: It feels kind of weird.
Will: Anyway, I was left to my own devices, and what did I do?
Jeff: You read and you watched TV.
Will: Yes. That should be no surprise to anybody. So, while Jeff was out of town and the rest of the romance world was binging the newest season of “Bridgerton.”
Jeff: Thank you for waiting for me to come home for that.
Will: Yeah, we’ll be getting to that soon enough. I decided to go on a different historical binge and went back and watched the “Angélique” movies. Now, I might have mentioned this on the show before, maybe not. It would have been a million years ago, anyway. So, Angélique, what the hell am I talking about? She’s actually a very popular French literary character who I would describe as the French Scarlett O’Hara. Her series of books. God, there were at least 20 or 30 of them. I’m not even sure. So, obviously, the character and her ongoing adventures are quite beloved. And in the mid-60s, they made a series of movies that I really love and wanted to watch again.
So, Angélique starts out as a beautiful young country girl who in a kind of a beauty and the beast type of situation has to marry Joffrey who she eventually comes to realize is her soulmate, but he gets burned at the stake for sorcery. It’s a whole thing. Now penniless she hangs out with a street gang run by one of her childhood friends. Eventually, she ends up running a successful upscale inn, and when that burns to the ground, she opens a salon that specializes in the latest fad amongst the bourgeoisie, hot chocolate. She runs a hot chocolate shop.
Jeff: She’s had a life.
Will: Just you wait.
Jeff: My gosh.
Will: I haven’t even started. And she eventually becomes successful enough that she regains her social standing amongst the elite at Versailles where she uses her wits to evade the advances of Louis XIV, uncover a royal assassination plot, uncover another plot with devil worshipers, and escape her own assassination attempt via a poisoned nightgown. Again, it’s a whole thing. It’s then that she learns that Joffrey wasn’t burned at the stake. He has been sailing the Mediterranean as a pirate with his own wonderfully silly underground island hideout. She goes to find him but is kidnapped by a different set of pirates and sold into slavery as the prized wife of a sheik’s harem. She’s eventually able to escape, cross the desert to the sea where she is finally reunited with her beloved Joffrey.
Jeff: How many movies does that take? That’s a whole bunch of stuff going on.
Will: Well, that’s five movies worth of romance and melodrama, but it’s really only the tip of the “Angélique” iceberg. I had so much fun rewatching these. The crazy plots are a really big part of that, but these movies are so lavish and gorgeous in a very specific European historical epic kind of way. I don’t know if any of you are fans of the Hammer horror movies from the ’60s like “Dracula.” In those movies, Christopher Lee’s young female co-stars were always showing tons of cleavage, lots of cat-eye makeup, and the wigs. Oh, my God. The wigs. So much glamor. I mean, that’s the ’60s version of history that I’m talking about. I mean, is it historically accurate? Who cares? They’re all gorgeous and where the Hammer movies were low-budget by necessity, no expense was spared when making the “Angélique” movies.
In the third movie “Angélique and the King,” there are several sequences set in the Gardens of Versailles. And since these were French productions, they shot them at the actual location. It’s so lush and so grand with acres and acres of manicured gardens and hundreds of extras, all promenading about in elaborate 17th-century finery. It is big. It is beautiful. It’s outrageous. They just do not make them like this anymore. Now, the “Angélique” movies are not streaming anywhere at this moment, as far as I know. I was able to watch these by picking up the Angélique Collection, all five movies on four DVDs, although that may also be out of print right now but still relatively easy to find at most online outlets.
So, in addition to all that historical glamor, I also watch the horror-comedy “Werewolves Within.” Jeff can be a little bit sensitive when it comes to scary movies.
Jeff: A little bit.
Will: So, I decided to watch this one by myself, but I don’t think he would have had any problem with this particular one. It’s about a forest ranger, and on the first day of his new job, he gets introduced to all the wackadoodle citizens of this small mountain town that he’ll be calling home. He also uncovers a dead body just as a snowstorm hits knocking out the power and closing the only road in and out of town. Everyone hunkers down at the local inn for safety, but when one of them is attacked, it’s clear that the murderer is one of them. And the evidence points to one of those people being a werewolf. Of course, I really love this movie. It plays around with small town and locked room murder mystery tropes in a goofy, interesting way.
Of particular interest are Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillen. They play a tech millionaire gay couple who’ve recently opened up a yoga studio in town. The two of them are really wonderful in this movie as well as Sam Richardson as Finn, the eternally optimistic nice guy park ranger. I really like this movie, and if you don’t mind a little bit of blood with your comedy, I think “Werewolves Within” is well worth checking out. You can stream that at any of the usual places or see if it’s available from your local cable provider just like I did.
Jeff: So, as Will mentioned, I got to go on my first trip in like two years this week. Right before I went on that trip, we actually took our first trip together into a movie theater. Now, as you know, if you’ve been listening to the show, I’ve caught two movies rather recently seeing “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Tick, Tick… BOOM!” in the theater, and I did that solo. But Will made his first foray back out into the theater because we wanted to see, I think it was a fathom event or some such thing because when Sutton Foster did “Anything Goes” in London this past fall, they did a live capture of it and it was running in movie theaters for a couple of days in the past week.
We went to the Sunday matinee. Oh, it was so fun to see this again. We saw Sutton do this on Broadway a decade ago, which she won a Tony Award for, and it was really awesome to see it captured in all of its amazing, old-school, musical glory in this London Production which had a wonderful cast attached to it, which included Robert Lindsay, who hasn’t been seen by most American audiences in many a decade. And so, it was really special. I’m glad we got to go to the theater together for that. And yeah, it was really awesome. Hopefully, this particular production will end up streaming somewhere or maybe showing on PBS in the future as some of these live captures end up doing. So, if we catch wind that it’s coming out, we’ll try to let you know about that so you could check it out because it was a whole lot of fun.
And then on Monday, I was off. The last time I was on a plane was when we came back from the Coastal Magic Convention at the end of February 2020. And I was supposed to leave just like two weeks later to go to Dallas for a work trip, but that never happened because of lockdown. So, I was back in the air headed to New York for a couple of days in meetings with some of my colleagues. Leading up to that trip, I do have to admit I was a little bit anxious. Will kind of watched me bounce around the house for a few days as I was trying to get ready to have to get on a plane and go into a place where I would suddenly be around so many more people than I was used to seeing on a daily basis. I am happy to say that I made it through.
While the flights themselves were full, the airports I was in, Sacramento, Dallas, and LaGuardia weren’t quite as full as they used to be. And New York wasn’t quite as bustling either. Certainly, there were people about because the city is back open and businesses are back open and businesses are getting back to the office, but even in Times Square, it wasn’t the crush that I remember even during a weekday, like there wasn’t the usual, you know, having to zigzag around a bunch of people and everything. So, the city is slowly starting. It seems to come back.
I did, amongst all of the meetings, took in my first Broadway show since January 2020 with the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” This show was originally staged back in 1970, and it’s about Bobbie, who is turning 35 and has all their friends wondering why they aren’t married. And Bobby is looking at all of them going, do you really have it all that well? I don’t think that you do because the friends are in various states of turmoil in their own relationships such as a lot of bickering, navigating having children, and even getting divorced or as in one iconic song, “Not Getting Married Today.”
Now, this acclaimed revival is the first time that Bobbie has become a bachelorette instead of a bachelor. There’s more gender-swapping as well because there’s also a gay couple now among Bobbie’s friends. Now, while the show, in my opinion, is very rooted in a 1970s view of coupledom, it remains a great musical comedy with some iconic songs, and these gender-swapped roles also give a new way to look at the perspective of coupledom. Now, Broadway is still grappling with the pandemic. And, in fact, in the Wednesday performance that I saw, seven of the actors in a cast of 20 were actually out. And, in fact, on the playbill cast insert, only 18 actors were listed instead of the 20 that are normally there, which means I think there was a little bit of doubling up going on.
But I have to say this performance was outstanding across the board. Through our years of show-going, we know that understudies and swings bring it every single time that they’re in the show, and this was absolutely no exception. In fact, I got to witness a historic moment. Bobby is usually played in this production by Katrina Lenk. However, she was out due to COVID, and understudy Nikki Renée Daniels stepped in to become the first black actor to play Bobbie on Broadway, man or woman. Nikki was absolutely phenomenal. Her “Being Alive,” which is one of those iconic songs of the show and is the big number at the end, where Bobbie finally figures it all out, was absolutely outstanding and goosebump-inducing. The audience was on their feet when she was done with that number.
Also out on that evening was Matt Doyle. I’ve been a fan of Matt’s for many years, and I was so eager to see him as one half of the gay couple and the performer who gets to tackle the hysterical and ridiculously fast-paced “Not Getting Married Today.” Javier Ignacio though, had me cracking up as his marriage jitters got the better of him. The song has always been a favorite, and to see it now sung by a man about his upcoming marriage was so special. And I’m really glad I got to see this. The number itself is always hysterical and the way it’s staged in this production where various people come popping out of kitchen appliances was hysterical and Javier was truly a delight.
And, of course, we have to talk about diva Patti LuPone. She plays a rich well-to-do friend of Bobby’s and she was brilliant as ever. Her facial expression in this as she was like attending various parties and things and hearing what Bobby was going through were so hysterical. It was a treat to watch her do her thing on stage. And it’s Patti who gets to sing the iconic “Ladies Who Lunch,” and it was stirring and incredible and everything you would expect from Patti.
Two other shoutouts I have to give here, Jennifer Simard who is an incredible comedic actress. Oh, her sense of timing and understanding how to land a funny line is absolutely incredible. We’ve loved her in everything we’ve seen her in. And Sarah, a woman who is on a fitness craze. She does one of her very first scenes exercising around the apartment she shares with her husband. And let me tell you, these two are not getting along. There’s a lot of bickering going on and a lot of things about him trying not to drink alcohol and her trying not to eat a pan of brownies. She’s delivering lines at times, and even singing while doing planks, doing tricep dips, and other exercise movement. It was an absolute ride. I could have watched her do that for two hours because she was doing it so well.
And also Heath Sanders who was on in the role of PJ delivered an incredible rendition of “Another Hundred People,” which is about the hustle and bustle of New York, as in “another hundred people just got off the train and came up through the ground while another hundred people just got off the bus.” Kind of another fast-paced time song. His voice, I could listen to him all day. I need to find out if there’s other recordings of him singing because I was just like over the moon for him. And that number, overall, was amazing as the cast filled the stage to give a sense of a bustling New York as Bobbie met up with some of her boyfriends. So, as you could probably tell, I absolutely loved this version of “Company.” It was a great show to mark my return to seeing live theater again. If you’re in New York, definitely check it out. It was equal parts funny and heartfelt and really incredible to see how this 50-year-old show has been spruced up to bring it kind of into the now times. It was so good. My only true regret was that Will wasn’t there. To be back for the first time in a theater, I was like, oh, I wish he was here. This isn’t quite right, but we get to see “Wicked” in a couple of weeks on tour in Sacramento, so that’ll be his first time back to live theater. So, I look forward to doing that with you very soon.
Now, one thing we watched together when I got home is a fantastic new movie. It’s absolutely crazy to me that it’s been eight years since I first read “Better Nate Than Ever” by Tim Federle. In this book, 13-year-old Nate is a musical theater geek who runs away from home to audition for “ET” the musical. Can somebody please do that? Because I can just imagine. Nate manages to get a callback, which means he misses his bus home and has to navigate being in New York all by himself until he meets up with his aunt who takes him in and kind of navigates him through all this stuff. Ultimately, Nate’s Broadway dreams come true and he gets cast in the musical. I really love that entire Nate trilogy because of the love it gives to musical theater kids. And while I’ve never been a performer like Nate, musical theater has been such an important part of my life since I was in the sixth grade, and reading these books as adult really resonated with me because it talks about the power that theater has.
This past Friday on April 1st, the movie adaptation of “Better Nate Than Ever” premiered on Disney+, written for the screen and directed by Tim Federle himself. Tim’s got a history with Disney because he also created and produces “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” also at Disney+. Tim adapted his story into a wonderful and vibrant movie that I loved, oh, so much. The overall story adheres to the original novel, at least as much as I could remember since it has been a few years. And here, Nate’s dreams of high school drama club stardom are dashed when he doesn’t get the lead in the school’s musical of Lincoln, but his best friend, Libby, shows up showing him the open casting call for “Lilo & Stitch” the musical that is coming to Broadway. Now, yes, I still wish it was “ET” the musical, you know, for reasons, but “ET” of course isn’t a Disney property, but “Lilo & Stitch” is a great swap out because it’s still a story about an alien and a kid. Libby hatches that plan for them to steal away to New York so they can audition, and Nate ends up getting that flute call back because he wins over one of the people in the audition room. And then it’s a New York adventure for Nate as Libby has to head back home so she doesn’t get into trouble and she can try to cover for Nate.
I really love how Tim has updated some of these things because, you know, back eight years ago, there was no such thing as really going viral on the internet. And there’s a great moment in this movie as Nate trying to make a few bucks to get through in New York actually goes viral on TikTok singing a great musical number. As you can imagine, though, so many things go wrong with his plan to be in New York, but along the way, he does meet up with his aunt, played impeccably by Lisa Kudrow who has been trying to live the Broadway dream but has ended up paying bills as a cater waiter. Nate’s older Jock brother also gets into the act as he figures out that Nate isn’t where he’s supposed to be, and since the brother has been put in charge to watch Nate, this can mean big trouble for him.
We have to talk for a moment about the incredible performance from Rueby Wood as Nate. It’s Rueby’s screen debut after appearing as Charlie in the 2018 national tour of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I can’t imagine a better Nate. He sings, he dances, amazing comic timing, but also brings all the emotion as Nate is trying to sort out being a seventh-grader still discovering who he is and wanting to take his chance at his dream. And speaking of dreams, boy, does Nate have some big musical sequence dream numbers? Oh, those are so good. I can’t remember from the books at what point in the story Nate comes out, but it suddenly happened in this movie in a couple of ways and I really love how it was handled.
As we’ve seen in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” Tim created a couple of great out-and-proud characters there with Carlos and Seb, and having 13-year-old Nate show his true colors here was really great to see so that any queer middle schoolers watching can see Nate is one of them. I highly recommend this screen adaptation, and I hope Tim and Disney plan to bring the other two Nate books to the screen in the near future. And I really can’t wait to see what Rueby Wood does in the future as he is one amazing talent. So, I highly recommend that you check out “Better Nate Than Ever,” which is streaming on Disney+, and if you want to check out the books, you can find those at all of the usual retailers.
April Gay Romance Preview
Will: So, that’s what we’ve been doing right now. How about next we take a look into the future? It’s a new month, so that means we get to talk about some of the amazing books that are headed our way in the next couple of weeks.
First up is a brand new book that we don’t have to wait long for at all. Coming out on April 5th is “Rising Heat” by Elizabeth Hollows. When a work conference sends Neil to the wrong hotel, he finds himself surrounded by gorgeous firemen. Luckily for him, one of them is gay and interested in a good time. Scott is gorgeous, and as it turns out, they’re both from the same town. Neil isn’t interested in dating or relationships, but can this sweet and sexy fireman change his mind?
Jeff: How can a sweet and sexy fireman not change his mind?
Will: Oh, Neil, when a sexy fireman lands in your lap, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Just go with the moment.
Jeff: Right. And then thank your workplace for sending you to the wrong hotel too.
Will: No, exactly. “Rising Heat” by Elizabeth Hollows is available right now.
And coming out on April 11th is “The Moves We Make” by CD Rachels. When college soccer player Landon finds himself in a dance class as part of his university art requirement, teaching assistant Dane tries to resist the handsome jock who admits he may not be 100% straight. As they become closer, it becomes harder to deny the chemistry that they have whenever they’re in the dance studio alone. Maybe one kiss won’t hurt.
Jeff: There’s so much here you know that I would just go, “Oh, that.” I’ve been watching this series a little bit because it’s a whole series of jocks and like artistic types, and put a soccer player with a dancer, that just has me written all over it. So, yeah, that’s already been on my TBR because I need to read that.
Will: This is the second book in the new adult “Artists and Athletes” series, and if that sounds good to you, “The Moves We Make” will be releasing on April 11th.
And just a few days later on April 15th, I feel like we should have some sort of big announcement fanfare because we’re getting a brand new series from Jordan L. Hawk.
Jeff: I do wish I had some fanfare for that. I was so happy to see that on the list that this new series is starting after “Widdershins” wrapped up.
Will: So, in this new story, “The Forgotten Dead,” Oscar is the founder of the ghost hunting team Outfoxing the Paranormal. And he agrees to work with prestigious and sexy parapsychologist, Nigel, so that his team can get a desperately needed payday. Soon after they arrive at a supposedly haunted house, the questions begin to pile up. One thing is certain. If Oscar can’t accept the truth about his psychic abilities and Nigel can’t face the demons of his past, they’ll join the forgotten souls of the house forever.
Jeff: I’m really excited that a new series is beginning. And this sounds like it’s moving into more of a contemporary setting than some of the more steampunk historical type settings that were part of “Widdershins.” I’m excited, and I’ve loved what I’ve read of Jordan’s work. It’s not the typical genre that I go for, but I may jump in here and try to begin at the beginning instead of, you know, plucking stuff out in the middle. So, looking forward to seeing what this series becomes.
Will: Jordan L. Hawks’ new series kicks off on April 15th.
And coming out on the 20th is “The Bachelor and the Cherry” by V.L. Locey. And in this one, Jordan has his club, his drag family, his cat, and he’s also vowed to never trust another man again. That philosophy has served him well until Yampier shows up at the back door of Campo Royale with a suitcase, a sad story, and a dream. Is Jordan brave enough to stop hiding behind his acid tongue persona and give love one final try?
Jeff: Well, of course. V.L. Locey writes such wonderful books. This one just sounded delightful as you have this lost soul coming to look for help and then these two coming together to, no doubt, help put each other back together after whatever has gone on in their lives. I just think this sounds absolutely delightful.
Will: From found family and drag queens, we next move on to cowboys.
Coming on April 21st is the kickoff to the new “Plum Valley Cowboys” series, “Virgin Hearts” by Amy Saunders. When Hawthorne enters a contest to win his favorite adult entertainer support for his town’s very first pride parade, he never expects to win, let alone find himself in a friends-with-benefits relationship with the man. The only problem is Hawthorne quickly realizes he wants more. Could someone as confident, sexy, and independent as Silver ever consider building a life with a simple inexperienced cowboy like him?
Jeff: There are so many interesting things here. I mean, bringing Silver, the adult performer to a small town because you have to imagine Plum Valley, it sounds like a small town if nothing else. It’s got a small-town vibe kind of name to it. And then, you know, all of the experienced versus the not experienced and everything, and the opposites that must be there too between adult performer and cowboy. So many boxes tick there that I would kind of like to start off that series.
Will: Yeah, I know, me too. I’m interested in checking this one out.
Jeff: And as we’ve often talked about, we want to go back to cowboys, and this one sounds like a good back to cowboy moment as well.
Will: If you are interested in heading back to the ranch with Hawthorne and Silver, “Virgin Hearts” is going to be coming out on April 21st.
On the 23rd is the new fantasy title from Eden Winters, “Something Wicked.” Prince Wycke, obviously nicknamed Wicked, from the magical realm is coerced into a clandestine mission, find Piers, an evil sorcerer’s hidden son in the human realm. Unfortunately, it’s just him standing between Piers and those who take Piers’ magic for themselves, magic powerful enough to rule both realms. Their lives and the fate of the human and magical world rests in their highly incompetent hands.
Jeff: Why do I feel like there’s gonna be a good amount of comedy in this? Just because they’re both on the incompetent side.
Will: So, fantasy romance isn’t necessarily my thing, but the idea of these two lovable idiots trying to save the world and fall in love at the same time is just…It’s too much. I can’t resist.
Jeff: Well. And I love the guy on the cover who I assume is Wycke.
Will: He’s giving off very serious Henry Cavill as the Witcher vibes.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s a brilliant cover. And I like Eden’s work, and I’m a fan of Eden’s “Diversion” series, which is more romantic suspense-based. But something about this. Like you, this is not my usual genre, but I may have to give it a try because, yes, these two bumbling idiots could be quite the fun read.
Will: Coming out on April 26th is the new sports romance from Rachel Reid, “The Long Game.” To the world, they are rivals, but to each other, they are everything. Shane loves fellow hockey player, Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything? Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes he questions if they even exist. Ilya wants the closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come from being open about their relationship. It’s time for them to decide what’s more important, hockey or love.
Jeff: I can’t imagine a more hotly anticipated book coming this month.
Will: Oh, my God. Fans are going to lose their minds.
Jeff: Oh, my gosh. This is the sequel to “Heated Rivalry,” which was book two in the “Game Changers” series. So, there’s been several books between here and now. We’ve seen glimpses of Ilya and Shane through each of them as they continue to try to keep this relationship a secret. Everybody, this book has been burning a hole in my kindle for a couple of months now because I’ve had this ARC and I’m like, Do I read it now? Do I wait? Because if I read it, I can’t really talk about it too much with folks.
But then I also really want the audio because I adore Cooper North’s narration here. The good news is the audio ARC should be with me later this week. I assure you, as soon as I get that ARC, everything else stops. I don’t care what else I’m reading. It all goes on the back burner so that I can dive into this because I am so excited to finally see the happily ever after that Shane and Ilya will get locked into.
If you missed it, go back to listen to our interview with Rachel Reid back in episode 329. We talk about the whole series. We talk a little bit about “The Long Game,” which was still, you know, many months off because we talked to her back in like August. So, put that into your listening pile if you want to hear from Rachel as this new book starts to come out. I can’t wait. And you could be assured that I’ll talk about it once I get it read too.
Will: We’ve got a few more weeks to wait. “The Long Game” is coming out on April 26th.
Also coming out on the same day is the new romantic comedy from Kris Ripper, simply titled “Book Boyfriend.” In this one, it seems Art will never see PK as more than just a friend. So, PK turns to his writing. In fiction, he can say all the things he can’t say out loud. Before long, the whole world has a crush on the fictionalized version of him, including Art, who has no idea that the hot new book boyfriend everyone is talking about is PK’s story. But when his brilliant plan to win Art over backfires, PK might lose not just his fantasy book boyfriend, but his best friend as well.
Jeff: This setup sounds absolutely amazing. When you’re frustrated, you just write it into a book, right? I mean, that’s the longstanding thing with writers, right? You know, be careful because you might end up in a book. This sounds both hilarious and fraught with issues at the same time. Writing somebody so real into a book. Yeah. This one sounds really good.
Will: “Book Boyfriend,” the new title from Kris Ripper is coming out on April 26th.
And also, on the same day, is “Love, Hate & Clickbait” by Liz Bowery. Political consultant, Thom, hates, infuriatingly smug data analyst Clay. During one of their heated arguments, a journalist snaps a photo, and the image makes it look like they’re kissing. The photo goes viral, and in a bid to secure the liberal vote, their candidate asks them to lean into it. They play along but soon their fake relationship is hurdling towards something very real which could derail the campaign and cost them both their jobs and their hearts.
Jeff: Yes, please. I’ll take that. You know, fake dating set in that high-stakes political realm. I don’t know. Something about that just kind of reads, you know, a little “Red, White and Royal Blue” sort of.
Will: Right. Yeah.
Jeff: Not 100% because, I mean, that was a different level of people involved there, but a little bit of that book, a little bit of some other things that we see in kind of the rom-com space occasionally. I don’t know if this will be a rom-com or not, but I am there for those folks. This is on my list and very much looking forward to checking that one out.
Will: If high-stakes politics and enemies to lovers sounds like your thing, “Love, Hate & Clickbait” is coming out on April 26th.
Book Review: Play By Heart by Areilla Zoelle
Jeff: And let’s talk about one more book that’s coming in April. The latest from Ariella Zoelle, “Play by Heart” arrives on April 22nd. Now, if you caught my interview with Ariella back in episode 366, you already know that I love this book, which actually begins the new “Harmony of Heart” series within her Sunnyside universe. The story of rockstar Iason and museum curator, Orion, was sexy and funny and absolutely delightful. And I’m gonna tell you more now about why I adore this book so much as it finally gets ready to release.
Now, we start off with Orion, his ex, Nyla, and his sister Lyra at an intimate, unplugged concert that Iason is giving at the Hurley Burley Bar and Grill. It’s Iason’s home turf since he’s from Sunnyside and a place that he plays anytime that he’s home. Lyra is here because she’s part of Iason’s street team and a big-time teen fan of his angelic vocals. Orion is already a fan of Iason’s but he feels even more of a connection to the singer in this setting as it seems that Iason keeps singing directly to him. Of course, Iason must be singing to someone else, right? Because it couldn’t be Orion. Oh, no. Orion finds out firsthand during an impromptu intermission, as he goes down to the basement to get some CDs for his sister who is helping out at the merch table, he finds out that Iason was looking at him and the rockstar does not hide his attraction for Orion, even more so, once he hears his name. Iason’s friends have said that they were wishing on the stars for him to find his perfect match and here is someone who’s literally named after a constellation. Orion doesn’t know what to think. Why would someone like Iason even possibly think he was anything special? Iason is a star and way out of Orion’s league. And, oh, yeah. Orion thought of himself as straight but yet he cannot deny his attraction to Iason. Orion’s bi discovery is one of the mini element of this book that I loved.
He has a lot of conversations with himself and with a couple of his closest friends, and perhaps more importantly with Iason. It’s even a discussion he has with Nyla who just happens to discover Orion and Iason together at Orion’s place. Nyla is a great ex. She and Orion have stayed close friends, which is why she turned up at his place. And it turns out they’re both discovering new things about themselves because you see, Nyla and Orion split because she wanted to open their relationship up and he didn’t want to, but he also didn’t want to hold her back if she wanted to explore her polyamorous side.
Now, one of the places a discussion over his bisexuality doesn’t go well is with Iason’s friend, Duke, who owns the Hurley Burley. In fact, one of the very few angsty moments in the book is at dinner with Duke and his husband, Early. And, of course, you know Ariella doesn’t do angst. So, when I say it’s one of the few angsty parts of the book, you know that I’m really serious about that. Duke really lays into Orion wanting to make sure he’s just not gonna end up back with a woman. And Early isn’t thrilled that his husband is acting this way either. And, in fact, some of this is actually gonna come out even more for Duke and Early to deal with in one of the future books in the series.
On the flip side, though, of dinner moments, is Iason going to Orion’s parents’ house for dinner. What incredible parents Orion has. Before they even know Iason’s relationship with Orion, they open their home to him as a friend. It is so warm and so wonderful. A good meal, good conversation, even stories from when each of these two were growing up are told. It was an interesting way to meet the parents too because it happened before any of the relationship was officially declared. It is one of my very favorite scenes because of the family dynamics shown.
Of course, Iason and Orion are an amazing couple. Iason is really amazing as he relentlessly pursues Orion while at the same time not making it seem like it’s creepy or too much his pursuit of the man. It’s a very fine line that Iason skates kind of effortlessly, and it’s a credit to Ariella for putting Iason in the position to make multiple declarations and make sure that Orion knows how he feels without making it feel like too much too soon. And Orion, he’s got a lot going on in his head, not only embracing his bisexuality but also how he ended up with the amazing guy that Iason is. I really love the journey these two have and their story making their way towards their happily ever after.
There’s also some scenes where Orion finds out exactly how powerful Iason’s singing is and the impact that it can have on him. These are some of the hottest scenes that I’ve read anywhere. Ariella really put some sizzling musical encounters into this story, and I liked how it only brought Orion and Iason closer emotionally and sexually. When you read these, you will see for yourself. I’ve never read anything like it, and it was really stunningly hot. I absolutely recommend Ariella Zoelle’s “Play by Heart.” It was a wonderful romance with great moments of family, and it really used the musician as romancer to great effect. I know rockstar books are not your thing. I think you would really like this one just by the way that it plays out and even the way that music ends up represented in it.
Will: Oh, interesting. Interesting.
Jeff: Hopefully, it’ll arrive on audio Sunday because also the musical interludes in the hands of some of the narrators that we know, it would be so good.
Will: Hey, Jeff, did you know that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon?
Jeff: Well, yes I did.
Will: Thank you, Patreon peeps. If you’d like to read our conversation and reviews for yourself, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. The show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And an extra note about the show notes this week as well. We are changing over to using universal book links for all the books that we talk about. This will be a way that you’ll actually be able to find even more purchase options for some of the books, including where you could pick up the audiobooks as well. So, we hope you enjoy that change in the show note so that you can click on one link, see everywhere something is available.
And among those will be audiobooks that are available on Libro.fm, which in this particular batch include books like “The Long Game,” “Book Boyfriend,” and “Love, Hate & Clickbait.” Of course, Libro.fm is the place that when you buy an audiobook you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to get a two-month audiobook membership for the price of one. For details on that and to take advantage of the offer, simply go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
Will: All right. That was a lot of great books and a lot of fascinating entertainment. So, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 370, we kick off “All-American Boy” week as we talk to author K.C. Kassidy.
Jeff: That’s right. The nine-book m/m romance installment of the “All-American Boy” series begins releasing this week. K.C. Kassidy, who also writes as Sierra Hill is the series organizer, and as K.C. Kassidy, also the author of “Pretty Boy.” We’ll find out all about the series and her book on Monday. And then on Thursday, the celebration of “All-American Boy” continues as we talk to three more authors with books in this series.
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 frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.