Jeff & Will discuss Kosoko Jackson’s I’m So (Not) Over You, the rom-com that features second chances and fake dating set over a wild wedding weekend. As always, in our book club chat there are spoilers ahead so keep that in mind if you haven’t read the book yet. Make sure you keep listening after our discussion for the first chapter from the audiobook, narrated by Timothy Bell Reese.
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- I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson
- Episode 372 – Kosoko Jackson Champions Representation in Rom-Coms and YA on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Rainbow Romance Reader Report Subscription Sign Up
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
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Will: Welcome to episode 374 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 so great to have you here for our book discussion.
Will: This is the spring Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode, and our pick is the second chance, fake dating story that takes place over one wild wedding weekend. We’re going to be talking about “I’m So (Not) Over You” by Kosoko Jackson.
Jeff: Now, make sure you stick around after our discussion, we are pleased to bring you an excerpt from the audio book of “I’m So (Not) Over You” with narration from Timothy Bell. Reese. You are not going to want to miss that.
Book Club Discussion
Will: So, before we jump into what this book is all about, what were your initial impressions when I first said that this was the book we were going to be reading?
Jeff: I was excited. First of all, because I absolutely adore the cover of the book. The cover sold so much of it to me before I even read the blurb. It’s an illustrated cover. You’ve got these two guys looking at each other and it’s a mix of I love you but I’m also a little bit hesitant to go forward. There’s a lot being said in this cover and I really, really love it. Plus, I mean, the title itself and the way that it’s presented on the cover itself, the word “not” is in red, and the rest of the title is in white. If you look at it online, the “not” is inside of parentheses, so there’s a lot going on. In terms of the second chance sort of stuff that’s gonna spread out here because it’s like, “I really want to be over you but I’m really not over you.” And then there was the promise of a zillion pop culture references which, honestly, I adored.
Our lead character, Kian…oh, he is so into pop culture. This book drips in pop culture references. And every time I kinda came across one, I was like, “I know that. I know that.” And I’m sure there are ones in here I have no clue about. So yeah, I was excited to do this book. And Kosoko also has been on my radar a lot, not just for this book but he also writes YA. He’s kinda doing it all. And yeah, I’m really into that. So, I was excited to get to talk about this one. And then, of course, I read it and I’m like, “Oh, my God. I just love this thing.” What led you to picking this book, I guess, is the flip side of the question you just asked me?
Will: Well, like you said, with the cover and the blurb, I thought it was a no-brainer. It’s a jampacked tropetastic rom-com that I just couldn’t say no to. And one last thing before we dive in. The main character of the book is Kian, spelled K-I-A-N, but I listened to the audiobook and the narrator spends the entire story saying it Kian.
Jeff: Which is where I got my pronunciation just a moment ago.
Will: So, in our discussion, we may switch back and forth between pronunciations. And it’s not because we’re stupid. We’re just confused.
Jeff: We could just call him K. Although, he’s not our boyfriend so we may not have permission to do that.
Will: Oh, yeah. That’s a whole thing in the story. We’ll get to that in a second. Okay. Let’s talk about “I’m So (Not) Over You”. At the beginning of the story, journalism student, Kian, is waiting anxiously at a Boston coffee shop. His ex-boyfriend, Hudson, who’s been his ex for about three months, has asked to meet. When Hudson shows up looking too perfect for words in that very Hudson kind of way, he doesn’t beat around the bush. Will Kian be his boyfriend again? Though, still miffed at getting dumped in the first place, he is more than willing to get back together with Hudson until he specifies that they’ll only be together for three days tops.
Jeff: There’s so much for me to unpack here. First of all, I love Kosoko’s use of description. We know so much particularly about Hudson right here in the way that Kian describes meeting up with his ex. Kian says there’s two perfect descriptors that come to mind, whiskey and a steel-string guitar. Whiskey, because his voice is as smooth as the alcohol his family famously distills and markets. And a guitar because not only is he great at playing it, but there’s a soft alluring twang to his voice that makes the sirens in “The Odyssey” sound like piss-poor contestants on the “X Factor”.
A little bit of pop culture, amazing description. I had no issue after that understanding really who Hudson was already just from that little bit. And Hudson’s also very direct because he sits down and he’s very simply like, “I called you here because I want you to be my boyfriend,” after all this time that they’ve spent apart.
We also know from this early moment that Kian is still very much in love with Hudson. So of course, he’s going to agree to whatever’s about to happen if only to be with this guy for a little bit longer. We’ll see as we go on that Kian is very complicated. He wants this but he doesn’t want it. And the back and forth is part of what makes this, kind of, rom-com gold in so many ways because he knows what he wants but then he doesn’t really want to want what he wants. It’s very back and forth for him. I felt for him a little bit because you could just imagine all the collisions happening in his brain as he, kind of, parsed out some of what was going on as the story went on. So, it’s a great introduction to kinda get us into the meat of the story.
Will: This is apropos of nothing but when you mentioned Kosoko’s descriptive powers, I was wondering if we knew what Hudson smells like. And the only reason I bring this up is because on the podcast, “Fated Mates,” Sarah MacLean and her cohost are fond of pointing out the way male characters smell in romance. At some point in the book, the heroine is always gonna describe what the hero smells like. It’s almost always soap or fresh-cut grass or something outdoorsy and manly.
Jeff: It’s almost always, like, woodsiness.
Will: Yes, “woodsiness” which is a very generalized pine fresh scent. I don’t know.
Jeff: If it comes up in my notes, which it might, just like that initial thing did, I will point it out. But I’m pretty sure at some point, there is reference to him smelling like the body wash that he uses, which is also a very common descriptor regardless of what that body wash is because there’s a whole slew of different varieties of male body washes out there. At some point, almost every male character, especially I feel like I see it a lot lately, and maybe it’s triggered because of the “Fated Mates” episode, somebody’s always smelling like the body wash that they use. I don’t know. It is a thing, though.
Will: So, a day later at a local bar, Kian is recounting the encounter with his brother, Jamal, his best friend, Divya, and some friends. It seems that Hudson’s parents are coming into town but he never told them about breaking up with Kian, hence the pretend boyfriend request, which is when he threw his iced coffee in Hudson’s face. And while his friends discussed the ramifications of having any kind of friendship with someone who’s an ex, Kian heads to the bar to get the table some drinks. But the round has been paid for by a stupidly handsome and rich ex who can’t seem to take no for an answer.
Jeff: Who guess what? Smells like pine. I have it right here now that I’ve moved on…
Will: Aha, I knew it was coming.
Jeff: Now that I’ve moved on to this chapter’s notes.
Will: I really like Hudson’s friends. And really quickly, we get a feeling for their dynamic. Especially with Divya and Kian’s brother, Jamal. They’ve each got a slightly different take on Kian’s failed relationship with Hudson. And I thought it was funny because they are equal parts giving him a hard time but also trying to be supportive in that very loving, “We’ve been friends for a million years,” kind of way.
Jeff: And I will tell you when you’re being stupid? Yeah.
Will: Yes, exactly.
Jeff: Yeah. I loved Divya. I would love to understand more of her world. I would love a book featuring her and what she gets up to. She’s an attorney who also works occasionally at the bar just as, like, a way to decompress and a way to do something different. And so often, her take on the world…I just love when she crops up here. Yeah. Kosoko, if you could give her, I don’t know, a short story, a book, come up with something for her to do that we can see more of her, I would be very into that. Everybody deserves a friend like Divya, especially when they’re going through this kinda thing. Divya and Jamal are also an interesting counterpoint to Kian. They at least appear to have their life together whereas Kian is really still, kind of, adrift trying to get the job that would essentially, in his mind, set his life on the right course. So, it’s an interesting dynamic there as well because they’re also looking out for him to, kind of, move into the next phase of his life which, for them, does not include going backwards to Hudson.
Will: So, Hudson, who we know is rich and beautiful and smells like pine, he apologizes to Kian for springing the request on him and he explains that he could really use his help. Though he is practically perfect in every conceivable way, to Hudson’s family, he’s the screwup. You see, he rejected going into the family business, a billion-dollar brewing and distilling empire, and he gave all that up to get a degree in psychology. He’s under the impression that they really liked Kian and he could use a supportive presence at the upcoming family dinner. In exchange, Hudson is willing to make an introduction for Kian to the head of Spotlight, a website Kian has been trying to get a journalism fellowship for. Essentially, the deal is going to be a favor for a favor. So, Kian says yes.
Jeff: As we learn more about Hudson’s family, keeping to our pop culture references that we love here so much, I could easily see this book becoming an entire Tyler Perry series. “The Haves and Have Nots” come to mind. I could just see the entire Rivers empire presented this way. It’s also very interesting to me that while they perceive Hudson as the screwup, that they like Kian so much because Kian does not have his life together. And my impression is, even if we go back in the past to when they were together, he may not have had his life together back then either. So, I don’t understand why they like Kian so much given the dynamics in that family, but good for him for making a good impression. We also get a lot more of Kian in this chapter to understand what makes him tick. He describes how he was trying to avoid how horrible he felt by concentrating on the things that he likes. And this is his list.
“The introduction to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and how “Star Trek: Discovery” pays homage to it. Katie Couric’s journalistic voice and how close I am to perfecting it. How Hudson’s Southern accent becomes more prominent when he’s angry. His secret love for Marvel movies. The way his toes curl when I…” kinda lets that trail off because…his list of things that he likes immediately pivoted over to what he likes about Hudson. So, we see the dilemma that he’s in as he’s now casting himself into this fake boyfriend role.
I will say that I also like how Kosoko works in various bits of commentary. Like, we get this here also as they’re talking about books. “Books also say that Jesus was white, but he’s from Bethlehem, not Sweden. I’m not sure we can trust books written by white people to give black people credit for anything.” I love that this commentary keeps rolling out and that things get put through that lens because it just lends this book so much authenticity that I just kept really enjoying seeing that woven in even from this very early point in the book.
Will: The next day, Hudson takes Kian on a ridiculously spendy shopping spree.
Jeff: Can you just imagine if this was a movie, the montage sequence we would’ve had while they shopped for clothing?
Will: I know. They get him a whole new wardrobe a la, a traditional rom-com fashion montage. And after spending several thousand on new looks that Hudson insists are needed if his parents are going to accept them as a couple, Kian points out the difference between acceptance and actual support. Now it seems this is a very old argument between them and Hudson doesn’t appreciate Kian pointing out the less than perfect dynamic he has with his family, which leads to a big old fight and Hudson calls off the dinner and their deal.
Jeff: And as we get first looks at things, this one was actually the first look at how fiery these two can be when they get mad at each other. Sparks can really fly between these two and they both dig in rather deeply into what they will and will not do once they get into these positions. I felt bad for anybody who’s around them when these fights go down because they would both be the kind of fight that you can’t take your eyes off of but that you also wanna scurry away from to not get caught up in the whirlwind of it.
Will: Over coffee, Kian replays the scene for Jamal, who is ever the far more practical, younger sibling.
Jeff: Like I said, he’s got his life together as opposed to his brother.
Will: And he makes sure Kian knows he’s in the wrong. And if he truly cares about it, it’s up to him to make things right with Hudson. Later that night, Divya drives Kian to the restaurant for the meeting with Hudson and his parents. She aggressively reminds him how stupid this all is, especially since Kian still isn’t over the breakup with Mr. Wealthy, Good-Looking Fancy Pants. But Kian is determined to make good on this deal. Hudson can impress his parents and Kian will get his introduction, and all will be good.
Jeff: Divya and Jamal will not take Kian shit at all, and they will call him on it. They were very, very blunt saying that he fucked up because he went after the family, and that’s just what you don’t do. As Jamal tells Kian, “Look, you fucked up. You did what you always do, go overboard with your words.” And this is something that Kian does a lot. Jamal goes on to say, “My point is, you are a lot. Just a lot with your words. Sometimes they get you in trouble, sometimes they help you, but we both know what I’m gonna say.” And what Jamal is saying is actions speak louder than words. So that’s how Kian has to go about fixing what he has done here.
Will: So, dinner alternates between tense exchanges between Kian and Hudson’s dad, and banal pleasantries, chatting with Hudson’s mom, while Hudson himself seems to wanna be any other place than where he currently is. When the evening finally ends, Hudson and Kian say goodbye to mom at the valet stand and she goes on and on about Hudson finally finding someone so special. And she pulls some invitations out to a cousin’s wedding, inviting both Hudson and Kian down to Georgia next weekend. Now, of course, this was not part of the plan, and Kian expects Hudson to flatly reject the offer. Shockingly, he says yes. They would be happy to attend. Kian is honestly flabbergasted. They are not in a relationship. What was Hudson thinking? They get into a fight in their Uber dredging…
Jeff: Poor Uber driver.
Will: I know. Poor driver. Dredging up complicated feelings from their time together. Because yeah, Kian is just not quite over it, just like Divya said, but he is over this whole current situation. He has the Uber driver pull over and he walks away.
Jeff: This is a fiery, fiery bit of chapters here because the dinner is something to behold. And it’s also really where I started to cheer for Kian quite a bit. He doesn’t take crap from Hudson’s parents. There’s a moment where Hudson’s dad says, “Where I’m from, you say, “Yes, sir,” to your elders and those you’re trying to impress.” And then Kian fires back, “Strange. My mom thought me respect is something earned and not given just because you were born earlier than me.” It’s like, “Dude, that’s a lot for a family dinner to be saying right there,” but also, “Good for you for standing your ground a little bit as well.”
Of course, this doesn’t make Hudson’s evening any easier, But Kian does stand his ground. And oh, boy. Talk about interesting, just flinging out those invitations there. I don’t know how Hudson can necessarily keep quiet that this was gonna turn into coming down to Atlanta for a wedding unless he just knew that Kian would’ve balked at that right off. I don’t know if that was something Hudson either didn’t know or he was just keeping it under his hat. Because dinner’s one thing. Traveling in a big family wedding is completely another in terms of what you might do just to help make things pass a little bit.
Will: So, after Kian walks away, he ends up at the bar that we mentioned before. And like Jeff said, Divya is working there that night. And they do a postmortem on the wonky dinner and Hudson’s response to it and Kian’s response to that all while Divya keeps the shots coming. And during their discussion, they come to the conclusion that when it comes to Hudson, it will always boil down to “What will my family think?” Kian takes a cab to Hudson’s brownstone and confronts him just as Hudson is getting out of the shower.
Jeff: No doubt smelling like pine woodsy body wash.
Will: Kian is able to keep, well, most of his wits about him with Hudson looking all delectable and make sure that he understands that their breakup left him genuinely broken. Hudson apologizes and mentions that Randal, the guy from Spotlight, is actually going to be at the wedding in Georgia because what’s better than an introduction that Hudson promised earlier? How about some real facetime with the man he wants to work for? Kian says he’ll think about it, which essentially means yes.
Jeff: Yeah. This whole thing at the brownstone, it just highlights where these two are and the back and forth so much. They wanna get back together so badly. Put the wedding aside, put aside meeting the guy from Spotlight. They wanna get back together but they also want it to be different than it was because they both kinda know that it was messed up. And it’s just amazing to watch these two really fight. I mean, Kian digs in over even about being called K. I brought that up jokingly earlier, that only his boyfriends get to call him K, and Hudson kinda falls back into that as they’ve had these initial discussions. And Kian goes off on him about that here and making sure that he uses his full name.
And it all comes swirling down to the fact that as Kian is storming out, we are gonna get this great pop culture reference because he says it’s something like from the “Notebook” or from a Nicholas Sparks book, where he just turns around and screams, “I’m so over you, Hudson Rivers. Don’t you forget it.” And then drenched, he slips back into a cab so that he can get away from there. I also really, like, feel bad for any Uber driver that Kian gets into a car with. He actually might’ve just had protracted discussions a couple of times with Uber drivers about what he should do when he arrives at his destination, trying to get a little instant therapy perhaps from his driver. He racks up bills doing this because he doesn’t exit the car fast enough. It’s really interesting and kinda fun how he’ll delay himself getting into situations that he knows are gonna be uncomfortable.
Will: Jamal does the brotherly thing and drives Kian to the airport where Kian finds Hudson in the very well-appointed luxury airport lounge where, oddly, he’s reading an online article about his own father and how he built the family empire. Because as we said before, Hudson may have the money and the looks, but when it comes to his relationship with his parents, I mean, it’s clear that he’s really counting on this visit to impress them and live up to their impossible expectations.
Jeff: Watching Kian be out of place as he feels in the fancy airport lounge and things like that is also very interesting. The way that he views where he thinks he should be in the world. Sometimes, I really want him to have more confidence than that. But then you also see through other various things why he doesn’t have that confidence. And it’s something that I think as much as Hudson bristles at some of what his family has, I think Kian gets a little more self-confidence just being around Hudson who takes up his space and always has that confidence about him that he does belong in whatever space he’s in. We saw it a little bit in the clothing store when they were doing their shopping. We see it again here at the airport. It’s a really interesting balance between these two in this kinda situation.
Will: Once they’re in flight, not even the super plush luxury of first-class can calm Kian’s jitters about flying in general, and some heavy turbulence specifically. To take his mind off of it, Hudson asks why, since Kian has been unemployed for a while now, he hasn’t given up on journalism and tried something else. And the answer, it’s about an uncle who was supportive long ago and Kian’s need for the story of why people make the choices that they do. It’s during this conversation that Hudson warns him that getting involved with Randal is a bad idea, to which Kian counters that he doesn’t have the same opportunities Hudson does. Like Jeff mentioned earlier, they’re from two different worlds. Randal just might be a bad guy, but the introduction and opportunity to land his dream job at Spotlight is a shot he’s going to take because chances like that don’t come around for people like him.
Jeff: The whole passage, talking about the uncle, really moved me. Getting that story, hearing how it affected him like it did, it was really a deep moment, one of the deeper moments that we’ve had in this first section of the book. It really seeks, I think, to more ground some of the more rom-comy aspects that we have here. Very real moments like this. But I also have to point out one moment of humor. You mentioned that Kian doesn’t like to fly. He refers to what keeps planes in the air as devil’s magic. I thought it was so entertaining that despite everything he talks about…he very much believes in science, but the whole plane thing, it’s just something that he cannot get behind. As Kosoko does the whole leadup to actually being in Atlanta, we know so much about Hudson and Kian before they arrive for the wedding that it informs so well everything else that’s just about to happen. We’ve got so much great character stuff going on here. It’s such a rich book. It’s one of the things that I loved about it so much. I feel like I know these characters so well.
Will: Once on the ground and in the limo on the way to the estate, Kian asks a personal question of Hudson. Why didn’t he go into the family business? And if not that, just create his own entrepreneurial opportunity. For Hudson, once he realized that his family’s money, power, and prestige was like a wall, no one was going to be honest or real with him, not in any genuine way, which made him want to know the why of human behavior, hence his interest in psychology, which I think is interesting in this particular section of the book. We’re learning a little bit more about our heroes and what drives them to do what they do. And while on the surface, Hudson and Kian may seem like they’re from two different worlds, deep down, I think what drives each of them is a curiosity, why people do what they do. So, while the two of them are very different people, they’re also the same in a lot of fundamental ways.
Jeff: There’s a passage that Hudson makes in here where he says, “I like psychology because it helps me understand people. Journalism helps investigate how things happen and psychology explains why they happen. And I’m interested in the why.” I think that right there actually kinda says why these two work so well together because they’re both driving towards some of the same answers to questions. They just approach it from a different way, from the investigative and the desire to understand the how from one side and the why from the other. I came back to this idea a lot as they, kind of, played out what was happening. Part of me almost thinks that’s why they keep driving themselves back together again because there is that connection there through what they’re actually wanting to do with their life.
I don’t know. I might be thinking too much about it but I kept, kind of, circling back to that in this. I also found it a little interesting that Hudson doesn’t like being lied to. He knows he is lied to a lot and he doesn’t know who to trust and yet he is perpetuating, or he thinks he’s perpetuating, this big lie to his family in general. So, I thought it was interesting that that whole trust thing is there but yet, he’s willing to try to pull one over on his family too. I wasn’t too sure what to make of that. He should probably psychoanalyze himself to figure that part out because I’m not qualified to do that.
Will: So, to get into character, they are supposed to be boyfriends after all, they kiss. And things heat up really quickly, but then the limo arrives at the house where Hudson and his sister, Olivia, who is considered the golden child, they immediately start fighting. And these two, they go at it.
Jeff: Oh, boy.
Will: Kian, thankfully, he intervenes and the siblings reluctantly step back. Hudson’s obvious discomfort at being back home has Kian sensing that it might be something more than “I just…I don’t like my parents.”
Jeff: This is the first time that Kian’s been to this house despite the past relationship. He puts seeing through the house through the lens of “House Hunters” because as he puts it, he and his mom have seen every episode, both domestic and international. So, he’s able to, like, project the price tag onto this. Just another pop culture reference that I adored because who doesn’t like to watch “House Hunters?” Oh, boy, Hudson and Olivia. There’s so much there. It was part like watching “Dynasty”. It was part watching any other, like, ’80s big soap opera with the siblings who don’t like each other. Yeah, that’s big. And they’re fiery a lot. I thought it was a complete overreaction to a kiss in front of the house. She was all like, “You were doing it in front of the house, in front of everyone.” And of course, the question is, who exactly is everyone because it’s only Olivia standing here in the driveway at the moment. She’s very dramatic. She’s very forceful. She knows what she wants and she is going to make sure that things go in the direction that she wants them to go. And she’s already, I think, a little suspicious of what these two are up to. This is a fun dynamic to watch play out over the rest of the wedding weekend.
Will: When the parents and guests arrive for the wedding party cocktail mixer, Kian can’t help but feel he’s living the black Southern version of “Crazy Rich Asians.” But instead of schmoozing with the obscenely rich and famous, Kian and Hudson find themselves entertaining the youngest party guests, Hudson plucking out renditions of “Baby Shark” on his guitar.
Jeff: It is such a cute moment. It’s like, “I don’t wanna deal with the adults anymore. We’re gonna go over here and entertain the kids.” Probably the same room I might’ve ended up in if I were stuck at this event. It’s nice seeing Hudson in this setting really probably being more himself than he actually can be usually in his parents’ house. Yeah, as you said before, we’re just learning so much more about the characters now that we’ve put them into this setting.
Will: As the family gathers for the…essentially, it’s a performance of a high-class celebration, Olivia sits down next to Hudson and Kian. They discuss business and Kian impresses with his thoughts and pragmatic opinions on the morality and responsibility of the business as large as the Rivers and Valleys brand. It’s here also that Kian muses on Southern charm, the ability to say something without saying anything at all. And when the rich do it, it’s especially vapid and meaningless. I don’t know about you, but what Kian is describing is my own personal horror show. Southern charm, as I know and have experienced it, is anything but.
Jeff: Sweet to your face, and then they’re happy to stab you in the back at the same time. I spent 15 years in the South. I worked for a time as a journalist, no less, for a Southern-based publishing company. And while the family who ran the company were actually some of my very favorite people, no joke, there were others in the company executive ranks who I wouldn’t really trust with anything. They will tell you one thing and mean something else and have ulterior motives. And, you know, this is…it made me cringe a little bit, bringing back some of the Southern things that I experienced that I know still go on very easily today. It’s…
Will: Yeah. It’s all too real. It’s like a freaking horror show. And it’s at this point that Hudson’s grandmother, Johnannah, plops herself down right next to Kian.
Jeff: I love this woman. I really do. We just disparaged Southern culture a little bit. And sorry for those of you who don’t fit that. We know there are good Southern people there. But Johnannah, oh, God bless her. I loved her.
Will: Yeah. The kind of Southern matriarch who has zero fucks to give.
Jeff: Yes. Who will not put up with the Southerness of it all.
Will: She’s got the age and experience and the power to give zero fucks.
Will: That’s the point.
Jeff: She would be played by Diahann Carroll in my book.
Will: Exactly. Johnannah decides that they’re going to take their conversation outside, and she and Kian transition their conversation out into the sticky Southern summer air, and they talk of capitalistic systems of oppression in the most gentile way possible and how the expansive Rivers family estate was built atop of bulldozed plantation. And it’s here that Johnannah gets to the point and asks if he has feelings for her grandson. Kian says he doesn’t know. And she says, “Well, he’ll figure it out in time.”
Jeff: Kian needs more people like Johnannah in his life. She’s a different version of Divya and comes at things from a different point of view and a different background because, like you said, she’s got the age and the wisdom and the experience here. But I loved how her version of Southern played here too. She was initially like, “I’m not going to talk first so we could sit here in silence or you can start.” She had a very distinct way that she wanted the conversation to go but she also admitted, in the middle of it too, that the way that Kian interacted with Olivia made him someone that Johnannah wanted to talk to. The whole conversation was just…it gives you a different look at the Rivers family through the lens of this woman. I loved it. I really wanted her to come back and play more of a role later on, but this moment, oh, so good. You can see so well here that Kosoko knows exactly what he’s writing. He knows who these people are and he just brings so much authenticity to the page that you just feel it like you’re a fly on the wall everywhere that Kian and Hudson go.
Will: That night, Hudson and Kian have a heavily flirtatious almost moment, which is key in any good rom-com, before Hudson decides he wants to surprise Kian and whisks him away in a golf cart over the manicured lawn, through the forest to a private moonlit lake. And it’s here that Hudson asks what he’s been wondering since…well, I assume since forever, is there a real chance for the two of them again? And like before, Kian doesn’t have an answer to that question. But they do get hot and heavy kissing up against a tree. The moment has the possibility for more, but this isn’t how Hudson wants their first time at a second chance to go down. So, they head back to the house.
Jeff: I love this outdoor moment. After so much of either being cooped up in the city in Boston or being cooped up at this house, this time at the lake, we get more insight into Hudson, who really likes this lake. He’ll come here, he’ll think, he’ll kind of, like, try to put the world in perspective here. He has a whole thing about the ducks trusting you because ducks can be really freaking mean if you want them to…you know, if you screw around with the ducks, they will come after you. And then finally, he boiled it down to…step one, was gaining grandmother’s admiration, which, of course, Kian did. Step two is then getting the ducks to trust you. And then step three is the whole profit. So yeah. The lake was a nice…probably one of the calmest moments, I’d say, that Hudson and Kian have had to the book so far because it’s just them. They’ve, kind of, gotten past the first big hurdle of “Will you be my fake boyfriend? Will you come do this thing with me?” And now they’re kinda having the breather after essentially all of the big stuff that has happened so far. It was a nice little, huh, take a break moment in the book, and I loved it.
Will: So, once they’re back at the house, they decide to share the same bed and discuss, just for clarity’s sake, that there’s nothing fake about what they’re feeling.
Jeff: They have forced proximity in a ginormous mansion because, of course, they must be in the same room to pull off this act. And so yeah, might as well both sleep in that bed.
Will: Yeah, it’s not fake. They’re boyfriends. It’s the real deal and they fall asleep in each other’s arms.
Jeff: So, you’re 100% right. They are boyfriends because this is where Kian finally tells Hudson that he can call him K. That’s where they’ve gotten back to that now he can use that term of endearment. They do have to take a moment here as they were situating how they were going to be in this bed. Kian has a whole moment on spooning, which I thought was hilarious. “Never really understood the attraction of spooning. One person always ends up with a dead arm, usually the same person who ends up suffocating in another person’s hair. And for the spooned, it feels like you’re in a straitjacket made of human flesh, which is honestly a terrifying thought.” It’s like, well, there you go. So yeah. I would say they, like, had big healing powers on them, especially Kian, if he’s moving to allow being called K again.
Will: In the morning, Kian feels like a Disney princess.
Jeff: And has a whole thing about how important it is that you know who your Disney princess is, saying that it’s more important than your sun sign, your Harry Potter house, or even your Avatar bending style. I don’t know. Did you think he was an Ariel? I thought he was more of a Belle, but that’s just me.
Will: Well, if we’re talking fish out of water surrounded by wealth and luxury, I think either of those two princess styles would fit.
Jeff: Okay, that’s fair. That’s fair.
Will: So, our two heroes have gone from combative and constantly arguing to something far more relaxed and comfortable. It’s so cute. And this renewed relationship dynamic means that Kian can kid around with his rich Southern prince before they go out and take a trip past the imposing rod iron gates of the Rivers and Valleys Brewing Company headquarters.
Jeff: I know I keep calling out the pop-culture here because I was so enamored by it. In the span of just a few paragraphs, we managed to use “Scooby-Doo,” “Twilight,” and “Wicked” all mixed up together because he says that the iron gates of Rivers and Valleys Brewing Company loom in front of me like the gates of a castle the Scooby gang would have to infiltrate. But beyond the iron gates, you could see a beautiful modern building, more like where the Cullens lived in Forks. And as those gates push open, he actually kinda sings “One short day in the emerald city” as they’re going into the compound. Absolutely hilarious and just one of the things that made me adore this book so much. Just wrapping up so many things all in one nice little pop culture bundle of references.
Will: While on a private Hudson guided tour of the facility, they run into Olivia who is giving a tour to Nathaniel and Danni. Nathaniel is the cousin and Danni is the bride-to-be. Olivia and Hudson are immediately combative, which frankly just seems to be their natural state.
Jeff: It does, doesn’t it? I mean, Kian’s hardly been around them and he’s already saying that they’d be an allegory for some great war we’re taught in high school. Neither of them are willing to back down and they’re inching closer to mutually assured destruction.
Will: Eventually, the two of them leave the group to go talk family business. Nate goes off to take a business call leaving Danni and Kian to hang out over beers, which they bought at the public giftshop. They talk family dynamics like why exactly is Danni marrying Nate. She decides to be straightforward and tells him that they were on again off again during college with no real intention of settling down together. But when her parents caught them hooking up and convinced them they were a perfect match, socially, at least. Kian seems, kind of, shocked at this revelation, but Danni is quietly resigned that she merely likes the perfectly nice guy who will become her husband in the next few days.
Jeff: This made me sad because I always…it’s the romantic in me, I always want people to marry for love. But Danni, oh, I just wanted to hug her and say, “No, don’t do it.” She actually says to Kian, “I think happiness is something that Americans focus on too much. It’s more important to be secure. “Is that what you think?” And then Kian very pointedly asks, “Is that what you think or what your parents think?” And Danni gives that a consideration and comes back with, “Does it matter?” And it was like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.” Somebody needs to write Danni a good romance novel. Let her find her one true person. This is the beginning of her Hallmark movie right here where she realizes she’s with the wrong person and she’s gonna go find the right one in some other story. I’m just convinced of it.
Will: Hudson and Kian spend the next day doing all the touristy things Atlanta has to offer as well as go on another obscenely expensive shopping trip.
Jeff: The guy does like to shop.
Will: And he does it well. But Kian is mentally a million miles away thinking about Danni settling and what he and Hudson mean to one another. Hudson knows Kian has got something on his mind and wants to know what he can do to make it better. And they end up getting very hot and heavy in the Jeep in the carport of the house.
Jeff: Talk about wondering who might see what, Olivia would blow her mind if she knew that that was happening anywhere in the vicinity of the house.
Will: Kian doesn’t want their first time together again to be in a car. So, they rush inside the house past all the guests there for the rehearsal dinner. Kian is momentarily distracted by all the celebrities. He’s like, “Oh, my God. Is that Rachel Maddow?” They find an empty bathroom.
Jeff: Is that better than a car? I don’t know.
Will: It’s good enough.
Jeff: It’s marginally better than the car.
Will: Hudson gets down on his knees and thoroughly blows Kian’s mind and tells him that he’s in this because he’s in love and can’t wait until they’re both on the same page.
Jeff: He essentially said here that he will wait and do what it takes to get Kian back into the spot where he can also say, “I love you.” It’s a very sweet moment. After this day of all this activity. I mean, it kinda tracks back to even being at the brewery. They’re getting out away from the house, mostly away from the family, and looking to reconnect a little bit. And that doesn’t always go well because Kian knows that there’s something on Hudson’s mind and everything, but just that progression of being out and doing things together and doing couply things, touristy things are very couply things. So, you know, this whole sequence, I really liked it even as it was interspersed with other things going on. And boy, are we headed into the last act here. So much is about to happen. Hang onto your hats here.
Will: As they’re stepping out of the bathroom together, they run right into Randal Clemens, the guy Kian has come all the way to Atlanta to schmooze with. Hudson, rather expertly, diffuses the awkwardness with his patented charm and introduces Kian to Randal telling him what a great journalist he is and how he’s the perfect fit for Spotlight. Kian immediately gets an off-putting vibe from this guy, but since he’s wanted this job forever, he goes to talk privately with Randal. They go to an empty library/study, which mansions like this seem to have an infinite number of.
Jeff: If you’ve got the space, have a library. We would do that. We would stock every room we could with books.
Will: Kian immediately says something awkward, which is not ideal when you’re trying to impress the media mogul of the company you want to work for.
Jeff: Sometimes Kian can talk so well and then other times, he just trips over himself completely.
Will: But his awkwardness is nothing compared to Randal, who is a classist, racist sleazeball who is only interested in a fast hookup and bending Kian over a nearby desk for the job. Truly overwhelmed by how brazen he is, Kian pushes Randal off, the commotion bringing in several people, including Hudson, who were just outside the room. When Hudson realizes what has happened, he punches Randal, leading to an all-out brawl between the two of them. The two of them were once former college friends but there was definitely bad blood between them, and this is the last straw for Hudson.
Jeff: I didn’t realize earlier when Hudson was warning Kian…although it was a very light warning at the time, at least the way that I read it, that Randal was really not a good guy. I think Kian blew it off a lot like I did because he’s so obsessed with working at Spotlight. And so, even that foreshadowing moment that happened, I never imagined it would get like this with the come-on that Randal did.
Will: The only reason it comes to a stop because Hudson’s dad puts a stop to it, kicking Randal out.
Jeff: I cheered for Hudson because he immediately stepped in and there was never a doubt in his mind that Kian was telling the truth about the situation. He took care of Randal and then dad also came in and was like, “This is enough and, Randal, you need to leave and you don’t get to come to the wedding and you just need to go.” There was never any, like, “Well, did it really happen? What happened? What was all this?” Everybody rallied around and did immediately the right things. It was nice to see that kind of definitiveness happen there in a really terrible situation. I really felt for Kian, to, kind of, watch his dreams fall apart right there at that time because this guy was such a douche.
Will: A friend of the family helps Hudson get patched up. And obviously no longer in a party mood, he and Kian head up to Hudson’s room. During their fight, Randal was goading Hudson on and it’s here he explains something Randal said. In high school, Hudson drank a lot. So much that on prom night, he drove his car through someone’s garage door. His parents, with their money and power, made the incident disappear. And he sometimes thinks about that. As a young black man in an accident like that, his life could’ve gone down a very different road. But thanks to his parents, it didn’t. They then paid for his rehab. And he doesn’t express it explicitly, but Hudson’s feelings about not being a part of the family business are in part due to being in recovery.
Jeff: Learning about this, everything that his family did, it really made me wonder why Olivia is such a terrible person to him for stepping away from the company, for doing something else, because certainly being around alcohol all the time would be a challenge for him. And Kian even acknowledges that he’s even more impressed because of what he’s just learned that Hudson is able to battle back his demons as well as he has over these six years. It cast Olivia in a much more harsh light for me in what she does. But this whole thing that’s gone down at the party has just drawn them so much closer together. I mean, it’s terrible what happened with Randal, but it also helped Hudson, I think, finally unlock everything that he had to unlock with Kian to be able to move forward again. It’s interesting how Kosoko built these scenes to get to the place where this big revelation could happen and let these two men be their authentic selves with each other, because now Hudson doesn’t have to carry this anymore. It was just a really interesting playout of the scene that I liked it a whole bunch.
Will: At this point, after all that they’ve been through this weekend, they can’t hold back any longer and fall into bed. The sex is both familiar and brand-new. There’s a deeper bond now. They know each other even better and love one another more than ever.
Jeff: It’s so swoony. Even between these two, there’s also so much consent talk because they haven’t done things in so long together. I loved every minute of this. It was sweet, it was sexy, it was hot, it was steamy. Yeah, the book’s been leading up to this point because they’ve had their make-outs and they’ve had the blowjobs, but this was full-out making love and I was just loving it.
Will: And after a night of making sweet, sweet love over and over and over again…
Jeff: How did they even have the energy to get up to go to a wedding? I don’t know.
Will: I do not know. Somehow, they managed to get up the next morning and get dressed for the big wedding. It is big and it is fancy.
Jeff: I was glad they at least momentarily talked about blowing it off and just going away. They at least had the moment to think, like, “Do we really need to go there? Maybe not.” But they do show up, of course.
Will: The start of the ceremony goes as per usual. Nathan and then Danni walk down the aisle. The officiant says some words before getting to the vows. Nathan says “I do” on cue. But Danni takes an uncomfortably long beat before looking into the audience, locking eyes with Kian, and telling him he was right before turning to her almost groom and saying, “I don’t.”
Jeff: Oops. And it’s not one of those things where the bride’s looking out at the audience and might be looking at anybody. It’s painfully obvious to everybody there that she is looking at Kian. You cannot mistake that. Talk about uncomfortable.
Will: Yeah. Boy, this is not good. Once Danni has made her dramatic exit, Olivia, seemingly on behalf of the entire Rivers family, confronts Kian and wants to know what the fuck that was about. She knows he and Hudson broke up and that the introduction concerning the Spotlight job was a condition for coming to the wedding. Was this some sort of sick game to him, a way to get back at Hudson and humiliate their family? Hudson, who has been watching the whole confrontation, wants answers as well. Just what exactly did he say to Danni that day at the brewery? Kian does his best to explain that she was having second thoughts and he didn’t think that that hesitancy was the best way to start married life. The two of them fight in front of what is left of the wedding guests and Hudson wants to know is Olivia right? Was this just some sort of sick revenge plot? Hudson may have stood up for him and had Kian’s back yesterday, but that doesn’t seem to be the case now. Kian needs to get out of there and get back home to Boston.
Jeff: God bless Divya for giving him some money and getting him a ticket. I was so disappointed in Hudson here. As much as his relationship with his family is fraught like it is and as important as this wedding was to the family, I didn’t really understand why he turned down Kian so badly there. I mean, I don’t know that I would’ve necessarily expected him to totally be like, “Stay, it’s okay. It’ll be fine.” I was also surprised that he didn’t give some pushback against Olivia, even though I know that’s, kind of, his kryptonite, and that he didn’t do something to defend a little bit more. I get why he did what he did but I don’t and I wanted him to behave differently, even at the same time knowing that Kian really had to leave there. I wanted them to leave together, and that did not happen. It’s a difficult scene, though. I mean, I don’t hate the scene or anything. I just wanted it to play differently.
Will: I think at this point, for Hudson and Kian, their new normal is still a little too new. Hudson could’ve stood by his man, like you wanted, as sort of, like, a unified force, us against the world. But unfortunately, I think the shock of this particular situation means he’s, kind of, fallen back on some bad habits as we see in the first part of the book, the way they’re, kind of, combative with one another. The shock of a runaway bride and this dishonor brought upon his family means that he very well may be in love with Kian but his family is still his kryptonite and he’s got some stuff to work through.
Jeff: Fair point. I could live with that. Like I said, I didn’t hate it but it’s like…ah, you know me. I don’t like angst, and this was big-ass angst sitting right there in the middle of everything with the separation. So yeah. Very fair points from you, as always.
Will: So, it’s at this point in our story, as we head towards our conclusion, that we get a time jump, which long-time listeners of the show may know is not exactly my favorite plot device. But since this particular book, kind of, walks that fine line between romance and romantic comedy, I’m willing to give the author a little bit of leeway.
Jeff: At least it’s a teeny tiny time jump in the grand scheme of time jumps.
Will: So, two months later back in Boston, Olivia is in town on business and interrupts Kian’s brunch date to tell him that Hudson is in a bad place. He’s become more involved in the family company. And Kian is all like, “Well, that doesn’t sound like him.” And she’s like, “Yeah. That’s exactly the point.”
Jeff: I wasn’t sure if she was more worried about her brother or more worried about losing some of the power that she had in the family business. I was not clear on her motives here but at least she showed up.
Will: A lot of crazy stuff went down that wedding weekend and there’s enough blame for that crazy to go around. But Olivia suspects that Kian is still in love with her brother. She knows that he’s still in love with Kian. He’s at his Boston townhouse right now preparing for a move to Atlanta. If Kian wants to salvage what they once had, getting over there sooner would be better than later.
Jeff: Really, for the first time here, we see a lot of what makes Olivia tick, and she spells it right out there for Kian. “I don’t care how people view me so long as my family succeeds. Family is the most important thing, and Hudson, no matter our relationship, is my family. Unlike the rest of us, his success comes from his happiness. You make him happy. So, in turn, I care about you. Plus, I think you’d make a pretty good brother-in-law, at least someone who can keep up with me, and that will be refreshing.” Go Olivia. My entire opinion of you spun in those words because I can imagine Kian and her could have some pretty fiery conversations as a complete sidenote because this is a character we see, like, twice in this book? Kian’s lunch partner is somebody that he sort of maybe dated before him and Hudson got back together. We see them a little bit on page and then we see them back here. This guy is so very sweet. He’s totally into Kian going off to get his man back because he’s a romantic too. I would like to see a book for this guy and see the happily ever after he could get because these glimpses of him make me want more. If this were gonna be a series, that was his setup for the next book.
Will: You are such a romantic to, like, the nth degree.
Jeff: You know that about me.
Will: I didn’t even bother mentioning Wallace.
Jeff: And yet, for me, in my color-coded notes, where pink is important things, Wallace got a pink note right there at the end of that chapter.
Will: We had two very different viewpoints. I think he’s irrelevant. You think he deserves his own series.
Jeff: Not a series. Just a book in which we could see Kian and Hudson happily ever after in it because they’re still friends through Divya. I could build the whole thing.
Will: At any rate, Hudson is surprised to find Kian on his doorstep but there are no dramatic confrontations because this is what they both want. In the kitchen of his nearly empty packed up brownstone, they say their sorries, and individually pledge to be there for one another. Good times or bad, ride or die, not perfect but pretty damn close.
Jeff: They practically have wedding vows here with some of what’s said because Hudson says these things to Kian. One, I can promise you that every day I’ll do my very best to show you that my life is better with you by my side. Two, I can promise you I’ll continue to grow, to try new things, and to admit that I’m not always going to succeed, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. And most importantly, I can promise to put you and our relationship first, to put us bettering each other and growing together first over everything else. It’s practically wedding vows right there. And I just absolutely loved it.
Will: And on that note, an epilogue finds us another few months down the road. Kian is blissfully happy in his relationships with Hudson and he is also finally happily employed at a new online magazine. He meets up with Hudson, his brother, and Divya for drinks after work. There’s some booze and friendly banter, happiness can be had in simple things like times with friends, or your smoking hot boyfriend, and after some trials and tribulations, Kian and Hudson are very happy indeed.
Jeff: It was just a perfect little wrap-up. The epilogue was just a nice little coda to the whole thing, essentially bringing all of our characters, at least all of our Boston characters, back together again. You could just imagine the camera pull back from the bar as the screen fades to black, if this was a motion picture. Yeah, I loved it. And I really loved everything about this book. It threw some nice curveballs in there. There were surprises for me, like the whole thing that went down with Randal. That was a surprise. The runaway bride was a surprise. Kosoko did a great job of, like, giving us the romance that we were expecting to have while also throwing in all these other things through the story just in different directions. And, oh, yeah, I loved it so much. I can’t wait to see what he writes next. This was his first romance, or in this case, a rom-com, and I look forward to seeing what else he does in this genre.
And in case you missed it and want to learn more about Kosoko, this book and his next rom-com, you can go back and check out the interview we had with him in episode 372.
Now as we wrap up, we’ve got to mention the great audio book for “I’m So (Not) Over You.” Timothy Bell Reese does an incredible job with Kian, Hudson, and the rest of the characters. In particular, I really loved how Timothy captured Kian’s emotions throughout the story, the frustration, the second guesses, those rekindling of certain romantic feelings that Kian was having. Timothy does such a spectacular job. And in fact, you’ll be hearing a bit of that in just a moment. You’re going to want to stick around because after the closing music, you can hear Timothy read the first chapter of “I’m So (Not) Over You.”
Will: Well, on that happy note, I think that’ll do it for our spring book club selection. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our discussion of Kosoko Jackson’s “I’m So (Not) Over You.” And if you haven’t read it yet, we hope you will consider giving this book a try.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Now, coming up on Monday in episode 375, we’ve got a super big announcement that’s going to kick off the month of May. Plus, we’ll catch you up on what we’ve been reading recently.
Jeff: And of course, since it’s the beginning of the month, we’re going to tell you about the books that we’re looking forward to as well.
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 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.
Jeff: Now we’re proud to present this audio excerpt, which is courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio from “I’m So (Not) Over You” by Kosoko Jackson, read by Timothy Bell Reese.
Note: A transcript is not available for the audio book excerpt. You can read chapter one in the “Look Inside” on Amazon.