Jeff & Will have books to recommend for your TBR! In keeping with the Christmas in July theme, the guys recommend Lights, Camera, Christmas by J.D. Light, Merry Measure by Lily Morton, and Stanley’s Christmas Redemption by Gabbi Grey. For some summertime YA reads they talk about A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy, and Out of the Blue by Jason June. Jeff’s also got some can’t miss romance with Playing for Keeps by Beth Bolden, and Kate Hawthorne’s complete Not Ready for Love trilogy.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Summer Reading Recommendations
- Lights, Camera, Christmas by J.D. Light
- Merry Measure by Lily Morton
- Episode 378 – Lily Morton Brings the Scares with “The Sceptic” on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Stanley’s Christmas Redemption by Gabbi Grey
- Episode 356 – Snowbound with Author Gabbi Grey
- A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy
- Out of the Blue by Jason June
- So You Think You Can Dance: Beau & Jordan Viennese Waltz
- So You Think You Can Dance: Keaton & Alexis Contemporary
- Playing for Keeps by Beth Bolden
- Episode 386 – Fiction Fest Author Spotlight: Beth Bolden on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Not Allowed by Kate Hawthorne
- To Love You by Kate Hawthorne
- Until Now by Kate Hawthorne
- Episode 382 – Fiction Fest Author Spotlight: Kate Hawthorne on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Find Selected Books from this episode at Bookshop.org and support a local bookstore
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, hang onto your TBRs because we’ve got lots of book reviews and recommendations headed your way.
Jeff: Welcomed to episode 390 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. The show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always, he’s always sitting right here across from me, my cohost and husband, it’s Will.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance reader. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.
Jeff: As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thank you everybody. And a particular, thanks this time out to Cynthia for recently increasing their support. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Lights, Camera, Christmas by J.D. Light
Will: So this week, Jeff and I are gonna be telling you about some of the books that we’ve been reading this summer. And in keeping with the theme of last week’s episode, Christmas in July, I thought I’d talk about some of the holiday books that I’ve recently read, starting with “Lights, Camera Christmas” by J.D. Light.
In this one, a movie production company has come to the quaint town of Hidden Springs in the form of Hollywood hunk, Blake, who is shooting his newest Christmas movie. Blake is smitten with husky, adorable, local bakery, coffee shop owner Declan, and despite numerous invitations Dec is never able to take the actor up on his offers to grab a drink or hang out. It’s Declan’s young nephew who lets it slip that Deck is not only a Blake superfan, but an enthusiastic Christmas crafter as well, who has gone so far is to make a snow globe featuring miniature versions of himself and Blake in a romantically snow dusted embrace.
Jeff: I am so smitten by this this already. I can’t even tell you. I’m just sitting across right from you right now just making all these little googly faces.
Will: It’s like, ooooh.
Meanwhile, Blake is bummed that the guy that he likes keeps turning him down and he attempts to drown his sorrows in a few too many peppermint margaritas.
Honestly, just the thought of that… It’s like, oh, I threw up just a little bit.
But apparently Blake loves them a little too much and he ends up, you know, for romance reasons, sleeping it off in Declan’s bed. The next morning, he is hungover, but thrilled when Declan suggests that they finally hang out after his shift at the shop.
When the actor finds Declan’s extensive Blake memorabilia collection, Declan is suitably mortified. All Blake wants to know is if Deck likes him for who he is, and Declan is able to assure him that since getting to know him while the production has been in town, he likes Blake for him. Not some fantasy of the perfect Christmas movie hero. It’s then that they go upstairs where Blake can worship all of Dec’s plentiful curves and make both of their dreams a very sexy reality.
Will: It’s good stuff. Let me tell you.
Head over heels for each other, Blake declares them boyfriend official. After the last day of shooting, they go to the wrap party together and spend one last night in each other’s arms.
Before Blake returns to Vancouver, they make plans for Declan to take some time off and come and visit him. But he ends up missing his flight because of a family emergency. Blake rushes back to Declan’s side and tells him that in the few days that he’s been away, he’s settled everything in Vancouver. He’s moving and he’s ready to call Hidden Springs home. It’s then that things get whimsically wrapped up with a skate on a frozen pond that just so happens to recreate the romantic tableau of a certain homemade snow globe.
Okay. So, did I love Lights Camera, Christmas? God, yes. You’ve got a handsome celebrity, paired with a plus-sized nice guy, both of whom can not get enough of each other. It’s all so sexy and sweet, everything I could possibly want in an insta-love story about a Christmas movie in a small-town setting.
The audiobook is wonderful, Simon Wave does a great job, but for some reason narrates with a British accent. Is the story set in England? No. Are the characters from the UK? No. Do I honestly give a fuck? Of course not! I loved it all even though the accent choice didn’t make a lick of sense.
If you want a quick Christmas read, you really should check out JD Light’s Lights, Camera, Christmas.
Jeff: Somebody go make that into a movie, please. Netflix, Lifetime, whoever. That just sounds wonderful. It even has a kid. So, make the movie.
Merry Measure by Lily Morton
Will: Another holiday story I recently enjoyed was “Merry Measure” by Lily Morton.
Arlo has had a longstanding crush on Jack, his brother’s best friend.
This holiday finds them sharing a room in Amsterdam (you know, for romance reasons) and it’s during this vacation with friends that Arlo’s brother Tom plans on making a big deal out of proposing to his boyfriend Bee.
And that’s B-E-E. not the letter B. I thought it was an interesting nickname. At one point towards the end Arlo finds out that Bee stands for Beethoven.
Jeff: Oh, okay.
Will: And he’s like, oh God, no wonder everyone calls you Bee. It was really funny.
One botched proposal and a hard-drinking night out later—Arlo, Jack and Bee are touring a museum. It’s in a crowded Rembrandt exhibit that Arlo gets jostled and pressed up against Jack, a moment that that proves that their attraction is definitely mutual.
back at the hotel.
Jack catches Arlo dancing around in his underwear.
Back at the hotel Jack catches Arlo dancing around in his underwear. In classic rom-com fashion Arlo is the perpetually awkward klutz, always tripping over himself or saying the wrong thing, which only makes Jack fall for him even harder. They share their first scorching kiss before being interrupted by Tom and Bee, which is of course another rom-com staple, coitus interruptus.
But later a night out at a club leads to an incredibly hot drunken tumble in the sheets. Things should be going full steam ahead by this point, but Jack’s ex makes an appearance. Steven, the persistent asshole that he is, insinuates himself into the group, which no one is happy about. Jack tries to be nice, but eventually must make it clear that Arlo is who he wants—a reconciliation with Steven will not be happening.
It’s then that our two heroes are finally able to spend the day together all on their own, coffee and breakfast to start, then a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. They stroll through a park and have a snowball fight. They tour Amsterdam on a canal boat, and Arlo gives Jack a furtive hand-job on said boat.
Everything with Arlo and Jack is so sweetly relaxed and comfortable, fun conversation, just enjoying the everyday things, occasionally punctuated by intensely passionate sex.
It’s during the throes of passion that Tom walks in on them. Understandably, he’s shocked at first. But once Jack explains, he’s supportive of his best friend and his disastrously awkward kid brother.
After working things out with his best friend, Jack goes and tells Arlo that what they have is the real deal and not just a holiday fling. Once the news is shared with the rest of the gang, everyone is thrilled for the new couple and during a pub crawl, Tom takes a drunken tumble into the canal and finally proposes to Bee.
Oh my gosh, this book is so fucking delightful. It’s the perfect blend of sexy and sweet low angst, but it’s so full of heart. Lily Morton has created characters you just wanna hang out with. Nice people being awkward and real and nice to each other. It may not be particularly edgy, but honestly, considering the current state of the world, I’ll take whatever Lily Morton has dreamed up over the real world any day.
I recommend that you check out “Merry Measure” if you haven’t already. It came out a couple of years ago, so admittedly, I’m a little late to the party on this one. So if you’ve already read it and enjoyed it, I suggest you give it a re-read for a second dose of feel good romantic sweetness.
Jeff: Everything I would expect from a Lily Morton book.
Will: Oh, just perfection. I love it so much.
Jeff: And just a reminder, if you missed our interview with Lily, you can go back and catch that in episode 378. We did talk a little bit about her holiday books, cause she’s been on a trend lately of writing a nice Christmas story at the holiday season. So again, that’s 378 in case you missed it.
Stanley’s Christmas Redemption by Gabbi Grey
Jeff: I’ve got a Christmas book too. So we can keep this holidayness going just a little bit longer.
I’ve been waiting for this book since I talked with Gabbi Grey back in January for episode 356, and found out she was writing it. I loved Gabbi’s “Ginger Snapping All the Way,” which I read last holiday season. And I was really looking forward to revisiting those characters… especially Stanley who was the ex in that book. Gabbi’s given Stanley a great story with the aptly titled “Stanley’s Christmas Redemption.”
Now, if you’ve read “Ginger Snapping,” which is not at all required for this book, you know that Stanley is Maddox’s terrible ex from that story. Stanley doesn’t really factor into “Ginger Snapping” very much but we know from everybody’s perspective in that book that he was terrible and that he left Maddox when he was injured, both physically and mentally. Stanley definitely needed a redemption, and he earns it here.
It’s a year after the events in “Ginger Snapping” and Stanley is called back home to Mission City because of the unexpected death of his half-brother. The two haven’t spoken in years, and it’s a surprise when Stanley finds out that he’s also been named guardian of his eight-year-old nephew, Angus. It’s a lot for Stanley who thought he’d only been in town long enough to wrap up his brother’s affairs. Kids were one of the reasons he’d left Maddox, who did want them. Stanley is more married to his job, although he’ll soon find out that that job really isn’t enough.
One of the people Stanley meets is Justin, a local counselor who’s worked with Angus and his father. Stanley and Justin have an immediate spark–if nothing else on the physical side. Their personalities certainly chafe though as Stanley isn’t sure if he’ll adopt Angus or put him up for adoption. Since Justin’s been taking care of Angus as a temporary foster parent, in order to keep things as stable as possible for the child, Stanley stays with Justin so that Angus can continue to be in an environment he knows.
I really can’t say enough about how sweet this story is. Yes, of course, there’s some angst and emotion as Stanley and Justin help a grieving Angus. That runs along side a great age gap romance where both Justin and Stanley have to come to grips with what they want and what they need. They both have to embrace getting into a relationship that’s other than work. Stanley also has to manage the baggage that he’s carried for how he left Maddox. Of course, there’s also Angus to consider as well. Watching Stanley and Justin gently come together was so amazing–the friction as they initially start sharing the same space, soon turns into team work, which leads to their attraction kicking in even more too. They’re so tentative with each other for a while, second guessing what they’re doing and if it’s a good idea. But the sparks are always there though–and it so super cute when Angus even encourages them.
Still it’s not easy for them all to be together. There’s more than a few crossed signals, and moments when there wasn’t enough communication about what was happening–especially for Stanley who can come off as super prickly and a bit of a control freak. That’s all part of his redemption though, Stanley has to learn how to share his feelings and not just do things unilaterally.
Gabbi’s also written an amazing child character in Angus. I loved him so much. Equal parts cute, grieving, precocious, funny, and he’s always smart. There’s also a good sense on how he was raised, for example he’s hesitant to have people spend too much money on him because his father was frugal. Angus was a terrific fully fleshed out character that had his own journey in the story, as well as being part of the catalyst for Stanley and Justin. I just loved everything about it.
A note on the Christmas aspect. I actually wouldn’t consider this a full on a Christmas story. While there’s elements of the holiday that show up, like buying presents and decorating the house and such–Christmas doesn’t play a heavy factor in the story. So while it lends some holidayness to your Christmas in July, it’s really a story that could’ve taken place at any time of year. And in case you’re someone who only wants to read Christmas at Christmas, this one I think is safe to read anytime.
As he did with “Ginger Snapping,” Michael Dean does a tremendous job with the narration here. Not only are Stanley and Justin great, but he really nailed the narration for Angus too. If you like audio, you really can’t go wrong by grabbing this one in that format.
So for me it’s a 100% recommendation for “Stanley’s Christmas Redemption” by Gabbi Grey.
A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy
Jeff: Now, shall we swing from Christmas into actual books that take place during the summer?
Will: Yeah, I can’t wait to talk about this latest YA read from Brian Kennedy. It’s called “A Little Bit Country.” Oh my God. I loved it so much.
In this one. Emmett is spending his summer living with his Aunt Karen and performing at Wanda World, the Tennessee theme park of country music legend Wanda Jean Stubbs. On his very first day, he is tossed into the showbiz deepened, as rehearsals are already in progress.
On the day that Luke begins work at Wanda World in the kitchen of Granny’s Cupboard, he literally runs into Emmett. And after his shift as dishwasher is over, he catches Emmett practicing for an upcoming open mic night, unaware that the song Emmett has written, “Dream Cowboy” is all about him.
When Luke takes him down to the creek to show him the real Jackson Hollow, Emmett confesses his dream of becoming an out and proud country music superstar. They splash around in the swimming hole, and Luke shares his dream of going to culinary school and one day opening a restaurant named after his nana, Verna Rose It’s then that Emmett puts two and two together and realizes that Luke’s grandmother was the Verna Rose, once Wanda Jean’s bestie, before she ran off with her manager, husband.
At the end of their day together, Luke and Emmett end up kissing on the steps of an abandoned diner that Luke hopes to one day make his own.
On opening night of the Jamboree, the performance doesn’t go perfectly, but they are graced by the very rare presence of Wanda Jean herself. After she sings a song for the crowd, Emmett receives some kind words of encouragement from his rhinestone-studded idol.
And as the summer continues, and between make out sessions and work shifts, the boys talk about being out. Emmett is. Luke is not, which Emmett assures him he only has to do when he is absolutely ready.
Luke’s family is struggling to pay his mom’s medical bills. So, he asks Emmett who knows absolutely everything there is to know about country music, if any of his grandmother’s old stuff might be worth something. Some of her unrecorded songs just might.
The night of the open mic arrives, and when Emmett takes to the stage he freezes up before he makes an on-the-fly decision to play a Verna Rose song that he’s been tinkering with. Sitting in the audience, Luke is overwhelmed. Emmett’s music combined with his nana’s heartfelt lyrics about heartbreak, it’s just too damn much. In a good way. He finds Emmett backstage and kisses him. They are now boyfriend official and conclude their big night with their very first time together.
When Luke brings over a journal with more of his nana’s songs, Emmett finds that some of them seem awfully familiar. Did Wanda Jean steal those songs or did Verna Rose give them to her as penance for running off with her husband? Luke wants to confront Wanda Jean. If Verna Rose really did write some of Wanda Jean’s biggest hits, maybe she’ll help out his struggling family.
Low key blackmail? It’s the last thing he wants to do, but Emmett agrees to help, but he ends up getting in an argument about Luke’s insistence that the relationship remain a secret. And it’s in that moment that Luke gets a text. His mother is in the hospital.
Luke realizes that his mom must have seen his Wanda World uniform in his close hamper before she fell and had her accident. But Wanda World isn’t the only secret Luke is terrified his family might discover. Maybe it’s best if he and Emmett take a break.
But Emmett knows when the reclusive Wanda Jean is making her next appearance at the park. She’ll be at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new exhibit at the Wanda Jean museum. On the day, the crowd and security are too much, but just as the country legend is about to slip away, Luke is finally able to capture her attention leading to a private sit down with Wanda Jean herself.
After she’s seen Verna’s song journal and an old locket, Wanda Jean reveals the complicated, true story of her Verna and Wyatt, Luke’s grandfather. Now that he knows everything, Luke has some thinking to do. Learning from the pain of his grandparent’s past, maybe he can find an honest way to live his own truth.
Later after a performance in the Jamboree, Emmett sits in the empty amphitheater and practices a new song for the last open mic of the summer. And just as before, Luke is there to tell Emmett how much he loves the song and the guy who wrote it. It’s then that the book sweetly wraps up with a big family dinner that Luke has made himself, a special occasion where he can finally introduce Emmett as his boyfriend.
I really loved “A Little Bit Country.” This is Brian Kennedy’s debut, and it’s got heartache and family secrets and swoony first love. I mean, absolutely everything you could ever want in a YA summer romance. The book is great. The audiobook with Mark Sanderlin and Andrew Gibson is also great.
Summer is about half over now, so if you need a suggested read for your next summer getaway, or honestly, if you just wanna read it in the comfort of your own home, I think “A Little Bit Country” is a great story with a lot of heart.
Jeff: I’m so glad you read that. A little bit jealous. That’s one that we were kind of like, who’s gonna get to it first. You got to it first. I’m so glad it was good though.
Will: Give it a read. you will not be disappointed. I swear.
Jeff: I just might do that.
Out of the Blue by Jason June
Jeff: So my book has a nice summertime vibe to it. Takes place during the school year, but it’s Southern California. We’re by a beach. We are around a pool. So I think this fits in just great. And it’s also a great YA read. It’s Jason June’s “Out of the Blue.” Now you may recall, I loved Jason June’s YA debut last year with “Jay’s Gay Agenda,” and he’s captivated me once again by offering a completely different kind of story with this year’s “Out of the Blue.” What’s different? Well it starts with a mer person coming on to land.
Crest has to follow the mer tradition of coming on land for a month, or in other words a moon cycle, to help a human solve a problem. Once that’s done, they can return to the sea and become an elder. Or, if they chose they could stay on dry land and become human forever. Crest does not want to do this. They see absolutely no reason for this journey to live with the dirty, evil humans.
On land, Crest takes on the name Ross and almost immediately meets Sean, a lifeguard who thinks they need help when they wash up on the beach. Ross is disoriented, but also isn’t thrilled to have this human in their space as they try to get they’re bearings. Sean only wants to help and eventually Ross capitulates. In pretty short order, they think Sean might be who they can help too as Sean wants to get back with the his boyfriend who recently dumped him.
As you might imagine a fake relationship is soon born as a way to make Dominic jealous so he’ll want to take Sean back. As with any fake relationship though, it doesn’t take long before Sean and Ross catch feelings for each other. Neither of them expect it, or really knows what to do with it. Even more so for Ross because they never thought they could fall for a human.
Jason June does so much with this story and the characters. Let’s start with Sean. He’s a high school senior, a solid performer on his school’s swim team, and he’s an aspiring film maker looking to get into a good film school. He looks at a lot of life as a film maker might seeing how things would break down in a shot list. I particularly like how Sean doesn’t have a swimmer’s body and how that’s presented in a very positive, non-issue way–right down to how he looks on the gorgeous cover which is illustrated by Ricardo Bessa.
Then there’s Ross, or Crest, you can tell how much Jason June loves merpeople with how they’re set up in the world and how Crest has to interact with all these humans. They’re standoffish at first, but they’re journey to not only understanding humans better, but considering a relationship with one is such a beautiful story. They’re stranger-in-a-strange-land story plays so well with the fake relationship and coming of age story lines that it’s just really perfection.
There’s some stunning twists and turns along the way that make the story so rich, and really throw our heroes for a loop. I gasped more than once at what Jason June threw at Ross and Sean, and how he brought them through it all. These two not only grew together beautifully, but they each come out on the other side of the book as better individuals than when we met them–which really says a lot because they were both pretty great at the start of the book already, even if Ross was a little standoffish about humans.
Now you may notice that I’m not saying a whole bunch here. I don’t want to give up too many spoilers. Jason June has created some amazing characters here and set up an amazing world for this story to take place. And it’s really something I think that should be on everybody’s reading list because it’s fun, it’s insightful, it’s a little bit of fun adventure. It’s so wonderful to see a YA book that presents some of these themes, but in a completely unique and different way.
I’ve got to give the audiobook for “Out of the Blue” a shout out too. It was excellent with narration from André Santana and Neo Cihi. These two bring Ross and Sean to live so well, especially the various emotions they run through–and they do run through them all with what’s going on in the story. I’m really happy I read this book with the audio because it added great dimension to an already excellent story.
I highly recommend “Out of the Blue” by Jason June for your reading list, especially if you’re headed to the beach. Given the seaside setting, why not read it by the sea if you can.
It’s an interesting theme that we’ve got in our books here. You had a larger size person in “Lights, Camera, Christmas.” I’ve got the same thing “Out of the Blue” because Sean is also a larger sized guy. I really like that. We’re seeing some of this show up in fiction, both in the adult male/male romances, and in the YA.
And I have to say, just to divert over to TV for just a brief moment, this year’s. “So You Think You Can Dance,” which is midway through its season. Right now you’ve got Beau who is a larger size guy, who’s come from musical theater. Plus you’ve got Keaton who, as Twitch, who’s a judge this season, likes to put it, Keaton’s essentially a linebacker and this guy did play football. These are larger size gentlemen. They are bigger than most of the dancers that we see on “So You Think You Can Dance.” You might be tall, but you’re not, you know, necessarily of a stouter persuasion.
And it’s been really great to watch them excel. As we’re recording this, they’ve gotten both into the top eight this season. So it’s not just that they made it a little bit of the way through they’re now among the top four men who are left on the show. So. I’ll put a link to a couple of things from YouTube for these guys so you can see them in action. But it’s really great to see this kind of body positivity happening in fiction and even on TV in reality television these days.
Will: Big and thick boys at the wave of the future. Get on board.
Playing for Keeps by Beth Bolden
Jeff: Now I’ve got a couple of other outstanding romances that I wanna tell you about.
Beth Bolden ticked so many of my favorite tropes with “Playing for Keeps,” the first in the new “Miami Piranhas” series. You’ve got age gap, enemies-to-lovers, workplace, and not only workplace but also going out with the boss’s son. Oh, and it’s super sexy too with just the right amount of romance sweetness. Safe to say I loved everything about the romance between Sebastian and Beau.
Now Sebastian is a NFL veteran starting his first season with the Piranhas. He’s part of the team’s rebuilding, which includes a new head coach. At thirty-two, Sebastian knows he’s lost some of his speed, that little fraction of a step as he puts it. He’s hoping to get that step back as training begins.
The new coaching staff has some different ideas for Sebastian though, in particular the coach’s son Beau, who is officially called a special assistant. Beau’s considered something of a genius on football, especially how plays unfold and how to best position players to take advantage of that. He’s been working with his dad since they were both at Tennessee, dad as coach and Beau as a student who worked on the football team.
In particular, Beau, and as a result his dad, really want Sebastian to move from corner to safety. Sebastian, meanwhile, really doesn’t want to do that. He’s spent his career as a corner and he feels he’s got the smarts to make up for that slight lack of speed. The plan is to slowly convince him that going to safety is a good thing… but when the safety the team has is suddenly traded, Sebastian’s hand is forced.
He’s not happy.
As he works with Beau though on playing the new position, they can’t deny the extra spark that crackles between them. They both think the other his handsome, sexy, attractive, hot. The moments when they end up touching, for whatever reason, gets their attention really quickly, as does the fact they both end up flirting even if they don’t mean to. It’s all so darn cute. I can’t even tell you. Especially as they try to fight against it.
Once they have sex though–even if it’s a really frustrated sex coming in the aftermath of a game loss–all bets are off and it doesn’t take long for enemies-to-lovers to simply become lovers. Sebastian also starts to see the possibility of succeeding at safety, and starts to embrace the responsibility that he has to the team to lead by example since he’s a more senior player.
Beth does an incredible job with the journey Sebastian and Beau go on from enemies to kind of a compatible working relationship to getting them able to go on secret dates and eventually outing themselves as a couple. I couldn’t stop reading it because these two are just so darn cute in their flirting, even when it was kind of hate flirting. But what really gave me all the feels was as they started being there for each other, taking care of what the other needed and sorting out all the feelings that came with their growing relationship. Sebastian hadn’t dated previously and also wasn’t widely known to be gay–some people knew, but his circle was really limited. For Beau, he’d been out since he was 17 so that wasn’t new, but dating someone on his dad’s team was. You know I love couples that talk, and Beau and Sebastian talk a lot about what their relationship is and what it could mean.
The world Beth has built here is so wonderful. There’s an out couple on the team already, they got introduced to readers in a prequel novella. Overall the book is pretty low angst too. There’s a bit of homophobia that crops up, and frankly in a sports romance I expect that to rear its head more often than not. I did love how it was quickly and firmly it was dealt with though.
I also love Sebastian’s mom and Beau’s parents. Sebastian had a rough time with his dad that still haunts him a bit, but his mom is great and only wants happiness for him–including telling him to get out of his own way. Beau’s parents are also great as neither of them had any trouble with Beau’s coming out. Beau speaks proudly on how people expected his Southern football coaching father to throw him out or something, but Beau always had love and support.
As I expected, and you might too, the moment of “oh crap, dad and coach found out” causes a lot of nervousness. I adored the conversations that happened around this, both with the coach and the team and even between Beau and his dad and Sebastian and his possible future father-in-law. Beth brought everything home for Sebastian and Beau’s HEA in a way that made me crazy happy.
Oh, and one last thing, football is very much not my sport. I understand the basic idea of how the game works, but really no idea at all about safety versus corner or most of the actual player positions. Beth gave me exactly what I needed to know–and frankly had me invested in how Sebastian was doing at safety and the plays he was running. Kudos to her for that because it’s not often I read sports outside of hockey where I actually care, or even really understand some of the game play. So thank you for that!
I absolutely recommend “Playing for Keeps” by Beth Bolden if you like any of the tropes she’s using here as it’s all wonderful. I’m really looking forward to the other books in the series too because there are already other guys on the team that I want to read more about.
If you’d like to hear directly from Beth about the “Piranhas” series, make sure to check out the interview I had with her in episode 386.
Not Ready for Love series by Kate Hawthorne
Jeff: And as if all this wasn’t enough books to talk about, I am gonna wrap this up by talking about a series.
It’s been a long while since I’ve reviewed an entire series at one time, but I got so caught up in Kate Hawthorne’s “Not Ready for Love” series that I tore right through all three books. Of course, Kate made it very easy to binge these books because they came out so close together. She tells two love stories across the trilogy and she packs them with swoony romance, steamy sexy times, including some kink, and four characters that I absolutely could not get enough of.
In the first book, “Not Allowed,” we meet Wyatt, whose just moved across the country to spend his summer before he goes to college with his dad, who he has been estranged from for years since he stopped coming to visit in the summers before. To be honest, Wyatt’s a bit of a brat as he settles in to his dad’s house, including not being very polite when he meets Grant, his dad’s best friend who lives next door. Except, Grant stirs up some things in Wyatt that he’s been ignoring for a while–that he might like girls and guys.
Of course, hooking up with your dad’s best friend is a terrible idea, but the attraction between Wyatt and Grant isn’t something they can deny, try as they might. I really love how Kate set up the attraction and friction between these two. They fight it every step of the way but eventually end up giving in. One of the elements that I really loved here was that Wyatt created a list for Grant of things he wanted to explore–it was cute and hot at the same time. It reminded me a little bit of the notorious spreadsheet from “The Best Man” by Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely. And if you read that book, or heard my review on it, you know exactly what I’m talking about there. What exactly is it about a list that can be so damn sexy?
If you caught my interview with Kate back in episode 382, you know that “Not Allowed” ends with out an HEA, and essentially is a cliffhanger. For me this was a very effective and necessary way to end this part of the story. Grant and Wyatt aren’t quite ready for each other yet. Hold on, their second chance is coming up though.
Before we get to that we’ve got to talk about Wyatt’s dad. Adam and his second chance with bookstore owner Cooper is featured in the second book, “To Love You.” We met Cooper in book one as Wyatt went to work in his bookstore over the summer. We see in the background of that Adam and Cooper, have a little bit of a relationship probably going on there. But as “To Love You” opens, we know that that relationship ended shortly after Wyatt went to college. Now, 10 years later, they’re going for it again.
Adam and Cooper ended things originally because, among other reasons, they didn’t feel like they meshed together quite right. To this point, Adam had really only considered himself a dom, while Cooper liked to switch depending on his mood, sometimes he’s happy to be a dom, sometimes he wants to be more of a sub. For years these two tried as best they could to avoid each other, which was so very difficult because they shared a very tight friend group. They kept longing for each other though, and finally friends kind of nudged them back together a little bit. I really loved how Kate played this out, giving them that nudge and opening up the dialogue between these two again.
And I really got a glimpse into something I know very little about with doms and subs and the dynamics that go between them. It was made even more interesting by how that played between Adam and Cooper with the whole idea of switching. I loved how these two made their way from unsure to very sure, and even navigated through exactly what an HEA looked like for them. As part of this book, we also have Wyatt coming back to town, and into his Dad’s house after things in New York City fall apart for him.
As we roll into the third book, which is called “Until Now,” and this actually just came out last week, we’re back to Grant and Wyatt again. And oh boy does this book pay off the cliffhanger from “Not Allowed.” We get just a glimpse of some of the past from when Wyatt was graduating college six years before the start of the book, and of course four years after he left from “Not Allowed.” As I mentioned, we saw Wyatt a little bit in “To Love You” and now we get to find out even more what’s going on as we’re back to his point of view.
I love how Kate gets us into Wyatt’s head about what he’s been through over the 10 years–talking both with his dad and with Grant. As you can imagine, those are very different conversations, but so very insightful. One of the things that just added to the swoonyness here is that through those 10 years of separation, Grant and Wyatt had never not been thinking about each other even with some of the other relationships they had in the interim, it was always about those two.
Grant and Wyatt have so much to sort out because they’ve both been in failed relationships and if they’re going to go for another one they really want it to be right. Here again there’s dom and sub dynamics as well, although quite different from Adam and Cooper’s story. And again here I loved how it played through their story, drawing Grant and Wyatt ever closer together and deepening their bond. It really set them up for a great HEA.
It won’t be a spoiler to say that there is the inevitable moment where Adam finds out that his son is in a relationship with his best friend. I’m not going to tell you when or how that happens because you need to read that for yourself. Kate did an amazing job here, and there were moments I was on the edge of my seat as it was playing out. It all builds up to an HEA that I absolutely adored.
I highly recommend all three books in “Not Ready for Love.” Grant and Wyatt, and Adam and Cooper have excellent love stories that have just a touch of angst for each of them. Like I mentioned before there are some hot sexy times, tons of emotions. Kate does such an amazing job dealing with these emotions, dealing with these characters, how all of their baggage from the past comes to play as these relationships come together. She did such an excellent job weaving these stories together for the individual couples, but also how all of it crosses together too into one big story. I will definitely be reading more from Kate because I’ve become a huge fan after this trilogy. And you should really pick up the “Not Ready for Love” series for your reading list as well.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation 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 if you’d like even more gay fiction recommendations, cause maybe we haven’t broken your book budget enough with everything we just talked about, Will and I have also put together “Happily Ever After,” which is a free ebook full of reviews and suggested romance reads.
So whether you’re in the mood for contemporary or historical or, hey, even holiday romances, you know, Christmas in July, we’ve got you covered. You’ll get that ebook when you sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, our weekly podcast newsletter. To learn more and to get that free ebook go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/report.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 391, author TJ Klune is going to be joining us to talk about the conclusion of “The Extraordinaries.”
Jeff: Now in addition to discussing “Heat Wave,” which will come out next week, we’ll also see what we can coax out of TJ about next spring’s “In the Lives of Puppets,” which is gonna wrap up his sort of unofficial kindness trilogy.
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.