Jeff & Will kick off the show with a discussion of the second season of Young Royals, which premiered on Netflix last week. They also review two holiday romances, You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky, and The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish. Jeff also reviews the historical romance Silent Sin by E.J. Russell. As a special bonus, this episode concludes with an excerpt from the Silent Sin audiobook, read by Greg Boudreaux.
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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.
- Young Royals on Netflix
- You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky
- The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish
- The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
- The Holiday on Amazon Prime Video
- Silent Sin by E.J. Russell
- 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.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’ve got reviews of what we’ve been reading recently, plus a special audiobook excerpt.
Will: Welcome to episode 403 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me, as always, is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello Rainbow Romance Reader. It’s great to have you back here for another episode of the show.
As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thanks to Macy for recently joining the community. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Young Royals Review
Will: So Jeff and I recently spent a couple of days binging the newest season of “Young Royals.” A while back we raved about this Swedish show that is currently on Netflix and it has made its long awaited return. Season two was amazing. We absolutely loved it.
All of the students of the Hillerska School are still coming to grips from what happened during the previous term. In this season of the show, Prince Wilhelm is still kind of trying to navigate what it means to be a crown prince while still trying to get his revenge on August for what he did, and at the same time trying to win back his beloved Simon.
Jeff: I wanted August to burn so badly. I can’t even tell you. That was like my whole thing for the season. Like this… this guy needs to pay. I really loved how it came back and of all the various stories that played out in these six episodes, what I really loved was the growth of Wilhelm here. In season one, he is not really wanting to be at the school, not really wanting to be around these people, not really wanting his role, and he’s kind of inside of himself a lot and not very confident. He does deal with anxiety. He deals with that even more in season two.
But he also gets this confidence. He starts laying down the law, not just at the school in some ways, but even with his mom, the queen. It was a really nice growth and he did also start to work through some of his mental health issues, I thought in a really good way. The love story, little bit of a backseat this time because they have to work through some issues that they had. But boy, when Wilhelm and Simon are together, oh, they are so sweet.
I love it so much. I hope there’s not as big of a gap between season two and three as there was between one and two.
Will: We love this show. And if you like “Young Royals” as much as we do, might I suggest you watch it sooner rather than later that way Netflix knows there’s still a voracious appetite for these kinds of stories.
Will: Like you just said, here’s hoping for more in season three.
So that’s what we’ve been watching.
You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky
Will: Let’s move on quickly to what we’ve been reading recently. Of course it is holiday book season and I can’t wait to tell you all about what I’ve recently read, “You’re a Mean One Matthew Prince” by Timothy Janovsky. This book is so great. It is absolutely perfect for the holidays. And as you might have guessed from the title, it’s about a guy named Matthew.
After impulsively buying an entire island, Matthew is exiled to his grandparents quaint, and decidedly unluxurious, small town, Wind River, for the holidays, where he must share a bunkbed with hard working college student named Hector. It’s essentially hate at first sight. They can’t speak two words to each other without verbally cutting each other down to size. Which is super frustrating for Matthew because Hector is so damn hot.
After Matthew’s failed midnight escape attempt via an Uber, Hector is disarmingly nice and supportive when Matthew has a panic attack. They realize that, while they might not have a lot in common, at least they understand each other.
And to get out of town and back into his parent’s good graces, Matthew decides to throw the most memorable Christmas charity gala this town has ever seen. And Hector is going to help him.
His grandmother doubts his sincerity, so she devises a home baking competition to test his holly jolly commitment, let’s say that, to the very serious task of putting on a gala. The Christmas cookies he makes with Hector are judged to be sufficiently jolly.
Suffice to say that Matthew might not be great at doing everyday things, which leads to several embarrassing moments in front of Hector, but he’s really in his element when it comes to negotiating with the dean of the local college for event space, and he later presents a well thought out, but extremely over the top New York City theme for the party. Hector suggests he dial it back just a little to something more within their budget.
At the coffee shop in town, Noelle sees how Matthew is starting to vibe with his former enemy turned partner-in-party-planning. And since we’re in the getting to know you part of the story, Matthew is in truth starting to catch feelings. Liking him more and more, despite the whole ’from different worlds’ thing.
While they are all at the local Christmas tree farm, Noelle asks out a girl she likes, but doesn’t want it to look like a date date, and she insists Mathew and Hector join for a group night out to the holiday light show.
So after bringing the tree home, Matthew and Hector cuddle up in the lower bunk and watch their favorite holiday movie, “A Muppet Christmas Carol.” Matthew opens up and explains everything that led to him being there. It was a hard break-up, he was the third in a throuple, which led to him impulsively buying that island. Hector is sweet and understanding and they share a kiss, which they’ve both wanted for a while, but realize that maybe like that exact moment isn’t really the time or the place.
However, at the storage unit where the dusty old décor from galas past are stored, they share coming out stories, which is, of course, a de facto first step in any queer dating scenario, which leads to some intense kisses, followed by some satisfying hand jobs.
That night they join Noelle and Siena for drinks and the evening’s non-date date. Everyone has a great time and, thoroughly buzzed, they walk through the cheery Christmas lights, Matthew and Hector get a picture with Santa, and admit they have feelings for each other. They seal this relationship acknowledgement with a kiss.
At this point, gala prep is in full swing, but even in the flurry of activity, Hector still takes a moment to set up a holiday picnic to share with the big city boy that he’s definitely falling for.
Matthew’s mom makes an unexpected visit. She’s cordial but frosty, as per usual.
The big night arrives, everyone is there and, thanks to all of Matthew and Hector’s hard work, it goes off without a hitch. Even Matthew’s mother thinks it’s a smashing success and invites him back to the city so that they can celebrate the holiday like a real family, like they used to.
Before he can discuss this with Hector, Noelle shows Matthew the headlines blowing up all of social media. Somehow, the whole world now knows about island-gate and nobody has anything good to say about spoiled and frivolous Matthew Prince. Anxiety and panic overwhelm him. Hector was the only one he’d trusted with the details of what happened, and it seems to have bitten him in the ass. Understandably, he is heartbroken and betrayed, so he packs up and gets out of Dodge.
Christmas in New York is nice, Matthew’s mom and dad are truly trying their best, and are pulling out plenty of long forgotten family traditions… but something, or someone, is missing. It doesn’t take him long to figure out the holiday cheer is a façade and that his parents have screwed him over, just like they have in the past. Hector had nothing to do with the island story leak. He just might be the only person who’s ever been open and honest with him from the get-go.
On Christmas day, Matthew comes up with a plan to take back his life. He talks things over with his parents, and while he does not forgive the unforgivable, they’re at least working through things and having adult conversations about the challenges that their family faces.
He returns to Wind River with belated Christmas gifts and mea culpas for everybody, including Hector. And as per his new adult ‘talking it through’ approach to life, not panicked island-buying sprees, they verry merry make-up and have a very happy HEA.
Now quickly I want to say that it may have seemed that I spoiled the hell out of the ending, but truly I have given you the broadest strokes of the wonderful grand gestures Matthew makes, which are actually small and thoughtful, which makes them a million times cuter and more meaningful.
Matthew grew a lot over the course of the story and it’s so wonderful to see his relationship with Hector, and everyone else. It’s so grounded and meaningful.
And despite the title of the book and Matthew’s slightly Grinchy demeanor at the beginning, it’s not really about his heart growing two sizes. It’s really about the search for like genuine, meaningful relationships. And that’s kind of the theme of the story. It’s really wonderful. It’s also sweet and festive. And I really recommend if anyone is looking for a festive holiday rom-com, give the latest from Timothy Janovsky a try.
Jeff: You tick so many boxes for me in that. The big city guy ends up in the small town. You had a gala. You had a baking competition.
Will: It’s really good.
Jeff: If I was playing Hallmark bingo, I would’ve had so many boxes.
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish
All right. I’ve got a holiday romance too.
I do love a Roan Parrish holiday story. You might have heard me talk lovingly about last year’s Christmas themed “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane,” or the recent Halloween story “The Rivals of Casper Road.” As we move into the Christmas and Hanukkah season this year, Roan dishes up “The Holiday Trap,” a house-swap romance that brings us happily ever afters for Greta and Truman.
So here’s the deal, Greta and Truman need to get out of their respective towns.
Greta, who lives on an island in Maine, has a very intrusive family. They’ve gone so far as to set her up, despite knowing she’s a lesbian, to participate in a charity auction because they are desperate for her to have a date–any date, it doesn’t really matter who. Greta loves her family, but this is the last straw. She needs a break, even if it means being away for Hanukkah.
Truman is ready to escape New Orleans after massive heartbreak. He arrives on his boyfriend’s doorstep to deliver an early Christmas present only to discover that he’s been deceived for months. His boyfriend has a husband and daughter that Truman knew nothing about, and, of course, they knew nothing about Truman. Truman needs a complete change.
A mutual friend suggests they take a month and house swap, which sends Truman to Maine and Greta to New Orleans. Truman will take care of Greta’s carnivorous plants while Greta takes care of Truman’s dog. It’s a perfect get away for each of them, and it allows them to discover more about themselves and find new love too.
I absolutely adore Truman and Greta and the journey Roan sends them on. They are both messes when we meet them, dealing with the anger they both have about the situations they left. Truman’s also got the extra heartache of losing the man he thought might become a partner for life. The journey they go on, discovering the good things that are available to them as they breakaway from what was holding them back was really delightful.
In New Orleans, Greta discovers life in a larger city than the very insular life that she had. She dives into the opportunity to explore all the newness of the city and allows herself to meet all kinds of people and experience things she’d never tried before. After so much time, basically living to please her family, she’s branching out. She learns some key lessons about truly listening to people and not doing simply what she thinks is best or what she thinks someone truly wants and isn’t telling her. Greta’s romance with Carys was sweet as they learned about each other, their families, and in particular I found it refreshing how Carys addressed setting boundaries and the importance of not downplaying what your partner actually tells you.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Greta’s story was how Roan made New Orleans seem like a small town. Now, of course, New Orleans isn’t a ginormous city, but there was a focus on neighborhoods and people rather than making the story about a small town person in the big city. For me, that just added to the delight of the story.
For Truman in Maine, it was definitely a case of someone having to sort out being in such a small town, and also going to a much colder climate. He definitely had some adjustments to make, which also included how everybody in town seemed to know who he was, sometimes simply because he wore one of Greta’s sweaters, and how fast news traveled through town. Truman’s romance with flower shop owner Ash is swoony good, and it includes a save-the-flower-shop element… and I always love it when we have to, you know, save something in a story. Truman discovers how he needs to stand up for what he wants, and that he is deserving of all of that. And Ash has to find that he can be loved and that a partner can be there to help him with life, both his business and family. Ash has a lot going on, and Truman wants to be there for all of it and support the man he loves. There’s also a super cool thing that Truman gets caught up in as he realizes one of his favorite authors has likely lived in Greta’s house. That storyline adds a little bit of interesting mystery to the story.
I loved both of these romances. Greta and Truman had some similar circumstances in needing to build up their own confidences, but they also had many differences as did their romantic partners with Carys and Ash. You get two terrific romances for the price of one in “The Holiday Trap.” And as usual, Roan Parrish creates characters that I would love to hang out with, and ones that I can’t help but root for.
Kudos on the audiobook too with narration by Natalie Duke, Pete Cross, and Hillary Huber. They bring all the characters perfectly to life. I absolutely think “The Holiday Trap” by Roan Parrish should be on your holiday reading list.
So could we talk about house swap romances for a minute? This was my first one, and although I’ve seen a few rom-com movies that use this storytelling method, in fact, I recently watched “The Holiday” since this particular book was kind of inspired by “The Holiday,” according to the author’s notes.
I found that in book format, this was like an odd experience for me. I mean I totally loved Greta and Truman. They were just amazing and I loved their stories. But this every few chapters of switching back and forth was absolutely not my favorite thing. It’s very different thing switching back and forth point of view of two characters who are your central romantic heroes. But another I found to be switching up the stories completely.
I mean, I didn’t do a count or anything, but every three or four chapters we were switching over to the other romance and I really got to thinking if I’d been reading it in ebook or paperback, I honestly think I might have read one story and then switched to the other and gone back and read the alternate chapters. Like after a certain point at the beginning when the house swap started, I might’ve like just split the stories. I don’t know. Or maybe I wanted it more in a duology.
Cause I kept being like, when the POV switched I’d be like, Oh, but, but wait, not right now. Cause of course it does what it’s supposed to do, where there’s like a little, you know, kind of cliff hanger moment at the end to kind of pull you through.
And I want to be clear, this is nothing at all to do with Roan’s writing style or how the book even was plotted out. This is a house swap and of course it’s gonna work this way. But it’s more something I noticed in myself and how I reacted to those kind of POV pivots. I don’t know. Does this mean that house swap isn’t for me necessarily? I don’t know.
Will: It probably just means that reading romance has trained you to focus on one core central couple. And as you’re reading this story, that’s probably where your mind naturally gravitated towards. Honestly, I would probably have the exact same experience because I’m not used to reading a narrative with larger casts of characters and several congruent storylines.
And I think it’s reading versus watching too, because I don’t have a problem at all with a movie. Like “The Holiday” didn’t bother me at all as it switched between Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet.
Will: Well, yeah, a movie’s a totally different thing.
Jeff: But I don’t know that I could have read that in book format doing the same thing. Anyway, I just thought I’d share this little, self realization moment as I really enjoyed this book, but really wanted the stories to be presented to me in a different way. If you have thoughts on house swap romance, I’d love to know what those are feel free to drop us a line on all of our podcast channels, or leave comments on this show notes page.
Silent Sin by E.J. Russell
Will: So now let’s shift from holiday romances to a historical you recently read, set in 1920s Hollywood.
Jeff: Yes, I absolutely loved E.J. Russell’s “Silent Sin” and the romance between an actor who is in need of a hit film to boost his career. And a young man who is on the run and ends up taking a job as a studio chauffeur.
How much did I love this story? So much so that I read it once in ebook and then a few months later came back to it so I could check out the incredible audiobook performance of Greg Boudreaux. The audio only reinforced what a wonderful story this is, blending some real Hollywood history with some great queer characters.
Robbie Goodman left his home in Idaho following a gay bashing that he narrowly escaped while his best friend was brutally beaten and he believes arrested or worse. Robbie feels the guilt of leaving Frank behind, but knows he had to leave. He’s headed for Mexico, but after some odd jobs he ends up at the gates of Citadel Motion Pictures, and in a turn of good luck ends up with a chauffeur job and is assigned to actor Martin Brentwood.
Martin is not who he seems. Martin and his business manager Sid swapped lives when they arrived in L.A. because that would allow them to have careers. Martin to be in pictures and Sid to be the manager. Martin is one of many talented, and closted, queer people making a living in motion pictures. He does what he must to protect his livelihood. But his standing at Citadel is threatened as his box office draw is not what it once was.
From the moment Robbie picks up Martin the first time, there’s a spark, albeit one that both men try to ignore and talk themselves out of. They know there’s no way anything could happen between them to the point that they’re both actually scared of it. That doesn’t stop the two from settling into an easy working relationship, and even into a friendship as Robbie learns about Hollywood and Martin is able to look at things from the perspective of a newcomer.
It doesn’t take long for a mix of fictional and real events to have these two talking more, and even for Robbie to end up and help Martin take care of someone who ends up in a bit of trouble. Eventually they reveal to each other that they like men. And this is one of those books where there’s a lot of excellent talking as the story goes on about what each of them wants out of life, and even the ultimate reveals for them both about why Robbie ran from Idaho and Martin’s actual identity.
All of that talking gets to happen in a perfectly natural way as Robbie has to accompany Martin for location shooting. Except, Robbie isn’t a chauffeur, he ends up working for the director because they’re making a movie about Moses Schallenberger’s time on the California Trail in 1844. Since Robbie knows a lot about animals, and farm life and being on the road, he is valuable to the movie. And that becomes even more true when one of the actors can’t be on set. Robbie becomes the stand in, which means he’s also suddenly Martin’s co-star.
E.J. does such an incredible job with this story. It starts with the characters of Robbie and Martin, guys from very different backgrounds who still share so much in common because of the times they live in. They’ve become one of my all time favorite couples because of their talk, how they show–even in public–that they’re aware of and present for each other, and how they can ground the other and not to mention the wonderful HEA that they got. Then there’s the history too. E.J. deftly mixes actual history with fictional elements to create a rich, full version of Hollywood and that includes life at the studio and in the difficult location shoots.
And the secondary characters… in particular I have to call out Dottie, who we meet as a cutter, or film editor, and who by the end of the book has written the film that Martin and Robbie shoot. Dottie is a great friend to Robbie, helping him sort out the strange new town he’s living in. She’s also a confidant because she’s queer too. Martin’s friend and manager Sid is also amazing as he wants the best for Martin, both in business and personally. He goes above and beyond a lot.
I mentioned that HEA, so very perfect and beyond what I’d expected. These two love each other, and while they’re scared about what that means, they finally embrace it because they know they don’t want to live apart. And the final chapter, some 23 years from where the story started is the bow on top of this perfect package.
“Silent Sin” by E.J. Russell has my highest recommendation, as does the audio version with that narration from Greg Boudreaux that I mentioned. The romance is swoony, the historical setting in Hollywood is perfect. I wouldn’t be surprised if I read this again some day just like a might re-watch a classic film.
And make sure you stick around after we wrap up here for a special presentation of the first chapter of “Silent Sin” as read by Greg Boudreaux. It is so good. You are not gonna wanna miss this.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation and reviews for yourself, simply 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, Will and I have put together “Happily Ever After.” It’s a free ebook full of reviews and suggested romance reads. So whether you’re in the mood for a contemporary or a historical, or you know, even more holiday romance, we’ve got you covered. You’ll get it when you sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, which is 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 404, authors Macy Blake and Charlie Cochet are here and they’re gonna be talking about their collaboration on their brand new “Shifter Scoundrels” series.
Jeff: This was such a fun conversation. They share all the details of what it was like writing together for the first time. Plus, Macy tells us about her upcoming holiday romance, the “Christmas Sprites” series.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we wanna thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds 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. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.
Jeff: And now we are thrilled to bring you the first chapter of “Silent Sin” by E.J. Russell, read by Greg Boudreaux Many thanks to E.J. For allowing us to bring this to you. This excerpt is copyright 2020 by E.J. Russell production copyright 2021 by E.J. Russell.
Note: A transcript is not available for the audiobook excerpt. You can read chapter one in the “Look Inside” on Amazon.