Jeff & Will wrap up 2022 with an episode packed with reviews and recommendations.
The guys start off talking about some seasonal programming they loved, The Holiday Sitter on Hallmark Channel, A Christmas to Treasure on Lifetime, and Smiley on Netflix. They also discuss their recent reads, including books by L Eveland, KJ Charles, Zac Bissonnette, and Kosoko Jackson.
Looking back at 2022 Favorite Reads, Jeff & Will share some from the Patreon community, and then talk about what was on their favorites list, which includes books from Roe Horvat, Kosoko Jackson, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rachel Reid, Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone, Lev AC Rosen, Charlie Novak, Max Walker, Phil Stamper, and Anna Zabo & L.A. Witt.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- TV Reviews
- Book Reviews
- Things That Brought Joy in 2022
- 2022 Favorites from the Patreon Community
- Season of Love by Helena Greer
- Not So Sincerely, Yours by A.M. Johnson
- Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
- To Hive and To Hold by Amy Crook
- Bad Wrong Things by C.P. Harris
- Hurt Me, Daddy by Misha Horne
- Comfort Me, Daddy by Misha Horne
- Battle for the Top by Willow Dixon
- You and Me by Tal Bauer
- Agents of Winter by Ada Maria Soto
- Jeff & Will’s 2022 Favorites
- Episode 408 – Favorite YA Reads of 2022 with Guest Co-Host Julian Winters
- Naked Weekend by Roe Horvat
- Naked Games by Roe Horvat
- Cabin Fever by Roe Horvat
- I’m So Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson
- Episode 400 – “Black Love Matters” with Kosoko Jackson
- Episode 374 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club Spring 2022: “I’m So (Not) Over You” by Kosoko Jackson
- Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore
- The Long Game by Rachel Reid
- Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone
- Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen
- Like I Promised by Charlie Novak
- The Sunset Job by Max Walker
- The Hammerhead Heist by Max Walker
- Golden Boys by Phil Stamper
- Rookie Mistake by Anna Zabo & L.A. Witt
- 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, it’s the last week of the year and time for us to recap our favorite books from 2022.
Will: Welcome to episode 410 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 here for this holiday week as the celebrations continue. Whatever you’re celebrating, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, perhaps Boxing Day, we hope you’re having exactly the holiday that you want to have.
As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Hello there, Patreon peeps. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, head on over to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: 2022, despite its many flaws, was actually a banner year, I think, for some mainstream gay content. There was lots of great stuff to watch and enjoy, and this past holiday season it seemed like there was a cornucopia of riches. So…
Jeff: There really was.
Will: So much to choose from, one of which was “The Holiday Sitter,” one of Hallmark’s many Christmas movies, it starred Jonathan Bennett and George Krissa. And in this particular one, Jonathan’s character is called on by his sister to come babysit his niece and nephew over the holidays because of, you know…
Will: Rom-com reasons. So he does it and he is not particularly good at it.
Jeff: One might say is that he is spectacularly bad at it. He has never apparently had to be guncle before.
Will: Thankfully the incredibly handsome guy next door is great with kids. So, Jonathan hires him to give him guncle lessons, and as they do all the holiday things that you’re supposed to do, they end up falling in love.
Jeff: So, as we’re recording this on Christmas Eve, we have watched all 40 Hallmark movies that have come out this year, which is to say that we’ve watched about 75% of them because about 25% we DNF’d. I have to say that this was among the best of the best this year and not just because it put a queer couple at the center of everything, this movie fired on all cylinders. It was a great rom-com, it was perfectly cast, it dealt with great tropes, the setups were all awesome, the kids in it were great. Like, I could watch this thing over and over again and just be delighted and laugh and there’s some heartfelt moments in it as Jonathan’s character kind of relates that, you know, he was never sure he could have a love and maybe even think about getting married. So, there’s some nice commentary that just kind of slides in there too. But it doesn’t take away from the overall romance and the rom-comness of it all. This was so perfect and I think Jonathan who executive-produced and also worked on the story, put together just a great holiday film and it was great to see Hallmark move into this area. I can’t rave about it enough really.
Will: Another movie worth mentioning is “A Christmas To Treasure” and this was one of the films that was airing on Lifetime during the holiday season. This one stars a real-life couple, Taylor Frey and Kyle Dean Massey, and it’s about a group of friends who get together in their hometown one last time over the holidays, and they decide to do one last Christmas treasure hunt, which was apparently, you know, something they did as kids. The characters played by Taylor and Kyle Dean have been estranged. They haven’t really talked to each other in quite a while because of a perceived misunderstanding, the kind that generally happened in rom-coms, but now this holiday season, they’re going to get their second chance.
Jeff: I would call this movie a little more perhaps literary than a standard rom-com. There’s a lot of stuff going on here with the treasure hunt and trying to honor the woman who used to own this house and try to save the house from being torn down. And the storyline is a bit more split up here. Kyle Dean and Taylor’s characters are kind of the forefront romance, but then there’s a couple of other things going on with some of the other friends who are also coupled up in some ways. I enjoyed this movie but it’s also not a laugh-out-loud rom-com like “The Holiday Sitter” was, but, you know, this was like the other type of holiday movie that there is because there’s usually the rom-coms and then the ones that try to tell some deeper more literary type story.
Will: I do not understand where you’re getting this literary descriptor. Why are you calling it literary? Because there’s nothing particularly deep about this film at all. Is that what you mean? Or you’re meaning something else? I’m confused.
Jeff: Well, there’s a little bit more of a deep thing going on here than just…
Will: Okay, if you say so.
Jeff: I don’t know. That was just my perception on the movie. It’s not quite all the way over on the Hallmark Hall of Fame scale of things, but it’s also not a full-out rom-com like “The Holiday Sitter” either. I don’t know, that was just my perception of this movie that it was trying to be a little bit deeper in what it was looking at.
Will: Okay, from… Well, I perceived it as a movie filled with standard TV rom-com romance tropes, executed fairly well. I think this movie was good, perhaps not great. Mainly because I think it suffers a little bit by comparison. There was actually another holiday movie this year that dealt with a group of friends reuniting and I think that other movie dealt with that particular theme a little bit better.
Jeff: I would agree with that.
Will: But overall, I really enjoyed what “A Christmas To Treasure” had to offer, especially when it came to the kind of interconnected relationships of this group of friends.
Jeff: Yeah, I would agree with that. And I really liked watching Taylor and Kyle Dean’s characters find their way back to each other and get that second chance. That romance I really liked a lot. And a quick note on those, as the holiday season wraps up, you might find these on one more time on their actual respective networks but you could certainly check them out on the on-demand services for Hallmark and Lifetime and you may still catch “The Holiday Sitter” streaming as part of what goes on with the Hallmark networks on Peacock. So you can give that a look also.
Will: One unexpected Christmas gift that just seemed to pop out of nowhere as if it was delivered by Santa himself, there’s a Spanish Netflix series called “Smiley” and it’s a queer Christmas rom-com that is 100% delightful from beginning to end. It’s about Bruno and Alex who have a meet-cute involving a smiley face emoji, which is where the series gets its name. And even though they’re essentially exact opposites in every conceivable way, they’re still very much attracted to one another. And over the course of the series and several episodes, it explores their sexual attraction but also sort of societal conceptions about what makes a suitable partner.
Bruno is a nice guy with a steady job working at an architectural studio. They call it a studio, which I thought was just so chic. While Alex is sort of a young hot pretty boy who’s out and about in the gay scene, he co-owns a bar with his friends. And at one point in this show they each individually try to date someone who’s seemingly more appropriate but those don’t end up working out at all because what they’re actually interested in is each other. In addition to Bruno and Alex, the show also follows the relationships of some of their friends.
And I think thematically, the show other than being you know, a perfectly delightful rom-com, it’s really looking at relationships in their various stages. Bruno has a best friend and coworker who’s been married for several years. He’s got three kids and he’s kind of having a midlife crisis, but the life he has is kind of everything he’s always wanted and it takes him a hot minute to kind of examine what’s going on with his relationship with his wife and how they’re going to move forward.
Meanwhile, one of Alex’s best friends has been in a long-term lesbian relationship and all indicators point to the fact that things are starting to fizzle out for them. And that was interesting, I thought. Because it’s struggling to understand if that’s something that needs a spark to reignite or if it’s just naturally run its course and it needs to fizzle out. Which is a little sad but a reality nonetheless, which I think is something that this show deals with really well. Taking real issues and problems you might encounter in a relationship but wrapping it up in lots of fun, funny tropes, and holiday cheer.
Jeff: And I tell you Netflix wanted us to watch this thing so bad. This series that we didn’t even know what it was, was showing up on our screen where we had to pick the profile. It was at the top of our page and we’re finally like, what is this thing? Watched the trailer, absolutely fell in love, and had to binge the series out.
You left out, I thought, one of the most intriguing of the side stories in this, and that was Alex’s mom who was essentially visited by a blast from her past. It was a best friend of hers and her husband who had come back into town after being away for, like, decades. And the story that played out there that I’m not gonna give too much away to, was another interesting look at kind of a different phase of a relationship and finding things out that you didn’t know before. I found that to be a really poignant bit of story and how it went through some really rocky moments and then came out on the other side in a way that I would not have predicted at the time. I’m being sketchy there but you get to find out about that plot for yourself.
I really enjoyed “Smiley.” I don’t know if there’s a chance to go back and revisit these folks because it all wraps up in a nice package but I would totally go back and see what’s up with all of these couples again.
Kissed By the Krampus by L. Eveland
Will: So, I wanna take a few minutes to talk about a few of the books that have made up my end-of-year reading. There were a lot of great holiday books that came out this season. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to many of them. I only was able to read a handful this year, but one came across my radar and I was like, oh yeah, definitely that is going to the top of the list. And if you’ve seen the cover of this book, I don’t know how you could have resisted it either. I am of course talking about “Kissed By The Krampus” by L. Eveland.
Bet you never thought I would talk about a Christmas monster-fucking book, but that’s what I’m about to do. If you had monster fucking on your reading bingo card for 2022, this is definitely the title I recommend in order to check that particular subgenre off. So, let’s quickly get into it. It’s about a former soldier named Chris, he’s got PTSD, and he’s not having the most festive of holiday seasons. And when he gets into a car crash, he is rescued by a Krampus and then whisked away to his cozy home at the South Pole.
This book has basically got everything you possibly wanted, of course, duh, it’s got monster fucking, there’s a cinnamon roll monster hero who Chris names Ollie, a ton of hurt comfort, of course, there’s forced proximity, you’ve got damaged heroes who are healed by the power of love, and also there is a kick-ass explosive action-packed finale. You see, part of Ollie’s job is hunting other monsters and the evil men who would exploit them. And when Ollie is captured, Chris has to go out and rescue him. It is like a wham-bam action explodey conclusion that in a really interesting way sets up the possibilities for other stories in this particular series. I really loved “Kissed By The Krampus” and if you’ve still got a spot on your end-of-year holiday TBR, I highly recommend you give it a try.
A Thief in the Night by KJ Charles
Another great book I read was the new historical Audible original from KJ Charles. It’s called “A Thief in The Night.” And in this one, the thief of the title is lovable scamp, Toby, who is in search of some moderately gainful employment for the winter. Because, you know, guy’s gotta keep warm after all, which brings him to the doorstep of crumbling Arvon hall. But the new earl turns out to be former military man, Miles, whom Toby recently slept with and then picked his pocket afterward. Now, understandably Miles isn’t happy to see the annoyingly cute thief, but he does need help clearing out the house that is packed to the rafters with his late father’s accumulated junk.
What was sort of interesting about this is that Miles’ father was considered an eccentric, or he was frugal because he saved anything. But by a modern perspective, he was a hoarder. This enormous house is literally packed to the rafters with crap. So, they start cleaning things room by room, and day after day as they work together they learn more about each other. Miles is initially thrown off by his feelings for Toby, but the fact is all that they have is each other in this ramshackle house out in the middle of nowhere.
Toby discovers an unsent letter from Miles’ father clearly showing that he eagerly anticipated Miles’ return home from the war despite what the sad state of the ancestral property might imply. You see, Miles’ long thought that his father hated him because he left him this crap house out of spite. This, of course, turns out not to be true and Miles and Toby celebrate this happy news with a sexy tumble, something they have both been craving since Toby walked back into Miles’ life. Uncovering the letter leads to the discovery that Miles’ father stashed away a fortune in jewels. Unfortunately, Miles doesn’t know where that stash is, so the two of them searched the house from top to bottom and they find evidence that there’s a villainous magistrate named Pew who made Miles’ father’s life a living hell in the days leading up to his death. And somehow managed to finagle a diamond bracelet from him.
Our two heroes, they are going to get that bracelet back. And with Toby’s thieving expertise, a plan is put into place. It is time for a heist. But things go wrong and it’s up to Miles to come up with a quick-witted solution to save them both. The ending, it is really great and I won’t be going into any spoilers but, you know, this is a romance, so you know that our heroes will find a way to come out on top and get their HEA. So, here’s the thing, you don’t need me to tell you how amazing KJ Charles is. We all know it. So, of course, I loved “A Thief in The Night.” It is an Audible original, so right now it is only available in audio on the Amazon and Audible platforms. But a while back I saw that KJ Charles mentioned on social media that this story will be coming in ebook and print formats sometime in 2023. So, we’ve got that to look forward to in the new year.
A Killing in Costumes by Zac Bissonnette
So, if Christmas monster-fucking or historical audiobooks aren’t your thing and you’re looking for something a little bit different, I’ve got a really great mystery I wanna recommend. It’s called “A Killing in Costumes” and it is the cozy mystery debut of author Zac Bissonnette. And this one is about Jay and Cindy, who were once a beloved soap opera super couple and real-life couple as well, but when they both came out, all of that disappeared. Many years and several different jobs and side hustles later, they’re living together again in Palm Springs and they co-own the newly opened memorabilia store, Hooray for Hollywood.
Business is, you know, kind of slow but they get a lead on a vast costume collection owned by an aging actress and this gives them some hope. But when Dylan, the vice president of an upscale auction house and their main competition for the collection ends up dead, Jay and Cindy are at the top of the suspect list since they were the last ones to see him alive. To save their struggling business, they’re going to have to solve the murder. Could it have been someone in elderly Yana Tosh’s inner circle? What about the coworker Dylan was screwing over literally and figuratively? Then there’s also the inconveniently handsome Detective Fletcher, whose direct questioning, Jay can’t decide is strictly professional or romantically personal. Really it’s so frustrating and hilarious. There’s a missing movie prop painting, a poisoned letter, a poisoned cupcake. So, the question is, can Jay and Cindy survive long enough to clear their names? This is a cozy mystery, so of course, they do. That’s not a spoiler.
The fun, of course, is how these longtime best friends sleuth their way to the big reveal at the very end. Oh gosh, this book is so much fun. You’ve got the sunny Palm Spring setting and the weirdly cutthroat world of movie memorabilia. It’s all a really great backdrop for a mystery introducing some really charming characters. I truly hope this book kicks off a brand new long-running series because I would certainly sign up for more of Jay and Cindy’s misadventures in a heartbeat, no questions asked. Give me more. If cozy mystery is something you wanna investigate in 2023, I think “A Killing in Costumes” is a great place to start.
Jeff: So, all of those sound amazing, especially the cozy mystery. I mean a Hollywood memorabilia store run by two best friends. I think I might have to check that out myself.
Will: Please do. You will not regret it, I swear.
Jeff: Here’s what I have to ask, because monster-fucking Krampus Christmas was nowhere in, like, the radar of possibility for me, but I have to ask, I have two questions. How did you decide to pick that up? Because it’s not exactly the type of book I would normally expect you to pick up. And Krampus and monster-fucking, and cinnamon roll monster. I can’t even imagine how those things go together. Can you explain just a touch further, please?
Will: Okay, to answer your first question, why. Just look at the cover, nothing more needs to be said. And I would counter your second question with why not a cinnamon roll monster hero? He’s big, he’s sexy, he’s kind, he loves to knit, he knows how to kick bad guy ass. Ollie’s the whole package.
Jeff: You’re gonna make me read this before the end of the year, I can tell. It sounds so good.
Will: Read it. Read it.
A Dash of Salt and Pepper by Kosoko Jackson
Jeff: All right. I’ve got one book to talk about too that actually just came out this month. It has been such a year of Kosoko Jackson for me. “Survive The Dome” was on my list of 2022 YA favorites and spoiler alert, you’re going to hear his name come up again a little later in this show too. His just-released rom-com, “A Dash of Salt and Pepper” was an absolute delight. An ideal mix of romance, comedy, and just a little bit of drama too. Kosoko mentioned when we talked to him briefly about this book back in episode 400, that it has the Stars Hollow meets Hallmark movie feel and that is so very much true. We meet Xavier, who let’s say is not having the life that he wanted. He’s recently been dumped. He’s been passed over for a fellowship opportunity, and he is back home in the teeny tiny town of Harper’s Cove, Maine, a place he very much does not want to be. When the fellowship opportunity comes open again, he’s gotta make some fast cash to be able to afford it. So he ends up taking a job as a prep chef at a trendy new restaurant called The Wharf. The owner, Logan, is a single father who really doesn’t seem to know how to delegate tasks at all.
Despite being the most opposite of opposites, I don’t think it could get much more opposite, Logan and Xavier eventually figure out how to work together and as you would imagine in any good rom-com, that means feels that eventually, neither of them can deny sending them towards an awesome HEA. Now, one of the things I love so much in Kosoko’s books are his very strong, complex characters. Whether it’s Jamal in “Survive The Dome,” Kian in “I’m So (Not) Over You” or Xavier here, these characters all jump off the page and you can’t help but immediately get invested in them. For Xavier, I really love his growth through this book. He is so bitter having had the rug pulled out from under the life that he thought he wanted, and that’s really turned him into a sarcastic person who can be a little difficult to like.
Now, what tempers all of this as the reader, is that we know because of the excellent first-person point of view that Kosoko gives us, we know why he’s this way. He has been burned bad multiple times in different ways and it’s got him on the defensive and being sarcastic, as I mentioned. Seeing how the job, and Logan, and Logan’s daughter, Anne, help Xavier kind of break free of what’s been done to him in the past was done so well. Xavier’s walls are so high in this book, and boy, does it take a little bit to start to break through those, but it’s really beautiful to watch as his defenses crumble and he embraces the life that he could have but isn’t really the life that he thought he wanted.
Expectations also feed a lot into this story. There’s the expectations that Xavier is supposed to be living up to, whether they’re from his family, from society, things that he’s taken on for himself and how he feels like he should be, and that drive to, you know, always be your best. Xavier has a lot of thoughts on this and I really love seeing how Xavier thinks through things and how his reactions to everything also changes over time as he really, you know, gets into the groove of working at the restaurant, being with Logan, finding love and really finding, I would say, true love for the first time instead of some of the superficialness that was in the relationship that he was coming off of. It really let him examine what he wanted from his life. And that romance, oh, loved it so much.
Watching Xavier and Logan, and Logan, let’s be fair, has a lot of baggage on his own too. Divorced father trying to build a business and look after a tween daughter, these two go from really hating each other. I mean, they don’t have a meet-cute. They kind of have a meet-hate because of the way that they end up, you know, coming together. Also, the fact that Logan is a friend of Xavier’s mother and so that just layers on more things because it’s a friend of the family in already this really small town where everybody knows everybody’s business. And eventually, of course, they have to admit that they’re better together and that just makes the love all the more special.
Oh, by the end of this book, I was just squeeing in happiness as they sorted everything out. The epilogue was so satisfying and this was the book that I picked up instead of reading some other holiday fair and I’m so glad I did because I loved “A Dash of Salt and Pepper” so, so much and I really can’t wait to see what Kosoko Jackson brings out next.
Things That Brought Joy
Now before we get into favorite books, there’s a few things I wanted to talk about that just brought me some joy this year. It was a year, as Will said, 2022 finally over. So much stuff going on, but there were some things this year that just really stood out for me.
It was the year that we all got on the “Heartstopper” bandwagon. If we hadn’t been reading the graphic novels, I think we all watched the Netflix series at least once. I think we ended up and watched it three or four times. I know it was three, it might have been four because I was like, need to see it again. Cannot wait for next year when season two will come out. But the entire “Heartstopper” thing, I read all the graphic novels as I talked about a couple weeks ago. I got the coloring book. I got the yearbook. I got the new Nick and Charlie novella. I could just live in those two’s story forever. It was so lovely.
You mentioned all the great queer content that has come out this year, two things that really stood out for me that got multiple viewings were the big screen rom-com “Bros” from Billy Eichner. So good, so brilliant, really didn’t get enough attention that it should have. It’s playing on Peacock right now. It’s available to rent and to buy. So if you have not seen “Bros,” please give that a look.
And then there was the Hulu rom-com, Jane Austen-inspired with “Fire Island.” That whole thing was just a ball of joy. It was funny, it was heartfelt and I think I’ll be going to “Fire Island” again at some point this winter as we get kind of into those winter doldrums, you know.
And then I have to give a special shoutout to “Red, White & Royal Blue.” Yes, this book is over five years old, so why is it on my favorite list for this year? Well, the collector’s edition came out, and within the collector’s edition there’s a bonus chapter that for the very first time is from Henry’s point of view. And I was thinking I might pick this book up and get it. Well, one shopping trip to Target in the book section, I found the collector’s edition on the shelf and I picked it up and I had an unexpected emotional reaction in the middle of Target. As I opened up this book and discovered Vanessa Kelly’s beautiful endpapers that are these gorgeous drawings of various scenes from the book, among my very favorites, there’s Alex coming face to face with the Thanksgiving turkey that’s in the cage, that’s in the middle of his bedroom because he has rescued the Thanksgiving turkey out of the hotel that it was gonna be in before it was pardoned.
But the thing that got me choked up at Target is on the back endpaper there is this picture of Henry and Alex on the steps of their brownstone, kissing. It was just so good. So, I ended up and reread “Red, White & Royal Blue,” did the audiobook. Of course, loved the book for everything that it is. And then that bonus chapter that actually goes forward through vignettes of six years after the closing of the original book. I loved it so much. If you’re a “Red, White & Royal Blue” fan, definitely check out the collector’s edition. And I know they finished shooting the movie, so hopefully this will be showing up on Amazon sometime, hopefully, sooner than later so that we can check out what the movie version looks like.
Favorite Books from the Patreon Community
All right, shall we get into the core of what we’re here to talk about, which is some books?
Will: I’m always ready to talk about books.
Recently, we asked some of our patrons what their favorite reads and recommendations for the year were. Sarah, from “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books,” recommended “Season of Love” by Helena Greer. Sarah thought this was a perfect holiday confection with incredible heart and nuance and its subversion of familiar Hallmark tropes. Making sure we knew that it is a complete delight.
Jeff: Schmusirike said that “Not So Sincerely, Yours” by A.M. Johnson was one of their favorites. It was one that they absolutely loved, which they kind of didn’t expect to completely love when they started it. And it was unexpected because they had been reading a lot of mystery and romantic suspense books instead of “normal romances.” They say this whole series has a lot of long email text conversations, which give really nice insight into the characters, more than them just talking to each other would’ve done. They say any book where they could feel the emotions always makes their day. Absolutely. I wanna feel all the feels when I read a book.
Will: Katie recommended “Charm Offensive” by Alison Cochrun.
And Rhonda recommended “To Hive and To Hold” by Amy Crook, which she describes as a very slow-burn queer fantasy romance with magic. One of their main characters is gay, the other is embracing a non-binary identity and she’s seen it described as hopepunk.
Jeff: Gwen recommends “Bad Wrong Things” by C.P. Harris. They say it’s a dark erotic read that has stuck with them since reading it early this year.
Kati offered up a few titles, “Hurt Me, Daddy” and “Comfort Me, Daddy” by Misha Horne and “Battle for the Top” by Willow Dixon.
Tessa has the problem that I had going through my list, saying it’s very hard to decide. “Rookie Mistake” by Anna Zabo and L. A. Witt and “You & Me” by Tal Bauer, were Tessa’s top books for 2022. “Rookie Mistake” because they love a good hockey romance and it takes place in Pittsburgh, which is their hometown. And they loved “You & Me” because the main characters were older and both books had a perfect mix of angst and sweetness.
And lastly, RegencyFan93 says, “Agents of Winter” by Ada Maria Soto. They say when they finished that book they had to reread the earlier books in the series and then read “Agents of Winter” again. I can’t think of another book that I’ve read almost as soon as I finished it. That is a good set of a book if you just wanna pick it up, I’d start it over.
Will: I’d say so, yeah.
Jeff & Will’s 2022 Favorites
Jeff: All right. I know my list of books for this year was kind of hard to sort. I read a lot of really good stuff. So, what we’ve done is much like we did in the YA episode we did a couple of weeks ago, we each picked five and we’re gonna give these to you in the order of the author’s last name. So, these are not ranked at all. What is first up for you, sir?
Will: Well, as always it goes without saying, anything that appears in a list or a recommendation here on the show is our personal opinion. This is in no way a comprehensive best of, of every book 2022. These just happened to be the favorites of what we have read this past year.
And I’m gonna kick things off by cheating and not saying a book specifically, but I encountered an author for the very first time this year and it really blew me away. I really enjoyed the erotic romances of Roe Horvat, specifically the books, “Naked Weekend,” “Naked Games” and “Cabin Fever.” I was blown away, not only because these books are, like, crazy, stupid, sexy, but they’re so character-driven and found myself being really drawn into, like, the interior lives of these people.
Really quickly, “Naked Weekend” is about a guy who’s been through a breakup and whose best friend recommends he get back on the proverbial horse and he’s got the perfect guy to “break him into the current dating scene.” And what starts out as a simple hookup becomes so much more. That’ll always be one of my favorite tropes. Having sex at the beginning of the story and then taking the rest of the book to figure out your feels. I’m always down for one of those stories.
And “Naked Games” is the second of this loosely connected duology and it’s about the friend who gave the sexy recommendation and how he gets involved with a committed throuple. As you can imagine, there are lots of sexual situations these four guys can get into, but like I said earlier, not only are these characters fun and sexy, but they’re also interesting and the author always manages to take a rather straightforward setup and make it deeply compelling. Lastly, “Cabin Fever” is a bodyguard book, hot guy and his extra hot bodyguard isolated in a cabin, nuff said, you all know that’s my catnip.
Jeff: Oh my gosh, bodyguard plus force proximity.
Will: And like I said before, crazy sexy, wonderful, engaging characters. I love Roe Horvat’s particular brand of erotic romance. I’m so glad that I discovered them this year.
Jeff: All right. I mentioned in my review a few minutes ago that you were gonna hear about Kosoko Jackson again, and in fact, here we are. “I’m So (Not) Over You” was a 2022 book club selection for us, we absolutely adored the fake dating, the second chance, the having to go to a big family wedding when you’re not supposed to be a couple anymore. There was some nice differences between Hudson’s family who is rich and trying to get away from some of that, but Kian who is also struggling as an online journalist. And these two finding their way back to each other at this crazy family event. I love this book so much. It was a great introduction to Kosoko Jackson. Like I said, can’t wait to see what he does next. And I love his take on rom-coms. It’s just so good.
Will: If you’d like to listen to us talk a little more in detail about why we loved, “I’m So (Not) Over You,” you can check out the book club episode. The link will be in the show notes.
Another book that made it onto my list is a book that I’d wish we’d made a book club selection. I loved it so very much and just wanted to shout it from the rooftops for all to hear. I’m of course talking about “Self-Made Boys” by Anna-Marie McLemore. This was the queer retelling of “The Great Gatsby,” which I know and I completely understand is going to turn a large number of you off right away. But I urge you, I beg you, please give this book a chance. It is utterly amazing. It centers queer and trans joy and unlike the original, it has a very happy ending. This is the “Gatsby” we have always needed and is definitely the one that should be taught in high schools.
Jeff: I’m so glad this was on your list. I was like, I need this on my list. And then I couldn’t figure out how to get it on my list, but you put it on your list. So yeah, I underscore everything that you just said. If this had been the “Gatsby” that I’d read in school, I would’ve been so much happier.
My next one is “The Long Game” by Rachel Reid. This probably surprises no one because I was so excited when this book came out to wrap up the story of Shane and Ilya, who we met earlier in this series in “Heated Rivalry,” which was book two of this six-book series. It was so wonderful getting to go essentially backwards in time and seeing everything from books three, four, and five through Shane and Ilya’s eyes, and then get to go forward and see this couple go from the happily ever after that you knew they had at the end of book two, but then to really see what else had to happen for them to really solidify that so well, all the props to Rachel Reid for letting us see this couple in the background of a few books and then bring them back for really an excellent finale for their characters. This book and this series I think will be something that I revisit time and again over the years because the whole series is great and that this just capped it so brilliantly.
Will: The next book I wanna talk about is very seasonal in nature. It’s “A Merry Little Meet Cute” by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. Now you all know Jeff and I love us some Christmas movies and this book takes a wild and hilarious behind-the-scenes look at an attempt to make one of those Christmas movies. It’s wild, it’s hilarious, it’s very horny, and wonderfully inclusive. Every character is either bi or gay or as I’ve described it before, characters that are just down for whatever. Like I said earlier, I didn’t have an opportunity to read a lot of Christmas books this year, but I am very glad that I gave this one a try.
Jeff: That was a wildly good book and I was so happy to hear. I think you told me first that this is gonna be a series. So we’re gonna get another one of these featuring some of the characters that we met in this book for next year. Can’t Wait.
So, my next one is the non-romance of my group here and it’s “Lavender House” by Lev A.C. Rosen. I just loved getting into the noir world that Lev created here. We’ve got Andy Mills, who is a detective who has been fired for being gay in 1950 San Francisco. And he gets hired by this matriarch of a soap dynasty to come to their house and figure out who murdered her wife. It’s just a beautifully crafted mystery. So many twists and turns. These characters are so rich and they are all queer. It’s kicking off a series for Lev. I can’t wait to see what Andy gets up to next. If you’ve not read “Lavender House,” I highly recommend it. I haven’t done a straightforward mystery in a long time and this makes me kind of want to get back to adding some of those into my reading because it was so deeply satisfying for this kind of story to play out.
Will: Well, another book that I really loved was “Like I Promised” by Charlie Novak. In 2022, I was able to dive a little bit deeper into Charlie’s backlist. And I have to say this writer has a particular style, a very specific brand of low-angst romance that I am so here for. Like 100%. “Like I Promised” is the first book in the Heather Bay series that’s set in the UK. And “Like I Promised,” is about a guy who returns home to his, like, small seaside village. He’s inherited a rundown family home and he gets his second chance with the guy who is acting as contractor on the project. And the whole thing it’s just very nice and very sweet and very tropey and very low-angst, which is always a bit of a dilemma when you’re trying to review a book and to convey to people what’s so amazing and why they should read it. It makes my job a little bit hard because plot-wise, not a lot happens. There’s not a lot of conflict or angst or any of that stuff. It’s just nice guys being nice, which I know sounds boring, but trust me, it is not. It is wonderful and it’s everything this world needs right now. So, if you haven’t started this series by Charlie Novak, please do. The first one is “Like I Promised.” You’re not gonna be disappointed.
Jeff: So, you kind of had your cheat with Roe Horvat doing more than one book, so I’m kind of cheating here because my next one is the “Rainbow’s Seven” duology. So, I’m doing two books and these are by Max Walker. The two individual titles are “The Sunset Job” and “The Hammerhead Heist.” Yes, you must read them in order. You must do the complete duology because “The Sunset Job” ends with a whammy of a cliffhanger, which was so brilliant as a way to split up this heist story. At the center of this heist is Wyatt and Roman who are getting their second chance at love after a pretty disastrous romance while they were in college. This is a big chance for them to get together, although you have to know that Wyatt did not have on his bingo card getting swept up into a heist that would take him across the world.
I loved what Max did with this romance, getting these two back together, putting them through hell to get them back together. Let’s face it, doing a heist is not easy. But I also love how he did the heist. I love a good heist story. I don’t get to find them a lot in romance, so this one was a lot of fun to do, and boy, it is around the world. It is some crazy, crazy scenarios that they have to go through and I was there for every single minute of it. I hope that Max comes back and minds this world some more. There’s a lot of people in this group, there’s a lot of other stories that he could tell both around the romances and maybe getting them back into heist work. Please, Max, give me more “Rainbow’s Seven” if you can in 2023. But I loved it. It was so much fun.
Will: Well, to wrap up my list of favorite reads of 2022, I want to talk about “Golden Boys” by Phil Stamper. This is about a group of four gay friends in the summer before their senior year of high school. It’s about that time in your life where you’re trying to live your best gay life or at least trying to figure out what that would be exactly. It’s about what the friendship means to these four guys and how that evolves over the course of the summer when the four of them split up. One for an internship, one for a summer job. It’s all a little bit like “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” but without the sisterhood and no pants. I love the story of these four friends so much and I was so happy to learn that Phil Stamper is going to be continuing the series. We’re gonna learn just what exactly they get up to during their senior year when “Afterglow” comes out in February of 2023. Already tippy top on my TBR.
Jeff: It was kind of the year of Phil Stamper for us. I mean, because he’s on both of our lists. I had “Small Town Pride” on my YA list and now you’ve got “Golden Boys” here.
Will: Yeah, he’s amazing. If you haven’t read him yet, give him a try.
Jeff: Yeah, he’s so, so good. So my last book is “Rookie Mistake” by Anna Zabo and L. A. Witt. I completely agree with Tessa, one of the best books of the year by far for me. The story of Isaac and Julien, the age gap romance that they had. Obviously, it’s a workplace romance too, because they are both on the same hockey team. Isaac has had this crush on Julien well before he got drafted into the NHL, so he is a little bit starstruck and a little bit like wow, that he’s on the same team with one of his hockey heroes and a crush. Boy, Anna and Lori put him through the ringer getting these two to their happily ever after. It was a year of not a lot of angsty books for me at all, but even with some of the very heavy stuff that’s in this because of what’s in Julien’s past, it was still such a story that just captivated me and moved me, and I cannot wait for the second book in this series to come out next year. Just a really extraordinary hockey romance here. Kind of the year of hockey romance. I haven’t had a lot of hockey romances on my favorite list recently, and this year two of the five got taken by some really extraordinary hockey romances, so I was happy to have that this year.
Will: And what a year it was.
Will: This is the point in the episode where we remind you that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And as always, the show notes page has links to everything that we have talked about in this episode.
Jeff: I have made so many links for this show notes page, because I think we have talked about more than our normal amount of books and stuff.
Will: Everything. We’ve talked about all the things.
Jeff: All the things.
Will: All right. I think that’ll definitely do it now. Coming up next, Jeff is going to be kicking off the new year talking about one of his favorite books, just a little bit more as we are joined by Anna Zabo and L. A. Witt.
Jeff: I had such a good time talking to Anna and Lori about this book, as you can imagine. And among the things we do talk about is what brought these two together for collaboration. It’s Anna’s first collaboration. Of course, Lori has several that she’s done in the past, but what brought them together and I get a little bit of detail about “Scoreless Game,” the sequel that’ll be coming up in the spring.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we wanna thank you so much for listening and we hope that you’ll join us again in the new year 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.