Jeff & Will offer up a ton of recommendations in this episode. They kick off talking about Pretty Woman: The Musical, Eurovision 2023, the documentary Judy Blume Forever, The Great American Baking Show, and Netflix’s Bridgerton spin-off Queen Charlotte.

Then it’s on to books as they review Afterglow by Phil Stamper, Always the Almost by Edward Underhill, Tears of the Golden Tiger by Robin Knight, In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune, A Fashionable Deception by Sera Taíno, The Best Man’s Problem by Sera Taíno, The New Guy by Sarina Bowen, Never Have I Ever Gone Skinny Dipping by Riley Hart, Pick One by May Archer, and The Tinker’s Apprentice by Jordan Castillo Price.

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Show Notes

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.


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Will: Coming up on this episode, we’ve got a ton of recommendations as we catch you up on what we’ve been reading and watching recently.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 421 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, it’s Will.

Will: Hello Rainbow Romance Reader, it’s great to have you here as we continue our Super Summer Bonus Episodes.

TV Recommendations

Will: Before we get to a plethora of book recommendations, we want to quickly catch you up on what we’ve been watching and experiencing recently.

Jeff and I had an anniversary at the beginning of the month, and to celebrate, we went out to the theater. The national tour of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” finished up the last leg of its run here in our hometown of Sacramento. So you obviously don’t need me to tell you what “Pretty Woman” is about. I do want to say that screen to stage adaptation is an utter delight, and we had a fantastic time.

Jeff: Yes, we did. And we got to see one of our favorite actors too. Adam Pascal, who was the original Roger in “Rent,” was out with the “Pretty Woman” tour. I thought it was a nice kind of almost a bookend for us in some ways. Our very first trip to New York way back in 1996, we saw Adam in the original company of “Rent”, even saw him perform on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” that we got to attend and now as we celebrated our 28th year together, here’s Adam on stage in Sacramento for us. I thought it was just kind of a lovely whole anniversary moment for us.

Will: I think it’s so funny that you just mentioned we went to a taping of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” You realize there’s an entire generation of people who have no clue what you’re talking about.

Jeff: Well, they missed out because back in the day, she was the queen of Broadway.

Will: Goodness gracious.

So in addition to that, we have been watching Eurovision. We are recording this episode a little bit early, so we haven’t yet had a chance to watch the grand final. But boy, oh boy, are we having fun. We think it’s absolutely amazing.

Jeff: I love it so much. I, I just, it’s like, I wish we’d been watching it forever, but I’m so glad we have started in this year. It’s so big, it’s so splashy and colorful. And, oh, I think I could watch Hannah Waddingham do anything because she has been a delight as a presenter.

Will: If you’re curious about what all the fuss is about, you can watch Eurovision here in the States on Peacock.

In book related documentaries, Jeff and I watched “Judy Blume Forever,” an absolutely terrific movie covering Blume’s life and career and kind of showing us how her life influenced her art, giving us a little behind the scenes peek at the creation of some of literature’s most important and indelible works.

In addition to that, we get a look at Blume’s lifelong commitment to fighting book bans, which have plagued Judy Blume throughout her career, and continue even to this day.

Jeff: It was really tremendous to, see this loving and insightful documentary about a real trailblazer in young adult literature. It was just tremendous.

Will: You can stream “Judy Blume Forever” pretty much wherever you watch your favorite movies.

So in addition to Broadway and singing and books, our interests also include baking and no mention of what we’ve been watching recently could fail to cite “The Great American Baking Show.”

This is of course the American version, essentially, of the ” British Bake Off.” Last year, as part of a, essentially, holiday episode, some Americans went over to the tent in jolly old England, had a grand time. But now, instead of just a single television special, we get an entire season of American bakers being put through their paces by Paul and Prue.

Jeff: I’ll watch “Baking” practically in any form that it happens to come. And this was a great six episodes. The Americans, I think, did us proud in holding up in the tent.

Will: Indeed. Indubitably.

Jeff: Yeah, I think we’ve gotten very into “Baking.” This particular series of “Baking” is on the Roku Channel, where you could also watch the first seven original seasons of “Bake Off” along with various other “Bake Off” related items on a 24/7 channel. It just runs forever and it’s just… it is comfort TV anytime you need it.

Will: And lastly in addition to everything that we just mentioned, we along with seemingly everyone else in the world, streamed “Queen Charlotte,” which just dropped on Netflix.

One of the breakout characters from Shonda Rhimes’s beloved “Bridgerton” series has now gotten her own show. This short six episode series takes us into the life and love of Queen Charlotte, experiencing her life story through two different timelines. First, essentially, what is present day, meaning what the characters are experiencing in the “Bridgerton” timeline. And several decades earlier when Charlotte leaves Germany and comes to England to be Georgia’s chosen queen.

Jeff: I absolutely adored these six episodes. I love seeing the love story between Charlotte and George and how much they utterly care for each other with the rest of the chaos that’s going on in their lives.

I love seeing how the strong women of “Bridgerton” with the Queen and with Lady Danbury and even Violet Bridgerton, was formed back in those early years. Such a good story. And it’s finally the queering of “Bridgerton” also, as we get a wonderful storyline between Charlotte’s footman and George’s footman.

I’ve seen a lot of polarizing comments online about how people think that storyline turned out. I have my own thoughts on it and I am very happy to have seen that. There are some just wonderful scenes in there. And I would like to see “Bridgerton” try to queer itself more in the future, in the present timeline, if that’s possible.

Will: ” Queen Charlotte” is of course streaming right now on Netflix.

And if you’re interested in watching anything that we’ve just mentioned, you can find links of course, in the show notes.

Book Reviews

Jeff: Now, you mentioned just a moment ago that we had a plethora of books to talk about, and we certainly do. And you’re going to start us off with some YA books.

Afterglow by Phil Stamper

Will: So I definitely want to take a moment and talk about the latest from Phil Stamper. Now, we had the great pleasure of talking to Phil back in episode 414, and his book, “Golden Boys” was one of my favorite reads of 2022. That book is about a group of four friends who go off and have separate adventures during the summer before their senior year. Kind of a very gay “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” while the adventures of those boys continues in “Afterglow.” And it focuses on the four friends during their senior year of high school. Everyone returns.

Gabrielle is beginning to realize having a long-distance relationship isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, plus, he’s also investigating why certain queer titles are mysteriously disappearing from the school library. Keith has a minor injury that could have major consequences for his scholarship to Vanderbilt, and his future in baseball. Reese is combining his interest in art and fashion and experimenting with a brand-new drag persona. And Sal, who, you know, after the summer he spent in DC, a career on the Hill is definitely out of the question, but politics closer to home just might be where he can make the most difference.

Jeff: As we talked about in the episode where we had Phil on, I caught up to “Golden Boys.” I saw why you loved it so much. And I really enjoyed getting to come in just a few weeks after I’d read the first book to read the second one. These characters are so amazingly special. Their friendship is incredible. And I liked seeing here how each of them grew in some very different ways. They’re trying to figure out what the next thing is, how their friendships evolve, how to tell their friends that there are aspects of themselves that they’re discovering, and they have to figure out how to tell their friends what those are.

I thought that was particularly true with Reese trying to figure out the drag persona. And I love Sal so much. I would love to see Sal’s continuing adventures as he figures out this political activist kind of life that he’s going for. I loved it so much. I’m so glad you got me to read the first book. Because these characters are everything, and I think people will just love these books, and especially now because I could just do them back-to-back, it’d be a nice little binge read, I think.

Always the Almost by Edward Underhill

Will: So, in addition to “Golden Boys” and “Afterglow,” which we both recommend you check out, I wanted to quickly talk about another great YA book. This one is called the “Always the Almost” by debut author, Edward Underhill. And in this one, trans guy, Miles, has two goals in the new year. Be his arch-nemesis in the big piano competition, and win back Shane, his football player ex. And it says he’s kind of figuring out how exactly he’s going to accomplish these things, that he meets new guy, Eric, who is nice and artistic and cute.

So when an exclusive Valentine’s Day party becomes the in event to attend, Myles and Eric play fake boyfriends to score a couples-only invite. At the party Miles has an unexpected run-in with Cameron, the aforementioned nemesis, and separately, a slightly awkward, but not completely terrible interaction with Shane. The night ends with a kiss from Eric and what was once fake is now officially real. And it’s while exploring the nuances of being a boy with a boyfriend, Miles practices relentlessly with his new tough, but insightful Russian piano teacher.

The day of the preliminaries arrive, and he does well, making it into the finals in a couple of weeks. It’s then that a series of events leads to the realization that Miles isn’t interested in Shane anymore, but a rift with Eric leads to, it’s not a breakup, but it’s the torturous uncertainty of, you know, some time apart. And that sends ripple effects through his whole friend group. So, yeah, Miles has got a lot to patch up all while preparing for the big competition. And it isn’t easy, but he does both. And on the day of the finals, he is more confident in himself, in his relationship with Eric, and in his friendships, and he has restored his love of music.

I have to tell you, this book is so special. It is kind, it’s funny, a little bit angsty because, you know, it’s YA, but above all else, it’s about joy. In the author’s note at the end of the book, Edward Underhill explains that he wanted this book to be a lot of things. A coming-of-age story because, you know, again, YA. A rom-com, a love letter to classical music, which I thought was kind of fun and different because, you know, I certainly can’t think of many stories set in the world of classical piano competition. But he also specifically says that he wrote this story because I believe firmly that joy can be an act of resistance in challenging times. And trans and queer folks, especially now, deserve all the joy, which I personally could not possibly agree with more. So if you believe in queer joy as much as I do, I think you should check out “Always the Almost.”

The Tears of the Golden Tiger by Robin Knight

Will: Now to change things up, you’ve got a couple of books that lean into adventures and road trips.

Jeff: That is true. I’ve got a couple of great books here.

I’ve been a huge fan of the “Fathoms Five” series by Robin Knight ever since I read “The Cross of the Sins” back in 2008. It’s been some five years since the “Temple of Time” was out. But Professor Fathom’s men are back finally in “The Tears of the Golden Tiger”. And I couldn’t be more happy to have another action-filled installment of this series, and catch up with these amazing characters who were in some of the very first queer fiction and queer romance stories that I ever read. The series is often described as a queer “Indiana Jones,” and that so fits the bill.

In book one, Professor Fathom gathered together five men to help him. You’ve got Luka, an Italian model and expert in art, both ancient and modern. There’s even a Brazilian biologist, physician, and genetic engineer. Then you’ve got Shane, a Texas cowboy and an expert in cartography. There’s Will, a San Diego college student and football star who majors in ancient history. And last but not least, there’s treasure-hunter, Jake.

Now, along the way, they’ve added to the team as the guys found love, maybe needed some more expertise. Now you’ve got Journalist Daniel and Street-Smart Sam, who also happens to be Jake’s nephew. This book finds the team fractured as some of the crew previously disappeared, and they are still struggling to find a way to get them back. This time out, the professor, Shane, Jake, Sam, and Daniel have to figure out a way to save Eden, who was previously abducted and seemingly turned straight.

Is there any truth to what the tears of the golden tiger can do? Can they actually erase homosexuality? That’s what an eagle faction is hoping for as they raise the Fathoms team to India to get to the tears. For the Fathoms team, they want to find a way to bring Eden back to them. For the baddies, it’s about getting what they need to unleash their so-called cure on the world. As always, Robin writes a thrilling globetrotting adventure.

The team initially splits up to get what they need to get to the Golden Tiger because, of course, there’s a map missing, and the team never catches a break with the bad guys around every corner. Of course, that just adds to the fun edge-of-the-seat nature of these books. I love the cinematic way Robin presents these from exploring a shipwreck, to finding the map, to navigating vines to get to the temple where the Golden Tiger resides. Not to mention, everything that goes down in the temple because, of course, the bad guys are there right behind them. It is nonstop thrills. There’s time for some romance too. This time it’s Sam who might have found the one with pilot, Travis.

Their romance is so sweet as they have to move between trying to steal some alone moments, which isn’t easy with the tasks they’ve got to accomplish. Nor is it easy with Uncle Jake being a little overprotective of Sam. We also have glimpses of Shane and Daniel’s ongoing romance which, of course, I just loved. This is a terrific installment in the “Fathoms Five” series, bringing me everything I expect between the adventure and the romance. This book, as always, ends with one heck of a cliffhanger, courtesy of a villain that’s been a thorn in everyone’s side throughout the series. It’s all going to come down to the “Thief of Thunder,” which Robin says is the final book in the series.

I can’t wait to find out how Robin wraps everything up. If you’re already a fan of this series, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed with “The Tears of the Golden Tiger” from Robin Knight. If you’ve never started this series, now is the perfect time to pick up book one and get ready for the finale. Because I do recommend you read these in order so that you can appreciate the epic adventure that Robin has created.

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

Jeff: And switching over now to the latest from TJ Klune. It’s well documented through episodes of this podcast that I’m a huge fan of TJ’s. That certainly continues to be the case with “In the Lives of Puppets,” which is his latest and what he terms as the conclusion of his unofficial kindness trilogy that started with “The House in the Cerulean Sea” and continued with “Under the Whispering Door.” You’ll certainly see the threads of how kindness connects these books together. But where the other two books are really set for the most part inside certain places, this becomes a road trip adventure of the trilogy.

At alternate points, this book is very much “Swiss Family Robinson.” There’s some “Blade Runner,” there’s some “Terminator,” there’s “A Wizard of Oz” feel, and it is also very much rooted in “Pinocchio” too, which TJ has talked about previously on this podcast back in episode 391, when he was giving us a preview of “In the Lives of Puppets” when we were talking about “The Extraordinaries” finale.

As always, TJ does such an incredible job with characters, and there’s so many vibrant characters here. There’s Vic who’s a teenager, he is the only human in this group. He’s been living around robots most of his life because he was saved by Gio who is here standing in for Geppetto, he’s kind of been Vic’s father for so many years. There’s Rambo who happens to be a Roomba vacuum, who is obsessed with musicals.

There’s Nurse RATCHED, which stands for nurse registered automation to care, heal, educate, and drill. Then there’s HAP, which stands for hysterically angry puppet. Vic and Rambo and the nurse come across HAP while they’re out scavenging through the junk piles, looking for whatever they might need to survive up in the trees where they live. If you’ve seen the cover of the book, you’ll get an idea of this amazing place where they live harkening back to “Swiss Family Robinson”. But bringing Hap back from the junk area actually triggers off them being hunted down, and, unfortunately, a lot of destruction happens and Gio is taken away.

And they set off to get Gio back, which really leads to an amazing road trip that they ended up and go on to the city of Electric Dreams, which, as you might expect, is Las Vegas. I’m convinced that all evil things happen in books in Las Vegas, because it immediately made me think of Stephen King’s “The Stand,” which is where all of the evil people reside while the good people are holed up in Colorado. Anyway, I totally digress.

It also leads to what HAP actually is because HAP is only a small portion of what his acronym actually stands for. And it really reveals how the world became primarily robot dominated, and that there’s only a very few humans, Vic being one of them. It’s an amazing story of friendship between these characters, which, of course, is something that TJ excels at, bringing together the found family, and the power of that found family to bring people back, in particular, like Vic’s trajectory here as he goes from living this isolated life in this canopy of trees, to having to go out and see what the rest of the world is like and what has happened to the world that has only been kind of hinted at to him.

And Vic also has to grow up a lot going from just teenager to literally fighting for his life and for his friend’s life. It’s really amazing what TJ has managed to put together into this book. It was very much a page-turner. I feel like I was more captivated by the characters themselves, almost more than what they were doing because they were so vividly drawn, and I wanted each one of them to succeed. It was just such an amazing read.

And part of the amazing read was because of the narration from Daniel Henning. I totally just inhaled the audiobook. His narration is always outstanding, but, in particular, his performance of HAP and of Nurse RATCHED was just incredible. I would like to understand from a technical point of view some of what went into creating Hap’s voice, because he’s got a glitchy voice box. And I’m kind of just wondering how Daniel approached that or what technology they might have used in post-production to give him that. it was so incredibly good and sometimes the glitching also just adds to that performance for Hap. So, I was really into the audiobook. So, I definitely think you should check out “In the Lives of Puppet” and, of course, as always, I look forward to seeing what TJ does next.

A Fashionable Deception by Sera Taíno

Jeff: I’ve also got some terrific contemporary romances to recommend.

“A Fashionable Deception” by Sera Taíno is a wonderful fake dating romance between Milo of the Deltora fashion house, and Alex, a model Milo meets during a fashion show. Milo needs a date to his parent’s anniversary extravaganza, so that he can avoid all the discussions on why he hasn’t settled down yet. Alex appears to be the perfect companion. Not only is he handsome, he’s also great in the conversation department. These two couldn’t be more different, though. Milo was born into a family fashion business, which also happens to have the seedier side that he stays away from.

Alex holds down multiple jobs, including modeling gigs in order to take care of himself and his younger sister. Right now, Alex is trying to save enough to let his sister go on a class trip to Europe. And the money from his fake-dating Milo will cover that. What Alex doesn’t know right away is that he’s lost a booking for a show in Paris, which he very much wanted in order to raise his profile in the business because Milo wanted to make sure Alex would take the fake-dating job. You know that’s going to come back and be an issue later.

Milo and Alex couldn’t be better together, and that becomes apparent to both of them pretty quickly. Milo isn’t used to opening up, or having people call him out when he’s being too privileged. Alex, meanwhile, is drawn to someone like Milo who exudes confidence at every turn, and the more he gets to know Milo, he finds that there are depths to that confidence that make him even more attractive. One of the things I love most about Alex is that he’s decided early on that one of his goals for the trip would be getting Milo to smile about something to break the wall of all-serious all the time.

I love how Sera takes the compressed timeline, which is basically meeting at the fashion show, and then the two days that make up the trip to the parents. Sera makes it work so well for a little bit of instant love to take place between Milo and Alex. Every conversation they have about how they grew up, their current lives, and ultimately what they want, just draw them closer and closer together. Each of them find qualities they like in the other, and qualities that they like to be around. Oh, and by the way, the sex is great too.

Let me tell you, Sera, right, sexy steamy moments between these two that you just know are going to get hotter as they get to know each other better and better. This was a perfect bite-sized romance, and everything I would want out of a novella-sized read. I loved getting to know these characters as they got to know each other. I also liked how they navigated through the tough discussion on Alex losing that Paris job because of Milo. So if you’re a fan of the fake-dating trope, I hope you’ll consider adding “ A Fashionable Deception” to your reading list.

The Best Man’s Problem by Sera Taíno

After loving “A Fashionable Deception” so much, I was eager to read a full novel from Sera. And she did not disappoint with “The Best Man’s Problem”, which is Book 2 in the “Navarro” series that’s part of Harlequin Presents. This enemies-to-lovers opposites-attract story set in the lead-up to a wedding was absolutely wonderful. Raphael and Navarro shared a kiss years ago with Étienne Galois. It was a moment of recklessness Rafi would love to forget about because Étienne had ghosted him ever since. It’s hard to forget, though, with Étienne is on hand for all the wedding events, and even more, inescapable, when they ended up working on the bachelor party together. Rafi only agrees to this because he would do anything for a sister, and he wants Val and Philip’s wedding to be perfect.

Rafi and Étienne are so fun off the page. It starts out with a lot of friction. They don’t seem compatible at all. Rafi is detail-oriented, very into schedules, and wants everything just so. It makes him a perfect party planner. Étienne is more a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy. He’ll likely be late wherever he’s going. He won’t pack for a trip until the last minute. Actually, planning something isn’t really in his wheelhouse. That becomes clear when Rafi brings out a spreadsheet to help with the planning, and it just that moment alone causes so much tension.

Unfortunately, these two aren’t great at talking either. And maybe sorting through that baggage that sits between them by, was Rafi ghosted? Instead, they plug away at the party planning. It all goes in fits and starts, but they do make progress and they do find a way to get along, and even get a party planned. That’s a big hit. I absolutely love how Sera brought these two together. The sparks between them as they argue party planning methods are so honestly cute. And it shows the glimmers of how good they could be together. For both of them, the desire grows, even as they wonder how they could possibly be a couple as opposite as they are. Rafi is scared to love and open his heart. Étienne also has trepidation about opening up. The reasons for this run deep, and when it’s finally all revealed, it was a big emotional weight lifted for both of them. And frankly, for me too, as the reader.

Sera rolls this out in such a great way. I wanted to see these two succeed, and they did. It wasn’t easy to get there because of the things that happened to both of them in their past. But yes, it was a fantastic payoff. And when these two come together, man, the sparks fly. They are so smokin’ hot once they get past their hangups, and they’ve got great people in their corner too. In particular, I loved Rafi’s family. They support him. They make him feel heard, but they also give him a kick in the pants to get him to take a leap. Just exactly like you want a good family to do. I’m really glad I’ve discovered Sera’s books, and I look forward to seeing her next queer romance. In the meantime, I recommend “The Best Man’s Problem” for a great enemies-to-lovers read.

The New Guy by Sarina Bowen

Jeff: I mentioned earlier how well documented my love of TJ Klune is. Another fandom that has been chronicled many times in this podcast is my love of Sarina Bowen’s hockey romances. And her latest, “The New Guy,” fits right in there with the others that I adore so much. The story of Hudson and Gavin is swoony good. The things that I like about this book start with the meet-cute itself. Hudson and Gavin are both new guys. Hudson is new to the Brooklyn Bruisers hockey team, but he’s stuck at home while the team plays in Boston because he’s hurt. Gavin is a new athletic trainer for the Bruisers. These two meet at a bar watching the Brooklyn-Boston game.

Neither knows they’re about to be colleagues. They watch the game. They flirt a little. They play some Ping-Pong, they decide to leave together. But guess what? They’re also neighbors. That makes Hudson call off the hookup. You see, he’s not out to anyone in Brooklyn, or really to anyone outside of some close family and friends. Of course, the angst level around that amps up once they show up to work the next day. I do love a good workplace romance, and this one has it all. They can’t really get away from each other at work since Gavin, of course, has to help Hudson rehab. They can’t get away at home since they live across the hall from each other. It is such a brilliant setup.

None of this keeps them from feeling the attraction grow from that initial inkling in the bar. Hudson sees a great guy in Gavin, and even a family too since Gavin has the cutest daughter. Meanwhile, Gavin is feeling attraction for the first time since his husband passed away. Both guys have a lot of concerns about what a relationship could mean, even in the best of circumstances. But here, there’s a lot stacked against them. But as they spend more time together, including some super cute time with 7-year-old, Jordan, it gets harder for them to deny what could be. I was so swept up in these guys’ cuteness. This was a real page-turner for me because I just didn’t want to leave their story.

Never aside to the workplace stuff and Gavin sorting out what it means to find love again, they both have some monstrous people on their lives. And I don’t use that word lightly. Gavin’s in-laws are pretty terrible as they put pressure on Gavin to have Jordan spend the summer with them. And they even threaten to take custody away from him. He’s not sure what to do. He wants the best for Jordan. But it’s a lot being a single dad even when he’s got some help from a very supportive sister.

Meanwhile, Hudson’s father, who also serves as his agent, is terrible. He’s not really allowing his son to come out. And in many ways, not even looking out for Hudson’s career, but he’s more wrapped up in what he wants Hudson to be and how that aligns to his own legacy. I’m happy to say that I loved how Sarina wrapped up the pot to the parents, and how eventually Gavin and Hudson were able to get their HEA. It was hard go in there for a while and I’m just reading the book that you’ve heard me talking about a few times before. It’s like how are they ever going to solve all of this? But Sarina did it in her usual fantastic style. So for a wonderful workplace romance with some great internal and external aims to be worked out, I don’t think you can go wrong with “The New Guy” by Sarina Bowen.

Never Have I Ever Gone Skinny Dipping by Riley Hart

Will: Will: Alright, now I think I’m going to wrap us up with some great shorts and novellas that I’ve read.

So I recently enjoyed the short, “Never Have I Ever Gone Skinny Dipping” by Riley Hart. And the cover of this one is illustrated, it’s gorgeous. So that drew me in immediately, and plus, it’s got Riley Hart’s name on it. So I’m, of course, gonna read it. This one is about shy, nice guy, Mickey, and he’s a librarian by day, and erotic romance author by night. And if what I just said doesn’t make you automatically want to read this, then you are obviously listening to the wrong show. Now, Mickey has a favorite coffee shop to work in, owned by the irresistible, Ronan, who also has a sex-positivity podcast that Mickey is a big fan of.

Now, over the course of the story, in his own time, Mickey stepped out of his comfort zone, first flirting with Ronan, getting to know him, and dating, and having some super-hot sexy times. Yes, eventually skinny dipping. And Mickey and Ronan’s case, it was always meant to be, it just took them a little longer than usual to realize it. Oh, their super sweet short has got lots of banter and so much heart. And if you have a few spare moments in your day, I really hope you’ll pick up “Never Have I Ever Gone Skinny Dipping”.

Pick One by May Archer

Will: Well, recently, not too long ago, I read two amazing novellas, the first of which was “Pick One” by May Archer. In this one, after a breakup, Teagan needs help moving into his new sublease. And when big brawny, John, shows up, they go over to Teagan’s old place where John helps put that jerk face ex in his place. They bring Teagan’s prized tufted sofa back, and it’s then that he realizes that John isn’t his brother’s best friends and to help him with the move, John is actually his brand-new roommate. A year later, they’re still roommates and the best-est of best friends, but everyone around them knows what they are not yet ready to admit, that they are absolutely in love, and totally meant for one another.

One afternoon when Teagan texts that he has some big news to share with John when he gets home, it sets off a chain of events in absurd and wacky cascade of rom-com misunderstandings that leaves them to finally face what they really want, each other. And that night they are able to admit their true feelings, and after releasing a year’s worth of pent-up sexual tension, that get down to the business of planning the rest of their lives together. Oh, guys, it is so schmoopy and perfect.

“Pick One” is a pitch-perfect friends-to-lovers rom-com novella that while it’s loosely connected to May Archer’s other series, it can totally be read and appreciated all by itself.

The Tinker’s Apprentice by Jordan Castillo Price

Will: I also recently read “The Tinker’s Apprentice” by Jordan Castillo Price, and in this one, Conrad, who works at a magical repair shop is having problems deciding what directions he wants his life to take. Across the street from Conrad is the auxiliar shop, a kind of pet store with magical companions. Now, in this story world, auxiliars can take any form from cute kitty, or puppy, or weird little Gargoyle, but Rune has decided on a human form, a form that Conrad has definitely noticed from his shop window across the way, and a spontaneous moment of decisiveness. Being decisive is not Conrad’s strong suit, but he finally decides to ask Rune out, and they really click, having a great dinner together and even greater time afterwards. Wink, wink if you get what I mean.

The next day, Conrad is compelled to finally choose an auxiliar. He goes to the store and picks up a weird greenish-gray blob. Someone in the story describes it as potato-like, and when he gets at home, it transforms into Rune. You see, the blob thingy is his true ancient form, kind of like a trilobite. Those little petrified seashell thingamajiggers. Anyway, Rune may not know much about the modern world, but he’s been around long enough and is pretty much expert at fixing anything magic conical. Conrad and Rune can now live happily ever after and together, they can tackle whatever magical challenges come their way.

So this short description, it like barely even scratches the surface of all of the wonderful stuff Jordan Castillo Price jams into this really funny, super quirky romance. And admittedly, I haven’t read as much Jordan Castillo Price as everybody else, but I do know that there is absolutely nobody else who can combine the sweet, but the absurd for their very own specific blend of cozy, paranormal, fantasy romance. It’s completely unique and utterly charming. And I think you’ll all enjoy “The Tinkers Apprentice” as much as I did.


Jeff: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our recommendations for yourself, check out the show notes page for this episode at We’ve also got links to everything that we talked about in this episode.

And as a quick reminder, if we didn’t give you enough book recommendations here, you can also get book recommendations in your inbox every Friday. You can sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, this podcast’s official newsletter. We feature new releases and coming soon books to keep your TBR up to date. You can sign up over at

Will: Alright, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next Monday, Ari Baran is going to join us and talk about their debut romance, “Game Misconduct.”

Jeff: I love this book so, so, so, so… just infinite so’s attached to that… much. I have no doubt it’s going to be on my favorite list for this year. You’re not going to want to miss my conversation with Ari about this incredible enemies to lovers hockey romance.

Will: 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.

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