Jeff & Will begin by recommending Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa, which is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice.

To wrap up Valentine’s month, the guys take a deep dive on one of their all-time favorite romances, Romancing the Rough Diamond by Clare London.

Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, March 11.

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Show Notes

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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we wrap up Valentine’s Month by revisiting one of our favorite romances.

Will: Welcome to episode 448 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 is great to have you back for another episode of the show.

As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, including the opportunity to ask questions to our guests, go to

Book Recommendation: Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa

Will: Now, as we get started, we wanted to tell you about a book that Jeff and I both recently read. And let’s start the discussion by talking about Jane Austen for a second. I mean, you don’t need me to tell you there have been endless adaptations and remakes and reimaginings of Jane Austen stories. We all know them. We all love them. If we didn’t, then writers wouldn’t keep writing them and Hollywood wouldn’t keep making them.

When it comes to modern takes, there’s “Clueless,” which is a perfect nineties teen rom com take on “Emma.” There’s also “Bridget Jones,” as well as one of my favorite movies of the past few years, “Fire Island.” Both of those riff on the characters and situations in “Pride and Prejudice.”

Which brings us to the recent release I want to talk about “Most Ardently” by Gabe Cole Novoa. Trust me when I say this is the perfect queer trans remix of “Pride and Prejudice,” one that we have always needed. I’m not gonna go into too much detail about the plot of the book because we all know what “Pride and Prejudice” is about. But I will say that the characters that we all know and love, the classic scenes, the tent pole moments, they’re all, there just with a modern twist. I would describe “Most Ardently” as a modern take on “Pride and Prejudice” that just so happens to be set during the regency.

The main character is Oliver, who is exploring his transness, while also having to navigate society as the young woman the world sees him as. I think the themes of the original book are given an interesting added dimension when we layer in trans identity and Oliver’s trials and tribulations of inhabiting society’s differing expectations of men and women. Now, you know, all the fancy talk of themes aside, this book is really damn funny and it’s sweet and sincere, and of course incredibly romantic.

Jeff: I have really enjoyed the “Remix” series that has been coming out over the last couple of years. We talked in depth a little bit last year about “Self-Made Boys” from Anna-Marie McLemore, who took on “The Great Gatsby” and also put transness into that book and how it changed and evolved the story for more modern times.

Gabe Cole Novoa has done the same thing here. The emotions that kind of ran through me as I read this ran the gambit because Gabe manages to capture for us the intense emotions that Oliver goes through, whether it’s how he feels when he is dead named, or when he has to put himself into women’s clothes, or just getting through society when he has to be a young woman. But then the joy that he feels when he’s able to become his true self, and wear men’s clothes, and when he’s addressed as “sir” or by his name.

It’s just exquisite the way it happens. And it was a great revisit to “Pride and Prejudice.” You listed off some of our favorite things there, like “Fire Island.” And coming back to “Pride and Prejudice” in this way, it is, as you noted, the perfect modern retelling of it. And I’m so glad it’s out there and highly encourage everyone to read it because it’s just a wonderful new take on this classic story.

Will: If all that sounds good and you want to give “Most Ardently” a try, it is available in ebook, hardback and audio book. Jeff and I both listened to that and highly recommend it.

Book Discussion: Romancing the Rough Diamond by Clare London

Will: Now as Valentine’s month wraps up, we wanted to do something special and revisit one of our all-time favorite romances. Clare London has been one of our go-to authors for nearly 15 years. Her books are so witty and full of romance. They’re typically pretty low on the angst scale. There’s lots of nice guys doing nice things, and all the tropey goodness you could ever want.

Jeff: And on top of that, Clare is one of the nicest people. I remember when I met her the first time at New York’s Rainbow Book Fair back in March of 2010. She was so kind and wonderful to this newbie author who had just published a holiday short at the end of 2009.

One of our favorite series of Claire’s is the “Romancing the…” series, which includes “Romancing the Wrong Twin,” “Romancing the Ugly Duckling,” “Romancing the Undercover Millionaire,” and “Romancing the Rough Diamond.” These are all category romance delights, and “Romancing the Rough Diamond” is the perfect book to talk about as we wrap up this month.

Will: So, without further adieu, let’s dive into our Big Gay Fiction Book Club discussion of Clare London’s “Romancing the Rough Diamond.”

Jeff: I’m so glad that you picked this book. You have been the one to read the previous books in the “Romancing the…” Series, and I was so glad to read this one because, to me, it captures everything that Clare does so well in her writing. She captures London, she captures England. There’s a little bit of royalness in it, which I always love in a book. And then you’ve got these two wonderful characters that we’re gonna get to talk about.

Will: Yeah, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think this is essentially quintessential Clare London in terms of style and content is something I really, really enjoyed. And can’t wait to talk about today.

Let’s kick things off with our main character. At the beginning of the book, we learned that Joel is the CEO of Starsmith Jewels, and he is bored out of his mind at an industry event when he gets the news that the company has been chosen for a royal commission. A prince, who is apparently eighth in line of succession, is marrying his opera star fiancé, and Starsmith has been chosen to bejewel the whole shebang.

Jeff: Bejewel, the whole shebang, I like that.

I love what Clare did here, that she did not make up a royal monarchy for England out of nowhere. She made this prince, Prince Artie, or Prince Arthur if you want to be more official about it, as a younger brother to Harry and William. And she just kind of fictionalized the existing royal family. And to me that just added to the richness of the story because it was just right there with the royals that we know about already.

Will: Joel is approached at the hotel bar by a ruggedly handsome guy, and he decides that, you know, since he’s had this fantastic news, why not celebrate.

The other guy is Matt, and he is a former jewelry designer, and he is at this boring industry event on behalf of Barth Gemstones, that’s his family business. Matt decides to chat up this handsome guy at the bar, and despite a kind of awkward, shaky start, it becomes readily apparent that they both share a passion for the beauty of precious metal and stones, and they eventually share a secluded kiss. But it’s interrupted when Matt gets a call about his father who’s experienced a medical emergency.

Jeff: Nothing like a badly timed phone call to interrupt things because I really love this moment of the meet cute, of they’re just these strangers in a bar, and they’ve got this shared love of jewelry and gemstones, and all of that. And it makes for this perfect moment that was just interrupted by something.

But I really like their chemistry from the get-go too because you can tell that these two have a certain snap and crackle that is just gonna permeate through the whole book from here. And it’s just really awesome to get it so well spelled out so early.

Will: A week later, project Palace is underway at Starsmith and Adam, who is the head designer, has called in our freelance designer to help with the project and, surprise, surprise, that designer is, Matt

Jeff: Clare wrote this so perfectly, that moment where you can just tell that something’s about to pop here because these guys who met in the bar are now suddenly arriving in the workplace together and Joel certainly has the upper hand because, you know, he’s the boss in this situation too. And not just the boss, but the CEO of the whole fricking company.

It creates quite the moment for these two, plus everybody in the room who can palpably feel the tension that has just erupted amongst them. And I do love the name Project Palace. She codenamed this project so nicely.

Will: Now Matt has arrived in order to give them a piece of his mind because Starsmith has recently bought out Barth’s, his family business. He was at the earlier industry event in place of his father, and it was the stress of the upcoming business deal that caused his father’s panic attack that night.

So, after Matt angrily rails against corporate culture, he is offered the design job. It’s an interesting opportunity and frankly, he needs the money. So, he eventually decides to trust Joel and go with it, and he says yes.

Jeff: It’s a very interesting turn of events from, you know, railing on the people who might be hiring you to come work for us anyway because we really like your talent. And there’s been a little deception along the way here too, because when Matt met Joel back at the bar, he misheard Joel’s name as Joe. So, when he walked in, he didn’t even quite know that it was Joel, who he had already met, which just kind of adds to Matt’s frustration.

Interestingly, both of these men have kind of hair triggers, which makes their relationship all the more fiery, and we’ll certainly see that play out as the book goes on too. It’s just another nice element that Clare’s kind of wrapped into all of this.

Will: Now there is still unresolved sexual tension between them, but Matt works well with the rest of the Project Palace design team, as the initial designs and concepts are hashed out.

Jeff: This is an area that could have weighed down the book as we get into some of the design moments here. There’s a lot of sitting over the table and pouring over designs, and people sketching this and sketching that, and looking at different things, and Clare manages to make this scene click by well. She’s keeping up good character development between Matt and Joel here. And it all just ties together so well. I felt like I was in that room, watching the design session, and I actually really enjoyed it.

Will: Yeah, definitely.

Then comes word of a royal invitation. The team is expected at a casual reception where the grooms would like to see some of the initial design concepts.

Jeff: And boy, don’t you know that that throws them into a twirl because they weren’t quite expecting to have to show this early. And you know, who wouldn’t get nervous over a royal invitation.

Will: So, in the days leading up to the event, Matt is feeling, you know, quite out of his depth with this invitation. And at his cousin’s Norfolk farm, they discuss several different things, including the business takeover.

And Matt really comes to understand for the first time that Barth’s wasn’t prepared to move forward and be a forward-facing modern kind of business. And the buyout really was the best thing for everybody involved. He also learns that his dad has been dating a local woman, and the family thinks that Matt himself could use a social life as well. Maybe perhaps with his incredibly handsome boss.

Jeff: Indeed, because why not hook up with the boss? I really like Matt’s family, especially Caro. She will say whatever’s on her mind. She will lay it out for you exactly what she thinks you need to be doing. She was really a delight through this book and kind of being a guiding beacon for Matt as he’s still kind of, you know, finding his way through this relationship and what the sale of the family business actually meant to him.

Will: Meanwhile, at the same time in London, Joel is finishing up a late night at the office. And you know, he’s obviously very worried about the upcoming presentation and the party, and he has a chat with his assistant, Theresa. And they talk about how well Matt has been integrated and is working with the rest of the team.

The business talk is all well and good, but Joel is a little bit lonely, and he has no one to go home to. And he’s thinking that Matt might fit the bill. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they kind of explored what they were tentatively doing that night at the hotel bar.

Jeff: Yeah. These two both tiptoe around each other so much and it’s just part of what Clare’s captured so well here as the, I kind of want to do that, I shouldn’t do that. Will the business let me do that? Is it the best thing for me and my family? And on and on and on.

It’s a wonderful dance that just keeps going and it’s just a delicious bit of the story that it’s not happening too fast. It kind of gives it a little bit of a slow burn element without dragging on too far.

Will: The big day arrives, and Matt is understandably a little bit overwhelmed at the event, but Joel handles everything with poise and grace. And they are introduced to Prince Arthur. Now while Joel and Adam, who’s the head designer, and Theresa, presents the initial designs, Matt hangs back and chats with another guest about all of the, you know, pomp and the circumstance. He’s kind of like… he appreciates the splendor, but he is kind of rolling his eyes internally at all of this nonsense.

Jeff: It’s very interesting to me how Matt looks at the room and, like, is impressed by, like, the craftsmanship. And he’s even taking away certain elements of things to maybe work into the design, while at the same time going, oh my God, this is way too much.

Will: Matt later realizes that the guide that he’s been talking to is actually Paolo Astra, the Prince’s fiancé.

Jeff: Paolo, my goodness. I love this character. I wish there’d been a book somewhere that was his and Artie’s courtship and falling in love because Paolo is so… I don’t want to necessarily say snarky, but he’s got a unique sense of playful humor that messes with Matt in really the best way possible to throw him off guard.

Will: Arthur and Paolo appreciate his candor and it’s during this, like, slightly awkward exchange that Matt ends up spit balling some brand-new ideas for the wedding gift designs.

Jeff: Which you know is exactly the thing you’re not supposed to do in front of the client before you have vetted it with the rest of your team.

Oopsie. On the other hand, they’re also really good ideas that everybody loves.

Will: As the evening comes to an end, Matt and Joel walked together through the streets of London. And Matt was undoubtedly a fish out of water, but no more than Joel might be on his cousin’s farm, which is a sort of a challenge slash dare that Joel accepts. And they share several passionate kisses, and it really boils down to they shouldn’t be doing this, but that doesn’t stop either of them from wanting it.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s been pent up this whole time, since the bar, which has now at this point been, you know, weeks since then. And it’s not only something they both want because of their growing connection to each other, but frankly, they’ve worked really hard and they’re wanting to let off a little bit of steam too.

Will: Joel arrives at the farm in rainy Norfolk and has a cup of coffee in the kitchen with Caro, Matt’s sister-in-law, and he ends up opening up and telling her about his childhood. It turns out that his parents were crooks and swindlers and everything that he has, he got from good, honest work.

Jeff: Yeah. And he doesn’t want to be compared to his parents. He does everything he can to bury this information. And it was an interesting moment to me that he opened it up to this woman who, you know, he just sat down across from. But it’s also… she’s got this way too, that people just want to sit down and talk to her. She’s often the confidant for Matt, and now she’s suddenly turned into one for Joel as well.

This particular sequence at the farm is one of my two very favorite passages in the book, and I’ll call out the other one when we get to it. It puts Joel and Matt at such an even playing field all of a sudden since now Joel is out of his element. But it also shows too the connection that these two guys have formed already and how strong it’s become because there’s some really nice stuff that goes on here as Joel gets a really good look at Matt’s life.

Will: So, one of Matt’s side interests is archeology, and on his cousin’s farm, out in the field, they have sort of an amateur digging site. They’ve found bits of old Roman pottery and some coins. So, they take Joel out to see the site. And things get cozy in the tent that they’ve put up over the dig to keep it dry. But the rain picks up again, and in a race back to the Jeep, Joel falls flat on his face into the mud.

Jeff: Yeah. This just adds to the farmhouse scene because you know, Joel always tries to be this perfectly composed person, and now he just goes splat.

Will: Back at the farmhouse, both of our heroes get cleaned up and after their individual showers, they unintentionally see each other naked. And they realize that resisting one another is really dumb, especially when the attraction is so incredibly obvious.

Jeff: Yeah, there’s no getting around this at this point that they need to have this moment together and it’s time.

Will: Yeah, they end up kissing and having terrific sex in Matt’s bedroom at the farmhouse. And they both realize afterwards that this could be the start of something really great and they make plans to get together when they’re both back in London.

Jeff: This is that point in the book where you just go, oh, it’s happening. Or at least I did. I don’t know what anybody else does, but that was the moment for me.

Will: So, it’s several more days before they can actually have some quality time together. And after a visit to the metallurgist where the pieces are being handcrafted, Joel invites Matt back to his place.

Jeff: There is so much that goes on in this particular day between the goldsmith, which is something else along in the jewelry making thing that I really enjoyed that sequence to kind of put more in perspective what they’re actually doing in this project.

Will: Yeah, you get a sense of their world. Clare could have easily kind of glossed over this part, kind of just giving it a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” kind of sheen. But she really gets down into the creativity that goes into the designing of jewelry, and the hard work and handcrafting it takes to make these special pieces.

Jeff: Yeah. At the same time, she doesn’t give you too much. Like I said before, when they were sitting around the design table, you’re not like, “God, hurry up, finish.” It’s like, this is really fascinating. I could read about this for a little bit more. It’s just enough to give you the sense, as you said, of their world. It’s part of just what makes the book so good in my opinion. And then there’s the dinner that, you know, they finally get to have a little bit of a dinner moment, which is just, it’s nice.

Will: Yeah. Their night together is, of course, you know, hot and sexy and intense, but at the same time, it’s also very comfortable and very relaxed.

Jeff: Yeah, they’re not having like first date jitters. I think they’re, you know, they’re past those because they’ve been together so much that they can now get into that more comfortable phase of this relationship, even though it’s still really new in a lot of ways.

Will: Yeah, they let down some of their walls and Joel even tells Matt about his complicated family history and the problems that he had growing up.

Jeff: Yeah, I was really glad that they finally got to this point because I keep coming back to leveling the playing field and it really levels the, the playing field between these two guys because they’re now both aware of the others’ family issues. You know, with Matt, it was the fact that his father really wanted to sell the business, which Matt didn’t really understand, and now Matt understands more of why Joel operates the way that he does because of what his parents did.

Will: So, several weeks of hard work and cute coupledom pass until Joel sees a Starsmith rival coming out of the address that Matt had mentioned was his friend’s place that he’s staying at while he’s in the city. And on the way back to the office, he spots some tchotchkes and a souvenir shop, all of them that feature the brand new Starsmith design.

Jeff: Talk about a spiral. This was like all of Joel’s worst nightmares come off at the same time. There was an argument back at that trade show at the beginning of the book with this particular person that he sees come out of what’s supposed to be Matt’s place, and then their worst fear, as you said, came to pass, that the design that is supposed to be super-secret has, you know, been made public weeks before it was supposed to be shown off by the palace.

Will: The scene that Joel causes in the souvenir shop is nothing compared to what goes down in the Starsmith offices. Matt is the only new addition to the team, and the fact that he’s staying in the flat of a Starsmith competitor makes him a prime suspect. And the thing is that the idea that Joel even thinks he could sabotage the project, sends Matt storming out.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s one character spiraling after another here. And it really, in the wake, at Starsmith also shocks everybody because the Starsmith team has really witnessed Matt step up and really break himself out of the mold that he’s been in, cast in as kind of like this guy that’s difficult to work with and doesn’t really show up for a team and things like that. Matt has proven himself here, so everybody but Joel’s also like, are you sure it’s him? Because it really can’t be him.

It’s really tense. And you know, one of those moments that’s just so perfectly written to create tension between the two characters and with all the side characters too because everybody’s been thrown into tension at this point in the story.

Will: So, outside the office, Theresa stops Matt before he can catch a cab and walk away forever. And they talk about how the fraud and betrayal of Joel’s parents might’ve made him act so out of character. And Matt does understand this reasoning, and he even is slightly amused at the viral video of Joel losing his shit in the souvenir shop.

He sees it as a sign that not only is Joel passionate about something, but that sort of buttoned up, high tone facade that he always projects to the outside world, he’s like letting some of that go and just being a hundred percent totally real. And he understands that passion because he’s mad too that this has gotten out into the world before it was supposed to.

Jeff: The whole teddy bear viral video thing is just essentially another splat into the mud for Joel.

Will: Yeah.

Jeff: Although this one was a lot more public. It’s every bit the British tabloid culture that I think we’ve all come to know from watching scandals in Britain. And that’s exactly what Joel found himself in the middle of.

Will: So even though Matt understands some of the underlying motivations of what Joel has done, he’s not quite sure, and he doesn’t see how they can get past this. And in a video chat with his family back at the farm, they are able to convince Matt that things might be hard right now, but the project is worth fighting for and Joel is worth the same.

Jeff: Family for the win on that one, making Matt see what needs to be done. And it’s also a moment for Matt to fully resolve things with his dad over the sale of Barth Gems as well because they really get to have a heart-to-heart talk, and settle some things between them, which was a really nice moment.

Will: Meanwhile, Joel is drowning his sorrows at the hotel bar where our two heroes initially met. He realizes that he screwed up. He was so very, very wrong. But the thing is he doesn’t know where he can find Matt. Theresa and Adam join him and they do some quick problem solving. I mean, it obviously wasn’t Matt who leaked the designs, and it becomes obvious who it might actually be.

Jeff: I was shocked. Were you shocked by who leaked the designs?

Will: No, I think it actually makes sense because our characters just took a beat and thought about it and it’s like, oh, they did it. Someone on the marketing team who was in on the preliminary design meetings is actually the culprit. And once that is dealt with, Joel wants to apologize to Matt and set things right, but Matt’s not answering his phone, and no one knows where he’s gone.

Jeff: I’m glad it didn’t surprise you. Surprised the hell out of me. I had somebody else pegged for it completely, who had been such a dick about Matt upfront. I thought Matt was being set up to fail, so Clare pulled one over on me. Because you’re right, it did make sense as it was spelled out in the book, but still I was like, wait, what?

Will: Matt is so desperate to fix things for Joel and Starsmith that he gets the wild notion that if he can just explain the whole situation in person, that he can set things right, which leads to an incredibly strange and hilarious “I Love Lucy” moment outside of Buckingham Palace.

Jeff: Remember that I told you I had two favorite scenes in the book. Well, welcome to the other one. I don’t know what Matt was thinking. When he had this cockamamie idea that he could just kind of sneak his way into the palace and have a chat with the prince and the fiancé. But there you go. You’re calling it a “I Love Lucy” moment is perfect.

Will: Yeah. He tries to clamor over the gates and ends up getting his jeans stuck on one of the pointy spires, and he is basically just dangling there when the guards find him. It’s really ridiculous, but also proves the lengths that Matt is willing to go in order to set things right.

Jeff: Because of course, if the royals aren’t returning your phone calls, you want to climb over their fence.

Will: So incredibly, he does in fact gain access to Arthur and Paolo and does his best to explain the situation. And the prince is wonderful and completely understanding.

Jeff: And you know, Paolo is his usual flirty, sort of, playful self. And also, along with Artie, just explaining that, you know, as far as the palace is concerned, this is all fine because they’re used to dealing with scandal and weirdness and all that kind of stuff. And this hardly even made a blip on their radar apparently.

Will: So, Monday rolls around and Joel hasn’t come up with an idea how to save the situation. He’s ready to throw in the towel when it comes to the commission, but his team has his back and they’re ready to go to bat for him. But they receive word from the palace that Matt is being held at the Tower of London.

Jeff: And this just extends the hilarity a little bit more from the climbing of the fence. Artie and Paolo, I tell you, they’re a pair.

Will: Definitely.

So, Joel goes to the Tower of London and when he arrives, he’s taken to a secret pub for a meeting with the Prince, Paolo, and Matt in attendance. The prince assures him that everything is going to be fine and proceed exactly as planned. And he and Paolo take a step back as Matt and Joel finally have a chance to sit down with one another and have the heart to heart that they so very much need. Finally, both of them apologizing and saying their I love yous.

Jeff: Yes. royal matchmakers for the win there hauling them off to the Tower of London.

Will: I know.

Jeff: It’s so super sweet. And these scenes with Matt trying to clamor over that fence and then Joel having to go to the Tower of London and the Prince and Paolo doing this. This is, as you put it, the quintessential Clare London because this is what she does oh so well in her writing, these kinds of scenes.

Will: Yeah, scenes that on the surface seem absurd, but she always seems to manage to drill down to the humanity and the emotion. And it makes it completely plausible.

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. This would make such a good movie.

Will: Definitely.

Jeff: Because you could just imagine like some of the montages with the design work and everything, and the whole farm. Yeah. It’s, oh, so good.

Will: So, the magical day arrives, and the royal wedding is unsurprisingly a gorgeous, glamorous, beautiful affair and a wonderful success for Starsmith. Matt and Joel decide to skip the ritzy receptions and after parties and go back to Joel’s apartment, which is now their house.

Jeff: Awww.

Will: Matt admits the depths of his feelings for Joel and gives him a gift that may or may not be a proposal. It does include rings, some beautifully handcrafted rings.

Jeff: That are just perfectly made from some of the things that have been found on the farm at the archeological dig. So, it helps bring all of that back full circle as well, which was really a delightful touch.

Will: Which brings our story to a super sweet and romantic close.

Jeff: I love this so much. If the other “Romancing the…” books are in the same tone and vibe as this one, I want to read all of them because this was so super sweet and so wonderful. I just loved everything about this. It just, it gave me all the happy feels.

Will: Yeah. Like we said before, I think this is the thing that Clare excels at. She manages to take scenes that might be mundane, or things that might be outrageous, and really makes them something very, very special.

Jeff: You encapsulated it so well there. I mean, Matt and Joel, they’re two wildly different people while they both work inside the jewelry business. Joel, as this much more, you know, buttoned up sort of facade that he was carrying around to be this super young CEO at this big company, that if this were set in America, Starsmith would’ve been Tiffany’s, I think. In terms of how we consider jewelry over here.

And then you’ve got Matt, who is really on the design side and the creative side, doesn’t really want to deal with the business, but is kind of interested in the business. Really has his heart on the farm. And you know, the archeological stuff.

They’re really two opposite people and Clare brings them together in such the perfect way. It’s just a delightful romance. It makes me squishy just sitting here talking about it.

Will: I really fell hard for Matt because he’s a study in contrasts. There’s a lot of really interesting contradictions going on inside of him. Not only his, like, varied interests between jewelry and archeology, but you know, history and design. He’s a really… he’s just a fascinating person, but something I was really drawn to is his passion. He has a relatively quick temper, but at the same time, he’s willing to admit when he’s made a mistake.

Jeff: Sometimes a little too late though because that temper will pop first. So, he’s not only got to admit the mistake, but also apologize for the tantrum he just had.

Will: Yes, but he figures it out eventually.

Jeff: True.

Will: Throughout the book, we get several glimpses of Matt’s fire and his passion, and he speaks his mind, and occasionally speaking out of turn. But he’ll immediately pull back and he’s, like, no, wait, I’m sorry. That’s actually not how I meant that. So, I think that’s what I was drawn to was there’s this intensity and passion, but also an intelligence, and social awkwardness, because there are several situations where he is essentially a fish out of water. And whenever he puts his foot in his mouth, he’s perfectly willing to say, wait, that was stupid. Let me try this one more time. And that just makes him so much more endearing.

Jeff: Yeah, and it’s a steady in contrast too, because Joel also feels very fish out of water in these things because of his upbringing. And he tries so hard to keep his armor on that sometimes he… you almost want him to put his foot in it more, because he’s so reserved. And these two balance each other out really nicely.

I think we’ve got to give a good shout out here too to the strong women that both of these guys have in their lives. Joel’s got Theresa, who is essentially his assistant, who gets a promotion later in the book because of her work on Project Palace, who, from the get-go, knows Joel’s past, knows what’s going on with his parents and all that, and it’s kind of his guiding light occasionally.

And then there’s Caro who plays the same role for Matt. And these two also get to crisscross because it’s Theresa, who you know, is right out there telling Matt after the big blowup that Joel didn’t really mean it. And then Caro has her moment with Joel setting things to right. These two are crafted so well and play such a pivotal role in the story. It’s great to see these women helping these guys, you know, navigate their love.

Will: So, as we mentioned at the beginning, “Romancing the Rough Diamond” is part of a series by Clare London. I have a habit of picking series, but rest assured, this story stands perfectly fine all on its own. In fact, that’s actually the cornerstone of this particular series from Clare. The only thing really connecting them is the naming convention that she uses.

I’m a fan of this series. I’ve read all the other books, and I loved each of them so very much. And real quickly, I want to recommend each of them. If you love trope driven romances, this is your one-stop shop.

The first book “Romancing the Wrong Twin,” is about a highfalutin, kind of old-fashioned explorer type. He comes from a well-to-do English family, and essentially his job is going out and having adventures all around the world. And he has a television show in conjunction with this, but in order to get funding for his next exhibition, he really needs to have more of a public presence. So, his publicist comes up with a wacky idea to set him up with a very well-known male model. But unfortunately, the male model has his own romance to think of, so he sends his twin in his place. So, you know, hilarity ensues. I adored that book so very much.

The other book in the series is “Romancing the Ugly Duckling,” and this is a story about a member of a notorious English family. Think the British version of the Kardashians. But he’s given all of that nonsense up and he lives by himself as a recluse on the Scottish Highlands. But a young up and coming fashion stylist is tasked with finding this guy and bringing him back to London so he can star with his family in a new season of this dumb reality show. So of course, the two of them falling in love in the middle of nowhere in the Scottish Highlands is wonderful and funny, and it’s romantic and totally swoon worthy. I adored that book.

And last but not least, there’s “Romancing the Undercover Billionaire,” which concerns an heir to a very high tone wine business. He goes undercover at a bottling plant to understand the business, and he also uncovers some wrongdoing there. And while he’s busy doing that, he falls in love with the manager of the plant. It’s an interesting look at an industry that we don’t really see very much of, or maybe completely understand.

I think each of these books kind of pull back the curtain of several different industries, whether it’s the, the lives and workings of celebrities or high-end products like jewelry or wine. The whole series has an awful lot to offer, and I recommend all of the books.

Jeff: And if you want to hear more about this book from the author, check out episode 240 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast because we had Clare on talking about “Romancing the Rough Diamond” as well as the rest of the series.


Will: So, I hope you’ve enjoyed our deep dive discussion of “Romancing the Rough Diamond.”

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

Jeff: It was so much fun to revisit “Romancing the Rough Diamond.” If you’ve never read the “Romancing the…” series, or Clare’s books in general, we highly recommend you pick them up. They are so swoony good and because they’re so wonderful, even if you’ve already read them, you might consider them for a reread.

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next, on Monday, March 11th, we’ve got a special treat. Author Brad Gooch is going to join us to talk about his biography of artist Keith Haring.

Jeff: That’s right. We’re gonna take a turn into nonfiction to talk with Brad about this incredible book about the life, art, activism, and legacy of Keith Haring.

Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the 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 Original theme music by Daryl Banner.