Reviewing Historicals and Talking YA Steampunk – BGFP episode 198

Jeff and I talk about our upcoming trip to New York City for the Romance Writers of America national conference and reveal that we will be among the presenters at the RITA Awards ceremony on Friday, July 26.

I review the pygmalion-themed historical romance The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee while Jeff reviews a book Bonnie co-wrote with Summer Devon called The Nobleman and the Spy (I read this one too and totally loved it).

Jeff interviews Michael Vance Gurley about his new YA steampunk novel Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1)Michael discusses the inspiration behind the story, what he did to build the world it takes place in and what he hopes for the trilogy. He also talks about what’s coming up next for him.

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Quick Review: Deck the Halls by Max Walker

Deck the Halls by Max Walker

Merry Christmas in July!

‘Deck the Halls’ is part of Max Walker’s ‘Stonewall Investigations’ series and acts as a bridge to the spin-off ‘Stonewall Investigations Miami’. It’s worth noting that I haven’t read either of these series. ‘Deck the Halls’ is billed as a stand-alone story, and I can assure you that it does indeed stand perfectly well all by itself.

Let’s get to the story.

Sassy, nice guy Andrew is the office manager at Stonewall Investigations in NYC. When his marriage implodes, the only thing he has to look forward to this holiday season are divorce proceedings.

When Declan Covington walks into the office, it’s lust at first sight. After some flirting, Declan proposes Andrew accompany him on holiday.

Declan will be the only member of his family without a significant other in attendance at the yearly Christmas gathering. If Andrew agrees to play his boyfriend for the week, it’ll take some family pressure off him and will give Declan the chance to cheer up the irresistible Andrew.

‘Fake Boyfriends’ for the win!

The story moves to the grandly elegant Covington family estate which is festooned in grandly elegant holiday splendor.

Declan and Andrew have a private guest house all to themselves and it’s not long before they realize that they’ll want this ‘fake’ relationship to be consummated underneath the mistletoe.

Andrew is a hit with most of Declan’s family, with the exception of his step-father and snobby step-siblings.

After a romantic horseback ride, a hook-up in a luxury tree house, and a blowjob in a barn that has been transformed into a candy cane forest, our heroes get down to business solving the big mystery.

After all, there must have been a reason for Declan to show up at Stonewall Investigations in the first place, right?

Declan’s mother has been ‘misplacing’ expensive pieces of jewelry and no one has been able to explain the mysterious disappearances. Declan has his suspicions about the thefts, but it’s Andrew, using his deductive instincts (and some tricks he’s picked up while working at Stonewall) who finally cracks the case.

Our heroes solve the crime, get their HEA, and start a new life in Miami, where Andrew manages the new branch office of Stonewall Investigations.

I loves this story so much and this couple so very much, that I struggle to come up with anything else to say. It’s obvious from the beginning that Andrew and Declan are going to be great together, they have that intangible ‘it’ factor, that undeniable chemistry on the page.

Max Walker should be commended. Creating characters that are engaging and leap off the page is not something that every author can do.

There’s heat and sexual tension from the first moment out heroes meet, but even after they’ve had sex, there’s still that chemistry and humor and that undeniable feeling the reader gets that these two people are supposed to be together… that they’re meant to be together.

I loved Andrew and Deck’s story. It’s a wonderful worthwhile read, no matter the time of year.

New York Here We Come! RWA 2019

If what I’ve seen online is any indication, a lot of friends have already made the trip to New York City and have started their RWA festivities early. Jeff and I will be traveling on Tues and are super excited to experience our first Romance Writers of America national conference. We’re keeping things casual for our first go around and just want to be “in the moment” and experience as much as possible. On Fri evening we’ll be putting in our finest duds and going to the RITA awards ceremony. Not only will we be attending, but we’ll also be presenting an award! Crazy, right? It should be a wild few days, but a lot of fun too. If you see Jeff and I running around the Marriott, stop us and say “Hi”!

Quick Review: The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee

The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee

‘The Masterpiece’ by Bonnie Dee is a makeover story with Pygmalion themes in a historical setting. Essentially, an irresistible gay version of ‘My Fair Lady’.

The story centers on a guy named Arthur. He is the well-to-do gentleman in this particular scenario and, one day, he’s out enjoying the good life with his bestie, a guy named Granville. Occasionally Arthur calls Granville, “Granny” and it totally cracked me up.

Granville believes very heavily in the British class system. Arthur is a little more modern in views. He feels that if a man has the wherewithal and can pull himself up by his bootstraps, he can achieve anything with his life, no matter where he was born on the ladder of social hierarchy.

In order to prove their different theories, they set a wager, and that bet involves Joe the shoeshine boy. Arthur must make Joe a gentleman in six weeks. It is there that he will make his debut at the biggest party of the social season.

Joe moves in with Arthur who is very glad to realize that Joe is not only very smart and very kind, he is hardworking and interested in bettering himself. Joe is undertaking this particular makeover because he has dreams of owning his own men’s shop one day – with a focus on finely crafted shoes.

They get down to work and, after spending several days studying and learning which fork to use, they decide to get some fresh air. So they go for a constitutional in the park where they unfortunately run into Granville, who’s like escorting some demure young ladies. Joe does very in his first unexpected like test.

Arthur and Joe now realize that they have definite feelings for one another. Their next test comes during an evening at the theater where they unfortunately run into Granville yet again (this dude’s everywhere).

Granville has befriended a professor of linguistics, and Arthur knows that Granville is only befriending this schlub because he plans on bringing the linguist to the party to expose Joe as some sort of lower-class fraud. Joe handles the situation admirably.

He’s proving himself time and time again, but Granny is not going to give up. He makes sure that Arthur’s family is invited to the big soiree, and his family comes to stay, making it nearly impossinle to have any alone time with Joe.

Finally, the big evening arrives and everything goes swimmingly. Joe is tested but everyone is really charmed and quite taken by him.

When it comes to Pygmalion stories there is usually a point in the narrative where the Eliza Doolittle character has to wonder if the professor is in love with her, or the person that she’s pretending to be. We kind of skip over that in this particular story because it’s really obvious that Arthur and Joe are like completely into one another.

What ends up happening is that Joe feels guilty, his conscious getting the better of him. All these lords and ladies and debutantes are remarkably kind to him, and he feels genuinely bad that he’s pulling the wool over their eyes. That guilt eventually leads him to leaving Arthur’s house sooner, rather than later.

Arthur and Joe try to figure out how can they make their relationship work, but they can’t. Even though they’ve essentially won the bet and they’ve proven their point, the fact is that the class system is still very much a thing and the two of them are from two different worlds.

Joe packs his bags and leaves and Arthur ends up going to India. He has been convinced by his brother and his father that he has to finally grow up and take part in the family business. While he’s away, Joe uses the money that he earns from the bet and opens his own shop.

When Arthur finally arrives back in England, there’s a big declaration of love scene because they realize they are both utterly and completely miserable without one another. And they both vow to find some way that they’re going to make it work.

I really, really loved this book a lot.

I loved these two characters that Bonnie Dee created I was rooting for them the entire time.

This review originally appeared in episode 198 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast.

An Inside Look at the Online Romance Mag ‘Blush’ – BGFP episode 197

Jeff kicks off this week’s episode by talking about going to the reading and for Frederick Smith and Chaz Lamar’s In Case You Forgot. Jeff and I also talk about their recent trip to see the musical The Drowsy Chaperone starring Bruce Vilanch.

It’s a Heidi Cullinan double feature as I review Nowhere Ranch and Jeff reviews The Doctor’s Secret.

Jeff talks with Jacqui Greig, the creator and editor of Blush. Jacqui talks about why she created the magazine and what sparked her love of all things romance. We also find out about the books that she writes and how she encourages anyone who is interested to start an online magazine.

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Quick Review: Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

Admittedly, I’m a little late to the party when It comes to this book. When I posted online that I’d finished reading Nowhere Ranch, I got a slew of responses, “Isn’t it the best?”, “That’s my favorite Heidi book.”

So, for the few that haven’t yet experienced the sexy wonder of this cowboy romance, Nowhere Ranch is about a young guy named Monroe, Roe for short. He’s the prototypical lone cowboy who’s just landed a job at Nowhere Ranch.

On one of his free nights, Roe travels several hours away to the nearest gay bar. To his surprise he runs into his boss, Travis Loving.

After some flirty banter and surmising that they are both definitely into each other, they spend one wild night together in Travis’s hotel room.

Roe tries to keep things professional with his boss, but Travis is just too damn irresistible. After a trip to the rodeo, he gives into his desire yet again. His hook-ups with Travis are so amazing that he begins to reconsider his ‘no relationships’ policy.

When it comes to the bedroom, Roe likes things a little kinky. Travis is more than willing to give him everything he wants. After a rough and raunchy tumble in a horse stall on his birthday, Roe is so turned on and so turned around, that he just doesn’t know what to do.

Guys, this book is incendiary. I’m no expert when it comes to Heidi Cullinan’s books, but the few that I have read, have ridden that delicious line between sweetly romantic and utterly filthy. The kink explored in Nowhere Ranch isn’t your mommas 50 Shades style slap ‘n tickle. This is hard core stuff in the best possible way.

Back to the story. Hailey, the daughter of the ranch foreman, becomes fast friends with Roe and it becomes her personal mission to tutor Roe so he can get his GED. After learning some English composition basics, Roe writes an essay especially for his boss entitled, “Why Travis Loving Should Fuck Me”.

What’s wonderful is that the entire text of the essay is included as part of the story. It’s sweet, it’s funny, and it leads to some more smoking hot sex for our two heroes.

Unfortunately, the course of true love never did run smooth. A letter from the family that rejected Roe years earlier, forces him examine what “home” really means. Home is definitely Nowhere Ranch.

Some drama eventually forces Roe to make an unwanted trip to deal with the backwards, judgmental people he once called his family. With Travis and Hailey by his side, he sets things to rights and accepts that he is, in fact, worthy of his very own happily-ever-after.

There’s a brief time jump at the end of the story to show us just how happy the happily-ever-after is for Roe and Travis. It’s wonderfully schmoopy and surprisingly sweet for a story that is so dang filthy. It just goes to show, that in the hands of a skilled author, kink doesn’t have to equal dark or angsty. The story of two hot and horny cowboys can be just as swoon-worthy as the lightest of rom-coms.