As 2019 closes out, we look back at the top podcast episodes from this year. Of course, we also talk about favorite books! Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach talk with Jeff about their top picks and then Jeff gives his list.
Complete shownotes for episode 221 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Jeff & Will wish everyone a very happy holiday week before getting into this episode's installment of Romance Revisited.
Jeff reviews the new movie, Cats. The guys talk about the Netflix original film Let it Snow. The final holiday books of the season are reviewed as Will discusses Daryl Banner's Making the Naughty List while Jeff looks at Mangoes and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera.
Coastal Magic Convention Featured Author Z.A. Maxfield talks to Jeff about the upcoming installment in her Brothers Grime series as well as the sequel to Home the Hard Way. They also talk about her story in the Footsteps in the Darkanthology as well as what else she's got planned for 2020.
Complete shownotes for episode 220 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Jeff & Will congratulate Casey McQuiston for Red, White & Royal Blue's wins in the Goodreads Choice Awards. They also shout out the Rainbow Awards winners from the past week.
The new segment Romance Revisited is unveiled and Jeff briefly talks about three holiday stories among the re-releases now available.
It's all about holiday books this week as Will reviews Mr. Right Now by Annabeth Albert and He's Behind You by Clare London. Jeff reviews A Royal Christmas Cruise by Max Walker and The Christmas Dragon's Mate by Silvia Violet.
A E Ryecart joins Jeff and Will to talk about her holiday stories A Christmas Wedding and The Boss of Christmas Present. She also talks with the guys about her other series, how she got started in writing and what led her to gay romance as well as where she might be headed in 2020.
Complete shownotes for episode 219 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Jeff & Will welcome Kirt Graves as the new voice of the show.
This week we present a conversation Jeff had at GRL 2019 with wives, authors and all-around creatives BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot. They discuss how they met and started writing together, the publishing company they once formed with friends and how they published some of the first books that make up the gay romance genre we know today. We also find out how the question "what if" is the foundation for so many of their projects as well as what they've released for this holiday season.
Complete shownotes for episode 218 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff talks about Rivals and Room Service, two holiday short stories he re-released this week.
Jeff reviews the third book in Layla Reyne's Fog City series, A New Empire.
Gregory Ashe, Layla Reyne and L.A. Witt join Jeff for a discussion about romantic suspense. The authors talk about why it's a genre they love to write, how they mix the suspense and romance and what they think makes a good book in the genre. Along the way, each of them reveal some facts about their stories that surprised Jeff. They also tell fans what they can expect in 2020.
Complete shownotes for episode 217 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will wish everyone a celebrating this week a very Happy Thanksgiving! They also share a statement they made this past week about Dreamspinner Press.
The EastSiders season 4 trailer is shared and Will talks about the new Flowers in the Attic Blu-Ray edition. Books reviewed this week include American Love Story by Adriana Herrera, A Christmas Wedding by A.E. Ryecart and the first two books in Charlie Cochet's North Pole City Tales series.
Charlie Cochet also talks about the re-release of North Pole City Tales and the THIRDS series as well as a new installment of the Paranormal Princes series that is coming soon. Charlie is a Featured Author at the 2020 Coastal Magic Convention and she discusses what she loves about attending that con.
Complete shownotes for episode 216 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
This week Jeff & Will focus on the Mpreg genre. While they were at GRL, Will sat down with authors Nora Phoenix, Silvia Violet, Victoria Sue and Susi Hawke and they discussed everything about the genre, including the difference between Mpreg and Omegaverse, what knotting is, how wonderful the fans are and what's coming up next for each of the authors. In addition, Will talked with Charlie David about his work as an audiobook narrator on several books in the genre.
Complete shownotes for episode 215 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will open the show talking about the return of Eastsiders on Netflix starting December 1. They continue with more TV and movies including the film Last Christmas, the premiere of the new Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, ABC presentation of The Little Mermaid Live and the USA Network series Treadstone (which stars newly out actor Brian J. Smith).
Natural Disaster by Erin McLellan and Heartsong by TJ Klune are reviewed this week.
Jeff welcomes Marshall Thornton back to the podcast to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Marshall's Boystown series of mysteries. Marshall shares the origin of the series as well as some details about the upcoming 13th and final book. They also discuss the Pinx Video Mysteries series and Code Name: Liberty.
Complete shownotes for episode 214 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will open the show celebrating two birthdays: Will's advanced age and the podcast's sprightly fourth year.
Jeff reviews Blood & Bitcoin by L.A. Witt. Will reviews Safe Harbor by HJ Welch and The Secret of the Carrot Medallions, a graphic novel featuring Catherine Dair's Skip and Pip characters.
Max Walker talks to Jeff about his latest book, Loosen Up and how he got involved in the Ace's Wild series. They also discuss Max's Stonewall Investigations and Stonewall Miami series, how he balances suspense and romance, as well as his journey from nearly being a doctor to becoming a full time author.
Complete shownotes for episode 213 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will wish everyone a Happy Halloween and hopes for a successful NaNoWriMo for those who'll start on Friday.
They also announce Big Gay Fiction Podcast's inclusion in the new Frolic Podcast Network and they talk about their appearance this past week on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.
Will wraps up his month of paranormal reading with The Fall by X. Aratare. Jeff reviews the first two books in Lily Morton's Mixed Messages series--Rule Breaker and Deal Breaker. He also reviews Hellion, the third book in the 415 Ink series by Rhys Ford.
Jeff talks with K.C. Burn as part of the Coastal Magic Featured Author series. K.C. discusses her writing and what got her started, her love of Coastal Magic and the books she'd recommend to readers who are discovering her work.
Complete shownotes for episode 212 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will come to you this week from Albuquerque with a wrap up of their experience at GayRomLit 2019. They talk about the events they attended, their most loved moments, authors they met and books they picked up. Plus they've got a quick chat with Slade James, host of the new GayRomance.Show: The MM Author Podcast, about his show and his first GRL experience.
Complete shownotes for episode 211 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
In an interview recorded at GayRomLit 2019, author/narrator/director Charlie David discusses the documentary on gay romance that he's filming at the retreat. Jeff and Charlie also discuss his narration work, including the recent release of Gregory Ashe's Orientation.
Complete shownotes for this bonus episode are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will recommend everyone check out the new podcast Gay Mystery Authors. They also congratulate Top To BOTM Podcast on their two year anniversary and 50th episode.
The guys talk about what they'll be doing at GRL, from lounge sessions to hosting Q&As and a Facebook Live show they'll be doing with special guest Charlie David.
Will reviews the historical paranormal The Harvest Moon by Joshua Ian.
Jeff interviews Ginn Hale about the just released Master of Restless Shadows, which is the final duology in the Cadeleonian series. Ginn talks about the origin of the series and the inspirations behind it. Ginn also discusses her process for world building, her love of plotting and what started her journey as a writer.
Complete shownotes for episode 210 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
The guys welcome GayRomance.Show: The MM Author Podcast to the gay romance podcast neighborhood and recommend everyone check it out. They also discuss the films Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Skatetown U.S.A.
Jeff & Will review the new Netflix series The Politician. Will kicks off a month of paranormal reviews with The Vampire's Club Book 1 by X. Aratare.
Jeff talks to Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn about Goalie Interference. They discuss the real-life players and situations that inspired the books in the Hat Trick series and why the diverse characters in Goalie Interference are important to them. We also find out how they become hockey fans, what's up next in the Hat Trick series and how their writing partnership works.
Complete shownotes for episode 209 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
The guys talk about the surprise they had this week as the podcast made O: The Oprah Magazine's list of "21 Best Book Podcasts." They also wish everyone a happy International Podcast Day, welcome back The Queer Creative as they start season 2, and wish a happy Pride week to everyone celebrating with Druid City Pride in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Jeff reviews Goalie Interference by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn and Face the Music by K.M. Nuehold. Will joins Jeff to review King Me by Lucy Lennox.
Coastal Magic Convention Featured Author interviews kick off with Katey Hawthrone. Katey talks about her Superpowered Love and Witchy Boys series, her love of comic books and sci-fi and how she got started writing. She also discusses what she's looking forward to at her first Coastal Magic.
Complete shownotes for episode 208 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
The guys kick off the show talking about the Netflix series The Order. Jeff reviews A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian. Will reviews The Amorous Attorney by Frank W. Butterfield and I've Got This by Louisa Masters.
Jeff & Will talk to Louisa Masters about her new book I've Got This, the first in the Joy Universe series. Louisa tells all about the book's origins, the fun she had developing the theme park and what's coming next in the series. She also discusses Out of the Office, how she fell in love with romance and what else she's working on.
Complete shownotes for episode 207 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will discuss the revamped Patreon rewards that are available starting this month, including this week's sneak peek of the new Big Gay Fiction: After Dark.
Jeff reviews Criminal Past by Gregory Ashe and It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian.
Anne Hawley talks to the guys about her regency romance Restraint and what sparked her love of historicals and writing. Anne also talks about the Masterwork Experiment she's worked on to analyze Brokeback Mountain and take those story beats to create a new story.
Complete shownotes for episode 206 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will talk about the past week, including their wedding anniversary and Jeff beginning a writing masterclass.
The guys also talk about the upcoming slate of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies featuring out actors. The movies The Hustle and A Simple Favor are discussed. Jeff reviews How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters. Will reviews The Unexpected Heiress by Frank W. Butterfield and Anticipating Temptation by Silvia Violet.
Jeff talks to Hailey Turner about the latest in her Soulbound series, A Crown of Iron and Silver, along with the origins of the series and her love of mythology. In addition, they discuss the Metahuman Files series, her origins as a writer and what's still to come.
Complete shownotes for episode 205 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will review the gay romantic comedy Analysis Paralysis from Jason T. Gaffney. In books, Will reviews Family Camp by Eli Easton and Jeff reviews Balefire by Jordan L. Hawk.
Jay from Joyfully Jay talks with Jeff about the blog's Reading Challenge Month, which gives blog visitors the chance to discover some new books and win some big prizes. Jay also recommends books she's been reading: Soul on Fire by Tal Bauer, Dealing in Death by L.J. Hayward and The Witchstone Amulet by Mason Thomas.
Complete shownotes for episode 204 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will talk about seeing In The Heights and praise the season finale of Pose. Will reviews the audio fiction podcast The Two Princes. Jeff reviews the Gay Future Podcast, another audio fiction show, and Pocketful of Stardust by J.P. Barnaby and Rowan Speedwell.
Frederick Smith and Chaz Lamar join Jeff to talk about their debut novel, In Case You Forgot. Frederick and Chaz share how they worked together on this first collaboration, the inspirations for Kenny and Zaire, favorite scenes in the book. They also share what they're working on next.
Complete shownotes for episode 203 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will talk about their week at the Podcast Movement conference. They also discuss recent announcements about the new Love, Simonseries on Disney+ as well as the potential Hollywood deal that Lucy Lennox and Sloane Kennedy revealed this week.
The guys talk summer TV with BH90210 and Grand Hotel. Will reviews Silvia Violet's Anticipating Rejectionwhile Jeff reviews King Slayerby Layla Reyne.
Lisa from The Novel Approach recommends some speculative fiction and romantic suspense, including Spellboundby Allie Therin, The Marked Prince by M.A. Grant and Triangulationby Gregory Ashe. She also mentions Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman, which she had recently begun.
Complete shownotes for episode 202 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff & Will talk about their past week of business decisions and the coming week they’ll spend at the Podcast Movement conference. They also remind the authors in the audience to check out the new Big Gay Author Podcast.
The guys talk about the production of The Wiz they just saw as well as the current season of Pose. Together they review Lucy Lennox’s Wilde Love and Jeff reviews Dreadnought by April Daniels.
Amber Smith joins Jeff to talk about her young adult novel Something Like Gravity. Amber reveals how the characters of Chris and Maia had been the main characters in different books before she decided they’d be great together in a single book. Amber also discusses how she got started writing, the trademarks of her books and the research she does to create her characters.
Complete shownotes for episode 201 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome Amber to the podcast. It is great to have you here.
Amber: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been really looking forward to this.
Jeff: So I reviewed ‘Something Like Gravity’ back in episode 195 and it was the summer book that I didn’t know I was looking for. I’d like you to start us off by telling everybody, in your own words, what this book is about.
Amber Well, this book is about a lot of things, but really, at its center, it’s a story about falling in love for the first time and finding yourself in the process. It’s told between our two main characters, Chris and Maia, and both of them are going through a really difficult time in each of their lives. Chris has recently come out as transgender and he’s really trying to figure out how to navigate his life now that everything’s suddenly changing, and he’s also trying to process this really terrifying assault that he survived the year earlier. Maia is dealing with the recent death of her older sister. And so both of their lives look very different, but the one thing that they have in common that brings them together is that they’re both trying to figure out who they are going to become in the face of these life changing events that they’ve been through.
Jeff: What was your inspiration behind the book?
Amber: There are various threads of inspiration, but it’s funny, I actually started writing this book as two separate books. Chris was the protagonist of one and Maia was the protagonist of the other. And I do generally work on two things at the same time because, if I get stuck on one I can sort of hop over to the other thing I’m working on. I always thought of these as separate books in the beginning and Chris’s story was primarily about coming out, and being queer, and being trans, and trying to figure all of that out. And Maia’s was a story about grief. At a certain point, I think it became too hard for me to continue working on these stories because both of them were super personal. I was drawing from a lot of my own experiences with coming out as a lesbian and also, you know, dealing with the loss of loved ones myself. At a certain point, I thought, you know what can I do to kind of make this easier on myself? And I thought about giving Chris a love interest. And when I started to think about what would be the kind of person that would be really good for Chris, and would kind of balance him out, and all of those wonderful things that happen in a relationship. I immediately thought of Maia – this other character that I was writing, and that’s when I realized, oh my gosh, I think these stories were always meant to be one story. And it just took me a while to realize it.
Jeff That’s amazing to me on a couple of levels. I can’t do two projects at once because it makes my head want to explode. But also there’s – just coming back to the title, ‘Something Like Gravity’ is like gravity just pulled between these two stories and brought these two together from the disparate places that you had them. Did the characters fundamentally change when you brought them together or did everything just click into place once that happened?
Amber: Well, not necessarily so. I think the biggest part was that I had been working on these stories for so long. I don’t think much of my original writing made it into the final book. I think doing that writing on both of the stories prior to lining them as one, really helped me to get to know each character in that sense because, I knew each of them so well, I knew their voices, I knew their histories. It was sort of easy to bring them together, but I had to rewrite everything better. I think it was almost like telling the stories of two people I knew really well already.
Jeff: Any chance that those original stories get to become prequels or something?
Amber: Oh my gosh I love that idea. Something to think about.
Jeff: As you noted, I see both Chris and Maia have these weighty things that they’re dealing with on both sides. What was your process to present that authentically to the readers?
Amber: I always, whenever I’m starting a story, I begin with my own experience and I always sort of view writing as therapy in a way. So like Chris and Maia’s experiences start out as something very real that’s happened in my life.
But then as I write them they become something else. So, I don’t know. I think I just always have in the back of my mind the roots – like emotion, or the emotional world that I lived in as kind of the parameters for this story. And so hopefully that helps to keep things feeling real and authentic.
Jeff: And then you put the love story in with this. The way that you counterbalance what they’re going through with this super sweet love story. It was unique to me how that worked because for some of the story at least, they’re almost not dealing with their issues because they’re finding this in each other. How did that kind of all mix together for you?
Amber: I think one of the things I’ve realized as I was writing the book, separately in the beginning, was that I was focused so much on the pain that each of these characters felt. I’ve written about trauma, and assault, and grief, in the past and it felt like I was sort of rehashing – or reopening old wounds of my own. I just thought I really need to do something different here. And it took me a while to figure out that I wanted this to be a love story because, as you know, it took me a while to kind of wrap my head around why was I writing it that way in the first place? I had this switch flipped in my mind when I started to think about the love story aspect of, you know, what I’d love to do with this book is make love be more powerful than the pain that each of them were experiencing.
And so that kind of helped me to steer this story in a different direction. And then when I really started thinking about it, that love, and connection, and relationships, those are the things that really helped me heal during the hardest times in my life. And so I think it can be so easy to focus on the darkness sometimes but, when I really thought about even my own life, I realized the things that really got me out of those dark places were my connections with other people, and learning how to love myself, and falling in love for the first time. And so that became something I want to do – explore more than that other side of things.
Jeff: And it’s interesting too that essentially the secondary story for both characters is their relationship with their parents. For Chris it’s his parents coming to understand that Chris has come out as trans, and for Maia they’re going through the same grief that she is, having lost their daughter. How did you approach layering that in? Because, again, you’ve balanced this out so beautifully, how it just all kind of ebbs and flows together – but there’s a lot in play here.
Amber: Oh thank you. You know, I think the family dynamics with each of the characters – I will say that’s the one thing that kind of carried over when I was working on these as separate books. In my original ideas for both Chris and Maia, one of the big things that they were dealing with were these really complicated family issues that were going on. Yeah. So I think I just I always knew from the beginning I wanted part of their journeys to be trying to work out all of this messy, complicated, emotional stuff with their families and with themselves. I don’t really know how I layered it in because I think it was just always in the back of my mind that that stuff needed to be there. And I had thought of Chris and Maia’s relationship, the way that they grow and discover more about themselves, as kind of the framework of getting to the place where they were able to deal with their family stuff because they evolved too.
Jeff: Did you have to do a lot of research? In your acknowledgments in the book you list out a whole bunch of people and things that you looked at to help craft all this, and so it seems like there was quite a bit that went on to create the characters, and create the situations, and then, as we kind of talked about it a little bit, getting it authentically on the page.
Amber: For this book in particular I really reached out to a lot of different readers and friends, people who have gone through similar things to Chris and Maia. So I had friends, who identify as trans or non binary, read different sections of the book looking at Chris’s perspective. I even had a professor at one of the universities here in North Carolina really go through the entire manuscript with a fine tooth comb because, while in particularly looking at Chris’s side of the story because even though I kind of started with a kernel of my own experience, for Chris as a queer person. I’m not transgender, so I wanted to be very careful that I wasn’t doing anything in my narrative, and my representation, that would be in any way harmful or misrepresenting Chris as a transman.
And so that was super super helpful. I found that the areas that I was really worried about in Chris’s story, were not the areas that were pinpointed by my readers as being problematic. I think that goes to show, it really was important for me to seek out those other perspectives, because the things that I thought might be issues were not what they thought were issues. So yeah, that was a really big process… getting that feedback from those other readers.
Jeff: One of the things I’d mentioned in my review, what struck me about the book, is a sweet love story, two characters with trauma, and yet the book itself kind of felt like this lazy summer vacation. I think some of it is because of where it set. So it’s a small town, and you’ve got Chris and Maia essentially living on farms and separated by this field, and I could just envision hanging out on the porch, and just kind of letting the summer go by. Bike rides, and these adventures they went on – where they went to the to the adjacent town to check things out. And it really kind of held the story together – and kind of kept it in this very innocent place. Was that deliberate, or did it just happen that way, because of how it all pieced together as you were going?
Amber: You know, that part of this story really was deliberate. Once I started trying to figure out how to weave Chris and Maia’s stories together, I really sat down and I did a lot of pragmatic planning and plotting, which is not something I usually do at all. I think I knew trying to combine two stories, I really had to know where I was going because it could get really confused. So one of the first things I decided was the setting and the timeframe. I decided I wanted it to take place in a rural North Carolina town, which Carson is fictional, but it’s based on a lot of the small towns on the outskirts of Charlotte where I live. I knew I wanted it to take place across the course of one summer and I did that partially because of that feel that you’re talking about. I really wanted to give Chris and Maia a space where it felt like their lives and their realities are somewhat suspended for a little bit of time, so that they could have the freedom to figure out what they’re going to do, figure out how to process what’s happened in their lives. And I always felt, growing up, summer is sort of this weird Time Warp kind of area, where things just don’t happen in the same way as the rest of the year.
And so I definitely wanted to bring in that kind of like lazy feel because it feels like we have all the time in the world, but of course, we know summer only last so long. That’s also a little bit of a ticking clock I could put in there.
Jeff: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Amber: I really wanted readers to be able to look at Chris and Maia’s story and find pieces of themselves in each of these characters. Even if a reader isn’t trans, or queer, or grieving, I hope that they might be able to find some commonality with Chris and Maia. And maybe that’s just the simple fact of being able to relate to falling in love for the first time, but that for people who do identify with the things that Chris and Maia are going through, maybe if the reader is trans, or non-binary, or going through a major loss, or some kind of upheaval in their lives, I would hope that they could look at Chris and Maia as a way of knowing that there are people in the world who understand what they’re going through and they’re not alone.
Jeff: Let’s talk a little bit about Amber Smith’s origin story. What got you into writing and coming specifically into writing these powerful young adult books? Because this is not your first one that deals with weighty material.
Amber: I sort of came to writing in a very roundabout way – as a lot of people do. So, when I was growing up, I always wrote. I always kept journals. And when I was a little bit older, like a teenager, I wrote poetry, but all of my writing was very personal and not something I would ever show anyone. It was more like therapy. Like, even when I was a little kid, I remember the little diaries. And it was like I would just write about what happened that day, just sort of like dumping everything out of my head. So I was actually much more involved in the visual arts all throughout my life.
That’s what I really focused on when I was in high school. I ended up going to college for painting. I had my BFA in painting and then I went on to get my master’s in art history because I had worked in some art gallery settings as an undergrad and I was like, “You know, I think I want to be a part of this whole art world in this way, maybe not as an artist, but as someone who kind of brings art to people.” And so I did that for a long time. I was working in my role as a curator, and during that time I was doing a lot of writing for my work, but it was more writing about art history and biography-type writing. Even though I loved what I was doing in the art museum world, I really missed working on my own creative stuff and so it was then that I really looked at writing as, not just a therapeutic outlet, but it became more of my creative outlet, and that’s when I started working on my first book. That first book actually started out as very much therapeutic writing and then the longer I spent with this story, it kind of morphed into something more fictional, and I’ve I guess I was sort of hooked at that point. I realized, “Wow, you know, I can really do a lot with fiction.” And it was really healing, just like when you read a fictional book, it can be a lot easier to sometimes relate to a fictional character and have empathy for their situation, and kind of see the big picture more so than we can sometimes do for ourselves. And that’s sort of what writing became for me very early on. That’s how I got here.
Jeff: That’s a good story. I like how you went from essentially one creative expression to another – from creating works of art to now creating a different work of art, if you will.
Amber: ‘Something Like Gravity’ is the first book where I’ve been able to kind of bring in some of my art background. So that was really fun.
Jeff: Yeah, with Maia’s photography, I could see how that could bridge that gap a little bit.
Jeff: What would you say is the trademark of an Amber Smith book?
Amber: I would say the trademark is the story is going to be emotional. It’s going to deliver some difficult stuff and it’s going to be very real. So I definitely don’t like to kind of sugar coat things all that much, so it can be a little gritty.
Jeff: Gritty is a good word for it actually, having now read this one. Who are some of your author influences?
Amber: Oh, you know, some of the authors who really influenced me the most are the authors that I read when I was in high school. I remember YA wasn’t necessarily a thing yet when I was a younger teenager, but in my senior year of high school I remember there were several books that came out right at that time and I was a big nerd, so I volunteered at my school library, and my librarian was like my best friend, so she would give me all of the books that were coming in – for me to take home and read her first, before anybody else. I remember reading ‘Speak’ by Laurie Halse Anderson. And that book really stands out for me. It just changed my life because I think it was one of the first times I remember feeling like a book truly brought me this deep sense of comfort. I was seen and understood. I was not alone. And that really stayed with me. And then there were other books that came out right around that time, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. That was a huge book for me that I read when I was in high school. Let’s see. Sonya Sones, her debut, ‘Stop Pretending’ came out and it was written in verse. And that was also the first time I had read something like that and it really made an impact. I think back to those books I read when I was a teenager, and the ones that really affected me were those ones that were about really serious issues, and they are the ones that made me feel like I was not alone. There was hope things could get better. I guess that’s sort of where I’m coming from now as a writer. What were the stories I needed when I was a teenager?
Jeff: And what’s coming up next for you?
Amber: Well, I’m not entirely sure. I have a couple of things in the works. I’m pretty sure what is going to be next is going to be a middle grade book. So, going a little bit younger. So that’s really exciting. I’ve been wanting to kind of explore different genres. I think back, middle school was actually a lot more traumatic for me than high school. So it’s funny I haven’t gone there yet.
Jeff: I look forward to seeing what that could be because, over time, I’ve read some really compelling middle grade books.
Amber: Yeah. Things that have been coming out recently too are just amazing.
Jeff: What’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you online so they can follow along with what you’re doing and when new stuff comes out?
Amber: I always keep updates going on my website ambersmithauthor.com, but I’m most active on Instagram. On Instagram I’m @ambersmithauthor. I’m also on Twitter as asmithauthor and Facebook as well. So definitely keep up with me there. I love hearing from readers, and I just I get so excited when I see messages come in from you guys.
Jeff: Fantastic. We’ll link up to all those places, the books we talked about, and of course, ‘Something Like Gravity’. Wish you the best of luck with that as this summer continues this year.
Amber: Thank you so much.
This week Jeff & Will celebrate the 200th episode of the podcast and announce the launch of a brand new show, Big Gay Author Podcast.
The guys review the Broadway productions they saw during their recent New York City trip, including King Kong, The Cher Show, Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Prom, Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, Pretty Woman: The Musical, Tootsie, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! and Moulin Rouge: The Musical.
The 2019 Romance Writers of America National Conference is also discussed, including the romance podcaster panel, RWA's diversity initiatives and the RITA Awards. Powerful speeches delivered from the RITA stage by Radclyffe and LaQuette are featured as part of the recap.
Complete shownotes for episode 200 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
We're away at our extended RWA/NYC trip so it's a super short show this week as we review some books for your summertime reading. Jeff reviews two books in Gregory Ashe's Hazard and Somerset Series: Guilt by Association and Reasonable Doubt. Will celebrates Christmas in July and reviews Deck the Halls by Max Walker.
Complete shownotes for episode 199 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Guilt by Association & Reasonable Doubt by Gregory Ashe. Reviewed by Jeff.
I’m so happy that I binged books four and five in the Hazard and Somerset series since book six, the most recent, has just come out on audio this month.
Let me start by saying that I loved both of these books, as I have the entire series. Gregory turns the screws more with each book, which you should really read in order to get the most impact. The mysteries get more complicated and shocking while the slow burn romance between Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset gets closer to an inferno.
In Guilt by Association, Hazard and Somers have yet another murder on their hands–this time slimey Sheriff Bingham. Bingham loomed large for many reasons in book three and for him to be the victim this time was a shock…and yet not given how messed up things are in Wahredua. Their investigation is hampered by a special investigator who comes to town and sidelines them, having them work on only minor details. Hazard and Somers continue to pursue–of course they do!–and soon enough they unravel more corruption and entanglements than we’ve seen in the series so far.
If Guilt by Association provided the most twisted plot yet, Reasonable Doubt provided the most disturbing, which caught me off guard given some of the things that happened in Paternity Case. John Oscar Walden, leader of a local cult, is murdered and his followers believe that he’ll be resurrected in three days just like Christ. As such, they’re not much interested in helping the police, but as Hazard and Somers dig into this they discover that they may actually need to protect and save the killer. This book delves deep into what draws people into cults, how members work to protect each other and how that can get twisted so badly. That, along with the religious overtones, made this book more difficult than the others for me and I found myself having to put it aside for a bit to recover. Don’t get me wrong though, the book was well worth the read and the angst it gave me.
To discuss some of the things I loved about these books I’m going to go into some spoiler territory. If you want to avoid those, please do skip ahead.
First of all, how Gregory manages to keep ratcheting up the tension book to book is mindblowing. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating that he structures incredible plots and does an amazing job of making every word count and tying everything together. That’s very much the case here.
Towards the end of Guilt by Association and all the way into Reasonable Doubt, Hazard and Somers’s finally become a couple. Hazard breaks up with Nico–happy dance over that–and our two detectives can finally be together. Their banter and way the treat each other shifts in the most amazing way as the walls between crumble. Along with this, Hazard has moments where he is caring for Somers’s daughter, Evie, and it’s incredible and precious to see the fatherly side of him. Hazard’s a hell of a superhero too…which is all I’ll say on that because I don’t want to get too spoilerly but if you’ve read you know exactly what I’m talking about and if you haven’t you certainly will.
We get more about Hazard’s past in these books too and it’s terrible how he was treated as a teenager (which we already knew but more details come into focus here) and how that made him into the man he is. Details on his relationships before he came to Wahredua finally get told. Somers has revelations too and in some ways his were even more shocking and reveal how much he’s cared for Hazard all these years. To Gregory’s credit he’s withheld the details for the perfect reveals and it shows even more what an incredible storyteller he is.
I loved that Hazard’s father shows up in Reasonable Doubt. You see where Hazard gets his bristly side. There’s a heated discussion between the two and where they end up provided one of the most unexpected twists of any of the books.
As always, Tristan James is an outstanding voice talent for this series. In particular some of the voices of the cult members in Reasonable Doubt gave me the chills and his characterization of Hazard’s dad was perfect.
I plan to dive into book six, Criminal Past, within the next few weeks. Even more exciting that finally catching up is that Gregory revealed that a seventh Hazard and Somerset book is coming this fall.
Deck The Halls by Max Walker. Reviewed by Will.
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 treehouse, 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 love 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.
Jeff & Will talk about their upcoming trip to New York City for the Romance Writers of America national conference and reveal the news that they will be among the presenters at the RITA Awards ceremony on Friday, July 26.
Will reviews The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee while Jeff reviews a book Bonnie co-wrote with Summer Devon called The Nobleman and the Spy.
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.
Complete shownotes for episode 198 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome Michael to the podcast, or back to the podcast I should say.
Michael: I'm super excited. Thanks for having me Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah. We were talking before I hit the record button that we last had you on in Episode 42 and now we are at 198, it's kind of crazy. So like you did the first time we had you on, you've come up with a book that I didn't even know I needed to read when I first got to read it. So you've got this YA book called 'Absolute Heart'. It's the first book in the 'Infernal Instruments of the Dragon' series. Tell everybody what this is about, both the book and the series behind it.
Michael: 'Absolute Heart' is above all else a steampunk book. It's an adventure set in a world where clockwork powered England - in 1880s Victorian era England - is at war, a sort of Cold War, when we first pick up the series, against the Magically Powered Ireland who's been kind of besieged by the Brotherhood of the mage. It's a clock. It's a warlock group that is sort of made the queen subservient to them in ways you have to find out when you read it. And it's really the story about two boys. Gavin the high councilman's son from England and his friends, following him when he has these terrible secrets - he thinks they're terrible - and when they're found out he could be executed for them, for at least one of them. So he does what all teenagers do when they have something awful happen and they think they're gonna get trouble, he runs away and his friend, his best friend Landa who's an art officer, which is a mechanic, a computer engineer and she's a powerful female character that I'm really proud of. And she has his back and challenges him and calls him foolish when he's foolish and she goes with him and some other people who have their own agendas on this quest. Then the other side, the Brotherhood, sends Orion of Oberon who is a young warlock of immense power because he's the nephew of the ailing Irish Queen. They send him off to get the most powerful weapon in the world - the dragon stones and there's a lot of mystery and history about the dragon stones and what they are and what they can actually do, but they want them to end this war in their favor.
So of course they have a meet cute, or at least I hope people think it's a meet cute.
They have to decide like, are they going to get together? Will they/won't they? Of course, there's the will they/won't they thing. I'm really excited about the steampunk adventure and it sets off and is set to be a trilogy so I'm really excited about that, and hopefully people will like it - the inclusion of fairies and the air steamships and all the wonder that is steampunk.
Jeff: Steampunk it's so not really anything I read... I dabble in it periodically, but something about Gavin and Orion and the bad ass friend you gave Gavin. Full disclosure to the listeners, I read a very early draft of this. You have a lot going on in book one, what you've parroted back now, into a more condensed story, but how did all this coalesce and come together and what was the inspiration?
Michael: You really should pat yourself on the back because your viewers should know that you read an early ARC and gave me notes, and edited, and really kind of dissected it for me - like, wherever it was messy you, like a good editor said, "That's messy."
The research starts with reading steam punk books and reading a lots of YA, which is of course a terrible addiction of mine. In reading all of that steampunk and finding those characters that you like, and you want to write about - because I use Scrivener, you have the photo option to put your vision of the characters, the places, the ships - you put photos in there and I work with a split screen so I can always reference that, so I never really lose track of it. But yeah, it was great looking into all that steampunk stuff and going into like Cassandra Claire's 'Clockwork Angels' series or Scott Westerfield's 'Leviathan' series. And if I can get even a little bit of that spirit I'll be really happy. But it starts with loving steampunk. You really should write what you know and write what you love. I've never been an airship captain but I love reading about them and I love that whole idea. And you know, thinking about like 'Leviathan', that series has a powerful gender bending quality to it, with the girl because she has to, dresses like a boy and acts like a boy in order to have a career - and I love that. I hope I've engendered Landa with that a little bit as well.
Jeff: What went into creating your world of magic in Ireland and steam power and clockwork in England, because there's so much that you can pull from to create the steampunk universe. What was your decision to make these things your universe?
Michael: Steampunk is - one of the amazing things about it is, an amazing thing about worldbuilding as well, is you can go with historical fiction. You know, like my first book and it's wonderfully creative but you're also stuck with... you can't lie.
It's historical fiction, you can make up characters and you can make up some things, but really if you get too far away from reality, people stop believing in what you're writing about with historical fiction. At least I think so. I stuck with the roaring 20s pretty well and that kind of thing. Steampunk is like a little bit to where you're in the 1880s Victorian era.
But then you have these advances and you can get creative and wild and all of that. A lot of that came from traveling for me too, like I've traveled to Ireland and I kissed the Blarney Stone, which of course means I'm full of B.S. I guess, the gift gab you know. And then I went to England and I went to Stonehenge and I played around amongst all of the hinges there, because that's where they keep them, and how a lot of fun. And the idea of the magic stones and power and Irish magic and castles - and then of course the troubles with the war between Northern Ireland and England - and I just rolled that back 40 years or so, and brought all that magic and the Stones and the power, I brought all that together and that's really where the idea came from.
I also wrote a comic book like 20 years ago that had a lot of the fantasy stuff in it and it never got published but I tweaked it and changed it throughout the years. You can almost say that this part of this book- the backstory, the fantasy magic side - is about 20 years in the making, which I guess makes this a labor of love.
Jeff: That's very cool that it goes back quite that far.
Michael: Makes me feel old saying it out loud.
Jeff: You could have had the idea when you were 5 or 6. What do we have to look forward to as the as the trilogy progresses - without obviously spoiling anything necessarily - but what can you kind of hint at about the story arc?
Michael: Well, you know I'm a big fan of sci-fi, and Steampunk is really an offshoot of sci-fi in a way, or vice versa I guess. But, you know 'Star Wars' originally was 'Star Wars' and then they added 'A New Hope' to the title when they were like, "Well, you know Darth Vader is still out there." I mean, you know they gave Luke and Han Solo some medals. But, you know, then you get Darth Vader out there. So I love that idea of there's always more. If you look for it, if you see the little bits, like there's actually Darth Vader and an emperor... we're still at war guys, so come back for 'Empire', and guess what, it's going to get darker and worse and that's really kind of what's happening here - the book sort of gives you an ending but - and I think so does every book [in the series]. It has an ending, but it really isn't. If you're reading it, you know there's a lot more that's about to come down, and we might lose some people along the way, and maybe find some new people that you love, who's together might not always be together.
Jeff: So with everything, between the magic and the clockwork and the steam and everything, your story, your book bible for this must be huge.
Michael: I used this great British author named Ellen Gregory who did some high seas adventure, and she read an early Edit 2 and gave me some criticisms - which I kept calling British-isms - and gave me some pointers in that, and we were joking about that too, that I have one hundred pages on the parts of a ship... hundreds of pages and you could just bore people to death writing about that.
It's like giving that little bit to make it believable, and make it feel fantastic or whatever, and then let it go. And then I just use that incredible knowledge about mid ships and jibs at parties.
I can talk about all that stuff at a party now, but you don't put too much worldbuilding in, but it is fun. I do have lots of stuff, like when I'm writing, there's fairies in the book and I did so much research about Oberon, the king of the fairies and all that history. And then my amazing editor Dawn Johnson at Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink - I mean the whole team has been amazing, and each person has challenged me. Which is really part of the deal, you have to kill your darlings right? You have to allow some of your characters to change with some of the professional feedback. And so, anyway, I was able to use that research and pull it in and I still miss stuff, and some of those editors were like, "Hey, you know the name of that person? Shouldn't it be this, for this reason historically?" I'm like, "Yep, I don't know what I was thinking." You know, And so it really takes a village, you know.
Jeff: What do you hope people get out of this book?
Michael: What I'm hoping to get out of it is enough people interested to get a whole trilogy out of it and to get an audio book. I really want to hear this story come alive - the swashbuckling adventure come alive. I hope people get entertainment out of it. I hope they feel empowered and maybe challenged on their beliefs a little bit, which is, you know, a lofty goal. And it sounds like hubris to say it, but I hope people read it and see the LGBTQ+ world is just like everything else. It's steeped in mystery, and history, and great characters with amazing depth, capable of heroic acts and terrible evils, and everything in between. You know, some people will write a character and be afraid to make the gay character or the trans character do something horrible, but that's wrong. They have to do everything that everyone else does in order to make it real. And so I'm hoping people will forgive me if I do something horrible to a character, or make them do something terribly wicked... you know, mustache twirling - and not, of course, hate the straight characters that do bad things as well.
Jeff: Right. Now, you kept a lot of this book in your family, in some ways too, because your husband Jason Buren did the cover and interior art - and the cover is gorgeous.
Michael: Thank you. I love the art.
Jeff: How did he come to get involved in it an what was it like collaborating with him on those elements?
Michael: Well, Jason's an amazing artist and graphic designer. We actually worked on the first one together and we worked on comic books together and what I realized through it - honestly working with Dawn and the great editors, kind of makes you realize some things - you have to back up and state your vision. Say what you want. Show covers of things you like, and things you don't like, and then not micromanage it. Because then what you're going to get is my artistry, which I'm a writer you know, not technically a graphic artist. So you really get your best work if you let the artist kind of figure it out and that's what happened. I let go of the reins of both books and I think that the covers are amazing, if I do say so myself. I think this cover is so exactly what I wanted to be, and I was unable to say it out loud. And that's what a good artist should do in the interiors too. I wanted so badly to have chapter art and I know that people don't have to let you do stuff like that, but [my publisher] Dreamspinner was so amazing. I pitched this idea of clockwork meets fantasy with the Dragon Wing and the clockwork gears together So I'm so excited to show some of that together with the dragon wings with the mixture. Anyway I'm so excited and geek about it. I even got a little gears as text breaks in the art, in the books, it's really fun. It's really gorgeous. But you, know let go and see what happens. That's the idea.
Jeff: When you were here in Episode 42, we were talking about a historical m/m hockey romance called 'The Long Season'. This is a total departure. Unless you can talk about the fact that you're dealing with historical times. Had you always seen in your career switching genres so completely?
Michael: You know that's a great question. I want to challenge myself to do something completely different every time. And so, like being a new writer, writing historical fiction was crazy. That's too much to take on.
I said, "Well, whatever. It's a labor of love, you know?" So then for my second novel, a trilogy? Themed like science fiction? Like, "Oh you're crazy, that's too much. You're not going to handle it." And who knows what we'll see. The first one got picked up, thank you Dreamspinner and I'm super excited about it. I want to challenge myself and I love that genre. So I say, let's do something completely different. People ask me about doing a sequel of 'The Long Season'. We're doing another hockey book. You know, I'm really proud of the fact that I wrote a character, Maggie in 'The Long Season' who was Brett's best friend. Turns out Bret's best friend started off with John Paul, which I'm really proud that people want a Maggie story and I think that's amazing. Who knows when that might happen. I might do that. My grandmother certainly, when she read it before she passed away, she said it can't end here and she's right... another story. And I did all that roaring 20s research... who knows, I might go back, but I want to challenge myself to do something different. I could write another hockey book because I love it and I love the whole romance side of it and who knows.
Jeff: I was thinking you need to find a way to introduce hockey into the Infernal Instruments universe.
Michael: I mean, there might be some sports related in there a little bit, but like medieval hockey? That would be fun. I mean the 1880s isn't too far away from Lord Stanley, so they could theoretically run into Lord Stanley somewhere. You know that can happen. Good idea.
Jeff: Do you foresee more in this universe, potentially if the if the trilogy works out and is successful?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, you know, I think it's set up perfectly for a TV show. That's huge right. But I've even thought about - I have a friend who's a game designer and I even thought about... man, that would be amazing. That whole steampunk idea is a huge world and you'll see in book two, the world's even bigger than you see in book one because it's a world at war. It's a world half conquered by clockwork powered England and half conquered by magic powered Ireland. So everywhere you go France, and Germany, and Africa, and potentially the United States. Are they even the United States? It's a huge world, so the stories could go anywhere. You know I think of like, Gideon Smith books. 'Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl' I think the first is called. They, at some point, they end up in an airship going to the United States, and the Wild West, and Egypt, and all kinds of things. Steampunk is open.
Jeff: I hope that just keeps going and expanding. So what's coming up next for you? Are you done with book two or are still writing on the trilogy ,and can you look beyond this first trilogy? What's next?
Michael: Well, interestingly enough, it goes back to your last question. Books two and three, the trilogy, has a beginning, middle, and end in my head. Of course there could be more after that, much like 'The Long Season', but in my mind I've already started about halfway through writing a third completely different genre book, challenging myself with something completely different, which is a contemporary YA book built on my travels to Antarctica. So it's a YA, two young people who meet and fall in love on a cruise to Antarctica. Sort of a travelog and what happens, and the interesting things, and people, and penguins that they see. I won't give away too much, meaning - that's what I'm in the middle of now.
Jeff: That's exciting. A little something new there. Again, totally disparate, but you mentioned what you want to keep mixing it up.
Michael: So yeah. And we'll see how that works out. I'm working with a gender nonconforming character, which is really new for me, it's taken lots of research to get intersectionality in the forefront of the book, you know not as a ploy, but as a reality of the world that we live in, and people that need representation. So I'm really excited about that.
Jeff: Hurry up and write that please.
Michael: All right. Hopefully, if you're willing, you'll probably see it before anybody else as a proofreader.
Jeff: What's the best way for folks to keep up with you online, to keep up is as 'Infernal Instruments' continues and this new contemporary book starts to take shape?
Michael: If they go to my full name - MichaelVanceGurley.com. Go on there and there'll be links to my two book sites and to my Instagram, they can go to Captain Rhetoric on Instagram and find me, that's where I write self-involved book reviews where hopefully people care about what I think about these amazing books that I read, and travel pictures, and just little bits like that, not too much of me, just sort of what I see about the world. I like to do that on Instagram and that's the best way to keep up with me.
Jeff: Well I wish you the best of success with 'Absolute Heart'. It's been great to talk to you a little bit about it. And when that contemporary is done you'll have to come on back.
Here's the text of this week's book reviews:
The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee. Reviewed by Will.
The Masterpiece by Bonnie Dee is a makeover story with Pygmalionthemes 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 that 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 impossible 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 Pygmalionstories 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 leave 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 an awful lot. I loved these two characters that Bonnie Dee created I was rooting for them the entire time.
The Nobleman and the Spy by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon. Reviewed by Jeff & Will.
Jeff: Bonnie and Summer are both new to me authors. The Nobleman and the Spy, which I would call a second-chance romantic suspense historical, was a complete delight full of intrigue and some steaming hot sex.
Solider-turned-British spy Jonathan Reese is assigned to keep watch over German Karl von Binder. Jonathan knows Karl all too well because during the war Karl spared Jonathan’s life. It doesn’t take much for Jonathan to lose focus on his mission and pay attention to the man who has come back into his life. He’s also aware that he cares too much for Karl to allow anything to happen to him, despite the fact that his orders as the mission begins are a bit mixed if he should allow the man to be killed or not.
Karl, despite the forbidden attraction to Jonathan, tries to keep the spy at length, sure that he can protect himself. As evidence piles up though that there’s someone on Karl’s trail, the two end up working together trying to figure out who’s behind it. It’s a tangled web that I didn’t quite believe even as it was all falling into place. The resolution was certainly something I’d never anticipated as I tried to solve it as I read along. It was quite a thrill.
I loved the feel of this book. In often reminded me of a childhood favorite TV show, Wild Wild West, which was set in the same time period of the mid 1860s. While this isn’t set in the American west with some strange characters as villains, the time period comes through loud and clear in a rich setting and how the characters carry themselves.
I also liked how Karl and Jonathan recognized that they couldn't give in to their attraction but the more they couldn't give into it the more they really want to. And then when they got together it was so intense. Narrator Todd Scott I have to say does a terrific job with the entire story but the sex scenes…off the charts!
Will: What really struck me and what I enjoyed the most is that it's essentially a bodyguard trope and it has all the different things that go along with that but in a historical setting. So it was sexy and it was fun and there's lots of adventure and action. I really enjoyed this one as well.
Jeff: Calling out the bodyguard trope is really appropriate. But what makes it a little different, at least to me, is that Karl doesn't really want to be guarded. But Jonathan certainly takes that role because he keeps reinserting himself even where he's taken off the case. He wants to keep Karl safe at all costs.
So, yes, we both highly recommend The Nobleman and the Spy by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon.