Jeff opens the show talking about the work he’s doing on a holiday short story.
They also remind everyone about the LA Times Festival of Books happening April 13 and 14 on the USC Campus and the authors expected to attend from Dreamspinner Press and Interlude Press.
Jeff & Will talk about the series finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Books reviewed this week include Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert and Paternity Case by Gregory Ashe.
Lisa joins Jeff to recommend four speculative fiction books: The Mortal Sleep by Gregory Ashe, Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A. Grant, All Souls Near & Nigh by Hailey Turner and Not Dead Yet by Jen Burke.
Complete shownotes for episode 183 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert. Reviewed by Will
While his uncle is recuperating from minor surgery, Alaskan bush pilot Griffin is tasked with taking a tour group into the wilds of Alaska. One of the group is River, former male model-turned inspirational travel writer, who’s gathering material for his next book.
There’s an immediate attraction and chemistry between them and over the course of the week, as they spend more time together, they fall for one another.
One of the many things that drew me into Arctic Sun, is that Griff and River are two interesting, compelling, genuinely dimensional characters, with actual lives. And by that, I mean that they’re not just cardboard cut-outs going through the motions, playing out a standard romantic plotline.
They’ve both faced challenges in the past, overcome them, and – through emotionally intelligent conversations — work to figure out how they can move forward together.
After the tour is over, they make plans to meet in Vancouver.
River is going to be hanging out with some old friends from his modeling days, and Griff’s visit is a kind of “real world” road test to see if their relationship can work. It’s, of course, a total disaster.
The old friends bring out triggering scenarios for both Griff and River. Their true “Real World” was the connection they shared in the wilds of Alaska, not fancy date night restaurants or going to exclusive clubs. The problem is that they’re using relationship criteria from their screwed-up pasts to judge their current situation.
They realize this far too late and break things off.
They each take some time apart and do some soul searching, River about his family history and public persona and how it relates to his work, and Griff about how he interacts with the outside world and family’s tour business.
Griff makes his way to L.A. for the premiere of the film based on River’s book. The things they each want and need out of life are actually more aligned than they first realized.
They can live, love and work surrounded by the nature that gives each of them so much joy.
I’ve continued to work my way through Gregory Ashe’s Hazard & Somerset Mystery series. Gregory’s way with mystery thrillers along with possibly the slowest burn romance ever keep drawing me back. After dealing with a Clue-like mystery taking place over Thanksgiving in Transposition, the action now moves to Christmastime.
An interesting turn of events, one that I believe only Gregory could concoct, finds Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset on a double date as the book opens. Readers of the series know this just cannot end well as Hazard, his boyfriend Nico, Sommers and his estranged wife Cora attempt to have a meal together. Saying the scene is uncomfortable is an understatement and it’s the perfect scene to begin the story.
The mystery in Paternity Case revolves around an incident that occurs at the Somerset family home. Sommers’s father calls him away from dinner to help with the problem. When Hazard and Sommers arrive, they discover a quite high, naked Santa causing issues and before they can sort out why, a teenage girl is dead, Sommers’s father is shot multiple times and the Santa is killed after being taken into custody.
Nothing is ever what it seems in a Hazard and Somerset book and the reason and motive for the shootings is disturbing and extraordinary. Gregory has concocted his most twisted mystery of the series and shines an even brighter spotlight on the shady goings on in the Wahredua good old boy network. I’m always stunned at how Gregory reveals the whodunit and this one continually blew my mind.
We know from previous books that Sommers and Hazard have complicated pasts, together and separately. Significant details are finally laid out in this book. We find out why Hazard had to leave St. Louis, which honestly wasn’t as shocking as I expected…but it doesn’t mean that those in power in Wahredua don’t try to capitalize on it. Learning more of what happened to the boys in high school upset me. More about Sommers’s senior year came to light and the feelings Sommers has about Hazard continue to have a major impact on his future choices.
Many authors would dump this information out much earlier, but the parsing that Gregory’s done over the three books made it more impactful. It’s like a traffic accident–uncomfortable to witness and yet you can’t look away. It’s expert writing that keeps you glued to the page to see what gets revealed next and guessing what the far reaching implications will be.
There are some sublime side characters in this book and I have to give a particular shout out to Sommer’s mother, Grace Elaine. She’s every bit a southern matriarch who you do not want to cross–sugary sweet in one moment and ready to claw your eyes out in the next. The cat and mouse game she plays with Hazard is equal parts highly entertaining and disturbing. She goes to great lengths to protect her son, her family and what she believes is right all while being a terrible person at heart. She made me shudder as I knew people just like her from growing up in the south.
Back to the mystery, it’s impossible to easily talk about it without revealing too much. Suffice to say of the three books so far, this mystery has been the most disturbing because of the ramifications for the teenage characters involved–not only the girl who is killed but two of her friends who are swept up in the drama. Anyone who is potentially triggered by abusive parents, child abuse, and similar issues would be advised to proceed cautiously with this book.
Of course, I’m ready to read more from Gregory. I have no doubt that things that were planted in this book will matter even more in what follows. I can’t wait to see where it all leads to ultimately.