First off, LGBT romance authors nominated for 2019 RITA Awards are congratulated, including Layla Reyne, Amy Lane, Suzanne Brockmann, Melanie Hansen and Aurora Rey.

New patron Angela is welcomed.

Jeff discusses his second visit to Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen as well as seeing an immersive production of Bare: A Pop Opera.

Rather than review books this week, the guys talk about titles they are looking forward to this spring: Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert, LOL by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox, Under His Protection by LaQuette, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera and Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, Jeff also calls out the start of a new series from Layla Reyne that he’s looking forward to but can’t discuss.

Brandilyn stops by to recommend the audiobook of Badlands by Morgan Brice and talks about some old favorites from Rhys Ford, Jordan L. Hawk and Ethan Stone.

Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play Music, SpotifyStitcherPlayerFMYouTube and audio file download.

Show Notes

Here are the things we talk about in this episode:

Jeff's Musical Reviews

Here’s the text of Jeff’s reviews of the shows he saw in New York:

While I was in New York this past week, I caught two musicals that have the common theme of teenagers looking for a connection to each other, finding their voice and being able to live as their authentic selves.

I started off with a return trip to Dear Evan Hansen. We originally reviewed our trip to see the original Broadway cast back in episode 91 in July 2017. I went back this week because I wanted to see the current Evan, sixteen-year-old Andrew Barth Feldman.

Andrew won the 2018 National High School Musical Theater Award and was invited to audition for the role. Within a few weeks, he was cast. Before this, Evan’s were in their mid-20s because the role is difficult to sing and requires skills to manage the emotional arc.

Andrew blew me away. I watched some clips of other roles he’s posted on his YouTube channel and a pretty good idea he could sing the right range for the show. His vocal performance though was through the roof. In the early songs, he had amazing vocal breaks that conveyed Evan’s anxiety and timidness and as he felt more emboldened by the story he waved the vocals got more confident. By the time he hit “You Will Be Found” at the end of the first act he was a different person, only to come crashing down again for “Words Fail,” which is the show’s 11 o’clock show stopper.

The acting too was spot on, at times looking like he wanted to shatter into a million pieces to escape. In the moment where his mom talks to him about what he’d done, he’s pressed so much into the corner of the couch, you know he wants to be eaten by the furinture.

It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to grow into the role. He was in week seven when I saw him. The producers are giving him time and training to handle the rigors of a Broadway schedule–currently, he’s playing five out of eight shows a week. Beyond Evan, I look forward to what Andrew’s future roles will be because I suspect he’ll be rocking Broadway for many years to come.

The next night I went to see Bare: A Pop Opera for its first performance. I’ve been a fan of this show since the mid-2000s when I saw some clips of it’s off-Broadway run and eventually got its studio cast recording. Through March 31, the show is being presented as a site-aware production in the St. John’s Lutheran Chruch on Christopher Street as part of the church’s theater season that pays tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

I’m going to give you the synopsis the production wrote as it sums the show up perfectly: Bare, a pop/rock opera, follows a group of students at a Catholic boarding school as they grapple with their sexuality, identity, and the future. As the group attempts to put up a production of Romeo and Juliet, tensions flare, self-doubt creeps in and God’s path blurs. The students’ journeys ring with the sounds of youthful repression and revolt. With an exhilarating sung-through pop score, bare is a provocative and honest look at the dangers of baring your soul, and the consequences of continuing to hide.

Peter and Jason are the core of the show. They’re best friends, roommates and lovers. Jason, however, can’t embrace that he’s gay–pressure from his parents to be perfect, pressure to follow Catholic doctrine, pressure to conform consume him and yet he can’t deny that he loves Peter. On the other side, Peter is tired of hiding and wants to be open about their relationship.

Jacob Entenman and Jared Hopper were stunning as Peter and Jason. From their first song that introduces their relationship to the more difficult, emotionally charged songs were their relationship fractures I was all in with them. Jacob in particular with “Ever After” and “The Role of A Lifetime” were stunning and the two coming together for the title song ripped my heart out.

Other standouts here included Noni Celine as Sister Chantelle. She knows what’s up with Peter and tells him that “God Don’t Make No Trash.” She also comes to Peter when he’s in a drunken stupor … he sees her as the Virgin Mary. Noni brought the house down with “911 Emergency” where she told Peter in no uncertain terms that he needed to come out to his mother.

Jessie Rae Jordan as Ivy nailed the role of bad girl who didn’t want to be a bad girl. Her “All Grown Up” as she reveals exactly what happened the night Jason and her spent together was amazing. Beth Ann Stripling as Jason’s sister Nadia was tremendous in her portrayal of a young woman grappling with many issues at home and school.

We backed this Kickstarter even though we weren’t going to get to see it. It turned out I was able to be in the city and I was ecstatic to get to see the show for the first time. It exceeded every expectation and if I could’ve been in the city longer, I’d have gone back to see it again. It runs through March 30 and you can get information at BareInTheChurch.com

Spring Book Recommendations

Here are the blurbs we read on the show for the books we’re excited about:

Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert (Releases April 1)

Everything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.

He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

 LOL by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox (Releases April 2)

Scotty: When a gorgeous cop comes racing out of a building on 5th Avenue, hops in your horse-drawn carriage, and screams, “Go!” You go.

You don’t stop and ask for paperwork. Or a badge. Or an explanation of who you’re chasing. You simply follow his shouted orders and try not to kill anyone in the process.

At least, that’s what I did when it happened to me.

But then it turns out that the “cop” is none other than Roman Burke, Hollywood’s hottest star, and our little joy ride gets me fired. Now I’m broke, my horse has been evicted from her barn, and I’ve got nowhere to turn.

Roman: When you accidentally hijack a Central Park carriage trying to escape the paparazzi, get pulled over by the police, and your crisis manager insists you lay low for a while, you nod your head and go.

And when the cute carriage driver shows up on your front step, horse in tow, blaming you for losing his job, you agree to fix it. Even if that means hauling both him and his horse along with you on your Vermont getaway.

At least that’s what I did when it happened to me.

Unfortunately, trouble seems to stick to the sexy carriage driver like hot syrup on a hotter waffle, making my Vermont retreat anything but quiet.

Now the carriage driver is in my bed, unexpected guests are crawling out of the woodwork, and the paparazzi is on my tail. With chaos and scandal swarming around me, suddenly, it isn’t just my career on the line.

It’s my heart.

Under His Protection by LaQuette (Releases April 16)

They can escape their enemies, but not the desire between them.

Prosecutor Camden Warren is on the fast track to professional nirvana. With his charm, his sharp legal mind, and his father as chief judge in the highest court in NY, he can’t fail. Nothing can derail his rise to the top… until an attempt on his life forces him to accept the help of a man he walked out on five years ago.

Wounded in the line of duty, Lieutenant Elijah Stephenson wants to ride his new desk job until retirement—not take a glorified babysitting gig with more risk than it’s worth… especially not protecting the entitled lawyer who disappeared after the best sex of their lives.

The threat against Camden’s life is real, but their passion for each other might prove the greatest danger they’ve yet to face.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Releases May 14)

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

 American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera (Releases May 20)

Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.

New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily-ever-after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.

Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.

Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.

Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.

Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee  (Releases June 4)

Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities that the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, she isnt always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when thats done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.