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.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links includes affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston on Amazon
- The Rainbow Awards on Facebook
- Mr. Right Now by Annabeth Albert on Amazon
- A Royal Christmas Cruise by Max Walker on Amazon
- Episode 213 – Loosen Up with Max Walker on BGFP
- He’s Behind You by Clare London on Amazon
- The Christmas Dragon’s Mate by Silvia Violet on Amazon
- Episode 215 – Mpreg 101 on BGFP
- A E Ryecart Interview
- A E Ryecart: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon
- A Kiss Before Christmas by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- An Easter Promise by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- A Christmas Kiss by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- The Boss of Christmas Present by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- Release by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- Company for Christmas by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- Imperfect by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- Captive Hearts by A E Ryecart on Amazon
- Gregory Ashe on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
- Romance Revisited Books for Episode 219
- The Holiday Hoax by Skylar M. Cates on Amazon
- Dreams of Winters Past by Shae Connor on Amazon
- Holiday Weekend by Charley Descoteaux on Amazon
- Gaudete by Amy Rae Durreson on Amazon
- The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durreson on Amazon
- Pattern for an Angel by CJane Elliott on Amazon
- Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings by Nell Iris on Amazon
- Bite Night by Clare London on Amazon
- Holiday House Swap by Sarah Madison on Amazon
- Elf on the Beach by TJ Nichols on Amazon
- The Vampire’s Dinner by TJ Nichols on Amazon
- 29 Hours to Eternity by Elizabeth Noble on Amazon
- An Open Window by Rick R. Reed on Amazon
- Otis by Rodney Ross on Amazon
- Moment of Silence by Karen Stivali on Amazon
- Too Hot for Santa by Helena Stone on Amazon
- Falling Snow on Snow by Lou Sylvre on Amazon
- A Good Thing by Julia Talbot on Amazon
- Oranges and Peppermint by BA Tortuga on Amazon
Interview Transcript – A E Ryecart
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Well, I’m pleased to announce that we have author A E Ryecart here on our show. Hello.
A E: Hello. Hello.
Will: Those of you who have listened to this show for at least a little bit of time know that I am a crazy, bonkers, enthusiastic fan of her Jack and Rory series, which she started last year. And she has a brand new installment and A E is here to talk a little bit about that book. It’s called “A Christmas Wedding.” And A E, can you give us a little bit of background about the first book and sort of the origin stories of “Rory & Jack?”
A E: Sure. Yes. Okay. “A Kiss Before Christmas” was last year’s offering and it’s a fake boyfriend story. And Rory pitches up in Jack’s life by huddling on his doorstep during a winter storm just before Christmas. So, of all the doorsteps, of all the houses in London that he could’ve chosen, yeah, he ends up on Jack’s because, you know, this is Romance after all. Yeah. He’s got nowhere to live and Jack, out of the kindness of his heart, takes him inside and gives him a cup of tea, because this is England, a sandwich.
And basically, Rory never actually leaves. And because Jack’s so good to him, he’s really saved his life on this, you know, nasty winter’s night, he agrees to pretend to be Jack’s new hot boyfriend, but, of course, he isn’t. Because Jack has a function to go to that’s very posh and his ex-boyfriend who dumped him is going to be there, he feels he’s got something to prove. And of course, you know, as you would expect the fake feelings turn to warmer more loving feelings and…yeah, it’s a fake boyfriend who turns out not to be so very fake in the end.
Will: Rory and Jack’s story continued on into the spring with the second story.
A E: Yes, that’s right. That is “An Easter Promise.” And what happens there is that these two are now together and they go down to Delacey ancestral home in deepest Devonshire to meet Jack’s parents and things go wrong. Jack’s parents are good people, but his mother, Diana, is very…is indomitable, she really is. She’s a force of nature and she’s not very trusting of Rory, at least, to begin with. He gets involved in the village bake-off, he helps to judge the cutest-pet-in-show competition, and he really does win over the family.
And, you know, there’s an incident out on the moors on a stormy night, you know, because this is Devon Shire, this is Dartmoor, you know, this is heavy stuff. And of course, it all ends up very nicely. And there’s a dog, of course, there’s a dog, there’s a dog called Badger who’s Rory best friends, pretty much
Will: Cutest dog ever. And he actually happens to make an appearance in the third installment, the recently released “A Christmas Wedding.” So, bring us up to date. Where are Rory and Jack at now?
A E: Okay. This is two years on from when they first meet. And during that time, they’ve opened a very successful bakery business, the Bake House it’s called. It’s an artisan bakery because Rory, by profession, is a baker. And so, this business is going from strength to strength. And so, they’re very stressed out. It’s Christmas, they’ve got lots of orders. And so, Jack’s mum, lady Diana takes over the wedding planning. And Rory is very uneasy about it, really. He doesn’t feel like he’s involved enough. He feels that she’s taking over, you know, additional guests get added to the guest list and so on. That simple winter wedding that they both wanted so much is turning into a bit of a society do. And it’s not them, but, you know, they’re tough dowdy boys and they do stand up to Diana and they kept the wedding of their dreams.
And there’s a few surprises along the way. So, there’s issues about family and reconnection and being accepted and, sort of, you know, rising above difficulties that life can throw at you. And I’ve left it a little bit open at the end so that, you know, that there’s room for more in this whole Jack and Rory universe if I go down that route.
Will: And most importantly in this installment, there’s still lots of wonderful holiday food and utterly a hilarious story about Desmond the donkey?
A E: Oh, I love Desmond the donkey. I tell you that really is the toned-down version because I was going for it big time. His antics in the church. But yeah, I just loved it. I was in hysterics as I was writing it. And what I particularly liked about that scene with Desmond is that it’s been told by Diana in a very straight-faced rather rigid way. And against all this, Rory is getting gently pissed in the background by, you know, getting up close and personal with mister merlot. So yeah, that’s a good scene. I’d like that one. I’m glad you did too.
Jeff: And the food, of course. I think your books have been part of the reasons why we’ve been so turned on by minced pie. And she actually brought minced pies.
Will: Oh, she’s got some yummy.
Jeff: With a cute snowflake on top.
Will: Now, the three stories that sort of make up the ongoing story arc in Jack and Rory’s love saga, there is a continuing story, but I think you’ve said yourself that each story stands on its own and can be read without the previous volumes.
A E: I think it’s always better if books can be read in order, but you really don’t have to do that with any of the Rory and Jack books or indeed with anything I write. You can take a book out of order and not be thinking who, what, where, why because what needs to be explained is explained where it’s needed.
Jeff: And that’s really good. I like stories I could do that. Because, you know, you’ve talked so much about a Christmas wedding, I may have to pick that up before the season’s over.
Will: You should. I highly recommend it.
Jeff: And you love Christmas stories and you actually have another one that will be out by the time this actually airs.
A E: Yeah.
Jeff: Tell us about it.
A E: This one is called “The Boss of Christmas Present.” And it’s a very light note towards the Christmas Carol. It’s contemporary and it’s set in London as most of my books are. And it’s about an arrogant, selfish man, the boss. He’s not a good guy to work for, he’s all about himself. He’s a bit of a slave driver to his staff and he has his PA who’s very much put upon. But this guy, the PA, Jordan, he has a crush on Conrad. And he’s been working there for a couple of years at the Ryder Corporation and he’s thinking, “It’s no good. I’m going to have to move on, you know, I can’t take it much longer.”
What happens is Jordan gets offered some interviews for other jobs and Conrad finds out, and it’s a bit of a wake-up call because he then thinks, “How am I going to function?” Not just his office but, I mean, Jordan runs his life. He books his weekends away with his various men, he takes his suits to the dry cleaners, he gets his groceries delivered, and it’s a bit of a wake-up call for him. And he has a conversation with a good friend who doesn’t take any rubbish from him and says, “Look, you’ve got to start treating people better.”
And what happens…I don’t want to give too much away, but Jordan and Conrad, they both end up on their own on Christmas day. But of course, they don’t end up on their own because they end up with each other. So, I don’t want to say too much more. I mean, it’s a little novella. It’s only about 26,000 words, but it is sweetness overload. It really is, I mean, this is like minced pies on steroids. Yeah. I’m not going to be responsible for any sort of tooth decay that comes from reading this story, especially as there’s a three-legged dachshund in it who has a Christmas jumper. So, I think that’s a bit of a taste for what’s going on here, but I loved writing it. I thought it was fun. It was fun to write and it was a nice light relief.
Jeff: And I have to ask, having heard the name of the donkey and the name of the dog in the Rory & Jack book, what is the dachshund named?
A E: Doo Doo. He’s Doo Doo the dubious dachshund because he’s a bit of a town’s mix actually. And he’s only got three legs.
Jeff: Poor dachshund. That’s just sad. Now, you’ve released a lot of books this year. Let’s talk about a few of the other ones you’ve put out. Back in August, you put out “Release,” which is a “Rent Boys” novel. Tell us about that and what we have to expect another “Rent Boys” novel.
A E: Okay. Well, I’m going to start working on book two in the series just as soon as the next Christmas book is out. But yes, “Release” was actually born out of a looking novelette that came out about this time last year called “Company for Christmas,” which was about a rather hapless rent boy. And that’s a Cinderfella story. So, instead of the glass slipper, there’s a warm woolly coat and so on. And one of the housemates of Nathan, the rent boy in that story, is called Shawn. And Shawn is pretty much the head of the household of this little found family. And as I was writing that I just thought to myself, “This guy needs a story. He really does.” He really sort of like took me by the throat and gave me a good old shake. And so, that’s really how the Rent Boys series started.
Now, what I should say is that “Release” is about finding a new life. It’s not set as a track story. So, it’s the rent boy and the art historian, two people who should never ever have met, but they have a lot in common, although they come from very different backgrounds. And both are trapped in these lives that they don’t want. Shawn wants desperately to leave his life on the streets, but he is crippled by self-doubt because this is all he can do. And when the book opens, he’s getting steadily drunk in the bar because he’s had a day where he’s just been knocked back. He’s gone for jobs and he’s been told, “Well, what have you been doing since you were 16? You’ve got no track record. You know, who’s going to employ you?” And so he sees no way out. And in the same way the art historian, Laurie, he has a very confined, very ordered, very traditional life. And he thinks he likes it like that, but he’s starting to feel a little bit bored, a little bit henned in.
And when they meet that is the catalyst for their lives to change, hence the title. It’s about release. It’s about release from lives that don’t fulfill them in any sort of meaningful or emotional way. And, you know, they come together and they give something to each other that is missing. They are each other’s jigsaw piece that they don’t have to complete the picture.
Jeff: Where do you see this series going? You mentioned you’re going to start working on the next book here shortly.
A E: Yes. I want to sort of work through the rest of the housemates because they are very much a found family. They live in this sort…in this pit of a house, but they are a very strong unit. And of course, Laurie has now sort of come into that house as well. And he has a friend, he’s got a friend who is quite a difficult person and his name is Toby and he plays quite a role in “Release.” So, he’s got a very hard shell. But yeah, there’s a lot going on in the background and it’s going to be his story and the story of one of the housemates who’s called Ben. And I’ve got lots of ideas that are starting to brew with this story.
Jeff: That’s exciting. Something to look forward to for sure. And you’ve also got your Deviant Hearts series that had a new book this year.
A E: Yes. Yeah. That’s another trilogy. I do like trilogies. I’m not one for long series, either for writing them or reading them. I get series burnout, I think. Yeah, Deviant Hearts, that is what I would say is my romantic suspense series. And the first one is “Captive Hearts.” And that’s a crime boss and he’s kept boy if I can put it like that. And he’s rescued from his situation by the guy who is employed to be his minder, goffer, you know, somebody to drive him around.
And as the books go on, I ramp up the suspense element until we get to the last book in the series, which is “Perilous Hearts.” And that is essentially a psychological thriller. There’s a lot of gaslighting going on, there’s a stalker. One of the main characters really does start to doubt his sanity because of the things that are happening to him, little things, drip, drip, drip things. Finding food in the fridge that he never bought, finding things moved around in the flat that he never moved. And against all this going on…and you’ll obviously find out why it’s going on and who’s doing it. Although it becomes quite obvious who is doing it, it’s not about who’s done it, it’s why they’re doing it, not who’s done it, but why.
But against all this, there’s a friends-to-lovers romance story going on. And I’m really proud of this book because it’s something that has my stamp as Ryecart. But I’ve taken a route that I never thought I would have taken, which is down that whole suspense psycho-thriller road. And I just loved writing it. I had a really good time.
Jeff: So, more psychological thriller, romantic suspense coming soon since you enjoyed that?
A E: Yes. So, I’m coming towards a bit of a crossroads in my writing, to be honest. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time, but it feels like it’s coming to a head now. So, I think looking into next year, yes there is the Rent Boys series to continue with and, you know, maybe there’ll be some more Rory & Jack, we would just have to see how that goes. But there are two strands, there’s a whole sort of romantic suspense, the psychological thriller stuff that I really did enjoy writing and I think that’s something I could seriously get my teeth into.
So, as Ryecart, I want to go more down that route, but writing the Rory & Jack stories, they were partly an experiment to see if I could write those sort of sweet and more heartwarming, more heartfelt stories because I hadn’t written anything like that up until I did “A Kiss Before Christmas” last year. So, I didn’t know if I could do it because my previous work is nothing like that. It’s much prettier, much heavier. But because I found that I could, and because I found that I enjoyed doing it, I’m looking at two strands.
Now, whether I do both of these strands as Ryecart or whether I do one under another pen name but not disguising that it’s me, that is the same person, I don’t know. I am flip-flopping. That wasn’t enthralled in my thinking. I lie in bed at night sometimes thinking, “Yes, I’ll do this, I’ll do this, I’ll do this,” and then, “No, I won’t, that’s a crazy idea. It’s very stupid. It’s not, it’s not, yes it is. It’s not. It’s not. Yes, it is.” And it’s all a bit like that.
Jeff: So, you mentioned while we were talking about Deviant Hearts that it had the stamp of the Ryecart on it. What are those things that make the Ryecart stamp?
A E: Oh, the Ryecart. I like that, the Ryecart. Gritty and hard-edged often with a big injection of realism running through the books. Many Ryecart books are very much rooted in an environment that I know, so they’re set in parts of London that I know because I’ve lived in them, I’ve worked in them. I’ve known them, you know, on a social basis, if I can put it like that.
And so, I like to bring that realism into my stories. So, that’s partly what I mean by realism. And my characters often tend to be very…they’re very complex. Sometimes they’re not easy to like, they do the wrong things. Quite often they do the wrong things and you think, “Why are you doing that? You’re just making it worse.” But I think life is often like that. We all make these decisions that sometimes we know we should not be making them, but we do them all the same. And I think, in a lot of my books, that is infused through them. So, you wouldn’t pick up by a Ryecart for a light and fluffy read except for the Christmas books.
Jeff: I was going to say except maybe for the Rory & Jack books.
A E: Yeah, yeah, they are. I mean, they do have my stamp in as much that, you know, it’s the same style, but I’ve gone down different routes obviously for both books. So, with the Christmas books, the characters are on the lighter side of life even if they don’t experience the lighter side of life at times. The guys in the other books are much more screwed up in many ways.
Jeff: What got you started writing gay romance?
A E: I do get asked this a lot. And the answer was the Kindle. I was bought a Kindle for Christmas a few years ago now. And I resisted the Kindle with, you know, with a lot of power. I didn’t want them, I just like my paperback books. But I got a Kindle and, as you know, there’s all the free and the really cheap books that we’re all sort of churning out. And I was downloading all sorts of things. I mean, I was a big reader of non-fiction rather than fiction, lots of travel writing, lots of sociopolitical stuff, that sort of thing. But I was downloading everything. And I do quite like a bit of horror, horror and the supernatural in fiction. And I don’t really know how I did it.
I downloaded a shifter story and it was a gay shifter thought story and I thought, “What the hell is this? I’ve never heard of anything like this.” And I can’t remember who wrote it, but I read it and I thought, “Oh, this is really good. This is really good fun.” It was totally silly, totally silly. But I started devouring the shifter books and it introduced me to this whole world that I had no idea existed. And so, you know, shifters became a bit like cupcakes in that, yeah, I just had enough. I couldn’t stomach any more of them and I was looking for something a bit beefier and a bit meatier. So, I started actually looking for contemporary, which is what I like. And I started to discover writers and just started reading.
I ended up losing my job. I got made redundant and I had a lot of time on my hands. And so, I started my first book, which is called “Imperfect.” And I approached it as a hobby. So, I’d write a little bit and then leave it for a couple of weeks and then go back to it. And I wrote it in longhand because…yeah, I know like something 75,000k-word book. And I wrote probably about 95% of it in longhand because if I went onto the computer, I felt really guilty because I thought I’ve got to be looking for a job. I should be on the internet. I should be sort of tapping in my story. So, I wrote this book in a complete vacuum. I’d never heard of Goodreads, or barely, I didn’t know about all these Facebook groups.
I didn’t know that readers really didn’t like an MC who cheated. And guess what? Yeah. So, I got hammered in a lot of quarters for that book because one of the MCs, he does cheat but not on the person he ends up with. I mean, he’s completely self-aware. He knows what he’s doing and he knows that he’s a bit of a bastard, frankly. And he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care until he gets with the guy that he ends up with. But what’s quite interesting about that book, which contains all the newbie mistakes you can imagine, you know, they’re filling out the pages, but that book has garnered me some of my most loyal readers and they’ve just stuck with me.
Jeff: Had you had any inclination to writing before you started that book because of the MM you’d been reading?
A E: Not really, no. Language and storytelling fascinate me, but I never had any particular ambitions to do it myself. And also, I was, you know, busy building another life, you know, building a career, setting up a home. You know, life was just very busy, so it didn’t have any room for writing, even if I thought about it. But you know, until the event of the Kindle and the whole self-publishing revolution got underway, it was almost impossible to write because you had to get through all those gatekeepers who did their best to, you know, to keep you down, really. But it’s a much more democratic world now in terms of writing. If you want to write, you can write and publish. You know, it’s not always wise, but some…that opportunity is there.
It’s only really, once I started reading the genre that, as I say, I didn’t know about it, you know, it existed until I really just stumbled on it by accident. I thought, “Well, actually I can do this,” because I’ve read lots and lots of books. And I read some fantastic stuff, real good books. So, I reread even now. And I read some really dreadful ones, but it was enough to make me think, “Actually this looks like a good gig. I’m going to have a go at myself.” And I’m actually quite a cautious person naturally, but I do have these, I don’t know, I think my brain short wires sometimes and I’ll just do something that’s completely out of character. And just turning my back on what was a well-paid job to do something that held no security whatsoever was a pretty big step, but it was the best thing I ever did.
Jeff: You hinted a little bit a bit ago about what was coming in 2020, anything else you want to throw out there about what’s coming soon?
A E: Well, as I was saying, I’m really looking at two tracks. I’m very, very keen on going down the psychological thriller suspense road, and I’m reading more of that type of stuff at the moment. And I’ve been reading quite a lot of Gregory Ash, who is really good. I’m really enjoying his books. And that’s actually been good for me because I’ve been very much going down the mainstream MM romance route if you like. Of course, there’s all this other MM stuff out there, the other sub-genres are there, and I really feel that I’m starting to know what I want to write going forward.
But as I said, it’s a two-prong thing. I’ve really enjoyed the sweeter stories and I do like stories about home and family, like found family making connections and so on. And I am thinking that maybe I should spread my wings and get on a plane, so to speak, and sort of land somewhere in any Townsville, America. I’ve set some stories in a small town, but exactly how to do it. And I’ve got some really good story ideas that I’ve jotted down with something old fashioned called a pen on something that’s called paper. So, I jotted both those down. I think they could fly actually.
But again, it’s something that I want to sit down and sort of talk through with others who’ve been in this sort of situation because I know that they’re out there. So, in short, what I see is me going down two tracks. This is how I see it. Whether it will happen, you know, who knows? This might make sense. It probably doesn’t.
Jeff: It does. I’m very interested to see what comes in 2020.
A E: You’re not alone. Send me the memo.
Jeff: So, what’s the best way for people to keep up with you online so they can see what you do put out next year?
A E: Yeah. Sure. Well, I’m on Facebook, obviously, as AE Ryecart. And I’m actually working on a new website at the moment, but I’m doing it piecemeal. It’s something I’ve got to knuckle under, but that’s aeryecart.com. And, you know, if anybody’s interested in finding out more about my work and knowing what I’m doing, what I’m reading, what I recommend, then they can go there in order to sign up to my mailing list, which is just a very chatty, irreverent monthly newsletter. It’s the paper or the screen version of this basically where I can ramble. But I talk about what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been listening to because I’ve got into audio. And I’ve actually got an audio out there, just one at the moment and that’s “Captive Hearts,” which is the first in the Deviant Hearts series. I was actually really thrilled by the response to that, people are liking the story. The story seems to translate very well to that format, and the narrator Bang Kelly’s absolutely brilliant. He’s got really gruff, sexy voice, nice London accent going on there.
Will: Fantastic. Well, A E, we really appreciate you taking the time to come and talk to us, not only about your various series but about your love for sweet Christmas romances as well. So, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
A E: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you. Bye-bye.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Mr. Right Now by Annabeth Albert. Reviewed by Will.
Big, brawny, nice guy ex-marine Russ gets dumped the day before Thanksgiving. The problem – his now ex-boyfriend was going to prepare the holiday meal for his family.
Enter handsome nice guy former actor Esteban, who decides to do the charitable thing and give his clueless neighbor a hand. They prepare the meal together and when Russ’ family arrives early, a simple misunderstanding leads them to believe that Russ and Esteban are a happy couple.
The sting of getting dumped is still (understandably) fresh for Russ, so they play along. The meal goes incredibly well, and Esteban discovers that he really enjoys playing Russ’ pretend boyfriend. In fact, everyone there thinks they make the perfect couple.
Including Russ’ boss Connie. He wants a promotion, to become a designer in her kitchen remodeling firm. Esteban’s kitchen re-design will serve as a test of his abilities and whether he can handle a job with real world challenges.
It also behooves Esteban to impress Connie who, as a local business owner, might be willing to donate to the Literacy non-profit he works for.
So fake relationship it is!
Pretending to like each other doesn’t prove particularly difficult for our heroes.
We enter the part of the book that is all about nice guys, being nice, doing nice things. I know ‘nice’ doesn’t sound particularly engaging or exciting, but trust me, these two are sooo damn cute together!
They make dinner together one evening (fish tacos), Russ helps make Esteban’s gala fundraiser a success, Esteban is the perfect supportive boyfriend at Russ’ holiday work party. It’s all cute and romantic and it completely satisfies my kink for nice guy/cinnamon roll heroes.
When Russ is finally ready to show Esteban some of his kitchen concept designs, they celebrate with a kiss… and mutual blow jobs. They definitely have chemistry together, in the bedroom and out. As they continue to spend more time together, they continually keep putting off the plan to ‘break-up’ their fake relationship.
After Christmas eve with their respective families, they spend their first night together, Esteban ‘unwrapping’ Russ, the only gift he really wants. It’s amazing and perfect and afterwards the pillow talk turns serious, Russ knows what he wants and is ready to say it. Esteban is the one who becomes gun shy. They’ve only known each other a few weeks, they can’t be in love! If he can’t acknowledge how he really feels, then Russ is secure enough to walk away.
This is a romance, so Esteban quickly comes to his senses so that they can live their HEA together. A wonderful epilogue showing our happy couple one year later on New Year’s Eve wraps the story up in a sweetly romantic bow.
Mr. Right Now by Annabeth Albert is a perfect holiday romance that executes it’s fake relationship trope flawlessly. It’s no secret that this is one of my all-time favorite tropes and the way the author naturally builds the emotional connection and romantic attraction between the heroes is swoon worthy.
Annabeth Albert has a way of creating characters who are nice, thoughtful, and lead with kindness. Heroes you can immediately empathize with and fall for.
A Royal Christmas Cruise by Max Walker. Reviewed by Jeff.
Last year I was slightly annoyed with Will because he took Max Walker’s Christmas book and I did not get to see what Max does for Christmas. Well, this year I snagged his new book A Royal Christmas Cruise and it was so, so good. This book is part of the Stonewall investigations Miami’s series although it is certainly designed to be stand alone.
This one plays into so many of my likes. I mean, first it’s a holiday story, so score, but we’ve got royalty here because if you give me a Christmas story that involves a Prince or a King, falling for somebody, I’m all over it. We’ve also got fake boyfriend. And it also has a little bit of forced proximity because if you consider that these two are on a cruise ship, there’s only so many places you can go.
The book opens, as we meet Nicholas Silva, he is the Prince of Spain. And he breaks up with his girlfriend just a few days before they’re scheduled to go on a Christmas cruise. He does the breakup because he knows he’s gay. He’s known it for a long time. He hasn’t been able to come out to his parents or really to anybody at all because of his royalty. He decides to get away and go on this cruise that he’d actually booked with his girlfriend. He’s going to get away and think about what he needs to do.
Meanwhile, you’ve got Shiro Brooks, who is one of the Stonewall investigations team. He is headed out on a Christmas cruise to reunite with some old friends, but he’s dealing with a recent breakup. and he’s worried about showing up as the only single guy amongst all of his coupled friends. He’s a little worried about it, thinks about not going on the cruise, but he does it anyway.
So. I’ve never personally been in a security line at an airport or anywhere else where a hilarity actually ensues, but Max sets it up so as they’re boarding, Shiro actually gets pulled out of the security line because something triggers the metal detectors and he’s taken behind kind of a flimsy curtain. He’s asked to strip down and he’s wearing little briefs that have bananas all over them. As he’s trying to get back in his pants, after he’s cleared, he falls over and knocks down the barricade and everything. So he’s exposed in his banana boy briefs and is seen by this man who he thinks is the hottest man he’s ever seen. Everybody laughs, they go on.
In another moment that I truly loved, these two have their meet cute in a little bookstore as they’re trying to board the boat. And who doesn’t want to meet cute amongst a bunch of books. They get together, have a scorching kiss, and after that Shiro actually asks, against his better judgment if, Nicholas would be his fake boyfriend for the cruise. Nicholas, surprisingly says no, despite the smoking hot kiss, because you know, he’s a Prince and he’s trying to be incognito. But as Shiro’s meets up with his friends for the very first time, Nicholas actually shows up and plays the part which throws Shiro, but he falls into it and they proceed to take on this fake boyfriend relationship.
Now let’s talk about holiday themed cruises. This ship has fake snow crunching underfoot as you’re walking around in the lobby, you’ve got festive signs postponing the way to the different parts of the ship. There’s snowflakes and garland and a giant Christmas tree. There’s an ugly sweater party. There’s a sexy Santa dance. There is a blizzard foam party. What is not to like about this ship?
Amongst all this, Shiro and Nicholas launch into a very steamy, very hot, sexy, relationship. These two, when they’re actually not out trying to be with Shiro’s friends, are in bed, having some of the steamiest sex, including a wonderful shower scene in Nicholas’s state room. Shortly thereafter though, as they’re having a wonderful time, it is discovered that someone is taking pictures of the two and trying to put them out on the internet.
Now Nicholas has shown up with his head of security, Luna, who’s keeping a discreet watch on him. Shiro and Luna team up to try to find out who is the paparazzi in this case. So there’s a nice little thread here of investigation, for our investigator to actually get involved in.
As Nicholas is revealed to Shiro–because he’s got to come clean. they want to figure out how Nicholas can come out because it’s causing him so much stress. He needs to come out, be his authentic self. And even while Shiro’s not sure how he could possibly be the right guy for the Prince of Spain as these two find their way to be together it’s so ridiculously sweet.
It is everything you would want in a holiday story. I cannot recommend this enough. There’s just enough of the intrigue of who’s taking these pictures. You get this really shmoopy sweet story between the two guys. it’s one of the best, prince stories that I’ve ever read. The HEA is so wonderful as Max jumps forward to the next Christmas, and we find out how good things have become. I highly recommend Max Walker’s, A Royal Christmas Cruise.
He’s Behind You by Clare London. Reviewed by Will.
Frank, an actor of moderate success, has returned to his small Devon village only be cajoled by his mother to help out with this year’s Christmas panto. As the auditions later prove, there’s literally nothing more eccentric than the inhabitants of a charming English village. Frank is flabbergasted by the oddly eclectic range of ‘talent’ on display from the local townsfolk and he certainly wasn’t expecting to see dreamboat Duncan, the one that got away, or in this instance, the one Frank pushed away.
A year earlier, Frank landed a gig on a soap and Duncan got a job on an oil rig, so Frank ended things before they could even really begin. Faced with Duncan again, Frank can’t help but feel that old spark and wonder if he made the right decision.
Rehearsals for the Cinderella themed show force the two to spend more time together, leading them to talk through their past and the situations that lead them back home. At the final dress rehearsal, it looks like Frank just might get his Christmas wish, but Duncan makes it clear that he’s not interested in a no-strings fling. Unless Frank is willing to make a serious attempt at a relationship, Duncan won’t risk getting hurt again, watching him walk away like before.
On performance night, a pair of kitschy Christmas gloves bring the two of them together (not unlike Cinderella and her glass slipper) and they decide that they just can’t fight that feeling anymore.
Everyone in town loves the show and at the after-party Frank and Duncan celebrate with more than just a kiss under the mistletoe, they take a quick tumble in a supply closet. Frank’s mom is quite pleased that her matchmaking has created a satisfyingly happy holiday for all involved.
I’ve always enjoyed Clare London’s uniquely British take on romance, especially when it comes to quirky side characters who populate the story of two nice guys finding their way back to love. He’s Behind You is relatively short, but it still manages to pack a sweet, romantic holiday punch that I really loved.
The Christmas Dragon’s Mate by Silvia Violet. Reviewed by Jeff.
So after we did, the MPREG discussion back in episode 215, I was really intrigued with one of the books that Sylvia Violet mentioned called The Christmas Dragon’s Mate. I’ve never read Omegaverse but, you know, we got dragons here, and that really interested me. So I took the dive on this book.
We’ve got Laszlo, who’s been looking for his mate for over a thousand years. and he finally finds a guy that he’s interested in while shopping for Christmas ornaments. He’s a dragon. He’s got his hoard and he likes pretty things. So he’s going into the local Christmas shop to find all of the pretty glass baubles for the year. In there he finds Roman and immediately knows that Roman is the guy. Roman is his fated mate.
Roman doesn’t know what to make of this guy whose got the pull of an alpha. Roman’s not really sure why that’s impacting him, even though he’s coming up on his heat. Anyway, he’s intrigued by Laszlo, especially the way his eyes shine and Laszlo goes to great lengths to get Roman to come home with him, including practically buying out the entire store so Roman has to help him get the stuff home.
It’s so ridiculously cute how Roman gets so flustered at all the moves Laszlo makes. Roman doesn’t have a lot of experience. He’s not really sure if he’s being flirted with or if he’s just being messed with. Ultimately, Laszlo gets young Roman home and they have a little bite to eat, have a little discussion. Laszlo makes Roman feel comfortable enough that Roman’s going to share his heat for the very first time, Much sex ensues up in the Dragon’s layer. I didn’t know what to expect here, if it was going to be more dragony or more human. It is very much in the human form. We talked about in that interview, the whole thing with the knotting and this is the first time I’ve gotten to read any of that. I understand what was meant in that discussion how that just increases that bond.
And Laszlo is so… I don’t even really know how to explain it because his alpha self is always out there, but he’s constantly fighting against that and his dragon taking over because the dragon just wants to make Roman his mate and move on. Whereas Laszlo wants it to be more romantic, more slow and really play the romance part. Those first days of sex go on for three or four days to the point where Roman’s friend who he had left word with where he was going to be, actually, turns up at the house because he’s like, are you okay? It’s been a few days and you’re not answering your phone.
It’s so sweet. Once I got into it, and it took me a second to get into this alternate omegauniverse, but once I got there, I enjoyed so much.
As one would expect, Roman does get pregnant. and that really throws him off because he had been on birth control, but apparently a little dragon magic negated that. And, so he goes through the pregnancy and, continues to work in the village, despite the fact that Laszlo really wants Roman to stay home and be taken care of.
There is, of course, a little bit of conflict. Laszlo has a worker in his house who really wanted to be his mate, and Roman becomes convinced that there’s been some cheating even though Laszlo said that would never happen. Roman tries to leave the house. but of course, Laszlo quickly assures Roman that no such thing would happen. I will tell you that you do not want to piss off a dragon because the guy who caused all this is, quickly dealt with and removed from the household.
As I was reading this, I told Will that there had better be a moment with full out dragon. I was at the halfway point and Laszlo had not yet fully displayed his dragon for Roman, and I really wanted to see that come to pass in the book. it did happen toward the end it was swoonly romantic. Sylvia wrote it to such vivid detail. I loved it. I had no idea what to expect with my first omegaverse book, but I did enjoy The Christmas Dragon’s Mate by Silvia Violet.