Jeff talks about the new Netflix series Hollywood, which premieres Friday, May 1. Will reminds everyone that the April Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode featuring LOL: Laugh Out Loud by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox drops on Tuesday, April 28.
Jeff reviews Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan and Will reviews Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian.
K.M. Neuhold is here to talk about Nailed, the latest in the Four Bears Construction series that releases on May 1. She also discusses the Love Logic series, her co-writing with Nora Phoenix and what got her started writing m/m romance. There’s also some teasers about what she’s working on next.
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 include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Hollywood on Netflix
- Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan on Amazon
- Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian on Amazon
- K.M. Neuhold Interview
- K.M. Neuhold: website | Neuhold’s Nerds Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram
- Nailed by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Four Bears Construction series by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Lindee Robinson Photography on Facebook
- Natasha Snow Designs website
- Love Logic series by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Rocket Science by K.M. Nuehold on Amazon
- Four Letter Word by K.M. Nuehold on Amazon
- Zachary Zabo on Audible
- Replay series by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Change of Heart by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Heathen’s Ink series by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Inked series by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Akasha Sanatorium by K.M. Neuhold and Michele Notaro on Amazon
- Ballsy Boys series by K.M. Neuhold and Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- Kinky Boys series by K.M. Neuhold and Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- Linemates by Van Barrett on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Interview Transcript – K.M. Neuhold
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Kyleen welcome to the podcast. It is so awesome to have you here.
K.M.: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited.
Jeff: Will and I have become obsessed with your books, so we were so happy you decided to come on the show, and it’s a perfect week to have you here because “Nailed,” which is the second book in “Four Bears Construction” comes out this very week.
K.M.: Yes. On Friday.
Jeff: So for those who have missed what we’ve been saying about, it’s already on the show, tell us a little bit about that series in general and then what we’re going to get in this new installment.
K.M.: Yeah. So the “Four Bears Construction” series is a contemporary m/m romance series of course, focused around four best friends who own a construction company together. What I really always love about writing series is the whole, like best friend/found family aspect of, you know, all the characters who will go on to find their happily ever afters. When I was kind of planning this series, what I had in mind mostly was a group of friends who are kind of these foul mouthed, blue collar, average guys in their forties.
Finding love was kind of the concept that I had from the start before I started writing it. For “Nailed,” which is the second book in the series, like you said, it’s an enemies to lovers. Stone who is one of the owners of Four Bears Construction bought a fixer upper house. And pretty much from the minute his new neighbor sets eyes on him, he cannot stand him.
Stone can’t figure out why, but unlike a normal person who might try to butter that person up or anything like that. Stone decides, it’ll be a lot funnier and more fun to just be the world’s worst neighbor. So it’s really, really funny, fun story. Various steamy moments, of course, all that good stuff – Stone and his neighbor Dare going from enemies to uneasy friendship to finally finding their happily ever after together.
Jeff: How did you decide on construction?
K.M.: Actually, so I was driving… my parents used to live in Illinois last year, and I was driving to visit them and I saw a sign for a company called Four Bears Construction.
I was like, that’s it. That is the series I’m writing next.
Jeff: That’s like the easiest plot bunny just polpped in your lap.
K.M.: Like a sign from above.
Jeff: I wonder if they realize what they created when they put that sign up.
K.M.: I kind of feel like looking them up on Google and sending them an email, just FYI in case you want to read these books.
Jeff: When you’re tackling something like this, are you the type that plans from the beginning to like, you know, Four Bears is going to have these four guys, who the four guys, are and who their four HEAs are going to be?
K.M.: It varies a little bit.
So I did, for this one, I did go in planning all four, like I came up with all the series titles, so I was like, all right, I need construction puns. That’ll be really funny. I like came up with all those. I kind of plotted out, you know, loosely all the guys and like kind of what I thought the trope for their stories might be.
Halfway through writing “Caulky” I already had switched who two of the guys were going to end up with. So they do their own thing a lot I usually loosely plot a series before I start. If, if I know it’s going to be a series ahead of time
Jeff: just to kind of know where things are going, which is good.
Right? It’s the fun of discovery from there.
K.M.: Exactly. Yes. Then it’s just me fighting with them, trying to keep it on track for, you know, four or five books, however long it goes.
Jeff: So did you have to research for those construction puns or did those just spill out of your head for you? Cause I mean, “Caulky” is a pretty great one, obviously “Nailed” as well.
K.M.: Yeah. So “Caulky” actually came to me long before I had the actual idea for this series. Two years ago when that whole Cockygate thing was going on with that one MF author who was like trying to trademark the word cocky and titles. I thought to myself like, wouldn’t it be really funny to have like a play on that?
And I was super surprised that that’s not already a book title. I was like, who has never thought of that? So I like jotted that down in my ideas notebook and just kind of put it aside. And then once I came up with the idea of doing this whole series of construction workers, I was like, perfect. It totally fits.
For the rest of them, it was actually surprisingly easy. I ended up with a lot more than I needed. So if I decide to have other books, I’ve already got titles on hand for that.
Jeff: Super convenient that you can spin off Four Bears to other cities.
K.M.: Yes. They can bring on, you know, apprentices, whatever.
Jeff: Where do the covers come from? Cause I have to say that “Caulky” in particular, I mean “Nailed” is hot, but “Caulky” is one of the hottest covers I’ve seen period.
K.M.: Right. So usually I’m not like the kind of person who, you know has to spend $1,000 on a cover photo or anything. I’m a stock photo girl. Totally works for me.
But I was looking through stock photo sites and I just couldn’t find anything that felt right for these guys. So, I contacted a photographer who I had worked with once way back in my MF days, to ask if she had anything that would kind of fit this general idea of like, he had all sort of hairy more like macho looking type guys.
She came through for me big time, so yeah. Yeah. She did all four. Lindee Robinson is the photographer’s name. Then the covers themselves are done by Natasha Snow, who’s done like all my covers. So she’s fantastic. I love her.
Jeff: Was there anything surprising in terms of the construction setting as you were working through these first two books?
K.M.: So far I’ve kind of kept the actual construction work a little bit on the lighter side, like it’s obviously referenced quite a bit and things like that. I’ve had to look up some terms and that kind of thing, but, so it’s like actually like on a work site I haven’t done yet. So we’ll see if that comes up in another book.
I’m sure it probably will. I did end up watching some YouTube videos about like remodeling bathrooms so that I kind of had an idea in “Caulky,” like what would go into when Cole was redoing the bathroom. So yeah, we’ll see. You and I ended up having to research for the rest of the series.
Jeff: What can you tell us about the two books yet to come? Any teasers you can drop for us?
K.M.: Ooh. Okay. So, what I’m working on next. And that is going to be Everett’s book, which is the third book in the Four Bears series. That one is going to be, you’ve kind of seen hints of Everett in the first two books and, he is I guess bisexual awakening is kind of the term, but I hesitate to use that because he knows he’s not straight. He just hasn’t explored that. And he’s in a place where he’s worried that he’s in his mid forties, and is it too late to explore that now? That’s kind of the premise of that book and I’m super excited. I’m going to be starting work on that one next week. I already have tons of ideas written down and everything, so that’s, that’s the idea for that and I’m really excited about it.
Ali’s book, of course, he needs his happily ever after. And that’s going to be the fourth book in the series. I don’t want to give too much away on that, but that’s going to be really sweet. Really sweet. He, he deserves it after his failed marriages.
Jeff: He didn’t get the HEA the first time. He’ll
K.M.: get it. The second no three failed marriages. He’s earned it
Jeff: Do you want to drop hints on titles?
K.M.: Yep. let me think. Do I want to do that? I guess I could. So the third book is called “Hardwood.” And I’ve got, I already have the hook written for the blurb. It’s hilarious. I’m not going to share that though, but keep an eye out for that cause I’m very proud of that.
When that came to me, I had to share it with my husband right away if you laugh. Good stuff. and then the fourth book, Ali’s book is called “Screwed.”
Jeff: “Screwed.” I would expect a “Screwed” in there. “Hardwood’s” a really good one.
So I’ve got to ask you about the “Love Logic” series too because that’s what I was reading while Will was doing Four Bears” and I’ll do anything that’s like a nerd, geek sort of thing. And then you gave me a perfect nerd.
Where did that, all of that come from? What’s the origin of, you know, first of all, “Rocket Science” and then moving into the recently released “Four Letter Word?”
K.M.: Yeah. So rocket science was an idea I’d been kicking around for quite a while. I mean, honestly, I was thinking about this book back in my MF days, just, I was thinking about it as an MF book.
Of course, back then, just as sort of a general idea that I had of this awkward virgin who moves to a new city and the only person he knows is his best friend’s brother who he’s had a crush on his whole life. Of course it was, you know, sister. We want to, you know, revise once I moved into the m/m world.
So this was kind of one of those like little plot funnies I’d been feeding and petting and loving for years without actually doing any work. And then one day I came across a premade cover in Natasha Snow’s cover group, and it was, I was like, it’s perfect. That is my nerdlet. I need that cover and I’m going to start working on this story now.
So, that was kind of where that all came from. It was planned completely as a standalone. But then my side characters never let that be so
Jeff: well. It’s, it’s insane reading it, knowing that it was supposed to be a standalone because those side characters are so vivid that it’s hard to imagine it not being a series.
K.M.: Yup. As far as “Four Letter Word,” I did not, when that first idea came to be, that was not supposed to be a four M book. Once I started kind of working on it and like thinking about who those guys were, who Bishop and Hudson were and this like weird, tumultuous relationship that they have.
The other characters came out of the woodwork. Leo and Brian, they came out of the woodwork and surprised me and I just, I love how that story turned out.
Jeff: I cannot imagine having to handle four people. What was that like? Try, I mean, just from pronouns alone.
K.M.: Yeah. It was tough. Honestly, I think that my PA probably got sick of me while I was writing a book cause like every week I was like, I’m quitting.
I’m getting two of these guys. Like getting the boot is never going to work. It was very difficult because especially, when you read the book, it really is written almost as five separate relationships. It’s not like all four guys come together and build this one relationship.
Right. Every relationship is like its own relationship. So it was really like writing, you know, five or 6 books at once, bringing all these characters together. But it was also a really fun challenge. So I liked that about it.
Jeff: Was there anything in particular that might’ve surprised you in that book as you were combining all this together? Cause beyond pronouns? That’s just, that’s a lot of individual threads to keep up with too, when we’re used to primarily, you know, your two primary characters, maybe a couple people on the side.
K.M.: And then of course you don’t, all their friends are still there, so there’s still other people in the story. I think the thing that surprised me the most writing it was Hudson’s character. Like in rocket science. He’s kind of a Dick. I don’t, can I say that on your podcast? Okay.
Jeff: We agree with you that he was,
K.M.: but there’s this whole other side to him that comes out, like once you start getting in his head and having his point of view on stuff, it was a lot of fun because I did not expect that from him. I was like, okay, I’m not really sure I’m going to redeem this guy. But, he did most of the work for me, so I appreciated that.
Jeff: Would you tackle this kind of relationship in a book again, having now done it once?
K.M.: Ooh, I think it would have to be the right book for sure. Like I said, I didn’t go into this initially, like planning for it to be a MMMM, so I think, I mean, if my characters in the future decided that was what they need, again, I’ll go along for the ride, but I’m not sure, like intentionally do this to myself.
Jeff: It’s going to be interesting to hear how it manifests in audio too, because there’s
K.M.: going to be, I’m really curious,
Jeff: potentially more people scene to scene to scene than you would normally have.
K.M.: Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious to see how Zachary Zabo does with that. I’m looking forward to it for sure.
Jeff: We’re all looking at you, Zachary.
So, what would you say the trademark of a K.M. Neuhold book is?
K.M.: Yeah, I would say definitely a lot of humor. Lot of emotions. Sometimes a lot of the books are heavier, but there’s also quite a few that are just sorta schmoopy sweet emotion. Definitely plenty of heat. And of course there’s always guys with tattoos.
Jeff: That’s the thing I noticed too. Looking at like “Rocket Science” and “Replay” series. There’s the angst levels are much different. Does that keep things fresh and interesting for you as an author to kind of pivot back and forth that way and not just keep, maybe moving down like a category romance level of sweetness or something?
K.M.: Yeah, it definitely does. My more angsty books, I think in a lot of ways I have, a lot of fun writing those because the emotions are so deep, but it can be so heavy that I always need to write something light after that because otherwise it’s just, it’s too much.
It kind of weighs me down a little bit too much. So I definitely like to mix it up. With everything going on in the world right now, I’m really glad that I pretty much planned this whole year for really like light funny, pretty much no angst books because I don’t, I don’t think I’m going to want any angst for a little while.
Jeff: And that was one of the things I liked so much about “Rocket Science” too, is even the, you know, the dark moment where theoretically all is lost. It wasn’t super heavy. I mean, it was there and they were broken, but it wasn’t like the weight of the world fell at the same time.
K.M.: Right. So, yeah. Well, the book I had written immediately before “Rocket Science” was a super heavy book that I absolutely love, but “Change of Heart.” weighed me down quite a bit, so I was like, nothing dark is going to happen in “Rocket Science.” It’s going to be a super lite. All the problems are going to be solved easily.
Jeff: Easy, easy. Sometimes that’s just what you need is the writer and the reader.
K.M.: Right, right.
Jeff: And you work with so many types of guys. You got your nerds and the construction workers to the porn stars and the tattoo artists and the rock stars. Is there a type that you haven’t done yet that you’re alike?
I want to do something with this, but you haven’t figured it out yet.
K.M.: I’m not really sure. It’s something, you know, I saw the questions that we had for this and I was trying to think about it and I don’t know off the top of my head like what kind of guys I want to tackle after these series are done. I’ll probably just let them come to me and tell me.
There’ll be another billboard somewhere. Like I have some ideas, I know a couple of series that I probably want to tackle next year, but I don’t know for sure. Like what the characters will necessarily be like.
Jeff: Why always tattoos?
K.M.: I’m obsessed with tattoos. Yes. I’ve got quite a few of my own and I’ve always been attracted to people with tattoos, so, I always find that that’s when I’m thinking like what’s an attractive person look like in my mind, tattoos are always on the list.
Jeff: What do you think started that? Just out of curiosity?
K.M.: I don’t really know. I as long as I can remember, I’ve always just thought tattoos look really awesome. Like I love the artistry of a lot of tattoos. So, yeah. I don’t know. Just one of those things, I guess.
Jeff: You must have really enjoyed writing the tattoo artist books.
K.M.: I did. Yes. Yes. And that was another one. Like I had the idea that I was definitely going to do a tattoo artist series. I was still writing in MF and I kind of had this idea for a series and then I switched over to mm.
And I was like, this’ll work perfectly. Like I can totally pop this out as an m/m series. It worked a lot better for all the guys too. It was something I always thought of cause I always loved the vibe inside a tattoo studio when you’re there getting a tattoo, this like they talk shit to each other. There’s always like a crude joke y’all music play like, so I used to, I had that. Kind of feeling of a tattoo parlor in my mind while I was writing this series.
Jeff: And of course here we’re talking about “Heathen’s Ink.” And that’s like your longest series to date.
K.M.: That one’s pretty long. And then there’s the spinoff “Inked” series, which is another three books. So all told that’s 10 books for that universe.
Jeff: What kept bringing you back? Just the guys in the tattoos scenario or something else?
K.M.: I think so. It was one of those situations where every time I thought I was going to be done, another side character popped up, kind of pulled me in.
So I just, I wasn’t ready to leave that universe quite yet. And I think now, “Unexpected” was the third in the “Inked” series that I published at the end of December last year and I feel like I’m done with that universe now, but I guess we’ll see something might pop up again in the future.
Jeff: It’s still fresh.
K.M.: You never know.
Jeff: So we’ll see what happens.
K.M.: Right, right.
Jeff: Do you have favorite tropes that you like to play with?
K.M.: Yes. My absolute favorite trope is best friends to lovers. I really love that because it’s the feeling that like they already love each other, but it’s going to be so much deeper once they discover what else there is between them.
That and I really love, I’ve written a couple of books where the, they’re already in an established relationship when the book starts and the same kind of thing. Like I love just seeing how deep that love can go as things unfold.
Jeff: Yeah. There’s just something about friends cause it’s got so much of that shared background,
Yeah, the shared background, but like sexual tension that neither of them want to ruin the friendship with, like if it’s all good.
Jeff: Similar to the type of guy question. Is there a trope that you want to, you know, do something with that you haven’t yet?
K.M.: I’d say I definitely have it on my list that I would like to explore mpreg possibly at some point, or at least omegaverse. I don’t know, like the pregnancy part doesn’t necessarily appeal to me, but the rest of of the omegaverse does. I think I might dip my toe into that maybe next year or so. I would just kind of see how it goes.
Jeff: Okay. Cause I don’t remember seeing really any paranormal either. So that would be…
K.M.: No, well, I did do one book that was co-authored with Michelle Notaro. That’s kind of a horror, somewhat paranormal. There’s ghosts and demons, so I guess, yeah, paranormal, that we wrote in 2018.
Jeff: You dipped your toe.
K.M.: Yes, exactly.
Jeff: That’d be “Akasha Sanatorium.”
Jeff: Did you enjoy co-authoring?
K.M.: Yes. I do. I write a lot of books with Nora Phoenix as well. We have a whole series is the “Ballsy Boys” series and we’re working on us spin off the “Kinky Boys” now. Done quite a bit of co-authoring. It’s a challenge, but it’s also fun.
Jeff: Of course, Nora knows everything about in mpreg and Omega verse, so you get some help from one of the best.
K.M.: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Jeff: Do you want to co-write more or are you, are you happiest running solo.
K.M.: I would say for the most part, I’m a little bit happier writing solo just because I, I’m the kind of person, like any amount of stress totally throws off my writing game.
So, you know, just even knowing that someone else is waiting for a scene from me, kind of throws me off a little bit. So it is always fun to co-write with her because I like that immediate feedback. You know, she reads the scene that I wrote right away, and vice versa. That’s fun and getting to brainstorm as we go.
It’s a lot of fun too. But overall, definitely, I think solo is preferable for me.
Jeff: Now, you mentioned you, you’ve written MF also. What got you started writing in m/m.
K.M.: Yeah. So when I started in m/f, I didn’t even know MM existed. I had never heard of this, you know, sub genre of romance before. I started reading m/f when I was a teenager and started writing it in my early twenties. It didn’t take me too long after publishing my first few that I realized that the kind of men that I like to write really didn’t fit what m/f readers like.
M/f readers really, really loved the alpha male asshole as I like to put it, like the kind of guy who’s going to tell you like, don’t you dare go to the bar and that short skirt, that kind of stuff. And that just has never appealed to me. So, you know, as you read a lot of my books, like, yes, I can write tough guys, things like that, but usually at the core, they’re kind of these like sweet, nice guys. And that’s really not very popular in m/f. So, not only was I not getting a lot of traction with my writing career in m/f, I was finding myself getting really bored of reading books in m/f. I still love the romance aspect, but I was just like, this is, you know, I feel like I’m reading the same thing over and over, the same kind of guy, the same kind of, you know, formulaic plotline and I stumbled on my first m/m book.
Which was, “Linemates” by Van Barrett, which is a super hot hockey romance. As soon as I fell down that rabbit hole, I was like, this is it. This is where I belong. I knew right away because it’s the community around. They’re welcoming of all different kinds of characters. You don’t have to feel like you’re so much in a box of like, I have to write it exactly like this.
You know, they have to break up at the 80% mark and then have a grand gesture to get back together and like, m/m readers just, they love it all. They’re open to different things, so that really appealed to me as a writer. And so I fell in love with the community, with the genre. I never looked back.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Any, any chance of a K.M. Neuhold hockey book somewhere in the future?
K.M.: I don’t know. My high school boyfriend was a hockey player, so I always have like a little bit of a weird association with hockey. Definitely not ruling it out. But yeah, we’ll see.
Jeff: What got you started writing in general? You mentioned you started writing in your 20s with the m/f romances.
K.M.: Yeah, well, writing to publish, I guess I should have said in my twenties, I’ve pretty much been writing most of my life, in high school and in middle school I was really into writing like high fantasy, like young adult “Lord of the Rings” slash whatever kind of stories.
I was writing pretty much as soon as I learned how to put sentences together. I was always kind of like a kid who liked to daydream a lot, and it didn’t take very long before I realized that it’s even more fun when you write them down.
Jeff: Nice. Yeah. It is more fun when you write them down, because then other people can read them.
We’ve mentioned a little bit about the “Four Bears” that are coming up next. What else is coming this year?
K.M.: Yeah. So this year I pretty much had planned, I’m getting the whole “Four Bears” series out before the end of the year. Also the “Love Logic” series will, should be all out by the end of the year.
I’ve got two more books planned in that series. Alex and Theo are going to get a book. And then, for anyone who did read “Four Letter Word,” you’ll recognize there’s a very sweet baker who pops up and as soon as I’m getting another side character from, he just stole the scene. As soon as he popped up, I was like, well, he’s going to need a happily ever after.
So, definitely two more books in that series. And then, the “Kinky Boys” series that I’m working on with Nora Phoenix, we’re going to keep working on that this year too.
Jeff: Nice. So it sounds like maybe another, what, four or five books before the
K.M.: end of the year? Lots of, yeah, still a lot of books here. I had an ambitious schedule at the beginning of the year, so we’ll see how far I get with that.
Jeff: Fingers crossed, cause I know I want the “Love Logic” books and I know Will wants “Four Bears” books.
What is the best way for everyone to keep up with you online?
K.M.: Yeah. So if you’re on Facebook, definitely the best place to find me is my reader group: Neuhold’s Nerds, which is super fun. I share lots of teasers and insight into my writing process, and my husband does live videos and all kinds of fun stuff like that. if you’re not on Facebook, then you can go to my website, authorkmneuhold.com, and you’ll find my email, my mailing list, all that good stuff.
Jeff: Fantastic. Okay. Thank you so much for talking to us. This has been awesome. Can’t wait to keep reading more books.
K.M.: Thank you so much.
Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:
Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan. Reviewed by Jeff.
Sasha Michaels is a down on his luck singer who is at loose ends, homeless and trying to catch a break when he stumbles upon an abandoned home that literally beckons him inside. He’s has psychic connections to houses and since this one is empty and welcoming to him–although its energy is not the best because it feels neglected–he decides to bed down.
It’s a good place to be until house flipper Nick Cooper shows up to start work on the place. Nick’s also down on his luck. He lost everything in the recession and he’s trying to get himself back on track flipping this house that he thinks is a sure bet. He’s surprised to find Sasha there and he decides to let him stay there until construction starts… but then lets him stay longer if he’ll help out with the flip since he’s running on a tight budget and a need to get the flip done fast.
From the very beginning Nick and Sasha are super sweet, nice guys who are stuck in difficult circumstances. It turns out they can help each other. Nick’s up to his eyeballs in debt having gotten the money for the house from a loan shark. It doesn’t help he goes back for more money either when the renovations start to exceed his budget. He needs all the help he can get.
Besides his homelessness, Sasha also ends up out of work when he’s laid off from his job as a barista. Plus he’s got a deadbeat mom who takes up with terrible people and she pretty much refuses all efforts at help.
From the first meeting, Sasha and Nick don’t tend to judge each other. It’s as if them both being in difficult circumstances makes them much more empathetic to each other. Neither has a lot, but they’re more than willing to help in any way they can. This and a mutual attraction to one another forms the foundation of a sweet romance.
Of course, Sasha’s connection the house eventually gets discovered. He’s able to point out some areas to Nick that need repair that are not readily apparent. While Nick doesn’t get it, he takes in what Sasha tells him about the power that runs in his family and it serves to bring the two even closer together. The skill helps them out more than once. I like how Jesi handles the power–it’s just something that’s there. It’s not a primary focus, but it definitely has its place in the story and helps to bring Nick and Sasha even closer.
Nick’s family, including his brothers, are great. They don’t love that he’s taken on the debt and work of the house without talking to them–or that he’s been to a loan shark, as you can imagine that causes friction when that’s revealed. But they’ve got his back and as they get to know Sasha they like him more and more.
Nick’s major thing he has to overcome to connect fully with Sasha is acknowledging his bisexuality. While there could have been more exploration here, the talks with his brothers and Sasha are good. Sasha’s worries lie with the fact that he doesn’t think he’s good enough for Nick. Jesi gives us plenty of deep scenes of the guys working through these things and I loved the depth it gave them both. These two can’t escape each other though–every time one of them drifts apart the other goes after them to find out what happened.
The resolutions and grand gestures bringing the guys to their HEA are so wonderful. I think Sasha truly wins for the biggest of the gestures, but Nick does some great things too. I really love how Jesi set these guys up for a seriously good life together.
Shout out for the narrator here too. TJ Clark is new to me and I loved his work on bringing Nick and Sasha to live.
I very much recommend Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan for a good read with just a touch of magic. I wish this was real because to see an HGTV series with these two flipping houses and using Sasha’s power to really sort out what’s going on with the house because that would be super cool.
Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian. Reviewed by Will.
This past week, I read a really terrific cozy mystery by Cat Sebastian. Now most of you know I am a big fan of her regency romances and this time this author has decided to dip her toes in the cozy mystery waters. Here’s what the blurb has to say about Hither, Page: A jaded spy and a shell shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England. That simple sentence actually encompasses the entirety of the story. So right away you should know if this is going to be your cup of English tea. It certainly was mine.
This book came out almost a year ago now, and I cannot believe it took me this long to actually read it. It was so delightful. I loved it so, so much.
Since this is a mystery, I am going to keep my summary very, very vague. I know a lot of you think I’d give away far too much when I talk about books, so I think you’ll be pleased by this.
The spy that we just heard about is a guy named Leo Page and the doctor is James Sommers. Mildred Hogget, a local charwoman, has been met with an untimely end. Now, was it an accident or was it murder? That’s what Leo is sent to find out. He’s sent by home office to keep an eye on things. James knows he isn’t who he says he is immediately because during the war he actually dug a bullet out of Leo while they were in France. This shared secret between them brings them close together immediately Bringing to light the mutual attraction that they already have.
Over the next couple of days, they each individually talk to the quirky townsfolk in order to piece together what exactly is going on. Now there’s Colonel Armstrong who may or may not have sold secrets of the British steel industry to the Nazis. There’s his incredibly handsome secretary who is overqualified and underpaid by the skinflint Armstrong, what’s his story? There’s the vicar and his overwhelmed wife. There’s also a Wendy, the gawky preteen who was billeted to the small town during the war. But since her actual parentage is a mystery, she isn’t being sent back home. She’s continuing to live with two spinsters who Leo and James eventually figure out are more than just friends.
As they’re doing their subtle investigation, there is a second murder.
Leo was at his wit’s end because all of these minute puzzle pieces just are not fitting together. And one evening he shows up on James’s doorstep. He spent the entire day wandering around the village in the snow, so he’s soaked to the bone. So James lovingly dries him off and make some soup and they talk things over.
What I thought was really charming is that this happens later in the book as our heroes had had more and more time to get to know one another. It’s at this moment that the attraction kind of kicks into the next level. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is like a slow burn, but there’s this really interesting simmering chemistry that they have throughout the entire book. It could have very easily gotten melodramatic of course, because these two men are gay in small-town England and, of course, it’s illegal to be gay in the UK at that time. But, that’s not really what it’s all about. It’s what they represent to one another. James is suffering from PTSD from his time, on the front and that’s why he chose to become a small town doctor. He’s sort of living the fantasy of this bucolic life and the fact that Leo, a spy, has come to his small town sort of shatters this very tenuous narrative that he’s created for himself.
So Leo actually represents all of the things he’s trying to leave behind, but at the same time, he’s wildly attracted to this guy. It’s a really interesting sort of line that each of them is trying to walk about what happened in the past and the possibilities that they might be able to have a future together.
Like I said, this is really different than what Cat Sebastian does in her regencies. And the tone was really intriguing to me. Of course, our heroes do prevail and all those puzzle pieces eventually slide into their correct positions and peace once again returns to this small English village.
Hither, Page is listed as the first in a series. and like I said, this book came out almost a year ago. So, Cat, if you’re listening, please give us some more. I really liked Leo and James an awful lot, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to in the future.