The guys take a moment to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Big Gay Fiction Book Club. This month, Jeff & Will talk about the charming, pottery-themed romance Throwing Hearts by N.R. Walker. As always, in our book club discussions there are spoilers ahead.
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.
- N.R. Walker website
- Throwing Hearts by N.R. Walker on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Episode 296 – N.R. Walker Gets “Bossy” on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- The Great Pottery Throwdown on HBO Max
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Book Club on Thursday, April 29.
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Welcome to episode 297 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss with me as always is my co-host and husband, Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hi everybody.
Will: Welcome back rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode for the month of March. And this month’s pick is the charming, adorable, pottery0-themed romance “Throwing Hearts” by N.R. Walker.
Jeff: Before we start our deep dive discussion of this month’s book. We’d like to quickly thank members of our Patreon community. It’s because of them that we’re able to bring you podcast episodes every single week with interviews from your favorite authors and reviews of some of the best books are genre has to offer. On the Big Gay Fiction Podcast Patreon page, members get early access to the book club episode and author interviews, as well as an exclusive monthly bonus episode that can’t be heard anywhere else.
Patrons help keep this podcast running and fund the transcription of the author interviews making sure that this show is accessible to all readers and listeners. If you’re in a position to help the podcast grow and would like more information simply head on over to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: And speaking of Patreon, it’s because of our supporters on that particular platform that we have a reason to celebrate this month. March marks the one year anniversary of the Big Gay Fiction Book Club. Now if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell a quick story.
Let me take you back. Eons. Twenty-nineteen to be specific. Jeff and I were at a podcasting conference and we attended a presentation from the wonderful people at Patreon. The talk they gave was fun and it was inspiring and it certainly gave Jeff and I some fresh new ideas on some additional perks that we could create for our community on Patreon.
So, when we got back home from Florida, we came up with the idea for the bonus episode series, Big Gay Fiction After Dark. The concept was that every month we would create an additional episode for our Patreon members and talk about content that we didn’t normally discuss on the regular episode. Content that, shall we say, is more spicy.
So we dove right in and got through about two episodes before we discovered that it’s actually really hard to talk about sexy content.
Jeff: There are only so many adjectives.
Will: Well, the problem is, at least from my perspective, is like other than they boned and it was hot. How do you make that interesting for an audience? Now, I think the After Dark idea is still a good one. It’s just that Jeff and I haven’t quite found a way to execute it properly. So, we sat that idea aside and put our thinking caps on trying to come up with something else that we could deliver to our Patreon members every single month.
It took us a while, but we came up with the Big Gay Fiction Book Club. This is not a new or revolutionary idea. I mean, we certainly are not reinventing the wheel. But, we thought it would be a fun opportunity to dig a little deeper and discuss a little more in depth some of the books that we love so very much.
The idea percolated in the back of our minds in January of 2020. In February, we read our first book and recorded that episode. We delivered the inaugural episode the first Thursday in March. Now we all know what happened in March of 2020.
The anniversary of the book club will always be an inextricably linked to the initial COVID shutdowns here in the United States. Twenty-twenty proved to be challenging for all of us and to be quite frank, I’m not exactly a fan of 2021 either.
But what’s particularly nice about the book club anniversary is that I am lucky enough to sit here and talk about these amazing books each and every month. It’s something to look forward to. Something to enjoy. Something that I believe is a genuine privilege that I get to sit here with my husband. I get to sit here with you our listeners and talk about these stories that take us outside our everyday problems.
I believe romance is a wonderful form of self care. And I’m truly grateful that I have the opportunity to talk with authors every single week on the show and talk with you, our wonderful listeners, every month about these amazing books. So cheers to the one-year anniversary and here’s to many, many more.
Now let’s get down to our discussion of this adorable, wonderful story by NR Walker. “Throwing Hearts.”
Throwing Hearts Discussion
Will: So, Jeff and I have become obsessed with a British reality competition show called “The Great Pottery Throw Down.” It is so good. You can watch it here in the U.S. on HBO Max. And as we are recording this, the fourth and most recent season is wrapping up in the U.K. I can’t wait to see it. It looks like an awful lot of fun. And based on our love of that show, I thought a gay romance set in the unique setting of a pottery studio would be something we should definitely give a try, and I’m so glad we did. “Throwing Hearts” has a ton of charm and a lot of laughs. I
n the first of our main characters is Leo. And two years ago, he was paired with a senior as part of a program at their Brisbane LGBTQ Center. Clyde is a grumpy old coot, but Leo thinks that’s just part of his charm. They both enjoy their weekly outings together. And today, they are starting a local pottery class. Now, Merrick, he owns the pottery studio and as he starts his newest beginner’s class, he is immediately drawn to Leo and his perfectly imperfect smile. Leo notices him too, but as Merrick shows them how to work their individual balls of clay, he can’t help but giggle at the instruction, which to him all sound like filthy double entendres. He and Clyde have a time of it as they swap body comments back and forth during class, and Clyde, as it turns out, is quite adept at pottery.
Jeff: I adore these two so much, despite the fact that this takes place in Australia and Australian accents abound in the audiobook, Clyde is played in my head by Ed Asner.
Will: That is so funny.
Jeff: Because he’s got that crotchety Ed Asner thing like he had in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” But I mean, these two together, you already know Leo’s a good guy because of everything that he’s doing with Clyde. And then you add Merrick, who I think there needs to be a sequel to this story, I’ll just say it now, where he actually goes to compete on “The Pottery Throw Down.” It would be a totally cute story.
Will: Yes, I would live for that. That would be amazing.
Jeff: N. R. Walker, if you’re listening, maybe make that happen. That’d be so cool. Anyway, yeah, the whole setup here is it just goes so much to what I like, which is we’ve got a couple of nice guys here who are going to find their nice guy way to love as we’ll see as we keep going. But these setup chapters just gave me everything I needed to like, yes, let’s go and see this happen.
Will: After class, Clyde and Leo have some tea and scones at the cafe that adjoins the studio. Merrick comes up to the table and he joins them, and Clyde uncertainly excuses himself so that they can have some private get-to-know-you time.
Jeff: Clyde, he knows what these two young people need, and he’s going to go make himself scarce so that they could have a moment. And they have such a cute moment. I mean, they already were so super cute back dealing with drying to make poor Leo’s pinch pot, but the cafe banter is just even more cuteness. This book abounds in cute and that made me so happy.
Will: This book is jam-packed with charming conversations and dialogue. And while I love that as a reader, I love it so, so much, it’s actually kind of a problem when you’re trying to review a book. Other than saying it’s cute, how do you describe the witty back and forth between two characters who are falling in love? This is a problem we encountered last month with Riley Hart’s book. Those two characters were so charming and witty, and witty, feel-good, back and forth conversation is something that Leo and Merrick also excel at. So, other than telling you they talk real good, I don’t know how else to describe the strongest selling point of this book.
Jeff: We should have brought the thesaurus with us to the microphone so that we could look at all these different ways to say cute and sweet.
Will: Exactly. So, later while shopping, Clyde gives Leo a hilariously endless amount of shit for not getting Merrick’s number.
Jeff: Well, it was kind of silly for all that back and forth that they did to not get the number. I’m totally with Clyde on that one. I also would have been completely likely though of not getting the number. So, I’ve seen both sides of that coin. And it’s really here in this particular scene that we see even more how tight Leo and Clyde are. And I really liked the friendship between these two. And you could see how far they’ve come in two years in their friendship as well. It’s a delightful scene.
Will: One afternoon, Leo and his roommate, Kel, are cyberstalking Merrick. And while looking at his Instagram with pictures from years ago when the studio first opened, Kel accidentally likes one of his posts. Now, Merrick has proved that Leo was stalking him online. Thankfully, Merrick simply likes a few of Leo’s posts in return and follows him, crisis averted.
Jeff: I am so sure that that was not accidental. She was so devilish after she did it. She’s like, oops, and hends the phone back. She did what Clyde could not and forced the situation to move forward. I love her. We’ll see more of her later. She’s a delightful best friend.
Will: The panic that Leo whips himself up to when this happens is quite funny.
Jeff: Holy flying shit balls.
Will: And he gets so worked up because he really likes this guy and doesn’t want to screw it up.
Jeff: It’s just short of that moment if you tag “I’m in a relationship” on Facebook before it really happens. This is the equal thing to that much earlier in a relationship.
Will: Merrick calls up Leo and talks to him on the phone. Crazy, right?
Jeff: How vintage is that?
Will: And after a hilariously wide-ranging conversation, gets down to asking if he can bring his Uncle Donny to the next senior class and have him sit with Leo and Clyde.
Jeff: And I really thought it was amazing how much of a wide-ranging conversation that we get here on the phone. They literally talk about everything. This could have happened over a dinner, but the fact that it happened over the phone, I thought was really interesting because it took away any sort of visual cues they could have had about each other’s body language and stuff, and yet they had the cutest, most bantery conversation ever. I really liked it. It was a good first chat on some more wide-ranging topics as you said.
Will: The next week, Clyde is busy grousing about having to babysit a newcomer and playfully giving Leo a hard time about the modern way of courting Merrick. When they arrive at the studio, Clyde is instantly smitten with Uncle Donny. Leo can practically see little cartoon hearts floating above his head.
Jeff: This is truly a book where you get two romances for the price of one, because the story between Clyde and Donny, I absolutely loved as much as the one that’s happening between Leo and Merrick. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I’ll gush at it more a little later as we get into it with them as well. But this is something else I would have loved to have seen is a companion to this book that focuses on their love story because it’s one we don’t see much at all in gay romance.
Will: Class goes very well, Clyde helping Donny and Leo making jokes about his own lopsided pot. And afterwards, Leo and Merrick sit in the cafe where they can discreetly keep an eye on Clyde and Donny who are deep in conversation and it seems are getting along really, really well. Leo and Merrick grab a coffee. And as we mentioned before, the conversation is funny and it effortlessly flows. And it’s here that Merrick asks Leo out to dinner, their first date.
Jeff: The whole scene at the pottery studio, I like it so much because it expands our cute banter to more than just Leo and Merrick and Clyde because you get the rest of the class. There’s a lot of fun stuff that goes on with these seniors. They’re all quite a hoot in many cases, the way that they snipe at each other but the way that they’re really tight with each other, and Leo and his pinch pot get a lot of grief. Apparently, he does not do pottery well at all. And he gets crap about that pinch pot from everybody, and it’s awesome. But I also love that these two guys, as they’re working on their own relationship, are also keeping close tabs on what’s happening with the seniors themselves and how Donny and Clyde are doing over in their conversation as well. It’s so cute. And I love how Clyde actually refers to himself as being Leo’s wingman. I mean, that’s pretty cool that he feels like even as his own thing starts to grow, he’s still keeping tabs on the younger guy.
Will: Later, Clyde proudly shows off the slip of paper with Donny’s number on it achieving what Leo could not.
Jeff: So funny.
Will: So funny. He’s so proud. And Leo is duly impressed, so much so that he starts singing “Smooth Operator.” So, Leo is in a bit of a panic getting ready for his date, but Kel keeps him on task so that he’s ready on time.
Jeff: Even laying out clothes for him. I mean, how sweet is that? It’s like, I know you’re going to have a problem, just put this on.
Will: Leo and Merrick go to the park where they’re having an open-air movie night and “E.T.” is showing. They grabbed dinner from the nearby food trucks and on the blanket, they sit and they eat and they talk. The conversation, once again, it’s funny and it’s charming and it’s fun and they’re having the best time ever.
Jeff: This is one of the nicest first dates that I’ve ever read in a book. I love the open-air cinema. I love the food trucks. I love the picnic packs that they took. So, they had all the proper accouterment you may want while you’re out there watching a movie. And you get to watch “E.T.” I mean, come on.
Will: Merrick’s happy for his Uncle Donny, who it seems has spent most of his life in the closet. So, this recent development is a really big deal and he’s really happy for him.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s really nice that he’s able to help make this connection for his uncle who really has lived a very sheltered, quiet, closeted existence. And to finally be able to have somebody to talk to with Clyde, I think it’s really charming.
Will: So, the movie starts and they settle in and they almost kiss at one point, but the film ends and Merrick takes Leo home.
Jeff: Only after being scared to death by the applause that rose because they were so into each other. Which again, hey, guess what word I’m about to say? It’s so cute, oh my goodness. And Merrick realizes, coming off of this cinema moment, that he’s really, really deeply into Leo.
Will: Neither of them want the night to end, but they managed to show some self-restraint and end the date with a scorching kiss. On date number two, they go out to dinner, to a noodle place near Merrick’s studio, and they discuss various things, including the hypothetical preference for top or bottom bunk beds, which is a really hilarious euphemism.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Will: So subtle. And afterwards, they walk back to Merrick’s place. He lives above the studio. And he makes it clear that despite their intense chemistry that he’d like to make sure things are going at the right pace because this means so much to him. They go upstairs and they take their time kissing and groping and learning each other’s bodies and what they like and what they don’t like. And when they’re finally spent, Merrick invites Leo to stay the night.
Jeff: Oh, so sweet. The banter over dinner is really fantastically awesome. Not only do we do bunk beds, we also talk about favorite color, which then, of course, Leo wants to break down into are we talking favorite skittles or are we talking the color I might want to wear the rest of my life? Because they are two very different things. Just these subtle distinctions, I mean, it’s this kind of banter that really makes the book soar so much. And we even get glimpses into Merrick a little bit because so far, he has picked Leo up when they’ve gone out. And it’s because, as he said, that his dad always said that he had to date properly, pick them up, drop them home, be a gentleman, that kind of thing, which, of course, Leo immediately, poo-poos saying, he’s probably just trying to look after your virtue because if you have to drop them back home, it’s limited time at your place. This is the kind of conversation these two have. And it’s just wonderful how they keep digging into the layers of each other that way.
Will: The next day, Leo is in a slight panic. He tells his roommate, Kel, that he and Merrick really only swapped blow jobs. And he’s a little bit disappointed that he didn’t get the “good dicking” that he wanted and that he may have pushed past Merrick’s consent boundaries. But on the phone, Merrick reassures him that he really, really likes him and definitely wants to see him again.
Jeff: I love the word dicking. I don’t think I’ve encountered that before in romance. I’m not actually sure that they ever referred to that as fucking, and I thought dicking was just an adorable way to phrase it, and especially hearing it in the Aussie accent of the audiobook narrator, it just made me happy for some reason. I just, kind of, smiled every time they said it.
Will: Their next date is that the go-kart track, “Yay, Leo, number one.” And then they go to dinner where the topic of boundaries of the relationship kind is discussed, what they want and what they need and what they expect. It’s the way these two explore this particular topic in, kind of, a grown-up adult way that I haven’t seen it quite handled this way in a romance before. Specifically, it’s the way Leo and Merrick use their unique brand of humor in order to have the relationship talk. I really liked it.
Jeff: I did too. I’ve said many times on the show that I don’t like it when people get into a huff at a moment where a conversation would have solved it all in the first place, and these two are having the conversations before they get to that point. It also falls very much into my love of nice guys doing nice things and not rowing down into too much angst. I mean, I’ll take a good angsty book, but I also really love just two guys finding their groove and coming together, and this is so one of those. And conversations like we’ve got here really help drive that forward. And I loved it.
Will: After dinner, they go back to Merrick’s place, engage in some mutual blow jobs, and spend hours talking on the couch. And since we’re just past the halfway point, Merrick thinks to himself, he is definitely falling in love with Leo.
Jeff: How could you not?
Will: I know, right? At the next pottery class, everyone can plainly that there is something going on between these two. They work on their pots from the previous class. And then Merrick gives a demonstration of throwing clay as they’ll all be sitting at the potter’s wheel next week. Merrick describes the process of molding the clay and it’s remarkably filthy and everyone is cracking up, Leo later admitting that it was a huge turn-on and he’s very much looking forward to his next date with Merrick.
Jeff: Of course, it was a turn-on. We’ve all seen “Ghost.” On the other hand, anytime I watched them throw clay on “Pottery Throw Down,” it doesn’t look all that sexy, it looks very intense and complicated. But on the other hand, we’ve all seen “Ghost.”
Will: Merrick comes over to Leo who is making dinner for him, and he gives Leo a little lion figurine that he has made. It is the most adorable thing ever.
Jeff: This so melted my heart. Giving the little tiny lion because he’s Leo the lion and stuff. Oh, one of the nicest small gestures ever.
Will: When Kel gets home, they have dinner. She and Merrick get along great and a fun evening is had by all. Merrick and Leo cap off the evening with some very gratifying oral sex. They talk on the phone the next morning and Merrick admits that he regrets the let’s wait until the time is right rule that he imposed early on and that he is done waiting if Leo is ready. Leo says there’s absolutely nothing to regret, and he was glad to give him the time he needed. And yes, he is more than ready. Before their date that night, they decided to go in and check on Clyde. He’s been decidedly cagey about whatever’s going on between him and Uncle Donny.
Jeff: So, this book really also delves in a really nice way all around consent. There’s so much conversation on consent here, and it’s really lovely to see everybody’s minding everybody else’s desires around what they’re going to do, where they’re going to do it, and how they’re going to do it. And that it’s all wrapped up in such a lovely banter at the same time, I really enjoy that.
Will: Well, I think, yeah, it speaks to the point of the way the characters talk about consent isn’t cold or clinical or boring.
Will: Or like checking things off of a list. It’s all very organic and very kind. Every character in this book is so remarkably kind, it’s just really refreshing and sweet, and that plays into what happens next. When they get to Clyde’s, Donny is there and he’s wearing a lovely silk dressing gown and fluffy pink heels. It seems that he likes to dress up and Clyde is the first person that he could ever truly be himself around. And it’s here that Merrick takes the opportunity to make sure that his Uncle Donny knows that there needn’t be any secrets where he is concerned. Donny can certainly dress however makes him most happy.
Jeff: I love everything about this scene, and it just further goes to show how much I really would like to see the Clyde and Donny book because obviously, they’ve come a long way in their relationship that Donny feels comfortable to do this. I love how Merrick and Leo are just like, “This is great, you could do whatever you want around us. We’re 100% supporting you.” They even figure out a way immediately to help him identify how he’s feeling in a given day through colored bracelets if he’s not comfortable wearing a more feminine outfit out and about, but they’re also wanting to take him shopping to find clothes that he’d be comfortable in. This just made me so warm. I think I might have wept a little during it because it was just so awesome.
Will: Later, Leo and Merrick go out to grab a bite to eat, and Merrick is still, kind of, processing everything. He loves his uncle unconditionally and doesn’t really have a problem with him being essentially gender fluid. But he is a little bit sad that Donny has spent most of his 70 years not being his authentic self and not being able to confide in him. They eventually decided to finish off the evening at Merrick’s place. And remember, he lives above the studio. Leo takes a moment to really look at some of the work Merrick has for sale in the shop there, and he seems to intuitively understand Merrick’s passion for his work. Sort of like Leo’s love for Merrick gives him an innate understanding of something that Merrick has devoted his life to. It’s then that Merrick decides to make one of Leo’s porny, pottery fantasies come to life. They are going to re-enact the scene from “Ghost.”
Jeff: Right down to the music because Leo tells his phone to play “Unchained Melody,” which I just absolutely loved.
Will: So, the two of them settle in at the potter’s wheel, but it doesn’t really last very long because Leo cannot help himself, and he is climbing all over Merrick before finally dragging him upstairs for the proper dicking that he has been craving all along.
Jeff: But how messy is all that? I mean, seriously, they would’ve gotten clay everywhere.
Will: Super funny. On the last afternoon of the seniors class, everyone is in good spirits. Uncle Donny is happier than Merrick’s ever seen him and the class can’t help ribbing Leo and Merrick, the two lovebirds who are now officially boyfriends. Everyone gets their chance to throw a pot at the wheel, Merrick showing off his expertise by crafting a heart-shaped bowl just for Leo.
Jeff: And thus the “Throwing Hearts” of our very title.
Will: Our story wraps up with an epilogue taking place two years later, Leo and Merrick stand proudly as best men at Clyde and Donny’s wedding. Donny makes a stunning impression in all his gender-fluid glory in a white Vera Wang suit and 5-inch heels. At the reception, our two heroes decide to take a page from Clyde and Uncle Donny and not waste any more time. They want to move in and get married. Merrick telling Leo that, “I’ll throw you all the hearts you want from now until forever.”
Jeff: And now, we can all have one big “aw.” This was the perfect ending to this book. I know a lot of epilogues tend to be our main characters getting married, but I really liked here getting a proper ending for Donny and Clyde and seeing how they came together in their union. And that also it was them that inspired Leo and Merrick to really not waste another second and declare that same thing for each other. It’s just perfect.
Will: Yeah. I really don’t have much else to say. I literally loved absolutely everything about this book. You all know that I have a penchant for low-angst reads, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book quite so sweet and funny and unrelentingly kind.
Jeff: It was every kind of book that I needed now because I really do like these nice and kind books. I mean, so much so here that as I was reading because I look at the plot beats occasionally and even what should have been the big, dark moment was really them just having another conversation just to make sure, from Leo’s point of view, that Merrick actually did like him and wasn’t delaying the dicking because he wanted to keep a distance on purpose. It was really around making sure Merrick was comfortable in what was about to happen to move them forward and not at all that he was looking to end something. And it came down to a really nice conversation that fed into everything else that they’d done. It was just Leo asking the question, instead of making a bunch of assumptions, he actually asked Merrick what was up. And I really liked how that whole thing was approached.
Will: So, Jeff and I absolutely adored “Throwing Hearts.” And as Jeff mentioned earlier, if you have a thing for Aussie accents, we definitely recommend you also check out the audiobook as read by Glen Lloyd.
Jeff: Yeah. Glen did an awesome job. It’s the first time I believe I’ve had a book from him and I just adored his narration. I thought he really captured the lightness of everything so well.
Will: Yeah. Definitely bringing our four main heroes to life with lots of light and love. All right. I think that’ll do it for this month’s book club episode. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our discussion of N. R. Walker’s “Throwing Hearts.” And if you haven’t read it yet, we hope that you’ll consider giving this book a try.
Jeff: Yeah. This needs to be on your TBR because it’s just going to wrap you up in a warm, comfy blanket of happy and awesome characters, and who doesn’t need that in their life? So, yeah, give it a go.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday in episode 298, Jay from Joyfully Jay and Lisa from The Novel Approach are back. They’re going to tell us what they’ve been reading recently,
Jeff: Hang onto your book budgets. If you’ve heard one of these episodes before, you know, it can get expensive because they’re going to come at us with some amazing things that we should all be reading. So join us on Monday for that.
Will: Thank you so much for listening until next time, please stay strong. Be safe and above all else. Keep turning those pages and keep reading