To kick off the month, Jeff has news about a discussion he’s moderating with authors Penny Aimes and Verity Lowell in association with Carina Adores and Buffalo Street Books for Bookstore Romance Day coming on August 21.
The guys talk about some great programming they’ve been watching recently, including the documentary Summer of Soul, the crafting shows Making It and All That Glitters, musical comedies Central Park and Schmigadoon! They also look at the teen dramas Gossip Girl and Young Royals plus the horror trilogy Fear Street.
For the August book preview, Jeff and Will look at upcoming books by K.M. Neuhold, Macy Blake, Lauren Blakely, Annabeth Albert, Haven Hadley, Dahlia Donovan, Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz, and Rachel Reid. Jeff also reviews Out of Character by Annabeth Albert and Flash Fire by TJ Klune.
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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Bookstore Romance Day Discussion with Penny Aimes and Verity Lowell at Buffalo Street Books
- For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until August 31, 2021)
- Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until October 26, 2021)
- Summer of Soul on Hulu
- Making It on NBC | Peacock
- All That Glitters on HBO Max
- The Great Pottery Throw Down on HBO Max
- Blown Away on Netflix
- Central Park on Apple+
- Schmigadoon! on Apple+
- Gossip Girl on HBO Max
- Young Royals on Netflix
- Scream on HBO Max
- I Know What You Did Last Summer on HBO Max
- Fear Street on Netflix
- American Horror Story on FX | Hulu
- Operation Meet Cute by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- Logan by Macy Blake on Amazon (pre-order until August 3, 2021)
- Winning With Him by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until August 3, 2021)
- Scoring With Him by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo
- All In With Him by Lauren Blakely on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until August 27, 2021)
- Hope on the Rocks by Annabeth Albert on Amazon (pre-order until August 5, 2021)
- Featherbed by Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Base Hit by Haven Hadley on Amazon (pre-order until August 5, 2021)
- Ghost Light Killer by Dahlia Donovan on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until August 7, 2021)
- Busy Ain’t the Half of It by Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar Cruz on Amazon | Kobo (pre-order until August 10, 2021)
- Episode 203 – First Time Collaboration with Frederick Smith & Chaz Lamar on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Role Model by Rachel Reid on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm (pre-order until August 10, 2021)
- Out of Character by Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Flash Fire by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we kick off August with a look at some of this month’s new books. Plus, we’ll talk about what we’ve been reading and watching.
Will: Welcome to episode 325 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast to show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction I’m Will and with me as always is my co-host and has been Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers. It is so good to have you back for another episode of the show.
As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thank you to Gregory for recently joining the community. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons, go to Patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Did you know that bookstore romance day is coming up?
Will: Please, sir. Tell me more.
Jeff: Well, it’s going to be on Saturday, August 21st and bookstores around the country will be celebrating this day for romance. We’re actually going to help Carina Adores celebrate the day along with Buffalo Street Books, which is located in Ithaca, New York. I’ll be hosting a discussion with authors Penny Aimes and Verity Lowell.
Penny’s book, “For the Love of April French,” is an “Entertainment Weekly” pick for best summer romance of 2021. It’s a male/female book with a trans woman lead and features a fake relationship and a workplace drama. And that book is going to come out a little later this month on August 31st. Verity’s “Meet Me in Madrid” comes out on October 26th and is an f/f romcom about two women juggling romance and careers across continents.
I am so looking forward to talking to Penny and Verity about these books, and I hope you’ll join me as we celebrate bookstore romance day. You’ll actually find the link where you can register for this free event in our show notes.
Will: So before we get to all of the amazing books that are coming our way in August, Jeff and I would like to take a second to talk about all of the amazing programming that has been happening over the course of the summer of 2021. We’ve been watching some really terrific stuff. And we wanted to share that with you right here.
” Summer of Soul” is a kick ass music documentary that is now on Hulu. In the summer of 69, there was a little concert taking place in upstate New York. Hello Woodstock anyone. But did you also know that there was a free summer concert series taking place in New York City at the same time over the course of the summer of 69?
And it’s footage recorded over that summer that make up the bulk of “Summer of Soul.” And the amount of talent on display is just it’s mind blowing. An entrepreneurial guy recorded everything that summer in hopes of maybe turning it into a series of TV specials or a movie similar to Woodstock. But he couldn’t get anyone interested in those tapes remained hidden away in a basement for over 50 years. But now we have the very great pleasure of seeing some of the acts that performed over that summer. And the acts featured in “Summer of Soul,” it’s really a who’s who of some of the very best of soul and R and B acts that we’re kind of at the pinnacle of their creative powers at the time.
Jeff: It’s just really amazing. And I think the most stunning thing in all of it is that it sat buried for 50 years. I mean, you’ve got stuff here from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, BB king, The Fifth Dimension. It was just incredible watching this. Definitely check it out if you’ve got Hulu. It’s “Summer of Soul.”
Will: In addition to that, Jeff and I also happen to enjoy crafting reality competitions. ” Making It,” the show hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman has come back for another round of crafting goodness. We’re really enjoying that.
Also available right now on HBO Max is the British jewelry crafting show “All That Glitters.” Now in terms of format, it’s very similar to the “Great Pottery Throwdown.” Jeff and I loved that show to pieces.
And in a similar way, “All That Glitters” follows a group of artisans and each week their skills are tested. They have to work with various materials. Semiprecious stones. Show off their talent in various handcrafting jewelry making techniques. It’s really interesting and a lot of fun to watch how each of them face each of the challenges but each have their own unique, distinct style. I really liked it. It was fun, but also actually genuinely informative because I know nothing about making jewelry.
Jeff: Right? It is. It’s informative. Like, you know, we learned all about pottery in the “Pottery Throwdown” and we learned all about glassblowing in the glassblowing show that Netflix has. And here we get to watch jewelry happen. And I really enjoyed on this show, how one of the challenges each week is somebody comes to the jewelry studio to have an engagement ring made or to have a special broach made or have something else made. Something that they’re going to be giving to someone in their family, something that you hope becomes an heirloom and how the jewelers approach, making that, knowing what, the importance of the item is. It was really a fun show and hopefully there’ll be a season two. You can catch that right now on HBO Max. And “Making It” is on NBC and new episodes of that will continue after the Olympics and you can catch previous episodes on Peacock.
Will: Shall we talk about some musical television next?
Jeff: Absolutely. It has been such a summer of musical TV.
Will: Now summer is usually when Jeff and I would make our annual trip to New York City to take part in the Broadway. That of course wasn’t possible in the summer of 2021, but that’s okay because we’ve got amazing shows like “Central Park.”
Now this Apple+ original show slipped under my radar.
Jeff: Mine too. Like where did that come from?
Will: But I’m really glad we finally decided to check it out because it is an utter delight.
” Central Park” is an animated musical series that focuses on the lives of a family who happened to live in a castle, not really a castle, in the middle of Central Park. Owen is the park manager. And as you can imagine, taking care of a place like Central Park comes with its own unique set of challenges.
One of those challenges happens to be Bitsy Brandenham, the ultra wealthy and generally awful hotelier who lives in a penthouse overlooking the park. And she has every intention of buying it and turning it into condos and retail, because that’s what developers do in New York City. Condos and retail. Real original.
Jeff: Stick another building on it.
Will: Oy vey. I don’t even know where to begin because this show is filled with humor and heart. It was created by Broadway star Josh Gad along with the guy who is behind the show ” Bob’s Burgers.” So that right there tells you it’s going to be irreverent and full of charm.
And not only is each episode full of humor and pathos as we follow Owen and his family, each episode is jam packed with original music. Amazing songs crafted by some of the very best songwriters going today. Songs that are performed by some of the very best Broadway talent out there. We could literally spend all day talking about the voice talent behind these amazing characters.
Jeff: And there’s some really interesting choices on the voice talent as well. Stanley Tucci is the voice of Bitsy Brandenham and where Stanley finds her voice within his, I don’t even know because it’s absolutely hysterical. And then you’ve got Daveed Diggs who was a Tony winner for “Hamilton.” He’s in TNT’s “Snowpiercer.” He voices Bitsy’s personal assistant Helen. And let me just tell you, Helen will bust out a very “Hamilton” style rap occasionally.
Will: Helen has very sick flow.
Jeff: Oh my God.
Will: It’s amazing.
Jeff: It’s really incredible. If you’re not watching “Central Park.” And you don’t have Apple+ TV. I mean, take advantage of a free trial when it comes up or something, because this is absolutely hysterical.
You will laugh. You might cry a little. You’ll tap your foot to the songs. It’s incredible. It’s coming up on the tail end of its second season right now, and new episodes of “Central Park” drop on Fridays.
Will: Also available on Apple+ is another musical show that recently premiered, “Schmigadoon!” Exclamation point.
Jeff: And talk about another smorgasbord of Broadway talent right here.
Will: So this show features a modern couple played by Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong, and they are facing their own set of challenges. And in the very first episode, they go on a couples retreat and when they cross a bridge in the middle of the forest, they are transported to the magical land of Schmigadoon! a fantastical place inspired by the golden age of Broadway.
the rest of the show was about our two main characters, trying to find their way back to the real world all the while trying to navigate the classic Broadway tropes prevalent in the land of Schmigadoon!
Jeff: Where people really do break out into song and music just randomly starts to fill the air as a musical cue when you’re supposed to do that. It’s absolutely hysterical. Keegan-Michael Key’s character hates musicals. So he is immediately like, we need to get out of here. We need to get out of here right now. Cecily Strong, however, is very into musicals, knows how to navigate the musical landscape really well. it’s such a delight.
Will: So from the title you might have already guessed, conceptually it bears a strong resemblance to the show “Brigadoon.” And several of the characters, the townspeople bear a striking resemblance to characters featured in such turn of the century classics like “The Music Man” and “Carousel.” it’s all really charming and very, very funny.
And like “Central Park” it is jam packed with amazing talent. There’s Fred Armisen and Dove Cameron, Kristen Chenowith, Alan Cumming. Ariana DeBose is the headstrong schoolmarm with progressive ideas.
Jeff: She was a lot of fun in her episode. Very much “The Music Man” vibe going on there as well with her character.
Will: Aaron Tveit is the bad boy Carney. The list just goes on and on. Right now, as we record this, we’re about halfway through the season. I’m enjoying every moment. It’s full of color and lots of great music. I’ve never heard of this guy, Cinco Paul.
Jeff: Me either.
Will: But he’s the creator of the show and the one who has written the majority of the music and, oh my God, does he really nail the incredibly specific style of these classic Broadway tunes? Like I said, really amazing. Really charming.
Jeff: Yeah. I think he must be someone who grew up and was immersed in Broadway because each individual song you could almost say, well, that could have come from “Oklahoma.” That could have come from “The Music Man.” That could have come from XYZ. They’re all very specific in tone and flavor and it’s just, oh, it’s brilliant. If you’re like us and you’re just itching to like see a musical and see something back on stage again, “Schmigadoon!” and “Central Park” can really help fill that bill.
You could check out season one of “Schmigadoon!” on Apple+. Those new episodes also drop on Friday.
Will: So from musicals, let’s move on to teen drama.
So by now I think we have all come to realize that nine times out of 10, anytime anything gets rebooted, it’s going to be hot garbage.
Jeff: Pretty much, yes.
Will: That though I do not think is the case with the brand new “Gossip Girl.”
Jeff: This actually worked backwards for me because I was not a “Gossip Girl” fan during his run on the CW back in the day. I think I watched one episode and went “Meh, I don’t care about this.” And yet I’m totally into this reboot.
Will: Yeah. This reboot is a continuation of the original and like the original. We follow a group of uber wealthy, ridiculously beautiful teens and experience the drama of their lives as they attend an elite prep school on the upper east side of Manhattan.
And while this is an ensemble show. It mainly focuses on the on again, off again feud between two half-sisters, Julien and Zoya. This show is crazy and sexy and glam. And while it certainly isn’t Shakespeare, I’m really, really, really enjoying it.
Jeff: I like it far more than I thought I would. When you’ve told me we were going to give “Gossip Girl” and go I was like, really? Okay. And then within minutes I was very drawn in to Julien and Zoya’s story. And the whole influencer vibe, because Julien’s very much an influencer, who turns out is a little more influenced by her people than I think she thought she was.
And all of these different relationships that go on between the students at the school and just the teachers themselves who decided to reboot Gossip Girl to help them out and try to control these kids. It was, it was just amazing.
Will: Well that’s an interesting twist.
Jeff: Yeah. Exactly.
Will: In the original show, the identity of Gossip Girl was the central mystery. Here in the very first episode. We know exactly who Gossip Girl is. And we followed the lives of the kids and the teachers who have to deal with them.
Jeff: Yeah. The teachers are a hoot because they didn’t realize how much work it could be to be Gossip Girl and keep up with all the stuff that goes on in their school. Yeah. I’m digging this show far more than I thought I would and right now, I think we’re only on episode four as we’re recording this and I’m intrigued to see really how they keep up the momentum and keep the storylines moving along and introducing new elements to it amongst this crew that we’re watching at this particular high school.
Will: I recently listened to a podcast episode featuring Joshua Safran. He’s one of the creators and the show runner of this particular reboot. And he also happens to be the show runner of the original. He freely admitted that back in the day that there wasn’t much diversity or queer rep in the original. Practically none. And he was hoping to remedy that with this new version, making it as queer as humanly possible.
Jeff: I think he did that.
Will: Like I said, the show is glitzy and glamorous and kind of outrageous. I’m really enjoying the story so far. I’m also enjoying the fact that the production was shot entirely in New York City. Manhattan looks so beautiful.
Jeff: Yeah. They’re really shooting the city really well in all the various locations they’re at be it along the east side of Manhattan over by The Met and the prep schools that are over there, or when they’re downtown visiting the clubs and stuff, it looks so beautiful. Makes me a little homesick periodically. But yeah, it’s really nice to see them treat the city so well.
Will: So whether you’re a fan of the original or are willing to give this new generation a try, we recommend you check out “Gossip Girl.”
Jeff: New episodes drop on Thursdays on HBO Max.
Will: So from the drama of teenage elites here in the states, let’s move on to Sweden. I very much want to talk about the new Netflix show “Young Royals.” This is one of the best things that I’ve seen in a very long time. And you should just watch it.
Jeff: Okay. We’re done. Moving on. Just kidding. We do have more to say about this amazing show.
Will: So the teen drama of “Young Royals” takes place at a boarding school for the rich and wealthy and privileged…
Jeff: and the Royal
Will: Yeah. And in this particular case, the Royal of the title is Wilhelm, crown prince of Sweden. The first season of the show covers his first semester at this elite boarding school. And we’re drawn into the world of wealth and privilege and romance.
It’s here, that Wilhelm meets Simon. He is what the other kids call non-res, meaning that he doesn’t live at the school. He’s essentially a townie. An appealing guy from the wrong side of the tracks with the voice of an angel. And we follow their blossoming romance as they try to navigate the expectations of their friends. And in the case of Wilhelm, the outside world in the Royal family.
Over the course of the show, Wilhelm comes under increased scrutiny as the prince will one day take over the throne, and how he deals with those expectations. All the while trying to follow his own heart and explore this relationship with the boy of his dreams.
I think it’s interesting that we’ve talked about “Gossip Girl” and “Young Royals” in succession because while on the surface, they both deal with the same thing: rich teens at school and the pluses and minuses of living a life of incredible privilege, but they really could not be any more different.
While “Gossip Girl” is very glossy and colorful, ” Young Royals” is a lot more gritty and subdued and realistic.
Jeff: One of the things I liked about “Young Royals” was that none of the actors come out of what I tend to call CW central casting. They’re good looking teens, but they are normal, regular looking teens and not the super glossed up look that we tend to get on American teen shows. So that was kind of refreshing. I thought.
Will: Jeff and I have already watched this series twice. The Netflix English dub version and the original Swedish subtitled version. I’m not a snob when it comes to content that’s English dubbed, but I do think the original Swedish is my preferred version.
Jeff: I would actually agree. I questioned originally why we were re-watching in the original Swedish. And then I kind of got it because especially with the performances in this show, you’re getting the original actors full vocal performance, which is nothing against the team that redubbed it for English. ,But especially the young actor who plays Wilhelm. He is so good. His emotions and his physicality. And what goes through his voice was really remarkable. I’d like to see him get an award or two for this, because he’s really outstanding.
Will: Yeah. And from a storytelling point, I think this show really excels because everything that happens comes from the characters. They’re not being manipulated by the writers for the sake of the plot. The plot comes from the choices that the characters make. God, it is just so damn good. So amazing. Please, if you haven’t already give “Young Royals” a try.
Jeff: All of season one of “Young Royals” is currently out on Netflix. And if anybody at Netflix is listening, let’s get a season two for that fast tracked please.
Will: And lastly, as we finish up our summary of what we’ve been watching, we want to recommend the horror trilogy “Fear Street.” Now, this doesn’t seem particularly on brand for us.
Jeff: Especially for me who tends to be a scaredy cat.
Will: To be sure we love sweetness and light and romance. But I also came of age when Hollywood was going through a very brief horror resurgence. I was in my early twenties in the late nineties, early two thousands when movies like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” will all the rage.
So while horror, isn’t generally my preferred form of entertainment, I do enjoy the specific brand of self-referential storytelling featuring beautiful teens and horrible situations.
Jeff: That is “Fear Street” to a T right there.
Will: So the “Fear Street” trilogy, very loosely based on the teenage series of books written by RL Stein, follows a group of kids from the town of Shadyside and how the curse of Sarah Fier, a witch murdered centuries before, as longstanding ramifications.
The first movie “Fear Street 1994” finds our teenage cast of characters, trying to survive the night when the skull face killer, presumably possessed by the ghost of Sarah Fier, is going on a killing spree. Our cast of characters is led by a young star crossed pair of lesbian lovers who realize that if they’re ever going to survive the curse, they need to find out more about Sarah Fier.
Which brings us to part two “Fear Street 1978.” To learn more about the curse, they find the one surviving member of a summer camp massacre that happened decades before. And as they dig deeper and deeper, they realized that the curse of Sarah Fier is not just a children’s nursery rhyme, but it’s very, very real.
Which leads us to “Fear Street 1666” in which our heroine doesn’t necessarily time travel per se, but does go back and experience the story of Sarah Fier for herself. Learning about the horrible origin and how she can finally put a stop to everything in the present day.
Jeff: This was so incredibly smart and well done how the story itself was structured, how you had these teens who knew enough about horror movie tropes to try to avoid them for the most part. It just really combines some really good storytelling and did it in a way that honestly didn’t freak me out too much as horror movies are want to do.
It’s very much also in kind of the Ryan Murphy kind of horror stories that we’ve seen with what he does on FX with “American Horror Story” and how he rolls out some of these incredibly smart, yet scary play with your fears kind of thing. I really enjoyed it and it was nice to see a queer couple at the center of it.
Will: Yeah. Like Jeff said, I think the plot is actually really smart and genuinely engaging. These aren’t just cardboard characters that you’re waiting to get killed off. You’re genuinely invested in who they are and what they’re doing.
Jeff: And it carries through the three movies because the actions in 1666 reverberate all the way up into 1994.
Will: Yeah. These three movies, there are a lot of fun. They’re violent and they’re freaky. And they really bring to mind some of the horror movies that I enjoyed when I was growing up.
Jeff: Perfect for some hot August summer nights, you can just do them one a night or do a triple feature. Get your big tub of popcorn and it could be a perfect Netflix and chill.
Will: So that’s what Jeff and I have been watching recently.
August Book Preview
Will: Since it’s the beginning of the month, do you want to talk about some of the books that we’re looking forward to in August?
Jeff: I think we absolutely should and August it’s just chock full of good books.
Will: So genuinely amazing. You know what? I remember a time when summer was actually a slow month for book releases, not so in 2021.
Jeff: Yeah. August. I don’t know what happened with August. All of a sudden it’s like everybody’s getting the last minute beach read out or something, or I don’t know what’s going on here, but there’s a lot this month.
Will: So first up, let’s talk about the newest title from author K.M Neuhold This book is going live the same day as this particular podcast episode, August 2nd. It’s her newest story “Operation Meet Cute.”
Now, I don’t know what K.M. Neuhold is doing to the romance book cover gods, but whatever it is, I’m down for it. This cover is colorful and sexy. I’m not even sure. I need to tell you what it’s all about. You should probably just pick it up.
Jeff: Well, and it’s all in the title to, ” Operation Meet Cute.”
Will: So this is the story of Harlow and he is in love with love, but all his attempts to orchestrate the perfect meet cute have fallen flat. And he wonders, could it be his best friend who holds the key to their romcom worthy happily ever after?
Jeff: Well, okay. It’s always a mistake to try to orchestrate the meet cute cause that never goes like you want it to. But you know, I love the meet cute. I love K.M Neuhold. So I have no doubt that this whole romcom take is just going to be pure absolute gold.
Will: Yeah. Terrific cover.
Jeff: I could poster my office in her covers because they are so good to look at. This cover, the “Four Bears” covers. She’s got a knack for those covers.
Will: Releasing the day after “Operation Meet Cute” is “Logan” by Macy Blake. Now we are fans of Macy and her unique brand of paranormal romance. But this summer she returns with an irresistible new series. Bailey is shocked to learn that shifters exist and magic is real. The chemistry he shares with alpha wolf logan is undeniable. An exciting world of possibilities, challenges are open for them in this, the very first book of Macy’s brand new “Chosen Champions” series.
Jeff: You are right. Macy has got away with these shifters, and I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in her hands with this guy who doesn’t know that these things actually exist and that magic exists. And then to end up in a relationship with an alpha Wolf, I just have to think that Bailey’s mind is just going to be blown. It’s going to be so fun to read.
Will: Also releasing on August 3rd is “Winning with Him” by Lauren Blakely. Now the super hot love affair of baseball players Grant and Declan began in “Scoring with Him” and our two heroes continue to face challenges here in “Winning with Him.”
Now I talked about these books last month when I made the assumption that this was a duology. Silly me. Lauren Blakely has announced that there is going to be a third book. The conclusion of their major league romance will happen later this month with the release of book number three, “All in with Him.” That’s coming out on August 27th.
Jeff: I really like how Lauren’s rapid releasing these. So. In this instance where you’ve got this trilogy of books that focus on a single couple, to be able to get the stories all together so you’re not stuck, let’s say on a cliffhanger too long, or just waiting for the next installment to just get it that quickly it’s really wonderful. Glad she was able to do that.
Will: Yeah. A lot of people are singing the praises of this particular series. And I haven’t gotten to the first book yet, but it’s at the very top of my TBR pile.
So let’s talk about “Hope on the Rocks” by Annabeth Albert and that’s coming out on August 5th. In this story. Annabeth returns to her “Rainbow Cove series with a book about a broken heart, a doctor, and the bartender who comes to his romantic rescue. I’m getting the feels already. Now Quinn has been burned by love before, but how can he possibly resist a summer fling with Adam the take charge younger man who just might make all of his dreams come true.
Jeff: How wonderful to get to go back to Rainbow Cove for the summer. And it’s one of Annabeth classic series too. I mean, this is a series that started back in like 2017 and it’s just like the year of Annabeth Albert. I’m going to be talking about “Out of Character” here in just a few minutes. I loved “Featherbed” earlier this year. She’s always consistent with releasing awesome books. And I just feel like this year, so many great things coming from her. It’s really wonderful.
Will: You might even say that she’s hitting it out of the park, just like the heroes in our next book “Base Hit” by Haven Hadley.
Jeff: I can’t believe you just did that. That was a wonderful segue.
Will: “Base Hit” is going to be coming out on August 5th and it’s about a guy named Vander and he is a baseball player with a major chip on his shoulder. Evan is the heir to a business empire, but he prefers a simpler life. And when the two of them dance together one fateful night, they realize they may have finally found something worth fighting for… each other.
Now “Base Hit” is book two in the brand new “Espen Emperors” series. And Haven Hadley is going to be rapid releasing these stories over the next month or two.
Jeff: Haven’s a new to me author. But I’m really intrigued by these characters. What is laid out here. Because in my head, I can’t wrap around these two, who sound very polar opposite, this baseball player with the chip on their shoulder and a business heir. How on earth do they end up dancing together? I kind of need to know that because it just doesn’t seem like these two would do that. Color me intrigued.
Will: Coming up on August 7th is the newest title from Dahlia Donovan, “Ghost Light Killer.” It is murder most foul for boyfriends Dannel and Osian when they help a friend with a local theatrical production and dead bodies keep turning up. Can our heroes solve the case before the murderer spotlight shines on them?
Jeff: I bet they can.
Will: “Ghost Light Killer” is the second book in the continuing “London Podcast Mystery” series.
Jeff: This, just read to me like a Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Signature Mystery Series. They should sign this one up and I need to just read the series. I mean, you’ve got the mysteries, which I like. There’s a podcast twist in there and this one involves theater too. So I mean, this ticked so many boxes for me.
Will: Yeah if cozies are your thing, I recommend giving this series a try.
Another upcoming title that we hardly recommend is “Busy Ain’t the Half of It” by Frederick Smith and Chaz Lamar Cruz. In this book, Elijah is an actor with a busy life and a brand new boyfriend. Justin is a single dad and former news anchor who finally has some time to enjoy himself. But as we all know, life is never simple and both will face personal and professional challenges in this dramatic new story from the writing team behind the book “In Case You Forgot.”
Jeff: I am so excited for this book. Frederick and Chaz recently read a little bit from chapter one and chapter two during an online event from Bold Strokes Books. And that preview brought me right back into this world that they created in that first book. And if you want to go back, you can actually hear from Frederick and Chaz when we talked to them last year in episode 203, when “In Case You Forgot” actually came out.
Will: And lastly, to wrap up our recommendations of upcoming books, it’s “Role Model” by Rachel Reid. Troy and Harris are like oil and water, but you know what they say about how opposites attract. A grumpy professional hockey player meets his match with an out and proud social media manager in this sizzling new book in Rachel Reid’s “Game Changers” series. That’s going to be heading our way on August 10th
Jeff: Hockey players for the win every single time. I love the books I’ve read so far in the “Game Changers” series. In particular, Rachel really writes opposites attract so well within her hockey romances.
Now a little sneak preview here for you. I recently talked to her about this particular book and what’s still to come for the “Game Changers” series and that’s going to be coming your way on the show in episode 329 on August 23rd.
Will: Now I realize that was an awful lot of book and TV and movie recommendations. But do not fret, there is no need to fumble with a pad and a pen or trying to open the note app on your phone. If you’d like a link of any of these recommendations that we’d just been talking about, all you have to do is… I think you know where to go. That’s right. It’s the show notes page for episode 325, you can find that at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Jeff: But, hey, we’re not done yet. I’ve got a couple of reviews for you as well.
Out of Character by Annabeth Albert
Jeff: And I’m going to kick off with what I mentioned just a second ago with Annabeth Albert. Now, I adored Annabeth’s “Conventionally Yours.” The enemies to lovers, road trip romance featuring a couple of gamer geeks was on my list of favorite books from 2020. And I’m pretty sure, in fact, I’m a hundred percent sure, its sequel, “Out of Character,” will be on that list this year. From the opening chapters the former friends to enemies to friends to lovers story gave me all the feels. Jasper and Milo are pure romance gold.
We met Jasper briefly in “Conventionally Yours” before he had to depart the road trip to head back home because his sister had taken ill. Now Jasper’s in his final semester of college, working at the game shop and doing cosplay appearance at the local children’s hospital that helped his family so much with April’s illness. One afternoon Milo walks into the game shop. Jasper hasn’t seen him since they were freshmen in high school when Milo suddenly ended their friendship because he needed to maintain his status with his new soccer team friends. Jasper’s never forgiven him for that break with his best friend or the bullying he endured from Milo’s new friends.
Now Milo needs Jasper’s help. He’s lost some very rare Odyssey cards that belong to his older brother (Odyssey is the card game we were introduced to in “Conventionally Yours”). Jasper can’t believe jock Milo plays Odyssey, much less that he’s turned up for help. After initially being turned away, Milo waits for Jasper after work and they agree to a trade–Jasper helps Milo track down the cards and Milo fills in at the next cosplay at the hospital because the regular Prince Neptune is out of town. They’re both unsure that this arrangement can work, but they agree to it.
Annabeth crafted such an incredible story. Not only do we see how people can grow and change over time, but we also see the process of slowly making amends for some terrible mistakes. It’s quite a road for Jasper to be able to trust, and even begin to like Milo again. How can he be sure that Milo’s not still the same jerk underneath it all? It’s also wonderful how the rekindling friendship navigates into becoming more than that. It’s something teenage Jasper fantasized about, that one day Milo might somehow end up kissing him in his bedroom.
For Milo it’s about the courage to let that part of him out. He’s known he’s gay for a long time, but he’s kept it buried. He didn’t want the bullying he saw Jasper endure. He didn’t know how to share with his family, especially a domineering father and his brother who’s in the military. But that closet door cracks as he sees how Jasper lives out, proud and not taking any crap.
I particularly liked how Annabeth handles Milo. He’s been through so much with picking terrible friends in high school, piling on baggage from his dad and perceived baggage from his brother, making more than a few stupid choices, some of which involved an accident that injured him quite a bit, that he’s still recovering from. All of this had very high consequences for him. He’s been beaten down, and yet he strives for something more and different. Annabeth never brings too much angst in or allows either the reader or Milo to wallow in too much pity. Some of that’s because Jasper won’t allow it for very long, but also because once Milo starts to see the rays of light he really wants to change even if it scares him. There’s a great story of redemption and finding yourself here alongside a super sweet romance.
As with “Conventionally Yours” there’s a great friend and family group. That starts with Jasper’s sister April, she’s incredible with her no-nonsense approach to live her life, albeit with precautions to keep her healthy. She looks out for her big bro too. Jasper’s gaming friends are wonderful as always and ready to help out. I loved Professor Tuddle and Professor Herrera in “Conventionally Yours” and even more so in this book as we saw more of them. They are a wonderful couple–reminding me in many ways of Doc and Grandpa from Lucy Lennox’s “Forever Wilde” series.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. The romance had me with it’s sweet and gentle approach as it followed alongside the friendship reconciliation and Milo finding his way to the life he really wanted and, frankly, deserved. I hope we get more in the “True Colors” series from Annabeth Albert because I adore all of these characters so much.
And I’ve got one more for you as well.
Flash Fire by TJ Klune
Jeff: It’s possible I’ve become an audiobook junkie. Despite having an advance copy of “Flash Fire” by TJ Klune for a quite a while, I waited to dive into this sequel until the audiobook was out so I could relish in Michael Lesely’s incredible narration. Once again TJ delivers a remarkable young adult novel, digging into love, the strength you get from good friends and being part of a team, as well as some very real world concerns that we all face in these times. And Michael, we’ll he has a lot of fun with his performance while also hitting all the right emotional chords.
“Flash Fire” picks up a short time after the events in “The Extraordinaries.” Things have been relatively quiet in Nova City since the battle on the bridge that saw Owen Burke, aka Shadow Star, sent away for the destruction he caused. Seth Gray’s secret identity as Pyro Storm is still safe and he and his boyfriend Nick Bell continue to be ridiculously cute. And their friends, Jazz and Gibby, are also crazy happy together. The four of them together make up Team Pyro Storm, providing support to Seth when he goes out to help the citizens of Nova City.
As usual, TJ expertly packs a lot into a plot. One of the things that’s never up for grabs here is Nick and Seth’s relationship. TJ mentioned that in the release day event conversation he had with David Levithan that he wanted Nick and Seth secure, and I love that he did that. There’s so many other things to create conflict. A key one is Nick’s dad. I came to love Aaron Bell in “The Extraordinaries” for how he loved and cared for his son, but Aaron is far from perfect.
There are a lot of cracks that form here as Nick has to face the reality of how some of his friend’s, and their parents, perceive his dad. Aaron Bell is a cop–a cop we know was suspended over his treatment of a suspect. Nick gets a different take on his dad and the police from his friends and their parents. Nick also discovers that his dad has kept a lot from him, far more than he should’ve given everything that’s happened related to Extraordinaries. TJ deftly navigates this fractured relationship through the book to great effect since elements relate directly to Nick while others impact the broader story too.
There are also new Extraordinaries revealed–some good and some evil. I’m not going into too much here as you should have the thrill of discovery. I will say that I absolutely adored everything about Miss Conduct, a drag queen Extraordinary with a fabulous costume. I can’t wait to see the fanart depicting her.
TJ brings a lot of adults into the mix here. In the first book we had Nick’s dad as well as Bob and Martha, who are Seth’s guardians. Here we get a lot of Jazz and Gibby’s parents too. The one sort of spoiler I’ll offer here (and it comes super early in the book) is Jazz and Gibby’s parents find out about Seth because a lot of electronics were purchased for the lair with one of the parent’s credit cards. It’s a funny moment, but also draws the right amount of criticism because they didn’t know what their kids were up to–and that they expected a heads up from Nick’s dad since they’d all been friends years. Aaron seriously broke some rules about keeping parents informed about their kids.
As you’d expect in a superhero book, there’s some great battle scenes, with a big one near the end. Team Pyro Storm is put to the test. There’s also some not unexpected heat coming from the city to find out more about these extraordinaries, what they can do, and perhaps find a “cure” for them. There’s some fascinating reveals around this, which I never saw coming… which is actually something I expect in a book from TJ.
My favorite part of the book though–Prom. The sequence with Nick, Seth, Jazz and Gibby getting their outfits was perfect. And even more so was prom night, from the embarrassment Nick’s dad put him through, to doing group pictures, getting dinner and dancing. It was a perfect time amongst friends. Another couple of standout moments come from the end of the book. There’s an incredible valedictorian address and a letter that comes inside a gift Nick receives. If you’re like me, you’ll need kleenex for those moments.
And hang on to your hats… this book ends on a Marvel worthy cliffhanger! So you can rest assured I’m ready for book three. As you can tell, I very highly recommend “Flash Fire” by TJ Klune. It’s a great combo of young love, superhero action and great coming of age moments with a dash of issues that society is dealing with right now.
TJ will be here in just a couple of weeks on August 16 for episode 328. We’ll talk about “Flash Fire” as well as this fall’s book “Under the Whispering Door.” You won’t want to miss that.
Will: Did you know that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon? Well, it has. Thank you, Patreon peeps. If you’d like to read our conversation and reviews for yourself, we’d like to quickly remind you that you can find all of it over on the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com, there are also links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And on the show notes page, you’ll also find notations for all the books that we talked about, that you can get from Libro.fm. And it’s a whole bunch of them in this episode that are available on Libro.fm. As you know, we really love Libro.fm as the place to go to get your audio books because when you get an audio book from them, you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. If you want details on how you can take advantage of the special offer for Big Gay Fiction Podcast listeners, where you can get a two month audio book membership for the price of one, simply to go to BigGayFictionPodcast.com/librofm.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for this episode. Coming up on Monday in episode 326 author Jackie North joins us and she’s going to be talking about her “Farmingdale Ranch” series.
Jeff: The third book in that series, “The Ranch Hand and the Single Dad,” just came out last week and we will be discussing that one. Plus we’ll find out how this contemporary cowboy romance series actually connects with her time travel series.
Will: Thank you everyone for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.