Jeff & Will discuss the delightful holiday romance The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish. As always, in our book club chat there are spoilers ahead so keep that in mind if you haven’t read the book yet. Make sure you keep listening after our discussion to hear the first chapter of the audiobook, narrated by Michael Dean.
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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.
- Roan Parrish website
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Garnet Run series by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Charlotte’s Web on Amazon Prime Video
- Episode 338 – Christmas Lights and Halloween Scares with Author Roan Parrish on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- 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, December 23.
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 348 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me as always is my co-host and husband Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers it’s great to have you here with us.
Will: This is the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode for November. And this month’s pick is the delightful holiday romance, “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane” by Roan Parrish.
Jeff: Now, before we start our deep dive discussion of this month’s book, we’d like to quickly thank the members of our Patreon community, including our newest member Sol. 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 our genre has to offer. On the Big Gay Fiction Podcast Patreon page members get early access to the book club episodes 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.
And we just want to let you know we’ve got a special bonus at the end of this episode. We are so excited to bring you the first chapter from the audio book of “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane” with narration from Michael Dean. You won’t want to miss that so make sure you stick around after our discussion.
The Lights on Knockbridge Lane Discussion
Will: All right. You ready to talk about the sweetest Christmas romance ever?
Jeff: I am this book just, it had me from the beginning and just pulled me along and like the best story ever.
Will: So Adam is a single dad to precocious eight year old daughter, Gus, and they’ve recently moved back and made their new home in small town Garnet Run. One evening, Wes, a hermit neighbor who lives in the scary house across the street, returns Gus. She apparently broke into his house, climbing in through the basement window.
Adam, tries to give her a talking to, but she explains that Wes has lizards, which is her latest obsession. And he even shoved a tarantula in her face. Furious and horrified, Adam stomps over to Wes’s house. You do not shove tarantulas in little kids faces.
Gus hasn’t adapted to the move very well, and is dejected when a handwritten letter she left for their reclusive neighbor isn’t answered right away. She’s also sullen over the rejection of Mason, Adam’s ex, and Adam will do just about anything to cheer her up. The holidays are coming. They’re going to have the best time together. Just the two of them. What is one special thing that she’d like? She wants their house to have the most Christmas lights of any house in the world.
Jeff: Nothing like making small demands since we all know how many lights a house can actually take.
I love these first couple of chapters. It tells us pretty much everything that we need in like the sweetest way possible. Practically the first line of the book is “Everyone Knockbridge Lane had a different theory about Westley Mobray.” It sets up almost this urban legend around Wes, and then very shortly we’re finding out that he has lizards and sticks tarantulas in people’s faces. It’s really interesting.
And Gus from the get go is both precocious and awesome in her fearlessness and openness. I really like how she plays in this story. I will talk a lot more about that later, but just right off the bat we know everything we need to know. And Roan has set up these three characters so awesomely in such a short amount of time. It’s just really delightful.
Will: Wes isn’t happy when there is a knock on his door one evening. It’s that kid from across the street demanding to know why he hasn’t written her back. Before he can really deal with Gus or her father, his biogas generator has a minor malfunction and there’s a small explosion.
And Gus and her dad, after seeing that the house hasn’t been destroyed, look at all the various creatures he has as part of his research. Gus wants to hold Betty, the tarantula, the thought of which sends Adam fleeing. Spiders are not his thing. Wes lets her hold the spider and he can’t help but be charmed by the inquisitive little kid who is so protective of her father.
Jeff: Gus is inquisitive and always wants to know stuff. One of my favorite lines of hers in the entire book, as Wes as trying to explain this biogas generator thing that he has, he looks at her, cocks her head, as you could imagine a kid doing and say, “can you use other words?” She just doesn’t get it.
We already see here how Wes isn’t the scary guy the neighborhood sees. The way that he’s already interacting, especially with Gus, and this kid who’s just kind of burst into his home, by letting her hold the pet tarantula and things. Is so cute and shows him as being somebody who can actually interact with people.
And then with Adam, we already see even more how much he cares for his child, because he’s letting her wonder take over here. She’s going to get to hold the spider, even while he’s pretty much in the farthest corner of the room because he wants no part of the spider.
And who can blame him, a tarantula.
Will: Adam arrives home from his job at the local hardware store with some lights. Gus is eager to get started on their project, but Adam realizes that they don’t have a ladder. No problem. Gus runs across the street to ask Wes if they can borrow one. While Wes gets the ladder from the garage, Gus holds one of Wes’s snakes.
Adam knows he’s maybe not the coolest dad in the world and is a tiny bit jealous of his daughter’s adorable hero worship of Wes and his creepy crawly menagerie. To decorate the house, Adam realizes that he’ll actually have to go up on the ladder and he is not a fan of heights.
This leads to a rather hilarious sequence where Adam very slowly and very carefully climbs up each rung of the ladder. And he wonders aloud about ladder related fatalities every year. So Wes, thinking he’s being helpful, actually looks it up on his phone and starts like throwing out statistics. Adam’s like, no, that’s not helpful.
Jeff: I also thought that if Wes hadn’t looked that up for Adam, I could imagine Gus going to look it up for Adam. Cause she loves to know stuff. And you could just see her maybe with her phone or borrowing a phone to figure that out. I like that you pointed out that Adam’s a little bit jealous of the hero worship already kind of thrown at Wes. Cause Gus even calls it out that he’s like a superhero. He knows everything and he’s got all the cool sidekicks.
Will: Meaning his bugs.
Jeff: Meaning his bugs and lizards.
He’s got raccoons in his house. I mean, come on.
And yet I have to say that Roan’s done a great job of giving the animals a little bit of character. And they even become, much like some of the other animals that have appeared in the “Garnet Run” series, even though these are creepy crawly animals, she’s done a great job of giving them their own little personalities. I felt like I might’ve been watching “Charlotte’s Web” at times with the personification of some of the animals.
Will: After Adam climbs down, they all look at his handiwork and it is unimpressive. Definitely not the most lights in the world. And he reassures Gus that they’re just getting started.
Gus finagles another visit to Wes’s house. This time they check out his basement lab. And while she’s fascinated by the glowing bacteria, containers of leaches, and friendly lizards, Wes explains his research to Adam. It’s all about bioluminescent alternatives to electricity for lower income communities.
Gus wants to take Betty to school for show and tell. Adam, makes sure Wes knows he isn’t obligated to do so. In fact, he probably preferred not to have to deal with the yucky spider at all. But even to Wes’s own surprise, he agrees. To go out, in the daytime, to a school full of children, just so a little girl he hardly knows, can share her fascination with spiders.
Jeff: This book could also be called re-emergence of Wes, as he starts to very slowly but surely kinda dip his toe back into being outside. I mean, we find out over time, why he’s recluse and even how it obviously plays into the research that he’s doing with the bioluminescence cause you’ve got to be in the dark to do some of that work.
It even becomes a joke really running between Adam and Wes, that he’s really not a vampire or a werewolf or a witch or something. He’s a bit of a recluse. And I like how easily Wes kind of can joke about that, even though it is like the big urban legend in the neighborhood and stuff.
Will: When the morning of show and tell arrives, Adam is momentarily panicked by the sight of Betty in Wes’s little plexiglass cage. And at school, Wes is momentarily panicked at the sight of so many people. In Gus’s second grade class, she proudly stands up in front with Wes and Betty reciting tarantula facts and holding her in her palm.
Adam is overwhelmed with pride with her bravery and fearlessness. He is also overwhelmed by Wes patiences and unwavering kindness.
Jeff: A lot of stuff comes out in the chapter around show and tell. We get the first kind of indication from Wes that he just doesn’t like to be looked at. It’s not just that he’s trying to always be in his house or something. He just absolutely doesn’t like people looking at him. He doesn’t like to be at any way, the center of attention. So the fact that he goes up eventually with Gus to talk about the tarantula’s a little bit is a super big deal. We also find out here, I think for the first time, how emotional Adam can get over things.
There’s a moment in this part where he kind of tears up, watching everything that’s going on here. The interaction that Gus and Wes have, everything playing out before him. Adam feels things quite deeply and he is not ashamed to, well, that’s not true. Sometimes he is ashamed to tear up about these things, but he does wear his emotions on his sleeve, which I like.
He’s also really good, I think, about helping to build Wes up a little bit. Cause there’s just as Wes as kind of concerned, and jittery about what’s happening here adam actually says, “Well, there’s at least two people here who think your brand of strange is pretty awesome.” It’s like, awww, even now so early, it’s just like, aww.
I love Roan Parrish’s writing in the “Garnet Run” series. It just makes me so happy.
Will: A few days later, Adam calls asking if Wes can watch Gus for a little bit. His car died at the hardware store and he won’t be home until late. He agrees and goes over and plays science with Gus in the kitchen until Adam gets home. Then stays and has macaroni and cheese with them.
As Adam gets Gus ready for bed, Wes cleans up the kitchen and reorganizes the pantry.
Jeff: As one does.
Will: Adam is overwhelmed by the gesture. How can one guy be so weird and so thoughtful? And so dang sexy?
They kiss and it unlocks something in each of them. Wes takes Adam upstairs to bed and takes control in a way that is everything that Adam needs. They kiss and grind until they’re exquisitely satisfied.
Jeff: So much wonderful domesticity here.
Nobody’s going on a date, unless you count the date being macaroni and cheese with, you know, with Gus.
And yet they have fallen into this pattern already of being able to have Wes watch Gus and quote unquote, play science, which is super cute, have a little bit of dinner. But then we see this other side, at least the unexpected side of Wes, where he kind of takes control in the bedroom, too.
There’s so much swooniness in this book, people, I just cannot even tell you.
Will: Something that caught me slightly off guard was the intensity of this particular sex scene. Not because I don’t know that Roan Parrish can’t write really effective, really hot encounters. I know that she can, but I just wasn’t sure how far we were going to go in a Harlequin category romance.
Each of the Harlequin category romance lines has a specific heat level, all the way from scorching hot down to super sweet, closed door sex scenes. And I wasn’t sure where this particular category romance line fell in the sliding scale of heat levels. Wes and Adam’s encounter was very hot. I liked it. It was sexy and it was emotional. And their chemistry is only going to continue to get even hotter as the story continues.
The next day, Adam and Gus prepared to go estate sale-ing. Gus, automatically ask if Wes can come too. When they ring his doorbell and ask, he agrees to come along, though. Adam is thrilled to be spending more time with Wes. He is worried at how easily he’s become an integral part of Gus’s life. And well, Adam really likes him too obvious.
They hit a couple of different sales. At a farmhouse Wes, picks up a trough to grow algae in. At another. Adam picks up more lights for their Christmas house project.
Jeff: I really feel for Adam here as he’s got his attraction growing to this man, Gus has her attraction growing to this man. And after how much they were hurt by Mason, who is the ex for both of them. He’s just trying to protect everybody’s heart a little bit too. There’s a moment here where he talks about, you know, crossing his fingers, hoping that this doesn’t end in devastation.
The shopping scene is so fricking cute. And I just keep coming back to cute because you see this trough that Wes gets doesn’t fit well in the vehicle that they’re in. And they in sitting in all these like bizarre configurations.
Will: They’re squashed and contorted in Adam’s little car, it’s kind of funny.
Jeff: But it just draws them all the more closer together as they’re like, you know, doing this thing to get this trough home. Cause they’re not done either. There are more estate sales that they want to hit after they get this trough. So it’s not like we’re going to just stuff ourselves in here and go home. We’re still shopping. Completely adorable.
And I love how. Wes just navigates the whole estate sale thing. Being with Adam and Gus while also trying to just be out of sight and not trigger his anxiety as much as he can.
Will: After adding a few strands of lights to the house, Gus goes to her room to invent things with her estate sale finds. Adam is in the mood to use an antique pie plate he bought and is determined to bake a pie as good as his grandmother’s. Wes stays to help, and as they work on the crust and the filling, Wes listens to Adam tell him of his ex, Mason, how Gus came into his life, and his love of photography.
They look at Adam’s online portfolio while the pie bakes. When it’s done, Gus joins them in the kitchen and Adam serves up the God awful concoction. And Gus tells them, very sincerely, they should stick to their strengths.
Jeff: She does not sugar coat anything.
Jeff: Adam is so cute trying to be domestic. There’s a reason that they have macaroni and cheese so much. And it’s because he really doesn’t cook well. Despite having a recipe on said pie plate, he can’t quite pull this thing off. And yet it’s so completely charming. I just oooh it was so good. And Wes even tries to make it less about Adam confiding that it was him who made the filling. They tried, man. They tried.
Will: A bout of insomnia has Adam up in the middle of the night. He decides to take a pic of the less than impressive Christmas light display and reach out to his Instagram followers, any help appreciated. Wes wanders over to see what he’s up to. And they cuddle there in the street, in front of the house and they established that they like, like each other.
So as with this particular scene with our two heroes standing in front of the house, and earlier when they’re trying to bake a pie, I think what Roan excels at is it creating these small moments, these seemingly inconsequential things that we do every single day and using their sort of innocuous average minus too build the relationships of the characters. And it’s through these sort of normal average, everyday qualities that we empathize with them.
And I don’t know about you, I’m genuinely invested and how the romance grows every single time Wes comes over and hangs out with Adam and Gus.
Jeff: I would agree with that. I was thinking about this as we prepared to sit down and talk about this, that. It’s the average every day sort of vibe that I think makes the “Garnet Run” series as good as it is because here we have a couple of normal guys who do their things and they get, in this case, pushed together by a precocious eight year old. And then all they begin to do their everyday things together.
And in “Best Laid Plans” we had just two normal guys doing their thing, getting thrown together because one of them is trying to fix this house that’s falling down around them.
She finds the sweetness and the romance in the every day. These two don’t go on a date really ever in this book. And yet the romance just explodes around them as they’re around each other more. And I thought that was a really delightful and interesting thing because, not knocking other romance books. I love romance books to death, but there’s usually the date and the romantic trappings. That doesn’t happen in this book, and yet it’s one of the sweetest, most romantic things I’ve ever read.
Will: The next day, Adam confesses his fears to his coworkers. What if things don’t work out with Wes and Gus gets hurt? And they help him see that it’s not necessarily Gus he has to worry about. In this case, it’s Adam who’s afraid of getting hurt.
Jeff: Yeah, the gang at the hardware store, in which we actually find the characters from “Best Laid Plans” because, of course, Charlie runs the store. He even called Rye to come over and help with this discussion because it was a little more out of his depth. They give Adam, I wouldn’t say a really good talking to, but they certainly help him get some perspective on what’s going on here, which is something that he needed, especially after how much he’d been burned by Mason.
Will: Adam is awakened by Gus one morning, her sleepover with Betty the tarantula, didn’t go quite as planned. Gus can’t find her. Adam, nearly frozen with terror manages to call Wes who comes to the rescue and searches the house for their eight legged friend.
Once found, Adam makes pancakes, don’t worry it’s from a mix, and invites Wes on their family outting to the local cat shelter. They play with and visit with the felines. Adam introduces Wes to River, his sibling who works there.
The creation of the cat shelter is actually detailed in a previous book, as Jeff mentioned, “Best Laid Plans,” and when they arrive home from the shelter, they find more than a few packages, awaiting them. All of them are boxes of lights from generous people who saw Adam’s Instagram post.
Jeff: This is one of the things I love about small town romance so much is that you can get things like this initially with just other random people from town, bringing lights over and leaving them in the driveway. And now more people are bringing lights, whether they’re in town or starting to mail them.
You just get that nice sweet homey vibe, which is something I adore so much. And it’s the last line here. And we’re at the 50% point here now, folks, so this line is completely appropriate. And this is from Adam’s point of view, “With the man he was falling for on one side of him and the daughter he loved more than anything on the other side, Adam Mills felt utterly and completely at peace.”
Insert all the sighs and awws that you want at that point.
Will: Over the next couple of days, more and more boxes get delivered. And the house is actually starting to look cheery and festive. But tonight Adam is in a bit of a wonky mood. He’s upset that Gus is upset, and she doesn’t understand why Mason doesn’t want to see them this Christmas.
Wes in turn, shares with Adam, his tale of familial woe. His father, a narcissistic soap actor, once got Wes apart on his show. He did it and it made his dad happy. But eventually people started recognizing him in public. Fame was a deeply disturbing prospect for Wes. So he quit, infuriating his father. Out of the spotlight and living life on his own terms is exactly how Wes likes things.
And he likes life with Adam. They go upstairs to Adam’s bedroom and give in to every need and desire that they’ve got, and then some. Until they’re exhausted and sweaty and happily content in each other’s arms.
Jeff: Props to Wes for not freaking out that Betty got lost and was able to find them. And we find out that Adam, again, can cook from mixed and boxed ingredients, which is nice.
I felt so bad for Wes getting his story and why he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. So much of why he’s estranged from his family, it was a thing that just didn’t need to happen to him. And I just wanted to punch his father because of it, because it’s just awful to put your child through that.
But I also really like how much Wes is just falling in with Adam and Gus. There’s a moment here where as Adam is putting this, who knows how many bowls of mac and cheese Wes has actually had at their house at this point, but he says in his internal monologue, “Clearly he had been spending more time with Adam and Gus than he ever knew because the first bite of neon orange goo tasted familiar and homey.”
Now I personally liked the neon orange goo of macaroni and cheese, so I completely understand this concept of homey and familiar, but yeah, Wes is falling hard and it’s awesome.
Will: After spending the night together, the next morning they come downstairs hand in hand and tell any enthusiastic Gus that they are dating. And she thinks Adam has made a very wise choice. Over breakfast, Gus and Wes discuss the realities of living on another planet, specifically Mars, which is the subject of a book that she was reading.
And Adam has to sneak away to the bathroom for a moment to cry tears of pure joy, Gus checks in on him to make sure he’s okay. She ate his waffle, but can make him another one if he wants.
Jeff: I just love this child. Children are very hit and miss for me in romances. They either are wonderful like Gus, or they’re just kind of sometimes an annoyance in the background for how they’re trying to integrate into the story. But Roan’s done such an amazing job with Gus and just infused her with this, I’m going to call it childlike wonder. But also the childlike ability to just call it like it is. Cause she just very pointedly says out to the world “Daddy gets very emotional sometimes” because she’s aware of his emotional outbursts occasionally that he has and what those mean. She just lays it out there for Wes that this was just part of her dad and it just is.
She is so good at pointing out to these two when they’re being, stupid, which occasionally happens, but also just pointing out the little things to help draw them closer together and putting some of the stuff out on the table that might not be so obvious. I really adore what Roan has done with Gus here.
Will: Adam is struggling to come up with a perfect present for Gus and is discussing this problem with Wes when he learns that Wes doesn’t spend any time with his judgmental family and he really doesn’t celebrate the holiday at all. Well, that settles it. He spending Christmas with him and Gus as if it would have happened any other way.
Adam truly is in love with this big handsome kind weirdo.
Jeff: Who better to help figure out how to build a laboratory for young Gus, then the scientist across the street.
Will: For the first time in a long time, Wes won’t be alone on the holiday. And he helps Gus with an experiment, creating a glowing kale plant that she can keep on her window sill. They make Christmas cookies that afternoon, and once Gus has crashed from her sugar high, Adam and Wes discussed the possibilities of glowing plants in rural and underserved areas.
Adam just loves Wes’s quirky, detail oriented, inquisitive nature. He truly loves it.
Jeff: There’s so much in this chapter that I loved. There’s a recurring theme in this story, and you can just imagine that Gus does this, but she debunked the idea of Santa Claus to several children along the way here, causing a little bit of ire among the parents of Garnet Run.
At the same time, it’s here, that Wes actually finds a letter on Gus’s desk. That is actually written to Santa Claus, asking Santa to help bring this family even more so together. And it starts out with, “I know you don’t exist, but, just in case you do,” which is just, it’s so sweet.
I was shocked that such a thing was on her desk, given how everything she’d been through debunking the Santa thing, and then how scientific her mind tends to be but then she kind of, writes that into the universe. I just loved it.
It’s inconsequential to the romance, but as much as Adam enjoyed hearing all about Wes’s idea to illuminate these neighborhoods with his bioluminescence stuff. I loved it. I’m reading with rapt attention what his plans are. It was just wonderful.
Will: After a busy day at the hardware store, Adam returns home to a phone call from the school principal. Apparently Gus caused quite an upsetting ruckus when she loudly proclaimed to all the other kids, that Santa wasn’t real. It’s, then that Adam must parent and explain while factually true that there is no Santa Claus, there are certain social conventions, certain stories that we tell that make us feel good or better. And it’s not very nice to take that good feeling away from other people. Wes then brings over some ice cream to soothe the sting of a hard earned life lesson.
Jeff: I really like Adam’s parenting moment here because Gus is obviously worried about being in trouble. Given that they have this thing in their family too where they never want to lie to each other, Adam and Gus. And so not lying is important to Gus as well.
But Adam, in the midst of Gus feeling so bad tells her this, “The truth is important, but kindness is important too. And taking away someone’s joy or comfort, isn’t kind.” What a wonderful thing to say as a parent to a child to help put that in their minds. Something I think we could all use in our lives of how important it is to let someone keep their joy and comfort. This sentence was just everything to me as I read it, it was so good.
Will: Some of Adam’s Christmas light pics have been liked and shared by some pretty large accounts, making them semi-holiday famous. Resulting in even more lights being delivered to their address. A kind brother and sister even drop off a few strands personally.
When Wes and Adam are finished decorating, it’s more lights than house and their little home on Knockbridge Lane becomes a popular Insta spot. People coming to see the place where the dad tried to make his daughter’s Christmas wish a reality.
Jeff: It’s such a little thing, but I love the hashtag that got created here #LitByLove. Just like, awww yeah, that’s a good hashtag.
Will: But as more and more cars and more and more people come to take a picture of their little house. It triggers Wes’s anxiety about being seen. But nonetheless, he goes over and he ends up cooking some rice for dinner and eats it with Adam and Gus when he gets home. The anxiety is still a lot for Wes to handle, so he heads home.
A local news station comes to do a feel good story on the Christmas house. Once Adam and Gus talked to the reporter and Gus is finally in bed, Adam texts Wes to see if he saw their little 15 minutes of fame from across the street.
It’s here that Wes deals a devastating blow and he texts back that he can’t do this. He sorry. He wants to be left alone.
Jeff: As soon as the news crews showed up, I was like, oh no, no, no, no, no.
I didn’t know what was going to drive these two apart, but just the camera crew showing up just made me sad cause I knew that was going to be like the trigger moment. Sure enough within a couple of pages there it was. Who knew Christmas lights could cause such a problem in the long run.
Will: The next day, heartbroken. Adam does a mediocre job of holding it together at work and then after picking up Gus from school, breaks the news that Wes won’t be spending Christmas with them after all.
Understandably sad, Gus who is now on holiday vacation, spends the day with Adam at the hardware store.
There was an interesting moment here. Gus, even though she’s a little kid, is obviously trying to think through the situation and work out the problem to her own mind. She tells Adam that it was the lights that made Wes leave. There what brought them together and the unexpected popularity of their little Christmas display is what actually ended up driving Wes away.
Which is a pretty keen observation, considering it’s a key issue of Wes’s anxiety.
Jeff: I was really happy that Adam had the presence of mind to swoop right in and say that it had absolutely nothing to do with the lights or anything because of Gus. He’s being a good parent, even while he’s having to deal with his own issues around this breakup. So kudos to him on that score, kind of setting her right so that she’s not stuck believing that she’s the reason that had happened.
Will: After work they go to the cat shelter, and Adam tells River about the sudden breakup and how he wished he truly understood why. And talking it out helps Adam come to the realization that maybe he does know why. The lights, as Gus mentioned earlier, inadvertently triggered something in Wes.
Jeff: This realization seems to crash down on him, almost like a ton of bricks. The chapter where this happens, the last words of the chapter are simply, “oh no,” in italics. So you just realized kind of the weight that, that dropped on him as he figured out exactly what happened.
Will: Meanwhile Wes is miserable that his phobias overwhelmed him. Ending what he had with Adam and Gus. He knows that they’re not the cause of his issues. And he is so mad at himself and his crappy dad that he calls his father and unloads everything unsaid about his toxic childhood. And once that is done, he feels a little bit better and he starts to formulate a plan to save Christmas.
Jeff: I cheered for Wes in this moment. This moment of like essentially therapy for him for finally calling out his dad and his family for not only what they’d done to him, making him take the role on the show and everything, but just all of the toxicity over time. We heard periodically more about how his family had always really kind of tried to nudge him to always be the son they wanted him to be. And it was great that he finally had that moment to just lash back against all that.
Will: Well, yeah, he sort of standing up for himself and truly expressing the heartbreak of how the situation with his family ended up playing out. When it comes to Wes and the situation with his family. I think Roan Parrish does a really excellent job of showing us and explaining what happened in the past with Wes and his short-lived acting career. How it really kind of destroyed the family dynamic that they had.
On his short time on the soap opera, Wes gained a certain amount of fame and notoriety, and that notoriety was deeply upsetting to Wes. Something his father simply could not comprehend because that constant need for attention and validation is all that his father really lives for. And for Wes to reject that, it’s truly something that his father can’t understand.
So in this particular case, it’s not really about healing the rift in the family to have a cute little Christmas miracle, all tied up in a bow.
Jeff: It’s really about Wes healing himself.
Jeff: Or at least starting to heal himself…
Will: Right. Yeah.
Jeff: From that. Cause that whole family is toxic. We know that his sister’s toxic. With his mother’s toxic. The whole thing is just bad. So he’s much better off with Adam and Gus and his new Garnet Run family.
Will: Gus and Adam aren’t really in the mood to celebrate anything, but they do end up going to a Christmas tree farm, picking one out and bringing it home and decorating it with ornaments they make themselves.
They then go sledding with River and some of their other friends. It’s a fun afternoon and they do forget their troubles for at least a little while. And when they arrive home, they see that the lights are on. And not just on, but twikling. And the trees and the bushes are glowing, a festive holiday green. And spelled out on the lawn in bioluminescence are the words, “I’m sorry. I love you.”
Jeff: This all did so much for me. And we go from being at the sledding where my big thing, despite how much fun everybody’s having at the sledding, my heart is actually a little sick that Wes isn’t there with these people sledding, even though you know from a moment ago that he is about to go out and fight to get his man back.
But then you come to the house and this big grand gesture of adding to the light and adding bioluminescence to the lights and spelling out “I love you. I’m sorry.” Just, oh my gosh. I might’ve wept a little bit. Maybe. Nobody saw me. You don’t, you don’t know for sure.
Will: Once inside, there are so many things Wes wants to say, but somehow can’t find adequate words. Leaving it to Gus to express what they’re all feeling. Wes was a bad friend. He left and made them feel sad. But, maybe she and Adam can give him a second chance to be part of their family.
Jeff: So Gus really gave Wes a good talking to here. And one of my favorite scenes in this as she’s having this kind of almost ranty moment where she really decides that she’s done with Mason, who she used to call Papa, and she doesn’t want to call him that anymore.
So Adam asks, “Well, what do you want to call him?” And she gets all very scrunched up with this anger. She says “a very bad word.” So like, okay, you could do it just this one time.
And I’m trying to think as I like cycle through the things that an eight year old might use here, I did not come up with her ultimate one, which was, “butt” as in B U T T as in, you might as well, just call him an ass.
Gus is so awesome. I tell you, she really is. She’s going to grow up to be the person who also alphabetizes the pantry like Wes has already done earlier. So it’s going to be really fun that now I think Wes now gets to be a dad to Gus.
Will: After dinner, a game of Uno and putting Gus to bed, Adam and Wes can talk everything through. By the light of the tree and a roaring fire on the television screen. The exposure and notoriety of the Christmas lights did trigger Wes. And he knows that that’s not an excuse, and he definitely has some stuff to work through, but he would do anything if he could just do that with Adam and Gus.
They go upstairs and cuddle, declare their love to one another, many times, and spend Christmas Eve in each other’s arms. Until they realized that they didn’t get each other a gift. Oops.
Jeff: They were mad at each other.
Amongst all of the sweetness that has happened in this book, I’m really struck by some of the last things as they’re making up and kind of settling in that Wes and Adam have to say. Wes says, “I love you so much. I can’t believe it.” To which Adam asks, “You can’t believe you love me?” And then Wes clarifies, “I can’t believe you exist. I can’t believe how wonderful you are. And Gus. Can’t believe you want me. Can’t believe I’m not still hiding in my house. I can’t believe any of it.”
It’s like, oh, my goodness. I mean, Wes’s healing has only just kind of begun and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of two steps forward, one step back, and him being able to be out and about without being triggered. I think it’s as he becomes this more fully alive person again. But just those realizations and that little bit of talk, I just wanted to wrap him in a hug, which of course Adam does once he kind of gets his own emotions under control.
It was just, it’s so super sweet. Once again, I love to pieces how Roan has written these two cause it’s just wonderful.
Shall we have Christmas morning now?
Will: Now Christmas morning with a little kid is of course festively chaotic. They all have breakfast and they play games and watch movies. And once River arrives, they exchange gifts. Gus gives Adam, Wes and River one of her carefully handcrafted inventions. Adam gives her a kitten for Christmas and Wes gives her one of his lizards, a pet she prefers far more.
That night, Adam and Wes stand in the front yard, looking at the moon and the stars, the perfect romantic end to a Christmas that was messy, but magical. And 100% uniquely all theirs.
Jeff: Just as Wes had been the urban legend of Knockbridge Lane. The book caps off by saying that by next year, the residents of Knockbridge Lane would tell a very different story, the love story of Wes and Adam.
If this were a movie, those would be the words scrawled across the screen in some nice loopy type font or something. It was just so warmly satisfying.
Will: So that’s the story of “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane.” and my last closing thought is I do not think you will ever find another Christmas story that is so warm and kind and deeply emotionally satisfying.
Jeff: I a hundred percent agree with that. Roan already had a great vibe in the “Garnet Run” books and this continues that same sort of warm, small town, kind people doing kind things vibe, and that it layered in all of the holiday warmth that you want. And it just combined them together in the best possible package. This is my first holiday read for 2021, and it sets a high bar for everything else that I’m going to be reading this holiday season because it was just utter perfection.
Will: I think that’ll do it for this month book club episode. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our discussion of Rhone Parish’s, “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane.” And if you haven’t read it yet. We hope you’ll consider giving this book a try. Also, if you’d like to know more about this story and the “Garnet Run” series, you can check out our interview with Roan Parrish in episode 338.
Jeff: And just a reminder for you to stick around after the closing music for chapter one from the audio book of “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane.”
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday in episode 349, we’ll be reviewing some more wonderful holiday romances plus we’ll preview some of the books coming your way in December.
Jeff: Oh my God, it’s December. I don’t know how to react to that. But yeah, some absolutely wonderful holiday romances that we’ll be talking about, including the books from the authors who will be joining us on the Big Gay Fiction Fest.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening. And, we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then 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.
Jeff: Now we’re proud to present the first chapter of “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane” by Roan Parrish and read by Michael Dean. A big thanks to our friends at Harlequin for allowing us to bring this to you. This excerpt is copyright 2021 by Roan Parrish, production copyright 2021 by Harlequin Enterprises.
Note: A transcript is not available for the audio book excerpt. You can read chapter one in the “Look Inside” on Amazon.