Jeff & Will discuss the holiday programming they’ve been watching, including the Amazon series With Love, the Comedy Central movie A Clüsterfünke Christmas, RuPaul’s The Bitch Who Stole Christmas, Peacock’s Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas, and two Lifetime movies Under the Christmas Tree and Candy Cane Candidate.
The guys also review some of their recent reads: Catch Me if I Fall by Noah Steele, C*ck Blocked by K.C. Kassidy, The Holiday Hookup by Baylin Crow, and Holigay by K.M. Neuhold.
Then they discuss their favorites from 2021, including the 10 books they read for the Big Gay Fiction Book Club, and books by Sarina Bowen, Slade James, Eli Easton & Tara Lain, Adriana Herrera, Emery Lee, Steven Rowley, TJ Klune, and K.C. Kassidy.
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.
- Big Gay Fiction Fest website
- With Love on Amazon Prime Video
- A Clüsterfünke Christmas on Comedy Central
- The Bitch Who Stole Christmas on VH1
- Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas on Peacock
- Under the Christmas Tree on Lifetime | Amazon Prime Video
- Candy Cane Candidate on Lifetime | Amazon Prime Video
- Catch Me If I Fall by Noah Steele on Amazon
- C*ck Blocked by K.C. Kassidy on Amazon | Kobo
- The Holiday Hookup by Baylin Crow on Amazon
- Holigay by K.M. Neuhold on Amazon
- An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles on Amazon | Kobo
- Awkward Love by Riley Hart on Amazon
- Throwing Hearts by N.R. Walker on Amazon | Libro.fm
- The Walker Boys series by Ari McKay on Amazon
- Running Lines by Jeris Jean on Amazon
- This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer on Amazon
- The Lights on Knockbridge Lane by Roan Parrish on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- A Boyfriend for Christmas by Jay Northcote on Amazon
- Roommate by Sarina Bowen on Amazon | Kobo
- Grumpy Bear by Slade James on Amazon
- Schooling the Jock by Eli Easton & Tara Lain on Amazon
- Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera – Free when you subscribe to Adriana’s Newsletter
- Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- The Guncle by Steven Rowley on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Flash Fire by TJ Klune on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- 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, it’s time to wrap up 2021.
Will: Welcome to episode 354 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. We’re so glad you could join us for our last episode of 2021.
As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thanks to Kathie, Megan and Brian for recently joining the community. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
And before we get started, I actually need to take just a moment to thank one of our patrons. Rhonda has been a long-time member of our community, supporting the show since April of 2019. She made me the cutest hat. It is a beautiful blue knitted cap with the numbers five hundred and twenty five, six hundred knitted right into it in a slightly lighter blue.
She said when she saw the pattern that I was one of the people she thought of because of my love of the musical “Rent.” And for those who don’t know, 525,600 is the number of minutes in a year, and, of course, factors into the song “Seasons of Love.” It was such a wonderful thing to find in our postbox and at the perfect moment too, because it was just as the first cold snap of the year hit.
Thank you so much, Rhonda. This proud “Rent” head will now be able to keep warm with a cool “Rent” hat. Now, if you want to see my cool hat, you can visit the show notes page where you’ll find a picture of me wearing said hat. So, you can check that out over there.
Will: So, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the year-end holiday programming we’ve been partaking in.
There’s a wonderful new series streaming on Amazon prime called “With Love,” and it follows a year in the life of a brother and sister played by Emeraude Toubia and Mark Indelicato. She is trying to find her way and falling for two guys, a lovable pretty boy and a brooding grumpy pants. While he on the other hand is navigating the ins and outs of his first serious relationship with his boyfriend.
Each of the five episodes focuses on the drama surrounding a specific holiday Nochebuena, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Independence Day and Día De Los Muertos, before circling back around to Christmas. Their parents also go on their own journey, and their trans cousin also has her own romance to figure out. It has lots of heart and drama and good quality queer rep, And I certainly hope there is a second season in the world.
Jeff: There better be a second season in the works cause I need more of those people. They were so delightful. I loved every single thing about this. There’s some swoony romance. There’s some cringy, oh, please don’t do that cause that’s going to be bad. And that it just keeps going. I really liked it a lot and it was great to to see Vincent Rodriguez back on TV. He was in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and he’s here playing Mark Indelicato’s boyfriend. Yeah, it’s just a fantastic series. Everybody should be checking that out.
Will: Also, if you haven’t yet had your fill of Christmas movies we’d like to recommend a few that take classic tropes and turn them on their heads.
The first is “A Clüsterfünke Christmas,” which premiered not too long ago on Comedy Central. It’s about Holly play by Vella Lovell, another fantastic actor you might recognize from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” And, she is tasked with getting the sisters who own the Clüsterfünke Inn to sell, to make way for a mega resort.
But instead she might just be won over by the cheery townspeople and learn the true meaning of Christmas. She must also make nice with a rugged lumberjack played by Cheyenne Jackson while she is also being wooed by Ryan McPartlin’s Chancington Winterthorpe. Just by the names alone, I think you probably know who she’s going to choose. It was written by Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch, who also play the Clüsterfünke sisters. And no Christmas movie cliche goes unused or, un-joked about. It is wickedly absurdly funny.
Jeff: Yeah, I thought this movie was an absolute delight. They make fun of every single Christmas movie trope and set up, but then also deliver on every single one of them at the same time. I thought they just did a wonderful job with that movie.
Will: RuPaul and VH1 also did their own Christmas movie, “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” is about a big city magazine editor who tasks a reporter, played by the fabulous Krysta Rodriguez, and the olden days we would have called her a star of stage and screen. She’s amazing.
Anyway, she has to go undercover to dig up dirt about a holiday obsessed town and steal the Christmas Crown. In the process she falls for a rugged lumberjack slash bodyguard who can’t seem to keep his shirt on. And she also helps the ragtag group of queens who call the Tuckahoe Inn home and helps them compete in the local Christmas competition.
It’s all so stupid and outrageous and I thought it was pretty funny. Just about a million “Drag Race” alums make appearances. But I thought in particular, Ginger Minj’s performance as Hazel Delashes, the manager of the Tuckahoe Inn was weirdly adorable. So if low brow drag humor wrapped in a glittery bow is your kind of thing, you might want to check out “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas.”
And lastly, wrapping up our alternate Christmas movie recommendations, is “Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas.” Now freelance writer Will Horton has yet to write a single page in a script, which is due at midnight on Christmas Eve. So with the help of his hubby, Sonny, they dream up a Christmas scenario using their friends and family back home in Salem as inspiration.
It’s a story that uses all the beloved faces and familiar places that “Days” fans are sure to know and love. You see, someone wants to shut down all the businesses on Main Street. Can a Christmas talent show raise enough money to save the town? There’s lots of interpersonal melodrama as you might expect, and more than one of the characters just might be in need of a Christmas miracle.
Jeff: This is our second time going back to Salem this year. Neither one of us watch “Days of Our Lives” and really have not watched it in years, but this movie and the earlier one that they had called “Beyond Salem,” where they were doing the whole jewel heist thing, were really fun. I really liked that Christmas movie because not only did they again play with the tropes and the themes of Christmas movies, but then they put all the “Days of Our Lives” characters into slightly tweaked personas as well. It was a whole bunch of fun. And you can find “Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas” streaming on the Peacock service.
I’ve got a couple of Lifetime movies I want to talk about, kind of moving back over to standard holiday fare. And, these movies are so good, I’d recommend even watching them outside of the Christmas season. And, of course, since these are from Lifetime, you know, the queer representation is really running high here. They’ve done a really great job including queer storylines this year. And, of course, they were the network that had the first ever gay romance holiday film with “The Christmas Setup,” which had two guys finding their HEA over a holiday. This year, two women got their HEA in “Under the Christmas Tree.” In it, Alma is preparing to take over her family business, which is a Christmas tree farm and a holiday store, when tree whisperer Charlie shows up in town looking for the perfect tree for the Maine governor’s holiday celebration. Now that tree of course happens to be one of the most important trees to Alma and her family. It’s the logo for their company, and it happens to be in their backyard.
You know, there’s going to be a lot of contention of letting go of the tree. Plus, there’s Alma and her parents who don’t see eye to eye on the future of the business. It’s got all the right holiday trappings with oodles of holiday activities. And then you’ve got Alma and Charlie. From the very first moment these two lay eyes on each other as they’re about to have a confrontation over the noise made by Charlie’s drones, it’s a super cute meet cute. They get into all kinds of holiday activities as they both kind of forget about what they’re actually supposed to be doing and fall in love with each other. It was such a perfect holiday romance. You are not going to want to miss that movie.
And another one that you should check out is “Candy Cane Candidate.” Now in this movie, the queer story is the secondary romance. But oh my gosh, you have to check this out because I think this movie might also be a first in its own right. The main story here is a second chance romance between Julia and Nick, who end up running against each other to become the mayor of the small town they grew up in. Now, these two have a lot of history, a lot of friction with each other, which turns into a super cute storyline. That’s even made more engaging because Jacky Lai and Jake Epstein in the lead roles are just really terrific.
But why I’m talking to you about this movie on this podcast is the love story that plays out between Julia’s 16 year old nephew, Noah, and the boy that he meets in town named Jax. Their very shy meet cute was wonderful as they kind of eyed each other across the town square. We get to see them a lot through the movie as they help with the mayoral campaigns and the Christmas activities. And every time these two come together on screen, there’s just this little bit of electricity that just pops between them that is so wonderful. And, it was really incredible to see two teenage boys get a romance in a holiday movie.
And I think that’s the first time we’ve seen this kind of story play itself out. It’s rare that teens get the B love story in these holiday movies anyway, and then for it to be two queer boys just made it all the better. So thanks Lifetime for all the queer representation this year.
These two movies that you should check out are “Under the Christmas Tree” and “Candy Cane Candidate.” Now Lifetime’s already wrapped up airing their Christmas movies, but you can find these on the Lifetime website and they’re also available for rental or purchase from Amazon Prime Video.
Jeff: Shall we get into some books?
Will: Yeah. Before we get into our favorite books of the year, we’ve got some last minute reviews and reading options for 2021.
Jeff: So I’m going to move us all the way back to fall from winter, because I have to talk about Noah Steele’s “Catch Me If I Fall.” My quick summary of this book is it is one of the most perfect second chance romances I have ever read. And frankly, I could just stop my review right there and leave you with that, because that should be reason enough for you to go pick up this book.
Jasper and Cole’s journey to happily ever after, which I would call an frenemy-to-lovers, plus second chance romance hooked me from the two prologue chapters and carried me on fabulous romantic journey getting Jasper and Cole back together and stronger than ever..
In the prologue set in 2006, we are introduced to Jasper and Cole as they’re about to graduate high school. Cole’s been out to Jasper and other friends, but he’s never admitted until now, and it’s to one of their mutual friends, Evan, that he’s actually got feelings for Jasper. Despite concerns on how expressing his feelings might change things, he actually tells Jasper and Jasper kind of freaks out and says that he needs a minute to process this news. Jump forward a week to graduation, and Cole doesn’t show up to the ceremony. It turns out he bailed out of town, leaving Jasper behind without any chance to discuss what went down because Jasper took a few beats too long.
Jumping forward into modern day, Cole is now the town librarian happy in his job that has him living in some nice sounding digs above the library. How cool would it be to live above a library? That’s almost better than above a bookstore, I think. Jasper’s back in town too, between jobs as a gallery curator, and he’s helping Evan as Evan prepares to close up his bakery and leave town. Now in typical small town fashion, there’s buzz all over the place that Jasper’s back as everyone wonders what it will be like for Cole and Jasper to see each other again.
Jasper very much wants to see Cole and to try to pick things up because he’s carried a torch for Cole all these years. Meanwhile, Cole’s been pissed for all of these very same years by Jasper’s actions. And yet he can’t deny that he’d like to see his old friend too. The rift across the years explodes in some of their very early encounters as they battle more than talk over exactly what went down, why Jasper took the week before graduation and stayed silent, and why Cole bailed out of town. Granted these two haven’t done themselves any favors not speaking at all over the years, but in many ways this makes their reconnection all the sweeter.
Noah has put so much chemistry on the page between Jasper and Cole. It snaps from the very first moment they’re reunited, and it just keeps going and getting all the more swoony. Both of these guys don’t want to get hurt. Cole doesn’t trust that Jasper’s around for the long haul. And Jasper’s not sure either since his big goal is to get another gallery job. And there are no galleries in this town where they’re at right now. There’s a definite friendship to fix, but the question that looms is can it be more and even beyond that, can these two let it get there?
Jasper’s got plans, and this is one of the things I love so much about this second chance, he takes Cole on a tour of all their old haunts—everything from the place that used to hang out in the woods as kids, to the places that they ate, even to the place that used to be in arcade but is now a bar that has some of the old machines from that arcade. It works a magic on both of them that gets them talking about the past and why things went down like they did over graduation, and what they’ve been up to in the intervening years. All of this draws them closer together, showing them glimpses of the future that they could have if they both allowed it.
Noah has a very deft hand, going between Jasper and Cole being nostalgic, while also discovering how much they miss and truly love one another. That part of the story was as magical as the trip down memory lane, which allowed for the characters to touch on the past without resorting to flashback. That kept the story firmly rooted in the now for these characters. And I really love some of the internal monologue, Noah gives these guys such as this bit from Cole: “We can’t rewrite our time apart, but we can love each other now, and I love him so much, it makes me want to unravel. Like my human body will break if I try to hold it in because I need Jasper to share it with.” It’s just like, oh my gosh, that’s so sweet.
I absolutely love the HEA, Noah gave these two and the way that they got to it, not only how they convinced each other, but convince themselves. I said at the start this was a perfect book for me. I’m so glad I picked up “Catch Me If I Fall by Noah Steele and highly recommend you pick it up too, especially if second chance romance is your thing like it is for me.
Will: So, from autumnal love to a vacation fling, I want to talk about “Cock Blocked” by K.C. Kassidy.
Niall and his sister Nan run their family farm and small B&B which sits nestled in the Irish countryside. An American has booked a stay for an entire month and Nan has offer up Niall to play tour guide for their guest.
That guest is Grayson, the successful (but closeted) star of a popular TV historical drama who is very much looking forward to some downtime between seasons so he can finish the script he’s working on.
While out for a walk, Grayson comes across a small cottage. When he hears a commotion inside, he helps Seamus, Niall’s dad, who’s taken a wee bit of a tumble. He’s fine and they end up having some tea, giving Seamus time to assess their lodger who, “better not be giving his son the business and then leaving him high and dry.”
Grayson can’t help but playfully flirt with Niall, his big, strapping, attractive guide as they tour the rugged Irish countryside. While on the hike Grayson is recognized by a tourist. The jig is up. Until this point, he’d been traveling incognito. After taking a selfie with her, he explains to Niall that he didn’t lie to him (not exactly), he just needed a little anonymity while on vacation.
At one point, they row across a lake to a small island and explore the ruins of McDermott castle. It’s there that their casual flirtation leads to a memorably scorching kiss. They both want this, but Niall isn’t particularly interested in just a fling with a guy on the down low, no matter how gorgeous that guy might be.
But some urges can’t be ignored, and they eventually end up in bed together. The sex is so robustly satisfying that they end up breaking the headboard. The next morning, Seamus can tell what’s up – the lovebirds aren’t fooling anyone. When Nan returns to the farm after a quick vacation with her husband and kids, she literally faints at the sight of her favorite actor. After being revived, she gives her brother a hard time because she too can see what’s going on.
While falling for Niall, Grayson has been busy with his screenplay (a project close to his heart) and coming up with a game plan about coming out publicly. There may be a light at the end of tunnel after all.
And After spending another satisfying night in each other’s arms, Grayson realizes that he can never go back to who he was before and that there is truly no other place he’d rather be than with Niall.
But Grayson’s secret gets out. Paparazzi photos of their amorous escapade in the barn are published. Grayson is gone the next morning, a note explaining that he loves Niall, but his fame will destroy the beautiful quiet life he’s built on the farm.
When he lands at Heathrow, Gray gets a text from Niall. There’s been a death in the family and that, combined with losing Grayson is too much to bear. Please come back. But before Gray can book a return ticket, Niall shows up in London and, in the hotel lobby, they reunite with a kiss for all the world, and paparazzi, to see.
Jeff: Can I just applaud now? That sounds delightful.
Will: Exactly. There’s no more hiding. Their love will be on their terms from now on.
An epilogue shows our two heroes fooling around in the back of the limo on their way to the premiere of the movie Grayson wrote, produced, and directed. The two of them have truly written their own perfect happily ever after.
Okay. Let’s get real for a second. I loved these two characters. Not only is their romance, steamy and adorable, but the playfully snarky back and forth way that they flirt and tease each other. Oh, perfection. Pure heaven. Grayson and Niall can banter with the best of them, and I loved every second of it.
Something I also unexpectedly enjoyed about the story was the fictional way the reader, meaning myself, was able to escape someplace wonderful and new. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything for nearly two years and this story offered a delightful getaway that I hadn’t quite realized I sorely needed. I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit Niall’s farm and BnB, tour the rugged landscape and see the beautiful sights of Ireland. It was like a vacation in my mind. It was lovely.
Author Sierra Hill, here writing under her new m/m romance pen name K.C. Kassidy, has crafted a wonderful story that’ll sweep you away with its irresistible locale and memorable characters.
And, as a quick side note, I think this book is a prime candidate for audio. Seriously. It’s a no brainer. I mean, can you imagine the Irish accents? To die for. Sign me up. I would listen to “Cock Blocked” in audio in a heartbeat. Let’s hope that that happens soon.
Jeff: That book sounds so good. And I’m really into castles this year. More than a few of the holiday movies we’ve watched have been, like, over in Europe, somewhere with castles that need saving or something, or buying a castle and such, I’m all for like the European countryside and castles and all that stuff. So, I’ll just be signed up for that to please.
Will: I also wrapped up my Christmas reading recently and wanted to share with you. Some of the short stories that I thought were really special, definitely sexy.
The first of which is “The Holiday Hookup” by Baylin Crow. Our main character Finn cannot believe his awful luck when he pulls Hunter’s name in the office, secret Santa gift exchange. He cannot stand the oversized, lackadaisical ex-jock and his stupid handsome face. When Hunter learns that Finn drew his name, he lets him know that all he wants for Christmas is Finn.
That night Finn goes out for drinks with a friend, and Hunter happens to be there. While walking Finn home, Hunter assures him that if given the opportunity he’ll give Finn a night he will never forget. Now, honestly, frustrated and horny, Finn kisses the persistent jerk, taking him up to his apartment where Hunter does in fact, blow Finn’s mind.
Their one night stand continues the next morning with shower sex. Then, watching TV while eating the breakfast that Hunter went out and got for them, the great big lug has kind of made himself at home in Finn’s life, and he begrudgingly begins to realize that he doesn’t really mind much.
Monday morning in the office, Hunter is charmingly attentive and still working his particular brand of low key seduction. The weekend was fun, really fun, but Finn isn’t interested in a workplace romance. But Hunter is nothing if not persistent and using an after hours blow job at Finn’s desk to persuade him, Finn eventually agrees to go as a couple to the office Christmas party in matching sweaters that Hunter insisted that they wear. They win the ugly sweater contest and exchange their secret Santa gifts.
This particular holiday HEA wasn’t part of Finn’s Christmas plans. Hunter drives him absolutely crazy. Crazy in love, and as it turns out, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
So I thought this workplace, opposites attract story was a total win in every single way. I just love the way these two characters fed off one another. I mean, God, talk about chemistry. Finn is very type A with definite plans for everything. While Hunter is more like take things as they come and when he sets his eyes on Finn, it was only a matter of time before he would win him over with this unique, laid back approach. They were totally meant to be together and he was going to wait however long it took for Finn to realize it.
I loved “The Holiday Hookup.” It is a fun and sexy short. Perfect if you need a quick Yuletide pick me up.
Another terrific short was “Holigay” by K.M. Neuhold. In this story, an unexpected breakup leaves Matt with an extra ticket to Fiji, and he can think of no other person he’d rather spend the holiday with than his best friend Caspian. Once they arrive, they start to think of each other in a new way. When they finally give into their long-held curiosity, they end up spending a week having the best sex of their entire lives.
But when it’s time to return home, the question remains, are they just friends or can they maintain that holigay magic all year round? This Christmas novella from K.M. really turns up the heat for its main characters. Matt and Caspian’s chemistry is obvious from the start and when they take their friendship to the next level. Watch out because the tropical holiday friction they generate, ooh, it’s almost too hot to handle.
If you need a recommendation for something short, sexy, and very sweet, I think “Holigay” is definitely the read that will most definitely satisfy that craving.
Jeff: Now you made me want to go pick up other holiday books right here, as we sit at the very end of the year. Those both sounded wonderful.
2021 Favorite Books
Will: Now let’s talk about some of our absolute favorites from 2021.
Jeff: 2021 had some amazing books. And frankly, I didn’t read as much as I wish I could because there were so many more I wanted to read. I actually got 77 books read this year, which was two more than my 75 goal. So I’m pretty happy with that, that I actually got a little bit past my goal since I actually was under goal in 2020.
How did you do for ’21?
Will: Actually, I also read 77 books.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.
Will: Which is actually down from the all time high reads that I had for 2020, with the caveat being that for the very first time, I also kept track of all the shorts and novellas that I read throughout the year.
In the past, I wouldn’t have necessarily taken the time to keep track of those, but at the beginning of 2021 I was doing a 100 day reading challenge so I started keeping notes. So, in addition to the 77 books that I read, I also read 122 shorts.
Jeff: Good. heavens. Congratulations. That’s a lot of reading.
Will: Yeah. Like you said, a lot of amazing stories this year.
Jeff: And as we get into the best of the best, we’ve each picked four books that are our favorites, but I want to give a little shout out to our favorites that actually made up the Big Gay Fiction Book Club in 2021. And those books were “An Unseen Attraction” by K.J. Charles, Riley Hart’s “Awkward Love,” N.R. Walkers “Throwing Hearts,” the three book “Walker Boys” series by Ari McKay, Jeris Jean’s “Running Lines, “This Is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer, “The Lights on Knockbridge Lane” by Roan Parrish, and Jay Northcote’s “A Boyfriend for Christmas.” All of those were very certainly on our favorites list for this year.
Will: Yeah, I’m the guy who selects the titles for the book club and like 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt, I loved every single one of those titles.
Jeff: You picked excellently.
Will: Thank you.
Jeff: And you picked things, that would’ve never crossed by radar. Like I would have never found “This Is Not a Horror Movie” and that book was an amazing delight. So yeah, kudos to you and your book picking ability. Hopefully all of our listeners appreciate the books you put in front of them because of the book club.
Will: The list that we’re going to share with you now come from our own personal reading throughout the year. This is by no means a comprehensive list or a best of for the entirety of the genre. This is just some of our personal favorites.
So I’ve ordered mine in terms of when I reviewed them through the year. So there’s really no other ordering here at all.
And my favorite lists kicks off with “Roommate” by Sarina Bowen. This was one of my very first reviews of 2021 back in episode 281. This book stuck with me for the entire year. Roderick and Kiernan. What can I say about these two? Their love story got into my heart and would not leave. I particularly loved Kiernan’s journey to embracing his true self and actually deciding to put himself first over everyone else’s expectations, needs and desires for him.
And then there’s Roderick, who’s got some of his own baggage as he came back home. This book is so warm, and loving, and awesome, and the home and happy that these two find, oh, this is the ultimate warm and cozy sweater. And I think this’ll be one of the books that I end up and revisit over time, because it’s just going to be that thing I want to pick up, and just come back and revisit these two.
Will: One of my favorite reads from the past year was “Grumpy Bear,” the first full length book in the “Bear Camp” series by Slade James. It’s about nice guy Luke who is down on his luck and he takes a job working for the season at a gay, clothing optional campground. And, he can’t help falling in love with the grumpy owner as they work side by side.
I loved the two main characters and their chemistry. There’s an amazing cast of secondary characters as well. The book has a wonderful sense of place. Slade James really brings this campground to life. It’s like a little slice of utopian gay heaven. It’s really wonderful and I cannot wait to return. Thankfully, we will not have to wait very long because Slade James has announced the next book in the series is coming out in January. A book I’m very much looking forward to.
Jeff: My next book is “Schooling the Jock” by Eli Easton and Tara Lain. I really loved the “Nerds vs. Jocks” series. But, this first book with “Schooling the Jock” that I reviewed in April and episode 302 was just all kinds of perfection for me. Not only did Eli and Tara set up the entire original trilogy here with these two frat houses that had such a long standing animosity toward each other. They ended up having to come together because the dean had had enough and suddenly the jocks were having to learn how to play quiz bowl and the nerds are having to play flag football, and helping each other with their national tournaments.
But this particular book and the romance between the nerd Dobbs and jock Jesse just blew my mind. There ended up being a little forced proximity between these two because Dobbs really had to get Jesse up to speed on quiz bowl quickly, and their trajectory of this enemies to sort of friends to then absolutely lovers happened so organically, and so beautifully, and so sweetly as Jesse and Dobbs got to know each other and realized that they had so much more in common than they could have possibly imagined.
It was just absolutely amazing. And just so swoon worthy. I just ate this book up. And it really is at the foundation for the whole series, which I actually made my way through as the year went on. I just, I loved it so much. If you haven’t picked up this story yet, you really should.
Will: Another story that I particularly loved was the novella “Caught Looking” by Adriana Herrera. It’s about a major league baseball player and a team interpreter. After they hook up, they worry that their longtime friendship is going to be put in jeopardy. And, the story focuses on their trip to the Dominican Republic, which gives them plenty of time to partake in a time honored romantic tradition that is friends to lovers. I mean, seriously smoking hot doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to “Caught Looking.”
Jeff: This is one that you and I read together. Oh my God, it was so good. I’m glad to see that it is on your list because it is absolutely amazing.
This was a major year for young adult books. I feel like in 2021, young adult books really took a leap into the next level with the kinds of stories and representation they were telling. And I had to have “Meet Cute Diary” by Emery Lee on my list for this year. My review came out in episode t314 in June, during pride month.
Emery brought such complex and diverse characters to the page for a story that could just as easily been about the teens next door. Everything about this book resonated with what a teenager today deals with in terms of social media, discovering themselves, going through that all important, but never easy, first love. It was just all so wonderful. These characters just popped off the page and you couldn’t help but, like, root for them, but also cringe a little bit as they were making those mistakes that we as adults know that are just coming. It was so good. And I can’t wait to see what Emery’s coming out with in 2022 as a follow-up because I really love their style.
Will: That was also a title that I happened to read alongside with you. “Meet Cute Diary” is a really special story, and if any of you listening are interested in reading a YA story with unique, complex characters, put “Meet Cute Diary” at the top of your list.
Now it isn’t very often that I dip my toes outside of the gay romance genre, but I did give it a try this year, twice. As a matter of fact, I read two general gay fiction titles. The first one I did not enjoy and we will not be talking about right now.
Jeff: You did not enjoy that book. No.
Will: Jeff knows.
Jeff: I know.
Will: He’s heard me bitch about it. The second one was an absolute delight. It was called “The Guncle.” It’s by Steven Rowley. And in this story, a slightly washed up actor named Patrick has grand Auntie Mame dreams when he takes in his niece and nephew. But the reality of the situation proves to be something else entirely. Patrick, Maisie, and Grant spend the summer becoming an inseparable trio. And, I just think this story is pure magic. Steven Rowley has taken the magical relative trope and infused it with so much heart and so much humor. I think this story is really special.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s another one that I enjoyed also. And it has been optioned for a film that Steven’s going to adapt. I can’t wait to see how it turns out on film. I can imagine some actors who would be great in the role of Guncle and to see all the Aunite Mame-ness come to life. That movie won’t get here soon enough.
So the last book on my list is another YA, and it won’t be a surprise to any body that TJ Klune ends up on my list.
Now, TJ is all over best of 2021 list for “Under the Whispering Door,” which I loved. But, I admit it’s “Flash Fire,” his YA installment in “The Extraordinaries” series that has stuck with me longer this year. I reviewed this in episode 325 back in August. And, one of the things that I love that TJ did here was essentially protect Nick and Seth’s bond and romance. He proclaimed in a couple of the interviews around this book that it just wasn’t up for grabs. They had their happy and they were going to stick together.
So I loved watching how that bond continued to grow in “Flash Fire.” But, then everything that TJ threw at the boys in this book, including grappling with the fact that despite as many good intentions that there may be, that parents and adults can be oh so very flawed. There was so much growth there, especially for Nick and having to realize that maybe dad wasn’t deserving of the pedestal that he’d put dad on. It was really such an incredible book, just watching how this story progressed. And, I’m looking so forward to book three that’ll be coming out in 2022 to see how this trilogy wraps up.
Will: And the last story that made it onto my favorites of 2021 list is, drumroll please.
Jeff: You don’t want me to do that special effect.
It’s actually the book I just talked about, “Cock Blocked” by K.C. Kassidy. The character’s chemistry, the high heat, plus the unique location equal an absolute winner and my book. This particular equation proved to be absolutely irresistible to me this year.
Jeff: When are we booking our European vacation to go like hang out in Ireland or something?
Will: I don’t have to actually go. I have the book.
Podcast 2021 Review
Jeff: So as we wrap up our look at 2021, I wanted to give a quick look back at what happened on the podcast. We released 74 episodes plus a dozen bonus episodes for our Patreon community through the year. Now with our average episode length being 45 minutes, that means if you listened to everything, you actually hung out with us for something like 65 hours last year. So thank you for being with us for that long.
And if you attended the Big Gay Fiction Fest, which was our first ever online event that premiered back on December 4th, you got even more content. And, by the way, the Big Gay Fiction Fest Holiday Edition is still there for you to enjoy any time, and for free. Of course, you can get all the details on that at biggayfictionfest.com.
Now for those of you who listened to the podcast on podcast apps, our top three episodes from the year where K.J. Charles from episode 323, TJ Klune from episode 328, and Rachel Reid from episode 329. We’ve had listeners this year from 125 countries, which is just mind blowing to me that we’re listened to around the world like that. Our top countries are the U.S., then the U.K., Canada, Australia, and Germany. And while most of you are listening on Apple devices, we’ve seen quite the increase this year in listeners from Spotify and the Google podcast app, which is very cool.
Now, interestingly, if you’re listening or watching on YouTube, your favorites are just a little bit different. K.J. Charles still has the number one spot and Rachel Reid moves into number two, but Sarina Bowen from episode 281 came in as the third most popular episode from our YouTube audience. It’s a little bit different on the global take as well with YouTube, with the top five countries, being U.S., Australia, the U.K., Germany, and Israel.
Wherever you are in the world, however you listen, And whether you’ve listened to all the episodes or even just a single one, we are so glad you spent part of the year with us. And we look forward to talking about a lot more books and gay fiction in 2022.
Will: So as we close out the year, we want to remind you that this episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. The show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Also on the show notes, you’ll find the links to the audio books that are available on Libro.fm. Of course Libro.fm is the place that when you buy an audio book, you’re also supporting a local bookstore of your choice. Listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast have the opportunity to get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. For details, and to take advantage of that offer, simply go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday in episode 355, we kick off 2022 with more reviews, as well as a look at some of the books that we’re looking forward to in January.
Jeff: So many books, folks. I’ve seen a sneak preview of the list that Will’s putting together. There are so many books in January. Oh my goodness. It’s going to kick 2022 off in the best way.
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.
And, to repeat a sentiment I first expressed at the end of the Big Gay Fiction Fest, we also want to thank all of the authors in our genre who work so tirelessly throughout the year to bring us the stories that we simply cannot live without. The last two years have been difficult for so many people in so many ways, but especially those in creative fields like writers. We just want all of the authors out there to know that we love you, we appreciate you, and you genuinely make the world a better place with your stories of kindness, redemption, and romance. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Until next year everyone, 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.