First up they announce the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for January, the sexy bad boy and virgin romance that is appropriately titled Bad Boy by Emma Alcott.
The guys then discuss books they’re looking forward to in January, including titles by David Valdes, K.M. Neuhold & Mia Monroe, Susan Scott Shelley & Chantal Mer, Pandora Pine, Nora Phoenix, Cat Sebastian, A.L. Graziadei, Kiki Clark & E.M. Lindsey, Alexis Hall, A.M. Arthur, Merry Farmer, and the authors of the forthcoming Heart2Heart anthology.
Jeff also reviews some of his recent reads, The Best Men by Lauren Blakely & Sarina Bowen, Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, and If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich.
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.
- Episode 353 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club December 2021: “A Boyfriend for Christmas” by Jay Northcote on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Bad Boy by Emma Alcott on Amazon
- Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes on Amazon | Kobo
- Mountain Topped by K.M. Neuhold & Mia Monroe on Amazon
- Spark by Susan Scott Shelley & Chantal Mer on Amazon | Kobo
- Hockey Allies Bachelor Bid series by Various Authors on Amazon
- Shouting Match by Pandora Pine on Amazon
- Clean Start at Forty-Seven by Nora Phoenix on Amazon
- The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian on Amazon | Kobo
- Icebreaker by A.L. Graziadei on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- The Best Men by Lauren Blakely & Sarina Bowen on Amazon | Kobo
- Until His Last Goodbye by Kiki Clark & E.M. Lindsey on Amazon
- Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall on Amazon
- His Fresh Start Cowboy by A.M. Arthur on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Under His Lover’s Wing by Merry Farmer on Amazon | Kobo
- Heart 2 Heart: A Charity Anthology Vol. 5 by Various Authors on Amazon
- Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Episode 324 – Creating Pride Book Fest with Jacob Demlow & Steven Salvatore on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich 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.
Will: Coming up on this episode, we ring in the new year with a preview of all of the books that we’re looking forward to coming out in January.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 355 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Will.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show and another bright new year.
Jeff: As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about the bonus content we offer our patrons go to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Well, we hope that you’ve all enjoyed our December Big Gay Fiction Book Club discussion of Jay Northcote’s fantastic virgin-meets-bad-boy, holiday romance, “A Boyfriend for Christmas.”
And now, since it’s the beginning of the month, we can reveal the January Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection, and it’s another very sexy, bad boy and virgin romance. This one is appropriately titled “Bad Boy” by Emma Alcott. Now, truthfully, I did not mean to choose two books with the exact same trope one after the other. But since I did, this is obviously a sneak peek into my book loving subconscious.
“Bad Boy” definitely has a bad boy and has a virgin. It has characters who are snowed in, in a mountain cabin on New Year’s Eve. One of them is a romance writer. Seriously. It was never really a question of if I was going to choose this book. It was a question of when and now is the time.
Jeff: Well, I’m so glad you did. I’m getting a good education in bad boys here. I had put bad boys into a stereotype that I am finding, through these two books, was somewhat wrong. So, I really enjoyed this dive into, the bad boy trope.
Will: Members of our Patreon community we’ll get an exclusive sneak peek of this episode, starting later this week. And our discussion of “Bad Boy” by Emma Alcott will become available to everyone in the regular podcast feed on Thursday, January 27th.
Jeff: So yeah, all of you have plenty of time to go out, pick up that book and then join us for that discussion a little later this month.
Books We’re Looking Forward to in January
Will: Would you like to stare into the crystal ball of 2022 and look at some of the books that are coming out in the coming weeks.
Jeff: Absolutely. I’ve seen your list. There is a really good stuff coming up here. Let’s get right into it.
Will: Coming out on January 4th is “Spin Me Right Round” by David Valdes. In this new YA novel, a hit on the head knocks teenage Luis back in time to 1985, he meets a doomed queer classmate and concocts a plan to give the guy his first real kiss. Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse, and determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve… while also not risking his chance to be prom king.
Jeff: So how many of you out there immediately started playing a Dead or Alive song in your head with this title? I certainly did. And, what a great title for a book that’s headed back into the eighties. This premise sounds so incredible with the little “Back to the Future” twist, trying to maybe help things in the past a little bit, while still getting what you want in the present. Now I’m really eager here to find out how this plays out and how much of this past thing is going to stay in Luis’s head from the bonk, or if any of it turns out to impact the present. I’m so intrigued. I’ve got the audio book already and I’m looking forward to checking this one out.
Will: Also coming out in the first week of the new year, on January 7th, is the new title from K.M. Neuhold and Mia Monroe called “Mountain Topped.” And in this one, Bowen didn’t think he’d ever manage to fall for anyone other than his straight best friend Hawthorne, but the more time he spends with Aldis, the more he likes him. A drunken admission of his deepest fantasy leads to the three of them sleeping together and now his best friend and his hookup-turned-more are bonding over their shared love of mountain climbing. The three of them are exploring, and Bowen has no idea where they’ll end up.
Jeff: I’ve seen this all over my social media in the last week of the year. I think there’s a lot of people really eager for this and who can blame them. K.M. and Mia and a thruple. How could you possibly say no to that? And I love that part of this is friends-to-lovers too. I imagine this is going to be a book that’s going to be scorching hot and have all the feels for it.
Will: A sexy start to the new year, nothing wrong with that.
Will: Next up is another co-write coming out on January 11th. This one by Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer. It’s called “Spark.” Mateo’s life revolves around working two jobs. His only respite is weekly rugby games with teammates who have become like family. Meeting Finlay, his rugby teammate’s brother, is a spark of light in Mateo’s hectic life. Their immediate connection outweighs Finlay’s hesitation, but when their worlds turn upside down, and their doubts are laid bare, can their burgeoning relationship survive the strain of keeping the spark alight?
Jeff: I love Susan and Chantal. I got to work with them on the “Bachelor Bid Hockey” romance series from a couple of years ago. And I have no doubt that them joining forces for a story about a rugby player, and then you combine it with the whole teammate’s brother thing, it’s just going to be crazy good. I’m definitely looking forward to this collaboration.
Will: Another title coming up on January 11th is “Shouting Match” by Pandora Pine. Detective Fuller goes to a local Italian restaurant where the youngest Lombardi brother insists he knows exactly where to find the man of Fuller’s dreams, his overworked older brother, Capone. The guy Fuller almost arrested a few hours earlier. When a blizzard sets its sights on the Maine coast, a shouting match between the new lovers sends Fuller out into the raging storm. Things could be over before they’ve even begun if Capone can’t find him before it’s too late.
Jeff: In the bizarre way that my brain works, this was like reverse forced proximity, running out into the raging snowstorm instead of huddling up inside the cabin. But that’s just me being weird. There’s so many twists and turns, right here. Being set up with someone who you nearly arrested a few hours ago, and then the whole running away thing because of the fight that happens. Fuller and Capone sound like very fiery individuals, so I have to imagine that bringing them together is no doubt going to be full of sparks of the romantic kind and possibly some other ones too, depending on how all this turns out.
Will: Another new title that we can look forward to is “Clean Start at Forty-Seven” by Nora Phoenix. And this one is coming in on January 12th. Kinsey is finally living his truth as an out gay man. Benoni, his new personal trainer, is twenty years his junior and happens to be his son’s best friend. Their love could be the clean start they both need in this, a first time gay, age gap, hurt/comfort romance that opens the “Forty-seven” duology.
Jeff: Well, this is Nora Phoenix, so I’m already predisposed to want to pick this up. And I love that she’s writing some older protagonist as well. That’s something I’ve talked about a couple of times recently. Annabeth Albert did it with “The Geek who Saved Christmas.” There’s been some other older protagonists out there, and I’m really into reading about characters who are closer to my age. And I’m excited for this duology. You gave so many tropes there, and really age gap has become such a catnip or me. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does with this.
Will: Yes, that new duology starts on January 12th.
And coming out just a few days later on the 18th is the new title from Cat Sebastian, “The Missing Page.” When country doctor James heads to Cornwall for the reading of a will, his uncle has tasked his heirs with uncovering the truth behind a woman’s disappearance twenty years earlier. Leo fears for James’s safety, so he does what any sensible semi-retired spy would do and infiltrates the house party. Together, they unravel a mystery that exposes long-standing family secrets and threatens to involve James more than either of them would like.
Jeff: I am so behind on this series and all things Cat Sebastian. But frankly, what you said in the midst of all that, about a semi-retired spy infiltrating a house party, that just kind of struck me. So, I’m either gonna have to go read the whole series, or I’m going to pick this one up out of order because that particular line just sparked my brain into making this something I want to read.
Will: Yeah. I read the first book featuring James and Leo. Gosh, I think it was over a year ago now. Cat Sebastian is a busy author, so she’s not proceeding at a lightening pace on this particular series, which means you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.
Jeff: Oh, good.
Will: But I really love her particular twist on cozy mystery and particularly the way that it’s set in post-World War II England. There’s a really interesting, slow burn aspect to these two guys. And when you add mystery solving on top of it all, it’s like a win-win.
Jeff: See, now you’re just making me want to move the whole series further up my list. So…
Will: It’s good stuff. I promise.
Jeff: Cozy mystery in the midst of winter sounds really delightful.
Will: Next up on her list is a new YA story from A.L. Graziadei. It’s called “Icebreaker.” Seventeen-year-old Mickey is a college freshman whose father and grandfather have gone down in NHL history, which almost guarantees him the league’s top draft spot. The only person standing in his way is Jaysen, Mickey’s infuriatingly attractive teammate. When rivalry turns to something more, Mickey will have to decide what he really wants, and what he’s willing to risk for it.
Jeff: So, as you were putting this list together, did you just say, well, here’s a book Jeff’s going to want to read for sure, because it’s got him written all over it.
Will: Well, I had my suspicions.
Jeff: You were certainly right. I mean, two hockey players falling in love is always at the top of my list of things to read. And I’ve got to check this out to find out how much these young players are willing to give in to love.
Will: “Icebreaker” comes out on the 18th.
And also coming out on the exact same day is “The Best Men,” a co-write by Lauren Blakely and Sarina Bowen. And this one, it’s a tale of merrily wedded mayhem in this enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract romance between two best men, one a single dad, the other a cocky former athlete. While sharing a too-small guesthouse in steamy Miami, they decide on a no-strings fling. But what happens after the “I do’s” have been said and neither of them wants to leave behind their one true chance at happiness.
Jeff: This book is so amazing. And in fact, I’ll be talking about it in a few minutes as I give you a full advanced review of this book. So just hang on for that.
Will: Another great new title to look forward to coming out on January 20th is “Until His Last Goodbye” by Kiki Clark and E. M. Lindsey. Elias is a powerful medium, a conduit between the living and the dead. One day, Death comes knocking. Elias has no business falling for an immortal collector of souls, no matter how kind and surprisingly innocent he might be. The Reaper’s gentle nature soothes the hollow ache in his heart, but there can be no way forward when you fall for Death… unless you join him.
Jeff: This is not the usual kind of book I would read. It’s a little on the far paranormal side, but yet the idea of this gentle Reaper who is kind. I don’t know. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it and it makes me want to read this book because how do you fall in love with a Reaper? Oh my gosh.
Will: That’s a pretty powerful, irresistible hook, I got to say.
Jeff: It is. And I know E.M. and Kiki are awesome writers and they’re gonna do a great job on this. So, yeah. I’m curious now.
And just saying, “how do you fall in love with a Reaper” as my song brain keeps going, there’s a certain Kim Carnes, Kenny Rogers song that is very close to that.
Will: Oh, you.
So, from paranormal to historical, let’s talk about what’s coming out on January 25th, “Something Fabulous” by Alexis Hall, who some of you might recall is the best-selling author of “Boyfriend Material.” This new story is a delightfully witty historical romance featuring a reserved duke who’s betrothed to one twin and hopelessly enamored of the other. When Valentine proposes to Miss Arabella, she flees into the night. He gives chase with her twin brother by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, and… beautiful. Being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which sibling he should be pursuing.
Jeff: At least he’s running with the sibling he should be pursuing instead of going after somebody who ran away from his proposal. I think that’s clue number one, perhaps, of who you should be going after. I’m so looking forward to this, I really became a fan of Alexis’s really kind of late in the game with “Boyfriend Material.” And I definitely want to see the kind of humor that Alexis is going to inject into this book. Just knowing how awesome “Boyfriend Material” was in terms of the humor and banter, so looking very forward to this one.
Will: Another new title headed our way soon is “His Fresh Start Cowboy” by A.M. Arthur. Hugo’s boots haven’t touched Texas soil in almost a decade, but he can’t resist going back for a job working with his best friend’s older brother. Working next to the most dangerously tempting man he’s ever known stirs up a deeper passion than either man expects. But by giving in to the chemistry without taking a risk, committing to each other, and living the lives they’ve always wanted, Brand and Hugo just might lose their second chance at true love.
Jeff: A.M. has got their back on that. She’ll do right by them. I do love A.M.’s cowboy books so much, and it’s been way too long since I picked one up. Here you’ve got second chance, best friend’s brother, which are some great tropes. And this is the start of a new series with “Woods Ranch,” so it’s going to be a perfect time to get on board with am Arthur again.
Will: “His Fresh Start Cowboy” comes out on January 25th.
Also coming out on the same day is “Under His Lover’s Wing” by Mary Farmer. You see, as far as gamekeeper Declan is concerned, animals are much easier to be around than people.
I’m peeling you Declan.
And he is content to live in isolation on the grounds of Wodehouse Abbey. Until handsome, intriguing Spencer wanders into his life like a wounded animal in need of care. When Declan is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, it is up to Spencer to prove him innocent…without running the risk of alienating Declan’s affections and losing him completely.
Jeff: Hooray for more Merry Farmer. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of hurt/comfort here as these two guys kind of figure out how to be together, maybe.
Jeff: Not to mention getting Declan cleared, which means there might be a little hint of romantic suspense thrown in there as well. This is definitely setting up to be another great installment in the “After the War” series.
Will: And finally wrapping up our list of fantastic upcoming reads is the newest installment in the “Heart2Heart” charity anthology, and that is coming up on January 31st. Now in this latest volume, fourteen authors ask what would happen if Heart2Heart, the dating and community app responsible for bringing together couples from all over the world, encouraged people to do something they’d never done before? Each of the stories show how funny, hot, and heartwarming it can be when these characters challenge themselves to do something outside of their comfort zone, while falling in love along the way.
Jeff: I’m so happy that “Heart2Heart” is back for a fifth installment and this particular theme of doing something you’ve never done before sounds really fun. Now, except for Lucy Lennox, who is providing the opening and closing installments for this edition, we’ve got a batch of authors here who are all making their “Heart2Heart” debuts, and that list includes A.M. Arthur, Daryl Banner, Tal Bauer, SE Harmon, Riley Hart, Kate Hawthorne, E.M. Lindsey, Louisa Masters, Mia Monroe, Jodi Payne, Spencer Spears, K. Webster, Neve Wilder and Alice Winters. How’s that for a lineup? So, you’re gonna want to make sure to get your pre-order in so you don’t miss this installment, which like all the others will only be around for about 90 days.
And we’re going to be having some of these “Heart2Heart” authors join us in our first February episode. You can look forward to that coming up soon.
Will: Now that was a pretty long list of books that we just talked about. If you didn’t have a pen and paper handy, or you weren’t taking notes on your note app, Jeff, tell us where can they find the complete list of all the books that we just mentioned?
Jeff: Of course, it’s right on the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com.
Will: So, in addition to all those amazing upcoming books, you’ve got some books that you want to talk about that you’ve been reading lately.
Jeff: I ended 2021 with some amazing books that I am excited to talk about right now.
The Best Men by Sarina Bowen & Lauren Blakely
Jeff: And I’m going to kick it off with that book that we talked about just a little bit earlier with “The Best Men.” My expectations ran so high for the combination of Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely and I’m happy to say that all of those expectations were more than exceeded.
This is an incredible romance! It all starts with a drunk text, evolves into some flirty and hot hookups, and it becomes more than either man thought possible. Mark and Asher’s chemistry is off the charts, and they are an amazing team in everything that they do. And I have to say that I will never look at a spreadsheet the same way again, and I suspect you won’t either after you read this.
Now Mark and Asher are thrown together because they are best men. For Mark, he’s his sister’s best man while Asher his best man for his best friend. The drunk text happens the night before one of the wedding gatherings where Mark must make apologies to his sister, the intended receipt of the text where he outlined why her wedding was a mistake… as well as to Asher and the groom who were also on the text. Ooops. When drunk texting, make sure it’s not on the group thread. It’s nice Mark’s trying to look out for his sister, but still…that’s a big oops.
Now Mark has to spend three pre-wedding days with Asher in Miami, where the destination wedding his taking place. Mark and Asher have the tasks of making sure everything is set so the day will be perfect.
Now, these guys couldn’t be more different. Mark is preppy, a Wall Street guy with a mind for math, order, and logic. Asher is a former pro soccer player who after an injury spent some time modeling and is now a pro photographer with a knack for schmoozing and not being on time. Mark’s life is very structured as he’s got a daughter with his ex. Asher’s anything but structured.
Now, after a flight where the guys antagonize each other in the most delightful, flirty way, they discover quickly that they work well together with the wedding vendors, with Mark the more matter of fact and Asher the more diplomatic as they’re trying to get some things done in a short time window. This even rachets up the sexual tension and desire between them as they see how each other work.
They’re also in somewhat close quarters. While the wedding is taking place in a grand mansion and the bride, groom, families will stay in there, Mark and Asher are relegated to the guest house. While they do have separate bedrooms, they’re still very in each other’s space.
Now, thanks to the text, and subsequent banter, Asher knows Mark is kind of into him, and Asher’s good with that. It doesn’t take long for them to explore Mark’s bisexuality, which isn’t something Mark’s done much. From the beginning their sexual chemistry sizzles and they fit. They mess around different places, they come close to shirking their duties for the wedding a time or two. Oh, and spreadsheets. Well, you’ll just have to see for yourself where spreadsheets come into play.
Not only have Lauren and Sarina created two incredible characters, but the way they’ve brought them together, going from antagonism to two men who don’t want to be apart but can’t figure out how to be together given what their lives look like. For Mark it’s taking care of his daughter, especially since his ex feels like Mark can shoulder more of the co-parenting. Meanwhile, Asher’s hoping to get word that he’s going to get a major European football shoot. It ain’t easy, but since this is a romance, and because this is Sarina and Lauren we’re talking about, you know this is going to turn out wonderfully.
Best of all, this is pretty low angst. While there are a couple of moments I wanted them to talk just a bit more to avoid a hiccup, they get it sorted out. I loved the steps and time it took for them to finally decide they were going to have what they wanted–and it was each other. It all felt very organic because while there could have been ways to seal their future faster, the fact that it did take time made the final grand gestures all the sweeter,
I loved, loved, loved everything about “The Best Men” by Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely. You need to add it to your TBR and be ready for it when it comes out on January 18th. Now I’m excited to say that Lauren’s actually going to be joining us here on the show in a couple of weeks as the book comes out. So, looking forward to bringing you that interview soon.
Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Now shifting gears from steaming hot, sexy guy romance over to some YA titles.
I certainly wrapped up 2021 with a couple of amazing YA reads. And I want to start us off with a book that I’d been looking forward to for months. “Here’s to Us” by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera exceeded every expectation I had, and it was an incredible sequel to “What If It’s Us.”
This is a messy, but delightful second chance romance picking up a two summers after Arthur and Ben met in “What If It’s Us,” a book that ended with Arthur and Ben being only friends and not boyfriends. The door was wide open for a sequel with the last line of the book being “what if we haven’t seen the best of us yet.” As I dive into this review, it’s going to skate on the edge of spoilerly, so keep that in mind as you listen.
As “Here’s to Us” opens, Arthur and Ben aren’t even talking. Time has drifted them further apart with even their text chain left hanging after a birthday message. The universe works in mysterious ways with these two though and Ben happens to look at Arthur’s Instagram at the right moment to see that Arthur’s coming back to NYC for an internship.
And if only a reunion could be as easy as Arthur simply being back in this city. Arthur’s got a boyfriend, Mikey, who happens to be all over his Instagram with Arthur. Ben also has something going on with Mario. Are they boyfriends, friends, friends with some benefits? Ben’s not sure, and it’s not completely clear if Mario knows either.
Just as in the first book, the universe works its magic to bring the boys back into each other’s orbit. It’s amazing how a city as large as New York can also very much be a small world. Arthur and Ben end up running into each other, and so they start talking, and then they run into each other more, which turns into trying to have hangouts where Ben brings Mario or Arthur brings Mikey, or both. There’s also some alone time for Arthur and Ben when they skate around the topic of their feelings and what they really want. But they also really kind of don’t because they don’t know how to potentially disrupt the other person’s relationship.
The results are a mix of sweet and painful, but man does it all show how much Arthur and Ben are meant to be together. Separately they realize it, but don’t know if they should go for it–there are other people involved after all, and even if the declared feelings what about them not doing a long-distance thing?
I have to admit to getting super emotional in part three and for the epilogue. Becky and Adam created an incredible second chance romance for these two and the way they got the boys there given all the obstacles and challenges was really magical.
Now, I have to share just a little bit of a kick in the pants Arthur gets as he sorts out if he’s going to declare feelings for Ben. Arthur’s in town doing a theatre internship with a queer director he’s a huge fan of, who just happens to be inspired by Jacob Demlow who was on the podcast back in episode 324 when we talked about Pride Book Fest. So, really cool to kind of see this little cameo character inspiration moment. Anyway, in the third part of the book, Jacob delivers some great advice, which I’m paraphrasing a bit and with apologies to Noah Galvin who narrates this superbly in the audiobook.
Jacob says: “Are you the guy running to the airport to stop him? Are you the protagonist? It’s your life, you’re always the protagonist.”
To which Arthur responds: “So it’s not that simple. I don’t just get to declare myself the protagonist because I want to be in this story.”
Jacob responds to that” Jacob says: “Sure. You can’t control how it’s going to play out, of course. And if Ben says no, that’s that. But if you want to be in the story, go be in the story! Chase him.”
Okay. That’s amazing advice, because shouldn’t we all be the protagonists of our own story! There are so many incredible passages just like that one throughout this book. People are hurt through the story, relationships change, but it’s beautifully, realistically, and perfectly played.
A quick nod as well to the incredible cast of characters. Ben’s quirky best friend Dylan is back and as fun as ever. He’s got a great story of his own that plays in the book. Jacob and the crew at the theatre Arthur’s interning at are great and I loved how many scenes we got of Arthur working there since I’m a theater geek anyway. So, all that backstage stuff was really cool. Ben’s friend, maybe boyfriend, Mario is around a lot. And frankly, I really liked him. I thought he was really good for Ben in so many ways. Adam and Becky both write great support characters so it’s no wonder that together it’s epic how all these characters are put to use to ultimately help the universe get Ben and Arthur back together.
And a nod to the audio book, to Noah Galvin and Foy Gutierrez, who voiced the first book, are back for this one. And they are in credible. I particularly like how Noah captured all the feelings as Arthur tries to work through his feelings for Ben in this book. It was just brilliant.
I loved everything about “Here’s to Us” and how Ben and Arthur’s story got to continue. I’d love to see these guys back again sometime. I’ve no idea what the story would be, but I’d read it. I highly recommend “Here’s to Us” by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. And if you haven’t read “What If It’s Us,” pick up both books for the complete story. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
Jeff: And one more YA read that I think you should be checking out. There was no way I could miss out on the boy band romance of “If This Gets Out” by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich. I loved this book, which again, I’ve been on a roll here this episode, exceeded all of my expectations that I had for it. The romance between two band members is perfect, but there’s more than romance going on here as we get to follow along on a European tour as romance blossoms, while at the same time the entire band is chafing against the rules they’ve lived under for a few years.
As we begin, we meet the boy band Saturday as they prepare to embark on a European tour. They’ve been together for a couple of years after being put together by a management company. It’s very N’Sync / Backstreet Boys / New Kids on the Block. Except this is modern day where the boys have not only been thrown together but life under the microscope that is social media. So, they need to craft every single moment. While the guys are adults at 18 years old, they’re both micromanaged but also left alone far too much for their own good.
Part of the chafing is that the boys aren’t living their authentic selves in any way. They’ve each been cast into a part within the band they’re growing unhappy with. Angel for example is supposed to be the squeaky clean one, but he’s not that person. John is the squeaky-clean person, but he’s been cast as the sexy one. For Ruben, he’s always had to keep his sexuality quiet, although he is out to the management team and the band. He’s also not allowed to sing to his full potential either. And Zach, well he just wants everyone to get along and his neutrality can be a bit much to deal with at times.
I love the way Sophie and Cale handled this romance. There’s not really a meet cute because Ruben and Zach have been friends and worked together for years, so the extra looks they give each other, the conversations they have when they end up with alone moments. It’s so wonderfully organic as they nudge toward being more than friends. And, oh boy, the internal monologues. Sophie and Cale make full use of the first-person point of view to let us get inside Ruben and Zach’s heads. Sorting out their feelings for each other, deciding how to proceed since they don’t want to mess up their friendship or the band is funny, sad, heartbreaking, intense, all the feels. More than once I wanted to tell them to just take a breath and that it’d be fine. Moving past the friend line isn’t easy. Even after admitting their feelings, it takes a while for it all to sink in and trying to navigate still being “on” for the band, while sorting it all out is a lot for them and sometimes feelings get hurt and second guessed.
Meanwhile, the band is in Europe for the first time and on a short leash. They’re scheduled to the hilt, with very little time for themselves or sightseeing. But, their team also isn’t keeping track of some the parties thrown or the fact that one of the band is taking drugs and headed down a very dangerous path. His friends try to help and keep it stealth, but you can imagine how difficult that is, and frankly, the wrong decision to keep it stealth, how bad that is.
I’m not sure if Sophie and Cale researched the ins and outs of being in a band like this, but everything they wrote seemed so possible, especially with management being more invested in the business of the band, rather than the people who are in it. Navigating a new romance can be difficult enough, but add everything else going on for Ruben and Zack, it’s insane…and compounded of course when they’re told they can’t come out and the must at all costs keep it a secret from the public.
Not only is management terrible, Ruben’s mom is an extreme stage mom. Think Mama Rose on steroids. I disliked her at every turn, but she also rang all too real, just like the rest of the story. This could’ve easily been a memoir written by Ruben and Zack for all the realness that rolled off the page about the romance and the band situation.
Not only did I love romance and how it moved along, but I might have cheered when the guys collectively realized what was happening to them, and what they were allowing to happen. As they snapped out of being automatons and embracing who they are as individuals and the power that they had both together and separately, it was so stunning.
The one thing I didn’t like about “If This Gets Out.” I desperately wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the story ended where it did for both Ruben and Zach’s romance, as well as the band as a whole. That doesn’t matter though, I’m not ready to be done with the guy’s stories. I want more of the Ruben and Zach’s still young romance and to know what becomes of Saturday as they guys take more control. Hopefully Sophie and Cale will in fact, produce more one day about this band.
A shout out on the audio as well to narrator Ramon de Ocampo. He did an outstanding job capturing each of the guys, and in particular Ruben and Zack. All their feels came through in Ramon’s performance and I loved it. I’m so glad I read the audio version of this book.
So, if you love boy bands and maybe want an inside look at a fictional one, and get an excellent YA romance along the way, or perhaps you actually want to be in it for all the above. I highly recommend “If This Gets Out.”
Will: A quick reminder that this episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation and reviews 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: And in those show notes, you’ll find links to the audio books that are available on Libro.fm, which includes “If This Gets Out” and “Here’s to Us.” 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, in episode 356, author Gabbi Grey is going to be joining us.
Jeff: I loved Gabbi’s forced proximity romance, “Ginger Snapping All the Way” so much so that I asked her to come talk about it with us. We’re also gonna find out what she’s got coming up for readers in 2022.
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.