Believe Me (Love in New York Book 2) by Avery Ford
The last thing big, surly, and mostly straight bar-owner Drew Bryant wants to do is take part in a charity bachelor auction. But Alex, Drew’s brother, who is in charge of the event, reminds him that it’s all for a good cause. The auction will raise much needed funds for the LGBT center.
Nice guy Shane is looking forward to the charity event (his best friend is organizing it after all) and Alex asks Shane to bid on his brother, explaining how skittish Drew already is, and it would be just too damn awkward if Drew got up onstage and there were no takers.
The night of the big event, Shane gets in a bidding war for Drew and ends up winning the auction.
They make plans to go on their date the following night. Drew feels a little strange making plans with a guy, even if it is just a “fake” date. But Shane seems nice, and is awfully handsome, so what could go wrong?
As it turns out, absolutely nothing. The dinner date goes perfectly, and Drew finds that he is really into Shane, like really into him. So much so that he even kisses Shane goodnight.
After dropping Shane off at home, Drew decides that one kiss isn’t going to be enough, and texts if he can come over.
Shane says yes. They’re not sure what the chemistry between them means, but it’s not something that they want to deny.
Afterward they make plans for a real date, which goes even better than the first, Drew later spending the night with Shane and intimately exploring the crazy hot attraction that they have.
Alex calls up Shane to see how the date went. Unable to lie to his best friend, Shane ends up telling him just how well things have gone with Alex’s “straight” brother. This prompts Alex to have a serious conversation with his big bro. Alex is fine with whatever their relationship ends up being, he just wants to make sure that neither his brother or best friend gets hurt.
A relationship is exactly what Drew wants, just before Shane decides to call things off. Well, if they’re gonna break-up, then Drew wants to hear it from Shane, face to face. Explaining that it was just the fear of getting hurt, Shane admits that he is really into Drew. And since Drew is really into Shane, everything works out for the best. A short epilogue shows our two heroes a few months into their new relationship. Their first date may have been “fake”, but the love that they share now is most definitely real.
Believe Me is a terrific blend of sweet and sexy romance tropes, featuring two heroes who are likeable and relatable. Though they fall for one another pretty quickly, but Drew and Shane’s chemistry is undeniable, and their HEA is sweetly satisfying.
Trust Me (Love in New York Book 1) by Avery Ford
Nice guy Milo, who’s busy climbing the corporate ladder of a large-scale forestry conglomerate, is tasked with convincing a recluse in upstate New York to sell his land. Though this guy has rejected every offer, Milo drives into the mountains, confident he can close the deal. Milo’s trip takes an unexpected turn when an incoming storm causes an accident. Milo hits a burly mountain man trudging through the snow.
Jax is a little battered and bruised from his experience but is okay once he’s able to rest in the cabin he calls home. It quickly becomes apparent that Milo, the cute city boy who hit him, works for the company that wants to buy his land.
It’s not an ideal situation, but since the storm has trapped them together in the cabin for the foreseeable future, Jax makes the effort to get to know the guy. Milo’s pretty great, despite who he works for.
They spend the night cuddled in the same bed, for warmth of course, and our heroes definitely heat things up. The next morning, neither of them has any regrets. As they talk, Jax realizes that Milo has no idea how the company he works for is destroying the forest. He shows Milo the nearby logging camp and the devastation they’ve left behind.
With the weather cleared, the road down the mountain should be safe enough for Milo to return to the city. If this is going to be their last night together, then Milo and Jax are going to make the most of every last second. And boy, do they.
In the morning, Jax wants to ask Milo to stay. But they have such different lives, wanting more is unrealistic.
Back in the city, Milo goes into work to tell his boss that the deal wasn’t made, and that he knows what’s going on up on the mountain.
Milo now has to decide what he really wants. A job in the big city, or a life with a sexy mountain man by his side.
Since this is a romance, his decision shouldn’t come as a great shock. It’s a happily ever after for Milo and Jax.
I really loved this novella. Stranded in a mountain cabin is one of my all-time favorite tropes and Avery Ford uses it to great effect in this story. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Milo and Jax. They find something in each other that they didn’t know was missing, a theme that I always enjoy reading – it’s all about that special kind of romantic awakening.
If I were in the habit of swooning, I would definitely do it over these two and their irresistibly sexy/sweet love story.
Trust Me is a terrific short read, the first in the Love in New York series by Avery Ford.
Jeff and I discuss two recent series on HBO Max that we’ve enjoyed: the AIDS drama It’s a Sin and the high school dramedy Generation.
Jeff reviews Layla Reyne’s latest romantic suspense title Queen’s Ransom as well as Eden Finley & Saxon James’s jock/nerd romance Power Plays & Straight A’s. I review the wonderfully sexy, friends-to-lovers novella Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera and the delightful second chance romance Deja Vu by Lawrence I. Hill.
Remember, you can listen and follow the podcast anytime at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
John has had a year’s long legal battle with a neighboring Lord over a piece of land between their adjoining estates. When the neighbor dies and leaves everything to his youngest son, John proposes a unique solution to the dispute – he’ll give up the land, if the new Lord agrees to marry him.
John has been pinning for Harrison for years and, as it so happens, Harrison has craved that attention from his older neighbor. He formally agrees to the deal but doesn’t want to wait for their wedding night. He wants his first experience with John immediately and they spend an amazing night together exploring the desires they’ve each held for so long.
Over the next month they grow even closer. Their wedding day is beautiful and romantic. Their wedding night is filled with more passion and declarations of devotion. What started as a business transaction, proves to be an ideal love match for Harrison and John. They undoubtedly have many happy years to look forward to.
A Lord to Love is an unquestionably sexy historical short, and the author does a terrific job of bringing that passion to life on the page. But it’s not just about the sexual chemistry between the characters (there is definitely plenty of that), it’s about the way they love each other and how they express it with small acts of kindness, or how they are each invested in being equal partners who lift each other up.
It’s wonderful how, in just a few pages, we are able to understand how John and Harrison are completely devoted to each other’s happiness.
The Uncut Wood by Slade James
Hank and Gunner are two lumberjacks at a seasonal gay clothing-optional campground, The Bear Mountain Lodge. As a way to drum up business during the off-season, they’re going to be competing in something they’re calling the Jackolympics, featuring various feats of sexy lumberjackness.
Hank decides that now is the perfect time to finally admit his feelings for Gunner.
But just before they compete, he kind of chickens out and his natural competitive streak takes over. If Hank wins, then Gunnar has to go on a romantic date with him. In a log splitting competition, they race to show off their dexterity with an axe. In the end, it’s apparent to everyone that Gunner is the superior axe man… but he lets Hank win.
That evening, Hank takes them through a section of the forest called The Uncut Wood to the most remote cabin on the property, which he has set up for their romantic date. They eat, and they talk, and they make love in front of the fire. It’s all very sweet and romantic and both of them are finally able to admit that they’ve been interested in each other for a long time but weren’t really sure how to go from friends/colleagues to something more.
Sometimes a friendly wager is all you need to get out of the friend zone.
The story of Hank and Gunner is a perfectly executed friends-to-lovers trope. Their chemistry is off the charts from the very beginning, and I loved watching them navigate their way to a very satisfying happily ever after.
The Uncut Wood is an introductory short that establishes the setting and side characters of the author’s Bear Camp series.
There Galapagos My Heart by Phillip William Stover
As a favor to his aunt Penny, Michael agrees to teach painting to the guests on her high-end cruise to the Galapagos Island. What could be the harm in a quick vacation before he moves into his new position as a senior acct. manager at his firm?
In Ecuador, before they set sail, Penny has the visiting faculty introduce themselves to the tourists. Their resident wildlife expert is going to be Benton… Michael’s insufferably handsome, charming, British ex-boyfriend.
He does everything he can to avoid Benton but, as they tour the capital and take photos where the Northern and Southern equators meet, they can no longer postpone the inevitable. They talk and it doesn’t go well. Penny tells them that they’ll be rooming together for the duration of the cruise. Michael just can’t seem to catch a break.
They call a truce and, after the ship sets out to sea, Benton gives his first lecture about the various species that call the Galapagos home. In lesser hands, the presentation would be deadly dull, but the passengers are enthralled by him and Michael realizes that he may not be as over Benton as he once thought.
To avoid dealing with this new revelation, Michael races back to their stateroom and pretends to be asleep. Benton takes his time getting ready for bed, doing a tantalizing strip tease that Michael can’t help but watch through half-closed eyes.
He is so not over him.
After a little schedule manipulation from aunt Penny, Michael joining Benton on an early morning shore excursion to plan the upcoming nature walk for the guests. Their time alone amongst the wildlife is magical, but things quickly take a sour turn when Benton suggest that Michael do a solo show of all the pieces he is sure to paint with the Galapagos as his inspiration.
He thinks he’s being supportive of Michaels’ talent. But Michael only feels the pressure to pursue something that he’s given up. Something he feels he’s failed at.
Back on the boat, there is a telegram waiting for Benton. Michael reads the awkwardly phrased congratulations. It seems Benton is now a father.
Despite the frustrations with his ex, Michael couldn’t help dreaming up romantic second chance scenarios with Benton. But he now has a child with somebody special waiting for him back in England. It was never meant to be with them.
At dinner they reminisce about the old days and Benton opens up about his emotionally distant family and why he cares about animals so much, forcing Michael to realize that he never really appreciated what a good thing he had with Benton.
The next morning Michael teaches his watercolor class. The passengers all seem to enjoy it. Benton as well. In fact, watching him teach so passionately about something he obviously loves has Benton feeling amorous. Once he returns from his onshore nature excursion, they’ll meet in their stateroom, where Benton will show Michael just how romantic he really feels.
Michael uses his downtime to catch up on some work and becomes so wrapped up in accounts and spreadsheets that forgets his scheduled rendezvous with his gorgeous ex.
Penny decides it’s time for a heart-to-heart and explains that being chained to something because it represents (in Michael’s mind) security, might be keeping him from becoming his true self.
After teaching his final watercolor class, Michael goes ashore and finds an art gallery. After talking to the man whose art he admires, he realizes that security ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It might be time to spread his wings and fly, just like the exotic birds Benton loves to talk about.
Michael quits his job and, after a brief but harrowing health scare, Benton and Michael realize that they’re far better together than they ever were apart.
FYI – Benton, we eventually find out, is the proud poppa of a baby wombat. He was part of the team taking care of the mother wombat in a zoo back in the UK.
This novella is the perfect literary vacation. It’s a super sweet, super tropey tropical romance set in wonderfully unique locale.
One thing I want to quickly mention – I think the character of Michael, in another author’s hands, could have come off as very annoying because he spends an awful lot of the story pushing people away or shoring up the walls that he’s built around his life. Benton and Penny gently nudge him to explore his art more and he’s constantly saying ‘no’ until he finally has this ‘a-ha’ moment at the end of the story.
The way Phillip William Stover uses Michael’s introspection and especially his humor, makes him very likable and very relatable. You understand why he does what he does and thinks the way that he thinks. Overall, I just really loved the story about Michael and Benton, fighting their way back from something that didn’t work before – and most definitely works now.
There Galapagos My Heart is available in both ebook and print formats.