Hooray for The Boy Next Door

Do I fully understand how Kindle Vella works? No, the internet and most modern technology confuses me even though I am not an incredibly old person who has never used technology before. Anyway, readers in Vella can like and fave stories, in which case a fancy little crown appears above the cover. For example:

Yes, this post is just me bragging that my Vella novel is now top faved. Awesome! Even if I don’t totally get what this means, I’m thrilled people loved (or faved) my book! Thank you so much, and go check out the episodes of The Boy Next Door if you haven’t yet.

Quick Description: A shy artist works up his nerve to confess his feelings for his neighbor, the boy next door. But when his neighbor’s moody, wannabe rock star brother returns home unexpectedly, his love note falls into the wrong hands.

Though the main character Sam shares some of anxious personality traits, Hunter (aka the bad boy next door) is who I have a huge soft spot for. Whether being tough or showing his softer side, he was so much fun to write.

Here’s an excerpt where Sam runs into Hunter on the street after dinner. Hunter gives him some advice.

“Hey, you barhopping too?” He nods, indicating some bars farther down the block.

“Fish tacos,” I answer honestly and stupidly.

“Okay?” He seems to regret saying anything to me. That makes two of us.

Still without his leather jacket, Hunter looks smaller. The night helps hide his surprisingly muscled arms, probably from dragging his drum set around.

“I’m not old enough for bars,” I say when we linger awkwardly.

Leaning in, he confides, “I never let that stop me.”

But I will. Because I’m not as cool and badass as him. He never lets me forget.

“Well, I should probably—” go far away as fast as possible.

“I can sneak you in,” he offers, probably because he knows I’ll refuse. Is he even old enough to drink legally? If so, it’s just barely.

“No thanks.” 

“Sam,” he says, his tone strange.

His teasing demeanor vanishes in an instant. Us prey to the predators know when it’s time to make a quick exit.

“Uh, see you around, Hunter.”

When he moves, I expect him to waltz right by me to the alcohol without saying goodbye. Instead, he steps right into my personal space. As he joins me in the shadows, I can’t see the intensity in his eyes, but I feel it on my skin.

“Be bold,” he says.

Up this close, it’s hard to breathe normally without inhaling the scent of him. And I never could read those eyes even in better light, too dark with unfathomable depths.

I manage to step away. “Fish tacos were bold enough for one night.”

“No, not about your plans for tonight. Just in general.” He’s trying to tell me something. What? I don’t know. “Sounds like advice you need to hear.”

“I do fine.” I cross my arms around myself, suddenly chilly out here.

“You could do better than fine,” he insists. “Be bold. You won’t get what you want otherwise.”

“How do you know what I want?”

Something about his expression makes me wonder if somehow he sees right through me. He isn’t smirking as he always does, yet he seems sure.

A shiver wracks my body, and I hope he doesn’t see. He probably does because he sees everything, it feels like he’s viewing my soul and finding me lacking. Any second, he’s going to reveal what I try to keep hidden—but the moment ends.

“Anything worth wanting doesn’t come easily, so.” He shrugs.

“Yeah, yeah.” I take another step away, but it doesn’t feel far enough. “Bold. Got it.”

“No you don’t.” He seems… sad. Sad I’m so slow. He pities me. Nothing new there.

I smile tightly. “Have a good night.”

~

-Read the Boy Next Door here!

The Boy Next Door

Kindle Vella is a thing now. Authors write episodic stories and post over time instead of delivering a whole novel at once. Which is pretty cool, and a fun challenge for me to write on a schedule and keep producing stuff.

While not totally released, one of the novels I have on Kindle Vella is finished. It’s all uploaded on the site and will be out by the end of October.

Yay! Now that I’m actually finished with my latest novel, I should talk about it here.

In The Boy Next Door, a shy artist struggles to show his passions on and off the canvas. Confessing his feelings to the boy of his dreams is a good start. But when his crush’s older brother gets his love note by mistake, life takes an unexpected turn.

This is a young adult contemporary romance featuring an ill-fated message in a bottle, sexy neighbors, and an enemies-to-lovers M/M couple.

My basic idea for this story was a John Hughes/classic romcom vibe but much gayer. So of course, the main character is crushing hopelessly on his sweet friend, and a crazy misunderstanding means a guy he hates gets his love note by mistake, but when they’re thrown together, sparks fly? Yes, they do.

When I said this is my year and nothing will stop me? I figured I’d get over my own tied tongue and confess my love for Dylan, whether shouting or mumbling how I felt. Any other obstacles were fictitious. I certainly wasn’t imagining Hunter Cruse, the asshole older brother of my crush. Did I mention he hates me?

Yeah, he can stand in my way.

–from The Boy Next Door

Another failed love story?

Luke has some important choices to make when it comes to the fate of his relationship in One Big Decision. This is the hilarious and heartwarming final novel in the One More Thing series which follows a small-town couple as they navigate fake relationships, first loves, high school, and making everything more difficult than it needs to be.

If you aren’t aware, Luke is a high school senior who is dating a loudmouth he loves, but they aren’t sure where their relationship is heading. Especially when… well, this is a romance novel, so there’s conflict and secrets. In this part, he’s trying to decide whether to walk away or not.

What’s Luke going to decide? I can’t tell you that, obviously, but here’s what he’s thinking about.

Luke

Ryan could become a footnote, a point of reference, the first guy I ever dated or was even attracted to. I might not even remember what went wrong, only that we went our separate ways for college. Our saga would end at the point where all failed loved stories did, the part where we loved each other and it wasn’t enough.

Maybe the question wasn’t what should I do, what would be best for both of us, or should we give this another chance. Did I want it to end here? That’s the question. Did I want him to become my past?

Magical LGBTQ+ Novels for Young Adult Readers

We all wish for a little more magic in our lives sometimes. And while we can’t cast spells or shoot fire from our palms, we can turn to fiction. Here’s a list of books for LGBTQ+ YA fiction readers who love fantasy worlds, witches and wizards, and even some occasional raising of the dead.

This list is to celebrate the release of Instalove, my newest paranormal romance where magic exists. Basically, the book is about a guy who never received his Hogwarts letter. So I started with other books that include magic and wizards, then I expanded a bit to include other supernatural elements for fun.

Here’s seventeen books featuring queer young men, gay romance, and magic.


The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos

A magic-infused YA novel about friendship, first love, and feeling out of place that will bewitch fans of Rainbow Rowell and Maggie Stiefvater.

Living in a small town where magic is frowned upon, Sam needs his friends James and Delia—and their time together in their school’s magic club—to see him through to graduation.

But as soon as senior year starts, little cracks in their group begin to show. Sam may or may not be in love with James. Delia is growing more frustrated with their amateur magic club. And James reveals that he got mixed up with some sketchy magickers over the summer, putting a target on all their backs.

With so many fault lines threatening to derail his hopes for the year, Sam is forced to face the fact that the very love of magic that brought his group together is now tearing them apart—and there are some problems that no amount of magic can fix.


The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.

In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove he’s a brujo to his Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut.

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his cousin suddenly dies, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. 

However, the ghost he summons is not his cousin. It’s Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves.


White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton

Not all magicians go to schools of magic.

Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.

Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.

It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love.


The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglas

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.

Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.


Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson

Jack Nevin’s clever trickery and moral flexibility make him the perfect assistant to the Enchantress, one of the most well-known stage magicians in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Europe. Without Jack’s steady supply of stolen tricks, the Enchantress’s fame would have burned out long ago.

But when Jack’s thievery catches up to them, they’re forced to flee to America to find their fortune. Luckily, the Enchantress is able to arrange a set of sold-out shows at Seattle’s Alaska–Yukon–Pacific World’s Fair Exposition. She’s convinced they’re going to rich and famous until a new magician arrives on the scene. Performing tricks that defy the imagination, Laszlo’s show overshadows the Enchantress, leaving Jack no choice but to hunt for the secrets to his otherworldly illusions. But what Jack uncovers isn’t at all what he expected.

Behind Laszlo’s tricks is Wilhelm—a boy that can seemingly perform real magic. Jack and Wilhelm have an instant connection, and as the rivalry between the Enchantress and Laszlo grows, so too does Jack and Wilhelm’s affection. But can Jack choose between the woman who gave him a life and the boy who is offering him everything?


Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

To use his magic is to risk his life.

Braden suffers from a powerful magical curse. The witch eyes allow him to see the memories of the world, to see forgotten emotions, buried memories, and to pierce through lies and deception. They make his magic unparalleled, but every use brings him closer to death.

But when a powerful vision of doom threatens his only family, Braden heads for the source of the vision, the town of Belle Dam where feuding families of witches have ruled for decades. Upon his arrival, he meets the enigmatic Trey, a gorgeous boy with motives of his own.

And by then it’s too late.

A dangerous secret puts the boys on opposite sides of the feud, and as more people realize the power that Braden is capable of, he becomes a pawn in a deadly game.

(My review of Witch Eyes is here.)


Winter Trials by K.S. Marsden

With Midwinter just around the corner, Mark’s Nanna decides that it is time he learnt more about his family heritage. Learning witchcraft shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

Balancing school, magic, and the distractions of the gorgeous new guy, should make this a very interesting winter.

(This book is free!)


The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myth and & Magic by F.T. Lukens

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but its pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town. Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.


Lesser Known Monsters by Rory Michaelson

Being the chosen one isn’t always a good thing.

Oscar Tundale is useless, or at least that’s what he’s always thought. He and his friends are about to discover that not only are monsters real, but some of them are very interested in Oscar. Now, they must find out what the monsters want, before something terrible happens to London; or worse yet, the world.

Lesser Known Monsters is an own voices queer dark fantasy featuring diverse characters on a found family adventure. Perfect for fans of action and paranormal romance seeking LGBTQ+ heroes.


A Boy Worth Knowing by Jennifer Cosgrove

Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.

Between dead grandmothers and living aunts, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.

Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.


The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.


Ghosting You by Alexander C. Eberhart

Tommy hears dead people. Okay, one dead person. His best friend, Chase. Since his death, Tommy can’t stop hearing his voice. They talk every day and Tommy even sends him texts, but it always ends the same. Message failed to send. Until one day, a stranger texts back.

Getting stuck in nowhere Georgia was not on Nick’s summer agenda, but a horoscope, a chance encounter, and a cute boy has things looking up. There’s just one problem, the boy hates him. When a broken phone leaves him with a new number, Nick is ready to write off the entire summer as a loss. But then he receives a strange text.

When Tommy and Nick’s worlds collide, the attraction is instant, but Tommy just can’t let Chase go. Can Nick use his status as Tommy’s anonymous stranger to break down his defenses or is Nick destined to live in a love triangle with a ghost?


The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).


He Came From Ice by Kody Boye

He was just supposed to be a hot hookup. Something sexy to take my mind off being poor, living in a run-down apartment, and kicked out of college due to some plagiarism I totally did not commit. Life was going downhill fast, and a hot, anonymous hookup with a guy by the handle IceFire would make my life suck a little less—or more, but in the right way.

Man, was I wrong.

Hot and charming, Guy Winters and his touches leave me breathless. One night turns into two. Then a date. Then more. Except his body is always cold. Our makeouts are almost too intense. And there’s something just not right. It takes a break-in and a murder in self-defense before I finally get it.

And the truth about Guy has me running for my life.


The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

What’s a boy to do—in Caleb Roehrig’s YA paranormal romance The Fell of Dark—when his crush is a hot vampire with a mystery to solve?

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.

An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.


Which books are your favorite? Are there any magical novels I’m missing? Let me know!

Nightmare children

Avery and his little sister don’t get along in Instalove. This might be part of a normal sibling dynamic, though love spells and the hellhound she gave him as a gift are less normal.

During breakfast, the family discuss the rules for Stella’s birthday dinner. This is a different version of this scene than the one in the novel.

~

“It’s a good time to go over the rules for dinner tonight,” Dad interjected. Ah, how to behave in front of polite company. It used to be a long series of items, written on parchment paper and permanently affixed to the fridge.  That didn’t quite yield results though, so now there were two easily digestible points.

“Don’t be nightmare children unless our cousins are doing it first,” Stella said. Those were their words, ‘nightmare children.’ And they called us dramatic when we got going. So unfair. To me at least. Stella was definitely the nightmare.

My family all looked to me.

“It’s Stella’s birthday,” I said the next rule. They kept looking at me. “Don’t be awful to Stella,” I finished reluctantly.

“Don’t be awful to Stella,” Dad repeated.

“I said that.” Why even have me say it if he was going to say the same thing?

“It bears repeating,” he said firmly.

 Why did it even matter what I did? The remaining pastries we hadn’t eaten had abandoned their spot on the obnoxious floating platter and were doing a little dance for my sister’s amusement. Everything literally catered to her; I didn’t have to do the same. Our cutlery didn’t normally levitate, but Stella liked these little extra touches on her special day.

 ‘Extra touches’ were how my parents referred to them. I called them pointless and unnecessary. We get it, Stella had magic. Stella liked magic. There was nothing wrong with magic, but there was a whole world out there and magic was just a small part of it. Magic wasn’t everything.

That was a lesson I’d learned firsthand.

Anyway, these rules were useless. “Stella didn’t abide by the rules on my birthday,” I muttered. My parents exchanged ‘here we go’ looks.

“It was a gift!” Stella hollered.

“That tried to eat me,” I pointed out.

Stella rolled her eyes, like she was annoyed I brought that up again, but a birthday present from her had tried to devour me. I had the right to bring that up for, like, the rest of time. “How was I supposed to know it would be so mean?” she asked rhetorically.

I answered anyway. “It was called a hellhound.” She was the supposed magical savant; she should have known. The kid had no common sense.

She rolled her eyes. “I just thought it would be red.” Also, she often put too much stock in her abilities. Sometimes she didn’t read the instructions fully; she thought she was a little magic expert that knew everything. It would be hilarious when things went wrong if I wasn’t usually dragged into the side effects with her.

And my Dad found Stella’s magical appetite so charming. He encouraged her to explore the magical world. Yet he wouldn’t buy me alcohol when I wanted to explore the regular world… Okay, I didn’t fault him for that one, but I had to try.

Stella and Mom left for school while Dad floated the serving tray down to the table. He grabbed my attention before I could make my escape to school. “Hey, really, go easy on Stella tonight.” He put a hand on my shoulder as he sat down in the chair next to me and looked me in the eye, his I mean it look.

“We already went through thy hallowed, revered rules,” I told him with only a little sarcasm. It was too early for more.

His sass game was strong, undeterred by the early hour. “If they’re so hallowed and revered, how come they never get followed?”

“Maybe tonight will be the first time?” I offered. Magic existed, so miracles could happen too.

 “You’re the older brother,” Dad reminded me, turning serious again. Like I didn’t know that. Though maybe sticking my tongue out at her wasn’t the height of maturity. “Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same to you.”

“You have no proof of that.”

“I’m an eternal optimist,” he quipped.

–the book is available here.

Who is Avery Ward?

Who is Avery Ward, you might ask as you read the title of this post. Because that’s what the post says.

Well, thanks for asking!

If you wanna get literal about it, he’s the main character of the gay paranormal romance Instalove. He’s also the 17-year-old protagonist who thinks the magic in his family doesn’t affect him, until he finds out that the thing he holds most dear may be the result of a spell.

From an author standpoint, I enjoy writing prose in his special angst-y yet practical perspective. I don’t make characters exactly like me but sometimes I give them something of mine. Avery has my taste in music. And he’s sort of a pessimist who’s trying to be more optimistic, which we also share.

Otherwise, I’ll let Avery tell you about himself in his own words. All you need to know for the following excerpt is that Stella is Avery’s little sister.

~

When given the choice, most people would rather learn about my sister than me. Stella Ward is the Witch, the girl wonder who can move objects with her mind and turn the laws of the natural world inside out.

Avery Ward is the junior who runs track, the guy who gets supporting roles in the school plays with a good audition. Enough about him, let’s hear more about this sister. Yeah, yeah. I get it.

I’m normal. My sister isn’t.

Witchcraft seems so cool and interesting to people who grew up without it. When someone close to you has powers and you don’t, it’s mostly extremely annoying. But siblings can be that way.

–Check it out here. You can buy the book or read it on KU.

Best Laid Plans

The road to where is paved with good intentions? Probably somewhere awesome. This is relevant to the quote I have to share with you today. As high school seniors, Ryan and Luke have been putting off discussing the future until they’re ready. This is supposed to save them from freaking out and causing a huge mess. Does it work? Maybe. But probably not.

In this excerpt from One Big Decision, Ryan is discussing what senior year means for him and his relationship.

In our relationship, panicking and freaking out has historically caused anything from a mild inconvenience to a cataclysmic event that ended the dinosaurs. When discussing the future, we decided not to start the chaos early. Not worrying about it until the time came was great, but it couldn’t last forever unfortunately.

Soon high school ended. College beckoned with its new opportunities and limitless potential. Living in this rural, fairly small community all my life, I’d probably been looking forward to college since grade school. The only opposite silver-lining was all the things that might happen to a high school relationship once high school ends…

Love & Spite, the best of both worlds

Ryan is a brainy overachiever with ivy league dreams. Luke is a bi athlete whose whole future is up in the air since he decided he’s not going to give up the first part for the second. Their love story is perfect for them, queer, overly competitive, snarky, and sweet.

But all good things must come to an end, right? Maybe.

It’s the end of senior year, and the odds are good they’ll be in different places for college. Ryan’s friends don’t want him to do anything rash that he’ll regret while he contemplates a long-distance relationship. So his friends are checking if they need to talk some sense into him in the scene down below from One Big Decision.



Ryan

“This is… a pep talk?” I asked.

“Um.” They faltered, glancing to each other unsurely. Pep? Not exactly their strength.

“Okay, not pep.” I tried again. “A crushing reality talk?”

They conferred silently, nodding. “Yeah, we’ve got this.”

They were both wearing dark clothes, looking vaguely like enforcers in some old-timey gangster movie thanks to Zach’s slicked back hair and Lydia’s general face and attitude.

“There’s no need,” I said, attempting to put myself out of my misery. “I understand. I can’t change my mind now just because Luke isn’t sure he can go to the same city. I need to think of my future and what’s best for me, not what’s best for my relationship. Right?”

That’s what they wanted to impart, albeit with more ‘dumbass,’ ‘moron,’ and ‘pathetic loser.’

“Uh. Yes.” They conferred silently again, suspicious and unsure. “This was easy,” Lydia admitted.

“I mean, I’m still convinced we’re living happily ever after and you especially,” I told Zach. “Can suck it because we’re so gonna be together, we so are. Not only do I want to be happy with Luke in general for love reasons, I also want the same for spite reasons, so double reasons.” I narrowed my eyes at him, challenging. “You just watch us, you—”

“Fine, you and Luke will be together forever and ever,” Lydia humored me, realizing I’d gotten carried away and forgot what we were talking about. “You’ll ride unicorns down the aisle to a wedding officiated by Tim Gunn and Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

“Weird combo,” I provided my opinion obligatorily. “I dig it.”

“Even in your happily ever after love story, you and Luke still go to college in different cities,” she finished the hypothetical. “Are you okay with that?”

“Yes,” I asserted immediately. “Maybe,” I amended when met with their disbelief and slightly evil faces. “Where I go to school is about me, not him. I know that.” I whispered, “Part of me wants to not know that.”

I wished I didn’t know. I wished for a lot of things.

That Feeling When Review

For my review of That Feeling When, my immediate instinct is to fill in the rest. What comes after that feeling when… the feeling when you’re what? There’s a specific thing S.M. James has in mind, and while I don’t think telling you what that is would be especially spoiler-y, it feels like a jerky thing to do.

Until I saw that it’s literally in the blurb describing the book. As it says, ‘how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?’ That feeling when you’re finally happy. There, it’s complete, I feel so much better.

Okay, without further ado, reviewing!

Quick Summary: Archie doesn’t want to be at a fancy summer camp for rich people, but he agreed to go if he didn’t get into the dance school he applied to. Famous actor Landon happens to be shooting a movie at the same place. Neither of them are looking for love, yet are drawn to each other.

Tropes and main elements: famous actor, blackmail, ballet, sexuality crisis, sweet romance, friends to lovers, developing relationship

Overall impression: This sweet novel is perfect for when you wanna escape into a love story. The book really captures all the feelings of falling head over heels and makes every moment Landon and Archie spend together feel special and intense, whether they’re rock-climbing, breaking an entering, or scuba diving.

from novel

2021-03-26 (2)

 

meetings

 Archie is the son of a media mogul who dishes dirt on celebrities. He’s trying to make it through the summer and doesn’t know what to do with his life if he’s not a dancer. His initial opinion on his sexuality seems to be, ‘god, not all male dancers are gay.’ Which, you know, is true, though this also doesn’t mean he’s straight. Growing up with money and the finer things in life, he’s not easily impressed with social status or people who throw around their social status. So when he stumbles upon a film shoot in progress, and Hollywood heartthrob Landon immediately bitches at him, he hates Landon on sight.

While Landon had an off day, he’s not who Archie assumes. By which I mean he’s a total sweetheart. I adore Landon, he’s everything good and perfect in the world. Seriously. Landon’s a sincere bi softie who loves his mother and is very cute when crushing on someone.

Despite his fame, Landon grew up with nothing, and to me is overall more relatable than Archie. Australian Landon is homesick, not used to being a star, and not totally on board with some of the changes he’s made to be a successful actor, like downplaying his aboriginal heritage and keeping his bisexuality secret. He doesn’t love acting so much as his hefty salary that helps provide for his large family back home.

Despite getting off on the wrong foot, this doesn’t feel like a story where the main characters start as enemies. Archie’s first impression, while understandable, is just so different than the reality. Landon’s subsequent apology and wholehearted efforts to make friends quickly make this clear, so Archie spends their initial encounters more confused about how to feel than anything else.

romance

Can a relationship fit as a slow burn and insta-love at the same time? If possible, this book completely qualifies. Despite a tense start, their interest in each other is immediate and feels inevitable, though it takes a while for them to get to know each other and for everything to come together. I enjoyed the pace of their developing relationship. And since they’re already low key crushing, every new morsel of info learned becomes thrilling and every interaction causes them to fall a little deeper. It’s easy to get swept away in the romance with them.

While other stuff is going on, this book primarily focuses on the romance. So if you’re digging the romance, you’re good to go. If you’re more interested in the blackmail elements, or their personal character development, or anything else other than the romance, maybe skip this one or you probably won’t feel satisfied when you’re done with the book.

plot

Both guys are facing some tough decisions, such as figuring out where their lives are headed. Plus, Archie has an impending sexuality crisis and there’s a blackmailer watching them and making demands. These issues come up now and then, though all feel secondary and take a backseat to the romance.

For example, Archie’s dad airs celebrity dirty laundry, and Landon’s a closeted celebrity. Hello, inherent drama! Yet there’s not as much as you might expect. By the time families arrive for the end of camp, it’s kinda hard to stop the relationship train or even slow it down. 

While I don’t think there’s a problem telling a love story this way, the characters and their personal stories interested me enough that I’d have been happy with fleshing out the other plots more and diving deeper into character development.

On the blackmail front, I will give credit where due. I made a guess about the blackmailer fairly early and stuck to my guns about it. I ended up being wrong, so congrats, book! You surprised me.

 

more

This paragraph has some general spoilers for the end.  The only thing that bugged me a bit was Archie’s attitude to his family. Despite his poor opinion of them, they seemed very loving and supportive. They took his coming out extremely well, though he seemed sorta underwhelmed about this. If he’d used the opportunity to get closer to them or there was more acknowledgement he’d gotten them wrong, it’d be fine. His dad was set up as a villain so much that it would have been a fun subversion of expectations, except Archie’s attitude read to me as, ‘well, that’s nice. Anyway, what’s Landon up to?’

Maybe I’m unfair for wishing he were a little more grateful. Should everyone accept LGBTQ+ sexualities without batting an eye or getting any credit for it? Yeah. Are we there yet? I don’t think so.

If I gave star ratings, I’d say four stars for this one. While not in love with the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through.

 

A volcano, a horse with a sombrero, and more

First, a shout out to the best holiday of the year, Cinco de Mayo. This is better known as the day I’m contractually obligated to drink a margarita. While I am of Mexican descent, this isn’t why I’m obligated to drink a margarita. The reason is… because I want to.

I searched for sombrero pictures hoping I could find one with an animal, but my favorite thing about this picture is the horse is apparently ‘in disguise.’ Wait, I mean, what horse??? I only see a very festive human!

For the final book in the One More Thing Series, Ryan and Luke are at the end of their senior year in high school. Which means college decisions and figuring out whether they have a future together.

For the last two books about them, I decided to switch it up and for them to be more stable, so the drama wasn’t about their relationship. This book… isn’t like that.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Senior year means prom, and prom means promposals. So I figured I’d share a fun scene where Luke asks Ryan to prom. 

~

Luke

“At least offer to split the therapy bill with me as a gesture of goodwill,” Ryan said while exiting his house, too busy arguing with his father to notice me.

“You think you need therapy?” Mr. Miller spoke while shutting the door behind him. “You left me with parenting PTSD.”

“You called me fat!”

“I only suggested a walk,” Mr. Miller tiredly corrected.

“Who goes on freaking father-son walks?” Ryan complained merrily in fine form.

They began talking over each other.

“We don’t both have to—”

“Which brings us back to you thinking I should lose some weight.”

“If you could be patient for five seconds—”

“Oh, are we making wishes to the never-gonna-happen-fairy because—”

“Really? My wish already came true.”

“So not fair! What did you wish for?”

“For him to put me out of my misery.” Mr. Miller nodded his head, indicating me. To me, he said, “You owe me so badly.”

“Luke!” Ryan exclaimed. “And… a giant anthill.”

My promposal did resemble a giant anthill. The brown mass nearly reached my knees, a volcano surrounded by a small island and ocean landscape. I put in the ingredient to make it blow. The ‘lava’ bubbled and foamed with a small rush of sound as it began pouring from the top and erupting over the island and spilling out into the ocean.

“Is that… root beer?”  Yep. Ryan’s favorite drink. A huge smile burst over his face.

 Lava funneled from the volcano to the carefully cut spaces below to spell out ‘prom.’ More statement than question.

“Prom?” I asked. There, there was the question.

“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Once is fine.”

He leapt into my arms, giving me just enough time to plant my feet and ensure we stayed upright instead of toppling into the display below. The first brush of his lips landed a few inches left of my mouth, though it worked as he began peppering kisses all over my face, too giddy for finesse or aim.

Yeah, this went well.


One Big Decision
comes out on May 17th. Pre-order your copy now!