Look, I’m well aware I cannot shut up about this book, but I also cannot shut up about this book, so. To quote my own blurb, “Chillingly sinister, warmly familiar, and breathtakingly transportive, The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams.” Whether your holidays are the many Jewish ones we just passed or the upcoming Halloween, or every day with a good book is a holiday to you, this is the book to gift to yourself this month!
Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.
I know everyone’s moving on to spooky season and so there will be about five billion rec lists accordingly over the next couple of months, but first, let me squeeze in a little bit of delightful joy in the form of this absolutely delightful m/m romance. The Charm Offensive is like the show UnReal meets Red, White & Royal Blue, with both great mental health rep and great ace-spec rep. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and you will too, so check it out!
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Today on the site, we’re welcoming Kevin Klehr, author of The Midnight Man, which just released on August 30th from Ninestar Press! Before Kevin gets to talking about finding yourself as you get older, let’s get a glimpse of his speculative romance:
Stanley is almost fifty. He hates his job, has an overbearing mother, and is in a failed relationship. Then he meets Asher, the man of his dreams, literally in his dreams.
Asher is young, captivating, and confident about his future—everything Stanley is not. So, Asher gives Stan a gift. The chance to be an extra five years younger each time they meet.
Some of their adventures are whimsical. A few are challenging. Others are totally surreal. All are designed to bring Stan closer to the moment his joyful childhood turned to tears.
But when they fall in love, Stan knows he can’t live in Asher’s dreamworld. Yet he is haunted by Asher’s invitation to “slip into eternal sleep.”
We all do it. Some are ready for it while others avoid it all cost. But there is no fountain of youth. We all get older.
The tragedy of aging is when you feel like your life hasn’t begun. That’s the dilemma Stanley faces in my new novel, The Midnight Man.
Stan is in a failed relationship, he hates his job, and he has an overbearing mother. But soon he’ll be facing his fiftieth birthday, and this is not how he planned his life to be at this stage.
When this manuscript was accepted by my publisher, my editor emailed saying she liked what the story ‘had to say about the good and bad aspects of getting older.’ And even though she was obviously referring to my book, it was the first time I realised that was the underlying theme of this work.
When I came up with the concept, I was listening to Kate Bush’s haunting track, ‘Man With the Child In His Eyes’, a song about a mystical lover who appears when the songwriter goes to sleep.
But this is one of my novels. The plotline can’t just be about an ethereal romance.
Stan’s midnight visitor is Asher, a twenty-one-year-old who appears in his dreams. Asher offers Stan a gift. Every time they meet for their night-time adventures, Stanley is another five years younger than the last time they met.
This is how ageing is examined in the story. Stan gets to be himself at an age he once was, while bizarre dreamlike scenarios happen. He reflects without actually reliving moments of his life. He remembers what youth feels like as Asher organises whimsical, or sometimes challenging, scenarios for Stanley to face.
Sometime in the past six months I realised all my books feature a love story. Odd, I thought, because I’ve only written two books you could call Romance. The Midnight Man, like many of my novels, is Urban Fantasy, Magic Realism, Speculative Fiction or whatever you’d like to brand it. But it doesn’t mean our two heroes don’t fall for each other as Stan becomes younger.
In the end, this work is about taking control of your life, and sometimes it takes a special someone to help you do it.
Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.
His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.
His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.
So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.
Today on the site I’m thrilled to be sharing the cover of All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown, a post-Apocalyptic m/m (gay and bi) YA releasing March 8, 2022 from Balzer+Bray! Here’s the story:
When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie’s house, he’s injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it’s to be scared of what other desperate people will do . . . so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?
After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn’t adding up about Andrew’s story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He’s starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.
The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.
And here’s the cover (complete with glorious finger graze oh my God I died when I saw this), designed by Chris Kwon with art by Na Yeon Kim!
Erik J. Brown (he/him) is a writer of genre-blending books for young adults. His debut novel, ALL THAT’S LEFT IN THE WORLD, will be published by HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray in March 2022. When not writing, he enjoys traveling (pre-pandemic), collecting disco compilations on vinyl, remodeling his haunted house, and embarking on the relentless quest of appeasing his Shiba Inu. He lives in Philadelphia with his husband. You can find his website at erikjbrown.com, on Twitter @WriterikJB, and Instagram @ErikJB.
The gifts of Pride month continue with this giveaway for two advance reader copies of The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor, a gay rom-com set in Mumbai (!) and releasing October 12th from Lake Union Publishing! Here’s the story:
Heir to his father’s Mumbai business empire, Ved Mehra has money, looks, and status. He is also living as a closeted gay man. Thirty-eight, lonely, still reeling from a breakup, and under pressure from his exasperated mother, Ved agrees to an arranged marriage. He regrettably now faces a doomed future with the perfectly lovely Disha Kapoor.
Then Ved’s world is turned upside down when he meets Carlos Silva, an American on a business trip in India. As preparations for his wedding get into full swing, Ved finds himself drawn into a relationship he could never have imagined—and ready to take a bold step. Ved is ready to embrace who he is and declare his true feelings regardless of family expectations and staunch traditions. But with his engagement party just days away, and with so much at risk, Ved will have to fight for what he wants—if it’s not too late to get it.
You know that beautiful and painful feeling of having all your breath lodged somewhere squarely in your throat through the entire reading of a book? That is the exact experience of consuming and being consumed by Yes, Daddy, Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s debut, which released from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 18th.
A story of survival, betrayal, victimhood, and the dynamics of class, power, and beauty may not be the first place your brain goes with that title, but the titular Daddy here stands in for no fewer than three who have made gay playwright-waiter Jonah Keller’s life a living hell over the years, including the grand Daddy of them all. (Yes, I mean God, in case I was being overly subtle.)
It’s not an easy read, but it’s absolutely an absorbing one, and I’m still thinking about it weeks later. If you want to dive in, Lit Hub has an excerpt posted, so check it out, or just jump on ahead and use one of the buy links below! (See tags for CWs.)
Jonah Keller moved to New York City with dreams of becoming a successful playwright, but, for the time being, lives in a rundown sublet in Bushwick, working extra hours at a restaurant only to barely make rent. When he stumbles upon a photo of Richard Shriver—the glamorous Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and quite possibly the stepping stone to the fame he craves—Jonah orchestrates their meeting. The two begin a hungry, passionate affair.
When summer arrives, Richard invites his young lover for a spell at his sprawling estate in the Hamptons. A tall iron fence surrounds the idyllic compound where Richard and a few of his close artist friends entertain, have lavish dinners, and—Jonah can’t help but notice—employ a waitstaff of young, attractive gay men, many of whom sport ugly bruises. Soon, Jonah is cast out of Richard’s good graces and a sinister underlay begins to emerge. As a series of transgressions lead inexorably to a violent climax, Jonah hurtles toward a decisive revenge that will shape the rest of his life.
Today on the site we welcome Vanessa North to share the cover of her upcoming gay romance (and first in over two years), The Reality of Us, which releases on August 10, 2021! Here’s the story:
The reality of Alden…
Arrogant. Aloof. Argumentative. Antagonistic. Angry. Alden Kaufman is many things, and none of them are nice. Trauma has left him deeply scarred and incapable of easy friendships. He doesn’t know how to let anyone past his walls, and he doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble.
The reality of Kit…
Everybody’s best friend, nobody’s boyfriend. In spite of a lifestyle that doesn’t invite attachments, Kit Taylor gets along with everyone he meets—except Alden. He can’t entice his prickly co-worker out of his shell, and has given up on trying.
The Reality of Us…
Two men at odds with themselves and each other embark on what should be a simple team-building exercise, but nothing goes as planned. Unexpected intimacy and a freak accident leave Kit and Alden dependent on each other long after they leave the mountain behind. Now they have a choice—to continue as they’ve been, or trust a shaky new reality together.
And here’s the oh-so-romantic cover, illustrated by Vic Gray/Bloodwrit!
I’m asked often for fiction that deals with recovery, and I haven’t had many recs to offer; it’s not rep to take lightly. So when Gideon E. Wood approached me with a guest post about exactly that, tied to the release of his brand-new fantasy, The Stagsblood Prince, I jumped at it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Before we get to the post, here’s a little more about The Stagsblood Prince, a gay fantasy epic trilogy opener set in a homophobia-free world:
Tel, handsome crown prince of Feigh, has negotiated an end to the war between his country and the strange queendom of Omela. He looks forward to an easy reign of wild parties and wilder men. The deities have other ideas, however, in this gay fantasy novel of transformation, redemption, and love.
When his father dies suddenly, Tel is outmaneuvered by his brother, losing the throne. Tel’s faith prohibits him from raising his sword and spilling blood, so he accepts the humiliation, working to temper his brother’s baser impulses. But the new king’s reign takes a dark turn, and his collaborators begin to round up undesirables, including those with a magic called the stagsblood.
Tel must decide: Flee or fight? Running means abandoning his people to his brother’s evil whims. Standing his ground means the sin of total war. He has no army and only a few allies—and his magical secret.
Caip, his closest friend and protector, brings military experience and blunt advice. Her right hand, Dar, is the picture of loyalty. Tough, battle-scarred Bin doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And Vared, a mysterious singer-turned-diplomat from Omela, speaks the truth to Tel in ways no one else can.
White. American. Cisgender. Male. Gay. Queer, in my more festive moments. Writer. Progressive. Cat dad. Frequent smirker. Fallen vegan. I suppose I could sit here for hours bullet-pointing my identity. With enough thought, I could get incredibly granular about it. It might even be fun. But there’s one aspect of my identity—one bullet point—before which I put all others: I’m a person in addiction recovery. If I want to be a shade more clinical about it (and why not?), I’m a person with substance use disorder in sustained remission. Fancy!
My understanding of how addiction works (booze and powder cocaine, primarily, if you must know) forces me to—mindfully and regularly—own my recovery before any other aspect of my identity. I drank-and-used myself into homelessness and suicidality, so it is quite literally a matter of life and death for me. So, more than I ponder my race and what it means, more than I ponder my nationality and what it means, more than I ponder even my dude-on-dudeness and what it means, I must ponder my addiction and what it means. This approach has served me well over the last (oh, my gods!) decade, so I have no interest in switching it up. I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to use. I don’t want to die.
When you think about our expanding string of letters (LGBTQ+ is not really an acronym, let alone LGBTQQIP2SAA+…don’t get me started), I’d ask you to imagine a superscript lowercase r—for recovering or recovery available—attached to each. We’re here. We’re queer (or whathaveyou). Even within our community, we are not yet used to it. I find this shocking.
If we take a few minutes to consider it, most of us will intuitively understand that substance use disorder runs rampant through our private and public LGBTQ+ spaces. If your own anecdotal evidence fails to convince you (and good on ya for that, really), rest assured: the research has been done. Among others, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) acknowledge significantly higher rates of substance use disorder in the LGBTQ+ population. The reasons for this prevalence are probably self-evident: trauma, rejection, domestic strife, stigma, the risk of assault, and so on. And it’s not only addiction. These factors seem to increase risk for all manner of mental or behavioral health difficulties for us. Sadly, the science has also found serious gaps in treatment and support services for our community.
Most of us already believe representation matters. Again, the evidence is there, both anecdotally and in the research. Visibility improves our physical and mental safety, along with our feelings of wellbeing. Whatever our place in our long string of letters, our stories are not told frequently enough. In recent years, we have seen improvement on that front. We are raising our voices, finally. And some are learning to listen.
But where’s my lowercase r? Where’s the representation of queer addiction and—even more importantly, I’d argue—queer recovery? Both our guts and our sociology tell us we should be seeing those stories more than we do. We should be hearing those voices begin to rise. They are there, if we really search and listen, but they are few and far between. When I do encounter them, they tend to be in memoir or narrative nonfiction, and usually depictions of folks in the thick of it. What about after the thick of it? Especially in fiction. And I’m sorry, but I was a mess for a really long time, then I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and all was well does not cut this particular mustard. As we say in recovery circles, we don’t wander into the dark heart of the wilderness for twenty years and then find ourselves safe and comfy at home the moment after we’ve realized we’re lost. It takes time. It takes work. It’s a hike. (Incidentally, I’m sure these stories are out there somewhere, so get in touch! I anxiously await your recs.)
I write fantasy with LGBTQ+ characters. When planning my debut, The Stagsblood Prince, I knew I wanted my main character to represent not just queerness but queerness in motion from active addiction to sustained recovery. Fantasy may not seem like a natural fit for such storytelling, but like all other human foibles and frailties, addiction and recovery are highlighted and brought into crisp relief when placed before a fantastical backdrop of myth and magic.
In fact, the genre may be more suited than most to lift these stories up. I had my own path to putting down substances and my own path to not picking those substances back up for a long while now. There are as many of these roadways as there are people in recovery. My approach may not work for you. We’ve found no silver bullets in the mountain of strategies, but plenty of overlap. Commonalities—shared principles—can be found among the many and varied recovery schools of thought.
Prince Tel of The Stagsblood Prince cannot walk into a Twelve Step meeting or secular support group. Such spaces do not exist in his world. He can’t Zoom with his therapist. There is no Zoom. There are no therapists. He has no psychopharmacology of which to avail himself. Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, hospitalization? Nope.
What, then, can Prince Tel do? He can learn to practice the principles of treatment and recovery which keep millions of people (the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services says it’s about 23.5 million in the US alone) away from substances here on non-fantasy earth. Tel can tend to his physical, mental, and spiritual health in myriad ways. He can foster habitual gratitude. He can strive for honesty in all matters. He can lessen his burdens by sharing his struggles with others. He can interrogate himself and uncover the flawed thinking at the heart of his troubles. Most importantly, he can learn to ask for help when he needs it. And he’ll need it! He’s got love to find and a world in need of saving.
First and foremost, I hope The Stagsblood Prince entertains. As I see it, that’s my job. In my wilder dreams, though, at least one of you will see yourself represented in Tel and his journey. If you’re finding your use of alcohol or other substances problematic today, maybe you’ll see that recovery is possible. Believe me, the aforementioned asking for help stuff is powerful medicine. (SAMHSA and NIDA are good starting points for resources. My inbox is also always open.) If you’re already on the road, maybe Tel will keep you walking for a while.
We’re here. We’re queer. We are more likely to find ourselves in addiction. We are just as likely as anyone to recover. It’s well past time to get used to it.
Gideon E. Wood writes gay fantasy fiction. He has been proudly clean and sober since 2011. Second chances and transformation are at the heart of his work. Gideon lives in New England with his cat but thinks it’s important you know he isn’t a cat person.