Hello everyone! We’re thrilled to welcome Pene Henson, on From Top to Bottom Reviews today! She is one of five authors featured in the If the Fates Allow anthology from Interlude Press. There is a guest post, an excerpt and a giveaway waiting for you below!
Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer: Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand. Featuring the characters from Lunch With the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette.
True North by Pene Henson: Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.
Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan: As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.
Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne: Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.
Shelved by Lynn Charles: When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.
ALL THESE QUEER FOLK
I live in a queer friendly neighbourhood in a queer friendly city. Most days my little yellow house holds my wife and me and our two kids. But my broader community is lesbians, gay men, bi people of all genders, panromantic demisexuals, straight allies who march for equality. It’s hairy trans guys, enby folk, and cis butch girls. It’s kinky femmes, party boys, and stay at home lesbian mums. It’s impressive queer community leaders who are changing the world and everyday gays whose ordinary existence is political.
Queer bonds are deeply important to queer people. These bonds allow us to live with being outsiders, and combat the fact that we’re surrounded by the assumption of straight sexuality. These bonds remind us that we are not a problem, not a mistake, but are a delightful and complex community.
So I’ve been surprised as a writer. Because in the world where I live, queer humans know and support a whole bunch of other queer humans. But in romance novels so often the m/m universe is split quite cleanly from the f/f world.
Of course, people get to read what they want to read. But I’d love readers who read m/m to be aware of the beautiful romances where two women fall for one another and vice versa. The divide can mean that genderqueer and non-binary characters are underrepresented in queer stories. And it conceals the many layers and shades of queer community, the ways friendship and support between queer folk is critical, the way we sometimes need an extended queer family around us.
This divide isn’t everywhere.
YA novels in particular tend to showcase diverse queer folk. To their credit, many YA readers are comfortable with love wherever a character finds it.
One awesome example, CB Lee’s SIDEKICK SQUAD series, starts following bi girl Jess Tran as she falls in love with a female supervillain. The second book which just came out focuses on Bells, a trans guy in the squad. The representation in these books is fabulous. This is the team queer kids need.
And in adult romances there are some great exceptions, book series that show an ever expanding queer universe of romances and friendships.
Michelle Osgood’s wonderful Canadian werewolf series leads with BETTER TO KISS YOU WITH and an f/f couple in the adorable Deanna and Jamie, then moves to fierce pack alpha Kiara and her non-binary partner Ryn. Osgood’s upcoming continuation focuses on an m/m couple within that community.
The SPOTLIGHT series by Lilah Suzanne is set in the sparkling world of country music and moves sweetly and thoughtfully between the diverse queer romances and friendships at its heart.
Elyse Springer has written three stories in her SEASONS OF LOVE series, with a focus on three queer couples who are all linked by their community. Their very different relationships, one character is biromantic asexual, one story explores kink, give a layered notion of queerness.
Lissa Reed’s SUCRE COEUR series is focused around a bakery and delivers comedy and a warm and valuable home community for her queer protagonists as they explore love and living.
Vanessa North’s excellent LAKE LOVELACE series shifts between friends, lovers and a couple of extreme sports, with a focus on very different queer men and women, including an injured wake-boarder and a trans woman competing in roller derby.
IF THE FATES ALLOW is a holiday anthology coming in December. The stories are strong but what excites me most is that this collection shows how diverse queer love stories are. In one book we have five stories, all essentially sweet holiday romances. The ages and genders and interests of these characters don’t overlap. It starts with an established gay relationship between Southern boys, turns focus to new love with a schoolgirl crush in Montana. There’s hope and change for a grieving LA politico, rescue for a puppy and a downhearted woman and new love and matchmaking for a young librarian and her delicious hairdresser uncle.
These people aren’t a natural community. But they become family because they are queer. And queer folk all over will tell you how much that matters.
Milla Dalya. Shay stopped worrying about the crowd of neighbors and her mom introducing Devon as her girlfriend. She stopped breathing too.
“Old crush,” she’d said to Devon in the car. “Nothing important.” That might not have been the whole truth.
For the first six months of high school, Shay had been first on the school bus each morning. Halfway through freshman year Milla and her twin brother Luka and uncle Ilie had moved into the dilapidated horse ranch up the hill. From then on, Milla and Luka were first on the bus; Shay was second. The three of them rode twenty minutes around the mountain before collecting anyone else.
That first frosty day, Milla had smiled at Shay.
“Oh, no,” Shay had thought as she pulled off her thick gloves and shoved them in her backpack. Milla’s smile was sudden and waywardly infectious. It balanced the seriousness of the girl’s pale, freckled face and silvery eyes.
Shay had managed to smile back and sit four seats away. Not too close, not too far. That was the trip to school. On the way home, Milla had asked Shay’s name. By week two they were sitting at the front of the bus sharing Shay’s iPod and a set of earbuds. When the bus swung around the mountain, Shay’s black, puffy jacket pressed against Milla’s sky-blue one.
They weren’t friends exactly. Shay didn’t have friends. She spent any time that wasn’t a class training in the gym or on the football field. She had goals.
Anyway, they’d never shared a class or a lunch break. Milla was a year older and a grade above Shay. She was soft-spoken and horse-mad, but so were lots of girls in Big Timber. She was quickly surrounded by people. Shay understood that. Milla was pretty and seemed easy with herself—graceful. She fit.
They weren’t friends, but however many other kids Milla could have sat with on the bus, she always saved a seat for Shay. They were bus allies. They ignored Luka and his friends and their never-ending noise. With the help of her iPod, Shay took on the development of Milla’s musical palate. Now and then, between Aaliyah and Amerie, Milla talked about her horses and the farm. Shay talked about fishing and basketball.
They weren’t friends, but every time Shay took the court, home or away, she scanned the bleachers to find Milla among the spectators before the starting whistle blew. And most afternoons Shay would run up the hill beside her house, testing herself on its uneven slope. At the top she’d look down on Milla’s blue-roofed farmhouse. Sometimes she’d see Milla walk across to the stables.
She didn’t jog down the hill to visit. It was simply reassuring to see the place, always there under the huge, blue bowl of the sky.
The whole brief time they’d shared here in nowhere, Montana, every single time Shay had seen Milla, it was as if she was the only person in the room.
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(Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of If the Fates Allow // Five winners receive a multi-format eBook)
Other Tour stops to check out:
Killian B. Brewer lives in his life-long home of Georgia with his partner and their dog. He has written poetry and short fiction since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Brewer earned a BA in English and does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He has a love of greasy diner food that borders on obsessive. Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette was published in January, 2017. His debut novel, The Rules of Ever After, is available from Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Her first novel Into the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) received a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance. Her second novel, Storm Season, was published by Interlude Press in 2017.
Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review.
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer from North Carolina, she spends most of her time behind a computer screen, but on the rare occasion she ventures outside she enjoys museums, libraries, live concerts, and quiet walks in the woods. Lilah is the author of the Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and the Amazon bestselling Spotlight series: Broken Records, Burning Tracks and Blended Notes.
Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates to her childhood, when thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and joys poured onto the pages of journals and diaries. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. When she’s not writing, Lynn can be found planning a trip to New York or strolling its streets daydreaming about retirement. Her novel Black Dust (2016) was named a finalist for a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award. Her other novels include Beneath the Stars (2017) and Chef’s Table (2014).