Today I am so pleased to welcome Leta Blake to Joyfully Jay. Leta has come to talk to us about her latest release, The River Leith. I reviewed this book last week and totally adored it. She has also brought along a copy of the book to give away! Please join me in giving Leta big welcome!
Let’s talk about squicks, baby! First, let me assure you that my latest book, The River Leith, probably doesn’t have anything in it that will squick you out. I say “probably” because, well, I have a friend who is majorly squicked by anything to do with amnesia. Apparently she watched a Fraggle Rock episode as a child that featured amnesia and was so emotionally scarred by it that she just can’t handle amnesia of any kind, in any way, in tv, books, or movies. So, yes, she can’t read The River Leith, obviously, since it’s about a boxer with amnesia and his forgotten vlogger boyfriend.
Anyway, thinking about that reminded me of squicks and how individual they are. For example, I just came across a discussion on Facebook about m-preg and how the, oh, twenty people participating in the conversation are oh-so-grossed-out by it. But when I was at Rainbow Con, there was a panel discussion where a publisher admitted they were looking for m-pregs because they apparently sell like hotcakes on Sunday morning after a football game when everyone needs to drown the taste of victory and/or defeat in maple syrup and carbs. So…you know, despite the extreme hatred of that trope in some quarters, there are a great number of folks who apparently love m-preg. Who knew?
Uh, there is no m-preg in The River Leith. Just to be clear.
I sat on the Taboos in Romance and Erotica panel at Rainbow Con and was surprised, yet again, at how I am not at all squicked out or even ruffled by a lot of things that really gets other people up in arms: fully-shifted shifters having sex, m-preg, tentacles, slave fiction, even rape or dubious-consent stories. However, I am absolutely and utterly unable to deal with emotional affairs in a book. Like, seriously, I want to shake off the sickness that descends on me when I read about affairs. In fact, I had to DNF a book just a few weeks ago because of a surprise!affair storyline. I just can’t stomach it. It’s not something I can really forgive either character for. Remember when The English Patient was considered the epitome of romance? Uh, NO BECAUSE SHE WAS MARRIED OMG. *shudders*
Uh, not to disparage anyone else’s love of The English Patient or affair stories. Please, feel free to love them forever. I mean, that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about today—how everyone’s different and everyone has different things that gross them out. It’s kind of amazing and fascinating, isn’t it? How we are so individual and unique even in these ways? Do you have any strange squicks? Or are there things that other people seem to get completely up-in-arms about but you really can’t be bothered to be disturbed, or maybe you even (not-so) secretly think that thing is hawt?
In The River Leith there are no tentacles, no slavery, no dub-con, no kink of any kind what-so-ever. Unless you consider an amnesiac who has to learn all the things anew to be a kink, and I’m fine with that if you do. Because it’s kinda, whew, sexy, I gotta admit. Ahem. But, seriously, why am I talking to you about squicks today? I guess because I keep thinking about them. I’ve seen so many examples since the panel at Rainbow Con of how we’re all so different. For example, my friend with her amnesia squick! I mean, who would imagine that would be an issue?
Having said all of that, now allow me to present a probably not-at-all squicky-unless-you-share-my-friend’s-horror-of-amnesia excerpt from The River Leith in which poor Zach, forgotten by the love of his life, has just met Leith again for the second first time:
“Zach,” Leith said, turning and looking him in the eye. “You asked if there was anything else you could bring me.”
“Yes.” Zach leaned forward. “Anything.”
“Can you bring some photos?”
“Of your father?”
“Yes, and some from my life these last three years or so? I got a card from a girl. Naomi? An ex-girlfriend, Arthur said. I don’t even know what she looks like. Maybe if I saw her picture…”
Zach pressed his lips together and nodded slowly, his eyes flickering. “Sure. I’ll bring them tomorrow.”
Zach’s eyes made Leith think again of the kinglet’s wings as they’d shimmered in the sunlight. “Thanks.” The air in the room felt heavy. He grabbed the item on top of the basket, keeping his tone light. “This is the cheese I want to marry, huh?”
Standing up, Zach clapped his hands lightly in an almost effeminate manner, and the sound broke the moment. The question seemed to bring about a change in Zach, who said, “Yes, it’s your true love. Or so you declared to me a few months ago.”
Zach’s eyes smiled, filled with amused affection. Leith liked it. He wondered what he could say to make Zach smile like that again. It looked much better on him than the tense sadness he’d come in wearing. Then, just as suddenly, the smile was gone.
“I guess I should leave now.”
Leith’s surprise must have shown on his face. “But you just got here.” And I was just starting to feel comfortable with you.
“I wish I could stay, but I…really can’t.”
“You don’t want to share this cheese?”
“Polyamory was never your style,” Zach countered, and then smiled warmly again.
His teeth were very white, and his lips a reddish pink. Leith thought Zach came across as a little prissy, a little uptight, but something about it made him feel like laughing inside. He must have found him amusing before. Obviously, or else they wouldn’t be best friends.
“The thing is, I have a business to run,” Zach went on. “Unfortunately I need to go.”
“What kind of business?”
“Oh, my brother owns a bar. On Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Or so he tells me. Supposedly I used to work—” Leith let the sentence hang. “Right, so you know that, don’t you?”
Zach spun around, moving the chair back into its original position. But Leith had seen his face twist like he was fighting tears.
He faced Leith again. “Believe it or not it’s the same bar. Arthur’s my business partner. I’ll tell you all about it another day, okay? The doctors say it’s time to start introducing you to some of your history, now that you’ve dealt with—” Zach stopped short.
“My father’s death?”
“It takes some time.”
“Time!” Leith said, and threw his hands up.
“Yes.” Zach stiffly lifted his right hand in a flat-palmed wave. “Well, see you.”
Zach nodded, smiling softly. “Sure, if you want.”
“You’ll bring pictures?”
“Sure.” Zach stood there a long moment, and then turned.
Leith noticed there were multiple decorative zippers on the back pockets of Zach’s jeans, drawing attention to his ass. When Zach looked back at the door, Leith jerked his head up.
“All right then. Goodbye.” Zach’s voice was tight, and he seemed as tense as he’d been when he came in.
Leith remembered what Arthur had said, and he called out just as Zach’s hand touched the door knob. “Zach?
When Zach turned, his eyes were a hot green, and his lips trembled a little. “Yes?”
“Hey, uh, before you leave…?” Leith held out his arm to indicate the offer of a hug.
Zach hesitated, lower lip in his teeth, but then crossed over to Leith solemnly. When Zach bent down to hug him, Leith felt him relax in his arms. Leith closed his eyes, surprised when his left hand cupped the back of Zach’s neck in an unplanned motion, his fingers tracing the soft hair there. He took a deep breath. A sweet, spicy scent filled his lungs, and suddenly he was warm all over. His heart jolted. He’d smelled that before. Somewhere. He took another deep breath.
“Don’t forget—I’m not going anywhere,” Zach whispered fiercely.
“I thought you were going to work,” Leith whispered, turning his face toward Zach’s ear, having an odd urge to taste the cologne he smelled.
Zach pulled away, his eyes laughing. “You always think you’re so funny, don’t you?”
For a moment Leith thought something else was about to happen, something that made him lick his lips and hold his breath. But then it passed, and he felt like he’d missed something important.
Zach grabbed a piece of the bread. “You don’t mind sharing?”
Leith was tempted to grab it back, thinking that somehow that would be the right thing to do, but he simply shrugged.
“See you tomorrow, Leith.”
“See you.” Leith said, watching the door shut behind Zach. He smelled his fingers. The sweet-spicy scent of Zach’s cologne clung to them, and deep inside his brain something stirred. It made him jumpy; like there was an itch in there he simply couldn’t scratch.
Memory is everything.
After an injury in the ring, amateur boxer Leith Wenz wakes to discover his most recent memories are three years out of date. Unmoored and struggling to face his new reality, Leith must cope anew with painful revelations about his family. His brother is there to support him, but it’s the unfamiliar face of Zach, a man introduced as his best friend, that provides the calm he craves. Until Zach’s presence begins to stir up feelings Leith can’t explain.
For Zach, being forgotten by his lover is excruciating. He carefully hides the truth from Leith to protect them both from additional pain. His bottled-up turmoil finds release through vlogging, where he confesses his fears and grief to the faceless Internet. But after Leith begins to open up to him, Zach’s choices may come back to haunt him.
Ultimately, Leith must ask his heart the questions memory can no longer answer.
While Leta Blake would love to tell you that writing transports her to worlds of magic and wonder and then safely returns her to a home of sparkling cleanliness and carefully folded laundry, the reality is a bit different. Instead, piles of laundry and forgotten appointments haunt her life, but the joy of writing and the thrill of finishing a book make the everyday chaos all worth it.
Leta’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively, but her passion has always been in writing, and she most enjoys crafting romance stories that she would like to read. At her home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.
Leta has brought a copy of The River Leith to give away to one lucky reader. She will give readers choice of ebook (US or international) or paperback (US only). Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, June 16th at 11:59 pm EST.
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