Today I am so pleased to welcome Laura Kaye to Joyfully Jay. Laura has come to talk to us about her latest release, Hard to Be Good (which I reviewed a while back and really enjoyed). She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a fabulous giveaway! Please join me in giving Laura a big welcome!
I’m celebrating the release of Hard to Be Good, the fifth book in my Hard Ink romantic suspense series, and I’m super excited to be here! The Hard Ink series follows the surviving members of an Army Special Forces team as they investigate the conspiracy that got them discharged from the military and seek to clear their names. Hard to Be Good is a friends-to-lovers and opposites-attract story about Jeremy Rixey, a sexy, outgoing, playful tattoo shop owner and Charlie Merritt, a shy computer consultant who was recently rescued from a kidnapping. Hard to Be Good is also a gay romance, and the first such story in the Hard Ink series.
Jeremy and Charlie meet in book one, when an injured Charlie is brought to the Hard Ink tattoo building and Jeremy assists in nursing him back to health. From there, their friendship grew over the following books in the series. As the two non-military men in the group, they often work together on operational tasks that don’t take them out in the field, and they share both a frustration that they can’t do more and concerns for their siblings (Jeremy’s brother is the co-owner of the tattoo shop and the hero from Hard As It Gets, and Charlie’s sister is the heroine from the same). Because Charlie is essentially hiding out from his kidnappers, he has few belongings with him, and so he’s forced to borrow shirts from Jeremy’s infamous dirty T-shirt collection. Their friendship is sweet and funny and tight.
I knew Jeremy was bi-sexual before I wrote the first word of the series. Charlie was a murkier character for me at first. But once I realized he was gay – and that one of his conflicts was that his Army Colonel father – also the SF team’s commander – didn’t accept his homosexuality, I knew Jeremy and Charlie would end up together. So their relationship was just what was right for their characters and came as a natural outgrowth of the deep friendship that develops between them. Sometimes secondary characters become a lot bigger and more awesome than you think and demand their own story, and that was definitely the case for Jeremy and Charlie!
I had a couple of concerns about including a M/M story in an otherwise M/F series. I knew that including a gay romance could be a risk. While I thought most readers would come along for the ride—especially because of how beloved Jeremy’s character has been since the very first book—I suspected that it might alienate some readers and force others outside their comfort zones. (I also saw some of this with the third book in the series, Hard to Hold On To, which involved an interracial romance.) But so far what I’m hearing from readers is that they feel the relationship made sense within the broader series, and I think that’s why most were more than happy to see Jeremy and Charlie find their happily ever after together. I have had some readers let me know they would be skipping this book, which is their right to choose, but it doesn’t make me any less certain that Jeremy and Charlie belonged together. Instead, I’m just really happy that I got to tell their story and include it in the series. And I’m super grateful to the readers for their support!
Another concern I had was to treat the romance and sex scenes in Hard to Be Good exactly the same way I do heterosexual sex scenes. That is, within what are always very explicit scenes, I always try to layer in the physical, emotional, and mental in every sex scene so that they’re (hopefully!) as moving and emotional as they are hot and sexy. I wanted this relationship to be every bit as emotionally fulfilling as every other I’ve written because, in the end, love is love. And it heals and comforts and builds up these guys as much as any of my other characters.
A final concern I had was whether my editor and publisher would support including a gay romance in this series. For one potential issue, the Hard Ink series is contemporary romance or romantic suspense, while most gay romance is (erroneously, in my opinion) categorized as erotic romance even if the story is comparable in every other way to a heterosexual contemporary romance. So I didn’t know if that would pose an issue. However, readers were demanding a story about Jeremy from the very beginning, and I wanted to write it, which meant I needed to be ready to fight for him to have the happy ending I kept seeing him have—with Charlie. It turns out I didn’t need to fight at all. My editor was immediately supportive of the idea, as the publisher as a whole has been. I was especially proud when they didn’t shy away from representing the romance on the cover, too. So that’s been a really rewarding part of working on Hard to Be Good, as well.
Overall, the experience of writing Hard to Be Good and sharing it with my readers has been amazing, and I would do it all over again. In the future, I would absolutely include a gay romance in another heterosexual series if it made sense for the characters or even consider writing a specifically gay romance series. To me, love is love, and I want to be a part of celebrating it in all its forms.
Thanks for reading!
“I want you,” Jeremy said, claiming Charlie’s mouth for a kiss. He shifted to the edge of the bed and grabbed a condom and the lube from the nightstand, then turned to see Charlie flipping onto his stomach.
Which was when Jeremy realized that wasn’t what he wanted.
“I’ve never bottomed,” Jeremy said. He’d engaged in anal play before, of course, and he’d had one lover who had a big thing for toys, but he’d never been penetrated by another man’s cock. Despite how adventurous Jeremy generally was, he’d never even considered it.
Charlie’s blue-eyed gaze whipped toward where he sat on the edge of the bed, and the blond man smiled. “I figured. And that works out great, because I’ve never topped. Unless you want to count one really awkward attempt with a girl when I was seventeen.”
Jeremy stroked Charlie’s back. His heart raced and his stomach flipped and he was possibly more turned on than he’d ever been in his life, even if he was a little scared—or maybe even because of it. “I was never serious enough about any of the men I saw to give them that part of me.”
“I get it,” Charlie said.
“I am now,” Jeremy said, looking the other man right in the eye.
Charlie went still and his mouth dropped open. Slowly, he shifted into a sitting position. “Jeremy, you don’t have to prove anything to me.”
“No, that’s not what this is about,” Jeremy said, feeling the rightness of the idea down deep. “I’d just like for there to be one person who knows every part of me. And I want that person to be you.”
Hard Ink Tattoo owner Jeremy Rixey has taken on his brother’s stateside fight against the forces that nearly killed Nick and his Special Forces team a year before. Now, Jeremy’s whole world has been turned upside down–not the least of which by a brilliant, quiet blond man who tempts Jeremy to settle down for the first time ever.
Recent kidnapping victim Charlie Merritt has always been better with computers than people, so when he’s drawn into the SF team’s investigation of his army colonel father’s corruption, he’s surprised to find acceptance and friendship–especially since his father never accepted who Charlie was. Even more surprising is the heated tension Charlie feels with sexy, tattooed Jeremy, Charlie’s opposite in almost every way.
With tragedy and chaos all around them, temptation flashes hot, and Jeremy and Charlie can’t help but wonder why they’re trying so hard to be good…
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
Laura has brought a signed copy of Hard to be Good and a Hard Ink swag pack (tote bag, notebook, magnets & more) to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday, May 6th at 11:59 pm EST.
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