Today I am so pleased to welcome Amy Jo Cousins to Joyfully Jay. Amy Jo has come to talk to us about her latest release, Real World (the latest in her Bend or Break series). She has also brought along a copy to give away! Please join me in giving Amy Jo a big welcome!
Friends Are The Family We Choose
I’ve lived my whole life in the middle of large groups of friends that feel like family to me. People come and sometimes they go. Often, they come back again and it is as if no time has passed. Some of the friends become lovers, and then friends again. At the heart of these friendships is the caretaking, the laughter, the joy in finding those whose weirdness matches my own. It’s the only way I know how to live, and almost always bleeds into my writing. My Bend or Break series is all about these kinds of friendships.
When I read, I’m also drawn to these kinds of tightly knit circles of friends. I’m a sucker for a series to start with, but when I get to see my early favorite couples moving further down the road of their HEA while I read about a new couple I’ve been dying to know better? Perfection. These are some of my favorite series that hit the “big band of friends” button for me just right.
ZA Maxfield’s ST. NACHO books were some of the earliest m/m romances I glommed in speedy fashion. I loved the idea of this town, Santo Ignacio, that drew people to stay, even those who might never be one hundred percent happy there. The locals’ passion for preserving the quirkiness of their town is charming, but the issues Maxfield deals with—deafness, domestic violence, major injury, family rejection, drunk driving—aren’t easy to read about. I loved these books for all of their angst and hope, though.
KJ Charles’s newest series about the Ricardians, a group of gay men in Regency England who protect each other socially and politically, is absolutely fascinating. The short story “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” first mesmerized me when it was in the Another Place in Time charity anthology. (It’s since been released as a standalone.) A FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE was brilliant in its ability to turn a story that seems to be about a man who cares more about fashion than anything deeper into a serious and political story that moved me. Charles is always brilliant and this series is no exception. I’m dying for the next book to arrive in a couple of weeks.
Kris Ripper’s SCIENTIFIC METHOD series has been one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Kinky, queer, poly, often genderbent, these books have it all. Although focused on a trio of men over the entire arc of the series, there are stories, novellas, and novels about different members of this group of friends, and a surprisingly sweet progression in the main relationship too. I glommed all (approximately) 127 stories in a weekend, I think.
The REAR ENTRANCE VIDEO series from Heidi Belleau is another series that made me happy with its diversity in a cast of college students who share a house together. From the class/race issues in APPLE POLISHER to the genderqueer focus in WALLFLOWER (although the main character’s boyfriend brings an interesting perspective on race in this book too), Belleau crosses a lot of dividing lines. Including the one between het and queer, in STRAIGHT SHOOTER, a very kinky book that is nominally about a straight guy with a heavy humiliation kink about everything gay. By the end of that book, the “straight” guy has redefined himself in a way that doesn’t fall into any Gay For You stereotypes, but manages rather to feel entirely authentic.
BEINGS IN LOVE is a shifter series by R. Cooper. I don’t read a ton of shifter books, but the UST (unresolved sexual tension) in Cooper’s books is off the charts. They are unputdownable. Most of the books in this series, like Maxfield’s series, take place in one particular town and the nearby city. I love keeping an eye on the secondary characters and trying to figure out who’s going to get a book of their own next. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the fairy who uses they/them pronouns sometime soon…
This next series is me being a total tease. I know. I’m the worst! But Santino Hassell’s FIVE BOROUGHS series is so good. SUTPHIN BOULEVARD was one of my favorite books of the summer this year, and SUNSET PARK, which comes out next month, is even better. I also got an early peek at book three, and I am now unbearably excited for all of these books to come out ASAP. The series bounces all over New York City, from Queens to Brooklyn to the fancy ‘hoods of the venture capitalists, these books are a love story to a city that offers a little bit of everything. And they’re hot as hell, too.
Heidi Cullinan’s LOVE LESSONS series is another favorite. Anchored by a core group of friends who belong to a college a cappella group, I was excited to hear that this series isn’t going to be exclusively m/m, but will include a f/f story too. Every time a series I love explores other letters in the LGBTQ spectrum, I am delighted. I know not everyone is a fan, but I really love reading books that reflect the world and the community I live in, where all kinds of people make new families for themselves together.
So, readers, give me your recs! What are your favorite romance series about friends and extended families? One commenter will win an ebook of REAL WORLD, with Tom and Reese and their family of friends!
When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.
Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.
Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.
At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.
Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.
Amy Jo has brought a copy of Real World to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, November 20th at 11:59 pm EST.
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