Today I am so pleased to welcome Brandon Witt to Joyfully Jay. Brandon has come to talk to us about his upcoming release, The Imperfection of Swans. He has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a giveaway.Br Please join me in giving Brandon a big welcome!
When going for a dream, there’s always that moment. That instant you decide to leap, leaving everything else behind, including safety and security. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new job, writing career, or a budding romance. You can’t get to the beautiful aspects of life without risking it all.
That is a common theme in The Imperfection of Swans. A theme that came quite naturally in this instance. The cover boy of this novel is my best friend, Kevin, and he has long dreamed of leaving his high profile job and opening a wedding dress shop. His best friend, me, has long dreamed of doing nothing other than writing full time. Both of those things require risk. Kevin throwing away his established and respected career, me turning my back on 15 years in the classroom, retirement, and a dependable paycheck. Throw love in the mix? Then you truly are risking it all—heart, mind, and soul.
The timing of this theme was perfect. This was the first novel I wrote after leaving teaching, knowing that everything hung in the balance (still does). It was the ideal time to write a story about two men risking everything they have for their dreams, and ultimately, each other.
The Imperfection of Swans, which is up for Pre-Order, and is being released on January 18th, captures the ups and downs, the fears and joys, and the heartbeat of life that comes when fighting for your dreams and falling in love.
Let me set the scene a bit, if you don’t mind.
Kevin is purchasing a Brownstone in Boston for his wedding dress shop, and met Casper the night before at a party. Through serendipitous events, Casper is a chef and is longing to open his own bakery. Kevin has more space than he can use and a higher mortgage than he can pay on his own. It’s a win-win to open a shop that is a wedding dress/wedding cake combo. This scene is the first time Casper gets to see into the space that has been in his dreams.
(I’m including a photo I took when I visited my boyfriend in Boston a week before writing this scene. This Brownstone started it all.)
The Christmas lights up and down Tremont made waiting in the freezing cold somewhat more bearable. With the holiday a little more than a week away, Casper felt like the universe was giving him the biggest Christmas present of all time. Removing a glove, he placed his hand on the front door, as if feeling for a heartbeat. He swore he could almost sense one.
A part of his mind warned about counting chickens and carts before horses, but that voice was easy to push aside. This was right. He could feel it. And, honestly, even if it weren’t, he was already set on the idea. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours, and the change had already happened. Trying to get through his shift at Savor, he felt like he was in someone else’s house. He didn’t belong there anymore. When he received Kevin’s voice mail asking if he’d like to see inside the building, Casper didn’t wait more than a moment before feigning sudden sickness and dashing out the door. It didn’t matter if anyone believed him or not. He was realistic enough to know that somehow the whole thing might fall through. Kevin might change his mind about having another business in his store, or not get the loan. If that happened, Casper would go it on his own. Sure, it wouldn’t be in a historic brownstone, but the time had come.
He stroked the copper-green facade lovingly. It wasn’t going to be an issue. He belonged to this place. He just did.
A labored breath sounded behind him. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” Casper turned to see Kevin jogging the last few feet toward him.
“I was doing cardio when I got your text. I didn’t think about you leaving right then.” He wiped at the sweat on his forehead. “I had to get at least another twenty minutes in.”
It took a few seconds for Casper to respond. Kevin was even more attractive than the night before, though Casper didn’t know how that was possible. But here, bundled up for the weather, cheeks flushed and eyes excited, Kevin positively glowed. Though handsome, there was also a child’s exuberance about him.
Knock it off. There is no chance for romance here. This is going to be a business relationship, Casper berated himself mentally. Like Kevin would look twice at him, even if there wasn’t the brownstone.
“Well, let’s go in and get out of this cold.” Kevin stepped past him, reached for the lockbox hanging from the door handle, and tapped in a four- number code.
“I was wondering about that on the way down. If you haven’t closed on the loan yet, how are we able to get inside?”
“My mom’s a real-estate agent. She gave me the code.” Sliding the key free, Kevin cringed sheepishly. “Not exactly legal.”
“Works for me.”
With two turns of the locks, they were inside.
Pitch-blackness gave way as Kevin flipped on a switch and illuminated eight lightbulbs that hung at even intervals from the ceiling.
Casper let out a nearly orgasmic groan. After walking a few more steps into the space, he slowly turned around. The double-level room was nearly palatial. The wall of aged windows that opened out to Tremont was indeed covered in black paper, but it didn’t hinder Casper’s view. He could see it all clearly. The windows would look like the framing of a Christmas card—the lights and streetlamps glowing against the snow, the performing arts complex across the street, expensive and beautiful. He could even make out part of the painted green carved wooden beams that made up the exterior entrance.
Still moving in a slow circle, Casper took in the rest of the room.
The wood floors were scratched and dull but looked to be strong and in good shape. Water stains covered the walls, plaster and drywall crumbling in places, but they seemed structurally sound, as far as a baker could tell, at any rate. The room was empty, save for piles of trash here and there. “This is in a lot better shape than you implied yesterday. This could be gorgeous. Kind of already is. I can totally see a wedding dress store in here.”
Kevin beamed. “Yeah. It’s going to be beautiful. I’m glad you don’t think it’s too beat-up. It looks pretty bad to me, but nothing compared to what you’ll see next.” He pointed to the copper-hued ceiling.
Casper followed the motion. “Holy shit. Are those tin ceilings?”
“Well that wasn’t what I meant, but yes. Although, they’re so tarnished, I’m not sure if it will be more cost effective to repair them or just cover them up with a false ceiling.”
“Are you—” He cut himself off. Probably not a good idea to ask if the guy were insane. This wasn’t Casper’s building, and he’d soon be renting from this man. You don’t insult the landlord before you’ve even begun. But the idea of getting rid of those ceilings was criminal. “Should we go upstairs?”
“Yeah, this is where we’ll see if you really want to do this.” Kevin moved to the staircase that ran along the left and partially up the back wall until it disappeared into the next floor. “Luckily, all the stairs appear to be in good condition. They need refinishing, but everything seems sturdy.”
Casper shook the banister as he walked up behind Kevin, careful to do so without him noticing. Sure enough, the thick mahogany didn’t budge. At the top of the stairs, Kevin flipped another light switch, and it took a few moments for Casper to see the room past the mounds of garbage and disgusting furniture that filled the space. “So… this is where the bakery would be?”
“Yeah. Told you it was bad.” Kevin had an anxious tone behind his words.
Casper walked around, stepping over the messes. Once he was able to ignore the filth, his excitement returned, growing even more strongly. The layout was exactly the same footage as the first floor and had a set of three long windows that matched the two sets below. Again, from what he could tell, the floor seemed in decent shape, safe at least. He looked up, and his heart leapt. Tin ceilings! Granted, in worse shape than below, but still. Maybe he could talk Kevin into leaving them alone up here.
“I love it.”
Kevin blanched. “Seriously? You’re okay with this?”
Casper continued to take in the space instead of addressing Kevin directly. “Yeah. The bones are classic, and with a little elbow grease, it will be amazing.” He glanced at Kevin in time to catch the disbelieving expression on his face. “Okay, a lot of elbow grease.” He pushed a mildew-ridden couch a few inches with his foot. The wood floor underneath still looked new. “You said this was some old lady’s apartment? How did she live like this?”
“No idea. It’s disgusting.”
“Did she die up here?”
Kevin laughed. “Smells like it!”
He wasn’t sure how he’d missed it. Well, yes, he was, the place was trashed. Over in the far right corner was a horrible refrigerator and oven. “Oh, look at that. Although I guess since she lived up here, that makes sense. I’d wondered how much trouble it was going to be to get the equipment I’ll need installed.”
Kevin carefully made his way over to the fridge. “You’ll probably hate me for doing this to you.” With an evil grin visible on his face before he covered it with his hand, he opened the door.
The instant stench nearly caused Casper to gag. “Oh my God, shut it! Shut it!” He quickly covered his own mouth.
Laughing, Kevin obliged, then hurried across the room, nearly tripping on something sticking out from a pile of garbage.
Casper took a shallow breath, careful to breathe through his mouth. “At least we know where that smell was coming from.”
“Yeah, that’s gotta go.”
“You think?” Casper adjusted his glasses, almost surprised they weren’t fogged over from the stench. “I’m sure we’ll have to update the electric and gas lines, but at least we know the cooking equipment can be up here. Although I’m certain getting them up to code won’t be cheap.”
“Oh, that’s an expense I hadn’t thought of.” Kevin let out a sigh that was tinged with panic. “I bet that’s a sensation I’d better start getting used to.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll help cover stuff like that, especially when it comes to things for the bakery.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that, not as a renter.”
“Actually you probably can. I bet that’s what most businesses do down here. I’d also bet none of these businesses own their buildings. They all rent, and they all have to pay for whatever updates and changes they want on their own.”
Kevin looked uncomfortable at the idea.
Casper’s heart sank suddenly. How he’d not thought about it yet was insane, despite his excitement. “However, there is one thing we need to look into before we go further. We’ve got to find out how this place is zoned. Having a bakery here might not be a possibility.”
“No. We’re good. As soon as I brought up the idea of having you rent this floor, that was the first thing Mom checked on. One of the benefits of opening a business on this street. No worries as long as we get all of our business licenses and pass inspections and such.”
“Good. That’s awesome.” Again. Fate. All falling into place. The smell was beginning to dissipate, and Casper began to breathe a little easier. “While we’re on that topic, can I ask you a personal question? You can tell me if it’s none of my business.”
“Sure. Go for it.”
“I’m certain you’re in a higher position at the ad agency than Brent, but unless you own it, I can’t fathom how you’re buying this place instead of renting. Or are you some type of Boston royalty?”
“Hardly royalty, but yes, I’m sure I make more than Brent. I’ve been in the business longer than he has and—”
“Brent’s not actually my boyfriend. We’ve gone on a few dates, if you can call them that, and hook up every once in a while, but definitely not boyfriends. I’m not sure where that came from last night….” Casper’s voice trailed off. He’d not meant to say that.
Kevin didn’t seem to know what to do with the information either. “Well, that’s fine. Either way. I can’t say I’m surprised. He’s talked about his boyfriend for a while now. I think we were just surprised you existed at all, regardless of how you define it. The idea of Brent actually having a boyfriend….” Kevin’s face flushed. “Sorry, I don’t mean to judge.”
“I’m the one who brought it up. Sorry.” Casper ran his fingers through his hair, feeling it op back down. “So, you were saying….”
“Right. Well, several members of my family are taking out loans and combining with what I’ve saved in order to make a down payment large enough to qualify for the loan. They will all be owners as well.” He paused and looked at Casper as if waiting to see if that was a problem.
It wasn’t. Casper couldn’t imagine anything that would make him back out now. His mind was already clearing out the trash, buying equipment, and filling the building with the aroma of never-ending cakes.
Kevin Bivanti’s dream is to open a wedding dress shop, a place with the stunning gowns to make every bride-to-be feel adored. At thirty-eight, he quits a successful advertising career to buy an old brownstone in a trendy Boston neighborhood and to make his dream a reality. When one of his cosigners drops out, fate intervenes, ushering in Casper James, who hopes to open his own bakery. With Casper willing to take the risk, their ambitions meld into a wedding dress and wedding cake boutique.
Extensive renovations to the brownstone, an affair with his ex-husband, family drama with his mothers, and the anxiety of significant life changes push Kevin to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In the midst of stress and uncertainty, Casper becomes more than a business partner, a mutual attraction that adds another layer of intensity and risk.
With their dreams on the verge of reality, Kevin and Casper must find the courage to face the stress of managing their attraction, the gamble of a new business venture, and the resurgence of Kevin’s personal demons.
Buy link: Dreamspinner Press
Brandon Witt’s outlook on life is greatly impacted by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he’s got plenty to write about….
Brandon has brought two books from his backlist to give away to two lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, January 18th at 11:59 pm EST.
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