Today I am so pleased to welcome Kris Ripper to Joyfully Jay. Kris has come to share an exclusive excerpt from zir latest release, Book Boyfriend. Please join me in giving Kris a big welcome!
God, I wanted to be a fly on the wall in the living room. What were they talking about now? They weren’t as loud and I strained to hear but it was hard to make out whole sentences and arrrrrgh. Maybe someone wanted pasta? I could go in and offer pasta. To book club.
Before I could think too hard about it (surely it was a normal thing? To make food and offer it to people?), I stuck my head out of the kitchen to call a totally normal, casual, Hey, does anyone else want pasta?
Except I hadn’t timed it right. So then I was just…a head in a doorway, facing the group of people, but not part of the group of people, but also awkwardly floating there in space, mouth slightly open, prepared to speak, but not able to, because someone was currently talking about, y’know, the book.
“…way the arc plays out, with all the pining and then the transition to a relationship? I didn’t think it was working for me completely, but by the end I really…” They trailed off and glanced up at me.
Or at my floating head.
The others turned to look at my floating head too.
“PK?” Art asked, looking flushed with wine and laughter, his hair a little mussed like he’d been pushing it back too much. “Do you need something?”
To kiss you, I need to kiss you, please let me kiss you. Oh god, I’d almost said that out loud. I choked for a second, then said, “Pasta.” Right, not a sentence. “Does anyone want any? I’m making some, but it’s too much for me.”
One of them kind of laughed. One of them looked at me with that slightly condescending kindness, like I was a big oaf who just didn’t know any better than to interrupt book club to offer pasta. One of them said, “Hey, have you read this book? It’s really great. You can join us, you know, you don’t have to hide in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, join us,” said the one who’d laughed. “We’ll catch you up!”
“But no spoilers,” said the condescending one.
I really needed to get better at names. “Um.”
“PK doesn’t read romance,” Art told them, in this tone that like…was sort of offensive? He said it like we’d talked about romance and I’d shat on it. Like I’d rolled my eyes at the whole genre, which I very much had never done.
“I’ve read romance!” I immediately defended myself.
He gave me a look. “Kirk/Spock fanfiction doesn’t count.”
The one who’d asked me to join them (Pigtails) turned to Art. “Um, of course it counts. It’s romantic, isn’t it?”
“It’s thinly veiled porn.”
“So? If it’s porn with romance, it’s still romance.” Pigtails stuck their tongue out at Art. “Don’t be judgey.”
“Okay, you make a fair point, I just mean PK wouldn’t read this.”
Which could not be stood for. “I could read that! I don’t not-read romance! I read all your books in college!”
“Yes, you read romance for a month this one time years ago.” Something in his face almost stopped me, like maybe it wasn’t just Art annoyed, there was something almost too exposed in his face just then.
But all his book club people were looking at me, and the gauntlet had been thrown down. I made my way into the living room to better defend myself. “I’m not a snob about romance!”
The one who hadn’t spoken (Locs) held out his copy of the book. “It’s genuinely good. I don’t think you have to be a romance reader to enjoy reading a book about people who care about each other.”
“I don’t think PK is tuned in enough to his feelings to really like this kind of book,” Art was saying as I took it. “No offense, obviously, it’s not like anyone has to be tuned into their feelings, I just think…”
But whatever he thought was lost in the sudden waves-rushing-past-my-ears sound of my heart kicking up to high gear.
Peak Romance by H.K. Pierce. Which was me. Change the initials around, make up a last name. Have yourself a pseudonym.
I was holding my own book.
“Um.” I stood there, mouth dry, staring down at my own freaking book.
“Even the word ‘romance’ is too much for you,” Art teased.
“It’s not!” Heart, stop pounding, I can’t think. “Um.” What do you do when someone hands you a book? Um. Right. I flipped it open and scanned a random page.
The way he looked at me in that moment, like I was all the colors in the dawn sky, like he could see everything about me and loved me anyway… I couldn’t breathe. Then he pressed his lips—
I shut the book fast and handed it back to Locs. “Looks good,” I said weakly, my legs feeling wobbly beneath me. “I’ll, um, borrow Art’s copy.”
“Let me guess,” said the slightly condescending one (Buzz Cut). “You read hard SF, right? Or no, only nonfiction, because you ‘can’t get into fiction.’” She said it like she was quoting someone.
“He’s not one of those,” Art said. “He just doesn’t read romance.”
“Except Kirk/Spock, which counts,” Pigtails added.
“I don’t… I mean, I went through a Kirk/Spock phase, but it’s not like I…” Words were hard. Sentences were hard. How had I managed to write an entire book? I stared at the ARC in Art’s hand, where he was holding it with his thumb in the middle, like he’d picked out a part he especially liked. In the middle, ish, but toward the back…what scene was that? I tried to memorize the exact place so I could look for it later.
“I think your water’s boiling, hun,” Locs told me, kinda gently, like he was giving me an out.
“Oh. Right. Thanks.” I could not stop staring at the words Peak Romance on the book Art was holding. He was in love with my book? My book? The book I’d written? The book I’d written about him?
Not really, not totally, but a little? A little about him. And me. And us. And romance. And…
And he thought I thought I was too good to read a book like that. A book like the one I had literally written?
For this one wild second I thought about saying it. Coming out with it. Right there in the middle of book club. “Actually, I’ve read this book. A few times now. Because I wrote it.” Just to see what would happen.
But I couldn’t. I could not. I should not. They would laugh. Or they wouldn’t believe me. Or they’d think it was a joke. And then I’d just be one more person who took something that was important to Art and hijacked it for my own. I refused to be that guy.
Oh, also, it was terrifying to even think I wrote it, so there was no freaking way I’d be able to say it, not in front of all these people. Not when only one of them was the person I needed to tell, and definitely not like this.
“PK.” Art’s voice.
I dragged my gaze from the book to his face.
“I can hear the lid of the pot, like, flipping out because the water’s boiling.”
“Oh. Right. Yeah. Got it.” And I did. I backed out of the living room and went to the kitchen and turned the burner off.
And stood there.
In front of boiled water and a box of pasta I no longer wanted to eat.
Art was in love with my book.
The character I’d come up with to prove that I could be romantic, that I understood how to do that. He was in love. With the thing that I wrote to prove I could do love. The thing I wrote to prove I could do love with him. And he loved it.
A secret crush leads to a not-so-secret romance in this delightful romantic comedy from Kris Ripper
There are three things you need to know about Preston “PK” Harrington the third:
- He’s a writer, toiling in obscurity as an editorial assistant at a New York City publishing house.
- He is not a cliché. No, really.
- He’s been secretly in love with his best friend, Art, since they once drunkenly kissed in college.
When Art moves in with PK following a bad breakup, PK hopes this will be the moment when Art finally sees him as more than a friend. But Art seems to laugh off the very idea of them in a relationship, so PK returns to his writing roots—in fiction, he can say all the things he can’t say out loud.
In his book, PK can be the perfect boyfriend.
Before long, it seems like the whole world has a crush on the fictionalized version of him, including Art, who has no idea that the hot new book everyone’s talking about is PK’s story. But when his brilliant plan to win Art over backfires, PK might lose not just his fantasy book boyfriend, but his best friend.
Carina Adores is home to romantic love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.
Also from Kris Ripper:
The Love Study
Book 1: The Love Study
Book 2: The Hate Project
Book 3: The Life Revamp
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and zir pronouns are ze/zir. Kris shares a converted garage with a kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.