Today I am so pleased to welcome Kelli A. Wilkins to Joyfully Jay. Kelli has come to talk to us about her release, A Thousand Summer Secrets. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


Hi everyone!

My name is Kelli Wilkins and today I’m sharing a bit about my new romance, A Thousand Summer Secrets. This tender contemporary romance takes place over a summer weekend, where two friends reconnect while seeking love and acceptance. 

Before we talk about the book, you might be wondering, what’s a straight woman doing writing gay romances? Well, I’m a writer, and I write in whatever genre the story idea takes me—whether it’s a straight romance, gay romance, mystery, thriller, or sci-fi. 

To date I’ve published more than 20 romances in all genres and all heat levels. Several of my M/F romances feature gay secondary characters who are crucial to the storylines. I loved writing for one secondary character (a gay wrestler) so much that I gave him his own book (A Secret Match) just so I could tell his story. 

A Thousand Summer Secrets is about a young man (Eric) who is trying to put his life back together. He was disowned by his family for being gay (among other reasons) and wants to find out if he can make peace with his relatives, or if it’s best to cut his ties and move on. He’s had a rough life and several bad relationships, and he isn’t sure if he can trust anyone again. 

Eric’s plight is based on stories I’ve heard from gay friends and coworkers over the years. Some people were kicked out by their parents, others were told to stay in the closet and “not embarrass” the family, and some were subjected to anti-gay physical and verbal abuse at work or in public. In most cases, the friend or coworker just said to hell with the biological relatives and started a new family in the LGBTQ+ community. I channeled a lot of these types of experiences into this story.

Although Eric is dealing with his past, he’s not alone. Matt, Eric’s longtime friend comes along at the perfect moment. Matt knew Eric before his life went to hell and even after 10 years, his feelings for Eric haven’t faded. They quickly resume their friendship. Matt is a stabilizing force for Eric and a sounding board for his troubles. Matt acts as the voice of logic and reason in a chaotic, turmoil-filled weekend. 

Eric has his share of challenges in this story and one of them is his intolerant brother, Jamey. Jamey goes out of his way to push every one of Eric’s buttons as only family can. Jamey and his friend Dave are determined to undermine Eric’s recovery and make his stay at the cabin a nightmare. And they do a good job of it. 

When I wrote the story I wanted to show how Eric is trying to do the right thing by making amends with his family and trying to heal the past, but at what cost? Eventually he has to face the harsh reality that you can’t go home again. (And sometimes you shouldn’t want to.)Life can never be the same as it was before, but sometimes when you least expect it, life takes a new direction, and things turn out okay.

Oh, and did I mention the drama? The title “A Thousand Summer Secrets” is no accident. Everyone in this story is keeping secrets—from themselves and the other characters. It’s got quite a lot of family and relationship drama packed into a long weekend. 

But it’s not all feuds and fighting, there are tender moments, funny scenes, a bit of sadness, introspection, and danger—plus the happy ending Matt and Eric deserve… because love is all that matters.

I welcome comments and questions from readers and other authors. Visit my site to contact me, see all my titles, and get links to my social media.

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins


Matt paced around the rocks, his mind spinning. In the last twenty minutes, he had gone from being elated at seeing Eric, to annoyed at Jamey for acting like an ass, and now he was completely confused. This was turning out to be a great weekend already.

Growing up, being friends with Eric and Jamey had been like having two brothers. They all played basketball, rode their bikes, and hung out together after school. He had always gotten good advice from Eric and called him whenever he needed help with his math homework. 

Then one day, something terrible had happened and Eric vanished. 

Tonight, when he had walked into the cabin and spotted Eric, he’d almost thought he was dreaming. 

Except for the thin beard, Eric looked the same as he remembered from ten years ago: six-foot-four, a lean but muscular build, strong jawline, medium brown hair, and light brown eyes. He had been so excited to see Eric, he’d almost rushed across the cabin and hugged him. That would have gone over great.

Matt closed his eyes and tried to calm his pounding heart. Why did he feel so nervous? Was it because he was around Eric? Or because Eric finally wanted to talk about what happened? 

He remembered that afternoon like it was yesterday. They were sitting on Eric’s bed. One minute they were talking, then the next thing he knew, Eric pulled him close and kissed him hard on the mouth. He had been so startled, he’d frozen for a second, then gave in and melted in Eric’s strong arms.

The room faded as Eric slid his tongue into his mouth and started rubbing him through his shorts. It was perfect… Until Eric’s mother had pounded on the door and yelled at Eric to get his ass outside and mow the lawn before his father came home. 

Eric had moved away quickly and refused to look at him. He had left in a hurry, his body a mix of excitement and confusion. That was the last time he had seen Eric—until tonight.


You can’t outrun your past…

Ten years after being disowned by his family for being gay, Eric Warren pays a visit to his family’s summer cabin. It’s his last attempt at reconciliation before moving on. But a surprise from the past is waiting for him.

Eric’s intolerant brother, Jamey, has several friends staying at the cabin for the weekend, including Matt, Eric’s boyhood friend and secret crush. The years haven’t faded their mutual attraction, and they quickly reconnect. But Eric is hesitant to get romantically involved. He’s emotionally broken and scarred from his traumatic past.

As Matt tries to help Eric, Jamey goes out of his way to sabotage his brother. And when the weekend events take a disastrous turn, Eric finds himself at a crossroads. 

Should he follow his search for love and acceptance with Matt? Or leave the past behind forever? 

Order your copy here:


Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories. 

Kelli released her fourth gay romance, A Thousand Summer Secrets, in April 2024. This tender contemporary romance takes place over a summer weekend, where two friends reconnect while seeking love and acceptance.

She published The Route 9 Killer, a mystery/thriller set in Central NJ, in early 2023. 

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: and visit her website/blog for a full title list and social media links.

FILED UNDER: Excerpt, Guest Post