This was the last cover I came up with for this series. It took a lot of time and back and forth to figure out the best concept that would include the rainbow element the other covers had. This is honestly so perfect. It is more than I could have ever dreamed. I love it so much.
I don’t think it will be triggering to anyone, but it does show a person who is very thin. If this triggers you in any way, please look at this cover with your own discretion.
Gentleness in Sin, the final installment for The Take me to Church Series, is available for preorder now. This applies to the Ebook only. I will let you know when you can purchase the physical copy.
OUT MARCH 22nd!
After spending the summer in Hell, Luka Thomas is living in a constant state of confusion. Talking to his mom doesn’t help. Going to church doesn’t help. Praying doesn’t even help. Desperate to stay on the path to salvation, he hopes a new start in college will be the key.
Harlan Sharp didn’t know what to expect from his first day of college, but seeing Luka wasn’t on the list. Luka is a shell of the boy he fell in love with, but Harlan can’t give up on him. With a confidence he never knew he had, Harlan begins to deconstruct the one thing that is keeping them from being together: Luka’s restored faith in God.
When Luka’s life hangs in the balance, Harlan makes a drastic confession. Will it save Luka’s soul or send them both tumbling back to Hell?
Find out the epic resolution in the final book of the Take me to Church Series.
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Gentleness in Sin will be out on March 22, 2022. Follow me on my social medias below for sneak peeks, give away and more.
I’m so excited to share this book with you, that I wanted to give you a little free sneak peak! I hope this satasifies you for the next week as I continue to post teasers, snippets, and the trailer. Also, starting December 7th, Born in Sickness is going to be offered for FREE and Sweetness in Innocence will be on sale for only 99¢! Tell your friends!
“So– umm– how’s the wedding planning going?” Harlan asks, sitting down at the table with his mom. His mom looks shocked by the question but smiles after a moment, her dimples carving into her cheeks. She seems younger somehow as if meeting Paul has added years to her life. She is definitely happier.
He tries not to notice that his foot is still tapping along to the beat of Dueling Banjos. Ever since he dubbed Luka an official hillbilly after their impromptu trip into the woods, he has been humming it to Harlan at every opportunity. It has been a week now, and just when Harlan thinks he’s finally forgotten it, Luka quietly hums it into his ear again, setting off another two days of it replaying on a loop in his head.
“Good as can be expected with it being just over two weeks away,” Alison responds with a smile at the prospect. They decided on a quick wedding, wanting to have it before Harlan goes to college. Harlan still isn’t sure he will be going, but he understands their thought process. There is no sense in having a long engagement if they know they want to be together, so his mom and Paul have spent the last month planning everything out.
“Makes sense. Are you nervous?” Harlan questions, hoping it is the right thing to ask. He never knows how to speak to his mom, so he is just trying to keep things light, even though he kind of wants to talk to her about something that has been plaguing his mind for the last few months. Something he hasn’t told anyone else about, and he desperately needs another perspective. A more mature perspective.
“Not really. Are you?” She asks, looking at him through her lashes. He can see that she is holding her breath, waiting for something.
“Kind of. I can’t believe he asked me to be his best man. I figured he would ask his son. I don’t even know what I’m gonna say in my best man speech,” Harlan answers, telling her his honest thoughts for the first time in forever. Thankfully, the ceremony will be small and intimate, with just a few family members and close friends. Luka and Cadeon will be there, which will be an added bonus.
“I’m sure it will be wonderful. He loves you, Harlan. You are important to him, to both of us,” she tells him, but he doesn’t really believe her. He forces himself to bite back the bitter remark that is on the tip of his tongue while he tamps down the anger rising in his chest.
He takes a deep, calming breath, his logical side silently reminding him that she can’t change the past. It’s just hard to move on, his instincts screaming at him to go on the defense, but it is time to give her a chance. “Yeah. I’ll figure out what to say,” Harlan finally answers, looking up at her. She smiles at him again, but this time it doesn’t reach her eyes.
“So…um…do you have a ride to get fitted for your suit next week?” she asks, changing the subject a bit.
“Yeah. Lu said he could take me,” Harlan responds with a shrug. He begins jogging his leg under the table again, and he clasps his hands, wringing them in an attempt to get rid of some of his nervous energy. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself.
“Good. You know how much I love him. He’s such a nice boy,” she says, a smile lighting up her face once more. Harlan nods, returning her smile, but it probably comes across as more of a grimace. She is looking at him out of the corner of her eye as if she knows he is about to ask her something important. She doesn’t push him, just waits patiently. Harlan takes another deep breath, closing his eyes.
“Umm– Mom, can I ask you a question?” He pushes the words out through his lungs quickly before he can even think about taking them back. Her head snaps to him, but a smile is tugging the corner of her lips, eyes twinkling in the light.
“Of course, Harlan. You can ask me anything. What’s on your mind, hon?” Alison reaches a tentative hand across the table, placing her much smaller one on top of his. Her hand is warm and sure, and Harlan can feel the prickle of a tear in his eye.
She has been touching him a lot more lately, a pat on the shoulder, a squeeze of his elbow, even a hug occasionally, but this is the first time she has held his hand. He wants to hold on to it, afraid the moment will slip away before it even starts. He is still so fucking hurt though, he is conflicted. He hears Luka’s encouraging words in his ear, which spurs him on.
“How did you know that Paul was like– the one for you?” Harlan asks, his speech pattern even slower than usual because he is so unsure. He holds his breath, looking up at his mom. Her eyes go wide for a split second before she tilts her head to the side, considering an answer. At least she isn’t laughing at him like he was afraid she would.
“Well, that’s a difficult question because it’s different for everyone. There just comes a time when you know that you’ve met your person,” she starts, and Harlan notices right away that she didn’t use a gender-specific expression.
Fuck. He’s probably being far too suspicious. Harlan opens his mouth, deciding that this is a terrible idea, and he immediately needs to abort the mission. “Um… Never…”
“When you realize that you love that person so much, your heart feels like it is about to burst with it,” she continues, ignoring his interruption. “The feeling both hurts you and makes you happy. You feel like you are able to breathe when they are around, and they just make your day better. Like you can take on anything the world throws at you as long as they are holding your hand.”
Harlan doesn’t know why he’s surprised that she just described everything he feels for Luka. Deep down, he has been aware of it for a while; he’s just been too afraid to admit it, even to himself. Harlan is in love with Luka. He swallows hard, suddenly feeling sick with his next thought. “What if your person doesn’t feel the same way?” he asks, voice hoarse and eyes stinging. Luka could never love someone who is as broken as Harlan. Harlan doesn’t even love himself, so how could he expect Luka to?
“Have you asked?” she questions, her blue eyes sparkling in the light. Harlan shakes his head, unable to form a response in fear of choking on the lump in his throat. “I see. Well, maybe you should.”
“I can’t,” Harlan tells her, looking down at his fingers, fiddling with his rings, deep in thought. There is no possible way he can voice that kind of thing to Luka. He has a hard enough time talking about his feelings as it is. So how the hell is he just going to drop something like that on Luka? Especially when they haven’t even defined their relationship.
“Talking about your feelings is hard, Harlan. I understand that more than anyone.” She pauses as if she wants to add to that confession. Harlan watches her out of the corner of his eye, too afraid to make eye contact. She takes a deep breath, “You keep a journal, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Harlan croaks out, wringing his hands so hard, he worries that the rings on his fingers will be crushed into the bone as he tries to disperse the nervous energy.
“Maybe you should write them down. If you can’t say them out loud, that seems to be the next best option. Right? You don’t have to even show them to this person, but it could help you figure things out,” she advises, patting his hand again, effectively putting a stop to his attempts at forcing the metal to meet his bone.
“Yeah. Thank you, Mom.” Harlan finally looks up to meet her eyes, squeezing her hand.
“You’re welcome. I hope I helped a little bit,” she says with a nervous chuckle. Her eyes follow Harlan when he gets up from the table, eager to go to his room and get some of his thoughts down on paper.
“You did,” he assures her, watching her body sag in relief.
“I love you, Harlan.”
He freezes when the statement slips from her lips. He hasn’t heard her say those words in… well, he doesn’t even remember the last time she said it to him. He doesn’t say it back, but he does give her a smile, hopefully telling her that he may be ready to return the sentiment someday. She smiles back, as if she understands.
“I guess we should go in. The appointment is in like two minutes,” Harlan points out, glancing at the clock on the dashboard. They just made it to the formal-wear boutique where Harlan has his final tux fitting. Luka insisted that Harlan drive even though he would have preferred Luka to do it since they had to go to the next town over, and he had never driven there before. The drive was even more nerve-wracking since he couldn’t stop thinking about the letter in the glove compartment.
“Yeah. I can’t wait to see you in a tux,” Luka says, reaching for the door handle as Harlan turns off the ignition. Luka doesn’t know it, but Harlan is also going to be getting something formal for prom. It won’t be like the tux he is wearing for his mom’s wedding. Instead, he wants what he wears to prom to reflect his personality and how Luka makes him feel. The confidence he has found through Luka. What he wears will probably still be black, but he wants Luka to be pleasantly surprised.
“Not that special,” Harlan responds, but he can feel the blush on his cheeks. He gets out of the car, shoving Luka’s car keys into the pocket of his tight jeans as they walk inside. The man recognizes Harlan right away and smiles in greeting. He thinks his name is David, but he isn’t entirely sure.
“I have finished the final alterations to your suit, Mr. Sharp. If everything fits properly today, you may take it home. Mr. Martin has already paid for it,” David tells them, leading them to the backroom, then gesturing at the black bag the suit is in. Harlan nods and smiles, unsure of how to respond. He was with his mom last time he came, then Paul the first time, and they carried those conversations. Harlan still feels awkward on the best of days, so talking to strangers is still difficult for him.
“Thank you,” Luka replies, smiling at David. Not for the first time, Harlan is so thankful for Luka. Luka is just good at everything Harlan is not. It almost feels like Luka completes him somehow. Harlan tries not to think about that and the overwhelming love he feels for the other boy. He has thought a lot about what his mom said and if he should tell Luka. He has been working on a poem to get his feelings out. He doesn’t know if he will ever give it to Luka, but it helps him process things.
“Call me when you have it on; I’ll be right out here,” David says, smiling one more time and excusing himself. Harlan looks at the black bag reproachfully. He almost wishes he hadn’t brought Luka because he feels slightly vulnerable at the prospect of Luka seeing him in anything other than his t-shirts and skinny jeans. Of course, Luka has seen him naked, but this feels much more monumental for some reason.
“The wedding is next weekend, so we don’t have time for another adjustment. Let’s hope that it fits.” Harlan turns toward the fitting room, and Luka follows him inside without being asked. Harlan doesn’t mind, though. He has no idea how to tie a tie. Paul did it for him the first time, and David did it the second time.
“I’ll pray for you,” Luka says, with a smirk and a wink, putting his hands on the hem of Harlan’s shirt, pulling it upwards, over his head.
“Thanks. You take the Western God, and I will take the Eastern Gods,” Harlan replies with a smirk of his own, but Luka doesn’t laugh. Instead, his eyes slant in interest, his cold fingers still on Harlan’s skin. Harlan loves that look and wants to kiss him, so he does. He makes it quick, not wanting to distract him from the conversation at hand, but he just can’t help himself. Luka looks so cute when he is thinking about something.
“Who are some of the Eastern Gods?” Luka asks, fingers working on the button of Harlan’s jeans as Harlan tosses his shirt to the side. Thankfully the dressing room is quite large, so they aren’t bumping into each other. Luka looks down while he asks the question, even though Harlan knows for a fact that the other boy has no issues unbuttoning his pants without looking.
“That’s a tough question because Hinduism, which is the main religion in India, has thousands of Gods. Religion in places like China and Japan is interesting because they don’t really see religion the same way we do in our culture. Some would even go as far as to argue that theirs is more of a philosophy or a way of life,” Harlan tells him, helping Luka push the tight pants down his legs, leaving Harlan in just his underwear.
“So they don’t believe in God over there?” Luka asks, his brown brows drawing together with his question. Harlan turns around to grab the shirt first, pushing his arms through the white sleeves. Luka’s hands are on the collar, helping him guide the starch-laden material over his shoulders. It makes a scratching sound against his bracelets, but Harlan isn’t going to remove them. He can deal with that for now. His arms will be covered for the wedding, so he doesn’t have to worry there.
“It’s kind of complicated. I am by no means an expert since I have never been to that area, nor do I know anyone who is a believer. From my understanding, they follow the teachings of various people like Buddha, Confucius, Sun Tzu, and Laozi, but they don’t believe them to be gods. Well, not in the same way you see the Christian God. They don’t believe that these men created the universe or anything of that nature, and they don’t just follow one of them. Many people in that culture follow more than one because their teachings aren’t contradictory,” Harlan explains, turning around.
“Wait. Do we know these people actually existed?” Luka asks, looking down to button Harlan’s shirt.
“For the most part. Sun Tzu is debatable, but his book, The Art of War, is highly regarded by the military forces,” Harlan answers, grabbing the suit pants and pushing his feet into them while Luka holds him steady.
“Wait. I thought we were talking about religion. Why would someone have a religion based on war? Christianity is a religion of peace, not war,” Luka says, eyes on Harlan. Harlan snorts in response, but Luka looks genuinely confused by that. Harlan pulls the pants up the rest of the way, tucking his shirt in as he thinks about how to answer Luka’s question. It is really hard for people in the Abrahamic faiths to understand Eastern religions because the concept is just so foreign to them.
“Have you ever heard of The Crusades?” Harlan asks, buttoning his pants and zipping them easily, looking down at Luka. Luka nods his head but still doesn’t seem to understand Harlan’s point. He looks like he is open to it, though, almost as if he wants Harlan to tell him instead of wanting to argue the point.
“Then you know they were a series of religious wars to gain control over sites that both religions claimed as holy. The point is, Christianity isn’t a religion of peace. Do you have any idea how many people have been killed in the name of God? Christianity is so widespread because of war and their forced belief system. It’s hard to call a religion peaceful when they would throw babies against a wall because their parents worshiped the same God as them but followed a different prophet,” Harlan tells him. It is a bit crude, but it has the desired effect. Luka’s mouth falls open in shock.
“But Jesus teaches love and peace,” Luka insists, as Harlan shoves his feet back into the black boots he plans to wear for the ceremony.
“You’re right. He does, but his followers didn’t seem to get the memo. They have been forcing their beliefs on people for centuries. If he was really correct, and his teachings were sound, then why would they feel the need to force it? Why can’t they follow his path in peace instead of using force?” Harlan asks, grabbing his tie. Luka doesn’t say anything, just takes it from Harlan’s hands and gets on his tiptoes to loop it around Harlan’s neck, fixing the collar over it.
“I don’t really know,” Luka finally replies, his gaze distant despite the fact that he is currently tying Harlan’s tie. Harlan looks down at him, unsure of what to say. These types of conversations are somewhat normal for them. Luka has had more and more questions for Harlan lately, sometimes just texting him something random when he thinks of it. A few days ago, Harlan was surprised to see a text message from Luka about Noah’s Ark because he had been watching a documentary about it with his family.
Harlan replied back with a very long and thorough text about how there is no evidence in all of the historical records that indicates a flood that wiped out all of humanity. The Ancient Egyptians were keeping records around the time of the supposed flood, and there isn’t even a pause or gap, nor did they write anything about it in their text.
Not to mention the notion of having every animal in existence, on different continents nonetheless, travel to board a large boat is ludicrous. The sloth alone only travels about a mile every six hours, so it would have taken its entire life for it to have made its way to the ark.
Luka called him after that, and they got into an even more detailed discussion. Harlan loves it and hopes that he is teaching him something, but he isn’t sure what is going on in Luka’s head. He doesn’t know what Luka believes anymore. He isn’t sure that Luka even knows what he believes anymore. If the title of the poem Harlan wrote for Luka was modeled after that discussion, no one needs to know.
“Luka, you know I’m not trying to like– make you an atheist or anything. Like I said before, I just want you to see the flaws in your own religion. The religion that you allow to dictate your life and your happiness. Can you truly be happy following everything that is written in the Bible?” Harlan doesn’t say anything about love, but it is implied at this point. If Luka still truly believes in everything his family and church have taught him, then he can’t love Harlan.
“I know, love. I do,” Luka tells him, finishing his tie and patting his chest, finally meeting his eyes. Something about the moment feels raw all of a sudden. Luka’s eyes are suspiciously wet, and his fingers are shaking ever so slightly. Harlan knows his words have gotten to him, but he doesn’t want to take them back. He was just stating the truth.
Luka doesn’t fight him when Harlan pulls their chests together, wrapping his arms around the small of Luka’s back. Luka’s own arms come up around Harlan’s neck as he hooks his chin over Harlan’s shoulder, squeezing tight, breathing in deeply through his nose. Harlan kisses him on the cheek, unsure of what else to do to comfort Luka.
“Mr. Sharp, do you need help?” They jump apart at the sound of the voice from outside of the dressing room. Harlan isn’t sure how long they were hugging, but it must have been a while for David to have interrupted.
“No. We’re good,” Luka says, smiling at Harlan as he hands him the suit jacket, helping him pull it upon his shoulders. Harlan isn’t sure if Luka is talking to him or David. Are they good when their future seems to be caught in the balance? If Luka can’t get past some of the shit written in the Bible, then they don’t have a future at all.
With that thought heavy in his mind, they finish the appointment, the tux fitting perfectly. Harlan takes it out to the car with them, climbing into the driver’s side once he carefully places it in the back seat. He turns the ignition as Luka shuts the passenger side door.
“What are you…” Luka starts, expression confused, as Harlan reaches between his legs. Harlan smirks at him for a split second before opening the glove compartment. He takes a deep, steadying breath and grabs the envelope, almost afraid it will burn him. He shuts the glove compartment a little too forcefully, then sits up. With a shaky hand, he slips into Luka’s lap.
“What’s this?” Luka asks, looking at it with curious eyes as he lifts it up, holding it to the light.
“Umm– It’s from the scholarship,” Harlan tells him, glancing over at Luka’s small hands holding the envelope that possesses so much hope for him. Harlan hasn’t been able to bring himself to open it, though. It’s too much. He is too scared. Every time he thinks about opening it, he considers the fact that he could be rejected and his future will go down the drain. Everything is in that envelope. The hope of getting out of this town and going to college with Luka.
“Which one?” Luka asks, his eyes lighting up with excitement. Harlan hopes it’s still thereafter it’s open. He can’t handle the light in Luka’s eyes disappearing. Harlan can handle his own disappointment and heartbreak over it, but not Luka’s. Never Luka’s. Luka is his happiness. He loves him. He isn’t ready to say it out loud, and he doesn’t actually think Luka returns his feelings, but he loves him. He really fucking does and just the thought of seeing any kind of happiness fade from Luka’s face makes Harlan’s heart hurt.
“The big one. The one that could pay for everything,” Harlan explains, swallowing down his fears. He is far too panicked over the idea of what is in that envelope.
“What? Why are you giving it to me? You should be the one opening it, Haz,” Luka says, eyes wide with the realization, looking down at the envelope as if he is holding something precious. He has been attempting to prepare himself for disappointment. Good news like that doesn’t happen to people like him. He tries not to have hope about anything anymore. It makes things much easier when the inevitable happens.
“You found the scholarship and helped me apply. I want you to open it. I have had it for almost a week, and I just– Lu, I can’t bring myself to open it,” Harlan admits, looking around at the parking lot so he doesn’t have to look at Luka. The sound of paper tearing floods the car, Luka’s nimble fingers opening the envelope, pulling out the letter within. A few seconds later, the distinct sound of a piece of paper being unfolded, then Luka’s sharp intake of breath. Harlan’s heart drops. He didn’t get the scholarship. He knows it. He just does.
“Haz…” Luka’s sentence trails off, and Harlan breaks. He finally looks over at Luka, who is still reading the paper, his firm pink lips moving along to the words printed on the page. Harlan looks at the boutique, feeling like he is going to cry. He told himself that he wouldn’t get his hopes up, but apparently, he did because his heart feels like it is in his knees.
“I knew it,” Harlan murmurs, more to himself, as disappointment floods his veins. He blinks his eyes a few times, hoping to keep the tears at bay because crying over something that he can’t change just sounds counterproductive. He holds his breath when he hears Luka’s voice again, preparing for the news he knows is about to come.
“Harlan, you got it. It says here that you can go to any school in the state, and it will pay full tuition and fees for up to four years as long as you complete 30 credit hours per year and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Hazza, you fucking did it!”
“What?” Harlan asks, his eyes snapping back to Luka’s face, who is now smiling so brightly, the fucking sun must be jealous of his radiance. Harlan still can’t believe it. He glances down at the paper then back to Luka’s face. Luka has to be wrong. He has to have read it wrong.
“You’re going to college on a full-ride, Harlan! Holy fuck! I’m so proud of you!” Luka exclaims, thrusting the paper into Harlan’s hands. Harlan continues to stare at Luka, though. There is not an ounce of jest in Luka’s expression, just joy and pride. He’s not lying. Harlan looks down at the paper to read the words for himself. The first word is ‘Congratulations’ and Harlan doesn’t bother reading the rest. Harlan got it. He’s going to college. A feeling that can only be described as elation floods him, and before he knows it, Luka has hopped over the middle console to wrap Harlan in a tight hug.
“I– I can’t believe this,” Harlan says, breathing in Luka’s scent, his warmth. He savors the touch even though now he knows he doesn’t have to say goodbye to Luka just yet. They can go to college together. They may not have to completely hide what they have there. They will be away from Luka’s family. Holy fuck. They may be free.
“You did it, love. I’m so fucking proud of you,” Luka tells him, letting him go in favor of kissing him, his mouth warm and sure on Harlan’s. Harlan could melt. He can feel the pride radiating off of Luka, and it is making him almost proud of himself. Harlan is so excited about the future now, the possibilities. They both have gotten into every single college they have applied for, so now they just need to choose.
“Thank you,” Harlan responds when Luka breaks the kiss. He is still in shock. He feels like it’s not real, but the letter in his hand says otherwise. He is fucking going to college, and he won’t have to worry about money or being in debt when he is done. He looks down at the paper again in disbelief, reading it twice before it sinks in. He looks up at Luka, whose eyes are shining in the afternoon sunlight, nodding as if to say ‘it’s real’.
Harlan eventually starts the car, even though driving back home suddenly feels like driving back to reality. Driving back to their cage. They will have to go back to hiding what they have. Harlan doesn’t know if being on a college campus will change anything. If Luka will be okay with being more open about their relationship. They haven’t really talked about it, and Harlan is too afraid to even broach the subject. Either way, they will be happier away from prying eyes. Only four more months, though. Four more months until they are in college and finally free.
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Below, I will walk you through each song that inspired Sweetness in Innocence: Book Two of the Take me to Church Series. You can also find the playlist I created on both Spotify and YouTube. In this, I am just going to cover some of the songs. There are more songs on the playlist provided, and I suggest you click on those links to listen while you’re reading the book! It just adds to the experience.
Bring me to Life- Evanescence
How can you see into my eyes like open doors Leading you down into my core Where I’ve become so numb. Without a soul My spirit sleeping somewhere cold Until you find it there and lead it back home
This song and band made up my formative years. The chapter where they go grocery shopping is somewhat monumental. It seems so simple, but it was so important for the development of their relationship. It’s the first time Harlan shows trust toward Luka. He gives Luka a glimpse into his life and his problems.
Witching Hour- In This Moment
Don’t you see the way I look at you I can see behind your eyes Can’t you tell the way I reach for you I wear my halo in disguise I watch you burn I can feel you I watch as you turn What did you do
I think this is pretty self explanatory. This song coincides with the Halloween chapter and Luka, of course, wears a halo.
Follow You- Bring me the Horizon
My head is haunting me and my heart feels like a ghost I need to feel something, ’cause I’m still so far from home Cross your heart and hope to die Promise me you’ll never leave my side
When Luka got hurt, I think it made Harlan realize just how much he cared for him. Before this scene, their relationship was almost one sided. Luka always went out of his way for Harlan, and I wanted to see that reversed a bit. Luka needed Harlan, and Harlan was there for him. He followed him to the hospital because he was worried. It solidified their relationship a bit more.
Half God Half Devil- In This Moment
I won’t pretend that I resist temptation I think it’s funny when you preach damnation I’ve been to hell and back and now it’s just a part of me Without the darkness there’d be no light in me
I just love this song and the lyrics so much. I think this really fits with the Christmas chapter because Harlan finally lets another wall down and allows Luka inside of his home. The dark is a part of Harlan, and Luka sees that now but accepts it.
My Soul- Thrice
Are you ready for my soul? What if I’m broken from the start? And what if I never heal? Are you ready for my soul? What if I open up my heart? And somehow we stumble into something real?
This song is just so fucking beautiful, and I felt it was perfect for their first time. Harlan really allowed Luka inside. He showed he trusted him in some small way, and it was so fucking gentle. I think it reflects Harlan’s thoughts perfectly. He worries that he will never be able to full trust anyone because the wounds from his past run so deep. He is afraid to show Luka everything because he doesn’t want to scare him off with the amount of darkness he has suffered. In turn, Luka is almost afraid of something this real. Every other time he has spent with a guy hasn’t felt this real, and that scares him a lot.
Iris- The Goo Goo Dolls
And I’d give up forever to touch you ‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be And I don’t want to go home right now And all I can taste is this moment And all I can breathe is your life And sooner or later, it’s over I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
I really could have just quoted this whole fucking song. It’s so fucking perfect. Harlan and Luka danced to this in Harlan’s room on New Years Eve and I think something really shifted for them. I can’t listen to this song without getting emotional. It’s a very personal song for me, for different reasons, and I knew I had to use it for such a pivotal moment in this book. The lyrics sum up their blossoming relationship perfectly.
The Judas Kiss- Metallica
Followed you from dawn of time Whisper thoughts into your mind Watched your towers hit the ground Lured the children never found Helped your kings abuse their crown In the heart of feeble man Plant the seeds of my own plan The strong and powerful will fall Find a piece of me in all Inside you all
Warning: Do not drive while listening to this song. You will probably drive far too fast because the drums are fucking killer. This song isn’t really for a specific chapter, more so the slow demise of Luka’s faith. It also comes into play in the next book. The title that is… but spoilers.
A Reason to Fight- Disturbed
When the demon that’s inside you is ready to begin And it feels like it’s a battle that you will never win When you’re aching for the fire and begging for your sin When there’s nothing left inside, there’s still a reason to fight
Luka sang this to Harlan during the concert. Harlan has a lot of demons. Luka doesn’t know why yet, but he knows that it’s a constant battle for Harlan. He wants to give him a reason to fight those demons, and this song sums that up perfectly.
Avalanche- Bring me the Horizon
Cut me open and tell me what’s inside Diagnose me ’cause I can’t keep wondering why And no it’s not a phase ’cause it happens all the time Start over, check again, now tell me what you find ‘Cause I’m going out, I’ll fake what’s real Can anyone respond?
When Ezra finally confronts Luka about what he’s been hiding, I think we were all holding our breaths. Luka still hasn’t accepted that it’s just a part of him. A small portion of his mind is still telling him that he’s sick for his sexuality and he needs to pray and ‘fix himself’, so I think this song perfectly reflects Luka’s inner turmoil.
Brighter Than the Sun- Poets of the Fall
Like a miracle you change me, raise me Brighter than the sun till I’m ready to be me And your love is the reason, yeah Like a miracle you wake me, make me Brighter than the sun when it used to blind me I know your love is the reason Love never goes out of season
Harlan compares Luka to the sun more times than I care to admit. I think he is finally starting to accept the positive changes Luka has made in him. I wanted to end this book on a positive note, and I think this song does just that. Luka is the reason he’s happy now, and he is starting to realize his feelings for Luka.
A few weeks ago, I randomly picked up this Maahes by Emma Jaye after searching Amazon for “mm dark gay romance with crime”. I was immediately drawn to the book by the summary. Not many of you know this, but I have always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt. I wanted to be an archaeologist for the longest time because Ancient Egypt had drawn me in from a young age. When I saw that a lot of this book revolved around the religion of the Ancient Egypt, I couldn’t stop myself from downloading the sample on my Kindle.
As always, this review will contain small spoilers.
Book Trigger Warnings: violence, mentions of rape/non-con , dub-con (between the to MCs), mentions of incest, animal cruelty, BDSM (primal kink specifically), dark romance, angst, and main character death (sort of).
Corrupt to survive or seduce to kill?
Lev lives for death.
Tainted from birth and despised for sacrificing fellow Servants of Maahes, Lev pursues a life of devotion and abstinence as the Left Hand. His reward will come in the Afterlife.
Živan Bratko, bastard heir to a Bulgarian crime family, lives in the moment, rescuing big cats and slaking his lust with even wilder men. He can’t resist the challenge of corrupting one of the legendary Hands of Maahes.
A sociopath hedonist versus a devout assassin. Who will be hunter or prey when lives and souls are the ultimate stakes?
A dark contemporary mm story featuring a collision of cultures, manipulative main characters, assassins, kidnap, and hungry lions.
Welcome to the dark world of Malicious Gods: Egypt. A collection of standalone modern tales, both magical and non-magical, featuring deities from Ancient Egypt. You’ll find reincarnated Gods, assassins, gangs, madness, and different realities. Expect high heat and morally ambiguous themes. Seductive and often twisted, they are not for the fainthearted.
For the first time in my life, I’m not even sure where to start. I am almost positive I love it, and I wonder how fucked up that makes me (I mean this in the best way possible). The beginning was super slow with lots of world building and setting the scene. Our two lovely main character didn’t even meet until the reader is about a third of the way into the book. That usually annoys me a bit, but I found I didn’t mind. The world building was intriguing enough to get me hooked.
Lev annoyed me in the best possible way. He is very ‘holier-than-thou’ in the beginning. I’m not a religious person (as you may know) so reading a character that is so devoted to his faith was a bit strange for me. I didn’t relate to him because I didn’t know where he was going to end up with this story in term of faith. The further into the story I got, the more I grew attached to him, much like his male counter part.
Živan is an irritably charismatic character. I may or may not be in love with him at this point. He’s incredibly intelligent and witty. He pretends not to care, when deep inside his heart, he cares a lot. He is just very selective about it. He is very cocky in the beginning. I hated the clicker almost as much as Lev, however, I do love how Jaye always brought it full circle, even with the clicker. I also found his kinks fascinating. I have read a lot of BDSM, but I’ve never really heard of a primal kink in this way.
I didn’t find this book particularly triggering, but then again, very little actually triggers me. There was a part that was sort of dub-con that was between the main characters, but it was a very gray area. I’m still unsure of how I feel about it, but I know for a fact that I do not hate this book. Not at all. It’s dark, sexy, and intriguing. Everything I ask for in a book.
The reader in me sort of hated the ending of this book, but the writer in me is incredibly impressed with the balls Jaye has. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I was in complete shock. I do feel like I was left with a lot of unanswered questions that I’m not sure will be answered in the sequel. I wouldn’t call it a happily ever after, but definitely a happily for now.
I’m so excited to reveal the cover for the second book! The eBook is already available for preorder on Amazon!
Special thank you to Bibi and Daria for making this cover come to life. They will also be working on the third and fourth, which I am so excited for.
Luka Thomas is leading a double life. Publicly, he is a God-fearing Christian with a loving girlfriend. What happens in the shadows of his reality tells a different story. Because of one boy, he has begun to question everything.
Harlan Sharp promised himself he wouldn’t fall for Luka, but he doesn’t know how to stop it. Each kiss, each touch, each gentle caress they share only leads him further toward revealing the secrets of his past and bearing his scars.
The nature of their relationship must be hidden from everyone. If they are caught, Luka will be kicked out of his family’s house and disowned. He will lose everything. It’s a sin that Luka isn’t ready to confess. He can try to keep his secret from everyone, but God is all-knowing. This limbo can’t last forever.
The Take me to Church Series is a real depiction of falling in love in high school as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the ways that life is. It’s raw, beautiful and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.
Sweetness In Innocence will be released August 10, 2021! Follow me on my social medias below for more content such as sneak peeks, giveaways, and more!
I wanted the music to be a bit slower to reflect the tone of the series rather than the book. I felt that upbeat music fit this book a bit, but not the series as a whole, so I wanted to go with a slower, more melancholy sound. I wanted it to show the seriousness of the series and set the foundation for what’s ahead. We went though several different sounds. CJ is a saint for putting up with me until we eventually decided on this one. I love the strums of the guitar then the singer coming in with the ‘oooos’. It kind of reminds me of choir music, which is exactly the sound I wanted to go for.
The Opening Scene
I wanted the first scene to reflect Luka’s character and to also show that the story is set in high school. I thought the players running out of a locker room would do just that. Luka plays football through a lot of this story, a football game even coming into play during the end. I thought this particular scene gave a lot of information about his character especially with the lines “they told him he was born sick” laid over the video. That’s the tag line for this book, and it really applies to both male character leads.
The Second Scene
Of course this trailer needed to show an old church. I mean… it’s pretty much a requirement at this point. I think that was one of the things I listed to CJ when she asked what I was looking for. Church is a huge part of this stories as well as the culture that is present in the south that surrounds these Christian communities. I love that it says “being gay is a sin according to his church” here because the church is in the background, and to me it really drives that point home. It’s huge theme of the whole series, believing in a god that you are told will damn you for who you love. The guilt that comes along with it.
The Third Scene
The storm represents the inner turbulence that both characters go through in the book. Luka struggles with his faith and what that means in relation to his attraction to Harlan. In turn, Harlan really struggles with trusting others, especially someone like Luka who reminds him of the very person that betrayed him. I do not shy way from mental health in this series, including in this book, and I think this scene really showcases the turbulence of both the book and the series. The tree in the scene represents growth, and how you need rain, including a storm, in order to grow, which both characters do throughout this book. All of this ties into the line “faith and sexuality will be tested”.
The Fourth Scene
This scene is powerful. A flower is growing among barbed wire with a cross in the background. It shows that even in the worst possible circumstances, with things around them that wants to destroy them, beauty can grow. Despite all of the difficulties of life, with the church watching them, they can still find a way to each other. The reality is that the barbed wire is sharp, and could very easily tear their fragile relationship a part, like a petal being ripped to shreds.
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If this trailer has intrigued you, please take a moment to purchase the book! It is available on many platforms, including Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
Luka Thomas is a God-fearing Christian. When his family moves to the Bible Belt right before his senior year of high school, he knows he’ll blend right in. Sort of. Being gay is a sin, so he’s not gay. He’s just…experimenting.
Then he meets Harlan Sharp and begins to question everything he knew to be true.
Harlan stopped believing in fairytales when the darkest days of his past left him scarred, angry, and questioning God’s motives. He doesn’t trust anyone, let alone Luka, who reminds Harlan of the very same person who hurt him.
When blatantly ignoring all of Luka’s attempts at conversation doesn’t deter him, Harlan begins criticizing the one thing that Luka seems to believe wholeheartedly: his faith in God.
With Luka’s incredibly strict step-father pressuring him to date a girl, he desperately makes a deal, but at what cost to his budding relationship with Harlan?
The Take me to Church series is a real depiction of falling in love as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the way that life is. It’s raw, beautiful, and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain, but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.
“Luka! It’s almost time for breakfast!” his mom yells from down stairs, and Luka ignores her. Instead he sighs as he looks in the mirror, debating about whether or not he should change his outfit for a third time. The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, but adding the extra stress of it being his first day at a new school and his senior year, it’s downright nauseating. Being an Army brat, he should be used to this by now, but he isn’t. It never gets easier. He has been to five different high schools alone, not to mention all of the various middle schools he has attended.
He remembers when his mom married Matt. He was happy for her. She seemed happy, and it meant he was getting a new dad. He had no idea at the time that he would be ripped away from all of his friends and everything he held dear. All of the schools and faces over the years have just kind of blended together, no one really standing out. He quickly learned not to allow himself to even get attached to anyone. He is so excited to go to college next fall so that maybe, just maybe, he can finally lay down some roots. Have actual friends that he won’t have to leave after a couple of months. He can dream.
He takes a deep breath, checking out his appearance again. He glances at the clock, knowing his mother will call him down to breakfast any minute now. He tugs at his shirt, not knowing what exactly the kids at his new school would be wearing. He then runs small fingers through his brown hair, going for a somewhat messy look.
“Luka! I told you it’s time for breakfast!” she shouts, again. He has to be down to breakfast at exactly the same time every single day. He hates it. His mom and stepdad are somewhat controlling. Well, his stepdad really, his mom just tries to keep the peace. He stares at his reflection again, hoping that he won’t stand out at this new school. He just wants to blend in until he is forced to move to the next location by Matt’s job. Who knows, maybe this time he will get to stay an entire school year.
“Luka William Thomas, don’t make your mother ask you again!” Matt’s booming voice travels up the stairs and into his room, making Luka wince.
“Yeah, sorry! I’m coming,” he calls back, turning and leaving his room then going down the stairs. He walks into the kitchen, where they always eat breakfast, to find his four sisters, mother, and Matt already sitting around the table.
“‘Bout time, Lu. You know we aren’t allowed to eat until everyone is down here and we say grace. I’m starving,” Lizzie moans. If Luka wasn’t in front of their parents, he would flip her off, but instead he just rolls his eyes and plops down in the open chair, avoiding Matt’s glare.
Everyone holds hands as Matt begins, “Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to wake up this morning, and thank you for this meal. We thank you for our health and happiness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
It’s the same every morning, so Luka mumbles his ‘Amen’ and starts eating right away, trying to avoid the small talk with his family if at all possible. No such luck, though.
“I signed you up for football,” his mom starts, glancing in his direction. He barely stops himself from rolling his eyes, knowing Matt would chastise him for it.
“Why?” Luka asks, through gritted teeth. He kind of likes the sport itself, being an active person, but he hates having to leave his team once Matt gets relocated. He would rather just avoid it all together.
“Because it is a good way to make friends, and it is a safe after-school activity for you to take part in,” his mom answers easily, her tone leaving no room for argument.
“Fine,” Luka grumbles, looking down at his plate of half-eaten food, suddenly not feeling hungry.
“First practice is today, after school. Your father talked to the coach yesterday since you already missed two-a-days, but he is willing to let you play, given you prove your skills. Don’t forget about it. We expect you home right after,” she says, and Luka knows. Of course he knows, he has had the same rule since he was a child. How dare he try to do anything fun after school that isn’t school-sponsored? He has never even been to a school dance because his parents fear that he may get drunk or lose his virginity. Their stupid rules didn’t do them any good, though, because he has already lost his virginity and been drunk.
“I know, Mom,” Luka tells her, suppressing yet another eye roll. Jesus, he will be lucky to make it through breakfast without getting grounded.
“Oh, and join your school’s Bible Club,” Matt adds, pointing one chubby finger at Luka.
“Sure,” Luka answers robotically because he is just done with this already, and he hasn’t even made it to school yet. He manages to evade the rest of the conversation, his parent’s attention turning to that of his little sisters. After he forces down enough food to appease his mother, he practically runs out the door and to his car, silently praying that no one from his family stops him. He lets out a sigh of relief when he is safely in his car, the door slamming behind him.
He pulls out his school schedule, glancing over it to see what he has first period. Choir. Fuck. Must be one of those stupid general courses every high school student has to take. Why couldn’t it be art or something? The rest of the classes seem fine. It looks like he is in Honors courses at this high school. His eyes rove down the list of courses: Physics, Chemistry, Pre-Calculus, Spanish, English, Creative Writing, and a free period.
He takes a deep breath before he puts the car into gear, making his way toward the location of the high school. It is a very small town, so the high school is equally as small. Hick-town, USA, it seems. When his mom enrolled him, she had said he would only have about 100 people in his entire class. That almost makes this worse. In bigger schools, it’s easy to blend in. Smaller schools are a whole different universe. Everyone knows everyone, so when a new kid comes along, that person is easily identifiable. This thought makes Luka feel sick all over again.
He parks his car in the student parking section of the lot and takes a few more calming breaths, trying to slow his racing heart before he steps out onto the pavement. As he typically does with all new schools, once he leaves the safety of his vehicle, he keeps his eyes down and starts walking, not wanting to be met with the staring and pointing that inevitably happens when people notice ‘the new kid’. He only glances up long enough to follow the signs for the main office, which is where he was told to go.
“Hi. I’m a new student here,” Luka tells the older lady at the front desk. She is wearing red, thick-rimmed glasses with lipstick to match. She smiles, and Luka notices a few lipstick stains on her teeth. Her hair is also red and teased up. The higher the hair, the closer to heaven, he supposes. She looks like she just strolled out of the 80s.
“Lukas Thomas?” she asks, her thick southern accent prominent as she types something into a computer that looks about as old as her. Well, maybe not that old, but still not as high tech as it could be.
“It’s actually Luka,” he corrects, rolling his eyes. He is so used to people getting his name wrong, but it will always annoy him just a bit.
“Oh, I’m sorry, darlin’,” she apologizes, smiling again, her yellow teeth looking even more stained against the red dots of lipstick.
“It’s okay, ma’am,” he answers politely, beginning to tap his fingers on the surface of her desk, needing a release for his nervous energy.
“Okay,” she says as she stands up from her desk, and for the first time, Luka notices she is also wearing something that looks like it is from the 80s. Jesus, he loves the decade, but this is a bit much. She walks around her desk and uses one long bony finger to motion for someone to come in. Luka turns to see a student with longish dark brown hair and deep brown eyes make his way through the glass door of the office, smiling at him. He returns the smile because at least this boy isn’t looking at him curiously like everyone else.
“Luka. This is Ezra Carter. He is going to show you around a bit, then take you to your first class,” the woman says, gesturing towards the other boy.
“Hiya. Nice to meetcha,” Ezra greets, eyes crinkling with his smile. He grabs Luka’s outstretched hand for a shake, and Luka instantly likes him. Something about him seems warm and caring. Maybe they will be friends. Well, that is if Luka allows it. He hates the thought of leaving yet another person behind.
“Hi. Nice to meet you, too,” Luka returns, smiling as well.
“Come on. I’ll give you a quick tour. Shouldn’t take very long since the school ain’t very big. We have pretty much the same schedule, and I play football, too. I think that’s why they asked me to show ya around,” Ezra says, gesturing for Luka to follow him.
“Yeah. So this is a super small school. Shouldn’t take you long to learn your way around. Let’s start with your locker,” Ezra starts, walking down a hallway to the right, lined with trophy cases. “You’ll find that you will be in class with generally the same people all day, every day. It’s based on test scores. They want to make sure kids are taking classes with other kids who are on their level, academically. The only classes that’ll differ are general courses, like foreign languages and fine arts.”
Luka nods along, listening to Ezra ramble about the school and pointing out various things, mostly understanding him, even with his heavy accent. They get to Luka’s locker, where he successfully opens the combination lock, then they go on a quick tour. Luka is thankful that it seems class has already started, so he doesn’t have to deal with the staring.
“Alright, time to go to our first class, I suppose,” Ezra says with a chuckle, although Luka didn’t find the statement all that funny. They walk into the choir classroom and a hush falls instantly, all of the students’ eyes trained on them.
Harlan hits the snooze button on his alarm for the fifth time that morning, not wanting to go to school at all. He groans, looking at the clock. He doesn’t have time to shower or anything before he has to catch the bus. Fuck. Why does school have to start so godsdamned early? He rubs his entire face in a weak attempt at waking himself up. He really should have gone to bed last night at a halfway decent time, but he was reading and didn’t want to stop. Not like there is anyone to make him go to bed anyways.
He rolls out of bed and finds the nearest pair of black skinny jeans laying on the floor. He stumbles to his dresser, pulling out one of his many black band t-shirts. He doesn’t even pay attention to which one it is as he pulls it over his mop of curls. He grabs all of his bracelets, putting them on one at a time, making sure they take up most of his forearms, covering his scars. Next, he puts on his necklaces, pulling them over his head so that they lay flat against his t-shirt. He slips each ring on, one by one, enjoying the feel of the cool metal against his skin.
He goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, squinting at the harsh overhead light. He looks bad. Despite the fact that it’s summer, his skin is pale, and there are dark rings around his eyes. He shrugs at his reflection. He isn’t trying to impress anyone. No one will even notice him, like normal. He is just the weird kid. Most people at his school simply try to ignore his existence, or they are scared of him. They think he is a Satanist or something, going to cast a spell on them. He doesn’t care. It gets them to leave him the fuck alone.
He finishes his minimal bathroom routine and goes down to the kitchen to grab an apple, not having time for actual breakfast. His mom has left him a note on the fridge, saying she is working both jobs today, so she won’t be home until late. He sighs, mentally preparing himself for another lonely evening. Maybe he will find something to get into, but probably not.
He doesn’t know if his mom actually loves him or just does the minimum to keep him alive because she has to. She is never around, but to be fair, she is a single mom. Just to put food on the table for him and his sister, she has had to work two jobs since his dad left when he was younger. Things have been easier on her since Emma moved out, but she still works a lot.
He eats his apple as he makes his way to the bus stop, his friend Cadeon greeting him with a huge smile. Harlan just rolls his eyes, but allows his lips to curl into a soft smile. Cadeon is like an overexcited puppy, but he is Harlan’s best friend. His only friend, really. Cadeon is one of those rare people who is liked by everyone and can fit in with any crowd. He is friends with everyone at school and fits into all the cliques easily. He sticks with Harlan the most though, and it’s only because Harlan has told Cadeon all of his secrets. He is too nice to let Harlan always be alone.
“Hey, I didn’t think you’d make it,” Cadeon greets him, hugging his friend like he didn’t just see him yesterday. Cadeon knows that Harlan hates hugs, but that doesn’t stop him for a second.
“Yeah. I was up late last night,” Harlan responds, shrugging his hunched up shoulders.
“With a boy?” Cadeon asks with an exaggerated wink.
“Fuck off, and keep that shit down. I am trying to not die on my first day of school,” Harlan whispers, but Cadeon just rolls his eyes.
“Come on, you know I’d protect’cha.”
“If you could keep your big fucking mouth shut, then I wouldn’t need protection,” Harlan hisses, but there is no bite in his tone. He loves Cadeon too much to actually be mad. Not that he actually gives a flying fuck what people think of him. His sexuality would be just one more thing to add to the list of ‘weird’ if they were to know. He just doesn’t want to deal with that kind of crisis in his senior year. He would rather just move far away for college and become his own person; however, that’s probably not even in the cards for him. He can’t afford it. People like him don’t get to go to college. It’s as simple as that.
“So what classes are you in?” Cadeon asks, talking over the screeching of the bus’ brakes as it pulls to a stop in front of them. They both get on, Cadeon heading straight to the back with Harlan hot on his heels. Cadeon greets everyone while Harlan tries not to make eye contact.
“Here,” Harlan says, thrusting his schedule at Cadeon.
“Fuck yeah, we have all the same classes except for Art!” Cadeon exclaims, clearly happy about this turn of events.
“Awesome. Maybe I won’t be terribly miserable,” Harlan says, closing his eyes and resting his head on the seat in front of him. He just wants to go back to bed. Cadeon chats on and on about how he hopes the first day of school is going to go. Harlan doesn’t even think Cadeon would realize it if he put his earbuds in to block out the noise, but he doesn’t want to do that to his friend. He may be an ass, but he isn’t that rude.
They get off the bus and walk to choir class together, stopping at Cadeon’s new locker on the way. Harlan doesn’t bother going to his. He didn’t bring anything except his ancient cell phone, a pen, a notebook, and the brown, leather-bound journal he takes everywhere with him. Harlan is actually looking forward to this class and creative writing, but he doesn’t voice this. He has had choir since the beginning of his high school career, even though he was only required to take it once. He enjoys music and singing. The ease of the class also provides a needed break from some of his harder ones, like Physics and Chemistry.
The room is set up with three rows of brown chairs all facing the front of the room. Harlan and Cadeon immediately go to the section where the baritones will be seated, familiar with the layout since they have both been in the class before. Mr. Tennant will probably make them test their vocal range again, since it can change with age, but both boys are pretty confident this is where they will end up. Cadeon keeps talking because he literally never shuts up. As more people begin to filter into the room, Cadeon greets each of them, starting a conversation. Seriously, how does he have the energy this early in the morning?
Harlan, for his part, just ignores everyone with his eyes trained firmly to the front of the room waiting for class to start, thinking about how boring this year is going to be. He contemplates, for the fourteenth time that morning, putting his ear buds in and drowning out everything with some rather loud music; however, class will start soon and Mr. Tennant would just make him turn it off. Sure enough, a few moments later the last bell rings, signaling the beginning of class. Mr. Tennant takes roll, then starts bringing each student up one by one to test their vocal range, assigning them the appropriate section afterward.
When it’s Harlan’s turn, he walks to the front of the room, hating the feeling of all eyes on him. Thankfully, the other students are allowed to talk amongst themselves while their peers are being tested. It still doesn’t ease his apprehension, though. Cadeon gives him a thumbs up, which kind of helps.
He pushes down the anxiety making its way up his throat and walks over to the piano. Mr. Tennant does an excellent job of making it painless because he understands that not everyone is a good singer, nor do they like being in front of people. Mr. Tennant, however, has told Harlan on multiple occasions that he is a great singer, and he would give him a solo if he just asked. Harlan ignores his comments, being perfectly happy to just be the weird kid in the corner.
“Baritone,” Mr. Tennant starts with a smile, “but you can go as low as some bass notes. Well done.”
“Thanks,” Harlan mumbles, making his way back to his seat, feeling as though his cheeks are on fire at the compliment. Cadeon is called next, his results being a steady baritone. Before he knows it, everyone in the room is seated in their appropriate sections. Like normal, most of the girls are sopranos and a few are contraltos. Most of the boys are baritones, like him and Cadeon, with a few basses and tenors in the mix.
Mr. Tennant is in the front of the room beginning their lecture when the door opens. All eyes are immediately drawn to the pair entering the room. One guy Harlan recognizes as Ezra Carter. He is a jock and in his senior year as well. He has never explicitly made fun of Harlan, but he has also never really talked to him outside of the classroom. He has a good voice, though. His falsetto is killer.
The other guy, however, Harlan doesn’t recognize, which is odd for a small town. He is quite attractive, even though he is preppy and clearly a jock. He is short with shapely legs, brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and freckles. His eyes, though. His eyes are a clear shade of blue, framed with ridiculously long eyelashes. Okay. He is cute. Very, very cute, but completely off limits. A guy like that would never even talk to Harlan, let alone actually date him. He is probably straight anyway, like everyone else in this godsforsaken town.
“Mr. Tennant,” Ezra addresses his teacher, “Sorry I’m late, sir. I was showin’ our new student around the school. This is Luka Thomas.” Ezra then goes to take a seat beside Cadeon, knowing that Mr. Tennant probably wouldn’t make him test his range.
“Hi, Luka. Nice to meet you. I’m glad you could join us this morning,” Mr. Tennant smiles reassuringly. “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, then we can test your vocal range.”
Harlan watches a blush creep up Luka’s freckled cheeks, turning them the prettiest shade of dark pink, to match his lips. Luka doesn’t seem to want to do this, but he finally turns towards the class as a whole and gives them a tentative smile.
“Hi,” he starts with a small wave. “As already established, my name’s Luka. I hate doing these things. I’m an Army brat, so I’ve moved around a lot. My family just moved here last weekend. I guess I will be playing football.” His voice is high and raspy, his accent very different from any Harlan has ever heard before, except on the television. He doesn’t really have an accent, that’s the thing. Everyone in this town sounds like a donkey eating an apple, but Luka is different.
“Very good. Come over here, and we can test your range to see where you will be seated,” Mr. Tennant instructs. Luka does as he is asked and makes his way to the piano at the front of the room. When he starts to sing, Harlan is mesmerized by it. His voice is the most beautiful kind of oxymoron. It is light and raspy, but somehow bright with great projection. He sounds how silk feels, and it gives Harlan shivers.
“Don’t see new kids very often ‘round here,” Cadeon’s voice breaks into his subconscious, effectively taking his attention away from Luka and his voice.
“What? Oh, no. We don’t. Seems like another jock, though, so he should fit right in,” Harlan replies, bitterness seeping into his tone.
“Ya never know, he may be different,” Cadeon observes, right as Mr. Tennant compliments Luka on his voice and seats him with the tenors of the class, on the other side of the room from the baritones.
I don’t remember what gave me the idea for this series. I think it was the fact that I felt there weren’t enough stories like it with accurate growth and character development. This series is very important to me, to put it lightly. It surrounds topics that are very close to my heart.
I grew up much as a mixture between Luka and Harlan’s characters. I had very strict, religious parents while also being extremely poor. My parents did the best they could for us, but some weeks it wasn’t enough, and we didn’t always have food on the table. I wanted to depict what poverty is like in the United states and how it affects the youth of America.
I also wanted to highlight the flaws in religion and force people to think critically about the faith they so blindly follow. As someone who grew up in a household where God was on every wall and around every corner, I know what the strict indoctrination of the young people in church is like. It’s basically brainwashing, then the culture in the south just makes it so much more difficult to get away from.
I struggled with my faith and how it aligned with my sexuality. I went into a deep depression where I began to self harm and I spent months wondering why god would do this to me when it was wrong. I cried all of the time and prayed to a God I wasn’t even sure was there. My boyfriend, at the time, was an atheist and we would have long conversations about God and religion. He was always so unbiased in the way he spoke to me, which was a stark contrast to the church I grew up in.
I decided to take a religious studies course in college to understand it and other religions better. I thought that I would easily get an ‘A’ since I grew up in church and owned three Bibles, two of which had my full name engraved on them. I was wrong. The class taught me so much, I was in awe. It piqued my interest to the point that I declared a double major before the class had even finished.
After studying religion in many different forms for years, I proudly call myself an atheist. I believe in nature and energy, but that’s the extent of my ‘religion’. This series doesn’t attack religion in any way. My characters state facts and make logical arguments. There is nothing inherently wrong with believing in a higher power, but there is wrongness in torturing those who don’t.
I put a lot of myself in this series. My heart, soul and poison in my blood make up the cover, spine and ink on the page. I used so much of myself that you will feel like you know me after you finished reading it. Please understand that this isn’t my personal story in any way. Many things that happen to the characters never happened to me, but I spent hours pouring over research to ensure accuracy.
I am from the southern part of the US myself. The depiction of the culture is accurate to many areas. Harlan’s name actually came from a county in Kentucky. There is a song that Brad Paisley covered called “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” I chose that name because the song really sums up the feeling you get living in these types of impoverished areas. You will never get out. You will die there.
This series is real and raw, much in the way that life is. I did not want to skim over certain topics because they are sensitive. I wanted to tackle them head on because leaving them ignored and in the dark is a huge part of the problem. You cannot see a problem if the lights are turned off and you allow it to dwell in the darkness of society.
Pre-Order your copy of Born and Sickness, Book One of the Take me to Church series today. It will be out March 23rd. I am nervous and excited to share this little piece of myself with you.
Harlan Sharp has lived in a small, religious community his entire life, but that doesn’t mean he’s anything like them. He’s always known he was different, but quickly learned from a very young age that different is bad. Different is how people get hurt, that and trusting others.
He wears dark clothes, paints his nails black, outlines his eyes in liner, and does everything he can to keep the other kids away. His only friend is Cadeon, and he plans to keep that way. He keeps his heart behind a wall and his secrets close to his chest.
The other kids at school seem to think he’s a Satan Worshipper, but that’s far from the truth. Harlan stopped believing in God when a traumatic experience from his childhood left him scared and angry at the world.
He is just trying to survive senior year so he can move out of his shitty town and finally get away from the memories that haunt him. It’s not like anyone would notice his absence. His own mother ignores his very existence and his father fucked off long ago. He goes to bed hungry and alone more often than not.
Luka Thomas is an 18 year-old-boy who moved to a new town right before his senior year of high school. He should be used to moving around. He has been doing it since he was seven years old. That was when his mom married his step-father, Matt, who is in the army. Since then, he has been uprooted every few months to a new area and new school. He just wants to get through his last year without moving again.
Luka has gone to church most of his life and believes everything in the Bible with his whole heart, so he should be somewhat excited about his move since it’s into the Bible Belt, USA. He’s not. Luka has a secret that he doesn’t want his family to find out.
He’s not gay. He’s just experimenting, that’s all. Luka knows his extra circular activities are wrong, and no he isn’t referring to football. He knows they are against God and everything he was taught to believe. He scratching an itch. After high school, and maybe even college, he fully plans to settle down with a woman and have 2.5 children and white picket fence.
More about Luka:
About 5’8 with strong legs
Activities: Football, Bible Club, Baseball and Choir