I have been on a dark romance kick (what else is new?), so when I found the Necessary Evils Series and read the blurb to Unhinged, I knew I found my next read. It’s one of those concepts that I read and immediately wished I had come up with myself. It’s very creative. Full disclosure: I’m already over halfway through the second book in this series: Psycho.
This review will contain small spoilers.
Book Trigger Warnings: Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Trafficking, Child Abuse, Molestation, Childhood Trauma, Psychopathy, Violence, and Torture. In my opinion, none of this is really in any graphic detail (except maybe the violence). Honestly, I’ve written worse.
Adam Mulvaney lives a double life. By day, he’s the spoiled youngest son of an eccentric billionaire. By night, he’s an unrepentant killer, one of seven psychopaths raised to right the wrongs of a justice system that keeps failing.
Noah Holt has spent years dreaming of vengeance for the death of his father, but when faced with his killer, he learns a daunting truth he can’t escape. His father was a monster.
Unable to ignore his own surfacing memories, Noah embarks on a quest to find the truth about his childhood with the help of an unlikely ally: the very person who murdered his father. Since their confrontation, Adam is obsessed with Noah, and he wants to help him uncover the answers he seeks, however dark they may be.
The two share a mutual attraction, but deep down, Noah knows Adam’s not like other boys. Adam can’t love. He wasn’t born that way. But he refuses to let Noah go, and Noah’s not sure he wants him to.
Can Adam prove to Noah that passion, power, and protection are just as good as love?
Unhinged is a fast-paced, roller coaster ride of a romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a dirty-talking, possessive psychopath and a sweet cinnamon roll of a boy with Daddy issues and a core of steel. There’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, enough steam to fog up a hundred car windows, and something a lot like love. This is book one in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.
I really enjoyed this book. The concept is just fascinating to me. It was one of those that I wish I had come up with myself. In this book, you get right into the two main characters meeting, which I very much apricated.
Adam is a bit of a spoiled rich kid who has gotten by on his good looks and his father’s money. He is a good-looking, devil-may-care model, but what he does behind the lens of the camera is a different story. He is a psychopath, and he, along with his brothers, are vigilantes. He kills people who do evil things but these people are somehow either above the law or the law just simply can’t catch them. I must admit, I was way more interested in Adam’s brothers than I was him.
Noah is the son of one of Adam’s victims. When he confronts Adam one night for his crime against his father, Adam shows him who is father really was which unlocks memories that Noah had repressed. These memories lead Adam and Noah into a dark world where Noah and many other children were the victims.
I thought this story would have worked better as a slow-burn. Their instant attraction to each other didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. The way James explains Adam’s desires for Noah is almost… supernatural? It’s reminiscent of supernatural beings who have found their mate, but Adam isn’t a werewolf. I found the explanation a bit odd, but I went with it. There was lots of steam in-between the action.
I wouldn’t describe this book as particularly angsty, especially when it comes to their relationship. A lot of their conflict comes from outside sources. There was no will-they-won’t-they questions. You knew from the beginning that they would. The conflict revolved around the mystery that was unfolding about Noah’s past.
The one thing that really annoyed me about this book is that Noah acted really out at one point for no real good reason other than to move the plot along. If James would have added a few lines about the reason as to why Noah acted out of character, then it would have made sense. The other thing that bothered is how quickly they fell for each other. The blurb made it seem like a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers, type deal but it was the opposite. Everything with their relationship happened really quickly which seemed really unrealistic to me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend you read it if you can handle the triggers that it contains. I must admit, I am enjoying the second one way more. I am looking forward to doing a review on it in the coming weeks.
A month ago, I signed up to receive an ARC for Willow Erdem’s upcoming book, Wilde & Twisted which will be released 7/7/2021. It is an m/m romance novel about battling your demons, discovering your sexuality and falling in love. Erdem has a poetic way of writing. She has a way with metaphors, really drawing the reader into the scene. She writes third person, split POV and present tense, which is something we seem to.
Silver-tongued lawyer, Linus Twist, has expensive tastes. The sharpest suits, the purest drugs, and the dirtiest sex; Linus wants it all in excess, especially the sex, and especially with the wrong types of men. So when he impetuously follows a foxy redhead into the gym shower and gets kissed like it means something, Linus knows he’s headed for certain disaster.
Finnigan Wilde is a dreamer, a wanna-be novelist, searching for himself. In love with the idea of love, Finn only knows what he feels. He woos Linus with lilacs, speaks to him in filthy poetry, and touches him like he doesn’t care who’s watching. But can Linus set aside his sinister tendencies, his ambition, and one vital fact: that, as far as the world is concerned, Finn is straight?
Wilde & Twisted is a bisexual-awakening, opposites-attract novel, with a happily-ever-after.
I must admit, when I first picked this book up, it took several chapters for it to really hook me. I am sincerely glad I stuck with it though because the story was worth it. At first, I didn’t like Linus (fucking) Twist at all. He was pompous, arrogant, and his actions didn’t really make sense to me. After I was finally introduced to Finn Wilde, and his character really drew me in.
Finn is an aspiring writer (relatable) who works as a trainer. He is a cupcake. That’s literally the one way he can be described. He is young and dumb, and doesn’t always make the best decisions, but who does? He is really sweet and patient. He deserves the world even though he pissed me off a few times.
Linus is a divorce attorney that is very clearly good at his job. Even though I hated him at first, he grew on me. After I started understanding his past more, I found myself forgiving of his all around asshole-ness (yes that’s totally a word). He is caring in his own way and very protective over the people he loves even though he doesn’t always know how to show it. Without spoiling it, I was very proud of a decision he made near the end. It was much needed.
This book has it all. Steam. Poetry. Fucked up, imperfectly perfect characters that you hate to love. My favorite kind of stories are about imperfect people. Real people have flaws. It’s important that they grow and own up to them in the story, which is exactly what happened. I appreciated the character growth. It was a Wilde (& Twisted) ride, but I would recommend it in the end.
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!
As you know by now, I have always used music as an inspiration to my stories, and this book is no different. Below, I will walk you through each song that inspired Born in Sickness: Book One of the Take me to Church Series. You can also find the playlist I created on both Spotify and YouTube.
Take me to Church- Hozier
No masters or kings when the ritual begins There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene Only then I am human Only then I am clean Amen, Amen, Amen
The reason why this one was included is pretty obvious. The song inspired the series in a lot of ways. Of course, this series took on a mind of it’s own, but the song fits perfectly!
Welcome to my Life- Simple Plan
Do you ever feel like breaking down? Do you ever feel out of place? Like somehow you just don’t belong And no one understands you
If there was one emo song that defined my teen years, it would be this one. You will notice for this playlist, most of the songs fit into some kind of rock category. I really like this song for the first few chapters, specifically from Harlan’s point of view. He is the classic outcast teen that thinks everyone hates him and nobody understands him. You either were that person or knew that person in high school, don’t lie.
No Me Importa- In This Moment
You’re so brave from your side of the glass And you, you can’t compute, you can’t do the math And you’re, you’re playing god with your remote control But I already know that there’s a flaw in my code and the The truth is you silently study me And there are consequences that you cannot see And you ask yourself how did I unplug But the simple truth is that I just don’t give a fuck
Again, this one is mostly from Harlan’s POV. It also refers a bit to Luka’s frustration with not being able to read Harlan’s body language. He doesn’t understand how Harlan works, but he is is trying to, especially early on in their relationship. Harlan is very closed off.
Black Honey- Trice
I keep swingin’ my hand through a swarm of bees I can’t understand why they’re stingin’ me But I’ll do what I want I’ll do what I please I’ll do it again ’til I’ve got what I need
This song is mostly referring to Harlan’s desire to do everything he can to help his family, and Luka’s desire to get Harlan to open up a bit.
5. Your God- Stone Sour
Say something, anything to me I do believe, but I have doubts So many reasons to hold on Conflicting interest, isn’t it? I guess I’m better off in the end ‘Cause you were always there to blame I haven’t felt so bad in I don’t know how long, you know
This song is definitely more from Luka’s point of view, and how he really starts to question everything he was taught about religion. This fits that first chapter where a real theological debate between him and Harlan takes place. I thought this song really fit both of their points of views. How Luka is questioning his faith and how Harlan has already lost his and feels as though he doesn’t need Luka’s God.
Dyers Eve- Metallica
Dear mother, dear father What is this hell you have put me through? Believer, deceiver Day in, day out, lived my life through you Pushed onto me what’s wrong or right Hidden from this thing that they call life
I think the reason why I chose this song is obvious. The song is very much about how parents force their doctrine and religious belief on their children. How they shelter them from life, which in the end, does more harm than good. They push their narrative of what’s wrong and right, and force a certain way of life on their children. Luka goes to the church homecoming with this family, starting to resent his step-dad, Matt. He starts to realize how fucked up his religion really is and open his eyes, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
Natural Born Sinner- In This Moment
Did you really think by pushing me I would become what you want me to be? And did you really think by hurting me I’d open up and just hand you the key? I know you’re scared and don’t understand This is my life, this is who I am What I do know is come judgement day Before the lord can you say the same?
This is about the moment Luka begins to take his life into his own hands. The moment he just says “fuck it” and kisses Harlan. He knows it’s wrong. He knows it’s against God. He knows it’s against everything Matt wants him to be, but he just can’t seem to care because he also knows he wants Harlan. He doesn’t want to deny himself of it anymore.
And I hate that I’m conflicted This addiction’s got me twisted on you I’m conflicted, contradictive Got my body confused I’m yes or no, I will, I won’t I’m conflicted and addicted So come over and make up my mind
Even though Luka decided to kiss Harlan, he’s still conflicted. Simultaneously, Harlan is also conflicted. He doesn’t know if he should trust Luka and he doesn’t want to be his ‘dirty little secret’ or help him cheat on his girlfriend. He is giving Luka a chance to explain himself.
Jet Black Heart- 5 Seconds of Summer
But now that I’m broken And now that you know it Caught up in a moment Can you see inside? ‘Cause I’ve got a jet black heart And there’s a hurricane underneath it Trying to keep us apart I write with a poison pen But these chemicals moving between us Are the reason to start again
This song is about knowing your kind of fucked up, but wanting someone to see it. Loving someone so much that you’re going to let them inside. You want to start with them. Start over with them even, and I think that it really fits the end of the book. They are just starting. They have a long way to go. Their path is probably going to be turbulent, but they may fall in love. They are giving each other a chance.
Recently, I got the opportunity to talk about my musical influences in an interview on the Mando Method Podcast. Listen to it here. Or watch the YouTube video blow:
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.
Buy the Book
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.
When I tell people that I am in a polyamorous relationship, I usually get a ton of questions. I welcome them though and have never been shy with my answers. Most of the questions involve jealousy and what happens in the bedroom, whether that means sleeping arrangements or threesomes.
I have been in a polyamorous relationship for quite some time now. My husband and I wanted an open relationship from the moment we met almost 10 years ago. I’m bisexual, and I didn’t want to give up that aspect of my identity. He didn’t want me to either, so we decided an open relationship would be best for us.
Polyamory often gets confused with polygamy, but they are different. Polyamory typically encompasses a broader scope of practice while polygamy just refers to the practice of one person marrying multiple partners. Polyamory is practiced between consenting adults. If a person cheats on another, then that does not mean they are polyamorous.
I realize a lot of people want to write about an open relationship but may not know the logistics of it. There are also a lot of factors at play that I think most people just don’t even consider. So here are 10 things to consider while writing a polyamorous relationship.
There is a lot of terminology within the poly community. I would recommend looking at the Poly Glossary for more explanation. Mostly what I wanted to point out was the difference between a V and a Triangle in the poly community. A “V” relationship is when a person A and person B are dating, but then person B has some type of relationship with person C, but A and C don’t have any kind of relationship. A triangle is when Persons A, B, and C are all in a mutual relationship. I made diagrams! You’ll find those are very helpful later.
If you’re going to write your characters engaged in a polyamorous relationship, perhaps it’s a good idea to answer why. Why are they opening their relationship? Is it because one of them is bisexual or pansexual and they want to explore? Are they trying to spice things up? Have they met a mutual friend in which they are both interested in? If that’s the case, then you may also want to think about how they may approach the subject both with each other and their friend.
I get this question all the time. “Don’t you get jealous over the fact that your husband is fucking someone else?” and my answer is always “Meh” with a shrug. I know I’m in the minority here, but I have never been an overly jealous person. It’s just not who I am. I firmly believe that humans are capable of loving more than one person at one time. Poly isn’t right for everyone. If you or your character is a jealous person, you may want to reconsider unless certain circumstances arise. I can talk about those in a different blog post if you would like.
I don’t know if this is standard for all poly couples, but I know my husband I had discussed rules when we first opened our relationship. Maybe there is a rule where the new person never sleeps over. Like any healthy relationship, establishing rules and boundaries is very important.
This is something I’ve found a lot of people don’t even think about. Having a relationship with one person is hard enough, especially when you are trying to learn who they are and balance it with who you are. There is a lot of push and pull, then when you add another person to that, it sometimes makes things unequal. Two of the people in the relationship could feed off each other. When one is in a bad mood, it may make the other in a bad mood, which leaves the third feeling trapped in the middle. Take into consideration the characterizations of your main characters and how they may interact. Are they even compatible as a triad?
This is typically the question I get asked most often. It’s usually only after they worked up the courage, but that’s okay. I will probably write an entire blog based on triad sex scenes, but I will go over the basics here. Keep track of body parts. Plan various positions for them to try. The most important one, though, is understanding it should not be perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The reality is, you spend most of your first threesome feeling awkward and giggling. It’s a logistical nightmare, after all, and you don’t want anyone to fill left out. So please, if you’re writing a threesome, do not make it perfect because that’s simply unrealistic.
Like any relationship, communication is ridiculously important. Feeling jealous? Talk about it. Feeling nervous? Communicate that.
This obviously won’t apply to every book, but I thought it should be said. Perhaps the original couple has a child. As a writer, you have to consider how the child will react to this. How will the parents handle it? It will depend on the age of the child, but it is definitely something to consider.
The Little Things
This pertains to all the small details that most people wouldn’t think of. Like the fact that most toothbrush packages only come in numbers divisible by two. That is frustrating for triad couples. Sleeping arrangements. Do they switch off? All sleep together in one big ass bed? Little things like this will make your story more organic.
What’s Wrong With More Love?
A lot of people just can’t seem to fathom how I would be okay with all of this. Perhaps you have a side character in your book with a similar viewpoint. When asked that question, my answer is always very simple: What’s wrong with more love?
Well, I hope you enjoyed this! Please let me know if you’re interested in more information about poly relationships. If you would like to discuss any of this with me, follow me on my social medias below. If you enjoyed this work, consider donating to my career by buying me a coffee.
I love to read almost as much as I love to write. The other day, I downloaded a lovely little book titled Musical Notes by Beth Bolden. I thought I would review it on my blog. This is my first ever book review, but I am excited to embark on this facet of becoming a career author. I will try to avoid spoilers in this review, but there may be a few that sneak in accidentally. I apologize.
Musical Notes is a short book about two teachers who spend half of the year dancing around each other. Carter Bennett is shy and a self proclaimed nerd. He never thought the new, ridiculously attractive gym teacher, Nolan, would give him the time of day. Because of this, Carter avoids the other teacher at all cost.
Everything changes one day when the principal of the school calls them both into his office. Nolan thinks he is in trouble, but it turns out the principal is in dire need of help. The school is on the brink of finally getting a theatre program, but the previous teacher that was conducting the school play suddenly ran off with her lover. He asks Carter and Nolan to take over in her wake.
It seems as though they’ve inherited a mess and the production is on the brink of collapse. It forces the two men to spend all of their free time together, inadvertently getting to know each other in the process, flaws and all. Nolan’s adorable flirtation and Carter’s astounding innocence will have you hooked from the start.
Musical Notes by Beth Bolden is a work of fiction and is a mlm (male loving male) romance novel.
I really enjoyed Musical Notes. It was a fun little read that was light hearted in all the right places. It had very little angst or sadness, which is great when your life is shit and you need a pick-me-up. There was such a sweet innocence about this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Carter’s character is very relatable for me because I am a bit of a self proclaimed nerd as well, but I also found bits of myself in Nolan. He was funny and sure of himself, but a complete stuttering mess around Carter. It was so cute. I am pretty sure I had heart eyes the entire time I was reading.
I also found Musical Notes funny with a lot of witty banter. The way Carter and Nolan interacted from the very beginning just left me wanting more. I also loved how caring Nolan was. It was a breath of fresh air since his character was supposed to align more with the typical ‘jock’ stereotype. I found myself grinning dopely at my Kindle, thoroughly invested in their budding relationship.
I will say that this book doesn’t have a lot of steamy scenes. There are a few, very short bits of smut, but nothing much further than a blowjob. I will admit, that part left me a tiny bit dissatisfied. It’s like it had me on the edge, but never actually got me there. I personally enjoy a bit of sexy parts in my books, but I know they aren’t for everyone and that’s okay. I would still highly recommend this book just the same. It was a lovely read, and I will definitely return to it on days when I’m sad or need a bit of fluff.
If you would like to read this book yourself, you can find it linked below!
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