Ep 184: “Under His Protection” with LaQuette - Big Gay Fiction Podcast

The guys open the show with a discussion of the Netflix original Unicorn Store. Jeff reviews Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett. Will reviews LaQuette’s Under His Protection. Jeff & Will interview LaQuette about Under His Protection. They find out about the story’s inspiration and how it ties into LaQuette’s other series. LaQuette also shares details on her upcoming Harlem Heat series, what got her started writing romance and details about what she does as the president for New York City’s Romance Writers of America chapter. Complete shownotes for episode 184 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. Book Reviews from this week: Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett. Reviewed by Jeff Bad to the Bone turned out to be one of those perfect Dreamspun Desires for me. I’m a sucker for second chance romance combined with friends to lovers and this one adds in a bit from the redeemed bad boy trope as well. It all combined to give me exactly the read that I needed. The story kicks off on the eve of a high school reunion taking place in a small Oklahoma town. Alex Morrison has been back in town for several years, taking over his family’s hardware store when his parents needed him to. One afternoon, while working with his sister at the store, they witness a motorcyclist pulled over and it’s soon revealed that the man is Alex’s high school bestie, Ricky Lee Jennings. Alex hasn’t heard from Ricky Lee since he was expelled and sent away to reform school. Alex regretted he didn’t defend Ricky Lee and prevent the expulsion, but he was scared he’d lose his football scholarship if he did. Sparks fly at the reunion when Ricky Lee shows up without a ticket and Alex gets him in as his guest. What unfolds over the coming weeks is the rekindling of far more than a friendship. Nicki does so much with this rather simple set up. Both characters complexity made me love this book so much. Alex is someone I wanted to wrap up in a comforting hug. He does so much for the community that he lives in between serving on the library board, working for Habitat for Humanity, helping out with the high school reunion committee, and anything else he can do to help his fellow citizens. Yet, all he can see in himself is failure from a lost college football career because of an injury, a failed marriage, and even coming back to manage his family business is something he considers a fail because he gave up his dreams of being an environmental lobbyist. Of course, what he’s done is made the decisions that are right in the moment but he can’t see that. Ricky Lee, on the other hand, subverts every stereotype the town has for him. It’s awesome to watch as people who believe they know exactly who he is after ten years begin to see who he has become. He’s far from the young man who was abused by his alcoholic father and just wanted to survive high school. As both relive their high school times and share what they are doing now, Ricky Lee and Alex are drawn back together. Alex, however, is sure this can’t be more than a fling. He’s scared of revealing himself as bisexual to the town and there’s no way Ricky Lee will move back to Oklahoma since he’s got a life in Portland. The wooing that Ricky Lee does with Alex is outstanding. I love a good date and their weekend trip to Oklahoma City is all that. They stay at a boutique hotel, go to art museums and the botanical gardens and eat delicious food. The sizzling sex made the date all the hotter. It showed Alex in vivid detail what life could be like in if he decides to make a go of it with Ricky Lee. The other depth that Nikki weaves into this book is the town Alex lives in. In particular, I liked the local pastor, who is nothing like what you might expect a southern pastor to be. He turns out to be one of Alex’s biggest supporters in being true to himself. We also see Alex’s work with the library, which is a central subplot for the story since Alex and Ricky Lee’s high school nemesis, Odell, who wants to expand his car deale…
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