on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

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Title: How to Raise an Honest Rabbit (a Knitting novella)
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 45,277 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Knitting, Con Men, Mafia, First Times
Rating: Loved It!

BLURB

Everything about Jeremy has always been a lie—including his last name. When one grift too many ends in tragedy, Jeremy goes straight. But life’s hard for an ex-con, and Jeremy is down to panhandling and hope when Rance Crawford offers him work at a tiny alpaca farm and fiber mill. Jeremy takes him up on the job, thinking this could be his last chance to be a good man, and meets Aiden, who is growing into a better one.

As Aiden comes of age, Jeremy finds himself desperate to grow up, too, because Aiden starts looking to him for things Jeremy doesn’t know how to give. Being honest is terrifying for a man who’s learned to rabbit at the first sign of conflict—more so when Aiden gives Jeremy a reason to stay that can’t be packed up and carried in a knapsack. When Jeremy’s past comes knocking at their door, can Jeremy trust enough in Aiden and his new home to answer bravely back?

REVIEW

If I had my way, Amy would keep writing this series FOREVER. I’m not kidding, sexy men who knit + Amy Lane’s writing sans angst = the best thing ever and totally meant just for me. That’s how I feel. I love this series because if you ask me, not nearly enough people knit, especially men. Reading about them, therefore, is like a fantasy come true. And I love these men. The first story, The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters has always been one of my favorites of Amy’s shorts, but this sequel, where we get to know a lot more about Jeremy and Aiden though we met them in that first story, far surpasses it, In my opinion. I think because there’s a real history at play here and Jeremy is such a compelling character. I love him and seeing him really work for the life he wants to live and the relationship that he finally decides he deserves and can handle is really rewarding. Of course, Aiden is special in his own way as well.

All we knew about Jeremy from the first story was that Crawford had found him on the streets and offered him a job, and that he used to be a con man. There are two things in particular that make this story special, and they go hand in hand. First, Jeremy’s voice is (as I talked to Laura the other day) very Steinbeck-ian in diction and phrasing. He has a unique voice that shows his rather colorful past, yet neglected childhood and it really just made me want to cuddle him. Second, he spends the first third of the story, roughly, taking us back in time and giving his life story. It gives us quite a bit of time to see the backstory, not only of Jeremy’s childhood, but also of the history of the wool mill and the other characters. In a way it feels like a prequel, and that allows us to see much of what we witnessed in the first story (the relationship between Craw and Ben) through other, fresh eyes.

The heart of the story is really about Jeremy and his evolution into a productive member of society. Raised as a chameleon by his father with the only reputable goal money and winning, he has an ingrained and slightly skewed perception of the world around him. Getting put in jail after a rather close and terrible incident when he was younger sorted him out some, but the real work comes once he has a chance to prove himself. He has to hold a job, make money, and learn to be responsible to others. But, shedding his past is very difficult, no matter how much support he has in terms of his new family and Aidan, who represents everything good and pure in the world that Jer is afraid to touch in case he sullies it. Yet, like the yarn they cultivate, spin, dye and knit, each member of the motley family offers security and a slow-paced reassurance to Jeremy that allows him to take baby steps. This character progression is really what makes this book so wonderful. The story is full of little details that represent the big issues, showing Jeremy in a very clear light that in itself is poignant.

Everyone (it seems) knows about my aversion to angst, no matter how much I try to get through some books. And I admit freely that many of Amy’s books scare the fuckin daylights out of me, just because I hate putting myself through some of the shit she inflicts on her characters. But when he writes a sweet story, I am so there. The addition of knitting and yarn production (which I actually know a lot about, strangely) only made this book in particular totally wonderful to me. I absolutely cannot wait for the next story, Knitter in His Natural Habitat.


Hot Pressure Blog Tour banner

Or is a hobby just not macho enough unless it needs some hardcore sporting gear or a Black & Decker Workmate?

Josephine Myles: Jamie knows I have a major soft spot for men doing “girly” crafts like knitting and sewing, which is why she chose this title. To me, there’s something incredibly attractive about a man who feels secure enough in his masculinity to go against all the cultural expectations of how he should spend his spare time.

That isn’t to say, though, that I don’t appreciate the sight of men doing more “macho” hobbies like woodworking, welding (is welding a hobby?) or mechanics–especially when they’re covered in grease and sweat. I can do without the noise of power tools, though.

What do you think, Jamie: are the less macho hobbies more appropriate when writing gay characters, or are we falling into another kind of cultural stereotyping? And how important is it for characters to have hobbies, anyway?

JL Merrow (Jamie): How important is it for characters to have hobbies? Okay, now I know you’re deliberately being provocative! A man without interests beyond his job, I would have to say, is a man who shouldn’t be anywhere within the pages of a romance novel. Unless, of course, he’s the soon-to-be ex whose only reason for existing is as a barrier to our True Lovers’ happiness – but even there, I’m sure a good author could find more interesting ways to make a guy dumpable! Unless of course your idea of a HEA is vegging out on the sofa to watch game shows on TV…. 😉

I have to say, from what I’ve read in the m/m genre, there seem to be fewer characters with less macho hobbies than elsewhere. Perhaps authors are bending over backwards to show that their guys may be gay, but it doesn’t mean they’re girly?

Jo: I think you’re probably right. I suspect much of it is authors realising that they need an explanation for why their guys are bursting with muscles, decide that being a steroid munching gym bunny isn’t all that appealing, and therefore have to come up with a rugged, outdoorsy sort of hobby. White water rafting, for instance, or rock climbing.

There can be a fine line between hobby and job, though. I’m not sure Josh, my narrator in The Hot Floor, really has anything you could call a proper hobby. He makes glass for a living and gets his creative urges fulfilled that way. Outside of that, his only real activities seem to be getting drunk with his best mate and watching porn. Of course, he does develop a real interest in playing cheesy 70s games like Kerplunk, but that has more to do with the company he’s keeping.

What about your characters’ hobbies?

Jamie: Well, in other books they’ve been into karate, which I think is fairly macho, although I poke some fun at it in the current WIP. On the other hand, Tim from Hard Tail loves pottery dragons and Agatha Christie novels, so we’re tipping the scales a bit there.

Tom from Pressure Head is more your average bloke. He’s not sporty, due to a childhood injury. His cats’ names hint at a little closet geekiness, and he cooks, but in other respects he’s really more the average, blue collar pub-going bloke. Which led to a bit of a depressing moment for me, when I realised he was totally a football fan… That’s soccer to the US peeps, and it’s a subject I see and hear far too much about in real life. But characters like what they like!

Talking of real life, do you have a lot of men in your life who aren’t ashamed to buck the hobbies trend and knit on trains, for example?

Jo: Ah, you remembered! Yes, I have a knitter, a tailor, a fire dancer, and a geeky sci-fi fan. I also had the recent disturbing realisation that one of my characters was into football. Of course he was, the inconvenient bastard! I have the same problem with games consoles. Not remotely interested myself, but some of my characters are obsessed by them, and then I have to go researching which games certain age groups/subcultures are into, and which of the various consoles they’re likely to own.

I think my favourite esoteric hobbyist, though, is Rai in The Hot Floor, who is obsessed with collecting retro tat, particularly macrame, spider plants and owl figurines. It’s totally un-macho, but it works for him and the moment I realised that was what he was into, his whole character sprang to life and demanded voice. I love it when they do that!

Jamie – I refuse to hear a word said against owls and macrame! *glares sternly* 🙂

Jo: Ah yes, I should mention here that beta reading The Hot Floor had an entirely unexpected result for Jamie, as it inspired her to take up macrame again, and she’s become obsessed with making owls. Obsessed, I tell you! She sends me photos of them and everything, and has even created one as part of the grand prize for this tour. I’d never get that obsessed. Nope. I’m definitely not planning an embroidered and appliqued owl wallhanging, or anything.

Hobbies: I’ve come to the conclusion they’re highly contagious!

Jamie: *mutters* I could give it up any time I wanted to…

Readers, what do you think? Do real men knit? Or knot? 😉

Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.

About the books:

Pressure Head

Some secrets are better left hidden.

When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.

Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.

Pressure Head on Amazon.com

The Hot Floor coverThe Hot Floor

Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.

Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.

The Hot Floor on Amazon.com

About the authors:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com

Boxer picture courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welder picture courtesy of StockXCHNG