Title: Short Order
Series: Foothills Pride #8
Author: Pat Henshaw
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication date: December 13, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Cover Design: AngstyG
Length: 28,400 words/89 pages
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When recent horticulture graduate Dr. Fenton Miller arrives in Stone Acres, California, he thinks his only concern is which job offer to accept after spending the holidays working at his cousin’s plant nursery. But after he rents a room from another shorter-than-average man, sous-chef John Barton, Fen falls in lust.
While he’s attracted to Fen, John’s got bigger concerns when two men from his past arrive in town and pressure him to return to San Francisco. Although John tries to stop Fen from getting involved, Fen realizes his lover is in trouble and is determined to protect him.
As the holidays get closer and Fen makes his own enemy, the joy of the season gets lost in the ill will around them. To ensure love triumphs, Fen and John must stand tall to show that short, dark, and handsome is a recipe for love.
That night I stood freezing at Barton’s door, admiring Blue Cottage. The snow drifts piled on the lawn made the house look greeting-card perfect. I searched for a doorbell. Instead, a lion-headed knocker snarled at me. I grinned. Every house needed an intimidating guardian, right?
A man who looked about my age and height opened the door and slipped out, shutting it behind him. I was curious to see inside, but I got that the guy wanted his privacy. No problem.
“Hi. I’m Fen.”
He looked me over, then turned to the left along the shoveled porch. As he walked, he played with the keyring, bouncing a key in his hand. Did I make him nervous? If so, was that a good thing?
Okay. I took a breath and followed his pert ass and brisk steps as we rounded the porch to a steep staircase. From my brief glance at his face, he seemed okay. I was still slightly put off by his brusque manner. But hey, I reminded myself, I was renting from him, not fucking him.
In silence I followed him up to a small porch and a solid-looking back door, which he opened after only a little fumbling.
I was greeted by the stuffy, closed-up odor of a place long left undisturbed.
“You’d be my first renter. It’s furnished, but I can store anything you don’t want.” He made quick eye contact with me. The words erupted from him like I made him uncomfortable or something. Maybe it was my piercing and the tattoo, or maybe the hair color. I tried a smile, but he blushed and turned away, gesturing to the rooms.
Even though the air inside was chilly, I looked around and fell even more in love than I had when I’d first seen the house. The 1940s era furniture and knickknacks turned what could have been sterile rooms into my kind of home. I exhaled, letting the ambience settle in my soul as I wandered through a country kitchen, tiny dining room, sitting room, two bedrooms, and a classic bathroom, ending eventually at a circular tower room. I fell even deeper in love along the way as I touched the scratched kitchen table, a velveteen-covered parlor settee, a solid-looking four-poster bed, and the needlepoint-cushioned window seat in the tower.
If I were Barton, I’d charge thousands a month for this place. I prayed he wasn’t me and was relieved when my prayers were answered.
“You want to keep the furniture?” He still didn’t look at me as he bent over the kitchen table to fill out the rental agreement. Who needed him staring? I could live with letting his voice pour over me and seeing his kissable lips.
“I can’t imagine living here without all of it.” Or maybe even you, I thought, eyeing his pert butt wiggling at me as he wrote.
He stopped, stood, and eyed me for a few seconds before bending and going back to writing. I hadn’t said that about his butt out loud, had I?
As I was daydreaming about his ass and the scarred table, he stopped writing, looked over the form, and finally twisted it toward me. “Sign here, initial here, and date it. Then I need your rent for the month.”
I was signing before he changed his mind. The rent was ridiculously cheap. “No deposit?” There had to be a catch, right?
I glanced up. He was gazing down at the table, or maybe at my hands. Or my groin? I signed as fast as I could and wrote a check to John Barton, the name on the rental agreement. So he had a first name, and we had a deal.
I drove back to my cousin’s house whistling. Within an hour, and with Beth and Kate’s help, I was moved in. Having only clothes and electronics made the move a one-trip job. Then I went food shopping for breakfast stuff and frozen dinners. We all celebrated by eating a late dinner outside town at a diner called the Rock Bottom Cafe. Renting a place with a wonderful kitchen hadn’t automatically taught me to cook.Even with an enigma for a landlord, my life was perfect.
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- What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of traditional publishing versus self-publishing?
Having self-published a novel and short stories and having Dreamspinner Press publish the Foothills Pride series and a couple of short stories, I know there’s a lot of difference between the two. Self-publishing is totally do-it-yourself, from the moment you start writing the book until it’s for sale. I chose to publish my fantasy The Vampire’s Food Chain through CreateSpace and found the process as painless as self-publishing gets. My husband and my daughters proofread and edited the book, and my daughter Becca formatted it for me. It’s available in eBook and paperback format online. I’m extremely happy to have Dreamspinner for my publisher on the other books because they take the business end of bookselling off the author’s hands as well as provide expert editing, proofing, and cover design, pieces that are missing or slipshod in many self-published books.
- Would you or do you use a PR agency?
Yes, I’ve used PR agencies for all the Foothills Pride books, but never for the vampire novel. The difference in sales is night and day—and yes, that’s a fantasy joke. But still, it’s true. I do a lot of promotional footwork myself, including querying reviewers who’ve reviewed my books before and running Facebook ads. I’ve recently joined Instafreebie where I plan to publish short stories and flash fiction whenever I take a break from writing longer works. But none of that beats the efforts of a good publicity group who can give authors much more exposure.
- If you could live in any of the structure you created for the Foothills Pride series, which would you live in? Why?
I’m tempted to answer Blue Cottage which is featured heavily in Short Order because it’s a beautiful old Victorian home. But with my failing knees, I know that getting up to the front door or even worse climbing to the second floor would be nearly impossible. So since I must be honest, I’d say I’d live in Frank McCord’s family farmhouse if it still was standing. But since that’s not a possibility, I have to admit defeat. All the old buildings have stair access. I’d have to conjure up my own home, a low adobe building, probably something like the refurbished restaurant Zeke takes Vic to in Relative Best.
- In your book Short Order, Fen and John exchange Christmas gifts with Fen’s family. What would you give Fen and John, and what would you like in return?
Let’s see, I’d probably get Fen a gift certificate from Etsy so that he could get himself a unique piece of clothing. I’d suggest he look for a suit that would be slightly off-beat so that he could attend business meetings with his new job and still feel like himself. For John, I’d get a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma because I’m sure they have something for cooking that he doesn’t have or doesn’t have access to that he’s always wanted to own. Getting presents from them is much easier to decide. I’d like a vibrant, healthy plant and detailed instructions on keeping it alive in my office. So far, I’ve managed even to kill air plants in there. I need his help. And from John, I’d like a signed copy of his cookbook.
- If you could take four of your series characters and four of your author friends to dinner, who would you take and where would you go?
I’d love to have J. Scott Coatsworth, Christopher Koehler, Phyllis Gerstenfeld, and Baz Collins come to dinner at either the Rock Bottom Café or the Silver Dollar Restaurant in Stone Acres with Guy Stone (What’s in a Name?), Abe Behr (Behr Facts), Frank McCord (Frank at Heart), and Fredi Zimmer (Redesigning Max). And since I rarely go anywhere without my husband and daughter Becca, I’d urge my guests to bring their spouses or partners with them too. It would definitely be a memorable night.
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