Book Title: Behind the Stick, The Speakeasy #3
Author: K. Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn
Publisher: Pride Publishing/Totally Entwined Group
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Genre/s: Contemporary, MM, Romance, Interracial, Erotic Romance
Trope/s: Bad Breakup, Hurt/Comfort, Interracial Relationship, Sex Buddies Become Lovers, Found Family
Themes: Family, Friendship, Family Conflict, Racial Intolerance, Forgiveness
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 97 045 words/370 pages
Kyle McKee lives a charmed life. He co-owns Under, an uptown speakeasy, where he is chief mixologist. Friends poke fun at Kyle’s tiny one-bed apartment in Chelsea, but they’re the best support system a man could ask for. Unfortunately, Kyle’s lackluster love life has led him to take a break from dating.
Harlem resident Luka Clarke is a lieutenant with Engine 47, the Pride of Morningside, where he carries on his father’s legacy with the FDNY. Luka, who is mixed race and bisexual, has his eye on Kyle, whom he met at a local burger joint and he just needs to make time to visit Kyle’s bar.
Before work one evening, Kyle is trapped inside the luncheonette when a fire breaks out. Luka’s firehouse answers the call and he connects with Kyle again under the most unexpected of circumstances. When Kyle gratefully invites Luka and the firehouse squad to Under, the flirting between the two men leads to a date.
Kyle and Luka quickly grow close, but Luka’s mother and sister distrust Kyle for being both white and gay. Luka believes his family will come around and accept Kyle in the end, but Kyle is not optimistic and hides his disquiet as attraction blossoms into love.
Kyle and Luka’s near-idyllic bubble is shattered one evening after a hate crime leaves them scarred, inside and out. Shaken, they put on a strong front but struggle inwardly against fear and personal demons. As the emotions seething beneath the surface finally come to a head, both men must decide if they have the strength to find love enough to conquer hate.
Reader advisory: This book contains references to non-nurturing parenting; homophobia; racism and racist slurs. There are references to recreational drug use. This book also contains scenes of mmmm ménage and characters caught in fire.
Kyle McKee set down his gym bag and yoga mat and pulled up a seat at his gym’s juice bar. The class he’d taken had warmed his skin and stretched his muscles and joints to their limits. He felt like the world’s most relaxed slab of single New York man, which was good for Kyle’s state of mind. He’d been stressed lately, about his love life in particular. Because damn if every guy he’d been out with in the last two months hadn’t turned out to be a shitheel of epic proportions. So much so, Kyle had decided to stop dating entirely.
Eyes closed, Kyle forced away thoughts of dating catastrophes. He rolled his neck from side to side but peeled his lids open again when the chair on his left slid back and his friend Malcolm Elliot dropped into the seat. Malcolm gave Kyle a lazy grin. At six-three, he stood a few inches taller than Kyle, and he looked rosy-cheeked and loose limbed, his blue-gray eyes shining.
“I am a man-sized untwisted pretzel,” Malcolm said. “I’m not sure what that means, so don’t ask.”
“You’re yoga-stoned, dude.” Kyle smiled at Malcolm’s laugh.
“Is that a thing?”
“Totally a thing.”
Malcolm narrowed his eyes at Kyle. “You’re the one with the bloodshot eyes—what did you do after class?”
“Ugh, nothing but itch from allergies. Ragweed is my kryptonite.” Kyle pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, then nodded at the menu on the wall behind the counter. “What are you drinking?”
“I’ll do a Kale Storm with protein,” Malcolm said.
Kyle held up a hand when Malcolm reached for his wallet. “I’ll grab these—you paid last week.” He smiled at the barista who’d stepped up to take their order. “A Kale Storm with a protein powder shot and a Peanut Butter Baby with chia, please. You headed home after this?” he asked Malcolm.
Malcolm shook his head. “I’ve got errands to run. My kitchen has mysteriously emptied itself of food since my brother and his girlfriend came back to town. What about you?”
“I’m opening tonight, so I’ll just head to the bar. I have extra clothes at the office I can change into.” Kyle co-owned a speakeasy called Under with his friend Jesse Murtagh and, while he loved his job, the commute uptown from Chelsea to Morningside Heights could be a pain in the ass. He welcomed the option to skip extra stops when he could.
Malcolm ran his gaze over Kyle’s gray Henley and dark jeans. “You could always serve in what you’re wearing, you know. You’d blow Jesse’s mind.”
Kyle covered a theatrical gasp with one hand. “I would never!” His preference for black or dark gray clothing while working was a source of gentle teasing among his friends. “Seriously, I don’t feel like I’m working unless I’ve got my blacks on. I’ve done it for so long it’s just part of how I do my job.”
What writers/authors does each author consider as influences?
BV: Since Margaret Atwood’s book “The Blind Assassin” came out in 1999, I’ve been obsessed with her words. Her writing has this very poetic yet pointed quality.
“But in the end, back she comes. There's no use resisting. She goes to him for amnesia, for oblivion. She renders herself up, is blotted out; enters the darkness of her own body, forgets her name. Immolation is what she wants, however briefly. To exist without boundaries.”
It was probably eight or nine years after I read that book for the first time that I began writing. I actually cried when I realized my writing was never going to sound like hers. But I’ve worked very hard since then to find my own author voice and one of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten described my writing as “sparse yet lyrical”.
There are probably hundreds of other authors who I have read and adored over the years, but I’d say Margaret Atwood has been the biggest stylistic influence.
I also adore that she isn’t afraid to speak up for what’s right when it comes to the problems in the world. Plus, when I met her in person at a book signing, she was warm and so lovely to her fans. I’ve tried to keep those things in mind as I put myself out into the world more and built an author platform.
I’m never going to be Margaret Atwood, nor do I want to, but she inspires me to be the best possible me. She’s inspired me to write fearlessly.
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
KEC: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
That is one hell of an opening line. One hell of an image, too, and the perfect introduction to William Gibson’s imagined world of Neuromancer, a science fiction novel I read while in my late teens.
Worldbuilding has always been one of my favorite parts of writing and the authors I’ve read who influence me strongly are those who worlds consume my imagination.
William Gibson is one such writer. My fascination with his worlds began with Neuromancer and continued through his other works. I’m not sure what specifically in Gibson’s words spoke to me, only that I was hooked from the start. His style was razor sharp and precise, but also gritty and startlingly real, and it held my attention utterly.
“They damaged his nervous system with a wartime mycotoxin.
Strapped to a bed in a Memphis hotel, his talent burning out micron by micron, he hallucinated for thirty hours.
The damage was minute, subtle, and utterly effective.
For Case, who’d lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall. In the bars he’d frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh.”
Even now, many years after my first reading, Neuromancer and the two books that followed in what became The Sprawl Trilogy remain some of my favorite cyberpunk reads.
I can’t say I’ve ever attempted to emulate Gibson’s style, nor would I want to--my style, while constantly evolving, is very different and all my own. However, there are times when I feel as if an otherness informs my writing. Like someone outside of me has settled in for the ride.
This is especially true when I’m constructing worlds, an activity of which I never grow tired. So, as weird as it may sound, I look forward to that feeling of otherness and enjoy it for as long as it goes on.
About the Authors
K. Evan Coles
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.
K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.
K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.
K. Evan Coles
Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.
Her books range from short stories to novellas. They explore gay, bisexual, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card
➜ Sign up to become a tour host here