23 April 2014

A Southern Things Tour Stop!

A Southern Thing Series Banner Pray the Gay Aways Cover
Star football player, Jack Miller, had it all. The perfect family, looks, girls hanging on his every word, and the respect of most people in his town. But one thing was missing--a man to be his own.
When Andrew Collins showed up in small town, conservative Sweet, Georgia, he looked more scrawny mutt than high school senior. Andrew's plan was to keep his head down and graduate high school, leaving his family behind to start his real life.
When he meets Andrew, Jack thinks he's found heaven, but reality holds him in check until one night when his lips gently slide across Andrew's and fireworks go off.
As lust and something a little deeper brings them together, compelling them to take chances, people start to notice. Then the unthinkable happens, and Jack's parents find out he likes guys. The battle lines are drawn and they vow to pray the gay away.

Pray The Gay Away is an excellent novel that addresses the bigotry and homophobia that homosexuals still face on a daily basis. Set in Sweet, Georgia, Ms. York has successfully captured the fears and prejudices commonly seen in the Southern Bible Belt. As someone who grew up in Northwest Florida, and although not a churchgoer, I was exposed to persons who used the Bible to justify their hatred of others and Jack’s father Nathaniel is an excellent representation of them.

This is the first book in Ms. York’s A Southern Thing series which tells the story of Jack and Andrew, two young men coming to terms with their homosexuality. Jack is the pastor’s son, the star football player, the oldest of ten children, and he hates his life and cannot wait to get out of his hometown so that he no longer has to hide who he is. Andrew’s family just relocated to Sweet to get him away from the temptations of Atlanta and to immerse him in a religious community so that they can pray the gay away.

Jack is so good at being who his parents and community expect him to be that Andrew assumes Jack will terrorize him as soon as Jack learns his secret. After several interactions, Andrew comes to realize that Jack is gay and attracted to him and their fledgling friendship blossoms quickly. They both know the danger they’re in as they grow closer to one another and go to great lengths to hide their relationship while making sure the other knows their feelings for one another. I should note that this is a new adult romance, NOT a young adult book. While Jack and Andrew are still in high school, they are both 18 and do have several sexual interactions with one another.

Ms. York’s ability to create realistic characters is astounding. You will love and hurt for Jack and Andrew as they attempt to navigate their relationship in an environment where almost everything and everyone is working against them. You will hate the majority of the adults in this book because their bigotry and homophobia is disturbingly real. Pray Away The Gay is a well written book and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. 

Sending Jack Off to Jesus Cover
Jack Miller has more than he could ask for with Andrew as his boyfriend, but it's being taken away from him and there isn't anything he can do. His father knows he's gay, and his mother wants him to have sex with a girl to make sure he's not mistaken.
Andrew Collins has found the perfect home in foster care with Cole and Melinda Kemp, but it won't last. The DA thinks his parents have proven they've changed, but Andrew doesn't believe the change will last.
Just when Jack and Andrew think it can't get any worse, it does. Jack's father sends him to New Life Christian Camp, a program that promises to pray the gay away. But Andrew has it worse than Jack as Andrew's father takes out his anger on him, leaving Andrew near death.
Both Jack and Andrew are lost to each other, their lives in tatters all because their parents wanted to pray the gay away.
Warning: This book contains graphic details, including abuse by physical abuse by adults.
This was an unbelievably frustrating book to read. Not because of the writing, because Ms. York has gifted us with another stellar novel in this series, but because of the subject matter. Just in case you didn’t hate Jack’s father after the first book, rest assured that you will after this one. Because prayer didn’t succeed in curing Jack’s homosexuality, Nathaniel decides to send him to a gay rehabilitation camp (what a joke those are). Based upon the author’s description, this lovely hellhole is located in my neck of the woods (at least where I grew up) and that alone made me fear for Jack’s safety … and my fears were not unwarranted.

And if the torture that Jack endures is not painful enough, we also have to deal with the emotional turmoil that Andrew faces as he experiences the love and safety of a foster family that actually cares about him and accepts his sexuality only to have it yanked away when the judge orders reunification. Unfortunately, being forced to return to his parents’ home is not all that Andrew must endure but I can say no more without revealing spoilers.

While Andrew and Jack’s journey is a well-crafted work of fiction, it is unfortunate that teens and young adults face similar situations daily. Ms. York’s Sending Jack Off To Jesus is a heart wrenching read, yet I fear that the final book will see their lives getting worse before they get better. I’m off to find out as I have to know that these boys get their happy ever after, even if they have to travel through hell to get there. 

My Big Fat Southern Gay Wedding
When he was a kid, Jack Miller thought life would be a certain way, then he figured out he liked boys and not girls, changing the course of his future. Jack has spent the last few years learning that life doesn't always give you what you expect, in both good and bad ways.
Andrew's gone missing and Jack's parents have split. He's made it through high school, but the future is nothing without Andrew. To be complete, Jack knows he needs to find Andrew and bring him home. But Andrew has disappeared.
Lost doesn't even begin to describe how Andrew Collins feels. Homeless and destitute, he's ready to end it all. Thinking that Jack is dead, Andrew returns to Sweet to end his life on Jack's grave. Instead, he finds lies were told that drove him to a path of destruction.
After not seeing each other for almost a year, Jack and Andrew come together, but their problems don't end there. They must work hard to make it to their big fat Southern gay wedding or risk losing it all.
Warning: This book contains dubious content.

I am in awe. Ms. York’s A Southern Thing series has been a beautifully written and emotional journey that I am so pleased that I could be a part of because when I read, I immerse myself in the book. My Big Fat Southern Gay Wedding was just as intense as the previous two books in the series. And while you can gather from the title that Andrew and Jack finally get their happy ending, their path was just as full of obstacles in this installment of their story. There were many adjustments to be made as they found one another again, but I will share no specifics because I would hate to ruin the journey for you.

If you’ve read my reviews of other books, you know that I typically discuss the level of sexual interactions (i.e., none vs tons, suggestive scenes vs graphic detail) found in a book. For me, the lack of or overabundance of sex in a book is not a deal breaker, but rather I use the info to decide when I may want to read a particular book. I have had a difficult time discussing the sexual activity between Andrew and Jack. Initially I thought it may have been due to their ages, even though they were 18 in the first book, but then I realized that I have had no issue discussing sex in other new adult books so I couldn’t chalk it up to that. I knew it wasn’t because the sexual relationship was between two guys because that tends to turn me on. It wasn’t until this book that I realized what my issue was. In the first book, all of their sexual interactions were heavy petting and some oral sex, the type of interactions you would expect between two men their age who are learning to accept their sexuality. In the second book, these interactions continued along with the two finally giving one another their virginity in a beautifully written scene. However, in this book I realized that the reason I was having difficulty commenting on their sexual behaviors was because they weren’t having sex, they were making love and the difference between the two types of interactions is so apparent between Jack and Andrew. That said, as their relationship developed further, they continued to make love AND have sex and the sex is HOT.

Obviously if M/M relationships bother you, you will want to steer clear of this series. But if they don’t, I strongly recommend Ms. York’s A Southern Thing series. Be warned that it is an emotionally intense series that will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions making you feel love, hate, frustration, helplessness, hope, acceptance, and love and you may need a tissue or three, but it is a journey worth taking. My only complaint is that the journey is over.

He heard voices filtering down the hall from his dad's office and he sighed. There was no way he could get around this. Squaring his shoulders, he marched through the door, only to come up short when he spied the beautiful guy sitting beside a short, thin woman and an older man, closer to sixty or seventy.
"Oh, there he is. We were beginning to wonder what was holding you up." His dad came over and gave him a hug. To the other people in the room it probably looked like he was a loving father, but the painful squeeze his dad gave his arm told the true story. His dad was angry.
The older gentleman stood and so did the lady. The boy slowly got to his feet and Jack got his first good look at him. He was tall but skinny. He had some muscles that bunched on his arm when he clenched his fists, but he lacked bulk. The guy's pants were lose, and only held up by the army green belt cinched around his waist. The clenching of his fist and slight frown went unnoticed by everyone but Jack. His lips were dark red, not pink, or pale at all, but very dark and they stuck out in a slight pout. Jack wondered what it would be like to kiss that mouth. Then there were his eyes. Sunken, like his cheeks, the deep blue pools of wariness stared out at Jack. Jack wished he could go to the guy and wrap his arms around him, telling him that everything would be okay. But this was backwoods Georgia and it wouldn’t be okay if he did any of what he wanted to with this guy.
"Son, this is Andrew. His father, Aaron, and his wife, Nancy, just moved to town. They contacted me and wanted to make sure their son would fit in here."
Jack stopped staring at Andrew long enough to make eye contact with his father. Surely even he knew Andrew was gay. But Jack wouldn’t say a thing, not to his father or anyone else.
Aaron shook Jack's hand, grasping it firmly. "Thank you so much, Pastor Miller. I know my son will do well with a mentor like Jack. He's a man's man if I ever saw one."
Warning bells went off in Jack's head. There was something wrong with Andrew's family. Andrew didn't seem happy at all, but his dad and mom seemed way too excited.
"Son, why don't you show Andrew around?"
"Sure. Is it okay if we leave the church property?" Jack noticed the worried look on Aaron and Nancy's face so he quickly added. "I'm starving because of practice. I can bring him home later."
Nancy looked to Jack's dad and lifted a brow. "If' it's okay with you."
"Sure, I think that would be great. It will give Jack a chance to introduce Andrew to the right type of people."
Goose bumps broke out over Jack's body, and he suppressed a shiver. It seemed like everything was all sorts of wrong with the situation, but he sure as hell didn't want to stay in his dad's office with Andrew's parents constantly looking over their shoulder.
Before they could escape the office, Andrew's dad patted his son's back, looking more uncomfortable than a neophyte taking honey from a bee's nest. Aaron showed more affection toward Jack than he did his own son.
Jack blew it off, hoping that maybe it was different than he was thinking. His judgment could be clouded since he needed food. If he had to drag Andrew along with him, then so be it. Actually, it wasn't any chore to take the guy with him. They strolled out of the church offices and into the main hall. The secretary wasn't at her desk and they didn't run in to anyone else on their way outside.
Jack opened the truck door for Andrew and realized it would probably look wrong to anyone watching so he stepped around the front of the truck and got in. Andrew didn't say anything as he strapped in. Jack ignored him until they had pulled out of the church parking lot.
"Is McDonalds okay?"
"I'll just stay in the truck, you really don't have to bother yourself with me. I'll tell my parents you were nice and showed me around."
"Hey, I wouldn’t do that. Seriously, I'm starving and I want to get to know you."
"Why? You're obviously prime rib here, and I'll just be the sad charity case that everyone makes fun of."
At the stop sign, Jack rolled to a stop, finding that no one was on the road with them. "I'm not like that. I give everyone a fair shake."
"Right. The only reason you're with me right now is because your father made you do it. I heard my parents talking to him."
He was still staring at Andrew when he heard a car roll up behind him. He took his foot off the brake and moved through the intersection. "Fine, I only came by because my daddy made me. But if I saw you, I'd—never mind."
"Nothing. Just don't assume."
He and Andrew hadn't been able to talk much. They'd exchanged glances between classes and a few words at practice, but they hadn't touched. His life was so much dimmer without Andrew. He did know that Andrew was still with the Kemps, but that could change when the hearing took place in the middle of the month. Aaron and Nancy were taking all the right steps to get their child back, but Jack doubted they'd change—not really, and never to the point of actually accepting Andrew as a gay man.
On Friday, when the team loaded on the bus, he was excited to see Andrew sitting with the other water boys and trainers. Since he was captain and expected to lead the team, he couldn’t sit with Andrew on the way to the game. He had to focus and make sure his guys focused too. The school had rented them a nice bus for the two-hour drive for the first play-off game. On the ride there, he imagined riding out of Sweet in a bus like this, moving somewhere he and Andrew would be accepted and could show their love.
The energy was high on the field. Every time before the snap, Jack glanced to the sidelines, spying Andrew. That kept his head in the game and his mind on winning for his future. Jack easily connected with his receivers, passing enough yards to earn a record. The team they were up against was good, but not good enough. At the end of the game, he hugged everyone, including Andrew. Having his arms around his boyfriend was amazing. He didn't care that they were being watched, or that he couldn't kiss Andrew, just being with him was a relief.
"Save me a seat on the bus. I need to touch you," Jack said as they clung to each other.
Andrew stepped back because people were pulling at Jack, seeking his attention to congratulate him. Andrew nodded and the corners of his lips turned up in a smile. It would be okay if they could touch. He missed that most of all. If he were lucky, he'd be able to hold Andrew's hand. The desire to sneak a kiss was strong, but it would probably be too much.
The team celebrated in the locker room with sandwiches and cookies made by the booster club. Over and over again, Jack's gaze sought out Andrew, taking pleasure in the guy's smile. He and Mike had called a truce, and though Andrew still looked a little hesitant around him they seemed to be getting along. Ed was his normal boisterous self. It was funny that Ed had become such good friends with Andrew. They looked odd standing next to each other with Ed being so big, and Andrew so skinny. Ed said something and Andrew doubled over laughing. Jack made his way closer and Ed called out to him.
"Come here, Jack. You have to hear this."
It was his opportunity to sit by Andrew. When he was only a few feet away from Andrew, their gazes connected and a chill swept over him. He shivered and Ed shot him a strange look.
"You cold?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Okay, so I was telling Andrew about my cat and dog. They both hate when my dad brings out his grinder. The other night, he needed to sharpen a few tools so he brought it out. Both the dog and the cat ran to the back bedroom and crawled under the bed. After an hour my dad was finished, but we couldn't find the dog or the cat. I went looking for them. They'd wound up trapped in the closet, wrapped in a laundry bag that somehow got closed. The dog was crying and the cat was snuggled up underneath him. Anyway, I open the bag to set them free. The dog wouldn't come out. Apparently, he liked being so close to the damn cat that he wanted to stay. He wasn't crying, we figured out later that the cat was licking the dog's underarm and he was laughing or something like that."
Jack chuckled, but he was too distracted by Andrew to really laugh. He moved to stand behind Andrew, resting his hand on his boyfriend's shoulder. It felt like home. Being connected to Andrew calmed him. This, not anything else, was right. He had no doubt in his mind that him being gay was exactly how he was supposed to be. No scripture or prayer would change the truth.
"Hey, you played a great game tonight." Andrew's voice was music to his ears.
Andrew tilted his head back, exposing his neck to Jack. A rush of desire filled him and he felt his dick begin to harden. After showering, he'd slipped on a pair of jeans and tight underwear so he wasn't in loose shorts, which would have tented, exposing his desire. Jack wasn't too worried about his wood showing, but one of the guys would notice the way he was staring at Andrew if he wasn't careful.
"Thanks. Hey, I haven't talked to you much this last week. I'll sit by you on the bus ride home, we can catch up." Jack couldn’t believe that he'd said that in front of the other guys. He'd planned on just wandering back to Andrew, hopefully finding the seat next to him still empty since he'd asked Andrew to save it. Now, he had claimed the space, giving him access to his boyfriend.
Chapter 1
Andrew's old house loomed in front of Jack. Months had slid past since he'd last seen Andrew or heard anything about him. That night was still fresh in his mind, but the memories were starting to fade, leaving him aching to hold Andrew once more. Where had his boyfriend gone?
Spring break gave him the time to investigate so he'd driven back to Sweet, determined to find a trail and follow it. He still hadn't dropped by his father's house, the place he used to think of as home. It would be too weird to go there and have to see his father.
He shivered just thinking about the hell he'd been through. Months had passed since his mother rescued him from that god-awful place. Hamilton and Gartner were in jail as they should be. It wasn't just the terrible treatment Jack had received that had placed them there either. An investigation by police and the FBI uncovered years of abuses, thefts, tax evasion, and a long list of other crimes that put both men, along with almost all of the other workers from that camp, away for a long time.
At one point, he'd thought he would have to testify, but the evidence against the camp workers was so huge they each took a plea bargain. They probably would have received more jail time if they'd gone to court, but Jack was relieved he could put that period of his life behind him and move on. When he'd received the news two weeks ago from the district attorney, he'd cried. His mom had been happy too. She told him later that she'd been afraid for him.
Football had fallen into place after he got up the nerve to place a call. At first he'd been scared to talk to the coach at Auburn. Switching schools like he had wasn't a mark in his favor. The coach had been very understanding when Jack told him a bit of what had happened. Jack explained that his mother had moved them to Alabama, and that he'd had no choice in the matter. A few days after the call, Jack was offered a scholarship. It wasn't a full ride, but it was close. Another scholarship he received for good grades would cover the rest of his expenses as long as he lived lean.
Going to a new school was tough. New Life had matured him, but not in the way they'd intended. Being a prisoner at the camp had forced him to lose the last of his innocence. He saw the world differently now. No longer a child, he wanted his freedom, but at school they still considered him to be a kid. Add to the fact that he was new, and the experience was awful. The other students didn't know what to make of him. They ignored him or made fun of him. He wasn't popular and no one seemed to want to give him a chance. They didn't even know that his parents were divorcing, and that he'd been through hell. He could only imagine the teasing if they found out the truth. If college and football weren't important to him, he would have dropped out.
With only nine weeks left in high school, he needed to find Andrew. It's why he'd taken off on Friday afternoon only minutes after the final bell rang before spring break. He'd driven the three and a half hours without stopping, arriving in Sweet about an hour before the sun set.
Driving down the streets of Sweet was odd. There were so many memories, some good, some bad. Every bit of the life he remembered had been spent in Sweet. So many things had happened here, but it was the memories of him and Andrew that were the strongest.
When he pulled up at Andrew's house, he'd hoped to find some sign that Andrew's parents were still around, but it looked like they were gone. Leaves were scattered across the walk and the grass had begun to grow thick, looking scraggly under the pine and oak trees. Weeds had sprung up, giving the lot an unkempt feel.
Jack had been sitting in his truck at the curb across the street for almost ten minutes. The cab of his truck had grown warm and a sheen of sweat had formed on his skin. When he opened the door a cool breeze raked across his body, chilling him. He stared at the house, thinking about the last time he'd seen Andrew. That night had been so sweet and amazing. They'd spent hours under the stars, holding each other tight as they made love. If only he could go back to that day, he'd take Andrew away, never returning to their parents' houses. They'd get lost somewhere in America and make a home of their own. Andrew had been right; they didn't need nice things, only each other.
Jack made his way up the walk to the front door. He knocked wanting to make sure the place was empty before he went around to the back. The street was deserted so he stood on the porch for about a minute before he knocked again, this time harder. The door remained closed and the house quiet. Jack looked in the front window then made his way around the side of the house and into the backyard, stopping to look in a side window. No one was home.
Sara Author PicWriting is Sara York's life. The stories fight to get out, often leaving her working on four or five books at once. She can't help but write. Along with her writing addiction she has a coffee addiction. Some nights, the only reason she stops writing and goes to sleep is for the fresh brewed coffee in the morning. Sara enjoys writing twisted tales of passion, anger, and love with a good healthy dose of lust thrown in for fun.
Visit Sara York at her Blog or Website.


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