Everyone hopes his road to happily ever after will be carefree and smooth, but too often hair-pin turns and detours seem to get in the way.
Having thought he was on the road to forever before, former Silicon Valley programmer Dan Lassiter is leery about pedaling down it again. His elderly companion Charlie urges him to get to know Rick Reardon whose bakery is across the street from Dan’s bicycle shop.
Under the watchful eye of Charlie, Dan and Rick take tentative steps towards each other, all the while trying to avoid potholes such as exes, homophobes, and family problems.
As summer turns to fall and then winter, they hope that the road will be smooth going from their first date and first kiss to having what Rick’s sister euphemistically calls their “sleep overs”. At each step, though, they are tripped up and wonder why there seem to be so many bumps in their road.
Maybe Dan and Rick should heed some of Charlie’s sage advice or maybe they should listen to their hearts instead of the warnings from their pasts.
Publisher: JMS Books
Release Date: Wednesday, December 9 2020
Cover Artist: Written in Ink
Genres: gay romance holiday story
LGBTQ+ Identities: MM
Tropes: rocky road to love, friends to lovers, family friendly love, surprise ending
Keywords/Categories: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, holidays, bicycle, dirt bike, bakery, small town, escape from San Francisco Bay Area, California fiction, Andalusian cuisine, tracking device, gay divorcee, friends to lovers, surprise ending, gay romance, gay, romance, mm romance
Guest post: Fruitcake
Johnny Carson, one of the early Tonight Show hosts, is rumored to have said, “"The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other."
All I can say is shame on him. A nice Nebraska boy like him should have known he was lying. Either that or he had never really eaten really good fruitcake.
Like with all foods in general, there are certain standards people should look for in fruitcake if they are going to get the maximum enjoyment from it.
1) Solid construction: If it crumbles or falls into tiny pieces as you cut it, it’s not true fruitcake. The fruitcake should be as hefty as a solid doorstop. You should be able to hold it in one hand and be confident it isn’t bending or breaking off at either end. When you poke it, it should be more like an old-fashioned mattress and not memory foam.
2) Moistness: When you look at the loaf as a whole and examine individual pieces, real fruitcake should look moist but not watery. It shouldn’t bleed, and it shouldn’t flake as if it’s dry. It should have the consistency of a chewy brownie.
3) Even distribution of fruit: Not only should it have moistness, it should have an even distribution of fruit. Picture Paul Hollywood of The Great British Baking Show holding up a loaf and using his pinky finger to gesture as he speaks. Ready for a critique in his poshed-up Liverpool accent? The fruit must be evenly distributed from top to bottom. And speaking of bottoms, your fruitcake’s should not, under any circumstances, be soggy.
4) Balance of nuts, fruit, and cake: The holiday treat must have fruit, nuts, and cake equally proportionate throughout. When you bite into a piece, you should get a taste of all three.
5) Aroma of a mixed drink at a first class bar: Above all, the fruit should be properly macerated in alcohol before it’s mixed with the cake batter, and the fruitcake out of the oven and for the next few days should be liberally laced with spirits. Julia Child, whose recipe for Sticky Cake we have adapted, uses cognac, whiskey, and rum. We usually leave out the cognac.
Once you’ve made or found the perfect fruitcake, the serving size of a piece is important too. Too thick and the fruitcake becomes cloying. Too thin and it doesn’t make a proper statement.
With all these considerations in mind and you’ve eaten your first piece of fruitcake, you’ll never want to celebrate the holidays without it again.
Remember as writer Jon Ronson has said, "Friends are the fruitcake of life — some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet." In other words, without fruitcake, we’re all a little dull.
Do you celebrate the holidays with fruitcake? If so, what’s your favorite kind? Do you make it or buy it?
Give yourself a gift of cheer with four HEA romances to take the edge off 2020:
Blame It on the Fruitcake where a motorcycle shop owner and a location scout bond over a grandmother’s holiday recipe;
The Orpheum Miracle in which a squatter in a revival theater meets the man of his dreams;
Making the Holidays Happy Again that sees a blacksmith forge a future with a chemist; and
Heart of the Holidays where a bicycle repairman and a baker travel down the road to love.
And whatever you do, remember that Every day is a good day for romance.
The kids and their mom arrived after lunch, right about the time Charlie usually turned in for a nap. He gave them the once over as they got out of the car, nodded to me with raised eyebrows, and ambled back toward the house. I guess he figured he’d meet them sometime, probably sooner rather than later, so he didn’t have to knock himself out now. It was the siesta part of his day.
After the kids tumbled from the car and jumped on Rick, he pointed at my open garage and waved at me. I waved back, and they galloped across the street.
“Hi, I’m McKinsey! You can call me Mack.” The red-haired boy danced in front of me. His hair blazed in the sun and was as bright as his green eyes and freckles. He didn’t look anything like his uncle. “So these are all the bikes I can ride? Can I try them out first?”
“Yeah, but don’t go very far. I’ve got an app keeping an eye on them.”
He didn’t wait for me to explain further, but ran toward the racks so fast that I thought he would barrel into them. A small hand on my arm stopped me from chasing after him.
“Don’t worry. He’s careful. He won’t hurt the bikes. We won’t go far because of mom.” Since I wasn’t worried about the bicycles, I looked down into brown eyes, a solemn face, and curly sable hair. “I’m Leslie. Everyone calls me Lee. My brother throws himself into his activities. I don’t. Can we choose any of the bicycles?”
I glanced up at their uncle who shrugged at me. The small hand let go of my arm, so I looked down at Lee again.
“Yes. You have three choices. One, you can select a bike and ride it the entire time you’re here. Two, you could come back to the garage and pick another one to ride for the day, the half-day, the hour, or however long you want it. That means if you wanted, you could ride every bike in this place in one day. Or your third choice, you could stay at the bakery and not go bike riding at all.” I winked at her. “I would choose the bakery except then I’d look like a human lead balloon if I did.”
She giggled and put her hand on my arm again.
“I like you, Mr. Dan. I think we’ll get along fine.” She nodded and gave me a long assessing once over. “Don’t worry. You don’t look like a balloon at all. Not at all.”
If she’d been in her teens, I would have thought she was flirting. But Lee seemed as if she was merely making an observation.
I liked both kids and their approaches to life. I’d be willing to bet Charlie would like them too when he got up from his nap and met them.
Unlike her brother, Lee sauntered over to the bikes, many of which were now askew thanks to Mack’s unsorting process. She carefully started to right those tossed aside. She stopped at a turquoise bicycle, hopped on, and waved to me and her uncle as she sped away. Her brother was long gone. The bike rack still needed straightening which would give me something to do while Charlie snoozed.
I started toward it. Rick had surged across the street and was striding up to me.
“Here. I’ll help.” He stood staring down at the mishmash of bikes. “If you show me how to untangle them without making things worse."
“I don’t get it. Aren’t you afraid people will just take off with your bikes and you’ll never see them again?”
I watched him bend over to pick up one on the ground. My groin tightened at the sight. We were going out to dinner. Together. Soon. My heart and dick lifted as my mind piled up image after image of dinner and afterward. It was about time for me to get back in the saddle as it were.
Pat is giving away two $10 JMS Books gift cards with this tour.
Pat Henshaw, born and raised in Nebraska, has lived on the U S's three coasts, in Texas, Virginia, and now California.
Before she retired, she held a number of jobs, including theatrical costumer, newspaper features reporter and movie reviewer, librarian, junior college English instructor, and publicist.
She also loves to travel and has visited Canada, Mexico, Europe, Egypt, Thailand, and Central America as well as almost all fifty US states.
Now retired, she enjoys reading and writing as well as visiting her older daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren on the East Coast and playing havoc with her younger daughter's life in NorCal.
She thanks you for reading her books and wants you to remember that every day is a good day for romance.
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