Title: Room for Recovery
Series: Hearts and Health #4
Publication date: February 26, 2018
Length: 250 pages
Beau James isn't out, but he's not fooling anyone. When he's cornered by two bullies, he's rescued by none other than the broody Wade Ritter, who he's crushed on from afar. Despite their family connection, Wade has resisted all of Beau's attempts at friendship -- until now. His protective streak gives Beau an opportunity to get past Wade's prickly exterior.
Wade considers Beau to be a quasi-cousin. He's been careful to keep Beau in that box because he is too tempting to a gay boy determined to remain in the closet after his coming out went all wrong. But when Wade sees bullies harassing Beau, he offers to help. Little does he know this small crack in the walls around his heart is the opening Beau needs to move in and change Wade's life.
After years off the rails, Wade realizes there's room for recovery. If he can face hard truths about his sexuality and love himself, he might be able to love Beau too.
Room for Recovery is part of the Hearts and Health series. It contains cameo appearances by other characters in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. The book is approximately 77,000 words long.
As a writer of m/m romance, I’ve written my share of books about sexy men falling in love (and getting it on). But sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and remember what it means to write gay, bisexual or otherwise queer characters. The men who inspire our books don’t always have happy endings -- or beginnings, for that matter.
Room for Recovery is my attempt to acknowledge some of the challenges LGBTQIA individuals face. These issues aren’t always sexy, but they can be romantic. There’s something inspiring about a love that requires risk and sacrifice.
Reviewers have described the book as emotional and poignant without ripping your heart out. Despite some serious themes, Room for Recovery is still a love story. It is the journey of two young men who find strength, compassion and a path to self-acceptance in one another. And while the story doesn’t have a happy beginning, Wade and Beau do get the happy ending they deserve.
Note: While Room for Recovery has YA themes, both characters are over eighteen and there are some explicit scenes in the story.
Today, I’d like to share the Prologue of Room for Recovery with you. The rest of the story jumps ahead four years, but this is the catalyst for why Wade struggles with self-acceptance.
Wade opened the door to the man cave built into the garage of his house. It was mostly a TV room with a bunch of “manly” décor: an illuminated cigars sign, a series of framed football jerseys from Kansas City Chiefs players, classic car posters and a liquor cabinet stocked with the scotch his father liked. His dad went there to retreat — more and more often in the past few months — behind an invisible “keep out” sign.
Wade hesitated on the threshold. He felt like he was walking into a bear’s den and offering himself up for a meal.
Maybe neutral territory would be better, he thought.
Wade had considered a lot of ways to come out. Announce it at the dinner table. Send a text message or make a Facebook post. Boom, it’s over. But he knew his father would hate that. Byron Ritter always told Wade to confront his fears head-on. He’d want to hear the news face-to-face, man-to-man.
And there was no reason to worry. Not when Bryon’s close friend was an openly gay surgeon.
His pep talk propelled him through the doorway.
Byron blinked as sunlight bled into the darkened room. “In or out, Wade, but shut the door.”
Wade latched the metal door and approached his dad, who sat in front of a large flat-screen TV playing a show about catching crab in arctic weather conditions. There was a lot of wind and water and shouting on the screen.
Wade swiped sweaty palms on the thighs of his jeans.
“Can I talk to you?”
“What is it?”
His father’s eyes remained on the screen. Wade didn’t want to compete with television, but maybe it would be better if his father was only partially absorbing his words. He could pretend he was talking to himself.
“I think I’m gay.”
The sound of the television show dropped away as Byron hit the mute button. He turned to Wade, eyes laser focused. “Say that again?”
“I think ... I mean, I’m pretty sure. I’m gay.” Unnerved by his father's intent look, he added, “Like Trent.”
Invoking Trent’s name didn’t offer him the automatic acceptance he’d expected. His dad’s expression didn’t clear. No smile of understanding appeared.
His father shook his head slowly. “You’re a bit young to know something like that, Wade. You’ve got years of growing up to do.”
Wade had thought about waiting to come out, maybe until he was in college. Or after he was living on his own, settled in a job. But if he did that, there’d be pressure. Pressure to date girls, to go to prom. Already, as a high school freshman, his secret weighed on him. He wanted everything out in the open — at least with his family and friends. The homophobic assholes didn’t need to know.
He swallowed hard. “I’m fifteen, Dad. My friends already have girlfriends, and I don’t want one.”
Byron smiled, looking relieved. “Is that what this is about? You know your mother was a late bloomer too. Never dated until college. Don’t worry if you’re not interested yet.”
Wade’s insides clenched. This wasn’t going how he’d hoped. He’d imagined the outcome hundreds of times, everything from acceptance to disgust. He hadn’t imagined his dad willfully misunderstanding him.
“No, Dad. You don’t get it. I like boys.”
His father sighed, suddenly looking older than his forty years. He rubbed his temples. Wade noticed a tumbler with a third of amber liquid in the bottom, and now that he looked closer, his father’s eyes were bloodshot. Was he tired or drunk? Wade wasn’t sure. His father wasn’t an alcoholic or anything. He’d only started drinking more lately. Mom said he was stressed about work and not to worry if he seemed a little rough around the edges.
“Listen, Wade. I know you think you know everything now that you’re a teenager, but life is complicated. It’s not easy. And being gay ... it’ll make your life harder. So, I’m going to give you a piece of advice. Take your time and really be sure before you start telling people you’re gay. Give yourself time to grow up more, okay? You know that Trent is my friend, but kiddo, I don’t want you ending up like him. That’s not what anyone would want. Can you do that for me? Can you just take some time and think about it?”
The lump in Wade’s throat prevented him from answering. He nodded, eyes burning with tears that wanted to come. He ruthlessly pushed them down, unwilling to cry because his father hadn’t offered unconditional love and a warm hug. He’d been silly to imagine it could go that way. He knew, deep down, that it might not. Plenty of worst-case scenarios had danced in his head, and this wasn’t the worst of them by far. His father seemed so reasonable … but it still hurt.
Byron punched the volume button on the remote, and the shouts of distressed fishermen filled the room once more. Wade walked out in a daze, not sure how to feel. He was out, but he wasn’t. He was in limbo.
But if his dad needed Wade to take time to think about it — even though it seemed like all he’d done for months was think about it — then he’d do that. He could wait to tell his mother and his friends, let his father get used to the idea. He had probably been surprised by Wade’s news, but he would come around.
Everything would be fine.
But it wasn’t fine. Could never be fine again.
Because Byron Ritter killed himself the next day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake. DJ is active on social media under her pen name as well as her real name, Davina Jamison. She's a member of the Queer Romance Freebie/Fan Club on Facebook with more than a dozen other m/m romance authors and posts regularly in her own FB group DJ and Company. She also offers exclusive giveaways and other bonuses through her newsletter.
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DjJamison
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/dj-jamison
DJ would like to offer one winner their choice of the first three books in her series: Heart Trouble, Bedside Manner or Urgent Care. To enter to win, answer this question by commenting on this post: What has been the most emotionally moving m/m romance you've read lately?
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