Rise of Virginie
Gay/Bi Romance, Contemporary, Rock Band, Small town, Hurt/Comfort
Release Date: 12.16.19
Stefan Holt left home at nineteen, guitar in hand, determined that couch-surfing would be better than staying with his mother. He finally lands with Megan, an old band-mate, and they decide to resurrect their rock n’ roll dreams to get them out of their opioid-riddled small town. Unfortunately, neither of them is much of a lyricist.
Han Westfall works at the local library, where he lives to rec poetry to the handsome, mysterious guy who brings in his guitar and stays all day. Han writes lines of his own, and when Stefan finally asks to see them, their musical chemistry clicks—and it brings them closer, faster than either of them imagined possible. They name their new band Virginie, ostensibly in honor of their Appalachian roots.
They’ll have to work through band in-fighting, revenge porn, homophobic taunts, family addictions, parental drama, and their own inner demons to make things work, both in love and in music. But if they can make it, maybe they won’t just get out of town. Maybe they’ll rise up and take everyone with them.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/38wQexM
All Stefan wants is one break—one chance at getting his music out into the world. The problems he faced were many. A drug addicted mother who loved her next fix more than him. No real home to call his own. But, most importantly, the lack of words to go with all the melodies in his head and that’s why he hung out at the library nearly every day reading poetry and trying not to stare at the cute librarian he was sort of crushing on. Stefan may be a loser in a nowhere town in West Virginia but, by god, he wanted to be something more.
Han had gotten his undergrad degree but had put his masters in Library Science on hold for now. Working at the local library was enough till the future was a bit clearer. Being the adopted Asian kid of two lily white parents—one of which was the town’s Preacher carried some heavy weight—especially when you are gay and keeping it a secret. That gets harder and harder every time Han sees the gorgeous man who drags his guitar with him into the library every day and reads poetry, of all things. It takes just one book—one recommendation and before he can blink, Stefan is in his living room and they are writing music—really good music and suddenly Han’s entire world is turned upside down and the closet is no longer the place he wants to be.
Katey Hawthorne has written a passionate novel about the realities of big pharma and addiction—in particular, how those same drug companies foisted a highly addictive pain medication unto an unsuspecting nation and the poorest of people suddenly were selling their souls for their next hit. The Rise of Virginie not only discusses just how that problem has infected rural towns across America but also how it has torn apart families while quickly becoming this nation’s worst epidemic. However, lest you think this author only has time to get on a soapbox and cry out against the corruption of this nation’s drug companies, think again. Wrapped up inside that reality is a beautiful love story--one where comfort is given and self-worth begins to build and success comes to those who work so hard to attain it.
The dynamic between Stefan and Han is a gradual recognition that both young men feel unworthy of the other. Stefan and Han, in alternating chapters, reveal just how uncertain they are that they can ever be good enough to be loved by the other. Poor Stefan has been told most of his life that he is poor white trash not only by the town but by his own mother who fills her life with drugs and loser boyfriends who consume her and leave no room for the son she gave birth too. He cannot imagine ever being anything other than the scum he has been labeled but he dreams that somehow he can be the person he sees in Han’s eyes every time the guy looks at him.
Han must force himself to do things he is less than perfect at—he has always felt the need to prove himself from the time he was young and felt like the nerdy Asian kid in a very white community. He has always stood outside the circle—never really fitting in—not till he met Stefan and became part of the band. Together these two fumble through the beginnings of a relationship that soon turns to something more and both are just a little bit scared to admit it may just be love.
The Rise of Virginie is a strong novel—a harsh and raw glimpse of how addiction can tear a family and a community apart. It’s also a tribute to those who make the decision to fight for that same community and for those hurting family members—despite the pain they must bear up under while doing so. Not everyone makes it—the novel is quick to remind us of that fact but it also is just as fast to show us there is hope when people raise their voices and protest the status quo. This is a marvelous story and one I can highly recommend.
Han is working as a librarian at the local library. As the adopted son of Reverend Westfall he is his mother’s showpiece at the church, and he hates it.
Stefan is friend-couch-surfing through town. No home because his mother is a heavy addict and has never been a mother to him. Life was unbelievably hard to him, away from his mother works better. In the daytime he sits in the library, reading the books the beautiful librarian gives him.
Both are creative, music is what combines. Guitar, bass, lyrics, drums, rhythm, it’s all about music. When they create their first song together, it shows how perfectly they fit. With two female musicians, the four of them. In no time ‘Virginie’ is born, West Virginia’s first queer band.
When it’s about music Stefan and Han’s souls are open, lyrics, rhythm, all the right things popping out of them like sparkles. Music makes them constantly hard for each other, and music is what brings them closer as lovers. I thought it was pure magic what they created.
Especially Stefan's life during this process is heartbreaking.
At some point there was a devastating moment where is all seemed to fall apart.
Outside the band, their lives are complicated. This story gives us a look over a short period into it. We see Stefan trying to live without his mother, which is hurtful to watch, Han’s mother who disapproves of their friendship.
I loved the way Han handled his stubborn, short-sighted mother. His dad is one of the best, honest, and kind and his attention and smiles are warm and genuine. The religious part was positive and uplifting.
Their friendship and love life are going well. The band is getting famous. So the prospect is good. The music and lyrics are nicely pictured just like their creators.
The story was well written, still, I have some minus points. I missed development here and there. Even though both characters were lovable I couldn’t fully commit to them, I missed something, I’m not sure, maybe some depth, some deeper inner conflicts, for a heavy content it was all quite easy going.
Besides these few points, I found it overall a nicely entertaining and enjoyable story.
“C’mere.” Han picked up a random guitar that was settled against the wall and handed it to me. It was a steel-string acoustic Alvarez like his, way more action than I was used to, but nice. “Use this. I’ve had a tune in my head all day.”
Then it hit me just how fucking brilliant he was. “A new song.”
“Why not?” Han shrugged like it was nothing.
I wanted to tell him I loved him, but it scared me, so I just sat down with the guitar. “Sing for me.”
“It’s just a little bit of a song right now. A first line.” And he sang, “We’ve got a little secret, baby… It’s just yours and mine…”
I found the chords he needed, picked out the melody, then wrapped a riff around the chords like we always did. It came in waves, kind of, the melody coming and going, washed-out and dreamy. I hummed the next line, even though I didn’t know what the words would be, running with it.
He nodded, eyes bright and serious, and added the words to bring it to life.
We’ve got a little secret, baby
It’s just yours and mine
It’s soft like skin and hard like you
Bathed in hot, sweet sighs
“Hot.” If I sounded enthusiastic, I was. As usual, the sound of his honey-warm voice diving through my music was doing all the good things to me. My blood always heated, my heart always pounded, and my dick… well, my dick was a fan, for sure. Hey, he was the poet.
It doesn’t matter if I win or lose
If there’s one death I could choose
I’d end it all for one more time
I’d end it all between your thighs
“Dude…” My voice cracked, and I stopped playing.
Han flushed, which was rare when he was in rock-star-songwriter mode anymore.
“How long have you had this one?” I asked.
“Since the other night. You were coming back from the bathroom, and I thought…” He gave a helpless little laugh that made me want to jump him even harder. He moved the stool he’d perched on closer to me, then reached out to settle a hand on my thigh. “You look good naked. And we’d just been doing that thing where you wrap your legs around me?”
“Oh yeah, frotting, like the almost-fuck.” I grinned. Loved rubbing my dick off on his—and his dick off on mine. Hell, I’d make him come any way he wanted, but there was something about getting my legs around him and then feeling his cum soak my cock and belly… Fuck, okay, now I was super hard. And we were supposed to be on a half-hour snack break.
Not enough time for everything I wanted to do to him right then. But enough for one or two, for sure.
“And I thought, I’d stay in bed all day if I could have those legs wrapped around me.” Han leaned in closer and kissed my ear.
I broke out in goosebumps and turned to catch his mouth. We kissed for a second, slow and hot, over that guitar that wasn’t mine.
Then Han pulled back, his voice lower and rougher than before. He squeezed my leg. “I thought of that old saying about Alexander the Great, you know? That the only battle he ever lost was to Hephaestion’s thighs.”
I snorted out a laugh. “I never heard that one, but it’s hilarious. That was his… boyfriend?”
“Lover, favored companion, general, boyfriend.” Han smiled softly, but his eyes still burned, dark and intense.
That look always meant I was gonna get laid. Hell, I’d do it right here, giant window to the empty booth or not, if he’d let me. How else could I show him… show him everything?
“You’re the only thing that could keep me away from everything else,” Han said. “And I thought, that’s worth writing a song about. At least that might get us out of bed.”
We laughed, then kissed again, this time a little longer. As we closed it off, I bit gently at his puffy bottom lip, and he gave a little moan that made my balls go tight.
“We have to finish the song,” he whispered.
“I know,” I admitted. “But I am gonna do some dirty, dirty shit to you tonight when we get home.”
“Please.” Another chuckle from Han. “Please, do.”
“What’s the song called?” I asked.
His smile almost went smirky when he said, “‘Hephaestion.’”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katey Hawthorne is an avid reader and writer of superpowered and paranormal romance, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) Originally from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, she currently lives in Ohio with her family, two cats, and two huge puppies. In her spare time she enjoys travel, comic books, B-movies, loud music, video games, Epiphones, and Bushmills. Her favorite causes include animal rescue and bisexual representation in media. She is an unashamed fangirl and collects nerdy tattoos like she’s trying to prove it.
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