Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway:
Freedom by E. Davies
F-Word Series, Book 5
Agoraphobe Jaden has barely left the house in years. Being dragged to a gay bar by his big brother to bid on a blind date is not his idea of a good time. But then the unthinkable happens: he wins. Sure, he was just about ready to push his boundaries--but on his own time. Not with a probably-gorgeous stranger watching his every move.
Henry hasn't been on a date in the last year--ever since he finished with lower surgery. He works as a nature guide now in the great outdoors, and his new life suits him just fine. Just one thing's missing: a man to share it with. Jaden is sweet, accepting, yet terrified by everything about the date that isn't Henry. But he sees something in Jaden--in his courage for showing up, and his hope and vulnerability along the way.
Back home, when he's in Denver in between guiding trips, Henry quickly becomes a staple in Jaden's home. With Jaden's understanding, Henry grows confident in his own skin. And with Henry's support, the walls of Jaden's sheltered life open up. But every step forward seems like it comes with two steps back. Can they take a deep breath and step into the wide open future--together?
This novel is based on "Denver" -- a short story from the Heart2Heart 2 anthology. It has been revised and significantly expanded. It is now a standalone gay romance novel with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger.
Jaden isn’t sure he should have gone with his brother, Spencer, to the gay bar. When Spence places his name in the running for a blind date prize and he wins, Jaden is both scared and excited. He needs to take back control of his life—after all the incident that has made him an agoraphobe and frightened to even walk down the street alone is history—but his anxiety and depression remain. Still the idea of an overnight getaway is too much to forgo even though Jaden knows it will push his limits. Thankfully the man he is paired up with is kind and considerate—someone who has also dealt with his own issues and undergone therapy for them. Is it too much to consider that perhaps, just maybe, this man is the answer to Jaden’s fantasy of finally learning to live and find love again?
Henry loves the outdoors—being a wilderness guide feeds every one of his passions. The blind date he’s won could go completely wrong but he is willing to give it a go for charity. Then he meets the other guy and is absolutely smitten. Jaden is everything and then some that Henry has been looking for—sure, he has issues but the need to take care of him and the feelings he arouses in Henry are huge. But Henry has a few fears of his own and if he can’t share them with Jaden then any possibility of some kind of relationship is not happening. Can a gay man really be open to dating and loving a trans man? Henry is eager to find out.
Author E. Davies has taken Freedom, a shorter story and expanded it into a full length novel. With great care and painstaking attention to detail the author involves the reader in the lives of two unique men—one who is transgender—Henry and the other who is the former victim of a gay bashing--Jaden. Without bringing the trauma to the page we still get a keen sense of how devastating the event was for Jaden and how it has shaped what little life he has since then. Cut off from everyone except his therapist and his brother, Jaden lives in his tiny apartment, seeing no one and leaving it rarely. His brother is working to change that for him and this raffle/blind date is the first step.
The way in which the author compassionately lays out just how fragile Jaden is and how hard he is working to change that is really quite beautiful to read. There is a metamorphosis of sorts for both these characters and Henry’s finally coming out to colleagues and friends is the other piece of the story. But the real star here is these two men learning how to love each other both emotionally and physically. Without any fuss or over dramatization we explore what it is like to be intimate with a trans man—it’s described so seamlessly that it just flows from the page—a part of the bigger romantic picture. I really admire how the author dealt with the physicality of Henry and Jaden’s relationship—it was so well done.
While the story did feel a bit forced in the love area with a definite nod to the insta-love trope, still the feelings came off as genuine, if not a bit rushed. These two were ripe for finding someone who could accept them just as they are and are quite lucky to have found each other. I really enjoyed watching them open up and honestly discuss their fears and dreams—it made for a sweet story overall.
“Hi yourself,” Henry answered, his voice a low, smooth shiver straight to Jaden’s toes. Then he straightened up and smiled, hefting the bags. “I have Chinese. And I bought groceries on the way, too. Hope you don’t mind.”
Oh, God. Jaden’s cheeks burned with surprise as he opened his mouth and failed to come up with words. When he did, he squeaked and cleared his throat. “Um—no. I mean, thank you. That’s really… super sweet of you.”
Henry chuckled softly. “It’s my pleasure.” The distinctive smell of fried rice made Jaden’s stomach grumble again. He blushed, but Henry just laughed. “Shall we eat?”
“Let’s,” Jaden agreed. He beamed and led Henry to the kitchen to grab plates and utensils.
He took the grocery bags from him and then hesitated, spotting the red mark on Henry’s hand. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, that? I’m fine,” Henry said with a laugh and kissed Jaden’s cheek. “Thanks. I’ll get these to the table.”
Watching Henry covertly check out the place made Jaden see it with fresh eyes—as much as he could when he knew every inch of the apartment better than anywhere else.
It was cozy, but the view was gorgeous. Green parkland rolled into hills and then the mountains that always hovered on the edge of the Denver consciousness. It more than made up for the cramped living room space.
Jaden dipped into the kitchen, which was tucked away in an alcove off the living room, to put away groceries. He found himself smiling at Henry’s choices. He’d filled one bag with fresh veggies and a bottle of juice, and another with milk, butter, cheese, and pasta. The third had eggs, bacon, and chicken breasts.
Oh, man. There was easily enough for a week, but Henry hadn’t broken the bank on gourmet groceries, either. It told Jaden so much about Henry: he was sensible and frugal, exactly the sort of practical man he wanted in his life.
Okay, stop mooning over cheddar cheese and get the damn plates, Jaden told himself, grinning and shaking his head.
When he got to the table and set down the plates and utensils, Henry already had the cartons arranged and open in the middle of the table. He dropped into his seat and grinned as Jaden sat, too. “Come on, dish up what you want.”
“But what I want isn’t on the menu.” Jaden’s eyes sparkled as he beamed over the table at Henry, his heart already flip-flopping with the tension in the room between them.
One sweet kiss was nice. But he wanted a lot more. The last few nights, he’d missed Henry’s company—to a ridiculous degree, considering they’d only ever spent that one night together.
Henry grinned back at him and held his gaze. “I haven’t shown you the dessert menu.”
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Since 2013, E. Davies has crafted feel-good stories of men in love--stories that are brimming with hope, found families, and realistic guys next door getting their modern fairytale endings. As for hobbies: rescuing bees, dancing badly, traipsing through meadows, and studying photos of cute guys for research totally count, right?
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