I would like to tell you a little bit about my new novel “Do You Trust Me?” And the fact that in some ways it isn’t new. And yet, it is….
Awhile back I had the opportunity to write a novella for Amber Quill Press called “Trust Me.” I got the idea to tell the story of the Black Bear Guest Ranch and the people who lived and worked there. It was a really wonderful experience. These characters, even secondary and tertiary, became so real to me. With feelings and passions and experances and more. I soon found myself wishing that I could stay at Black Bear. And in my mind I often do, especially when I go back a re-read that story.
There there were my romantic heroes. First there was Neil Baxter and his family and the characters that surrounded him. Family. Co-workers. He became so real to me. And I wanted my hero to represent a lot of gay men I’ve know in my life, and that is men who came out in life. Gay men who grew up in my generation found the pressures of a straight society made them try a live a straight life. To pretend not only to family and friends that they weren’t gay, but to convince themselves of that as well.
Let me tell you, it isn’t easy. But a gay man can come to hate himself, or at least the gay part of him. We can convince ourselves such things as that gay part is a demon that possesses us. Or that love is love and as long as we are in love, it doesn’t matter if that person is a man or a woman. And if it doesn’t matter, then why not be with a woman? And as humans, we love men and women. So it doesn’t take a lot to convince ourselves that the love with feel for a woman is more than it is. And then we get married and have kids and we don’t want to hurt them. And we stay—and convince ourselves that being gay isn’t a vital part of who we are. We say stuff like, “I don’t want to be labeled.” We armor ourselves with such stuff as “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” And some of us pray and pray and pray, begging God to make us straight. It is amazing how we can convince even ourselves….
That is part of what this story is about. How a man can come out so late in life.
Then there is Cole Thompson. Now there is a man I wished I had been. A man who knew from day one who he was. A man who chose not to lie to himself or anyone else. And a man who overcame some pretty rough situations in his life to be out and proud.
I overnight came to be passionate about these passionate men. To feel for them and to love them and to have them speak to me through my heart.
And then there was a blow. I had to stop writing before the story was over. The publisher was only accepting novellas. They had that right. And I picked a story that couldn’t be told in the word count they were allowing. But I was a new writer at the time and so I wrapped the story up. I ended it before I really wanted to. And it’s a good story. I like it. A lot of readers did. And I am grateful to Amber Quill for the chance to tell my story.
But then something magical happened. I got a chance not many people do. I got a chance to expand my novella into the novel I always wanted it to be. I was able to put more heart and more passion into the story. Re-writing and updating that story was powerful and wonderful! And I think Dreamspinner Press for giving me that opportunity.
Now here is something else you may or may not know. A lot of writers “cast” their characters. Especially those of us who can’t draw. I envy those who can draw from their heads what their characters look like. So, I am going to do something! I am going to share with you some pictures of how I see what my beloved characters look like. Those pictures allowed me to write with even more passion. Just to let you know, the inspiration for Neil was Christophe Dominici, a French rugby player. Cole was inspired by Cain, an adult actor for Corbin Fisher studios.
Others include Amy Adams as Amy Radcliff, Neil’s sister-in-law. Charlie Koontz as Leo Carmichael, the young wrangler who has a crush on Cole. And Ann Haney and Bill Nighy as Darla and Vincent Clark, the owners of Black Bear Guest Ranch.
And on that note, here is the blurb for “Do You Trust Me?” I hope it intrigues you!
The path to happiness starts with acceptance, and sometimes the chance for a bright, loving future means letting go of the past.
All his life, Neil Baxter has buried a large part of himself—the part that’s attracted to other men. He married a woman and denied that side of him existed. And he plans to keep right on pretending to be straight after his beloved wife has passed away.
To help him deal with his grief, Neil’s sister-in-law convinces him to vacation at a dude ranch. There, Neil meets Cole Thompson, a young, gorgeous, unabashedly gay wrangler—who is unabashedly attracted to Neil. And try as he might, Neil cannot deny he feels the same way. But desire soon becomes something more profound as the two men get to know each other. Cole is much more than a sexy cowboy: he’s kind, spiritual, and intelligent. In fact, he’s perfect for Neil… except he’s a man, and Neil isn’t ready to let go of a lifetime of denial. If he cannot find the courage to be true to himself, he might let something wonderful slip through his fingers.
First Edition published as Trust Me by Amber Quill Press, 2011.
After the talent show, I hung back a bit with Amy. And hell, keeping her company was what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. We had coffee.
“I miss him, Neil,” she said, looking around the room. “He’d have had so much fun tonight.”
There was no reason for me to ask who “he” was. Owen. Her husband. Her dead husband.
She went silent.
Then she talked about the first time they came to Black Bear Guest Ranch. Owen was a huge Western fan—had read the books by Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and Max Brand since he was a kid. He loved the movies, too, and had infected both their children.
She looked at me, her eyes coming back to the present. Sighed. She smiled, but I could tell it was forced. “This just might be the very last year,” she said. She shrugged. “I don’t know if I’ll want to come back after I say….” Her voice faded again. “Good-bye.”
It didn’t take long after that for her to decide she was ready to turn in.
“Want me to walk you?” I asked as we stepped out onto the porch.
She shook her head. “No. I think I want a few minutes to be alone before facing the kids.” She kissed my cheek, thanked me for coming, and headed into the night.
Unexpectedly, I found Cole and Leo and it looked like they were passing a flask. I cleared my throat, and they spun, obviously surprised at being caught.
“Good night, Leo,” Cole said.
Leo looked at Cole, me, then back at Cole.
Oh, for goodness sake, I thought, recognizing Leo’s expression almost instantly. Women had been giving Cole that very same look all evening.
Shit. Leo, too? Did everyone love Cole?
“Go on,” Cole said.
The shorter boy looked stricken and turned to me, nodded, then ran then off into the night.
“Did I interrupt something?” I asked.
Cole shrugged. “He’s got a crush on me.”
I felt my stomach clench. “Maybe I should’ve been the one to get lost,” I said, trying to be causal. Had I stopped some homosexual liaison?
Cole shook his head. “He’s not my type…. Too young.”
“How old is he?” Eighteen, maybe? Was Cole giving liquor to a minor?
“He’s twenty-one,” Cole answered.
“He is?” I was surprised. “He sure doesn’t look it.”
“Nope, and that’s the problem. He’s a nice guy. He’ll make some guy a great lover one day. But I can’t be attracted to someone who I’m not attracted to, you know?”
“I imagine you’d like someone a little closer to your age?”
“I like older men,” Cole said and looked away.
Older men? How old? Older as in…. My stomach fluttered, and I refused to let my thoughts go where his words threatened to take me. I needed to change the subject. Fast.
“You were good in there,” I told him referring to his singing and guitar playing in the talent show. After all, it was true.
He looked at me, those dark eyes all but lost in the shadows of the porch. “Thanks.”
We stood there for a minute, neither of us saying anything.
I need to get to my cabin. I need to get out of here.
Cabin. Sleep. But, hell, I was going to be up for hours. I could feel the caffeine zinging through me like electricity.
Cole looked away again, started to take a drink from his flask, then stopped. “Want some?”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” he replied and laughed.
I shrugged. “I guess not.” Hell, I thought, it might help me sleep. I reached for the flask, and when he handed it to me, our fingers touched for a second.
I almost jumped.
It was like one of those static zings that happens when you rub your stockinged feet on a carpet and then touch something metal. But that wasn’t what happened. There hadn’t been a static discharge. It had all been in my imagination. In my head.
But then when he looked at me the way he did, shadows or not, I wondered if that was true.
I paused for a moment before drinking. I looked at Cole. Beautiful Cole.
I trembled. Geez. Yes. He was beautiful.
I looked into Cole’s eyes and suddenly realized I had been pretty hateful. I was being just as bad as they were. Gay or not, Cole had shown me nothing but kindness.
“Do you trust me?” he’d asked when I rode Mystic, my horse for the week. When he’d told me that Mystic trusted me.
Agree with what he’d decided to do with his life or not, he’d done nothing but been trustworthy.
I took a swig from the flask, knowing those lips had touched it before mine, and felt the burn. “Whiskey.” I handed it back.
“Good Kentucky whiskey,” he said, then took a drink. He held it out.
I took the flask and, once again, our fingers touched. He didn’t let go for a second, letting the contact linger. I didn’t pull away, and my heart began to race.
He was flirting again.
He let go, and I took a long swallow this time. Too long. Shit. “I think I finished it,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“I got plenty back at my cabin,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Was that an invitation?
Damn, he was so good-looking! Hell! How could a man be so damned good-looking? He was a man! Why was I seeing it? Weren’t there plenty of nice-looking women around here? Why couldn’t I think of one single attractive woman? Out of thirty-some people, there had to be one. Besides Amy, that was. Amy was family. Amy was my “sister.”
Again, we just stood there, and I felt the heat in my face as I went all flush.
Go to bed! my mind screamed at me. Get out of here!
But why couldn’t I move?
“My flask?” he asked.
“Sorry,” I said, feeling like an idiot. I handed it to him. “I need to be getting to bed. I’m worn out….”
I looked at Cole again, but this time I could think of something besides how attractive he was. I remembered the amazing afternoon astride that incredible horse. How free I’d felt. How spellbinding. “Thank you for that.”
“For what?” Cole said.
“Mystic. It was magical.”
He smiled, and my stomach leapt again.
“No problem,” he said. “There’ll be plenty more tomorrow. You rest up. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Morning” was all I could say back.
I watched him go.
And finally I climbed into my little cart and drove back to my cabin.
The path to happiness starts with acceptance, and sometimes the chance for a bright, loving future means letting go of the past.
Neil is widowed and is so far in the closet there is no light seeping in from under the door. He lost his wife suddenly 2 yrs prior, leaving him with his teenage daughter. He is invited to a dude ranch with his sister-in-law and her family for a weeks’ vacation.
There he meets one of the wranglers, Cole, who at first sight makes Neil question everything he was told not to want. Neil finds an easy friendship with Cole but as they get closer he pulls away and becomes angry at himself for letting himself think of Cole as more than just a friend. Cole is out & proud but is still dealing with a horrible breakup.
We get to watch as Neil questions what he needs in his life to be happy and if he can truly be himself and happy with Cole. There is a nice age gap between the MCs and I never once felt Cole to be immature at his young age.
The writing was great, the character development was superb, and the story flowed with ease. I was completely in love with this story up until about 70%. There was circumstances that I felt needed to be dealt better with the situation Neil and Cole were in. Unfortunately, that little hiccup (which might not bother others) completely took me out of the rest of the story. I read it until the end but the deep seeded investment I had in the book went out the window and I couldn’t seem to get my reading mojo back on.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a complex story about a man trying to find himself. What didn’t work for me might not be a problem for others. I look forward to reading more by this author.
3.5 pieces of eye candy
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B.G. Thomas lives in Kansas City with his husband of more than a decade and their fabulous dogs Sarah Jane and Oliver. He is blessed to have a lovely daughter as well as many extraordinary friends. He has a great passion for life.
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction, and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to literature conventions his entire adult life where he’s been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was a child; it is where he finds his joy.
In the nineties, he wrote for gay adult magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. He submitted a novella and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days. Since then the romantic tales have poured out of him. “It’s like I’m somehow making up for a lifetime’s worth of story-telling!”
“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message. “It is never too late,” he testifies. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”