I am so super excited to welcome Kaje Harper today at Two Chicks Obsessed. As soon as I saw Fair Isn’t Life was coming out, I immediately messaged Kaje and asked her to do a special guest post. Both Kaje and I live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, where the Great Minnesota Get Together, also known as the Minnesota State Fair, is and where this book begins. The Minnesota State Fair is a huge deal in the state, and brings people from all over to eat “food on a stick”, see farm animals, and sweat in the hot sun and humidity that is a Minnesota summer. So, I had to do a “this or that” list with Kaje to see what our differences are. Check it out (and yes, all these things are things you can do/see/eat at the Minnesota State Fair), and enter the giveaway!
Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.
Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.
Thanks for giving me time to hang out on this blog, as my new book, Fair Isn’t Life, is released. How fun that we’ve both been to the Minnesota State Fair (second largest in the nation, I’ll have you know) where my book begins. The Fair has so many good things, including more food than anyone can possibly even try once. I insisted Denise had to fill these questions out too – let’s see how our choices compare.
- Pork chop on a stick or turkey legs?
KH: I have to admit I’ve never tried either one. If I did, I’d be more likely to go for the pork chop. I eat 95% vegetarian, but when I splurge it’s usually bacon-related.
DSC: I’m not a big meat person (giggle), but definitely prefer turkey legs. And I am totally down with the bacon-related items that Kaje mentioned!
- Swine barn or miracle of birth center
KH: I love the Miracle of Birth Center, run by the veterinary college. It’s an important piece of Fair Isn’t Life too, as Luke confronts his dreams and future in there. Seriously— newborn calves, tiny piglets, twin lambs, and fuzzy ducklings. What’s not to love? (Although the annual biggest pig at the Fair in the Swine Barn is pretty impressive too. This year “Johnny” topped the scales at 1,040 pounds.)
DSC: Definitely the Miracle of Birth Center. I love goats! Like seriously LOOOOVVVEEEE goats, so any chance I get to see baby goats, or any goats, is my time. That being said, they are also in the Swine Barn, so I win either way.
- Space needle or Giant Slide
KH: I’m a Needle fan – I love looking down from (safe) heights. My kids loved the slide better.
DSC: Although we didn’t do it this year, I definitely prefer the Giant Slide. Although the bags you sit on are itchy!
- Sweet Martha’s cookies or deep fried candy bars/Oreos
KH: Cookies. Give me all the cookies. (I have nothing against candy bars – chocolate is my preferred writing fuel, but deep frying puts them over the top for me.)
DSC: Definitely Sweet Martha’s cookies. That overflowing bucket of melting cookies has you sick to your stomach. Why do they bother selling the little cone of them, I have always wondered. Does anyone actually buy that? lol
- French Fries or Cheese Curds
KH: Fries, please. Better yet, Duke’s Poutine – fries with cheese curds and gravy – a taste of my Montreal roots.
DSC: Cheese Curds. Deep fried deliciousness…Kaje mentioned the Poutine…my family loves it…me? I don’t quite get it, but hey, they can have that, and I get all the cheese curds!
- Ball Park (beer garden) or Wine Country
KH: I like a good wine (or even a cheap wine LOL), but never learned to appreciate beer. (My main characters Luke and Mason would say the opposite.)
DSC: This one I follow the family wherever they choose to go, neither one is a draw for me. But give me a huge cup of the lemonade? Oh yes!
- Coliseum or Grandstand
KH: Coliseum. I’m crazy about horses (I worked in a riding camp for girls as a teen) and I’m not crazy about really loud music and crowds, so I’d rather watch the pretty ponies.
DSC: hahaha I chose the Coliseum, but for all the little shops that surround it. I found some awesome Christmas presents there this year, and at a great deal since it was Labor Day! 🙂
- Open Sky Ride or Closed Sky Ride
KH: Open Sky Ride – I like the way it passes over the crowd but not too high and wide open, so you feel engaged with the fair below. This year, as we passed over the karaoke booth, they were playing Bohemian Rhapsody and people in the chairs were singing along with the folks on the ground to Freddie Mercury’s classic. (Fun observation – everyone from seniors to preteens knew the words. Freddie was a genius.)
In years past, the building roof that the ride goes over had lots of dropped hats and flip flops; by now, we saw it’s mostly adorned with underwear. My son and I discussed how you could get out of bras and particularly undershorts while in the chair seats, or if people brought them along to drop…
DSC: Open Sky Ride. Although that being said, this year I noticed a ton of people dropped their undergarments on the roof of one of the buildings as they went overhead. I had to wonder…did they plan ahead for that? hahaha Kaje and I mentioned the same thing! I took a picture as a memorial. Someday someone will find that in my phone and wonder WTF?
- Agriculture Building or Education Building
KH: I like the Ag building. It brings the flavor of a real fair to the big urban celebration. I like looking at the prize winning vegetables and all the flowers.
DSC: Agriculture building. I love the Christmas display they get up in the middle. And the apples, and the taste testing. 🙂
West End or International Bazaar
KJ: International Bazaar – it feels hopeful to see people learning about and enjoying other cultures.
DSC: We did the West End this year, and really enjoyed it. Definitely a must again next year. But I love the International Bazaar too.
- Butterfly House or Reptile House
KH: Reptiles are fascinating— I once owned a pet snake and he was a cutie. But I vote Butterfly House. I like watching the little kids in awe of having a butterfly land on their arm. There’s a tinge of sadness in the fragility that ends up in small crumpled losses in the corners (and that’s something that Mason was upset about as a kid, in a cut scene that didn’t make it into the book.) Still, the big-eyed wonder and seeing the kids try so hard to be still and gentle warms my heart.
DSC: Butterfly House. And I didn’t realize when I was reading the book the butterfly reference was more than the brief reference, so now I want to see that scene! 🙂
- Midway or Kidway
KH: Other than the Sky Ride or a Ferris Wheel, I’m not much of a rides person. So this depends on who I’m with. My first time at the Fair was when my older son was just 18 months old. This summer, my younger son was 22 years old. Their tastes changed.
DSC: I normally would have said neither, but this year my brother made me go on several of the fun houses in the Midway and we had a blast! Loads of fun.
- Haunted House or Fun House
KH: Fun House – not a fan of horror, or screaming. (Plus sometimes there are clowns in the haunted house.)
DSC: See previous answer! And the New York City one was awesome!!!
- Ice Cream or Custard
KH: If I’m going to eat a frozen treat, let it be decadent – Custard.
DSC: I’m going to go with the milk shakes, cause those are awesome!
- Minnesota Apples or Minnesota Honey
KH: Apples. The Honeycrisp is a Minnesota creation.
DSC: Honey all the way. The honey ice cream is delicious!
- Fried Pickles or Corn on the Cob
KH: Corn. I never developed a taste for pickles. And the corn is soooooooo good.
DSC: Hmmmm….well since it’s on a stick, I’m going with Corn on the Cob!!!!
KH: Thanks for inviting me onboard today, and for reminding me about all the good stuff from our Fair (and now I really want Funnel Cakes…)
DSC: Thanks for playing along!
Okay, I am not sure if it’s fair (haha, get it?) for me to review this book. I mean the Minnesota State Fair, and just all the Minnesota references were out of this world. I had so much fun with this book. Although it starts at the fair, as these two men get reaquainted, there are tons of other references that made me smile, laugh, or just reminded me of all the good stuff that comes with living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. (Go Twins!) It was a great step into what a lot of people call “flyover country”, but don’t realize is a rich, diverse area with lots to see and do, including the Great Minnesota Get Together.
All that being said, I really did love this book, not just because of the location of the story, but also from a character driven aspect.
I really liked both of these characters, and what they were dealing with during this time in their lives. Luke was trying to bring himself out of a grief stricken and guilt induced depression that was crushing. He knew he needed to do something with his life, but hadn’t been able to see through the cloud of grief to decide. Having someone like Mason come back into his life at a time when he needed a guiding support, and even someone to push him a little was very realistic. It was obvious Luke had spent much of his life doing what he was told, and trying to be the good, faithful son, because his father wanted that from him. Breaking out a little was a great way for him to begin to find himself, who he wanted to be, what he wanted to do with his life, and acknowledge that he wanted Mason as his man.
Meanwhile, Mason, despite being a small femme man, knew what he wanted, and went right after it. He wanted Luke in his life, and even when Luke got caught up in all the things going on in his brain, Mason was patient but persistent. He wasn’t about to let Luke give up simply because he couldn’t believe that someone would want him. He helped Luke find his way, simply by being there for him, and giving him a helping hand as Luke tried to gain his footing. Mason may have been chatty, and gregarious, perhaps thought of by some of the baseball players in the book as over the top, but he absolutely knew when the right time was to sit back and wait, and when to push forward. I loved Mason’s attitude. He was confident, and helped Luke find his own confidence in himself and what he could do.
There was so much character development in this short novel, I was very impressed. Each movement of Luke’s, each comment, or non-comment, spoke to his personality, and the stressors in his life. So very well done. And we got an HFN, so that always makes me happy!
4.5 pieces of eye candy
I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname. I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment, usually M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have Young Adult short stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)
It was my husband who finally convinced me that after all the years of writing just for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/.
I’m always pleased to have readers find me online at:
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4769304.Kaje_Harper
Leave a comment on this post, and win an ebook copy of one of Kaje’s backlist books.