Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Amy Jo Cousins for stopping by today.
Title: The Girl Next Door
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Genre: Bisexual, Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
#When it comes to love, go big or go home.
Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less- than-luxurious doorstep.
Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.
To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.
Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.
Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second
time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.
I Was Always Crossing Over
When the cover art and blurb for The Girl Next Door went up on Goodreads and Amazon and everywhere else, it wasn’t long before the DMs and emails and messages started coming in.
Thankfully, at the same time, other readers began telling me how they were going to pick up a m/f romance for the first time in years, because they were so excited to find out what happened to Cash and Steph from Off Campus. I’ve already written my blog post about why I’m writing an LGBTQ series, not a m/m romance series. I talked about how it’s perfectly understandable for readers to have preferences about what they read, about my own reading preferences, and also about how delighted I am to discover great books when I try something new and out of my wheelhouse from time to time.
What I didn’t talk about was how I was always on this path to writing crossover romance. I have voracious tastes in pretty much everything, really. When it comes to music, I love Bach’s Double Violin Concerto as much as I love Muse, Talib Kweli, Taylor Swift, Ella Fitzgerald, the Oak Ridge Boys, Dulce Pontes, Cesaria Evora, New Order, and the Avett Brothers. Ask me where I want to go to dinner and I’m as likely to propose Spanish tapas as sushi, Indian food, Ethiopian, Italian, Vietnamese, a classic steakhouse, Ecuadorian, or a burger at the pub.
My reading has never been any different. I’ve been reading authors who crossover from straight to LGBTQ books and back again since the eighties. My earliest influences for this style of storytelling were the SFF writers I devoured like candy. I read Ursula LeGuin’s YA Earthsea series when I was in junior high. Discovering her book The Left Hand of Darkness, about a society where everyone is a sexually latent androgyne, except for a brief period of fertility each month when individuals can adopt male or female sex characteristics, was a major turning point. The main character is an envoy to this society who has a difficult time negotiating relationships without being able to rely upon his more traditional understanding of men and women.
Picture me, mind blown.
I was drawn immediately to SFF authors who crossed sex and gender boundary lines. Robert Heinlein, Mercedes Lackey, Gael Baudino, and Samuel Delaney, among others, wrote books with plenty of LGBTQ storylines and characters, along with their stories about more traditional m/f relationships. A lesbian harpist rescuing her lover from an Elven kingdom. A gay herald-mage battling to save his kingdom. Many of these books were problematic. Happy endings were damn thin on the ground. (Do we think this has something to do with how much I love writing happily ever afters for LGBTQ characters? I’ll give you one guess.) But these characters, they won me over as a teenager growing up in a Midwestern suburb where the only out gay kid in my high school wasn’t tortured perhaps, but wasn’t particularly welcomed either.
As I got older, I hit my stride as a feminist, focusing for years on feminist authors who ranged across genres and almost always wrote about straight and queer men and women in their stories. Yes, Rita Mae Brown wrote the lesbian classic Rubyfruit Jungle and the hilarious Venus Envy, but she also wrote High Hearts, about a woman follows her husband into battle during the Civil War. For two decades, I read everything Marge Piercy wrote. Her books not only didn’t buy into a strict division between straight and queer, with many characters whose understanding of their own sexuality shifts during the course of their lives, they pushed the boundaries by looking at poly relationships too. Alice Walker and Margaret Atwood and Dorothy Allison, everyone was expanding my idea of what kind of relationships could be the focus of novels, and of how much I loved authors who challenged me with the unexpected every time they wrote a new book.
My favorite literary authors were also the ones who were all about crossing over. I think I cried with happiness when reading E.M. Forster’s Maurice, because the happy ending of that book was so unexpected to me. Sarah Water’s lesbian historical novels Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith are brilliant, but so are her gothic ghost story, The Little Stranger, and her WWII novel, The Night Watch. Colm Tóibín’s The Master and The Blackwater Lightship are explorations of Irish society, creativity, loss and homosexual identity. His Brooklyn is a spare masterpiece about a young Irish woman’s journey to America and back home again, and the men between whom she must choose.
Even my mystery writers got into the act. Laurie R. King writes a brilliant contemporary series about Kate Martinelli, a lesbian San Francisco cop whose lover is an art therapist and a fascinating character in her own right. King also writes the fabulous Mary Russell books, about a brilliant young American woman working with a cranky, retired Sherlock Holmes in the WWI era. She even managed to crossover, literally, by writing The Art of Detection, a mystery novel that brings both her series to play in the same sandbox.
The only genre I read where all of the relationships were the same? You guessed it: romance. And maybe that was part of the reason my romance reading went in phases, sometimes filling my shelves, but other times getting pushed to the background. As a genre, in the eighties and nineties, romance felt narrow. Discovering LGBTQ romance of all kinds, m/m, f/f, bisexual and trans* and queer, made me so happy, I can’t stand it. Now I love reading romance as much as everything else. No, that’s incorrect. Now I love reading romance more than everything else.
I know there are readers who will skip Cash and Steph’s book in the Bend or Break series (although I hope you give it a try! I swear, Cash’s head is the greatest place in which to spend a couple hundred pages). And I know there are people who read my m/f romances who won’t pick up my LGBTQ books. That’s okay. I want people to read the books that make them happy. But I just finished writing a short story about a trans girl, and writing it was a gift to my heart. I’m about to start working on a f/f NA novella, a m/m novel with a genderqueer character, another m/m story for a charity anthology, and some m/f erotica. I’m finish up the second two novellas about bisexual Callie. I can’t imagine skipping any of these stories, and I promise they are all fun, fascinating, moving, sexy reads.
One of my favorite poetry quotes is from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. It explains a lot about me. “Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then I contradict myself. / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
Multitudes, my friends.
Always crossing over.
Excerpt From THE GIRL NEXT DOOR…
Conversation with Steph always flowed like water, both of them prone to teasing and oversharing. He found himself confessing about the girls he’d gone home with because of the lure of air-conditioning, and laughed in return when she told him she’d been happy to move, because she’d accidentally slept with her neighbor across the way after spending too much time watching him from her back porch.
“You see each other in the laundry room, locking up your bikes in the basement storage. Then one night you’re on your back porch, drinking wine and reading a book, and you start talking to your neighbor when he comes outside for a smoke. Before you know it, you’re offering to share the wine and he’s on your porch. And then it’s, ‘How do you like your coffee?’ in the morning.” She shrugged, biting her lip to keep back a grin. This one at least seemed genuine. “You know how it goes.”
“Yeah, I don’t pick up dudes—guys—on my back porch.”
“Oh, really. Are you picking up dudes somewhere else then?”
“Ha, ha. No. But my friend Varun says I’m an excellent wingman when we go to Hydrate,” he said, naming one of the city’s hippest gay drinking establishments.
“Still hanging in the gay bars? That was always one of my favorite things about you.” At his raised eyebrow, she elaborated. “You’re really comfortable with your sexuality.” She leaned forward, resting her chin on her palm and staring at him in a way that made his dick sit up and take notice. It had been too long since he’d been the focus of that wickedly speculative gaze. He’d forgotten how much he liked it. How very tempting it was.
About the Author
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.
Fun facts: Amy Jo can get back into a kayak in the open water if she falls out of it, taught herself and her son how to say I love you in seventeen languages, and once ran the table in a game of eight ball.
Contact: Amy Jo Cousins
Amy Jo Cousins is kindly offering a giveaway of an ebook of The Girl Next Door to a lucky commenter to this post.
Unless otherwise stated, local giveaways end 7 days from posting date at 11:59pm CST/CDT.
Void where prohibited. Must be 18 or older. By entering you are agreeing to these terms.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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