Release Day Review ~ Pictures of You by Leta Blake ~ (5 Star Review + Excerpt)
Author: Leta Blake
Title: Pictures of You
Series Title and Number (if applicable): ‘90s Coming of Age, #1
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Release Date: 9/19/2016
Genre: Gay New Adult, Coming of Age, with Romantic themes
Tags: new adult, coming of age, 1990s,
Heat Level: 3.5 or 4
Length: 100,000 words
SynopsisGrowing up gay isn’t easy. Growing up gay in Knoxville, Tennessee is even harder. Eighteen-year-old Peter Mandel, a private school senior—class of 1990—is passionate about photography. Peter doesn’t have many friends preferring to shoot pictures from behind the scenes to keep his homosexuality secret. Enter Adam Algedi, a charming, worldly new guy who doesn't do labels, but does want to do Peter. Hardly able to believe gorgeous Adam would want geeky, skinny him of all people, Peter's swept away on a journey of first love and sexual discovery. But as their mutual web of lies spins tighter and tighter, can Peter find the confidence he needs to make the right choices? Join Peter, in the first of a four-part coming of age series, on his search to love and be loved, and, most of all, how to grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.
“Should I apologize for earlier?” Adam asked, turning down the stereo.
“It isn’t your fault she showed up.” A
dam grinned at me. “I meant, should I apologize for the kiss, but I guess the answer is ‘no.’”
I twitched nervously in my seat and took a deep breath “I’m gay.” “No shit.” I stared. “What?”
“I mean, yeah. You’re gay. I figured that out.”
“So—” I stopped. “Wait. How?” “I can always tell. I don’t know how.”
“But I thought you said you weren’t gay.” “I never said that.” Adam frowned.
“Honestly, I don’t know what I am.”
My heart trip-hammered for a ton of reasons, but the scariest of them was hope.
“What’s the deal then? Uh, with us?” “Us? We’re friends. Like I said, friends kiss.”
My hope settled into a knot of anxiety. “Then why hasn’t a friend kissed me before?”
“I don’t know. I mean, who wouldn’t want to kiss you?” To me, it was definitely more of a question of who would want to kiss me, and, more specifically, just exactly why he had. Especially when I knew how everyone else would view me once we got to school. Maybe living all over the world hadn’t taught him the social skill of self-preservation required to make his way in a small city like Knoxville. I decided to tell him. He really did deserve to know, and besides, if it was going to be an issue, I wanted to be hurt now, not later.
“I’m a huge loser, you know.” Adam glanced over at me like I was insane. “What?” “I’m not popular. In school. In life. In anything.” I turned my head and looked out the window, worrying my lower lip. “I just thought you should know. I mean, you don’t want to start out at a new school being friends with someone who’s just going to drag you down.” Adam actually laughed. “You’re crazy. Did you know that?” My throat tightened. It hurt he wasn’t taking me seriously. “I’m telling you why I’ll understand when you decide we can’t be friends anymore.”
“Look, you haven’t even started at this school and you’ve already decided that as a friend you’re not worth being first string? What’s up with that?” I shrugged. “I’m just being realistic. I mean—look at me.” In my peripheral vision I saw Adam do just that. He looked at me long enough that I worried about the car staying on the road. “Yeah. I’m looking. I still like what I see.” He lifted his hand to the back of my neck and squeezed. “I’m serious.”
A strange rush of emotion flooded my stomach and chest, and I wanted to tuck my face between my knees. Instead I just crossed my arms and frowned. Adam brushed his fingers through my hair, catching in my frenzy of curls. It felt intimate and almost more real than the kiss. I shivered when he let go to grip the steering wheel again.
“But enough of that,” he said sternly. “Get my book bag out of the backseat. I’ve got a surprise for you.” Happy to be leaving the uncomfortable topic of my gay dorkitude behind, I reached around and grabbed the blue, nylon book bag. “Open the front pocket.” I unzipped it, fished around, and pulled out a driver’s license. It was Mo’s, and I had to stifle a laugh at the typical bad license photo that made him look like a serial killer. “I’ve got a fake ID that Sean got for me, but I liberated that one for you.” I tapped the picture. “You think this will get me into the club? I look nothing like your brother!” “Don’t be such a defeatist! You just hold your thumb over the picture when you show them your ID.” “Adam, that isn’t going to work.” “We can always try,” he said, lifting his shoulders dismissively.
“They’ll confiscate the ID. How’s Mo going to feel about having to get a new license made?” That got through to him. “Oh. So, huh. I guess that won’t work after all.” I snorted. “Uh, no.” Adam just smiled. “We’ll figure something out.” “We could see what’s going on at the under-21 shows on The Strip.” “No. I want to go to Tilt-a-Whirl. I read it’s the best gay bar in town and has, and I quote, ‘the best drag queens in the area.’” “If the area is East Tennessee, then yeah, it probably does. And why do you want to go to a gay bar so much? I mean, this is a small city. Word gets around.” Adam narrowed his eyes. “This last-minute resistance is futile, padawan.” “Trek and Wars in the same breath. That is very wrong. Very, deeply, truly wrong.” “It is,” Adam readily agreed. “You’re a total dork.” “Shh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell the jocks when school starts. I wouldn’t want my nerdiness to drag us down and all.” I started to laugh, but stopped, struck by an uncomfortable thought. I picked at my blue jeans a little, toying with a loose thread, before asking quietly, “So the kiss is a secret?” Adam looked over in obvious surprise. “Of course. I mean, like you said, this is a small city.”
“And it’s the South. And the Bible Belt. And generally homophobic, yeah.” I bit down on my lip. I didn’t know what I was expecting. It wasn’t like he was wrong. We couldn’t be boyfriends—not here, not now. Not out in the open or anything. It was just that I wanted so much more already. And he’d kissed me. Adam’s hand clasped the back of my neck again. “Hey, listen. You’re my friend. And you happen to kind of turn me on with your glasses, and your camera, and the way you walk.” He gripped his fingers in my hair again and gave my head a little shake. “That’s enough, isn’t it?” “Yeah. So—the drag show. How do we get in?” I hoped my voice sounded light because if in Adam’s world friends kissed, I didn’t want to do anything to ruin our friendship before I found out what else he thought friends might do.
**copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by the author/publisher in exchange for a honest review**
In August of 1990, after being bullied, beaten-up and called names at his last high school, Peter's parents enroll him in Kingsley, a private school for his senior year. At orientation, he meets Adam and his sister Sarah, also newly transferred students from Jordan. Peter is shocked and finds it hard to believe that the popular and hunky Adam wants him, a skinny, geeky photographer. Peter has tried to keep to himself in the past and fly under the radar of the school bullies. He's never had many friends, and the place he's always been most comfortable is behind the viewfinder of his camera. Being gay isn't easy, but being gay in a small town in rural Tennessee, in the early 90's, especially with the stigma of AIDS, makes it even harder. With Adam, Peter begins to explore his sexuality. He has his first kiss as well as his first exploits into sex.
I graduated the same year as Peter, so Leta did an amazing job at taking me back to my high school years. The sounds, stories in the news, and music all made me just a bit nostalgic for my youth.
I don't want to give a lot away, so I'm just going to say a few things. This book was well-written, flows well and Ms. Blake hooked me from the very first word. She drew me into Peter's life and made me feel. I felt his joy, happiness and love, but also his fear, frustration, anger, jealousy and heartbreak. I couldn't put this book down. I absolutely loved it, even when I REALLY wanted to punch some people in the face!!
This was an amazing start to Peter's journey, and I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next three books. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for Peter!! Highly recommendable!!
Meet the Author
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake's educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.
You can find out more about her by following her online: Website | Facebook | Twitter