Sunday, July 15, 2018

Blog Tour: Pursuing Happiness by Jessie Pinkham (Reviews + Excerpt)

Blog Tour: Pursuing Happiness by Jessie Pinkham (Reviews + Excerpt)

Book Title: Pursuing Happiness

Author: Jessie Pinkham

Publisher: Jessie Pinkham

Cover Artist: Katia V. Michelet

Release Date: July 12, 2018

Genre/s romance, contemporary, gay

Length: 53,000 words 


A repressive childhood casts long shadows.

Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.

When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.

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“Now, about that sexual to-do list. I’m dying to know what’s on it.”

An adorable blush blossomed on Matt’s cheeks. “I think there’s a lot of potential for fun with a can of whipped cream.”

“I’m completely on board with that.”

Finally Matt relaxed. “You’re a very good boyfriend,” he remarked.

Collin figured that meant he’d said the right thing. Good. He took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. “So are you, and if I hadn’t already known that my coworkers made sure to tell me yesterday.”

“How did the grant application turn out?”

“Well, it doesn’t scream ‘thrown together at the last minute,’ so it could be a lot worse.”

“I know nothing about grants,” said Matt, “but I have plenty of personal experience in the red parts of the state, where you said you want to do outreach. Maybe this is weird pillow talk, but…”

Collin interrupted. “Our pillow talk can be whatever we want.”

“Okay. Have you considered how much tougher it will be to go out and talk about LGBT acceptance with people in very conservative areas? I mean really thought about the ruling mindset there?”

They certainly weren’t going in blind. Regardless he wanted to hear Matt’s opinion, if for no other reason than to understand his boyfriend a little better. “We expect to be called a lot more nasty slurs.”

“That’s obvious. It’s not just the insults, though. The thing is that a lot of these people – not all, but a definite majority – are not even going to consider what you have to say. The religiously inclined, which again will be a good percentage, will consider it a given that you’ve been deceived by Satan. So there’s no reason for them to even consider what you have to say, see? Anything they don’t like can easily be written off as inspired by Satan. It’s a very neat system if you don’t like thinking too hard. And it makes us very easy scapegoats for anyone, religious or not, who doesn’t like how the world is changing.”

“There are going to be some people who remain homophobic no matter what we say or do,” acknowledged Collin.

“Some might become more tolerant with personal contact, when the LGBT community isn’t something abstract and instead they know someone who isn’t heterosexual. Then there are the people like my family.”

“Bastards. But we know that. What we want to do, at the very least, is give some hope to LGBT people who feel isolated.”

“They certainly need it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to be anonymous in the city. People can go to Ted’s Place without anyone they know having a clue about their visit to an LGBT center. In rural areas it’s not the same. If somebody stops to talk with you or takes pamphlets or whatever you’re doing for outreach, they’ll be recognized and before long half the town will know. The smaller the community, the worse it gets in that regard.” Matt sighed. “I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being realistic. I would never have dared talk with anyone doing LGBT outreach. Far too dangerous.”

“That’s depressing. It’s good to know, though. Obviously this has to factor into our plans.” He lacked ideas on how to work around this very serious roadblock. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Collin would share this perspective with his colleagues and go from there. “Any suggestions for us to get around that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solutions. The internet is good. My family was unusually restrictive in that area, but it probably helps a lot of other kids. Just keep in mind that in some of these conservative areas, you’ll be entering enemy territory.”

“War metaphors?”

“Not a metaphor. They will literally see you as the enemy. Inspired by Satan, remember? It’s spiritual warfare and you’re the advanced guard. That’s how a lot of people will see you.”

“Damn,” said Collin. He imagined an army wearing sparkly rainbow uniforms, armed with lube and condoms, maybe doing something stereotypical like singing show tunes. “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”

Matt frowned. “I’m serious, Collin.”

Oops. His last comment had clearly been too flippant. “Sorry. I was going for lightening the mood with humor but clearly missed the mark. This is important to know. And honestly, it speaks to how strong you are that you were able to escape that.”

“I’m not sure being kicked out counts as escaping.”

“You could’ve gone to conversion therapy, pretended to be cured, and lived the rest of your life miserable and accepted by your family. You chose the harder option.”

“True,” said Matt. “Totally worth it.”

Collin traced random patterns on his boyfriend’s chest. “I’m glad to hear it. If you didn’t think it was worth it after that blowjob, I’d have done something terribly wrong.”

This time Matt let him lighten the mood. He winked and said, “No worries there.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You know that saying about praise going to your head? They’re talking about the head on top of your neck.”

“How do you know?” countered Collin.

Matt opened his mouth to protest, then paused. A second later he admitted, “That’s actually a good question.”

Score one for being a smartass.

About the Author

Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivorsand the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.

She's usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.

3 Stars 

Matt and Collin have lived very different lives. Matt comes from an ultra-conservative Christian family, who upon learning he is gay, threw him out of the house and disowned him. Collin’s family, on the other hand, has been much more accepting of his sexuality and for the most part, Collin is well adjusted and comfortable with who he is. Matt and Collin meet when Collin moves in next door to Matt. The two hit it off immediately and what follows is a nice courtship. 

The story was sweet and for the most part, especially considering Matt’s upbringing, it was pretty low angst. Both Matt and Collin were uber sweet and so cute together. I loved their dates and just listening to them talk and get to know one another. I liked that they took the physical aspect of their relationship at a slower pace and that Collin was thoughtful and considerate, making sure to ask Matt what he would like to do/try and making sure that Matt was comfortable with everything they did. While Collin and Matt were, as I said, cute and sweet together, for me, there was no spark, no electricity between them. The relationship was missing passion. 

This plot of the story was good, but the writing was overly descriptive. I didn’t need to know every little specific detail of what was happening. All the descriptions made the story tedious to read at times and it broke up the flow of the story. 

Overall, while not my favorite book it was still a somewhat enjoyable read with lovely main characters you could really root for and some fabulous secondary characters as well, who were a great support system, and at times, the voice of reason for Matt and Collin.
* Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. *

~ 3.5 Stars ~

This story was good, and I liked the way it was written, I just didn’t love it the way I initially thought I would. It had a good baseline and the story flowed pretty well throughout the whole book. It was cute, sweet, with not much drama or angst. There was a good amount of dialogue between the main characters, but at the same time, the heat between the two felt a little lacking at times. I also personally did not really connect to either of the main characters in this book though and will explain why below. On the other hand, I do know there will be a lot of people out there who will absolutely really enjoy reading this book.

Matt was thrown out of his home by his super religious family right before he finished his college courses to become a vet assistant. I understand that his personality fully reflects on how he was brought up in a super extreme religious environment. I’ve just never had to deal with people like that in real life so I couldn’t really understand why he would still let all the irrational fears he had instilled in him when he was young rule his life even years after he was thrown out, and he was thrown out as an adult over the age of 18. However, I was really impressed by the way Matt really stepped up when his 16yo cousin shows up basically on his doorstep needing help. He showed that deep down he was strong enough to overcome his past, even if he personally didn’t think he could do it alone.

Collin is the complete opposite of Matt. He had a loving and supportive family. He was brought up to enjoy life and everything in it. Even though I didn’t really connect to either character I did like Matt a lot more. There were times in the story I felt like Collin should have been more understanding towards Matt’s feelings. Besides Matt's worries on the sexual aspect of their relationship, that seemed to be the only place that Collin was fully ok with how Matt felt. Matt was pretty forthcoming about his background and how he was raised so Collin knew ahead of time all the struggles Matt had with his thoughts and his fears and Collin still didn’t really bend at all. Even when it came to the all or nothing situation that happens towards the ending of the book, he didn’t fight for Matt and it really made me take another look at Collin as a person. Especially since he works at a nonprofit LGBT & Teen center… Shouldn’t he have more compassion for the differences in how people are raised and that everyone has different experiences in life? Although Matt was the main person at fault for what happens, I don’t think it was right for him to fully take all of the blame for how the situation turned out. It was nice that both Matt and Collin had friends and family to help them figure out their feelings and where the other guy was coming from. 

At the end, I’m glad they both took the second chance at trying over in order to get their HEA together. Oh, and I really did like the Epilogue we got at the ending of this one so I’m happy that was thrown in as well.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

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