Yay, it’s Friday! It’s been a bit of a dog of a week, but I’m feeling better today and I’m determined to end the week on a high note. And my favourite thing about offering a guest author spot every week is that I get to findj out about new authors I might have missed otherwise. Because, let’s face it, there are only so many hours in a day and when it comes to choosing the next book to read it’s easy to reach for old favourites. Which is fine for the part of me craving relaxation, but not so much fun for my adventure-seeking half. This weekly blog spot definitely scratches that itch, because I’ve just fallen in love with the excerpt from her latest book, Awakenings & French Songs, that Nell Iris has brought with her.
I’ll let Nell Iris tell you all about it, because I’m over here…. reading. 🙂
Have you ever woken up one day and realized you needed a change in your life? That what you thought made you happy, doesn’t cut it anymore?
That’s what happens to Iggy Wilker in Awakenings & French Songs.
On his 36th birthday, his friends take him out to celebrate in a way he’d usually love. But something doesn’t feel right this time. Instead of throwing himself into the thick of things, he withdraws, hides out in the bathroom, and contemplates what’s wrong.
Hidden away from the world, he realizes he’s felt off for a while now. Something just hasn’t been right, but he can’t really put his finger on what’s wrong. Not until he stomps out of the club and arrives home, he understands what he wants. What has been in front of him for a long time, but Iggy hasn’t been ready.
I was Iggy Wilker in my late thirties. No, I wasn’t a vertically challenged gay party-boy who went clubbing with friends all the time and never said no to a blow-job. But I was stuck. One day blended into the next until my life was just a gray mass of mundanity. Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong.
Iggy and Ronan had been friends and neighbors for years, but never more than that, even though Iggy finds Ronan incredibly hot. Ronan is the father of an eleven-year-old girl, looking for the forever kind of love, while all Iggy wanted was no-strings-attached hookups. But that night when he gets home from his birthday celebration, he sees Ronan in a different light. He feels something he hasn’t allowed himself to feel before and understands what he’s been missing. But what will he do about it?
Unlike Iggy, I was already happily married and committed, so that wasn’t the reason for my discontentment. No, I was stuck in the same tiny Swedish town where I was born and raised, and nothing ever happened. I wanted something more. Something exciting. And where Iggy’s opportunity presented itself unexpectedly, so did mine. My husband was offered a job in Malaysia, and it was a way for us to escape our prosaic life and find adventure.
Where Iggy realizes he wants to settle down, I realized I was too settled.
But I’m intimately familiar with the feeling Iggy experiences. Will this be my life until I grow old and die, unhappy and disgruntled? Is this all there is to life?
Just like Iggy Wilker, I took matters into my own hands. Just like Iggy Wilker, I changed what I was unhappy about. We took control of our lives and made sure we wouldn’t die old and bitter, full of regrets.
The only difference between us is that I’m a real person, and he’s a figment of my imagination. Or maybe he’s a part of me. The part that had enough and decided to do something.
Awakenings & French Songs
An existential awakening and lots of French chansons equal a favorite neighbor seen in a new light.
Iggy Wilker never expected his 36th birthday to turn into an existential crisis. When Iggy’s friends celebrate him with his usual favorite pastime—drinking, dancing, and willing guys—he suddenly wants nothing to do with any of it. He’s fed up and ready for something else. The question is what?
Ronan Clenney has had his eye on his neighbor forever, but as a single father of a precocious eleven-year-old, he’s never believed he stands a chance. But over a late-night cup of tea, it seems that circumstances have changed. Is this the right time, finally?
Iggy has never believed in romance, but can Ronan show him he’s wrong? That love is a real thing?
Excerpt from Awakenings and French Songs
“Iggy?” A slow smile blooms on his face and his eyes brighten. “What are you doing up this early? What happened to no knocking on my door before ten on weekends, young Miss Emery?” he asks, imitating my words perfectly.
“I grew old, that’s what happened.”
“Awww. Poor Iggy.”
“Hey! Be nice or I won’t share my breakfast.” I hold up the bags to show him what he’d be missing.
His eyebrows shoot to the heavens. “You brought breakfast?”
“Um, yeah. You gonna let me in, or …?”
“Of course. You just about shocked me to death, that’s all.” He pretends to clutch his pearls.
“That seems to be my theme this week,” I mutter and follow him to the kitchen.
“I was just about to start breakfast –” he points at a carton of eggs, “– but I guess I don’t have to?”
“Nope. Coffee would be good though. I didn’t buy any.”
“Sure.” He leans over to the machine and pushes the button. “All done.” He grins at me and takes a seat at the table. “Show me what you got.”
He watches as I unload my purchases. Baguettes. Croissants. Pain au chocolat. A box of pastel colored macarons I bought only because they’re so pretty and I thought Emery would appreciate the pinks and purples and yellows. Three tiny, fancy-looking jars of French jam; black cherry, fig and walnut, and raspberry. And finally, a box of huge, dark red strawberries the bakery sold for some unknown reason.
Ronan’s mouth falls open as he takes in everything. “What brought this on?”
I take my usual spot at the table. “I’ve had that song on my mind ever since the other night. I have no idea what it’s called or what the guy was singing about, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. So when I walked past Knead It and they had a French flag hanging in the window, I couldn’t help myself.”
I hum a few bars, hoping I don’t butcher it too much so he won’t recognize it, but he nods.
“‘Ne me quitte pas’ by Jacques Brel.”
I repeat the title in a terrible French accent. “What does it mean?”
“It means ‘Don’t leave me.’”
His words make my heart stutter in my chest. “It’s great. So emotional,” I rasp out.
“I didn’t know you were a fan of old French songs.”
“I’m not. But it’s really beautiful.” The explanation feels inadequate, but I don’t know how to express myself better.
He doesn’t talk for several seconds, and then he says, “Huh.” His gaze is full of questions he’s not asking, and he doesn’t let up the intense scrutiny for even a moment. Inside, I’m squirming like a maggot on a fish hook, but I hope I manage to present a calm exterior.
For the first time ever, things are weird between us. The conversation is stilted, and the silences awkward. I know why, of course. By showing up like this, I changed the dynamics of our relationship. I’ve never been one for socializing in the mornings. And while I’ve brought the occasional pizza or six-pack, I’ve never brought anything like this before. Something meaningful. Something that shows I’ve been thinking about him and the time we spent together. Something serious.
I can’t blame him for wondering what’s going on. He listens to that French stuff all the time and I’m sure he’s played that song a million times before, but it’s like I heard it for the very first time on Wednesday.
I can’t stand his close examination any longer, so I get up and start setting the table with plates and cups and cutlery. “What’s the deal with you and all the French stuff anyway?” I ask with my head buried in the refrigerator, looking for butter and something for Emery to drink since she’s not allowed coffee.
“My grandmother was from France. She always used to sing the old songs to me and teach me the lyrics.”
I place a cutting board and a bread knife on the table. “Oh. What was her name?”
“That’s a beautiful name.”
I look around for something else to do. “Do you speak French?”
I gulp, knowing what’s coming. “Yes?” Reluctantly, I retake my seat at the table.
“Why are you really here?” His voice is soft and caring and I’ve heard him use the same tone when he speaks to Emery about important matters.
I line up the jam jars in a perfect row, needing something to do with my hands. “I … uh … want to spend more time with you and Emery.”
About Nell Iris
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along but let’s face it, she’s not Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a 40-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, where she spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her life long dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, and loves writing diverse and different characters.
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