Title ~ No Big Deal
Author ~ Danni Keane
Publisher ~ Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 5th February 2015
Genre ~ M/M YA Romance
Still reeling from his father’s death and stuck in a job he hates, the only moments of happiness in Josh Roberts's life are those he spends with his boyfriend, Bradley. The boys are inseparable, and when they lose their virginity together, Josh feels closer to Bradley than he ever imagined.
But Josh’s mum, proud of her son and his biggest supporter, expects Josh to go to university after his year off. He doesn’t want to disappoint her by telling her he’s changed his mind, and he struggles to find a solution.
When Bradley moves in with Josh and his mum, Josh truly believes life can be perfect again. But before long, their still-fragile feelings of connection and intimacy are tested when Bradley becomes secretive and distant. Anxious and confused, Josh is desperate to find out why Bradley is rejecting his affections. Bradley finally opens up, but what he reveals will change every aspect of their young love and quite possibly the rest of their lives.
The intensity of first love and the tragedy of parental loss have been the basis for this gentle, sweetly sexy series, also having to make important decisions about college and a future together while having to cope with the upset of losing someone you love, has made it a great teen drama. I've read the previous two, which are now available together in one volume: Not Letting Go, and I think that reading it in order has given me much more insight into the growth of everyone involved, especially Joshy; who tells the story from his POV and in his own distinctive way.
I'll be honest, at times, even though he's gone through something no one at his age ever should, Josh can come across as a bit of a self absorbed teen, but for me that's what makes this seem real. He's not perfect. He’s young and at times selfish (something he does actually admit to himself in his musings every now and again) but having to deal with something most teenagers never have to cope with until they're well into adulthood, he touches me and I've come to love him, even though there've been times where I've wanted to shake him for being a typical insensitive youngster, especially with his mother Sue who is going through her own grief, not just as a mum but as a woman in her own right who has lost the man she loves too. Sometimes he gets caught up in his own misery and the misplaced guilt we all tend to feel when we lose someone we love dearly, but I understand why.
Probably my favourite supporting character; Danni portrays Sue so realistically. She's a wonderful person… sympathetic and accepting of her sons sexuality, yet still concerned with his future like any loving mum would be.Their interactions range from funny familiar banter to the usual gripes between mother and teen son, but however they act together, there's no doubt there's a lot of love between them.
Grief is an emotion that hits everyone in different ways, and for Josh as much as he loves his mum his true comfort comes in the form of Bradley, his best friend to begin with but now the love of his life. It's a love that in a sense is all consuming for both of them and gay or not, like all first loves they just want to be together every waking minute. Something that in this segment of the trilogy becomes a viable option when Sue needs to take in a lodger to help out with finances until Josh goes off to college in the summer. Well, that's the plan, but as they say "best laid plans etc etc". ......
And then there's Bradley. Lovely, supportive Bradley, who absolutely adores his Joshy but has had to make life altering decisions about his own further education that have made a dent in their possible future together. Not as academic as his boyfriend, he's decided against college and has started work, so plans to move away to college together haven't worked out as they thought, and that also affects some of their judgements.
What I've loved is that however sad the subject matter has been, this is not a maudlin or gloomy story. Emotionally, I've filled up and had a cry at some point in each book, but I've also found myself smiling and laughing at some of the interactions between Josh, in sarcastic 'teen mode', and his equally snarky, older married sister, June and her family. There's always been a note of underlying humour and that's balanced the story by softening the sadness. The romance itself has been really sweet and endearing. These two boys are so in love it makes my old heart flutter! Bringing back the memory of being young, in love and all the drama that comes with it. As a couple they really are adorable. The love scenes are perfect for the genre as they've pretty much tried everything two horny young guys could behind locked doors, but they actually lose their virginity to each other during this and Danni pitches it realistically but sensitively too.
There’s an extra touch of conflict between Josh and Bradley towards the finish that leads to some soul searching, and them both having to come to terms with some personal hang ups but it's a sweet, satisfying ending. There was a reaction from Bradley that had me pondering a bit and a few threads hanging but all in all it was another lovely visit with two engaging young guys who have worked their way into this readers heart. I'm a fan of the way Danni writes, I've read all her books and in my eyes she's an author who hasn't got the audience, or recognition she deserves...yet! She's managed to make me cry and in some of her other books she's also had me in absolute tucks laughing, which in my eyes shows a writer who can pull emotions out of you, and anyone who with the ability to do that always gets my vote!
Bradley and I take the bus into town. We clamber upstairs and take a seat on the top deck. The great thing about the pathetically tiny seats on public transport is that we have to squeeze in close together, with our thighs rubbing against each other and nobody notices. Not that anyone would really care when there’s a couple a few seats in front of us with their tongues pushed right down each other’s throats.
“So, what we gonna see?” Bradley asks.
“I dunno.” I haven’t even looked to see what’s on. All I care about is getting out the house today and doing something with Bradley. And if it means paying seven quid to sit in a darkened room with some crappy film on we don’t even watch, then it’s money well spent. “Luke Jarvis went to see that new horror last night. Said it was shit.”
Bradley cracks a smile and leans into me. “Well, Luke Jarvis didn’t spend the whole two hours with my hand down his pants, did he?”
I grin. “I bloody hope he didn’t!”
Bradley rests his hand on my thigh, rubbing his fingers lightly against the seam of my jeans. It’s not enough for people to notice, but it just feels really good. I’m going to have to take my jacket off and hold it over my lap if he’s not careful. I take a quick look round the bus and then whisper to him, “I love you.”
His hand slips a bit farther up my thigh. “I love you, too.”
I really want to kiss him right then. Just to lean in and give him a gentle kiss on the lips, like “normal” couples do. It’s not fair. Those two at the front of the bus are virtually having sex in front of us, and we’re the ones who have to worry about causing offense. I give Bradley a look, and I’m pretty sure he knows what I’m thinking.
He rubs his thumb against my thigh. “You okay? You seem a bit quiet today.”
I want to tell him it’s my dad’s birthday. I want to tell him that I would do anything to feel my boyfriend’s arms around me at this very moment, and I’m sick of the fact that I can’t.
“I’m fine,” I tell him. “I just wish we could see each other a bit more. Ever since you started your job, I feel like we never get any time together.”
“I know,” he says. “It’s shit. Next year it’ll be easier.”
“Next year,” I sniff. “It’s always next year, isn’t it? It was next year when we were waiting to go to uni. It’s ‘next year’ now we’re waiting to go to Leicester. We don’t even know if you’re gonna be able to get a job there. Next year might be worse than this year. I don’t think I’m even gonna go to uni, and then what? You’ll still be working those stupid shifts, and I’ll be doing God knows what, and we still won’t get any time together. I want to be with you now.”
He pats my knee. “Where did this all come from?” he asks. “You never said anything before.”
“I dunno. I’m just sick of it, that’s all. We had all that time looking forward to my mum going away, and then all we got was one weekend. Not even a whole weekend. And now we’ve got nothing else to look forward to.”
“Joshy,” he says. “We’ve got tons of stuff to look forward to. We’re together now, aren’t we?”
“It’s not enough.”
“It could be worse.”
I think back to my mum’s tears this morning. It could be worse, and I’m a selfish person for not realizing it.
First two stories, now available in one volume: $0.99/£0.99
Not Letting Go
Post update: Now also available free on Smashwords
All prices correct at time of posting.
YA M/M Romance (Previously published as two short stories, Sunshine and Buttercups, and Not Letting Go)
Part One - Sunshine and Buttercups (5k words)
Josh Roberts knows something's wrong. His parents are making frequent trips to the hospital, he's excluded from their conversations, and worst of all, there's a leaflet in the kitchen all about cancer treatments. He's scared he's going to lose his dad.
The only thing holding Josh's world together is his relationship with his best friend, Bradley. But if Bradley finds out about Josh's true feelings for him, will that friendship be threatened, too?
Part Two - Not Letting Go (7k words)
When someone dies, how are you supposed to behave? Josh Roberts has no idea. Losing his dad has left him deeply confused. He loved his dad, so why isn't he crying? All Josh can think about is spending time with his boyfriend, Bradley. He can't wait to go to uni, when he and Bradley will finally get to be alone.
Bradley wants nothing more than to give love and support to his grieving boyfriend. But Josh's expectations of a life together next year are putting a lot of pressure on him. He's not going to get good enough grades for uni, especially if whenever they are in Josh's room they don't get round to any real studying. Why can't Josh understand that?
Meet Danni Keane
Danni Keane lives in the depths of English suburbia, where she likes to divide her time equally between writing, daydreaming and napping.
Having never really grown up, Danni fits right in at her day job, working with children. She spends her days avidly listening to the whimsical imaginings of five-year-olds, and then rushes home to shamelessly plagiarise their ideas. However, she has yet to write a story about an exploding ghost banana. Maybe one day...
She loves to read and write all different types of stories, but her favourite characters usually have one thing in common: they are ordinary people with extraordinary dreams.
Question from Danni
“One of the reasons I love to write YA stories is that we get to experience so many ‘first times’ with the characters. In No Big Deal, Josh has a lot of first times to deal with, some of them good, some of them bad: losing his virginity, living with his boyfriend, his first Christmas without his dad... I want to hear about one of your first times. It can be any sort of first time you like, but please don't tell us what it is. Just leave a one word comment to describe it i.e. sweet, delicious, sexy, sad, sticky, disappointing. The comment that leaves me with the biggest smile will win a copy of No Big Deal.”
Don’t forget to leave your email address with your comment so Danni can contact you. The winner will be drawn at midnight (GMT) on Monday 9th February. Good luck!