A Word from Indra Vaughn
I’m going to admit something. If I saw a gay romance novel with a religious theme, I’d most likely wrinkle my nose, and ask why? Then I’d take a closer look at the blurb and if the reviews were okay, or I liked the author’s work I might give it a go. It’s not a subject that usually attracts me. My family was Catholic and I was raised in Catholicism but it was very much out of habit rather than being active church goers. Even so it didn't take me long at all to question this whole concept of God and golden spoons and how on earth did all the people who had ever died and who would ever die fit in heaven. It made no sense to me.
So yes, religious books aren’t something I’d actively seek out. Unless they’re about Amish boys and written by a certain Keira Andrews. I’m all over that.
But that’s the thing. There is religion in those books, but it isn’t the driving force behind the story. And the same is true for Vespertine.
I did a lot of research into the subject of Catholic priesthood because I wanted to make Jasper authentic, and I wanted to truly have his belief in God be part of him, no matter what happened. So inevitably I also researched a lot about being Catholic, being gay, and wanting to be a priest to boot. And what I found astounded me.
It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that gay people, including priests, should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity", and that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.
I’m not naive and I know that those words on paper don’t mean that gay people and gay priests aren’t marginalized and discriminated against by the Catholic Church and Christians in general every day. But I found a lot of snippets of hope in my research, including Pope Francis himself saying that LGBTQ people and gay priests shouldn’t be judged, least of all by him. And then of course there is the gay priest in Ireland who came out last year and received full support from his congregation. That was pretty rad.
So yes, Jasper is gay, and he’s a priest, and religion is a huge part of his life. But that’s not all this book is about. He’s a human being above all, and his world is about to be turned upside down by none other than Nicky Blumfeld, aka Nico Blue, rock star, drug addict, and Jasper’s former best friend.
Leta Blake and I tried to explore how a relationship as broken as theirs could heal, and I think we succeeded. I love these two boys, and they’ll definitely always hold a special place in my heart.
“Can I help you with something?” Jasper asked and she shrank in on herself. “If you just want to stay inside the church for a while, that’s okay too.”
“No, I…my name is Lizzie…” She glanced up at him and her shoulders drooped.
“Okay, Lizzie. I’m Father Hendricks, but you can call me Jasper. Make yourself at home. I’ll be—”
“No, you don’t understand. My…legal name is Stephan Benoit.”
Jasper halted for a second, then recovered quickly and held out his hand. The social services file showed Stephan Benoit as a young black gay male. Not transgender. “I see. Well, Lizzie, it’s nice to meet you. I hadn’t expected to see you until tomorrow.”
The almost painful looking hunch in her shoulders disappeared. She gave his hand a brief, damp shake before pulling the too-long sleeves back over her knuckles. “I just wanted to come and take a look, I guess. I’ve never been in a church like this before.”
Jasper grinned. “Impressive, isn’t it?”
She relaxed a little more and stared up at the seventy-foot-high ceiling. “It’s beautiful.”
“When you’re settled in at the Blue Oasis Center, you can come here as often as you like.”
“I’m not very religious,” she admitted, her voice dropping as if she was afraid to say it.
Jasper laughed. “That’s okay. This can be a place to find peace when you need it, even if you’re not Catholic. Where are you staying?”
“My social worker got me a room at the Bay Heights Hotel.”
“You could’ve moved straight into Blue Oasis if you wanted to.”
“Yeah, I know. But Mr. Jones just transferred here and he had some stuff to do, so he asked me if I was okay with waiting until Monday.” She bit at her lips and shifted her weight. “To be honest, I liked having the chance to be alone for a little bit.”
“I totally understand,” Jasper said. “Mrs. Blair at Bay Heights will take good care of you.”
Lizzie said nothing and Jasper took a moment to really look at her. She had dark circles under her eyes and looked skinnier than she probably should. No noticeable bruises, but he’d learned from experience that didn’t mean anything. In the years he’d been running the LGBTQ youth center, he’d seen enough to know the worst wounds were usually invisible.
“Do you play any sports, Lizzie?”
“I played soccer, but…” She grimaced and shrugged at the same time.
“You know, one of the kids who used to live at the center organizes a soccer class for kids on Sundays. He’s always looking for someone to help him out. Would you like me to give him a call? It’d beat sitting in a hotel room by yourself all afternoon.”
Lizzie bit her lip and he thought she was going to refuse, but she surprised him. Straightening her shoulders, she said, “Sure. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”
“All right.” Jasper smiled at her. “You can wait here in the church if you want, or I can have Lucas pick you up at the hotel.”
“At the hotel, please,” she said, and Jasper’s heart twisted. He didn’t want to draw conclusions without hearing her full story from the social worker first, but she’d obviously had a stable home at some point where she’d learned to be polite and sociable.
“I’ll send him over. Mrs. Blair knows Lucas, so she can call your room when he’s there, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, um, Father Jasper. For…everything.”
She turned and walked away and he watched her go. He didn’t want to linger on the thought of parents showing their children the door because they didn’t fit in the box they’d probably designed before the kids were even born, but it was difficult.
She’s here, and she’s safe. That’s all that matters. Even though the road that had brought her here hadn’t been an easy one.
Leta Blake & Indra Vaughn
Published ~ 10th September
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Can a priest and a rock star obey love's call?
Seventeen years ago, Jasper Hendricks and Nicholas Blumfeld's childhood friendship turned into a secret, blissful love affair. They spent several idyllic months together until Jasper's calling to the Catholic priesthood became impossible to ignore. Left floundering, Nicky followed his own trajectory into rock stardom, but he never stopped looking back.
Today, Jasper pushes boundaries as an out, gay priest, working hard to help vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He's determined to bring change to the church and the world. Respected, admired, and settled in his skin, Jasper has long ignored his loneliness.
As Nico Blue, guitarist and songwriter for the band Vespertine, Nicky owns the hearts of millions. He and his bandmates have toured the world, lighting their fans on fire with their music. Numbed by drugs and fueled by simmering anger, Nicky feels completely alone. When Vespertine is forced to get sober, Nicky returns home to where it all started.
Jasper and Nicky's careers have ruled their lives since they parted as teens. When they come face to face again, they must choose between the past's lingering ghosts or the promise of a new future.
::: REVIEW :::
Meet Leta Blake
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.
Meet Indra Vaughn
In 2008 Indra Vaughn packed up everything but the kitchen sink... no, that’s a lie. She left everything behind apart from her books and moved from Belgium to Michigan.
She now lives in the suburbs of Detroit with her dog who thinks he's a toddler. Indra’s professional background is in Nursing and Chinese Medicine, but she prefers to spend time making up stories about mysterious men and their unrequited love.
Leta Blake and Indra Vaughn are generously gifting an e-book from each of their back lists. Please enter the Rafflecopter below.