About Going to the Chapel
Written by Jenna Jones, J.J. Massa, and Alexa Snow
Who doesn't love a wedding? The three stories in Going to the Chapel prove that everyone has a special day. In Don't Ask by J.J. Massa, Captain Zachary Smith has always wanted to find out what boils behind Agent Falk Thayer's calm exterior. Falk, on the other hand, isn't looking for anything long-term. Never has. Never will. When things
get hot and heavy between them, Captain Smith has to decide if he's willing to take less than what he needs or sacrifice everything.
Tory Temple, author of Tabula Rasa, writes: Going to the Chapel is a lovely collection of stories based around one of the happiest events in someone’s life: weddings! This anthology contains three unique tales of love, happiness, and forever after that were a joy to read.
Don’t Ask by J.J. Massa is the story of Zack and Falk, two men who are constrained by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the United States military. They’re unable to resist their attraction, however, and find themselves in a dangerous situation when it comes to reason vs. emotion. I enjoyed reading about the careful dance these two had to do, and J.J. tells an intricate, sensual story of how two military men try to use mind over matter when it comes to feelings of the heart. I was left wondering until the very end if they’d be able to overcome the obstacles that the author created.
Alexa Snow gives us a truly heartwarming piece called Building a Life. Levi is the best man in his friend Cooper’s wedding, and he doesn’t expect it to be anything unusual. That is, until he meets Philip, a single dad and Cooper’s brother-in-law. Philip’s daughter Ashley immediately captures Levi’s heart, and Philip isn’t far behind. But Philip’s got some baggage, Levi discovers, and their developing relationship hits a couple of roadblocks along the way. Alexa has a lovely, smooth writing style that drew me in and got me invested in Levi and Philip right away. I was also impressed by how realistic Ashley’s dialogue was, because it’s often hard to capture a child’s nuances when writing. This was an emotional story that was flavored equally well with hot sex and tender moments.
Reading Jenna Jones’ Apples and Gin really swept me up into the lives of Sawyer Shaw and Noah Kingston. A country singer and photographer, respectively, we meet the two men years after the beginning of their secret relationship. Sawyer has steadily grown tired of the ruse over the years, but knows it’s vital to his rising career to stay in the closet, despite his wish of coming out and ultimately marrying his boyfriend. Jenna’s way of telling a story captivated me. Sawyer’s and Noah’s lives were unfolded with easy, flowing phrases and an eye for little details. The way Jenna illustrated the differences between the two men made me ache for both of them. A very talented author and a completely enjoyable read.
Going to the Chapel left me with a sense of happiness and certainty that there’s nothing more satisfying than watching two people in love. This anthology will warm even the coldest heart.
Apples & Gin
Noah Kingston sat on the landing, glass of scotch in hand, and watched the party going on below. It was a small party, only thirty people or so: Sawyer's backup band and personal assistant and manager, and Noah's partners from his photography studio, as well as some of their employees, actual friends, and people Sawyer liked and Noah could tolerate or vice-versa.
Despite the small size -- though Sawyer would say the small size was the best part -- and the variety of the guest list, it was a good party. People were chatting, music was playing, and there was plenty of beer and snacks in the kitchen. Candles in punched-tin buckets led to the tiny dock on the canal and reflected on the water and Noah had hung lights from the balcony on the upper floor. It was all in celebration of Sawyer Shaw and the completion of his new album.
Sawyer was easy to spot from Noah's position: laughing in the center of a group on the sofa, his long legs sprawled out as he cradled a beer bottle against his thigh, the only person in the room to wear plaid. His laugh was joyous, infectious, and everyone around him responded to it, from Terry Silver, his manager, to Sandi, the receptionist from Allen Kingston Stone.
Noah sipped his scotch. He supposed he should be making more of an effort, playing the host, making certain all the guests had a good time -- but they were having a good time without his interference, and he could just watch, which he preferred to do anyway. Not just Sawyer -- though he always found Sawyer worth watching -- but the swirls and eddies of all the guests, their friends who knew each other because they knew Sawyer or Noah. He loved, for instance, to see Jonas Allen laughing with Sawyer's sound engineer, or Terry dancing with one of Noah's assistants, or Sawyer's personal assistant Jeannie sitting with his backup band and looking perfectly happy and comfortable between them.
He tilted his head at the black-clad woman who climbed up the stairs and sat on the landing beside him. She tucked her long skirt neatly under her legs and looked at him, friendly and unfamiliar.
"I don't know anybody here," she said without preamble. "Well, except for Sawyer, and I don't think I could say I know him so much as I've seen him around the office. And I know my date, of course." Noah nodded, having another sip, and she said, "And I saw you, and I thought, hey, here's another person who doesn't know anybody and I thought -- well, obviously, here I am."
"You are quite welcome to join me in watching the party," Noah said.
"Thanks." The woman nodded, smoothing her skirt. "It's not like most industry parties I've been to. It's mellow. "
"It's not exactly an industry party," Noah said. "It's a 'yay, the album's done, I feel like having a party' kind of party."
"You must know Sawyer well. Like I said, I've only seen him around the office. And I've heard some of his music, of course." She hesitated. "Is he really as good a musician as they say he is? Because his songs all sound pretty ordinary to me. Of course, I'm not really a country fan."
"He's a really good musician," Noah said. "One of the best in any genre."
"I keep hearing that. I'm not sure I believe it."
Noah looked at her, cocking an eyebrow. "Oh? Why's that?"
"He's too good-looking. And all he does is sing," she said. "And play a little guitar. My twelve-year-old nephew can sing and play guitar."
Noah had another sip. "Sawyer writes all of his own songs, in addition to arranging them, and he played all the instruments on his first album and his fourth one. Granted, the first one was just him and the guitar, and the fourth one was just the guitar and a piano with an occasional mandolin, but he played all three."
The woman looked nonplussed. "You must work for the label. Have I seen you around the office, too? You seem familiar but I can't place you."
"I'm in photography. Everything on the walls," he gestured to the room below them where several of his pictures hung in an orderly row, "is mine."
"Oh," she said, "I'm sorry. You're Noah Kingston. I'm Betsy," she added, looking embarrassed. "Betsy Black. I'm sorry I didn't recognize you. You don't look anything like your pictures."
"It's the beard," Noah said, scratching it. "The beard always throws people off. I usually shave after a trip, but I haven't yet from the last one."
"I think you should keep it. It suits you." She smiled at him, a little more at ease. "So, you're the other half of the bromance."
Noah chuckled. "Is that what they're calling it?"
"Yes," she said, smoothing her skirt again. "It's touching, really: big-name photographer takes country boy under his wing and they both live happily ever after. It's like Sawyer's your little brother."
Noah drank. "Little brother, best friend -- bromance is a good name for it."