Greetings, book lovers!
Today I’m thrilled to share The Art of Falling in Love by Eli Summers! I read this book and I loved it — Holden and Aaron have some nice, easy chemistry — and the conflict comes from those around them, often in the form of micro-aggressions. The ending is wild as secrets get revealed. It’s fun! You should read it!
The Art of Falling in Love comes out next week — Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 — and you should preorder it now!
Love is never easy to find or to keep especially with the hormone and cliche induced drama typical within the walls of a small town high school. For seniors Holden Rogers and Aaron Stevens, it’s not just high school drama that stands in the way of love and happiness.
Holden struggles in the shadow of his older brother’s success by a father who berates and demeans and a mother who stands back and does nothing while neither one can see the man their son has become or the dreams of the successful man he wants to be. Aaron is expected to take over the auto shop his family has run for generations whether he wants it or not.
When word gets out the two have been seen together, racial and homophobic microaggressions that have been brewing in shadow breach the surface of this small town atmosphere. When big money talks, morality walks, and strong family ties that will break or bind, will this made for each other couple overcome the mounting obstacles or crumble beneath their weight as hard choices and sacrifices must be made?
It all started at the local burger joint down the street from our high school at lunch. I was with my friends, a large group of us chatting about our plans after high school. The time we could kiss our high school lives goodbye and move on to what lay ahead, be it college, real jobs, or adulting in the real world was getting closer. I could feel it in the warmer, more humid air signalling we’d soon hit the beach for the summer and spend our time in the sand and water, outwardly not caring how much was going to change once the fall hit. I could pretend we would all remain friends, keep in touch even if several of us were going to universities and colleges across the country. Was it ignorance? Wishful thinking?Whatever it was, I didn’t see the point. I knew it wasn’t possible. The distance would eat away at us, and early lectures and coursework would eventually erode the friendships we had carefully cultivated throughout our four years at Elmwood High School. For now, it was easier for them to focus on the excitement of being seniors and the mystery of what lay ahead, but I couldn’t do it. Something much more within my reach, yet, not quite real was far more appealing than faking ignorance of what I knew was coming.
While everyone discussed where they’d be going, what they’d be majoring in, and where they’d be living, I had already checked out of the conversation. My mind focused on the waiter behind the counter. I had been spending the majority of my time here, much more than usual, staring at him from a table where my friends were more than oblivious of the fact I hadn’t heard a single word they were saying. Or so I thought.
“Holden, are you even listening? Your head hasn’t been in the game for the last few weeks. What the hell is going on up there? You’re going to have a rough time if that’s how you’ll be acting in University.” A quick jab to my arm from Tiffany made me lose focus on the waiter as I turned to my group of friends. “Have you figured out where you’ll be going after this? I’m sure your parents have a plan for you, just like your older brother.”
I shuttered, the thought of my older brother was unpleasant. I hadn’t thought about him in several months; I had tried to pretend I was the only child in the family now. I must have had a dramatic look on my face because my best friend, Tiffany, rolled her eyes and slapped me on the arm again.
“Oh, come on, he wasn’t that bad. Sure, he had an ego the size of this town, but he did have a good side.” She returned to the fries on her tray, drenching them in almost half a bottle of ketchup before shoving far too many in her mouth at a time. I couldn’t control the slight cringe of disgust at her fry habit despite years of witnessing the disaster.
Tiffany and I had known each other since kindergarten. I used to have a crush on her sometime in elementary school. It faded out and turned into the friendship we now had. I can’t quite remember where it ended, but I think it had something to do with the fact her dad loved me a little too much. I swear if I had decided to date her, he would have planned our wedding the next day. I wasn’t ready for that step just yet. It probably made her much less desirable. It also might have been the fact I liked the thrill of the chase. I liked having to earn someone’s approval, and I wouldn’t need to with Tiffany or her father.
I returned my attention to the waiter behind the counter, my mind trying to come up with any scenario about how I could get him to talk to me beyond ordering food. I had been daydreaming about him for a few weeks, wondering what it would be like to have a friend that appreciated me more than my current flock of associates. My breath hitched as he looked over at me, so I quickly turned away, accidentally spilling Tiffany’s drink on her.
“Shit. Tiff, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, oh god.” I grabbed napkins from the table, trying desperately to soak up all the Diet Cola I could. Tiffany was in shock; she just stared at the cola that was starting to seep into her clothes and onto her skin. “Tiff, you need to get up, we need to clean this fast.”
Tiffany slowly turned towards me, her eyes, small slits, her cheeks a bright shade of red, and her lips thinned and trembled in anger. Then she shoved me out of the booth onto the floor. She got up and stared down at me, Diet Cola dripping from her skirt to the floor. “What the hell, Holden!? Did you see a ghost or are you just trying to get on my bad side? You might as well be an only child; you’re nothing like your brother.” She stalked away, slamming her hand into the bar on the windowed door, shoving it open, and storming outside. I quickly looked at the rest of our friends and muttered a quick apology before smiling and running after her. She stood at her car with the trunk open. I hoped she wasn’t getting her tire iron out to hit me.
“Tiff, I’m sorry. I’m clumsy; I was distracted.” I was pleading. I hated when she was mad at me. Then again, I hated when anyone was mad at me. My social anxiety would flare up at the first sign of conflict. She was the kind of person that felt an intense flare of anger when something happened and let it out in unpredictable ways, even if she cooled down a little later.
She just turned to me, yanking out a bag from her trunk, and slamming it shut before stopping to glare at me, “Sometimes you can be a complete idiot, you know? What were you even looking at before you decided to ruin my day?”
I started to stutter as the panic set in. What was I going to tell her? She wouldn’t understand. Hell, even I didn’t understand my fascination with him. I hadn’t figured out if she would be cool with me trying to be friends with someone new right before graduating. Would she think I was trying to replace her?
“That’s a good look on you, Tiffany. Maybe you should call it something new, like Wet Dog.” Snickering, Clarissa probably felt like she had just made the sickest burn of them all. I don’t remember why we were even friends with her. She was outcasted from the popular kids a few months ago when her dad lost his business, and they became middle-class working folk. “I have to give props to the artist though. You’re such a visionary, Holden.”
I rolled my eyes, but before I could say anything, Tiffany got into Clarissa’s face. “Listen here, bitch. I don’t know who the hell you think you are. We invited you into our group because we felt bad for you. You’re not some rich class girl anymore. You’re just like the rest of us, so back up and remember your place.” She shoved Clarissa aside before entering the business again, a small bag in her hand.
I just shrugged before moving around her, heading into the building as well. I waited at the door, hoping Tiffany would be in a better mood after a fresh change of clothes. She wasn’t someone you wanted to anger and still had grudges from kindergarten. She would bury you six feet under before she forgave you, and even then, it wasn’t a guarantee.
“Hey, are you alright? Your uh … friend gave you quite the treatment there.” He moved beside me, and I could smell the grease from the burgers wafting off his clothes. I couldn’t tell if I was okay or disgusted by it. I turned to face him, almost crashing into him. I hadn’t realized he was so close to me.
“Oh shit. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were that close. She’ll be fine. She just has a thing about my clumsiness. We all thought it would be a phase, but since it’s been a few years, turns out I’m just meant to be the clumsy friend for the rest of my life.” A small smile crossed my face before I looked down at the floor. I could feel the sweat beading on my hands.
“I’ve seen you come in here quite a few times since the start of the school year. I only learned your name because your friends say it every so often. I’m Aaron Stevens; my dad owns Stevens Cars & Trucks over on Fifth Street.” He stuck out his hand, and I hesitated a second before shaking it. A feeling of electricity flew through my body, and I couldn’t look at him at all.
“Hey Aaron, I’m Holden. Your dad is the mechanic in town?” Aaron nodded, a small smile on his face. “He’s currently working on a truck I brought in a couple of weeks back, and it’s a fixer-upper for sure.”
Aaron let out a boisterous laugh. “My dad swears at that truck more than I’ve ever heard him yell at anything. He says it’s totally messed up, and if you weren’t eighteen, he would tell you to find a new car to buy. You’re sure giving him a lot of work.”
I let out a small, nervous laugh. “Yea, it’s been sitting in my garage for several years. My father kept saying he’d teach me how to fix it, but then he got busy helping my brother with a truck he bought and ‘forgot’ he was supposed to help me. I’m working to pay it off and hoping for it to be ready before college starts. Not like I’ll need it, I’ll probably end up going to the community college here anyways.”
A woman called over to us, something about service. That’s when I realized we were still at the burger joint. I turned to see Aaron walking away, waving at me as he made his way back behind the counter. I was about to say something when Tiffany burst out of the bathrooms in her new outfit.
“We need to get back to school. I have a strong feeling Amanda Rothford is going to make some snarky comment about the change. I hate that girl. This is your fault; I hope you realize that.”
I just smiled, “We’ll just make some comment about being fresh, something she knows very little about, and maybe for shock value, we’ll add something about fish.”
Tiffany smacked my shoulder again, a little harder than the last time. “That’s disgusting, Holden. As much as I hate her, you know we only have to be nice for a few more months. Her family is moving to France or something for her school. Must be nice to just jet off across the ocean to some stupid art school.” As much as she claimed to hate how rich the Rothfords were, she couldn’t hide the tinge of jealousy in her voice. Getting into her car, she slammed the door and tossed her bag onto the back seat. I stood outside of the car, watching as Tiffany started her car. “Are you getting in or what?”
I waved her off, “I’ll let you cool down and just walk to school. I’ll see you in sixth period, alright?”
Rolling her eyes, she peeled out of the parking spot and threw up her middle finger. I hoped she’d get over this soon because I couldn’t afford to not have her as a friend right now. I threw my backpack over my shoulder, grabbed the headphones from one of the pockets, put them in my ear, and turned on some music for my walk. As the music drifted into my ears, I started walking to the school, feeling like it was going to be a much longer day than I would have liked.
“Hey, Holden. Wait up.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around, fear and panic in my eyes. I felt surprise and relief when I realized it was Aaron.
“Holy shit, sorry. I was listening to music. Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” His apron was gone, as was the hairnet he had been wearing only a few moments ago. “Didn’t you have someone to help?”
Aaron smiled, starting his walk with me, “I’m a little ahead of the credits I need, so I only have classes after lunch. I work in the mornings for some extra cash because my dad says my helping him out in the evenings is ‘good experience not work.’ Can I walk to school with you or would you rather drown out the shrieks of your friends before you have to deal with your classes? I can leave if you’d rather be alone.” He looked so shy as he stuttered the last few words.
I put away my headphones, paying attention to him as we walked, “No, I’m all yours. I mean, you have my attention. Like, yes … you can walk with me. I don’t need to be alone.” I felt like such an idiot right now, why was I acting like this? This was too socially awkward even for me.
Aaron didn’t seem to mind, he just started talking about college after high school, “I won’t be going anywhere. I’ll probably end up not even going to college. My dad is committed to me taking over the shop from him when he retires. He took it over from his dad who took it over from his dad who took it over from his. It’s been in the family since the thirties or something. I don’t have the heart to tell him I don’t really want to take it over but I will. If I didn’t, he would probably blow a gasket and maybe even kill me.” He looked at my horrified face, “Not actually kill me! But he would be mad, this business is a mainstay of our family, and if I don’t take it over, it’ll go to his brother’s kid, and he cannot stand that child. He says he’s too immature to manage the shop, and that he should never have passed the eighth grade.”
I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, “Well that’s good.” I stopped, “I don’t mean it’s good you have to take over the business, it’s just good because I’ll probably end up being stuck in this town anyways, so maybe we can be friends for a while. I mean, I’m not saying you have to be my friend, but if you want to be friends, we can. Or like, maybe you’d rather just not be friends. I don’t know.” I couldn’t stop myself. I could feel my face burning up, not from the sun but the damn boy standing next to me.
Aaron just smiled as we walked up the school steps, “I’d sure like to think we can be friends. I’ll see you around and then maybe you’ll finally talk to me outside of ordering food.” He turned on his heels before heading in a different direction than me. I wanted to yell something at him, but that might make me look desperate or something. I just sighed before heading to my next class, with thoughts of Aaron running through my head. Would I even be able to concentrate today?
Something told me I was going to have a really hard time.
About the Author:
Eli Summers was born and raised in Saskatoon, Canada, a small city in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies. It is said you can watch your dog run away for two days straight. The city and the surrounding area make the perfect backdrop for most of Eli’s novels. Although he plans on moving to somewhere with a little more mountain, like Kelowna or Banff, he’s content to sit in his apartment, drinking coffee and dreaming about what his characters will get up to next. Sometimes he even drives out to the middle of nowhere to lie on the top of his car and watch the stars.
Eli has a knack for turning the copious amounts of caffeine (that no normal human should consume) into #ownvoices novels about boys that love other boys. Sometimes this includes a happy ever after, sometimes it involves tears, and sometimes the characters take the story in a direction even Eli didn’t realize would happen. He adds a generous heaping cup of fluff, love, and angst in everything he touches, most of the time on purpose but sometimes his characters make him do it. He wrote his debut novel, The Winter Experience in 2014 and followed up with the sequel The Summer Experience in 2015. He took a hiatus of about three years because his imaginary friends wouldn’t talk to him but now he has a new novel, The Art of Falling In Love coming out on August 28, 2018. He is also working on a much different kind of novel that involves the Devil, five chosen warriors and a whole lot of evil. The first episode is expected to come out on January 5, 2019.
When he’s not toiling away with word counts and a thesaurus, you can probably find Eli playing video games (Saints Row 2 and Witcher 3 among his favourites), daydreaming about the mountains or cuddling with his House Panther, Salem. He dreams of one day opening a publishing press that serves the LGBT+ community with a place to get their books out to the world.