Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a New Adult M/M romance from Pene Henson. INTO THE BLUE is a sweet and tender tale of two surfer best friends who fall harder than a breaking wave.
Catch the excerpt and be sure to enter into the book and $25 gift card giveaway below.
About the book:
Tai Talagi and Ollie Birkstrom have been inseparable since they met as kids surfing the North Shore. Now they live with their best friends in a pulled-together family, sharing life and the saltwater in their veins.
Tai’s spent years setting aside his feelings for Ollie, but when Ollie’s pro surfing aspirations come to fruition, their steady world shifts. Is the relationship worth risking everything for a chance at something terrifying and beautiful and altogether new?
How about a little taste?
Across from them, one of the Brazilians plays guitar. Ollie doesn’t recognize the song even when a couple of others sing along. The beach is wider and the sand finer than on the North Shore, but every beach is a little like home. Ollie misses the Blue House; he misses the surf and the palms and the shoreline he knows so well. He misses Jaime and Sunny and Hannah. Still, though he’s as far from home as he’s ever been, Ollie’s comfortable. These are his people, too. He leans back on his arms and looks up into the dark.
He’s watched the night sky since he was a little kid, but down here in the Southern Hemisphere he doesn’t recognize the hundreds upon hundreds of stars. The Southern Cross is up there. Ollie tries to orient himself.
Tai shifts toward him, then looks up and follows Ollie’s gaze. The warmth of Tai’s body settles into Ollie’s heart, grounds him. Ollie leans into him a little, and their arms brush to the elbow. The contact simmers in the air between them.
Unexpectedly, Ollie knows what he wants. “Come back to the hotel,” he says quietly to Tai. He pitches his voice low. It hums across the tiny space between them. No one else can hear him over the pounding surf and the sound of the music. It’s easy to be bold in the dark of a beach where Ollie’s never been before. He’s shocked by that same boldness.
Some thoughts on writing from Ms. Henson
Do you pay attention to literary criticism? If so, how do you handle it?
This is my first book and I’ve only had a few reviews so far. Those have been positive which is a joy, but with negative comments too, of course. Like every human I find it hard not to obsess over the negative and ignore the positive. I’m working on having a thick skin and being more realistic as I read. I am also trying to take those criticisms on board rather than thinking of them as insurmountable. And when it gets hard I ask my greatest cheerleaders to give me a pat on the back.
How do you come up with your titles?
This one started as OUT OF THE BLUE which was honestly an attempt at something sort of bright and a bit cheesy. I just threw it in as a working title. INTO THE BLUE started to seem more natural as barely anything in the book is a shock, but a lot of it is about being willing to let go and go deeper.
My next book had a long song lyric as a working title but a bit of brainstorming about the setting got me a lovely new title.
What new authors have grasped your interest?
I hate to mention some authors and not others, but I’m choosing the authors that captured me most quickly: Jude Sierra who has such a complex and soft-hearted understanding of humans alongside a poetic ability to describe the physical. And Michelle Osgood who writes women in love with women and whose characters are hilarious and strong.
What is the hardest part about writing?
Sometimes I find myself stalled and I think it’s lack of interest and battle with myself but then a few days later I realise there’s some critical plot or character point that I haven’t worked out properly. Those days are tough. And then also the daily grind of getting something from my head onto the page. I love it, and some days my fingers fly across the keys, but it can be hard some days.
Wow. I can relate to A LOT of that!
Ollie and Tai have been best friends since childhood. They live together in a house with Ollie’s teen brother Jaime and two women, Sunny and Hannah. They’ve made their own family, as Ollie and Jaime are orphaned, and Ollie is Jaime’s guardian. Tai is an out gay man, and Ollie has no problem with that. They live on O’ahu in a run-down beachfront house that each adult chips in to afford, and many times in the past five years they have had trouble paying the rent and the electric.
Ollie and Jaime have a strained relationship; it’s not easy being the parent of a 16 year old. Tai, mediator and confidant, is the glue that holds them together most days. Add to that stress, Ollie’s career is in question. He had been set to join the pro surfing circuit two years ago, but an injury beached him. He’s rehabbed as much as he can, while working full-time at a resort, and knows that he’ll have one shot to regain his dream career: to win one of two wildcard entries into the Bonzai Pipe Masters competition. If he makes that tourney, he could win some serious money–otherwise, he needs to enter the hospitality training program, so he can securely support himself and Jaime.
This is a romance, but it’s very quiet and develops over the course of several months. Ollie has virtually no sexual experience. By choice, it seems. He’s an introvert in the extreme, even has trouble allowing his closest friends to touch him, or be around him. Except Tai. Tai has always been there, and they have a very strong friendship. Tai makes surf boards, and helps train Ollie–has for years. Ollie’s on the cusp of greatness, and Tai can’t be more proud, but he could be more, for Ollie. He’s always been Ollie’s best friend, but Tai has held a serious love to Ollie for many years now.
I don’t want to give away too much plot, because a lot of it relates to Ollie’s successes or failures in surfing. That said, Ollie has some success, and his prize money is sufficient to pay the bills. He gets Tai to come along on a competition tour. Tai’s so good at relating to people, and calming Ollie, too. In fact, Ollie can’t conceive of a life without Tai in it. While his last several years have been a morass of grief and injury, scrabbling to make ends meet, being with Tai on tour gives Ollie the space he needs to see that his affection for Tai is more amorous than he’d ever noticed. He’s so awkward, however, that he struggles to make this clear to Tai. Tai knows that going along with the “tour romance” will break his heart completely, but he also can’t resist the opportunity to make love to the only man he’s ever loved.
There are some steamy, and tender, bits, with Tai educating Ollie in the ways of sex. Naturally, when the tour ends, life gets pretty complicated. Ollie doesn’t know how to be in a relationship, and doesn’t think free-spirited Tai even wants one. Tai steps back, so he doesn’t hurt himself, or Ollie, any more than he already has. Their lives are changing; Ollie’s success brings experiences and opportunities that were unforeseen and are unwelcome, to some degree. Tai’s surfboards are gaining interest with pro surfers, thanks to Ollie’s performance. It means long hours and new partnerships–less time for hanging, or training, Ollie.
Can their friendship survive this new status quo? It doesn’t look likely. Nope, because Ollie wants more than Tai would have given any of his other hook-ups. And Tai’s scared to hand over his heart, if Ollie isn’t willing to love him completely. Spoiler alert: this book is an HEA, and it’s a fantastic one, at that. This make-shift family is so interesting, and the romance is so tender, I didn’t want it to end. The writing is lyrical and paced much the same as island time–we get there when we get there, mahalo. It gave the prose a lilting feel, and I adored the surfing terms and experiences, because this was a whole new world for me. Also, I liked the interracial romance, and the strong community that surround Ollie and Tai.
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press Gift Card or one of FIVE first prizes of an e-copy of ‘Into the Blue’ by Pene Henson.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue is her first novel.