Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new YA post-apocalyptic LGBTQIA romance from John Patrick. FRANKLIN IN PARADISE is the first book in his Paradise series. Two young men, survivors of a disease that has decimated populations worldwide, find comfort, safety and unexpected love with one another.
Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.
About the book:
Life is good for eighteen-year-old Franklin. He lives on the spectrum, structuring and organizing his days, avoiding messy situations and ambiguity. But what he really wants is a boyfriend.
Twenty-one-year-old Patrick has a past he can’t seem to shake, and a sexual identity that’s hard to describe—or maybe it’s just evolving.
When a manmade virus sweeps the globe, killing nearly everyone, the two young men find themselves thrust together, dependent on each other for survival. As they begin to rebuild their world, their feelings for each other deepen. But Franklin needs definition and clarity, and Patrick’s identity as asexual—or demisexual, or grey ace?—isn’t helping.
These two men will need to look beyond their labels if they are going to find love at the end of the world.
How about a yummy taste?
I finished cleaning my bedroom before lunchtime. Not that it needed it. I’m not the kind of guy to leave his dirty socks and shorts lying around. But I dusted behind the headboard and vacuumed the corners of the ceiling in my closet, removing the neatly labeled boxes from the top shelf first, before dusting those, too, and restacking them in alphabetical order: beads, crystals, fly hooks, etc., all the way down to screws.
I tugged the bed aside and vacuumed the carpet underneath, carefully nudging the bed frame back into the existing carpet indentations when I was finished.
I was ready.
Right after my parents left that morning, I even shaved. Not that there was any real need for that either. Even though I’ll be eighteen in a couple weeks, I’m hardly rocking the facial hair, just a few soft black wisps curling under my chin.
Nothing to do now but wait for Tyler.
I walked to the picture window in our living room and stared out into the gloomy March evening. Across the dirt road, Mrs. Knudson’s front porch lights came on. If I leaned forward and craned my neck to the right, I could almost see the intersection with State Highway 27. I waited at the window until I saw a sweep of headlights illuminating the deep forest along the road, silhouettes of oaks and pines picked out one by one as Tyler’s pickup bounced through the ruts.
I stepped away from the window and moved to the front door. The throaty rumble of his truck died, and a moment later a door slammed. Footsteps on the side deck were followed by a shout of “Yo, open up.” I silently did a slow three-count, then opened the door.
“Dude, here, take these. Back in a sec.” Tyler thrust three large pizza boxes into my arms and headed back to the driveway. I carried the boxes across the living room to the counter separating it from the kitchen, the scent of hot cheese, tomatoes, onions, and pepperoni filling the air. By the time I laid out each box in a neat row on the counter, Tyler was back, kicking the door shut behind him.
He had a gym bag looped across his shoulders, and he was carrying a case of Sam Adams.
He came around the counter and into the kitchen, put the beer on the table, and dropped his bag on the floor by the counter. “Woo-hoo! Sweet Sixteen!” he said, as he shrugged out of his jacket.
Sweet Sixteen? What…? Oh, right. March Madness. Sweet Sixteen round. That’s what we’re doing tonight, right?
“Your folks get off okay?” he asked.
“Yep, they got there already and texted me an hour ago. It’s 75 degrees in Puerto Rico right now.”
“Good for them, man.” Tyler used the opener on his key chain to pry the caps off two bottles. He handed me one. “And they’re good with us doing this?”
“Yeah, of course. You’ve slept over lots of times.” Even as I said that, I felt a blush rising in my cheeks. I hoped tonight would be different than all those other times. “Besides,” I continued, “Mrs. Knudson will be keeping an eye out. She knows I’m alone this weekend, and my folks told her I wasn’t allowed to have any parties.” I was embarrassed my parents had asked our eighty-year-old neighbor to spy on me. “How about your folks? They know you’re staying the night, right?”
“Right. No problem. They just don’t know we’re alone.” He waggled his eyebrows.
Tyler and I have been best buds since fourth grade, but lately, I’ve been thinking about him in a…well, I guess romantic way would best describe it. I was pretty sure he felt the same about me, too, because more and more, Tyler has been lightly touching me. A pat on my head, a tap to my arm. He knows touching is a “thing” for me, and he’s been really good about too. Signaling it would happen so I could be prepared without making a big deal about it.
Two years ago, my first and only girlfriend, Maya, let me know I was gay. I hadn’t thought about it, one way or the other, up until then. I didn’t like the whole idea of dating. Turns out she was right, of course. She was so pushy when it came to the physical stuff, even though she knew I was…sensitive…to that kind of thing. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” she’d say. But then she’d try to kiss me or grab my hand.
One night, the last time I saw her, we were sitting in her parents’ basement, and she asked if she could hold my hand. I didn’t want to, but I knew this was what boyfriends and girlfriends did, and I was trying so hard to be normal, so I let her. Before I understood what was happening, though, she guided my hand down to her thigh and under her skirt. When I discovered she wasn’t wearing underwear, I’d gasped and yanked my hand away, waving my fingers in the air as if they’d been burned. I might have gagged a little too.
“Uh-huh. I thought so,” she’d responded immediately. “You’re gay, you know, Franklin. Right? You do know that? I’d hate to see you waste the next couple of years ‘struggling’ to understand yourself. You should just blow your buddy Tyler right now and get it over with.”
Fair enough. But I didn’t blow Tyler, and as much as I was convinced we had a future together, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to blow him, or at least not yet. But I’d been thinking about kissing him, and although it made me a little uncomfortable, I thought I might be ready for that.
Franklin is a young gay man on the autism spectrum. He’s never really outed himself, but he’s been told–by his one and only girlfriend–that he’s gay. He lives in rural Maine with his parents, who have left him alone for a week’s vacation to Puerto Rice. Franklin is weeks from turning 18, and his best friend, Tyler, is coming over to spend the weekend at his house. Tyler seems to want a physical relationship with Franklin, but Franklin’s issues with over-stimulation and touch aversion are an obstacle to Tyler’s lusty ideas.
Just before Tyler leaves the following morning, after a night that should have been awesome but was mainly uncomfortable and awkward, Franklin catches a new report of a deadly virus spreading from Asia. He gets the “shelter in place” warning and advises Tyler to stay with him, but Tyler’s too frustrated to stick around. And when the power goes out and his parents do not return, well, Franklin makes the best of it–for weeks. Until Patrick sees the smoke coming from his chimney and knocks on his door.
Patrick is a 21 y/o demisexual man whose spent the last three weeks watching nearly everyone in his small Maine town die. He holed up in the town library, which had some primitive living quarters in part of the original 200 year old structure. He’s shell-shocked and so happy to see another living person he’s in dire need of human physical contact–even if Franklin struggles with this at first. He also has the hard job of explaining to Franklin, who is a very literal person due to his autism, that the world is overwhelmingly devoid of humans, and that Tyler and his parents are likely dead, too. Their interactions are fraught with so much anxiety, but they each know they need to shelter together to make it through this nightmare.
Over the next several days Patrick and Franklin develop a camaraderie, and a budding attraction. It’s hard for both of them to connect emotionally and physically, but time and isolation help fuel their needs. And, they are respectful of one another, although Franklin really does not understand “gray ace” or “demisexual” as concepts, and that creates issues. Patrick continues to explain that he’s not usually attracted to anyone, but if he develops an emotional connection that he could become sexually attracted, and he’s starting to feel that way about Franklin, who is attracted to Patrick, but lacks the emotional-savvy to express himself in all the ways he might like. He gets overwhelmed, and when they meet others he’s afraid that Patrick might start feeling sexual to them, as well.
This story is really about communication and survival. Franklin and Patrick need to communicate with one another, but also with the few new people that they meet. They see new opportunities, and they have to weigh and discuss options, to ensure that they are going in a good direction–while also giving up the hopes of returning to any part of a ‘normal” pre-virus life. Allusions are made to the COVID crisis, and how that informed the populace to “shelter in place” in the opening scenes, maybe saving Franklin’s life. It’s unclear how the virus worked, or who would have been spared, but one thing is apparent: survivors are not going to have an easy go of things in this after-virus period. So many automated processes are going offline: water, sewage, electric, gas production. All the dead lay in heaps around the streets and towns. Food in stores is rotting, bringing forth swarms of scavengers and vermin. This was all well-detailed in Franklin’s precise, orderly point of view. I really loved how Franklin continued to use the skills he learned in therapy to help him cope with non-verbal cues, and context cues, to really demonstrate his empathy and help him cope better.
Patrick is a good guy with some dark secrets. Some of the folks they meet are wary of him for those reasons, though Franklin’s love for him grows to be strong and steady. They will not be separated–at least if Franklin can avoid that he will. Theses young men have some off-page sexual relations, where the focus is always on building their emotional bonds tighter. And, by finding new survivors, the stage is set for further stories, with a coalition of people growing in a stable living area–an old Shaker commune in the woods of Maine called “Paradise”. Franklin grows to be a leader there, his analytical brain facilitating learning how to operate the long range Ham radio equipment to connect with other survivors, as well as managing the livestock barn. He and Patrick seem to be front and center with the new civilization that’s growing up there, but there are shadows of marauders on the horizon, as well as natural predators returning to the area, now that people are no longer encroaching.
This is the beginning of a series, and I would definitely read on.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
John Patrick lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband).
John is an introvert and can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So, his love of nature is tempered; he’s complicated that way.
John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods. After such travels, John invariably comes down with a cold. During a trip to Japan in 2019, he was amazed by how many people wore surgical masks in public to protect both themselves and others from viruses. “Gosh,” John thought, “wouldn’t it be great if we’d do this in the US?” John sometimes regrets the wishes he makes.