Rainbow Gold Reviews would like to congratulate Julia McBryant on her latest release ‘All the Little Lights’ (Low Country Lovers, Book 2). Self published February 11, 2020, 145 pages.
Audie’s finally escaped the hell of his parents’ homophobic home in Charleston to build a real, lasting romance with Calhoun in Savannah. But Charleston suddenly shows up on his doorstep when the couple are forced into playing parents to Audie’s gay cousin, beaten bloody and disowned for his sexuality. Audie has to confront his demons head-on — with a misbehaving, committed hedonist of a cousin in tow. Calhoun’s tired of acting like the mean dad. Audie’s breaking into pieces. For the sake of Audie’s cousin, their relationship — and some very unwelcome news from Audie’s father — they have to untangle this miserable knot. Somehow. Another true-love romance filled with lyrical prose from author Julia McBryant, All the Little Lights brings the angst, hurt/comfort, high heat, and eventual HEA Audie and Calhoun deserve.
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They see his father two days later. Calhoun’s sure he’ll throw up or run away or shake so hard he can’t hold a fork or break down crying or something. He tries not to show it. His father knows he’s gay. His father’s meeting his boyfriend. These two things together make him want to skip town. But if Gran says it’s okay, then it’s okay. He channels his fear into his wardrobe: his favorite blue-checked button-down that matches his eyes, his lucky shirt even if he’d never tell that he has a lucky shirt.
“Do I look all right? Are you sure y’all don’t dress for dinner?” Audie fusses in the mirror.
“God no, Audie. A button-down and khaki shorts are fine.”
“I am not wearing Rainbows. You can wear Rainbows. It’s your goddamn house. I’m wearing Sperries.”
Calhoun rolls his eyes. Audie has such bizarre fashion caveats sometimes. He brings yellow tulips for Gran.
Audie’s scandalized by their use of the back door. “I live here. Or I used to. God.”
His father waits for them in the dining room with Gran. “Hi, Daddy, hi, Gran.” Calhoun sounds nervous, even to himself. “Daddy, I think you might remember Audie Currell?”
“Nice to see you again, Mr. Chatterton, Mrs. Chatterton.”
“Oh Christ, Audie, call me Wes.” Calhoun’s father laughs. “And are you really gonna call my mother Mrs. Chatterton? Call her Gran like everyone else.”
“I don’t think most of Calhoun’s friends even know my name.” Gran laughs along with his father.
Audie’s very nervous, but it’s likely no one else can see. Audie hides it very well. But he recognizes the hand through the curls and the stiff back. They sit and make small talk until the main course.
“This is stupid.” His father sets down his fork. “You know we know, Calhoun.”
Calhoun swallows hard. “Gran told me, Daddy.” He doesn’t look at Audie.
“You know we’ve known for a long time, son.”
“Well, we goddamn have.” He takes a bite of fried chicken. “You think your grandmother and I are gonna kick you out of this house because of it?”
“Thought so sir, yes.” His stomach drops, as if this is the beginning of the end, a terrible set-up.
“Well, we’re not. Stupid.”
Audie lets out the breath he must have been holding.
“Oh, bless you.” Gran pats Audie’s hand. “You really do love him, don’t you?”
This isn’t the right thing to say to Audie at all, who turns bright red, carefully sets down a piece of fried chicken that he nearly chokes on, and stares at his plate. Calhoun’s father laughs. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Audie blushes deeper.
“Oh, leave Audie alone. He doesn’t deal with social embarrassment well.”
“I’m not embarrassed to be in love with you! I’m just not used to people saying it out loud at a formal dinner table!”
Gran pets his hand. “Look at these curls. I would have killed someone for these curls when I was a girl.” She tugs on one of Audie’s. Calhoun grins.
“For yourself, or on someone else, ma’am?” Audie smiles innocently.
His father roars.
“Now you behave yourself.” Gran laughs. “Why do I think he likes you because you don’t?”
Audie looks at Dad. “You won’t tell my father, will you, sir? He and I don’t, um, have the best relationship.”
Calhoun’s dad shakes his head. “Not my business to walk around outing people.”
“You’re really not mad, Daddy?” Calhoun can’t get over this.
He rolls his eyes. “No, Calhoun. I told you. We figured it out a long goddamn time ago. You and Quinn Rutledge —”
“I never went out with Quinn!”
His father makes a noise. “Uh-huh.”
“Now that was a cute one, Quinn.” Gran smirks. “What’s Quinn up to these days, other than dating that absolutely adorable Ellis Ashford. Christ come down in glory, that long hair on the man. If I were a younger woman —”
“Gran!” Calhoun’s eyes widen. “And you don’t wanna know what Quinn’s up to.”
“Is it a terrible scandal?”
“The very worst.” Audie shakes his head.
“Then you have to enliven an old lady’s day and tell me.”
“It’s not fit dinner conversation.” Audie smirks.
She smacks him. Audie takes it calmly and keeps eating.
“I mean, my god, St. Albert’s did turn out a bumper group of gay guys that year, didn’t it? Between you and Quinn and one of those Culliver boys and Crispin Hendricks —”
“DADDY! No one knows for sure if Wills and Crispin are together!”
“Oh please.” Gran waves a hand. “I saw them sneak out of the Children’s Hospital Gala together.”
Calhoun drops his head in his hands. “Just don’t tell anyone, please?”
“Not my business who’s doing what.” Dad keeps eating.
“This is Savannah.” Gran practically rubs her hands together. “It’s everyone’s business. You know everyone knows and no one says a word in public. You think we’re the only ones who know about you? You think we’re the first to hear about that cute curly-haired boyfriend you brought home from Charleston?” She tugs Audie’s curls again. He ignores her. “Well, no wonder about that Culliver boy with the way his mother carries on with Georgia Raleigh.”
Dad turns to Audie. “Mother loves good gossip. She’ll tell you everything about everyone.”
“So Wills and Henry’s mom is …” Audie leaves it dangling.
“With her best friend.” Gran grins. “They aren’t the first to do it, and they aren’t the last. You know those girls from your class, Calhoun, Azalea Burns and Meredith Holmes? They have the same arrangement, so I hear. Now you used to hear the same thing about Isabel Sims and Quinn’s cousin Delia because they never dated, but Delia’s settled down with that Jasper boy, one of them, you know no one can tell them apart, and Isabel spends her summers and Christmases with the other Culliver boy.”
Calhoun almost spits out his drink. “Henry? Isa’s been seeing Henry?!”
Gran snorts. “Well, not lately, no. But you know they used to —”
Audie cuts in. “Not fit dinner table conversation.”
“I’m an old lady. I can say what I want, you proper little brat. You’re lucky those big dark eyes and pretty curls save you from a multitude of sins.”
When they leave, Calhoun hugs both of them. Audie gets a slap on the back from his father and kisses Gran on the cheek. Gran whacks him with her cane. “You’re proper trouble. Come visit an old lady any time. I expect you to read me scandalous literature. I can’t see to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover anymore and it’s my favorite.”
“I endeavor to please, ma’am.”
“I also expect a handsome escort to all the balls this season.”
“Calhoun can take care of his own self. I’m stealing you.”
Calhoun roars on the way to the car. “So not only does my father not care that we’re gay, my gran thinks you hung the moon.”
Audie laughs. “She’s a force of nature. I never had a grandmother. Mine all passed when I was small.”
“I know she’ll tell me you’re a wonderful mix of polite and roguish and adorable at the same time. Gran thinks I’m too well-behaved and anyway, she mostly keeps me around for petting over and feeding.”
“Making your grandmother happy is the least I can do for you, Calhoun.” Calhoun glances at him. Audie’s serious. Poor Audie. He really thinks he has to do things for Calhoun, as if he isn’t enough in and of himself.
“You never have to do anything for me, love. You just have to be Audie.” He grins. “And drive me around in that Porsche sometimes.”
“We should drive really fast out to Tybee and stay in the house tonight.” Audie touches his hair.
Julia McBryant lives in the prettiest city in the whole world with her roving nebula of German Shepherds. Southern born, Southern bred, and when she dies, she’ll be Southern dead, Julia loves gold glitter, brand-new pens her children haven’t stolen, and notebooks full of character details.
She also enjoys unicorns, caffeine, and unicorns on caffeine.
When she isn’t writing she’s writing.