Title: Oceans Apart
Author: J.K. Hogan
Publisher: Euphoria Press
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Length: 85K words
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, (gay) virgin, first time, coming out
Bored of with his mundane life, Leo Takahashi heads to the East Coast to find a new adventure. A series of unfortunate circumstances leave him in a potentially disastrous predicament: a gay man stranded in a backwater town of coastal North Carolina.
Sellars Hodge is a farmer from a long line of farmers who has never left his family’s land. He’s never even seen the ocean despite living less than ninety miles from the coast. In fact, he’s never done or seen anything interesting—he’s never even had a date.
When a stranded motorist stays at his house, Sellers gets a glimpse of everything he can never have. Though fear of his father’s reaction keeps him silent, Sellars’ two deepest secrets won’t stay hidden. The more time he spends with Leo, the less satisfied he is with the hand he’s been dealt and the choices he never had.
Leo wants to set up a quiet, independent life on the coast, but he feels pulled toward Sellars. He hates the idea of leaving such a vibrant, gentle giant behind to waste away on that farm.
Storms, both figurative and literal, brew in their lives, and they can only hope those storms clear the path to self-discovery and, most of all, love.
LEO DISAPPEARED UPSTAIRS TO HOPEFULLY FIND something suitable to wear. I had followed him into the foyer, but when I heard my parents’ voices, I returned to hover just outside the kitchen door. If Mama caught me eavesdropping, she’d smack me upside the head, but somehow, I knew they’d be talking about Leo, and I wanted to know what was said.
“. . . but he’s one of them,” Pop was saying.
My stomach clenched with anxiety.
“He’s wearing makeup, for Pete’s sake, Marla. What people do in the privacy of their own homes is one thing, but I don’t want my son spending too much time around that behavior.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Ma said. “You are being ridiculous.”
“It isn’t. I just don’t want—”
“It’s not the damn flu. It ain’t catchin’.”
“Marla . . .”
“Jim . . .”
I knew that was the beginning of a stare-down that Mama would eventually win. She always did. At least I knew if they found out about me, I’d still have one parent on my side. Somehow that didn’t calm the storm raging in my gut. This was all hitting too close to home. All I wanted was to run out the back door, hop on my tractor, and get lost in the fields for the day, but Leo was bounding down the stairs looking pleased as Punch that he’d found himself some jeans—designer, probably—some Doc Martens—mint condition—and a T-shirt that said “Not Today, Satan” in bold letters on the front. I barely suppressed a put-upon sigh.
“Ready?” I asked, wondering if a man like him could ever be ready for a day on the farm.
He nodded but chewed nervously on the side of his fingernail.
“Nothin’ to be afraid of. It’s real quiet out there. Nothin’ will get you except maybe the honeybees, but as long as you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you,” I joked as I held the front door open for him to step out onto the wide porch.
He gave me a small smile. “Is it that obvious? I’m not very outdoorsy.”
“Only a little.” I grinned. I took him around the side of the main house, where Mama’s small garden was. We had a larger one on the east end of our land that fed our roadside stand, but this one was for our own consumption. “This is where my mother grows her stuff for cooking. It’s mainly got herbs and summer veggies right now.”
“Is everything she cooks grown here?”
“All the vegetables, for sure. There are a few fruit trees down the way, but we get a lot of our fruit and meats from the farmers market. Chances are if we don’t grow it or raise it, one of our neighbors or family members does.”
“That’s . . . incredible,” he said. “I mean, it’s not something I’m used to, being a born and bred city boy, but I bet the food tastes a lot better.”
“I don’t really have much to compare it to, but it works for us.” I led him past the garden, and we threaded our way through the boxy white columns that held the beehives and their honey. The bees’ dull buzzing filled the air, but they paid us no mind. I could tell they made Leo nervous, but he didn’t complain.
“Ever had fresh honey?” I asked. “Or . . . wait, can vegetarians have honey?”
“I think you’re thinking of vegan—that’s the one where they don’t eat any animal products. I’m not sure if they eat honey, but I’m only a vegetarian. So yes, I can eat honey, but no, I probably have never had fresh honey.”
I opened a small toolbox next to one of the bee boxes and pulled out a pair of beekeeping gloves. I opened the box and pulled out one of the frames crawling with bees. Taking my pocketknife off my belt, I cut out and pried off a tiny corner of honeycomb, then held it out to Leo. His eyes widened like he didn’t quite know what to do.
“Just take it. You can just suck the honey off if you want, but the comb is edible too.”
He turned red but kept his mouth shut and took the comb.
I watched him out of the corner of my eye as I slid the frame back in, replaced the lid, and put back the gloves. He didn’t try the honey. He wasn’t even looking at it. He was staring at me. “What? Don’t like honey?”
“No! I mean, honey’s okay I guess, b-but . . . you just stuck your hand in a beehive like it was nothing.
Who does that?”
I shrugged, uncomfortable with the attention. “I mean, beekeepers do . . . All the time.”
“You do have a point. Honey has to come from somewhere, I guess. Just warn a guy next time. Jesus.”
“Sorry,” I said with a smirk. I wasn’t actually feeling sorry at all. “Are you going to taste that or what?” He was staring at the comb like I might stare at a piece of sushi, something I was sure he’d had plenty of in San Francisco.
“After I take you around, I thought we might head to . . .” I trailed off as his pink tongue darted out to taste the honey, and he let out such a lewd moan, I lost my train of thought.
“Oh my god,” he said, his eyes rolling back. “I don’t even really like honey that much. But this—this isn’t honey. This is like . . . ambrosia or something.” He froze mid-lick when he caught sight of my face.
I had to force my gaze away from his glistening lips, but then it landed on the hand that held the comb. I gulped as sticky honey slowly trickled down his long, elegant fingers. I would’ve given up my every possession for the chance to lick it off. The sun had barely risen, but already the humidity had settled on his skin, making it glow. I felt the fiery blush as it spread over my cheeks, so I attempted to distract him by handing him a bandana from my pocket for him to clean his hands with—though I’d happily watch him lick it off for the rest of my life. “N-nothing. Um . . . let’s keep walking.”
I kept quiet as I led him between the hog barn and the blackberry patch, because I couldn’t trust that the next words out of my mouth wouldn’t be “Please let me worship every inch of you with my tongue.” It would probably be hard to keep my preferences under wraps after blurting that out, and after hearing my father’s words that morning, I was even more wary of giving myself away.
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4 of 5 Stars
Wow…this book tackles a whole host of issues…sexism, homophobia, social and racial stereotypes, hidden sexuality and I think I’m missing a few.
The writing was as good as always with Ms. Hogan (I’m a pretty big fan of hers so I expected nothing less). It was a bit of a slow, long-ish read with fairly low angst which seems unbelievable with everything I listed above. Honestly some of the social and racial stereotypes were quick slights based on ignorance said either in passing or during internal dialog but they happened frequently enough that I noticed; slights against Leo for his Japanese heritage, slights against the Hodge family and their backwoods country ways, etc. As for the rest, each are seamlessly woven into the story. They unfold and are resolved organically and fit into the story in a way that allows for as little angst as possible for Sellers and Leo considering it could have been extremely heavy.
Sellers and Leo have instant attraction but are leary of each other for a myriad of reasons. As we get to know Sellers we see that there is more than meets the eye with the big guy…he’s actually nothing like he seems and altogether surprising. Leo is quick witted and a bit quirky but super sweet and immediately taken with Sellers. In the short time Leo spends with Sellers, he is continuously awed by each layer he uncovers in the big guy. Both men go through a bit of self-discovery…they both have to learn how to fly from the nest on their own which is made easier by knowing they not only have each other’s support but that of their respective families (eventually). While they initially seem like complete opposites that would never work together, they discover they’re more like two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together.
I f-loved the nod to one of my most favorite movies but would it have killed you to throw in an ‘as you wish’ somewhere Ms. Hogan???
This one definitely gets a nod from me!
Meet the Author
J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?
J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading!