Good morning everyone! It’s (finally) friday (AND the first day of the last month of the year!) Today we are super excited to welcome Kate Aaron, author of the Blowing It series, on From Top to Bottom reviews. Her new book, Strait Laced, came out on the 28th and because I loved it so much, I asked Kate if she’d like to talk a bit about the book on here! If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend you to do so because it’s really, really good! 🙂 (If you’re still undecided, there is also a little excerpt down below.)
Philip Lomax is a man with ambition. Getting ahead in business doesn’t leave much time for fun. Relationships aren’t part of his plan, and falling in love will have to wait.
Go-go dancer and all-round bad boy Ben is his polar opposite but they can’t seem to leave each other alone.
While Philip’s certain nothing can come of it, Ben is determined to prove Philip isn’t as strait-laced as he appears. Will opposites attract in this standalone contemporary romance?
I first fell in love with Manchester when I was 14. It was 1999, and the first season of Queer As Folk aired in the UK. As a queer kid living in a northern town half an hour or so away from the city, the idea of the gay village—a place just for people like me—seemed magical. It was no surprise when at 18 there was only one place I considered attending university: Manchester.
Despite living in the city for a number of years and loving every minute, Strait Laced is the first book I’ve primarily set there. I considered it as a setting for the Blowing It series, but it made more sense for Owen, the MC, to live in London when he wanted to break into publishing. I made Ryan, Owen’s BFF, a northerner, and shelved plans for a Mancunian series for another day.
In the meantime I moved to America. Living 4,000 miles away put my old life into a new perspective. After a year away I went home in time for Manchester Pride in 2016 and I remembered everything I loved about the city. It might be in the grim, industrial north and rain most days of the year, but it’s a vibrant place; the place where I truly came of age.
A new series came to me, set entirely in Manchester and populated by the Mancunians I’d come to know and love.
Strait Laced is the first book in that series—a collection of standalone novels set in and around the gay village. Philip’s story came first because he was an outsider: a Londoner who finds he isn’t immune to the charms of Manchester, or its inhabitants. He approaches Manchester as a stranger, like I did, and finds somewhere he can belong.
Halfway through writing this novel, Manchester hit the headlines in the most horrific way with the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017. By dumb luck I didn’t know anyone directly affected, but I spent most of the night desperately refreshing Twitter feeds searching for answers. Along with snippets of information I saw scores of messages from people who lived around the arena. Offers of help and support, a ride home, a bed for the night, or simply a cup of tea, under the hashtag #RoomForManchester.
Manchester’s spirit is indomitable. It’s a city that pulls together, looks after its own, and welcomes strangers with open arms. Strait Laced is a story as much about Manchester as about Philip and Ben. The events of the novel take place in 2016, and include the last Pride parade I was in Manchester to attend. Manchester is a sprawling city with many different faces, but to me, the village has always been its beating heart, and that’s never clearer than when the whole city turns out to celebrate Pride.
The moment we exited the staging area and onto the parade route proper, I was assaulted by a deafening cacophony of noise. Hundreds—thousands—of people lined the route. Men, women, children, all ages, races, sexes gathered together, cheering, blowing whistles, and waving miniature rainbow flags.
Ben hooked his arm around me and waved to the crowd. “It’s awesome, isn’t it?”
I could only nod, struck speechless. I didn’t know what I’d imagined but being on the float, in this parade, before this crowd, felt special. I could easily believe the whole city had come out to cheer for us, and I was shocked to find myself tearing up.
I was lucky enough to have never experienced rejection or discrimination because of my sexuality, but for people who had, I could understand why Pride was so important. We were coming together as a community to throw a party to which everyone was invited. And for the next two hours, I was part of something a whole lot bigger than myself.
Born in Liverpool, Kate Aaron is a bestselling author of the #1 LGBT romances What He Wants, Ace, The Slave, and other works.
She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights.
Kate swapped the North West for the Midwest in October 2015 and married award-winning author AJ Rose. Together they plan to take over the world.