Five years ago, Evan Day lost his lover in the Afghan sand, and in the fallout, he lost his military career and his family. With help from friends, he reinvented himself as porn star Trevor Hardball, but his scars are hidden, not healed. When Riley Yeats falls into Evan’s lap in a bar, he awakens a part of Evan he’d thought was dead and gone. Evan’s fascinated by the blond and twinky Riley, even though he’s the opposite of Evan’s usual type.
Then Evan’s family reappears his life, and Evan soon learns Riley has his own family-inflicted wounds—ones that make it hard for him to be there for Evan. A disastrous confrontation between Evan and his parents leaves Evan’s mother injured and Evan overcome by anger and fear. Losing his tenuous hold on his emotional control, Evan makes one bad decision after another, but maybe his final fall will be the wake-up call Evan needs to set things right—with his parents, and with Riley.
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Atlanta as Setting in Unfortunate Son
By Shae Connor
When I started writing Unfortunate Son (lo, these many years ago), I knew the setting was never in question. The bulk of the action would take place right where the story was originally conceived: in Atlanta’s Midtown district, and specifically in the heart of the “Gayborhood,” which is anchored at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Road, just down from the edge of Piedmont Park. It’s an area I’m very familiar with, and I knew it wouldn’t take much effort to make its character shine through.
Midtown stretches between Atlanta’s historic downtown and the flashier, richer neighborhood to the north called Buckhead. The area’s crown jewel is Piedmont Park, which is to Atlanta what Central Park is to Manhattan: a huge, open, green space in the midst of an urban location. Piedmont Park is home to the annual Atlanta Pride Festival, in addition to dozens of other local events, and it’s surrounded by both residential and business areas, most of those populated by members of the gay community. Restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores of all types cater to young urban professionals, many of them gay men.
I’ve spent a lot of time with friends in Midtown the past few years, and while most of the businesses named in Unfortunate Son are fictitious, nearly all of them are based on real locations. Piedmont Lofts, where Riley lives, sits in a real building at the edge of Piedmont Park, though it doesn’t actually house lofts like Riley’s. Piedmont Diner, where Evan and Riley have brunch with Evan’s best friends, Cory and Jimmy, similarly doesn’t exist, but it’s an amalgam of several similar restaurants in the neighborhood. And Panther, the dance club the guys visit, is very loosely based on an Atlanta club that I’ve been to, though mostly in the general vibe, rather than any specifics of layout or even clientele.
One business in Unfortunate Son that’s almost exactly like its real-life counterparts is Bernhardt’s, which plays host to Cory’s performance as drag queen Coco Lamé, a member of the Stilettos drag troupe. The real bar, Burkhart’s, is a frequent hangout for me and quite a few of my friends. Burkhart’s hosts regular drag shows and until recently was home to weekly performances by the Armorettes, also known as the Infamous Camp Drag Queens of the South, the troupe on which the Stilettos were based. Most of the time, though, Burkhart’s is a relatively quiet, pub-like location that serves great steak dinners and has an awesome, friendly staff. In fact, Burkhart’s is hosting a release party for the book, and they’ve been awesome.
For today, I’m offering up an excerpt that gives a peek at Bernhardt’s and the Stilettos. At this point in the story, Riley’s friend Mikey has just moved to Atlanta, and they’ve joined Evan to see Cory (Coco) perform. (You’ll get more of Mikey, Cory, and Jimmy in Wayward Son, which will be out in a few months.)
Another performer finished her Lady Gaga lip-synch with a flourish, and the crowd erupted into cheers as she collected the last of her tips and waved her way offstage. The emcees reemerged and launched back into their trademark banter, laced with suggestive comments and pop culture references. Evan pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time. With only fifteen minutes left in the advertised performance window, Cory should be up next.
Sure enough, the bearded emcee in the pink dress—cupid’s bow lips painted to match—smiled and spoke louder. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado—”
“Ado, ado, to you and you and you-ooo!” the other emcee singsonged, earning a laugh from the crowd and a backhanded slap to the stomach from her cohort.
“…without further interruption from the peanut gallery, the Stilettos are proud to present, in her debut headlining performance—the fabulous Miss Coco Lamé!”
The music started back up, lights flashed, and then out came Coco in all her flashy glory. She wore a gold sequined vest with matching fringe over a white, midriff-baring top, though as she moved, Evan could see that the midriff was actually covered with flesh-colored spandex. Her cowgirl-style hat, tight skirt, and boots shimmered with black glitter, and on one hip, she carried what appeared to be a holster trimmed in even more shiny gold.
Evan was too busy trying not to laugh at the overkill to notice the music, but when Riley lifted a carefully groomed eyebrow and leaned closer, Evan leaned in to catch his comment.
“I wouldn’t have figured Cory—excuse me, Coco—for a Pointer Sisters fan.”
Sure enough, Coco launched into an energetic rendition of “I’m So Excited.” She shimmied, she twisted, she pointed and flirted, and the crowd went crazy for it all. Hands waved money at her in all directions, and Coco collected it with hands, cleavage, and that holster, its presence clearly meant for more than just show.
Coco came closer to their end of the bar, and Evan shared a smile with her as she took the fiver he held out and leaned in to give him a kiss on his cheek. She took Riley’s tip the same way, and then turned to Mikey, who stood as if in shock, staring.
Riley’s eyebrow rose again. “Mikey, honey, you’re supposed to tip the nice lady now,” he admonished.
Mikey snapped back to attention, a blush rising high on his cheeks as he held out his offering. Coco slithered closer, taking Mikey’s wrist and giving an assist for him to deposit the cash directly into her cleavage. Maintaining her grip on Mikey, she pulled him in close for a gentle kiss on the mouth, leaving behind a swipe of bright red lipstick to go with the now deep red of his cheeks. She gave him a final lingering glance and a wink and went back to working the rest of the crowd.
Evan couldn’t help smirking at Mikey, who just stared after Coco, dumbstruck. He leaned closer to Riley. “I think your boy might have a little bit of a crush.”
Riley laughed softly. “I can’t imagine where you could have gotten that idea.”
Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. She’s conned several companies into publishing her work and adds a new notch on her bedpost each time another story is unleashed onto an unsuspecting universe.
A member of the Romance Writers of America and the Rainbow Writers chapter, Shae was first published in 2010 and has a lineup of short stories, novellas, and novels available from Dreamspinner Press, Wilde City Press, MLR Press, and Amber Allure.
Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously, and she’s an annual volunteer for the Dragon Con on-site publication, the Daily Dragon. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at shaeconnorwrites.com.