Darwin Michaels is living his dreams in the Mile High City. While Denver offers the perfect job, scrumptious dining, and whirlwind dating options, Darwin is losing hope he’ll find the right man to spark his interest for more than a one-night stand—until he sets eyes on Cody Russell.
Cody has just accomplished his life’s goal—get the hell out of Kansas. In one fell swoop, he lands a job at Hamburger Mary’s and gets a newfound family and the chance to be with other gay people! All that’s missing is someone special. But when Darwin shows his interest, Cody is sure it’s too good to be true. After all, what can Darwin possibly see in the high school dropout serving him nachos?
As Darwin falls in love, Cody struggles to realize his worth. When his past threatens the fragile life he is building, Cody spirals into a moment of dark desperation. But Darwin is determined to show Cody that love and family and home are there for him… will Cody accept what is offered?
Mary’s Boys, book 1
80 e-book pages (30,000 words)
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Ohhhhh, Brandon. What’ve you done?
I’m huuuungry now.
Readers, here’s a tip: When Brandon Witt starts talking about food, it’s wise to stop what you’re doing and pay attention. Mainly because it’s entertaining as all hell. Not to embarrass him or anything, but case in point: back in October at GRL I witnessed Brandon having an entire conversation about food all by himself. It was both impressive and hilarious — though I contained my laughter so as not to discourage him from sorting through a critical food-related dilemma.
Nachos & Hash is the start of a brand spankin’ new series centered on the REAL LIFE Denver restaurant, Hamburger Mary’s, where family-strong friendships are the mainstay, love is simmering, the burgers are juicy, and the drinks served with sass. Also, there are Drag Queens!
For the most part, this book fits the bill as a sweet and relatively light read, commencing with a Bad Date and a Drag Show.
Until now, Darwin has been suffering through a string of bad dating experiences while otherwise enjoying a great job and a great life in his newly-adopted hometown of Denver. He’s got his head screwed on right, got sound priorities, and a vision for his future. He is a solid guy who is decidedly ready to settle down — he’s just having a hard time finding Mr. Right.
We meet love-interest Cody early on as his job at Hamburger Mary’s waiting tables puts him in the direct path of Darwin and the carnage of one of Darwin’s Really Bad Dates. Initially, Cody comes across as very young, very innocent, and possibly a little aimless — and I made an initial assumption that this was an age-gap romance. But, I was wrong — very wrong. There are a negligible three years between Darwin and Cody, but it’s obvious that there are distinct contrasts in maturity, life experience, and goals that are apparent for the duration of the story and feed one of the main story arcs. It was a fascinating critical element as we learn that Darwin and Cody have a few similarities in their Midwestern backgrounds — but also some stark differences that could work against them.
This isn’t all sweetness and light. Cody has a few demons he has to wrest before he and Darwin can get to that HEA. Some of those demons are internal and fed by seeds planted by an unaccepting, bigoted family. And, while he’s in a good place now — far away from their poisonous influence — their evil voices still ring in his mind and nearly tear him apart. It’s the strength of love, the unconditional acceptance of solid friends — the family-not-of-blood — who do not waver from his side that gives him the strength to prevail.
Darwin and Cody together were enjoyable and relatable on a few levels with Darwin acting as a calm voice of reason to Cody’s doubts and inexperience. But Darwin, for all his success, maturity, and togetherness, had a few of his own lessons to learn. Because Cody, while coming across as somewhat naive, sometimes fragile, and super innocent had an inner strength he was learning to tap into. He had his own sort of wisdom that managed to catch me (and Darwin) unaware in its apparent simplicity.
It’s often the feeling I have, before starting a novella, that I may not get an entirely fleshed out story or the full picture of the characters. So it is always a delightful surprise to finish a shorter story with a full belly of emotions, nuanced characters, and a hard-earned HEA. Brandon has done it here. And, as much as I love a good juicy burger — and can’t wait to pull up a chair at THE Hamburger Mary’s — the story of Darwin and Cody was a satisfying entree on its own.
Next up on the menu in this series is cocktails with Vahin, the bartender, in Vodka and Handcuffs. I’d like to reserve my barstool now, please!
But right now I need a burger. And a drink.
About the Author:
Brandon Witt is many things. Above all, he is living the dream. After years of writing and reaching for the stars, he is a published author through Dreamspinner Press. Thus far, his novels include The Shattered Door, Then the Stars Fall, and three installments of the Men of Myth series. Also, he has short stories published in various anthologies.
For the first eighteen years of life, Brandon lived in a small Ozark town, El Dorado Springs, Missouri before moving with his family to Colorado. There he got degrees in Youth Ministry and Special Education and worked as a counselor and special education teacher for fifteen years.
The tension of his religious upbringing and being a gay man finds its way onto nearly every page in his novels, as does experiences that over a decade of loving children who have faced much abuse and many struggles. Reflecting what he has discovered to be true in life, Brandon’s writing does not shy away from challenges and conflict but also revels in the joy that can only happen when truly embracing and loving all that life has to offer.