Thanks for having me today! Will You Be My Escort is the second novel in a series of four. It’s the sequel to Dinner for One, and focuses on James’s younger brother Jackson—a bisexual makeup artist—and Aaron, an escort.
I’ve talked about this before in guest posts and on my blog, but I’m going to give major props to the community who encouraged me to write and provides me with tropes and prompts galore. I wouldn’t have any books written let alone published if it wasn’t for them. I’m talking about fandom, specifically the incredibly talented and creative minds who devote their free time to writing fan fiction. I honestly can’t say just how grateful I am that I found fan fiction when I did.
A glance at any of my books and you can tell I’ve been heavily influenced by other fan fiction writers. I’ve fallen in love with the present tense—I feel closer to my characters and I feel like everything flows better—and, yes, at times (a lot of the time) I like the cotton candy fluff with minimal angst. I’m a sucker for a well written trope and I like the sheer amount of creativity it takes to turn an idea into something uniquely yours.
When I found fan fiction I was at a time in my life where I hadn’t written anything in a couple of years. I had zero motivation and my ideas couldn’t make it from my brain to the page. The first novel I ever wrote is awful—I’m not going to lie—and I was sixteen at the time. And even as much as I look back and think “What was I thinking when I wrote that part or did this?” I still appreciate that it was the first thing I ever finished because I finally found the motivation I needed.
Will You Be My Escort is a huge mile marker for me, in that I was able to prove to myself I could write a series. I was terrified when I sat down to start it, and I don’t know if that feeling will ever fade when I start a book, but now it doesn’t stop me a quarter of the way in. It’s a sign of how far I’ve come, personally, as a writer. I wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for the community who encouraged and inspired me.
Part of being in a large family means everyone knows everything. And it’s never forgotten, because inevitably someone remembers it. So Jackson doesn’t know how he hasn’t heard about the family reunion until he’s staring at the ridiculous card on his dark-cream tiled counter. Someone has taken the time to make a collage of the entire family’s faces and merge them into lettering that reads “You’re invited to the Carlisle Family Reunion.” He’s not sure whether to be impressed or appalled.
His phone starts to trill. He picks it up without looking. “Are you seeing this?” asks James. “I think I’m hallucinating it.”
“No,” says Jackson. “I’ve got it in front of me. It’s painfully real.”
The last thing in the world he wants to do is attend a family reunion. It’s a two-week-long affair at a resort in Hawaii (which would be lovely if the family reunion aspect was removed), occurring in three weeks’ time, during which they’re going to be surrounded by obnoxious extended family. It’s like something from a horror film.
“I don’t know why you’re complaining,” he says to James. “You’ve got a boyfriend.” He thinks about it. “Can Bastien not come?” He runs two businesses and works a lot, but he’s got a partner who can probably take things over.
“Bastien can come,” grumbles James. “He’s annoyingly excited for it.”
“He’s in for a rude awakening,” mutters Jackson. Bastien hasn’t met anyone outside of their immediate close-knit group yet—he wasn’t around for the last reunion. He’s probably expecting everyone to be like their particular branch of Carlisles. The extended family isn’t like them. Well, in some ways they are, but in others… no. They’re an eclectic group of people who mostly only bother to get together and converse for a period longer than a two-word holiday or birthday card every five years.
There’s a reason for that.
His call waiting goes off. He pulls the phone from his ear. “Mom’s calling,” he says on a sigh. “I’ll call you back.”
“Don’t bother,” says James. “I’m coming over, and we’re going to drink till we forget we’ve been invited.”
Jackson rolls his eyes. “You’re a drama queen.” He drops the call in the middle of James’s indignant squawks. “Hello,” he says to his mom.
“Hello, sweetie,” she says. “Did you get the invitation?”
He glares at their obnoxious collaged faces. “I did.” He looks closer. Someone has photoshopped a curled mustache onto James’s face. He holds the phone away from him as he snickers. Their cousin Bobby must have made the card. He hates James. “James has a mustache in the picture,” he tells his mom. “Did you see that?”
Her sigh is long and pained. “I did. I’m calling to let you know you have to go. You can’t get out of this.” She goes silent, but there’s something about it that makes Jackson feel like there’s more coming. He has a feeling he’s not going to like it. “I know things have been rough, since you had to move and all….”
And he called that.
“But I have a friend, she has a delightful daughter, and I think you two would really get along. She might take some of the pressure off the reunion? And I think it’ll be good for you. I don’t mean to worry, but you haven’t dated anyone since Angel.” He winces at the name. “It’s time to try again, don’t you think? Move on? We’re all worried about you, dear. I have a friend with a son too, he’s a bit older than you, but he’s got a nice job.”
The last thing he wants is to be set up by his mother. A sane person would tell her to butt out and hang up. Politely of course; this is his mom after all. Jackson has a short supply of sanity, though, and he’s been running on very little sleep for the last month. What comes out of his mouth, instead of “no, thank you” or “I don’t need someone else to be happy,” is “I’m already seeing someone.”
A Carlisles novel
Jackson Carlisle has rotten luck with men and women, and after an especially bad situation, he takes a step back from romance. But with a two-week family reunion in Hawaii looming, his mom is determined to set him up with one of the sweet singles she knows would be perfect for him. A normal person would tell her no and be done with it. Instead, Jackson tells her he has a boyfriend. The only problem? He doesn’t.
Aaron Wilkes is an escort. He’s a little surprised when a friend’s girlfriend hires him to date her brother, but he’s had stranger jobs. Jackson is cute, and he thinks a fling with Aaron might be just the kind of no-strings-attached fun he needs to get over his dry spell. As they explore the islands together, their carefully laid plans begin to get away from them. Feelings aren’t supposed to come into play, but that shouldn’t be a problem. After all, you can’t fall in love in two weeks….
Paperback copy of Dinner for One
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Meg Harding is a graduate of UCF and Anglia Ruskin University. For as long as she can remember, writing has always been her passion, but she had an inability to ever actually finish anything. She’s immensely happy that her inability has fled and looks forward to where her mind will take her next. She’s a sucker for happy endings, the beach, and superheroes. In her dream life she owns a wildlife conservation and is surrounded by puppies. She’s a film buff, voracious reader, and a massive geek.