Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Equals by Brigham Vaughn

Husbands #4
Russ is ready to make a lifelong commitment to his partner. That means marriage to him, but Stephen grew up believing that was out of the question. With marriage equality still not recognized in Georgia, Stephen is only concerned about the legal protection available to them.

Someone from Stephen’s past reappears and drives a wedge between them as Russ and Stephen struggle to agree on their future. Russ tries to understand Stephen’s complex feelings about marriage, but the differences in their background stresses the relationship further. Can the relationship they've built overcome the issues they face?

***10% of the proceeds from
Husbands will go toward Atlanta's
Lost-n-Found Youth center***

I don't even know where to begin.  Russ and Stephen had me from their first spilled coffee and being able to see their relationship grow, mature, and evolve has been a joy and has earned a prominent spot in my personal library.  Brigham Vaughn has a way with the written word, she conveys so much emotion and detail with a relatively limited number of words.  I'll admit that there are moments that I would sit and imagine what was going on between the pages, yes they would have added to the story but truth is that there is nothing lacking from Russ and Stephen's story without those moments.  Sometimes, readers need to read certain points and others you just need to imagine and for me, Miss Vaughn has given us a perfect blend of visual and imagined nuggets.

Husbands is a perfect conclusion to this couple's tale, I can't say "ending" because that elicits too much sadness but it definitely wraps this romance up in a neat little bow.  Now, having said that, it's not a sugary sweet, no problems kind of ride, the bumps are there and one bump is Jeremy, Stephen's ex.  I was glad that we finally got to meet Jeremy and his part is not the cliche "ex wants back in". Calling Jeremy a "bump" is not giving him the credit he deserves on my part but there are some tense moments, even if it's mostly inner monologue.  Yep, if you have been following Russ and Stephen's story, you just can't miss Husbands.  And if you haven't read the Equals series, well, what are you doing sitting here reading my review, check it out because you won't regret it.  I can't wait to see what the mind of Brigham Vaughn brings next.


Equals #1
Too busy to date while he worked to put himself through school, Russell Bishop’s dedication finally pays off; he has a great job with Vantage Marketing. Stephen Parker, CFO of the marketing firm, has resigned himself to a life without a partner. For six months, they wanted each other but it isn’t until Russ slips on spilled coffee, and Stephen rushes to his rescue that they discover their attraction is mutual.

However, the twenty year age gap between them proves difficult when they begin dating. Fiercely independent, Russ isn’t sure he’s ready for long-term commitment. Scarred from a previous relationship, Stephen is afraid history is repeating itself. Is there any way for them to meet in the middle and become equals?

We see how a seemingly insignificant clumsy annoyance can change the lives of two people.  Everything happens for a reason and this time around, spilled coffee brings two men together, even if one has to get some minor injuries to do it.  I love the dynamics between Russ and Stephen both as individual characters and as a couple.  Even though there is a 20 year age gap between the two, they are surprisingly the same even if they are at different places in their lives.  The author manages to bridge that gap with sincerity, passion, fight, and overdue communication.


Partners #2
After a rocky first few months, Stephen Parker and Russ Bishop’s relationship is at a crossroads when the death of Stephen’s father forces them to visit Stephen's hometown in southern Georgia. 

Estranged from his family, Stephen must find a way to come to terms with his past and say goodbye to the father whose expectations he could never live up to. The small, conservative town provides its own challenges as Russ realizes providing emotional support is one part of being a true partner for Stephen.

I can safely say I have never read a book as far ahead of a scheduled posting as I did Partners. As soon as I received the ARC, I went right to reading it and have been chomping at the bit to tell my review. AMAZING!!! Stepehn and Russ touch your heart in every way possible. To say I loved them is putting it mildly and, if I may add, stating the obvious. There were a few times where I could have reached in and throttled Stephen though, usually when he put voice to his doubts over Russ "settling" for an older man.

I can't even begin to imagine what Stephen is feeling having to return to his hometown after his father's death considering how things had been between the two men, but Miss Vaughn handles is beautifully. I'll admit that at times some of the characters were a bit on the preachy side but anything less and it wouldn't have been fitting of the story, the characters, or the author. I look forward to see what the future has in store for both Stephen and Russ (I hope) and Miss Vaughn.


Family #3
After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws. 

This was a perfect addition to the Equals series and the love story of Russ and Stephen. I've been wondering about that box that Miss Esther gave Stephen from his father's things. I loved finally getting to meet Russ' family too. I won't lie, there was some dread I was fearing when faced with Addison meeting Stephen considering the way their aunt had raised her but it worked out even better than I expected. Such a lovely and beautifully written Christmas story. I look forward to more of Russ and Stephen, hint, hint Miss Vaughn.


Equals #1
As if he’d heard Stephen’s thoughts, Russ straightened and turned his head before hopping in a half circle to face him, smiling widely. “Hey. Didn’t hear you come in.”

Stephen realized he still hovered in the doorway and he stepped forward and let it shut behind him. “Hi. How was your day?”

Russ leaned back against the counter, all of his weight on his uninjured foot. “Once I got over being pissed at you, not bad.”

Stephen gave him a wry smile. “I am sorry; I didn’t mean to come off heavy-handed.” He set the bags in his hands on the counter and walked closer to Russ. “I was worried about you.”

Russ laid a hand on Stephen’s chest, fingers curling around his tie. “I’m a big boy; I can take care of myself.”

Stephen nodded, stepping closer so his feet were between Russ’ but careful not to bump the injured ankle. “I am sure you can,” Stephen said calmly. “But I feel at least somewhat responsible for your accident.”

“I don’t blame you for it.”

“I know you don’t.” For a few heartbeats, they looked at each other until Russ tugged at the tie. Stephen didn’t lean in, but it didn’t take a genius to decipher his intention. He looked up at Stephen and spoke quietly. “It feels strange to be wearing your clothes and sleeping in your bed when we haven’t so much as kissed.”

Stephen’s voice was husky. “Was that a hint?”

“No.” Russ wet his lips. “But this is a demand: I want you to kiss me.”

“I can do that.”

Partners #2
After the dishes were done and the kitchen was clean, the three of them sat on the front porch, Russ beside him on the creaking swing as Miss Esther knitted and told Russ stories about Stephen growing up. "Before you leave I’ll show you the photos I have,” she promised Russ and he enthusiastically agreed. Stephen’s gaze flew to the elderly woman.

“You have them?”

“Sure do,” she said easily, the clack of the needles never pausing. “Your daddy tried to throw them out when your momma passed but I wouldn’t let him. I’ve been hangin’ onto ‘em for you.”

“Oh,” Stephen replied, feeling strangely shaky. He’d thought every memory of his childhood had been tossed out.

“They’re in a box in the blue bedroom,” she said. “You can get them down from the shelf in the closet for me tomorrow.”

“I’d love to see them,” Russ said, his tone eager as he leaned forward. Stephen was less sure of how he felt. On one hand, he was relieved to know it hadn’t all been destroyed. On the other, he wasn’t sure how much of his past he could face this weekend. Then Russ’ knee nudged his, their thighs pressing together. As the katydids droned in the background, Stephen felt himself relax, remembering he didn’t have to face it alone.

Family #3
Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.”

“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach.

Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?”

Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he?

Husbands #4
Russ had been fourteen when Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. State after state joined the ranks, and in the last few years it seemed to be gaining momentum. It was only a matter of time before marriage equality swept the nation. He’d grown up with the idea that someday he’d have the right to marry the man he loved. If he wanted it—and right now, he wanted it more than anything else in the world—there would be nothing to stop him.

Except, his partner—the one he’d been so sure wanted the same thing—apparently didn’t.

“How’d you know I was up here?” he asked hoarsely.

Stephen’s gaze lifted, his smile sad. “Because I know you.”

Russ’ tongue felt thick all of a sudden, unwieldy in his mouth. “I thought I knew you.”

The look of hurt in Stephen’s gaze was shattering, but no more so than the earlier rejection. “Can we talk?”

“I’m not sure what there is to say.” Russ walked out of the pool, limbs heavy after the grueling swim and time spent floating in the water. It was almost like the feeling of being back on land after spending a day on a boat. Except that made him think of sailing with Stephen, which was too painful to consider right now. “I asked you to marry me, and it’s not something you want. There really isn’t a compromise.”

Author Bio:
Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell.  After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked.  Now she's eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.  In the little time that isn't spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year old home.  Brigham lives in Michigan with her four cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.


Husbands #4
***10% of the proceeds from Husbands will
go toward Atlanta's Lost-n-Found Youth center***

Equals #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES

Partners #2
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES

Family #3
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES

Lost-n-Found Youth is an Atlanta-based nonprofit corporation whose mission is to take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths to age 26 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing.

We operate a 24/7 hotline at 678-856-7825, a Youth Center, a 6-bed 90 day housing facility, and 3-6 month host home program.

Lost-n-Found Youth is Atlanta’s only nonprofit agency actively working to take homeless LGBTQ youth off the street.

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