Title: Short Order
Series: Foothills Pride #8
Author: Pat Henshaw
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication date: December 13, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Cover Design: AngstyG
Length: 28,400 words/89 pages
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When recent horticulture graduate Dr. Fenton Miller arrives in Stone Acres, California, he thinks his only concern is which job offer to accept after spending the holidays working at his cousin’s plant nursery. But after he rents a room from another shorter-than-average man, sous-chef John Barton, Fen falls in lust.
While he’s attracted to Fen, John’s got bigger concerns when two men from his past arrive in town and pressure him to return to San Francisco. Although John tries to stop Fen from getting involved, Fen realizes his lover is in trouble and is determined to protect him.
As the holidays get closer and Fen makes his own enemy, the joy of the season gets lost in the ill will around them. To ensure love triumphs, Fen and John must stand tall to show that short, dark, and handsome is a recipe for love.
- Where do your ideas for books come from?
I’m always reading, eavesdropping, looking around, soaking up impressions of people, places, and things around me. I like to sit in coffee shops and restaurants and imagine what the other people there are like and what they’re talking about. I can make up a story at the drop of a hat. One of the most fun times I had doing that was when my grandchildren and I were taking a train ride that was exciting to them at first, but grew boring with time. So I took a box of candy from my grandson and began explaining the personalities of the various pieces of candy. I had a great time, and since he and his sister seemed to be listening and adding to the stories, I think they had a good time too.
- Where did the idea for this book come from?
Two very different news stories prompted the plot for Short Order. The first came years ago when I read a very short article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian about a prostitution ring that had recently been shut down. That’s the seed from which John’s story emerged. Fen’s ideas about improving the lives of the poor by putting plants in public schools and giving students responsibilities and information for keeping those plants alive came from a press release I read online. I think I also saw a TED talk about plants for improving poor environments, but I wouldn’t swear to that. How those two stories came together and produced a book is a mystery to me, but it happened.
- What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
I write gay romance, not gay mysteries or gay exposé. My books dwell on happily ever, not in rehashing the horrible things that people do to other people, and certainly not about what adults do to children. But John’s past as an unwilling prostitute in San Francisco when he’s rejected by his family is a big part of the story. It was also the most painful part for me to write about. But since it’s an integral part of what shaped John, I had to gut up and write it.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Depends on what I’m writing. It takes me three or four months to write a novella-length piece, a couple of months for a short story, and a year to write a novel. I take a lot of time to read and reread what I’ve written, and it takes a while for my husband to read and comment on the current project. Then I’m back to the drawing board making changes and tweaking, always tweaking what I’ve written. I used to be much faster at writing, but not anymore.
- Tell us a little about the Foothills Pride series.
The Foothills Pride series was a complete fluke. I wrote What’s in a Name? initially as a stand-alone novella. But then got an idea for Redesigning Max. Someone at Dreamspinner asked me what the name of the series was at that point, and since I thought the books were stand-alones set in the same fictional community, I was stymied. I came up with the name Foothills Pride since there was a defunct group with that name in the real area where I’d placed my fictional town. Suddenly I could think of other stories that happened in the town, and the series was born. Each of the stories stands alone and is about a couple getting together in town. The books break down like this:
What’s in a Name? On his birthday, barista Jimmy Patterson is rescued by bartender Guy Stone after Jimmy’s boyfriend dumps him.
Redesigning Max Famed designer Fredi Zimmer agrees to redesign sporting goods retailer Max Greene’s wilderness cabin and in the process lures Max himself.
Behr Facts Contractor Abe Behr knows a relative is ripping him off and hires accountant Jeff Mason who balances his books, finds the culprit, and steals Abe’s heart.
When Adam Fell Celebrity chef Adam de Leon retreats from the Bay Area to get away from his druggie lover. But David Fairbanks appears saying he’s kicked the habit and wants Adam back.
Relative Best Hotel owner Zeke Bandy is smitten with Native American Vic Longbow when Vic comes to town looking for his roots.
Frank at Heart Hardware store owner Frank McCord falls for software designer Christopher Darling who moves to town with his teenage son after a divorce.
Waking the Behr Contractor Ben Behr finds he isn’t as straight as he’s always thought he was when San Francisco entrepreneur Mitch O’Shea sweeps him off his feet.
Short Order Fen Miller comes to Stone Acres to help his cousin Beth during the holidays and falls for his landlord, sous chef John Barton.
That night I stood freezing at Barton’s door, admiring Blue Cottage. The snow drifts piled on the lawn made the house look greeting-card perfect. I searched for a doorbell. Instead, a lion-headed knocker snarled at me. I grinned. Every house needed an intimidating guardian, right?
A man who looked about my age and height opened the door and slipped out, shutting it behind him. I was curious to see inside, but I got that the guy wanted his privacy. No problem.
“Hi. I’m Fen.”
He looked me over, then turned to the left along the shoveled porch. As he walked, he played with the keyring, bouncing a key in his hand. Did I make him nervous? If so, was that a good thing?
Okay. I took a breath and followed his pert ass and brisk steps as we rounded the porch to a steep staircase. From my brief glance at his face, he seemed okay. I was still slightly put off by his brusque manner. But hey, I reminded myself, I was renting from him, not fucking him.
In silence I followed him up to a small porch and a solid-looking back door, which he opened after only a little fumbling.
I was greeted by the stuffy, closed-up odor of a place long left undisturbed.
“You’d be my first renter. It’s furnished, but I can store anything you don’t want.” He made quick eye contact with me. The words erupted from him like I made him uncomfortable or something. Maybe it was my piercing and the tattoo, or maybe the hair color. I tried a smile, but he blushed and turned away, gesturing to the rooms.
Even though the air inside was chilly, I looked around and fell even more in love than I had when I’d first seen the house. The 1940s era furniture and knickknacks turned what could have been sterile rooms into my kind of home. I exhaled, letting the ambience settle in my soul as I wandered through a country kitchen, tiny dining room, sitting room, two bedrooms, and a classic bathroom, ending eventually at a circular tower room. I fell even deeper in love along the way as I touched the scratched kitchen table, a velveteen-covered parlor settee, a solid-looking four-poster bed, and the needlepoint-cushioned window seat in the tower.
If I were Barton, I’d charge thousands a month for this place. I prayed he wasn’t me and was relieved when my prayers were answered.
“You want to keep the furniture?” He still didn’t look at me as he bent over the kitchen table to fill out the rental agreement. Who needed him staring? I could live with letting his voice pour over me and seeing his kissable lips.
“I can’t imagine living here without all of it.” Or maybe even you, I thought, eyeing his pert butt wiggling at me as he wrote.
He stopped, stood, and eyed me for a few seconds before bending and going back to writing. I hadn’t said that about his butt out loud, had I?
As I was daydreaming about his ass and the scarred table, he stopped writing, looked over the form, and finally twisted it toward me. “Sign here, initial here, and date it. Then I need your rent for the month.”
I was signing before he changed his mind. The rent was ridiculously cheap. “No deposit?” There had to be a catch, right?
I glanced up. He was gazing down at the table, or maybe at my hands. Or my groin? I signed as fast as I could and wrote a check to John Barton, the name on the rental agreement. So he had a first name, and we had a deal.
I drove back to my cousin’s house whistling. Within an hour, and with Beth and Kate’s help, I was moved in. Having only clothes and electronics made the move a one-trip job. Then I went food shopping for breakfast stuff and frozen dinners. We all celebrated by eating a late dinner outside town at a diner called the Rock Bottom Cafe. Renting a place with a wonderful kitchen hadn’t automatically taught me to cook.
Even with an enigma for a landlord, my life was perfect.
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