Sequel to Tell Me It’s Real
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Sanford Stewart sure doesn't. In fact, he pretty much believes in the exact opposite, thanks to the Homo Jock King. It seems Darren Mayne lives for nothing more than to create chaos in Sandy’s perfectly ordered life, just for the hell of it. Sandy despises him, and nothing will ever change his mind.
Or so he tells himself.
It's not until the owner of Jack It—the club where Sandy performs as drag queen Helena Handbasket—comes to him with a desperate proposition that Sandy realizes he might have to put his feelings about Darren aside. Because Jack It will close unless someone can convince Andrew Taylor, the mayor of Tucson, to keep it open.
Someone like Darren, the mayor’s illegitimate son.
The foolproof plan is this: seduce Darren and push him to convince his father to renew Jack It’s contract with the city.
Lulu Deerdancer and Buster Cleveland
I WAS seventeen when I realized I was destined to be a queen.
Because that’s when I met a legend.
I’d heard of the club down on 4th Avenue in Tucson. A gay club where apparently men could dance and drink and be happy without fear of any kind of judgment. Such a place sounded like a haven to me, especially coming off the year that I’d had, what with my parents dying, the parents of my best friend taking me in, and coming out with a vengeance.
Naturally, I convinced said best friend, Paul Auster, to come with me. It wasn’t that hard.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” he grumbled at me as we walked down the sidewalk late one Saturday night. It was early October and the night was still warm.
I smirked at him. “Oh, ye of little faith. Trust me, we’ll be just fine.”
“Yeah, but it’s a bar. And we’re not twenty-one.”
“Hence the disguises,” I reminded him.
I had done my research before deciding to attempt to get into Jack It about the specific subsections of the gay community. Paul, being the huskier of the two of us, would be more suited as a leather cub. He wore chaps we’d found at a Goodwill and a leather vest. I’d learned that cubs (who often grew up to be bears) were of a hairy sort. But Paul was as hairless as they came, much to his chagrin (“I’m a late bloomer, goddammit!”). So rather than taking the chance of being found out because of his baby-ass skin, we’d covered him up with a shirt that said GRR, DADDY and found a fake mustache from a costume store. Aviator sunglasses completed the outfit, because it was understood that if you were cool enough to be a leather cub, then you could also pull off wearing sunglasses at night.
For myself (even though I tried to eschew most labels), I thought I might fit in more as a twink than anything else. I wore the tightest red jeans I could possibly find and a shirt that said Sassy in bright, glittery letters. If I even remotely attempted to lift my arms in any way, my midriff was bared. I’d put a thin line of eyeliner under my eyes, smearing it gently. Instead of wearing sunglasses to complete my outfit, I was sucking on a Ring Pop and practicing giggling how I thought a twink might.
“It’ll be fine,” I said again.
Paul sighed. “Sandy, I look like I’m part of a Village People tribute band playing in a Four Seasons ballroom near the Milwaukee Airport. You look like you’re working undercover to catch pedophiles in the act. Nothing about this is fine.”
“It won’t be if you doubt it,” I said. “You have to believe your role, otherwise you’ll never be able to sell it. Paul, this is the performance of your career. This is what you’ve been building up toward your whole life.”
“Being a leather daddy,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been working toward.”
“Leather cub,” I corrected. “You’re not old enough to be a daddy yet.”
“Being gay is so hard,” he muttered. “Not only do you have to admit that, but then you have to find out what kind of gay you are. It’s all very confusing. It was so much easier when we played with Legos instead of dressing like leather cubs and pedo-bait.”
“Lucky for you, you have me,” I said. “And I know what kind of gay you are.”
“A leather cub.” He sounded dubious.
“My mustache itches.”
“Don’t play with it, Paul. Jesus. You’re going to knock it loose.”
“I don’t see why I have to wear a mustache,” he said. “I’m not a cartoon villain who’s going to tie you to train tracks as part of my evil plot.”
“Well, maybe if you had grown your own facial hair like I’d asked, you wouldn’t be in this position, now would you?”
“I tried! You know it’s hard for me to grow a beard. And then to have to do it because you told me to? I have performance anxiety!”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said as we turned a corner, the front of the club coming into view. “What’s done is done. We’re here, we’re queer, get used—oh my god, stop touching the mustache!”
He rolled his eyes at me.
I pulled him to a stop. “Remember your part,” I told him. “You’re a strong, confident leather cub. You own this role.”
He nodded. “I’m a leather cub. I’m a leather cub.”
“You have your fake ID I got you.”
“Right. Which says my name is Buster Cleveland.”
“Exactly,” I said. “It’s your porn name, I told you. Your first pet and the first street you lived on. They were cheap, okay? The guy said it had to be this way.”
“And you believed him?”
I scoffed. “Uh, yeah. He was selling fake IDs. Obviously he’s reputable and knows what he’s doing.”
“Oh look, it’s getting late. We should go.”
“Sandy,” he said, an evil grin forming on his face.
“No. Don’t you dare.”
“What’s your fake ID porn name?”
“Shut up, Paul.”
“Because if I remember right, your first pet was a gerbil named Lulu.”
“And the first street you lived on was Deerdancer.”
“Oh my god.”
“Sandy? Does your fake ID say your name is Lulu Deerdancer?” He was trying desperately not to laugh, the bastard.
“No,” I said savagely. “It says my name is Rocco Cordova because that is awesome and amazing.” I was lying. My fake ID said Lulu Deerdancer. The guy I’d bought them from had laughed his ass off. I hated him with a passion that burned like a thousand suns.
“Okay, Rocco.” He patted my shoulder. Like a jackass. “I believe you.”
“Whatever,” I said. “Now. Just be a leather cub and I’ll be a twink, and we’ll get into the gay bar and do gay-bar things and everything will be amazing.”
“What the hell are gay-bar things?” he asked.
“You know. Drinking and blow jobs. Or whatever.”
“You have no idea, do you.”
“Not in the slightest. Now let’s go.”
I tried to project that I was a most confident and completely legal twink as we approached the entrance to Jack It. I accomplished this by sucking on my Ring Pop and giggling. I thought it a master plan with absolutely no chance of failure.
There was a bouncer at the front of the club, a large older man wearing a leather jacket and glaring at everyone that walked by. He had to have been in his sixties, the lines and crags in his face pronounced. To say he was intimidating would have been an understatement, but I was a twink on a mission and I was getting in that goddamned club. The music pulsed and I could feel the vibrations underneath my feet. I had to get in there. It was calling me.
The bouncer stiffened slightly as we approached, glancing first at me, his eyes widening as he looked at Paul trailing behind me. For the briefest of moments, I thought I saw his lips curl into the world’s smallest smile, but it could have been just a trick of the light.
“Hi.” I giggled. I licked the Ring Pop as slowly as I possibly could and hoped that the elderly bouncer would get slightly turned on and let us in.
“Why hello there, chicken,” he said, which made absolutely no sense. Who used fowl for pet names? “What brings you out so late?”
“We wanted to go dancing,” I said. “You know, like we do every Saturday night.”
He crossed his considerable arms over his considerable chest. “That right.”
“Yeah.” I sucked on the Ring Pop and looked up at him through my eyelashes like a good twink. Or at least that’s what the Internet taught me. Also, apparently twinks were good at getting rimmed, but I wasn’t prepared to go that far to get into Jack It. I had some self-respect, after all.
“Every Saturday night?”
“Sure,” I said, going for subtle as I elbowed Paul.
“Ow, Sandy, what the fuck?” he whined.
“Leather cub,” I hissed at him.
He flushed. “Oh. Right.” He coughed and squared his shoulders. When he spoke, he’d dropped his voice an octave or two. He sounded like he was grunting. It was completely ridiculous. “Yeah. Every Saturday. It’s where I hang out with my fellow leather bears.”
“Cubs,” I giggled dangerously. “You mean cubs.”
“Right. Yeah. Cubs. Rawr.”
“Really?” the bouncer asked. “How fortuitous. I’m a big part of the leather community. I think we’d have met before if you are too. Can’t really see your face, though. Because of the sunglasses you’re wearing. At night.”
“Nope,” Paul said, twitching only minimally. “I tend to stay in the shadows. You know. Thinking about leather cub things.”
“Wow,” the bouncer said, not sounding impressed at all. “Like what leather cub things exactly?”
“You know.” Paul started to sweat, and I almost bit through the Ring Pop completely. “Like. How… like anytime I see cows I think how awesome their skin will be when it’s made into leather and I get to wear it.”
“Oh my god,” I muttered.
“You sit in the shadows and think about cows,” the bouncer said.
“Yeah. Oh man. I could really go for a hamburger right now.”
“Rawr.” Paul bared his teeth. “Or however cubs do it.”
I needed to take control of the situation before we were found out. “Anyway.” I gestured wildly with my arms so my bare stomach was revealed. The bouncer didn’t even look down. “We’re always here. You probably just don’t remember us.”
“Oh, trust me,” he said. “I highly doubt I would have forgotten either of you.”
Paul rawred again.
The bouncer sighed. “All right. We’ll keep going, if that’s what you want. How old are you boys?”
Ha! We’d practiced this. We knew the dates on our IDs.
“Twenty-six,” Paul said.
“Twenty-nine,” I said.
“It’s like you’re not even trying,” the bouncer said.
Paul looked cub-ish.
I licked my Ring Pop.
“I suppose I should ask to see your IDs, then,” the bouncer said.
“Which says I’m the age I just told you,” Paul said unnecessarily. “Obviously.”
“I’m sure it does,” the bouncer said. “Because if it didn’t or, say, it was a fake, that’d be illegal.”
“Oh sweat balls,” Paul muttered as he pulled out his wallet.
“I like handcuffs,” I said, trying to encapsulate the role of the airy twink I was born to play. I pouted a little bit, my bottom lip sticky from the Ring Pop. “One time, this police officer tried to arrest me, but then he said I was precious and we used his handcuffs for entirely different reasons.”
“What?” Paul snapped. “Why the hell didn’t you say anything? Who the hell was it? And why were you getting arrested? You slut!”
I glared at him before looking back at the bouncer. “Sorry,” I simpered. “Sometimes my friend forgets himself.”
“I’m sure he does,” the bouncer said. “IDs.”
I grabbed Paul’s and handed them both to the bouncer. He looked at each of us, as if trying to memorize our faces before focusing on the IDs. He snorted. “Buster Cleveland, huh?”
“Yes,” Paul said immediately. “It’s German. Because of the Nazis. Er. My grandparents fled the Nazis. And now I’m Buster Cleveland, leather cub. Because freedom isn’t free. Or whatever.”
Goddammit. Paul had one job.
“Right,” the bouncer said. “Freedom isn’t free.” And then he switched to mine and I knew I had to sell this, I knew I could do this.
Well, I thought I could until the bouncer outright laughed.
“Lulu Deerdancer?” His chuckle was deep and raspy.
“I knew it, oh my god,” Paul said. Then, “Um. I mean. Of course I knew that. Because you’re my friend. My friend Lulu Deerdancer. Heh. I can’t believe that’s your name. That’s so awesome. And stupid.”
“Exactly.” I ground my teeth together. “I am Lulu Deerdancer and I am twenty-nine years old and I am perfectly legal to enter this here homosexual establishment and partake in beverages and repetitive techno music.”
“Because you both have been here before.”
“Yes,” I said.
“Hmm,” the bouncer said.
Then Paul sneezed and his mustache flew off his face and landed on the cheek of the bouncer.
The silence that followed was slightly awkward.
“Huh,” Paul said. “I guess that’s easier than shaving. It’ll certainly revolutionize the facial hair industry.”
I choked on my tongue as the bouncer slowly peeled the wet mustache off his cheek, looking less than amused. And he might have been much, much older, but there was no doubt he could squash us both with his freakishly large hands.
He held out the mustache to Paul.
Paul took it back. He grimaced as he put it back under his nose.
“So,” the bouncer said. “This must be really awkward for you.”
“You have no idea,” I said.
“Well, maybe we should—”
“Charlie! Yoo-hoo. Charlie. Be a dear and help me, won’t you? I swear, my lady balls are about to pop out all over the sidewalk. We certainly can’t have that happening, now can we?”
And then she entered the world.
There are definitive moments in everyone’s life, moments that will help shape and define who you are and who you will become. Meeting Paul was a moment. Realizing I was gay was a moment. My parents’ death was a moment.
And this six-foot-four drag queen stumbling our way carrying an armful of shiny costumes, the sequins flashing in the street lights, multiple wigs tucked under her chin, barefoot with red vinyl thigh-high boots slung over her shoulder… well.
She was a moment.
“Who is that?” I whispered.
No one heard me, but I didn’t expect them to. I didn’t know if I’d have heard an answer anyway, given that all of my attention was on this glorious creature who moved like casual chaos. The bouncer (Charlie, she’d called him) moved toward her and caught her right before she dropped everything onto the sidewalk. She grinned at him, all lipstick and sharp teeth. “Well, aren’t you just a knight in shining armor,” she purred. “Saving little old me from certain doom. Why, if I didn’t know any better, kitten, I would think you were trying to court me.”
Charlie huffed out a laugh. “Darling, if I was courting you, you’d know it. Most likely because you’d have ended up over my knee with that pert little ass stinging from my hand.”
“Ooh,” she moaned. “The thought alone is enough to make my thighs quiver.”
“An image I will now never be without,” Charlie said. He began to relieve her of her burdens, draping the shiny material carefully in his arms.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she said. “How fortunate for you. You’re one of a very select few who…. Okay, we both know that’s a lie. I’ve spent so much time with my legs in the air, I’m thinking about getting a sign that says open twenty-four hours a day.”
“Holy shit,” Paul choked.
She locked onto Paul and me with her razor-sharp gaze over Charlie’s shoulder. “Well, well, well,” she said, arms free now that Charlie held everything. “What have we here?” She pushed her way around Charlie, slinking her way toward us, hips rolling, one foot snapping out in front of the other as she prowled. “I didn’t know we were having a middle-school field trip with us today. But I suppose it’s better to recruit early than not at all, hmm? I mean, that’s what the zealots are all concerned with. May as well prove them right.”
She came to stand in front of me, eyes coolly assessing. I forgot to be nervous because I was completely distracted by the amount of bangles she had clinking along her arms and the gaudily large hoop earrings in her ears. Her makeup was expertly applied, carefully straddling the line between just enough and far too much. Even though she wasn’t much taller than I was, she seemed larger than life, and I adored her.
“I want to be you when I grow up,” I breathed.
And she laughed. “Well now, aren’t you adorable, chicken.”
I scowled at her. “I’m not a chicken.”
“Oh, pocket gay,” she said, running a perfectly manicured fingernail across my cheek, “you are the perfect definition of such. Now. Why are you here and not at home doing Pokémon or whatever the devil it is children do these days? Tic-tac-toe? I don’t know even know anymore.”
“I was doing that yesterday,” Paul said. “The Pokémon thing. I’m going to catch them all.”
“Good for you,” she said. “This place isn’t for you. Either of you.”
“I’m old enough.” I scowled at her.
Charlie snorted. “Ms. Muffman, may I introduce to you Lulu Deerdancer and Buster Cleveland. According to their IDs, both are in their twenties. Lulu here likes to fellate a sucker on his finger while laughing like a hyena. Buster is a self-proclaimed leather cub who sneezed his mustache on my face.”
Ms. Muffman threw her head back and laughed, a low throaty thing that made me want to know all her secrets immediately. “Oh, this is delightful. I am delighted by the two of you. But this is no place for little boys. Shoo, little boys. Come back when you have hair on your balls.”
“Uh,” Paul said. “I have several, so….”
I thought myself in the presence of something reverent. “We just wanted to come here and see what this was all about. We weren’t going to do anything. Honest.”
“You said drinking and blow jobs,” Paul hissed.
“Drinking and blow jobs,” Ms. Muffman said, rolling her eyes to Charlie. “Were we ever that young?”
“Speak for yourself,” he said. “You’re not that much older than they are.”
“Liar,” she said fondly. “But I’ll allow it because I love you so. Kiss, kiss. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a show to prepare for.” She started to turn away.
“A show?” I asked. “What show?” Because I couldn’t let her go without finding out as much as I could.
“Why, the greatest show on earth, of course,” she said. “It’s a performance for the ages.”
“I see your Spice Girls outfit in here,” Charlie said mildly.
“I see what you did there.” She glared lightly at the bouncer. “You’re lucky I think the world of you, otherwise I would have made slippers out of your testicles long ago.”
“But,” Paul said, “you have big feet.”
I gaped at him.
Charlie shrugged. “I have big balls.”
“How nice,” Paul said faintly.
“And since when do you tell a lady she has big feet?” Ms. Muffman scowled.
“Um, never?” Paul guessed.
“Good answer,” she said. “You may live.”
“Oh thank god,” Paul said. “My parents would have killed me if you’d have murdered me.”
“As lovely as this has been,” she said. “And trust me, it has been lovely. Probably more so for you than me. But still. A queen never leaves her subjects wanting. Well. Maybe just a little.” She winked and started to walk away.
But I couldn’t just let her leave. Not without finding out the most important thing in the world. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“Oh, here we go,” Charlie muttered.
She turned and smiled at me. Up close, it felt like watching Shark Week in 3-D with all those teeth. “My dear little chicken,” she said. “I am the tallest bitch in captivity. I am revered. I am feared. I make all the straight boys queer. I am the exalted one who plucks little chickens such as yourself.” She leaned forward and her lips scraped against my ear. Her breath was hot against my skin as she whispered, “I am the drag queen Vaguyna Muffman.”
She pressed a sticky kiss against my cheek, a perfect imprint of her lips I would find hours later, a furious shade of magenta that would be a bitch to wash off.
And then she spun away, the door to the club opening as if on cue, music spilling out and lights flashing. She disappeared inside, leaving behind a trail of glitter and feathers trailing from the boa around her neck.
“Scram, chickens,” Charlie said, following Vaguyna Muffman. “Don’t make me bend you over my knee. You won’t like it when I do.”
The door closed behind him.
“Holy shit,” I managed to say.
“I told you this wouldn’t work,” Paul muttered.
But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t made it into the club right then. It didn’t matter that there was no drinking or blow jobs. It didn’t matter that Paul had sneezed off his mustache or that I had basically gotten to third base with a Ring Pop.
No, none of that mattered.
None of that mattered because for the first time since the day the guidance counselor pulled me from AP English to hear from Matty and Larry Auster that my parents were dead, I felt something like fire bloom within me. It was strength and passion and the urge to become something more than what I already was.
It was another moment.
She’d given it to me, whether she knew it or not.
And I was going to run with it as fast as I could.
It felt good, having the decision made.
“I’m going to be a fucking drag queen,” I said in awe.
“Oh sweat balls,” Paul sighed.
You’ve heard my origin story.
Like any superqueero, I had a beginning.
Maybe part of it was tragic, though the trauma was not the focus.
But it helped to shape who I’ve become.
I am not defined by tragedy.
Instead, I made it my bitch.
Because there is one thing you should remember above all else.
I am a Queen, motherfuckers.
And I demand respect.
It’s time to rock out with our cocks out.
Besides the fact that I feel like I've been waiting for Sandy's story for eons, right now, today, I needed something I knew would make me laugh, and TJ Klune can always do that. It was a breath of fresh air (or maybe the cat farted) to be back in the world of Sandy, Paul, Vince, Charlie, Corey/Kori, and Darren.
"Helena Handbasket was my safe space, my persona I could slip into when I needed to feel in charge, when I needed to be confident. Helena was many things that Sandy was not: Daring and brave. Primal and sexual. Funny and caustic....Sandy Stewart was a tall, thin man with blond hair, brown eyes, high cheekbones, and lines beginning to form around his eyes no matter how much tightening cream he used."
I could spend a whole lot of time talking about how hysterically funny this sequel to 'Tell Me It's Real' is, but if you read the first book, then you know this author can have you shooting water out of your nose from laughing way too hard. (Speaking of which, TJ, I'm sending you the bill when the doctor declares my sinuses dead.) But there's more to this than just the laughter, a whole lot more.
I loved Sandy from the very first moment, but I knew there was more than a quick wit hiding in him. He's shy, especially with people he doesn't know. He's loyal beyond belief, and if he loves you and someone hurts you, that person better get out of town because there's nothing Sandy won't do for his loved ones. He's got a big heart that he tries to hide. He can get his feelings hurt just as much as the next person, and regardless of what he says, what he really wants is for someone to love him - both parts of him.
It's always come through loud and clear, that Sandy despises Darren, finds him repulsive, wishes he'd fall off a cliff…you get the picture. However, the immortal words "someone doth protest too much" rang clearly in my head. Darren is perfect for Sandy. Sandy just doesn't want to forgive and forget something that happened years before and really hurt him. He can't. It's his insecurities. The longer Sandy and Darren fake date to try to convince his dad, the Republican mayor of Tucson, to renew the contract for the bar, the harder it becomes for Sandy to not have feelings for Darren. Believe me, their idea of flirting is hilarious, and kind of scary, too.
It was truly a miracle that Sandy and Darren didn't kill each other. Watching some of the things that Sandy came up with (drag bachelor auction), and Darren, remarkably, dealt with should have told Sandy they were meant to be. But Sandy struggled with his insecurities and his belief that no one could ever love him. No one. On one hand it was sad, but on the other it was bittersweet. Of course, when it was all said and done, it was perfect!
"He smirked, that old familiar cocky thing that I both despised and adored. “I’ve been watching you for years,” he said, unbearably smug. “I would know you anywhere.”
I knew Sandy and Darren's story was going to be amazing, but I still couldn't believe it when I finished reading. TJ, you are incredible. You're funny, you're hyper, you're kind, you're loving, and you are an incredible writer. Thank you, for sharing your genius.
NOTE: This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
TJ Klune is by far the best at comedy. I'm just going to say that and get that out of the way. I've never laughed as hard as I do than when I read his books.
That said, The Queen and the Homo Jock King has GOT to be one of his best works! This is book 2 in his At First Sight Series. Book one Tell Me It's Real was just as side splitting. But, this one (and I didn't think it was possible) had me laughing even harder. Sandy/Helena is my spirit animal. Oh my word! I never. I don't have words for the awesomeness that is Sandy/ Helena. And Paul (his BFF) he is just as fabulous in this one. But the family?! I want just one holiday with them. ONE! And a group chat session!
Darren... poor Darren. So, my heart was sad for him at times. And he wants Sandy and I get why. And what Sandy puts him through? LMFAO! I can't breathe just thinking about it.
I love that this was a long book but it didn't feel like a long book. I could have read these characters for days. I wish I could join this world TJ Klune has so brilliantly created. This is one of the best books I've read this year by far!
AMAZINGLY done, TJ!
The Queen and Homo Jock King is as wonderful, funny, sarcastic, warped and emotionally honest as Klunes's first book "Tell Me it is Real". The art on the Q&HJK cover is perfect, which is a great relief since the art for Tell Me is horrid... the two characters both look like they are in high school not turning 30 and neither one looks as described in the book. In some books the artist has a lot leeway due to the lack of specific descriptions, but in Tell Me there are no good reasons for the art to veer so far from the truth. When this comes out again, please get a better cover for this wonderful book AND when they reprint the Q&HJk could they add Darren to the make the threesome (Darren, Sandy and Helena) all stars.
When you read The Queen &The Homo Jock King ... you are in for the ride of your life.
Sandy aka Helena is the best Diva out there ... both sides of Sandy's life are wonderfully tied together. The way all of the sides flow are excellent and by God ... Funny ... extremely funny.
Darren is the typical Jock ... but deep inside his feelings are beautiful and he can be humble if the need suffices.
The chemistry between Sandy and Darren is great ... their love and hate relationship is incredible ...
And when their true feelings come out .. it is hot ...
Bravo TJ Klune! Can't wait for more ... can't wait to see the gang again ...
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