Title: Set Me Free
Author: Kitty Stephens
When an affluent college-bound boy falls for a young artist, he must choose between the life that’s been mapped out for him and the chance at true love.
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: C.B. Messer
Pages or Words: 63,000 words
Categories: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
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They found a secluded spot to sit off the main drag and scarfed down pieces of pizza and people-watched. Aaron had been full of nerves earlier, but Lucky put him at ease. He had that way about him.
“I’ve got a few minutes left,” Lucky said when they finished their food.
They got up, sipping at their drinks as they made their way through the crowd back toward Lucky’s booth. It was now or never. He had to ask, had to get the words out, or miss his shot.
“Can I ask you something?” Lucky spoke up before Aaron could. Maybe Lucky would… Aaron held his breath, nodding. “It might sound weird.”
“Sure,” Aaron replied, his heart beating a little faster. He had no idea what was coming now; what could Lucky possibly want from him? A kiss?
“Can you take your picture for me?”
Aaron blinked at him. Lucky tilted his head off to one side and Aaron turned his head the same direction. His gaze landed on a photo booth, realization sinking in. His mouth fell open, unsure what to say. It was a little weird because they barely knew each other, but also flattering.
“I’d really like to draw you again.” Lucky seemed slightly embarrassed. “I mean, I could take pictures on my phone if that’s better for you, but that seemed creepier somehow.”
Aaron couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped at Lucky’s words, even as the idea of Lucky drawing him again and again left him breathless. “Um,” he managed to get out, glancing around at the crowd. A familiar blonde head caught his eye and he nearly choked.
Was Lyn at the carnival? Wasn’t she supposed to be with their mothers?
Aaron pulled Lucky by the hand into the photo booth and slid the curtain shut.
Lucky slid money into the slot as they sat down. His breath caught as Lucky’s hands touched his face gently. “Like this,” Lucky whispered, turning his head to the side. The camera flashed. Lucky’s fingers turned his head to the front, pulling away just in time for the camera to go off again. Once again, Lucky’s fingers turned his head to the side, only now he was facing Lucky, staring deeply into his eyes.
Aaron tried not to hyperventilate as he held Lucky’s gaze. The camera flashed for the last time but neither of them moved.
“Go out with me?” Aaron suddenly blurted out. He had to do something or he might do something even more insane, like kiss Lucky. Aaron so wasn’t ready for that yet. Lucky's eyes widened and he smiled.
“Sure,” Lucky drawled after a moment. “When?”
Set Me Free was a beautiful coming out/coming of age M/M romance with complex characters, a storyline that will both tick you off and having you sighing at the sweetness, and an ending that will leave you with a satisfied smile on your face. For a first novel, Kitty Stephens really did a fantastic job.
Lucky is optimistic, friendly, and ready to experience everything the world around him has to offer. He is comfortable with who he is, and is amazingly talented to boot. Aaron comes from a society family, with the requisite stifling expectations and prejudices that make up every cliche. He is buried deeply in the closet and doesn't believe he'll ever be able to find his way out. Things start to change when the two meet, and both have their eyes opened to a lot more in the world than what they know.
It was simply wonderful watching Lucky and Aaron as their relationship evolved, and pretty painful watching as Aaron's family's expectations rear their ugly heads, especially come the end of their summer together. I think most readers will feel a lot like I did with the frustration over Aaron and his best friend Lyn's complacent attitudes regarding those family expectations, and the anger toward their parents (I know I'm leaving you hanging a bit there, but I really can't say more without spoilers).
This is a story of growing up, finding your own way, and standing up for your own happiness, and the author really does her characters proud with this story. Emotions do run high, but so does the sweetness and love.
Set Me Free was a very solid 4-star read for me, and I definitely recommend it to M/M romance fans-especially those who like their stories with character growth and a lot of emotion. I'd categorize this as a sweet, coming of age story as all intimate scenes are fade to black, happening behind closed doors. It's the STORY here that's important and center stage, and is written so well that it doesn't need the naughty stuff to be enjoyed. This is without a doubt a title that I'll be re-reading in the future, and I'll be keeping an eye out for future books from this author.
Meet the author:
Kitty Stephens’ writing aspirations date back to her childhood, when she and her brother would make up stories about characters in their favorite books. She eventually started writing stories in online fan communities, and majored in English at Ohio State University. She lives in Ohio with her husband and son. Set Me Free is her first novel.
Where to find the author:
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Kitty Stephens, author of Set Me Free.
Hi Kitty, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
My name Kitty Stephens. I currently reside in Ohio, with my husband, my son, and our three guinea pigs. I’ve been an avid reader since I was very young and started writing when I was around nine or ten. Once I had internet access, I became active in fan communities and started posting my work on various fan sites. Set Me Free is my first book.
- Favorite thing about building your own world? The ability to do anything you want! You can have a world where everyone has green skin or where everyone has a soulmate or where vampires sparkle in the sun. The possibilities are endless and only limited to what you can think of.
- What inspired you to write your first book? I wanted to write something to submit for Interlude Press’ Summer Love anthology, so my inspiration was the idea of summer love, the feeling of how short-term it can be and playing with the idea of it growing into something permanent.
- Do you have a specific writing style? I’m sure I do, though I’m not sure what I’d classify it as.
- Who are some of the authors that influenced you to write? Oh my, there’s so many and tons I’m probably not even thinking of. Chris Colfer, JK Rowling, LJ Smith, and RL Stine.
- What are some jobs you’ve held? Have any of them impacted your writing? How? I’ve been a daycare teacher, a cashier at a retail store, a customer service operator in a call center, and a data entry specialist. I feel like I definitely draw from bits of each job, especially writing character interaction.
Rafflecopter Prize: Grand Prize: $25 Interlude Press Gift Card. Five first prizes: E-copy of ‘Set Me Free’ by Kitty Stephens