by Hayden Stone
It started with throwing imaginary chickens out of the house. The reason? Bad chicken behaviour, I told my mom, as a veteran two-year-old, wise in the way of imaginary chickens. Soon after that, I wouldn’t stop telling stories about horses. At my core, I remain a storyteller.
To be honest, I have to admit I’m still getting used to the idea of thinking of myself as an author, although I’m more comfortable with the idea of being a storyteller, which is something people have done through the ages. I’m thrilled to be here today with my debut novel AN UNEXPECTED KIND OF LOVE. And I’m so happy to share this story with you, a light-hearted queer rom-com, set in Soho, London.
London is one of the cities I’ve called home. It’s definitely a city to capture the imagination, delight, and even frustrate. I’ve had fabulous moments and heart-wrenching ones there too. I remember trying to visit my sister, who also lived in London at the time. We had endless shenanigans with tubes and trains. Always, though, it’s a city of history and stories. London amazes me with its diversity and hidden secrets. I should probably admit here I’m an archaeologist by training, and I get way too excited about old things, and it’s a place full of them. Please forgive my shameless inner nerd.
When I was in London a few years ago for a visit, I was caught in a record-breaking heatwave. Actually, I was lucky enough to travel to a couple of other destinations on that trip, but everywhere I went, I kept running into the same heatwave that sweltered across Europe. But in London, the heat broke records that had stood for forty years. And like where I live now on Canada’s west coast, it’s not designed for heat.
So, given my habit for throwing out imaginary characters and history, London was an irresistible setting. And on that trip, I wandered Soho, as I’ve done on other occasions. There wasn’t any filming or Blake Sinclair or Barnes Books, of course, but it was a vivid setting that inspired me. Soho’s an entertainment district since the 19th century, famous for theatres, brothels, and—guess what—naughty behaviour. Most of the bookshops and brothels have gone, but Old Compton Street is a centre of LGBTQ+ life in modern London. This novel is also partly inspired by the film Notting Hill, but queer. Because I’m a sucker for 90s films, quirky but loyal friends, and a setting that’s a character too.
An ocean away and a couple of years later, in a global pandemic and definitely not in the summer, I escaped into this novel draft. And AN UNEXPECTED KIND OF LOVE was born. It’s sort of novel you can disappear into on a sunny afternoon, and forget about everything else.
Aubrey and Blake’s story is one of chance encounters and seizing the moment, of daring to live the unexpected, and being challenged when meeting their opposite. Sometimes, we all need to break out of our daily routines. And dare to dream.
That’s just what happens with my point of view character, Aubrey Barnes. He’s the latest owner of a struggling family-owned bookshop. Aubrey would be the first to say that just because he loves books—and stories—doesn’t mean he’s at all qualified to sell them. He’s muddling along, like so many of us are these days. And then he meets Blake, and everything changes when he meets someone who believes in him in the swelter of a London heatwave. Will he take that chance on Blake—and on love?
Please comment below, if you’ve visited London or you want to one day, or have a heatwave story to share! I’d love to hear it. I have a $15 Amazon gift card to give away.