Afterglow by Elliott Junkyard: 9/10 Stars

 

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Zachary Allen is a rising pop star whose debut album hit the top of the charts. He sets off on his first international tour and he’s living the dream. But he sacrificed coming out of the closet for the sake of his career. Gabe is a slam poet who is neither ashamed of being “the starving artist” nor of blatantly flirting with a celebrity. Their chance encounter on a flight to London makes Zach reconsider the choices he’s made and whether he wants to come clean about who he really is.

 

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Overall Rating: 9/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Maria did not, hence my personal disclaimer here.
Here’s the thing: everything about this story is gearing me up to hate it. Rock star MC? So not my cup of tea that it isn’t even funny. Mile high club? Hard pass. Poet love interest? No thank you.
(Let me be very clear here, these are me things. I don’t dislike these elements because there’s anything actually wrong with them. I don’t think they’re problematic, they’re just not things I enjoy. Same as I don’t like mushrooms. Bleh. If you like ’em, chomp away, just don’t stick them in my food. Same with these tropes. Not my thing. Done.)
So initially I had ignored the book on our review list. But then a friend whose tastes usually align with me said, “Give it a go. Trust me, you’ll like it!” and the very next day I saw the author offering review copies to trans readers. What the hell. What did I have to lose, right?
And damn, you guys! DAMN.
This story is super short, but it left me desperately wanting more. Me! Wanting more! About a goddamn musician hooking up with a groupie! (If you listen closely, you can hear my friends fainting in the aisles.)
And here is why it caught me: because of the trans rep. That was it. Zach felt so genuine, so authentic, so organic, that I was totally sucked in. His trying to balance fame without completely closeting himself, trying to maintain clear allyship while being told keep his queerness quiet, were so well handled that it took me straight past my usual dislike of the rock star trope. And I could recognise at once the feelings that jostled for room – the wanting to just have a fling to hell with secrets and the worries about reactions, but not being able (or dumb enough) to pretend it wasn’t going to be awkward at best and…well, bad at worst.
And Gabe! This is how cis partners should react. (And sometimes do, more often than many authors think!) He is surprised, but he doesn’t freak or make a big deal of it. He doesn’t know what to do, but he knows what he wants to do, and so he just asks! He just asks, that’s it, he wants to make Zach come so how does he do that?
The sex itself is funny, it’s awkward, it’s sexy, and it’s real. And that makes it far hotter than any paint by numbers tab a slot b ‘erotica’ that usually permeates this genre.
In a longer book, I probably would have gotten sick of the rock star element, or the poet love interest, but in this short set up, even I found myself enjoying them. I would absolutely recommend this short, and even go so far as to ask for more!

Maria’s Review: 4/5 Stars

This short story was *lovely*.
It’s no secret I adore what Elliott Junkyard can do with few words, and this one was no exception.
I loved Zach right from the start – his voice, his thoughts, everything. I just immediately liked him. And Gabe was LOVE. Seriously. And they were cute, sweet and also sexy together and I adored how things developed between them. (Granted, I needed a bit of adjustment time once there was sitting and other things happening on laps, I didn’t expect that. But still. *Lovely*.)
There were a couple of errors and tense issues, but they didn’t take away from the story for me. I’d really love to see more of these two and what happens between them in the future!
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