Blog Tour: Just for Nice (States of Love) by H.M. Shepherd

H.M. Shepherd is here today to talk about one of her characters from her debut novella, Just for Nice.

In my other blog tour posts I've spoken a lot about setting and why the subject of Dreamspinner's States of Love collection resonated with me. However, I'd like to use this last scheduled post to talk about something else deeply important to me, and that's bisexuality.

Even I have occasionally managed to fall into the trap of referring to Just For Nice as a gay romance when in fact only one of the protagonists is gay. The other, Nick, is bisexual, and the story begins fairly shortly after the end of his long-term relationship with a woman. He never wavers in this identifier, and even references the fact that the guy he likes is probably disgusted by this fact after outing himself. Sam, for his part, is a twenty-five year old virgin who is so grateful to meet someone who openly finds him attractive that it doesn't even occur to him that it could be.

I've thought about what this would mean outside of the confines of the story -- would it be something that would come up later, or could he eventually hold the fact that Nick has had many, many more sexual partners against him? -- and I honestly don't think it's in him to react that way. The way he burst from my head fully formed à la Athena, Sam is so practical and present-focused that anything that occurred before his entrance into Nick's life and anything that should happen should their relationship ends is inconsequential to him; all that matters is that they love each other right now.

This isn't the case for most. When it comes to dating, I usually hide the fact that I'm bisexual around men because I'm tired of being fetishized, and while I'm more open with women I'm always terrified that I'm being perceived as a straight woman looking to play around. Men, I imagine, have a much harder time. I want to avoid playing the Suffering Olympics (guess what I'm watching right now), but anecdotally speaking I've repeatedly heard straight woman talk about how they're absolutely repulsed by bisexual men. Not that I'm grateful that a straight guy's brain automatically jumps to "Threesome?" when he meets a bisexual woman, but at least I don't often have to see his lip curl into a sneer while he talks about how gross I am.

This is definitely a topic I'd like to tackle in another story, maybe in something longer and a little more serious. For now, though, please enjoy a (relatively) angst-free same-sex romance.


“I didn’t realize you were so young. I kind of feel bad for staring at your ass so often.”

Sam choked on his beer. “You what?”

“Sorry.” Nick took the wine bottle, which was already half-empty, and poured himself another too-full glass. “Don’t pay any attention to me. What is this, anyway?” he asked, squinting at the label on the bottle. “It’s good.”


Sam heard Nick mutter something about “more German shit.” He swallowed deeply and forced himself to return to the topic at hand. “I thought… you were just talking about your fiancée. I thought—”

“I’m both. Or I like both. I’m bi. Whatever you want to call it. Sorry if it grosses you out.”

“It doesn’t! I mean, I’m….”

“Gay? I figured.” When Sam’s jaw fell open, Nick began to laugh. “No, you’re not, like, you know, sequined-thong-at-a-Pride-parade gay. But in my experience, straight guys don’t tend to panic when people see them touching other men.”

“I don’t—!” But he had, he realized, up to and including multiple times earlier that day.

“So if I do this—” Nick delicately ran his fingers along Sam’s jaw and drew their faces so close that Sam could feel his breath ghosting across his cheek. “—you aren’t going to be watching the road to see if anyone’s driving by?”

Sam wanted to say no but wasn’t entirely sure if he meant, no, he wasn’t keeping at least one nervous eye out for witnesses (he was), or no, he didn’t want to do this (he did). But there was no use in lying. Without another word he ran one of his hands through Nick’s thick, black curls and closed the remaining distance between them.

It was soft at first, just a brush of their lips, and then Nick pulled away, leaving Sam both relieved and profoundly disappointed. But Nick only took another drink of wine directly from the bottle and resumed with greater ferocity. Sam could taste the tart green apple of the wine, a flavor he’d never liked before. But it tasted so good on Nick’s tongue that he found himself wanting more. With a gasp he finally pulled away, his chest heaving as he struggled to get his breath back.


Nick Caratelli flees the city in an attempt to escape a broken relationship and a career he never wanted. He plans to set up a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—despite the fact he has no experience in renovating the old building. Luckily his handsome neighbor Sam approaches him with a curious proposal: he’ll help with the restoration in exchange for Nick babysitting his niece.

As they work to have the bed-and-breakfast open for business by summer’s end, their lives become interwoven without them even trying. Before he knows it, Nick is recovering from his loss and taking his place in the unconventional family that seems determined to form. But for Nick and Sam to be together in all the ways they desire, they’ll have to realize all the arguments against romance exist only in their heads….

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Author Bio: 

H. M. Shepherd is a twentysomething paralegal living in Berks County, Pennsylvania, with both parents, two dogs, a baby sister who should stop growing up, and a brother who similarly failed to launch. Contrary to the Millennial stereotype, however, she does not live in the basement—a blessing considering the size of the spiders down there. She crochets as a hobby, cooks when she can, and reads as though it were her vocation. She is also an amateur genealogist and spends entirely too much time squinting at old census records and church documents. A little spacey, she once managed to forget that her car needed an oil change until it stopped running, and regularly has milk-in-the-cupboard-cereal-in-the-fridge moments. While she is an avid writer, Just for Nice is her first and so far only professional publication.

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