Moonbeams over Atlanta welcomes a new author, Andi Van and the first review of 2015 (I’m behind!) here with Starting With the Unexpected which releases on May 15, 2015. Andi contacted me and provided a reader copy for the purpose of the review. I’m so glad to took it on…
Andi is a new author in the M/M Romance category to me, but I was intrigued by the blurb (below) and knew I needed to read it. Well, time is a precious commodity right now and has been for several months, but I like music themed stories and a radio personality for a character was different enough that I wanted to read it.
And read I did. I actually couldn’t put it down. I had to read all 200 pages in one sitting. Not unusual normally, but since I’ve had to spread myself thin with that thing called work and family commitments, reading has been a lowly fourth, if not last. It’s a light, uplifting, humorous, and slightly quirky story of Zach Blaise, the local radio personality, and Marcus Edwards, the waiter. “Ollie” and “Marian” interact via the rage-text Marcus sends, and in person, until Marcus breaks down and tells Zach the truth. From there, you see a glimpse in their lives, very much down to earth with quirky humor. You can’t forget the best friend of Zach, Jordan, dying of laughter a every turn and telling him to “go for it.” I was pleasantly surprise that it was not too intense, as a case of mistaken identity, and gender, could be. The writing style appealed to me, and led you smoothly to a great happy ending. So, a big thank you to Andi, and I will be looking for more of your books.
With this, I give Starting With the Unexpected 5 stars.
Starting With the Unexpected
Zachary Blaise is having a weird week—even by his standards. Though he’s gay, the radio personality has been dumped via text by a girl named Marian—and he’s never even met her. On top of that, he’s developed a massive crush on Marcus, the new waiter at his favorite diner. His best friend thinks the whole thing is hilarious.
Marcus’s week hasn’t been his best either. He’s been betrayed by those closest to him, and although he isn’t the guilty party, Marcus is the one getting harassed.
Impossibly, things are about to get even weirder. Marian has secrets, and those secrets are going to make some serious ripples in Zach’s life. When he discovers that the girl called Marian is actually the man named Marcus, Zach stumbles down a rabbit hole of abusive ex-boyfriends, psychotic relatives, and revelations from his own past. If he can survive the chaos, the journey might prove worth the effort.
Title: Starting With the Unexpected (Book 1 of Beginnings and Endings)
Author: Andi Van
Genre: MM Romance (contemporary)
Length: Approx 60,000 (novel)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 15, 2015
Retail Price: $14.99 Paperback/$6.99 eBook
FUCKING CHEATING bastard.
The shit you had here is in boxes next to the dumpster.
If you don’t fucking get it, the garbage men will.
Hope my skanky whore of a sister was worth it, jackass.
Fuck off and die.
I sat there staring at my phone as the text messages flashed up in rapid-fire style, and it’s
safe to say I was feeling somewhat perplexed. I wasn’t dating anyone, let alone anyone at
the number I didn’t recognize, and I certainly wouldn’t have been sleeping with
someone’s sister. Ew.
When the shock wore off, I thought about it for a moment, shrugged, and started a reply.
If nothing else, the poor girl needed to know her ex had no idea his things had been left
by the dumpster. She was far more polite than I would have been in the same
circumstances—I would have left his things in the dumpster and made him crawl in after
Pretty sure you’ve got a wrong number, hon. The last thing I want to do is sleep with
Wanted to let you know, so your ex doesn’t give you grief about his shit.
Either that or I’m being dumped by someone I had no idea I was in a relationship with.
I can’t decide whether that would make me awesome or pathetic, to be honest.
I hope the cheating bastard and your skanky whore sister give each other crabs.
“I suppose this means I’ve done my good deed for the day,” I mumbled to myself as I
tucked my phone back in my pocket. It was kind of a weird good deed, but a good deed
“What’s that?” my housemate and best friend Jordan Walker asked as he joined me in the
“I just got dumped,” I told him. “By a girl. Apparently I cheated on her with her sister.”
Jordan gave me that indescribable look he always gave me when I said something that
completely confused him. It was hilarious, really. It was also part of his charm, much like
his ability to belch the entire alphabet in one go. “What the fuck?”
Starting With the Unexpected (Andi Van) ‐‐ Excerpt
I tossed my phone to him so he could read the messages for himself. “Wrong number
texts,” I told him. “I feel kind of bad for her, to be completely honest.”
Jordan scanned through the messages, shaking his head as he did. “She handled it better
than I would have. I would have torched his shit in a massive bonfire. I mean, think about
it, it’s perfect timing. A bonfire to start off the new year would be awesome.”
“That’s just because you had so much fun doing it when Tyler dumped me,” I told him
with a grin. Tyler had dumped me nearly six years before, in a painfully public way that
I’d prefer to forget but had never really been able to. That night, while I was sobbing on
Jordan’s shoulder, Tyler was fucking someone Jordan and I had been good friends with.
Obviously we weren’t friends with him anymore. When Jordan and I got home from that
ill-fated weekend, we’d bundled up the few things that Tyler had left in the apartment
Jordan and I shared at the time and had taken them to the beach as bonfire fodder.
Granted, it hadn’t been the middle of winter when we did it, but it was still quite
“Well, her number’s local,” Jeff said as he tapped my phone against his chin. “If she
really does live nearby, we could offer to burn the shit for her.”
“You’re just hoping she’s cute and looking for a rebound,” I shot back and got a grin in
response. I sighed and grabbed my phone from him. “Fine, I’ll at least tell her you said
she ought to burn the stuff. Maybe it’ll make her smile.” Like I said, I felt bad for her. I’d
been in that sort of situation, and the only thing that had kept me sane was Jordan’s weird
sense of humor. “Don’t think this means that I’m going to try and get her to hook up with
you, though. The poor girl’s obviously devastated.”
My roommate says you should just torch your ex’s shit in a massive bonfire, by the way.
He offered to do it for you, but I think he’s just hoping you’re cute and on the rebound.
Or possibly he just wants an excuse to roast marshmallows. I can never tell with him.
“Happy now?” I called after Jordan, who’d headed into the kitchen.
“I’d be happier if I didn’t have to go to work,” he answered. “You still feel like helping
“Sure. You still buying breakfast afterward?”
“Yeah. Looks like I’m also buying pizza right now,” Jordan said as he came back out of
the kitchen, frowning. “Nothing in the fridge. Want to split an order?”
“No olives on my half,” I reminded him, like I did every time we ordered pizza. Maybe I
thought he’d forget between orders or something, despite the fact that we’d basically
Starting With the Unexpected (Andi Van) ‐‐ Excerpt
grown up together. “I’ll pay for the pizza. I’ll even go grocery shopping tonight if you
Jordan came back into the living room, dropped onto the couch next to me, and rested his
head on my shoulder. When I glanced down at him, he fluttered his eyelashes at me.
“Best housemate ever. Doesn’t steal my girlfriends, keeps me company at work, and does
the grocery shopping. If I were at all interested in men, I’d marry you.”
“Uh, no,” I said, smothering a grin. “Because that would mean I’d have to have sex with
you. Just…. No. Ew.” I already teased him about how he was my mom’s favorite son. It
would’ve been like having sex with a sibling or something.
“Yeah, okay, that’d be a bit too much like incest,” Jordan agreed.
“Right. So order us some pizza like a good boy and quit grossing me out.”
Before he could say something smart back to me, my phone started to chime. Jordan
practically pounced me to get at it, and I ended up with a lap full of roommate. “Is it
“Good lord,” I sighed, pushing him off me. “Seriously, she just got dumped. Don’t be
such a dog.” I held my phone out of his reach and glared at him. “Pizza. Go. Now.”
“You’re no fun anymore,” Jordan grumbled, heading back to the kitchen where he would
likely dig through the latest specials from our favorite pizza place. When I was sure he
was occupied, I read the messages.
I’d say awesome and not pathetic.
You guys have made me smile for the first time in over 24 hours. Thank you.
So sorry you got blindsided by my rage texts. Thanks for letting me know and for having
a sense of humor.
Tell your roomie I’m flattered but not looking. Roasted marshmallows sound good
We’d made someone with a broken heart smile. Mission accomplished.
By the time Jordan and I had polished off our pizza, written down a shopping list,
watched an extremely bad and unintentionally hilarious movie involving sharks, and said
good night when Jordan left for work, the heartbroken girl was forgotten.
Little did I know that she wouldn’t stay forgotten for long. Those wrong number texts
were about to make some big ripples in my life.
DESPITE THE popular trend to automate radio stations, the tiny one I worked for
couldn’t manage that. Some days I was amazed we were on the air at all. Because we
were so small and underequipped, the morning show had to be recorded live during drive
time, which meant my workday started around three in the morning. This also meant that,
during one broadcast when my cohost was feeling particularly evil, there had been no
way for me to stop our entire audience from hearing her play a recording of me singing
“Material Girl” at the top of my lungs after a night that involved far too much alcohol.
Obviously there was a downside to recording live.
On the plus side, she’d refrained from sharing my rendition of Captain and Tennille’s
“Love Will Keep Us Together” from the same evening, so that was something.
The odd hours made Sunday nights particularly difficult for me, though it helped that
Jordan basically had the same schedule I did. Unfortunately he also had the same
propensity to stay up far too late on my days off, despite the fact that he worked seven
days a week.
When I stumbled into the station carrying two cups of liquid caffeine, my evil bitch
cohost—who I adored, incidentally—was waiting for me.
“You look like shit,” Kat said gleefully as she took the caramel-mocha-whatever she
always made me get her.
“I love you too,” I growled. “Got anything interesting to talk about this morning?”
Research into local news, current events, and interesting bits we thought the listeners
would enjoy took up a good portion of our working hours. As much as I would have liked
to have been able to tell people we made everything up on the fly, it just wasn’t true. We
spent a lot of time throwing ideas back and forth, writing out notes, and scripting funny
bits that we thought we really ought to have scripted. I was just grateful we no longer had
to run the content of the show by our boss.
“A couple of things,” Kat answered. “How was your weekend?”
I started to answer her with my usual “fine” when the brokenhearted girl from the other
night popped into my head. I took a sip of my chai latte to give myself a few moments to
figure out how I wanted to word my answer. “I have a funny but kind of sad story about
my weekend that we might be able to work into the show, but it might cause a bit of a
stir,” I admitted. Discussing the need to burn your ex’s things could potentially be
hilarious, but could also be polarizing if people who’d had their things burned were still
upset about it. But then, really, everything was polarizing. We’d gotten hate mail over an
episode where we joked about rubber duckies, for God’s sake.
“Would the stir be from the boss or from the public?” Kat asked, arching an elegant
eyebrow as she peered over her coffee cup.
“Public,” I told her. “See, it started with these random texts….”
And so, when five o’clock hit and we welcomed everyone to “Kat and Zach in the
Morning,” Kat started off the show by asking me how my weekend had been.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I got a very interesting set of texts from the wrong number. That
leads me into our first question of the morning. If you discovered your lover sleeping
with your sibling, would you feel justified in having a nice little bonfire with the crap
they’d left at your place? We have a poll up on our website, and at the end of the show,
we’ll let you know the results.”
“I’ll admit that cheating is a pretty messed-up thing,” Kat said. “But what if it was an
I snorted. “What, like they were both accidentally naked and she tripped and accidentally
impaled herself on his—”
Kat grabbed the bike horn we used to censor each other and cut my words off with a loud
honk. “Point made. Never mind.”
My phone vibrated in my pocket, but I wasn’t about to check it while we were on air.
“Not that I’d know what’s impossible between a man and a woman, of course, but it
seems pretty unlikely to me.”
That was one of the fantastic things about working for the station I worked for. I went
into my interview fresh out of college and announced to them that I was very gay and
very out. My boss had seen that as a draw, and our tiny station had gained a devoted
following of listeners from the LGBT community thanks to the gamble he’d taken in
putting me on the air after telling me to just be myself. The previous year, Kat and I had
even been asked to join the Pride Parade, and we’d already been invited back for the next
year’s events. It was another reason we got hate mail, but our supporters far outnumbered
our adversaries. We were too small a station to cause a huge stir.
The topic shifted, and we followed our notes until the first commercial break, at which
point I pulled out my phone to check my messages.
Oh my fucking God, I rage-texted Zach Blaise??
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. And then I sighed and hoped I wouldn’t have to change my
number. I’d been on the wrong end of “oh my God, you’re a local celebrity” before,
despite the fact that I wasn’t really that well-known, and I didn’t care to deal with it again.
You did. Now that you know my name, can I get yours?
It took a little longer than usual before I got a response, and for a moment I wondered if I
was going to get an answer at all.
When my friends want to piss me off, they call me Marian.
If it pisses you off, why give me that name? I asked. It seemed weird to give someone a
name you didn’t really want to go by.
Like I’m going to give someone I don’t know my real name, even if you are Zach Blaise.
Smart, I told her. In that case, when my friends want to piss me off, they call me Ollie.
Can I call you Mari?
Only if you pronounce it MAHR-ee, and not like Mary. Why Ollie?
Middle name’s Oliver. Commercial break’s almost up. Enjoy the show.
I grinned as I put my phone away. Mari had spirit, and I could see us being friends. Who
couldn’t use more friends? Maybe I’d end up setting her up with Jordan after all, once
she was over her ex. She was definitely our kind of people.
The commercial break came to an end, and I put it out of my head and focused on the
next segment of the show.
Andi Van lives near San Diego with a small fluffy thing named Koi, a baseball bat that’s forever being used for things other than baseball, and a fondness for rum and caffeine (though not necessarily together).
Andi is fluent in three languages (English, sarcasm, and profanity), and takes pride in a highly developed—if somewhat bizarre—sense of humor.
Praise for ANDI VAN
“I loved Zachary and Marcus and I loved Zachary’s parents and Jordan. It was a nice read and definitely a book I would re-read again if I was in the mood for something sweet.”
—On Top Down Under Reviews, on “Starting With the Unexpected”
“As it is, I find this story a lovely addition for all the fans of paranormal romance.”
—MM Good Book Reviews, on “A Swift Herd for Solstice”
Other titles by this author: