Guest Post & Givwaway: Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

Why set a book in the 1950s?
by Liv Rancourt

First, I want to thank Annette and the gang at the ZipperRippers for having me back as a guest. This is one of my favorite blog tour stops! (You're very welcome!)

When most readers think of historical romances, they picture women in hoopskirts and men in waistcoats…or, um, no shirt at all. Historical must mean Regency, Victorian, or maybe Medieval stories, right? Maybe some Vikings? But not 1955.


Right. Those time periods, particularly the Regency period, provide the most popular settings for historical romance. Despite that, I skipped over those possibilities, for a couple different reasons. My most obvious motivation was a call for submissions I saw about three years ago, asking for stories set in the ‘50s.

Submission calls are cool, because they give an author a specific idea to write about, something the publisher is actively looking for. Often, they’re for short stories or novellas, and can be a good way to get your foot in the door without having to write 80,000 words first.
Since Aqua Follies is obviously not a part of an anthology, you can see the whole call for submissions thing didn’t work out. The publisher didn’t offer me a contract, but it turned out okay. The original version that the publisher saw was only about fifty pages long, and by the time I finished, I’d done enough research into the time period to be hooked on the story.

The ‘50s were a complicated decade. The country had come through the horror of World War II, and people were determined to be happy. This quote by the novelist Edmund White that describes the time period very well.

I lived through the Fifties in the Midwest when everything that was happening - the repression of homosexuality, for instance, the demonization of the Left, the giggly, soporific ordinariness of adolescence, the stone-deafness to the social injustice all around us - seemed not only unobjectionable but also nonexistent.

Society had definite problems, but there was pressure to present a certain image, to live up to social expectations. Being gay and acting on your inclination was definitely not accepted. At the same time, it happened. People of all different orientations found a way to live.

For some it meant a sad and lonely repression. Others were traumatized, punished, even killed. But a few found a way to make it work. I think whenever you scratch beneath a stereotype, you find the truth covers a whole range of realities. That is the space I wanted to explore with Aqua Follies, and what motivated me to rework it into a longer novel.

The ‘50s might not be the most popular decade for romance writers, but for a gay romance, there sure was a whole lot to work with.

Thanks again to ZipperRippers for having me, and keep reading, because there’s an excerpt below. This is the last day of my preorder period, so you can still get Aqua Follies for $0.99. After its release tomorrow it’ll go up to the regular price of $3.99. And make sure you enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 gift card!

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Aqua Follies Blurb

The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.


Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.

From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because sometimes good things can come of it. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.

The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?

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Excerpt 2 from Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt:

The days passed in a blur of calisthenics and choreography, trips to the laundromat for clean shirts and stilted newspaper photo shoots. Russell spent the shows trying not to make calf’s eyes at the orchestra pit, and Skip disappeared every night without taking him up on his offer for a drink. By Sunday, Russell concluded that his attempted apology hadn’t worked. The memory of Skip’s mouth pressed warm against his lips, the taste of whiskey, and the scratch of whiskers against his chin made the rejection more painful.
Wednesday was closing night. One more show. Their train would leave the next afternoon. Russell marched along the deck like a robot, barking commands at the girls during their warm-up, barely watching their routines. The muggy heat never broke, and before intermission, sweat plastered his button-down shirt to his skin.
Russell had the girls work through some figures. Through grumbles, they began a series of catalinas, cranes, and flamingos. Straightening his tie so the knot sat evenly between the flaps of his collar, he filled his lungs with the boggy, rotten-egg lake smell in an attempt to wash away the puddle of melancholy sloshing around in his gut.
Susie broke ranks, pulling up to the side of the pool to work out a cramp. Under other circumstances, he’d give her a quick scold and send her back to the water. Tonight he ignored her, telling himself she was the cause of his unhappiness.
Who am I kidding? His relief at being done with Susie was almost pathetic. Heat built in his groin, a slow swelling, a pressure so sweet, it caused pain. He wanted Skip. Now. He didn’t want to go off into some mythical future without touching him. Tonight. The lanky musician didn’t fight his nature, and Russell needed another taste of his life.
He stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets to hide his clenched fists. He could wish and want and hope all night long, but if he wasn’t willing to do anything about it, he’d end up alone.
Before the show started, the director stood at the edge of the stage and gave the performers a pep talk. He assured the dancers the crew would do their best to keep the stage dry if it rained, and complimented the swimmers on a fine performance the night before. Russell’s gaze drifted over to the band, right about the time Skip looked in his direction, and the director might have been a dog barking down the block
Russell smiled, as broad and inviting as possible. Skip didn’t return his smile, but he didn’t turn away either. His expression might have softened, or maybe the distance and the misting rain blurred his features the way fog turned oak trees into green-gray smudges.
The moment passed.
Skip lifted his horn and laughed in response to something Russell couldn’t hear. Aunt Maude waved from stage left, demanding Russell’s attention, reminding him of what was possible.
And what was not possible.
The girls made it through the Aqua Dixie minstrel number without any problems. Their moves were sharp, elegant, and their smiles brilliant. Russell allowed himself to relax, even laughed at the MC’s tired jokes.
Then the conductor counted off “In the Mood.”
Skip rose above the band to play his solo, and desire crystalized in Russell’s soul, brittle enough to cut deep if it shattered.
But he felt more than desire, more than the simple physical urge a man could handle on his own. He wanted to know Skip, to share in the warmth of his optimism. Russell shut his eyes, indulging in the trumpet’s bell-like tone. A kiss meant something. Both the giver and the receiver had to lower their guard, leave themselves open. They’d done a lot more than just kiss, but still, he couldn’t get on the train to Red Wing without talking to Skip one last time.
They still had things to say to one another.


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About the Author

About Liv Rancourt
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

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