A big welcome to Ann Grech and congrats on the new novel! Ann was kind enough to let us hear directly from her characters.
A note from Ann Grech: In Safe Arms is my most recent novel. Ten in total, and my fifth inspired by a trip to Queenstown. This story means the world to me. Itâs more than words on the page. These boys truly have my heart. I fell for them the moment they started talking to me. Trentâs brash and angry and hurting. Angelo is like a balm, healing him. Trent doesnât understand how strong he is. It takes Angelo to show him. Best friends through thick and thin, their story is one of redemption and healing. Of kindness overcoming darkness. Of love strengthening the strong of heart.
Letâs talk to your characters for a minute:
Trent: âEh, not so much demanding as annoyingly persistent. Ann had it in her head that things were going to turn out a certain way and she didnât like it when I told her it wasnât happening. The first time she tried it, I was seventeen. She was all âIâm nearly old enough to be your Momââshe totally is old enough, never mind nearlyâ'so please, listenâ.â
Ann: âOld enough now, really? I used to like you.â
Angelo: âMamma mia, you two. Trent, please donât antagonize Ann. And Ann, come on, you know what heâs like.â
*Ann squeezes Angeloâs hand* âI do and donât worry, I was picking on him. He spent months not listening to me, so itâs the least I can do.â
Angelo: âWith Trent I only ever had one motivationâto love him. Whether that was as friends or as partners, that was the only thing I wanted to do.â
Trent: âI needed to overcome my past. For me, it was learning to love myself, to accept myself and to heal enough that I could become the man Angelo deserves. I try every day to become that man.â
Ann: âI wanted to give voice to the people who needed to see themselves in this story. Itâs harrowing. What Trent went through was the worst kind of terrible. It scarred him in ways that took a decade to overcome, but with the support of his network of friends-turned-family, and especially Angelo, he found himself again. He found love. Trent says heâs trying to become the man Angelo deserves, but he already is. Yes, heâs strong willed and opinionated, heâll always do things his way, but he has a good heart. Heâs a good man. He deserves the love that Angelo wants to give him. And, you know, Angelo deserves that love too. He puts his friends first and is always there for them. Heâll be strong for you when you canât be, and he loves unconditionally. Gentle spirited but iron-willed. He waited for a long time for Trent, and getting to experience their journey together was so special.
*Trent and Angelo look at each other and smile, before saying together:*
Trent: âMy life is nothing like I expected it to be. If I could go back in time and tell seventeen year old me what it was like, I would. Ann said my past was harrowing. It was, but I wouldnât change a single thing to get where I am now.â
Angelo: âIâm blessed. Thatâs all I can say. Iâm blessed.â
Angelo: âMy camera, an endless supply of cannoli, andâ¦ I donât know. A blanket?â
Trent: âPfft. Whiskey, limes and lube.â
Ann: âWhat, no sunscreen?â
Trent: âMaybe instead of Angeloâs blanket.â
Angelo: âTwo words: sandy crack.â
Trent: âFair call. Pre-mix whiskey and dry with lime, lube and sunscreen. Angelo can bring the blanket and food.â
Ann *laughing*: âAll the important things.â
Angelo: âWe cook together.â
Trent: âAngelo cooks. I make a mess, then I eat. His mama taught him so many of the family recipes and he loves to make them. Iâm spoiled because his food is like heaven. Simple ingredients, complex flavors and as Mama says, an authenticity that only comes with generations of Italian perfectionists who love their food.â
Angelo: âWe cook breakfast together whenever we can, Itâs our thing. But we spend a lot of time outdoors too, fishing and hiking.â
Angelo *knocks Trent with his elbow and smiles at him*: âWeâre fully stocked. All the healthy stuffâplenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, some handmade sausage from the local butcher and a leg of lamb that Iâll be roasting on our first day off together. Trent makes out that he doesnât know what we have, but he was the one who bought everything.â
Trent *shrugs and flushes red*
Iâm writing about two really fun characters now, Pete McKenzie and Scottie Pearce. I havenât named it yet, but the storyâs very different to In Safe Arms. Iâm enjoying stretching my wings while Iâm writing it. It is set in the Aussie outback. Scottie is a fifth-generation cattle station owner in western Queensland and is surrounded by strong, amazing women and an extended family of his station hands. Pete is a history nerd and an expert on the Australian myth that thereâs a reef of gold somewhere in the outback discovered in the early 20th Century, but unable to be relocated since. He believes he knows where the reef is and goes in search for it.
Ann Grech has a new MM romance out: "In Safe Arms."
When a damaged man stumbles on a second chance, itâs all too easy to turn and run. It takes a determined photographer to convince him risk is worth it all.
People deserve a second chance, right? How about a third or fourth?
But what if I canât even admit to myself who I am? I was truthful once before. I came out to one other person, and he left me broken and scarred. He destroyed the boy I was. I donât even use the same name anymore; I go by Trent now. But I survived the streets. I got lucky and I made something of myself. Iâm happy, sort of.
Itâs Angelo who lights up my life. Heâs my world. My rock and my family. Heâs always there for me. But I keep hurting him. I say stupid things, and I always keep him at a distance. Still, he knows me better than anyone.
And I want him. But I canât let myself go there. Not again.
Iâve lived in denial for so long and itâs killing me. In my weakest moments, I reach for Angelo and when he slips into my arms, I can breathe. Heâs my solace. Selflessly, heâs there and he never expects anything in return. No judgment, not even an explanation. Having him in my arms is everything, and itâs getting harder to push him away. Iâm not sure I want to anymore.
He doesnât date, but he deserves to be loved. Cherished. Then he drops a bombshellâheâs found The One. I wish heâd fallen for me. I need that second chance to tell him. I need to risk it all because in his arms, Iâm safe. Iâm me.
Warnings: violence, rape
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âThe cat youâre minding?â
âYep.â He nodded. I bit my lip trying not to laugh. It wasnât funny. He was telling me about some shit thatâd gone down that had upset him,but come on. How was I supposed to react? Heâd used needing food for the cat he was sitting as an excuse to get out of a date. And the catâs name was Dodge? You couldnât make that shit up. I snorted, unsuccessfully trying to stifle my laugh, and wiped my eyes, tears welling from the effort. Trent paused and looked at me, confused, and I couldnât hold it in any longer. I laughed and shook my head, holding my hand up to him.
âIâm sorry, I donât mean to laugh at you, but seriously?â I sucked in a breath, my side hurting because I was laughing so hard. âCat food? For Dodge?â Trentâs lips twitched, and I could see him fighting the smile. I looked at him again and laughed once more, nudging him with my shoulder. âYou didnât even realize how it sounded until now, did you?â When he shook his head and finally let that smile loose, I sucked in a breath, happy for a whole other reason. It was his story andheâd told it, but he was smiling andI couldnât help but take a little pride in that.
âFuck me. She looked so damn horrified when I said that, but all I could think about was getting out of there.â He chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. âIâm such a dumb ass.â
âNah, you just didnât think.â I nudged his shoulder playfully, letting him know that it wasnât all bad. âAt least tell me you got the food.â
He nodded and sobered up. âI couldnât wait to get out of there, but I didnât want to go home either. Figured you would have been busy, so I stopped by the sports bar. Watched a footy match. Havenât done that by myself in years, and I hated every minute of it. Suppose I had too many drinks.â
My heart clenched, and I wanted to reach out to him. InsteadI leaned closer, my side pressed against his, and asked, âYou didnât drive home, did you?â I wasnât sure whether I was begging him or scolding him for being so damn stupid. If heâd been drinking and driving not only could it be the end of his career, but more importantly,he could have killed someone. And it was all because he didnât call me.
âNah, I walked it. The night air sobered me up pretty fast.â
Thank God. I let out the breath I was holding, relief winningmy emotional tug-of-war.
âSo whathappened yesterday and today? You just kept drinking?â It was none of my business, I knew that, but I didnât care. I needed to know.
âSomething like that,â he muttered. This was him shutting down. A noncommittal answer followed by either a subject change or him going quiet, but I couldnât do it. I needed him to be able to talk to me.
âLook, Iâm not going to push you, but maybe itâll help if you spoke about whatever is bothering you. Iâm here. Iâll listen, and Iâll do my best to help, but I canât unless you talk to me. If not me, then pick someone else. Iâm worried about you.â
âSome bad shit happened when I was younger. This time of year always drags it back up, but Iâll get through it.â He paused and added, âThisâwalking and being outside, spending time with youâitâs helping. Youârehelping.â
By day Ann Grech lives in the corporate world and can be found sitting behind a desk typing away at reports and papers or lecturing to a room full of students. She graduated with a PhD in 2016 and is now an over-qualified nerd. Glasses, briefcase, high heels and a pencil skirt, sheâs got the librarian look nailed too. If only they knew! She swears like a sailor, so thatâs got to be a hint. The other one was âthe lookâ from her tattoo artist when she told him that she wanted her kidsâ initials âBâ and âJâ tattooed on her foot. It took a second to register that it might be a bad idea.
Sheâs never entirely fit in and loves escaping into a bookâwhether itâs reading or writing one. But sheâs found her tribe now and loves her M/M book world family. She dislikes cooking, but loves eating, canât figure out technology, but is addicted to it, and her guilty pleasure is Byron Bay Cookies. Oh, and shoes. And lingerie. And maybe handbags too. Well, if weâre being honest, weâd probably have to add her library too given the state of her credit card every month. What can she say? Sheâs a bookworm at heart.
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