#BRVL Author Spotlight — Julia McBryant

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👄            Author Spotlight 👄
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Title: Hanging the Stars: James and Maddox

Series: Falling for Fame

Author: Julia McBryant

Message to Readers: This book is really special to me. Like Maddox, I have severe ADHD. I also galloped racehorses at the track and miss it desperately.


James used to dream of being a jockey. Now he’s head-over-heels for his gorgeous new boss. James: I’m in love, but there are three problems. 1. He owns the stable I ride for. 2. He just inherited like, a billion dollars. 3. I’ve had my heart stomped on before. Maddox inherits a stable full of some of the best racehorses on the East Coast, and I discover my former boss’s son is hot… gay… persistent… and comes with a raging case of ADHD. Maddox has always been short on love and long on social blunders, and he’s learned to hate himself for it. We’re head-over-heels, totally inexperienced, completely in love, and Maddox still can’t understand why I’d bother with him. He says he’s too different. Then he starts meddling at the track because of me. Turns out Maddox really is different.


#KindleUnlimited #MMRomance #GayRomance

James used to dream of being a jockey. Now he’s head-over-heels for his gorgeous new boss.


Maddox took his hand — Maddox liked holding hands so much — and led James out of the house, down to the driveway where they’d parked. He dropped James’s hand. Should he kiss him? Maybe he should kiss him? “I guess I’ll um, see you over there?” 

“Yeah. See you there.” 

They stood awkwardly in the dying day, everything dripped honey-gold in the setting sunlight. Birds sang out; grasshoppers leapt around their feet. What was Maddox supposed to do

“It’s beautiful out here.” Maddox looked around him. “I love this time of day, when everything’s going down, down, down. It’s so beautiful. ‘Nothing gold can stay’ and all that.” He leaned down and caught a grasshopper. “Maybe I’ll paint one of these next.” 


“So ordinary. No one thinks of them except to be annoyed or squish them. But look. Look how high they jump and how big their eyes are. Probably compound eyes, I don’t know. Sproing, sproing, sproing, and so many of them. You never see one alone.” Maddox eyeballed the one he held for a precious few seconds in the golden light before it flew in a massive leap. 

James was shaking his head. 


“You just — you just look. No one looks.” James leaned down and kissed his cheek. “See you there.”

Maddox parked, fed the meter, and went inside. James appeared at the table a few minutes later. “Maddox!” His voice was a hiss. “You didn’t tell me this was a nice restaurant!”

Maddox furrowed his brow. “It’s not that nice.” 

“It’s really nice!” 

He was always screwing everything up. Always. He couldn’t even pick a stupid restaurant. He had just wanted the little candles on the tables. “Oh. I didn’t — I didn’t realize. I’m so sorry.” 

James sighed. “Okay. I think we need to have a conversation.” He slid into the seat across from Maddox. 

Oh fuck. Conversations were never good. People had conversations when they didn’t want to see someone again. “It’s okay.” Maddox quietly cut James off. “I know. I’m a space cadet, I’m awkward, I don’t think enough about other people, I’m annoying, I’m weird. I’ve heard all of it. You don’t have to repeat it. You can just go. It’s okay.”   

 James sighed. “Maddox. I was going to say something important, but it wasn’t any of that, which isn’t — which isn’t a great way to think about yourself, y’know? And I don’t wanna go. Will you stop thinking that all the time? You keep thinking that.” 

“Because people do. Go, I mean.” Maddox looked down. James might as well know the truth. 

The waitress showed up. Maddox asked for a sweet tea. James asked for water. 

“What d’you mean, people go?” 

“I mean, they go. They think I’m stupid or weird and they just leave, okay? I’m a loser. God, do I have to spell it out?” Maddox reddened. He bit his lip and looked down and wished for some way, any way, to escape this humiliation James seemed to insist on dragging out.  

“I don’t think that.” James’s voice stayed quiet in the chatter and clatter of the restaurant. “I think you’re wonderful.” 

Maddox looked up. That sliver of hope rose, like it always did, even when Maddox tried to smash it down. “You do? Really?” 

“Yes. I do.” 

Maddox blinked at him. “No one ever told me that before.” 

“But like, I know about you. You went to boarding school and you’re like, rich.” James blushed. “You don’t know about me.” He took a deep breath. “I grew up — I wasn’t totally poor, I mean, my mom and stepdad somehow scraped together two hundred bucks to buy me a pony, which I paid for everything for myself by mucking stalls, god, I spent all the Christmas and birthday money I’d ever gotten in my whole life buying the saddle — but like, we didn’t have money, Maddox. My dad ran off when I was one — I’m actually a junior — and my mom remarried? I have three younger brothers and a sister. They don’t have crazy family names like Maddox. They’re Hunter, Tracker, Denver, and Shyanne. That’s S-H-Y-A-N-N-E. Shyanne’s only thirteen and Denver and Hunter both have kids. Hunter’s sixteen and he just had his like, two months ago. They named him Jayden. Denver’s is two and he’s Kal-El, like Superman? My mom like, had a fit. She calls him Kal. At least Hunter’s son lives with his mom. Denver’s girlfriend moved in so they all live in the house now.

“I only have a car because I saved up money I made exercise riding for your dad since I started. I’m so lucky my mom pays the insurance on it. I pay my phone and between that and the apartment, I’m lucky I have a scholarship to SASA and get overage checks from financial aid or I’d never survive. I do not have money, Maddox. Like, this is one of the nicest places I’ve ever eaten at. You didn’t even think it was worth mentioning.” 

Maddox blinked at him. “So?” None of this really mattered. James cared. James was kind and kissed him softly and told him he was wonderful. Why would Maddox worry about anything else?

“And do I need to mention that I work for you?! What is Carothers going to say? What are the other riders going to say?” 

“Nothing, if they want to keep their jobs.” Maddox thanked the waitress for the tea and opened his menu. This was worth a “conversation”?! This was not a “conversation.” Conversations happened when people went away and never came back. 

“You can’t fire people for being sketched out that you’re doing — whatever!”

“Well, not for that. But I can if they’re bullying you. I run a bully-free workplace.” 

“Maddox. People are going to talk. The trainers are going to talk. The other riders are going to wonder if I’m getting more rides or better rides because — whatever.” 

“Well, you won’t be, because you know how fair Dawson Carothers is. You couldn’t like, find a more fair person in the universe. Mr. Dawson taught me how to ride.” 

 James sighed. “You seriously don’t get it.” 

“No, I do. It’ll be okay, I promise.” James didn’t get it. His horses, his rules, end of the discussion. Duh. 

“I’ll be the rider that’s hooking up with the owner. The whole track will know about it.” 

Maddox’s stomach flipped. Suddenly, he wasn’t that hungry. Something in James’s tone made his hands shake again. Maybe this was a going-away conversation. It kept veering, turning safe then dangerous again, as if they were on one of those mountain roads — was it Mulholland Drive all the celebrities flew off? “James, I really like you.” 

“I really like you too, but —” 

“Oh. This is a conversation.” Maddox sagged. It’d seemed like they’d avoided one. “You said ‘but.’” 

“But you have to realize that this would be complicated. I mean, am I supposed to bring you home?” He snorted. “My mom would clean the house for a week before she let you inside.” 

Maddox wrinkled his brow. “Why? It’s just me.” 

“Exactly. I mean, I got my shirt at Wal-Mart, Maddox. Where’d yours come from?” 

“I don’t know.” Why did this mean anything? “This is stupid. None of this matters. I like you and you’re nice and if you like me back, who cares? Just forget about it and let’s eat some duck confit nachos.” 

“What’s duck confit?” 

“Oh, it’s really good, I promise. And I’m taking you out so you’re not paying for anything.” 

“Oh my god, now you’re gonna try to be my sugar daddy.” James dropped his head in his hands. 

Maddox scrunched his nose up. “I think I’d rather be the sugar baby, thanks. I don’t wanna be on top.” 

“Oh CHRIST, that’s not what I meant!”

“I know what you meant. I’m just clarifying things. Pick some food and stop worrying about everything, James. This is supposed to be a date. Act like it’s a date. I’ve never been on a real date, but I don’t think you’re supposed to argue the whole time.” Maddox paused. “How do you act on a date?” 

James shook his head. “You always ask questions like that.” 

“My therapist said that when I don’t know what to do in a social situation, I should ask someone I trust what to do.” 

“There’s not any one way to act. You just have fun and talk.” 

Maddox was quiet for a while. “I always thought you would sit next to each other and hold hands. There would be candles like there are here? That’s why I wanted to come here, because of the little candles on the tables. You would hold hands and sometimes you would whisper in each other’s ears. You would talk about things that you liked and things that you did, like I would talk about my painting and you would tell me about the horses, and we would ask each other smart questions. We’d kiss each other once in a while, like little kisses, on the cheek or something.” 

James seemed to take a deep breath. “Is that what you want it to be like?” 

Maddox nodded. “Yeah.” 

James slid around to the seat next to Maddox and took his hand. “That sounds about right to me.”



Julia McBryant is, as the saying goes, Southern born, Southern bred, and when she dies, she’ll be Southern dead. A resident of the prettiest city in the world, McBryant yearns for the slant of light in Rome, the taste of oxtail and grits in the winter, and giant moonsnail shells on the beach at Tybee. She is owned by three children and three dogs, and enjoys caffeine, unicorns, and unicorns on caffeine. When she isn’t writing, she’s writing.


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