🌟 Please join me in welcoming author R.L. Merrill to Stories That Make You Smile. R.L. is here today celebrating the release of the highly anticipated second book in her fabulous Summer of Hush series, Brains and Brawn. She’s brought along a lovely excerpt, a generous giveaway, and has taken the time to sit down with us and discuss the musical influences behind the story. Pull up a chair and join the conversation! 🌟
Brains and Brawn by R.L. Merrill
A Rockstar with a secret is injured in a freak accident. A single dad Navy corpsman comes to his aide. Neither expected romance to bloom, but will their secrets end it before it begins?
Series: Summer of Hush (book #2) Publisher: Celie Bay Publications LLC Cover Artist: Cate Ashwood Release Date: August 24, 2020 Length: Novel / 90k words / 344 pages Pairing / Genre: M/M Contemporary Rockstar Romance, gay, demi/bi, age gap, hurt/comfort, proximity, single dad, military
Hush is back…and it’s about to get loud as Metalcore band Hush makes their comeback on the last cross-country Warped Tour.
Founding members Silas, Los, and Brains are ready to hit the road after two years of grieving for their best friend and lead guitarist Gavin West. In the span of 46 days, they’ll initiate new members of the band and crew and find discord, distraction, and devotion along the way. Hit the road with Hush for a summer full of hope, love, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Billy “Brains” Brennan has achieved rock stardom in not just one, but two chart-topping bands, but events from his past have him convinced he’s living on borrowed time. Brains and his brothers-in-Hush are ready to take the last cross-country Warped Tour by storm…until the actions of two drunk dudes with bad attitudes set off a chain of events that leave him incapacitated…and face-to-face with a handsome stranger who inexplicably feels like home—and not the home Brains fled at sixteen.
Chief Petty Officer Paul McNally has spent his 25-year career as a Navy Corpsman responding to emergencies and caring for wounded soldiers. When fate has him in the right place to provide aid to a fallen rock star, it sends his life spiraling on a trajectory he never planned for. Instead of concentrating on his impending retirement and a second career, he’s now playing nursemaid to a fascinating younger man…and falling in love—a fact he can’t seem to figure out how to explain to his adult son.
A health scare, band drama, and pain from both of their pasts threatens to end Brains and Paul’s fledgling relationship. Fate brought them together. It will take trust, honesty, and hope to keep them together.
Paul’s head whipped around when he heard the first scream. He watched in horror as the tent Bowie had just been standing in front of—Hush’s tent—collapsed and a crowd of people fell.
Without hesitation, he ran for the tent. Then he spotted Bowie standing over some big guy.
“You okay?” he yelled to him.
Bowie nodded, his big blue eyes wide as he looked back at the disaster.
Security began barricading the area around the tent and moving the screaming fans away from the scene. Adults attempted to pull the kids out of harm’s way.
That’s when Paul saw the tabletop on the ground and a pair of black-clad legs sticking out from underneath.
Guys in bright yellow security shirts lifted and pulled the rest of the tent out of the way. Paul rushed toward the broken table and sank to his knees next to Brains.
“Can you hear me? Are you with me?”
Brains locked gazes with him, and Paul felt pain in his right hand. He looked down to see Brains squeezing the life out of it.
“Please don’t leave….”
Medical staff approached in blue cargo pants and polos and swarmed the members of the band and their staff, several of whom were on the ground. Two women approached Brains with medical kits, and Paul started to move back, but Brains’s grip grew tighter.
“Please don’t leave me!” Brains said again, more insistently. He was panting, his face losing color, and Paul feared he was going into shock. He glanced at the table on his legs and at the staff who were preparing to lift it off him.
Paul worried perhaps the worst had occurred, but the fact that Brains was still squeezing the shit out of his hand was a good sign.
Brains coughed as he brought his other hand up to grasp Paul’s. “Please!” His appeals were growing in urgency.
Paul leaned a little closer to his face and pressed his free hand to Brains’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere, okay? But they’re going to lift the table now. You ready? Try not to move.”
Brains nodded—another good sign—but Paul pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Stay still.”
The staff guys counted to three, and then they lifted the table.
Brains let out a guttural shout, and tears streamed down his face as he winced in agony.
Paul breathed a sigh of relief to not see any blood or rips in Brains’s pants. He half expected to see a bone shard sticking out. But they weren’t out of the woods.
“Brains, listen to me, okay?”
Paul frowned. “Billy?”
“My name is Billy. Please—”
“I’m not leaving you, but these medics here are going to look you over, and they’re probably going to poke and prod you a bit.” He nodded to the young women in Rock Medicine shirts who stood by, hesitating to approach. Paul heard sirens in the distance, which meant better-trained professionals were on their way, but Brains—Billy—needed to be assessed immediately.
“Sir, we need you to move—”
“He’s not going anywhere!” Brains shouted at them.
Paul addressed the one with the first-aid kit. “My name is Paul McNally. I’m a Navy corpsman, and I’m trained in triage and emergency medical treatment.” And I’m not leaving his side.
The young women looked to each other and then crouched down next to Billy. One of them placed a hand on Billy’s arm.
“I’m going to touch you, okay?”
“He’s staying with me, you got it? He’s staying.” Billy’s chin quivered as he spoke to the medics. The two women looked at each other with eyes wide.
Paul was losing circulation in his hand, but he wouldn’t have left Billy if the entire venue burst into flames. The way he was reacting… Paul had been through countless emergencies and could recognize when there was a psychological issue at work that needed attention.
He looked around for Bowie and saw him with Dimples, watching from a distance. Relieved that he hadn’t been hurt and seemed to be doing okay, Paul turned his full attention on Billy.
One of the women took Brains’s vitals, and the other ran her hands over his body, checking for injuries. She barely spoke to Brains, and Paul was perturbed at the way they were assessing him.
“Billy, can you wiggle your toes for me?” Paul asked.
Brains nodded, and then Paul looked at his Vans-clad feet. Thankfully, he saw movement on both.
Paul smiled down at Brains. “You’re doing great. You know what today is?”
“A fucked-up day? I had a bad feeling this morning….”
“Seems like it was warranted.”
Brains’s deep blue eyes fixed on Paul, and his breathing seemed to slow for just a moment. Paul hoped that meant he would maybe be able to relax—
“Sir, I’m going to need to put a collar on you.”
Brains flinched when the medic touched him. “I’m fine, just let me up—”
Paul placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and it was enough to keep Brains from trying to sit up. “Billy? It’s important that you lie still and let them put a collar on you. With this sort of accident, they need to keep your spine aligned to avoid any further injury, okay?”
Brains began to pant and tugged Paul’s hand as though he wanted to try to pull up, but when he tried to move his legs, only the right one moved, and he screamed in pain.
“Look at me,” Paul said, getting closer to his face. He needed to distract him, to make Brains focus on him. “Brains, they need to take you to the hospital—”
“No. No, no, no, please,” he whispered. “I can’t go, please, Paul, please—”
“I’m not going to leave you. I won’t let them hurt you, okay? They need to take you in for X-rays to make sure nothing’s broken.”
Brains’s voice sounded like that of a frightened child. Something was seriously wrong. He pulled on their joined hands again, and the medic placed a hand on Brains’s chest to keep him from moving.
“Sir? You may have a spinal injury, so we have to place you on this backboard with a collar to protect you. If you won’t cooperate, we’re going to have to sedate you.”
“Can you give us a minute?” Paul asked the medics, irritation clear in his voice.
“We need to get him to the ambulance,” the medic closest to him said, and then was distracted by the band’s manager. She gave the medic Brains’s information and shot a worried look Paul’s direction. His full name was Billy Brennan.
Paul ground his teeth together and took a breath to calm himself. “I understand. Will you give me a moment to speak to Mr. Brennan? I’d like to avoid the use of sedatives.”
She nodded, and they stood and backed away a few feet to confer.
Paul squeezed Brains’s hand and placed the other on his forehead.
“Hey, man. The sedatives are a drag. This will all go better if you let them collar you and get you on the backboard. Hopefully everything is fine. The fact that you’re moving your toes and strangling my fingers leads me to think your spine is just fine, but it’s procedure. I swear I’m staying with you.”
Billy swallowed hard, his eyes wild. “I know I’m acting crazy. There’s a reason, I just… please.”
Paul smiled at him. “You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve got a wounded Marine pulling his pistol and pointing it at your face while you try to remove a sliver from his other hand.”
Brains’s eyes bugged out. “A sliver?”
Paul shrugged. “It was a four-inch piece of shrapnel, but I’d still call it a sliver.” He winked, and Brains barked out a laugh. Good, keep that smile. “You going to let them collar you and take you for a little ride?”
Brains’s smile faded. “Just please stay with me. Can you? Will you?”
If Paul hadn’t already been 100 percent in on this mission, he was now.
Musical Influences Behind Brains and Brawn: Summer of Hush Book Two
Thank you for joining me on this next leg of the Summer of Hush tour! Some of you may have been around since book one came out last year. We met Silas Franklin and his band of brothers in the metalcore band Hush, including drummer and, well, super genius Billy “Brains” Brennan. Many readers fell for Brains and sent me requests for a Brains and Paul story. I am here to say I hope I delivered!
As with book one, the Summer of Hush series follows the band on the last cross-country Warped Tour that occurred in 2018. If you visit the Summer of Hush page on my website, you can find inspiration videos and links to the blog tour for the first story. Book Two has some of the same artists, but a few new ones as well.
Motionless in White made an appearance on the first book’s playlist, but in the meantime they released a new album and ohhh it’s lovely. I’m sharing their Warped Tour set from 2018 and if you skip to 18:35, the singer from the next band on my playlist joins Chris Motionless onstage to sing “Abigail,” one of their early hits about the Salem Witch Trials. Chris is my muse for Brains in the book. Ironically, Chris started out as a drummer before taking over frontman duties. Silas in Hush doesn’t need to worry about that, however, as Brains doesn’t love to sing.
Ice Nine Kills is a band I discovered over the past two years and I don’t know where they’ve been all my life! They’ve got it all, a great frontman, a fresh sound, and a love for horror that bled all over their latest album. The Silver Scream came out in 2018 and if I would have been there (family trip with the school to Spain, that’s another story) I would have been able to see Spencer sing with Chris and see the band perform these phenomenal new songs. Ice Nine Kills is on my bucket list of bands to see and I hope it happens soon! If the screaming is a bit much for you, you can catch this performance which happened on their recent visit to the infamous Stanley Hotel in Colorado, inspiration for The Shining, one of my favorite books…
But I digress…
The pivotal scene in Brains and Brawn takes us back to events that happened in book one. Brains is seriously injured in a freak accident, and in his book, we get the events from his perspective. Around the time I was writing the scene, I heard this lovely song by You Me At Six. And once Brains is faced with sending his bandmates out on tour without him, he’s kind of lost and this song by Crown the Empire really resonated with me.
Brains and Brawn’s playist also features some older rock as Paul, our Navy Corpsman hero is a little older himself. His workout routine includes Bon Jovi tunes and he’s a big KISS fan. Brains likes to needle him about his musical tastes, but when it comes to debating musical prowess, they both enjoy it the banter…immensely.
There was always a little something for everyone musically at Warped Tour, and the same can be said for the Summer of Hush series. I hope you’ll check out the books and join me on tour with the metalcore darlings. Book three will be out in 2021. Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance…
R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after.
Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush and RONE finalist for Typhoon Toby, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after.
She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause.
You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.