Regarding Henry

Shades of Henry

by Amy Lane

A Flophouse Story
One bootstrap act of integrity cost Henry Worrall everything—military career, family, and the secret boyfriend who kept Henry trapped for eleven years. Desperate, Henry shows up on his brother’s doorstep and is offered a place to live and a job as a handyman in a flophouse for young porn stars.

Lance Luna’s past gave him reasons for being in porn, but as he continues his residency at a local hospital, they now feel more like excuses. He’s got the money to move out of the flophouse and live his own life—but who needs privacy when you’re taking care of a bunch of young men who think working penises make them adults?

Lance worries Henry won’t fit in, but Henry’s got a soft spot for lost young men and a way of helping them. Just as Lance and Henry find a rhythm as den mothers, a murder and the ghosts of Henry’s abusive past intrude. Lance knows Henry’s not capable of murder, but is he capable of caring for Lance’s heart?

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It’s weird, how these days of “social distancing” impact our feelings of time. It wasn’t until the publicist at Dreamspinner pinged me to let me know what promotions were going down for Henry that I realized, Oh my God! I have a release tomorrow!

Now, normally for us, release day is sort of a big deal (you think?) but in this case, like so many of us out there, the list of my concerns outside of work and what happens on the interwebs is so much more important. “Maybe it’s allergies–maybe it’s Covid-19!” is more than just a Maybelline rip-off, and so is, “Toilet… toilet paper? And hand soap!”  Then there’s my favorite, “Will my adult children be able t make rent,” followed by, “So, does my oldest child with asthma know ALL THE SYMPTOMS of the virus and how to get help if he’s having trouble breathing?”

We are scared.

But we are also looking for ways to entertain ourselves to get our mind off of that–and I know my audiobook and regular book reading is one of my best ways to pass the time. And I think Henry is a really worthy character to pass it with!

One of my favorite games to play with a character is to see someone whose behavior looks absolutely inexcusable and then to look inside them to see what made them do these inexcusable things. When we first meet Henry–in Dex in Blue– he’s passing as a redneck, making gross sexist jokes, and sleeping with his sister’s husband.

Ick. Just… ick.

And people still wanted his story! (I was stunned–seriously.)

I figured, “Well, maybe his story–but not a romance.” So I brought him back for the fourth Fish book, Fish on a Bicycle. He was the guy who didn’t do it. And the more I wrote him from Jackson and Ellery’s point of view–and they look inside everybody to see what makes them tick–the more I realized there was more to this guy than meets the eye.

And I’d wanted to write the Flophouse books for a while–books about the Johnnies guys but shorter, a little less angsty, and using some of the fun aspects of porn and a houseful of guys who haven’t quite grown up yet, in spite of what their penises could do.

So it became imperative that Henry live at the flophouse–and then that he and Lance have a story of their own.

Of course, this brings up timeline difficulties. Henry was obviously in the beginning stages of his association with Lance in Fish on a Bicycle–so I had to include the murder in Shades of Henry without overwhelming the reader with details. I didn’t WANT a rehash of Fish 4. I wanted a book that could stand on its own and I worked hard to write one–and my editors worked hard for that too.

But we were all rooting for Henry–the idea of a character who is not just black and white, who was shades of gray and blue and a little red and even some gold was so appealing. Henry’s not a perfect guy. He doesn’t always say the right thing. He doesn’t get the guys in porn, and he doesn’t get Sacramento and he has no idea how to make things right with his brother.

But he learns. One step at a time. Because his heart is good, and he does have integrity, even though he thinks it’s cost him everything. But a guy who would do the right thing even though it costs him–that’s a good guy. I think everybody who wanted his story was right.

We need to know more about him.

So I hope you all love Henry–I really hope you enjoy his story.

And I hope you’re ready for more Flophouse stories, because I have at least two more planned.

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