When the only way to win is to hide who you are, how far are you prepared to go?
Reuben “Angel” Jacobs is one step away from giving it all up. Losing a place in the live finals of Sing UK almost kills him. He has no choice but to go home and work for the family business, even though it means giving up his dreams and proving his old bullies right.
Corey Dixon is a rocker at heart. Being on the spectrum means that making sense of other people’s ‘normal’ is hard in itself, let alone in the chaos of a high-powered competition. Singing is his safe space, the only way he can think through the noise in his head. Messing up his audition for the live shows means his journey is over, and it’s the worst day of his life.
The judges throw them a lifeline and create a boy band from the near-miss hopefuls. Angel, Corey, and three others are put together in a room and offered the chance to sing as a group. Agreeing to become part of the new band means Corey has to hide who he is and what Angel has come to mean to him.
Is winning worth the price Corey and Angel have to pay?
Sexy Erotic Exciting Book reviews 5/5 Boy Banned is a book not to be missed.
There are times in life when a person can honestly say that a book touches their life. Boy Banned by R.J. Scott was such a book.
Ms. Scott delivered such a touching and heartwarming story … The flawless writing facilitated a beautifully written tale of young men attempting to make it into the world of music and oh wait…one of them happened to have Asperger Syndrome. ”
The Geekery Book Review 4-4.5 I highly recommend this wonderful story!
I could gush more about Corey and Angel and the relationship they build together, but I’ll just say you should definitely read this book!
Bookaholics-Not-So-Anonymous 4.5 Boy Banned was sweet with a tiny dash of angst…
The author tackled Corey’s status with sensitivity, portraying how his behavior elicits varying reactions from people, but when he’s with those who truly care about him, it’s all about care and patience.
Multitasking Mommas 5/5 RJ went over and above this one
I couldn’t recommend this book more and seriously, just the second time this year I can honestly say, multiply the rating by five and there you have it.
Diverse Reader This is a stunning story. Entertaining and touching!
Their interactions, moments, all of it. It was written so brilliantly that I had tears in my eyes at the beauty of it all.
Rainbow Book Reviews The love that grows between them is amazing. Corey and Angel, are perfect together.
It’s heartwarming and gives hope to everyone who feels they are different.
Cathy Writes Romance 5/5 My favorite thing about this book is it didn’t just focus on Corey and Angel.
Their romance was sweet, slowly built from Corey’s need to be grounded, Angels understanding and how all the guys accepted each other’s differences.
Wicked Reads 4/5 Can Corey merge with these other people and be a cohesive unit?
The autism aspect of the book was interesting and I felt portrayed well.
Archaeolibrarian 5/5 STOP!!!! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT OPENING THIS BOOK…
… at least, not until you can sit down and read it without interruption because, trust me, you will NOT want to be disturbed until you’ve finished it!
Zipper Rippers 4/5 A must-read for any romance fan.
There was angst, there was drama (but not too over the top), real emotions from real people and the romance between Cory an Angel was so sweet and romantic.
Making It Happen 4.5 Oh, and don’t be surprised if you become a little emotional while reading-this book will definitely do that to you!
The politics of the show made me want to scream, and Brianna…I don’t even want to go there as I may say things I might regret later. Well, no…I wouldn’t regret them at all. You’ll see when you read it what I mean (GRRRR…).
The Novel Approach 4/5 Boy Banned is simply this: a feel-good book, unrepentantly so, full of optimism and happy beginnings.
RJ Scott is always a sure-bet author for me when I’m looking for a romance novel I can really sink my whole heart into, and boy oh boy, is Boy Banned that book.
Bayou Book Junkie 4.5 I really enjoyed Boy Banned and definitely recommend it.
Boy Banned might not be the first book about the creation of a boy band and certainly not the last but the characters are definitely a fresh take on the story!
Joyfully Jay 5/5 Boy Banned is a book which touched my heart and gave me hope.
However, Boy Banned is not a story about ASD, though this helps the reader in understanding Corey and his initial need for Angel’s comfort. Boy Banned is a story about love, friendship, and identity.
Prism Book Alliance 4/5 His sheer need for Angel and the way Angel so quickly becomes able to read him is fascinating and so hopeful.
I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to read but I did feel it would be accurate given what it means to the author and boy did she do a fantastic job with it.
“This sucks,” Corey Dixon muttered and closed his eyes, willing the time to pass quickly.
He knew it wouldn’t be good news, but he’d rather get the bad stuff out of the way so he could go home.
“I wish they’d call us soon,” someone said near him.
Corey cracked open his eyes to see who had spoken, even though he didn’t really have to because he recognized the voice. Angel.
Angel Jacobs was pacing, his loose white shirt swishing every time he turned.
Corey would know Angel’s soft tone anywhere, the voice matching the sexy blond who’d become part of Corey’s world over the last few days. He even knew his name. Angel. Which kind of suited the man as he was always dressed in white and always looked so much at peace. He had a focus in his dark eyes that Corey couldn’t help reacting to. Angel was a calming presence in any room; he didn’t even have to say anything.
I just want them to call us in, so we can get this over with. Or is it just me who thinks that?
And like he’d read Corey’s mind, Angel said, “Is it just me, or is everyone feeling like they want this the hell over?” There were no cameras in the room, but that didn’t stop Angel from speaking very quietly.
“We’re fucked now,” the youngest guy in the room said. He was hyperactive, always on the move, and had all the inherent enthusiasm of a puppy.
Only, Puppy swore a lot, he appeared to use cursing as punctuation. It was why Corey had become aware of him at the start of the auditions. He’d bounced in yelling “Wanker!” after the departing cab driver who had charged him a tenner for a mile, or something equally awful in Puppy’s eyes.
Corey wondered if swearing would help release some of the anxiety that churned inside him? All kinds of professionals had told Corey he didn’t have a handle on his emotions. Maybe he should try shouting a few choice curse words to see if that released some of his tension, or take a leaf out of Puppy’s book and curse and rant and hit walls. Maybe cursing would help him get his head around the fact he’d chosen the wrong song to sing in the second auditions.
He knew he’d messed up as soon as he saw all three judges exchanging disappointed glances. Singing Rihanna’s Stay, in a higher key than he liked, slower than he wanted, and with no soul was a ticket to getting kicked off the show.
Knowing his luck, he’d make it to one of the clips they showed on the show. The ones that that followed idiots like him with potential but who’d chosen a song too big for them.
In fact, including him, Angel, and Puppy, there were five of them in this room, and each of them had been fucked the minute they’d made it to the final selection process. Yes, they’d made it to the final hundred acts, and yes, they might have been the cream at the open calls, but all of them stank in one way or another at the final selection round of Sing UK, and they were paying for it now.
“Maybe we’re last on the stage because we’re the ones who’ve got through?” Asian guy—Double K—offered. He was man four, and Corey called him Double K because his real name had a ridiculous amount of k’s in it.
Which just left one other man, with painted-on jeans and a sullen expression. Corey called him Skinny, because he resembled a string bean.
“I doubt it,” Skinny said, more than a little morosely, as if Corey’s considering him had prompted him to speak. “They won’t send me through after I threatened the judge.”
Skinny was a tense kind of man, coiled tighter than a spring and with a sharp, spiky temper. He was also the funniest guy there, making dry comments about the judges, the acts, and mostly about Angel’s white-blond hair. Skinny had this inability to keep his mouth shut and his opinions inside. He swore he hadn’t meant to make a veiled comment about Brianna McCulloch being an uninformed moron, but it had slipped out nonetheless.
A cheer erupted outside the room. The five taken out from the room before were the remaining girls, all of them strong contenders, and included Hannah, the one who kept winking at Corey. She’d flown through her audition. The media were saying it was because her dad was best friends with one of the judges, or he had been until he died young of the ever-present combination of rock-and–roll, drink, and drugs.
Corey wasn’t sure what effect that had on Hannah’s chances. All he saw was someone who could sing, and who had a better song at this last step in the competition before the live shows.
Then Corey heard whooping and cheering and even a scream. Happy noises. No hitting walls or yelling or crying.
“See? That selection of girls got through,” Double K said, “That’s a good sign, right?”
Corey shook his head. They’d sat in this room with the last hundred or so acts, and they’d heard screams, shouts, cheers, and loud arguments. The room was right next to the corridor from the stage, so the waiting acts could hear everything except the actual decisions.
Psychological torture. The whole singing talent show was an exercise in cruelty, pushing and pushing to see how far contestants would go before cracking. Which wasn’t far for some given Double K descended into tears at the drop of a hat.
Corey had kept count, and he didn’t for one minute think that he and the guys he sat with had any chance of getting through to the next round.
The door opened and one of the showrunners, with a clipboard and headphones, came into the room followed by the cameras.
“Okay, guys, you’re up.”
Double K started to cry again, wiped at his tears, and then stoically and dramatically pushed back his shoulders, looking all brave and throwing a cocky grin at the nearest camera, with an added wink for good measure. Skinny and Puppy followed, both with their heads down. Angel gestured for Corey to go next, and, despite not wanting to leave the room at all, he went through and nodded his acknowledgment of the polite act. Still, part of him wished he was behind Angel, then maybe he could stare at Angel’s sexy swaying rear and forget the fact he’d fucked up.
The five of them trailed onto the stage. All three judges sat with their heads together, poring over a pile of papers. They’d assumed the positions they did best: strong judge, funny judge, and crying, girly judge, and the cameras caught them from all angles.
There was a delay as the makeup guy fluttered around Brianna, the woman at the judges’ table who had consoled Double K, the judge who “felt every emotion” and was the nation’s sweetheart.
Corey knew he was cynical, just as he knew they were getting kicked off the show today.
“Filming in five, four….”
Brianna was clearly the leader in this particular choice. “Hi, guys,” she said strongly, her tone belied by the fluttering of her hands around her face. She had assumed the “we have terrible news” expression. Both the male judges had relaxed back in their seats.
All five of the contestants said hello back; the other four were as worried and subdued as Corey sounded to his own ears.
“Okay,” she began, “boys, boys, boys… you all know that the auditions at boot camp weren’t so good. Mistakes, wrong song choices, emotions getting the better of you….” She trailed off and looked into the distance with a soft pout. She was acting out the whole disappointment thing and was a freaking expert at it.
Corey shifted from one foot to the other. His head was banded with the start of a headache, which he was convinced would deteriorate into a migraine if he didn’t get some meds soon. That would just be the perfect shitty end to the perfect shitty day.
“We’ve considered you a lot. You’re the hardest group of singers, and it took us a long time to come to a decision.”
Another dramatic pause, in which Corey imagined music would be inserted for added drama. He stopped breathing, waiting for her to finish what she was going to say. Maybe, somehow, they’d been given the chance to prove themselves again, and she would say they were through.
She shook her head slowly. “Sorry, boys. We’re not taking you through as solo singers to the live finals.”
And there it was. Corey’s dream gone. Finished.
He’d messed up worse than the worst fuck-up ever, and the disappointment was visceral, unforgiving, heartbreaking.
Double K let out a harsh sigh and then draped himself all over Angel, who didn’t push him away, simply held him gently.
At least Double K wasn’t crying.
Corey wanted to cry.
Not at the fact he’d come this close to getting to the live shows, but the fact it was all his own fault that he’d blown his audition. If only he’d stuck to Kasabian, or maybe another old Bon Jovi, he’d have made it through.
Corey didn’t cry, though. He let himself feel the pain of disappointment, then looked to the stage manager as to what they were going to do next. If the cameras caught him at that moment, they would see a man who’d been dealt a blow but was stubbornly determined not to give up.
“But—” Brianna was talking again, saying something about wildcards and judges’ choice and compromise. “We have our wildcard choice, and all five of you made the list as being just outside those we selected who made it automatically to the shows. You’re all good, but you just didn’t raise your game enough to make it through automatically.”
Corey tuned back in. Were they going to make the five of them repeat their performance? Was he still in with a chance? He was way better than Skinny, Puppy, and Double K. Only Angel was anywhere near his skills vocally. Angel, who was still supporting Double K, which made Corey’s skin itch with a prickle of resentment. He pushed it away.
Hope bloomed inside him at the thought he might have another chance. He wouldn’t mess up again. He could do this.
And then, as suddenly as hope began to grow, Brianna dashed it by using her serious tone, the one that had viewers falling for her all over again.
“We’d like you to consider grouping together, becoming one band, and going through to the live finals as our wildcard choice in the group category.”
Double K was quiet, and Puppy had even stopped swearing quietly under his breath.
“Go,” Brianna said. “Take some time. Talk it over.”
In a daze, his chest tight, Corey left the stage, the last of them to leave, following Double K back into the large room they’d just been sitting in. Cameras followed them in, and all of them stood looking at each other.
“Okay, guys, this is a big decision,” the showrunner said. “We’ll keep the cameras out of the room. Let me know when you’re done. You have an hour before we offer this to our next reserve.”
He turned to leave, but Corey needed to ask one thing.
“If we say no, does that mean one of us alone would become the wildcard?”
Hope sat in his chest, and he willed the man to say yes.
The producer checked his clipboard and shook his head. “No. It’s all or nothing, because we have a girl up on second reserve if you decide you want to call it a day.”
The cameras left; the door shut.
Angel shook his head, Puppy cursed loudly, Skinny thumped the wall, and Double K burst into tears.
And all Corey could do was stand there and use every available ounce of energy to focus on what the hell had just happened.
Corey hadn’t even bothered to learn their names, apart from Angel’s, and that was only because he’d become a little obsessed with him. Not because Angel was gorgeous, or sexy, or his voice was like the best softness ever, but because it helped Corey to focus on one thing or person. Angel was that person. He was more or less the same height as Corey, his hair dyed white-blond with a hint of a darker color beneath. The sides of his head were shaved short, and the rest was in long layers, spiked up in a gravity-defying kind of way. He always looked so put-together, always in white, and his makeup was perfect. There was a beautiful symmetry to his face, and Corey could spend all day staring at his soft brown eyes.
He didn’t. At least, he didn’t think he was staring too obviously.
As to names, though, what was the point in learning everyone else’s in this competition? Making friends, even as far as calling rivals by their first names, was not on his to-do list. He was there to make it to live TV shows for Sing UK, to become the next singer who could make a reasonable living from his voice. And suddenly he was in this room being asked to make a connection to other people, other soloists who up to today had been his rivals, and Corey realized he had no clue what to do next.
“Shit, fuck, bollocks,” Puppy said.
Again with the curses. Coming from a cute, pouty mouth, with all the associations of innocence, the cursing sounded wrong.
“I’ll do it,” Double K said nervously. “I need to do it.”
“Fuck yes,” Puppy added after a little while. “I’ll do anything to get on the live shows.”
Corey heard desperation in his curse.
That left Skinny, Angel, and Corey himself.
Skinny slumped to the floor, a messy tangle of long limbs, and hell knows where his junk had gone given his jeans had pushed way up his ass crack. “But we’d be shit,” he murmured. He took his glasses off and pushed them up in his hair.
Corey couldn’t fail to see the smudges of exhaustion on Skinny’s face or the bruise on his eye—probably the reason he was wearing the glasses. The man had a way of holding himself, a solid steady pose of threat that Corey didn’t like. He guessed if he had to put a name to it he would call it restrained violence, but then, he was probably reading it all wrong as he often did.
“We’re not shit,” Puppy said with heat. “Fuck off, if anyone says we are shit!”
Skinny rested back on his hands, looking up at the chandelier hanging from the high ceiling. “I’m in.”
Which left Corey and Angel.
Corey turned to face the man with the flowing white shirt, the dyed white-blond hair, and the eye makeup.
“It won’t work,” Angel said. “We’re all so different.”
Didn’t matter they were in the most difficult moment of Corey’s life, Angel’s voice was still like silk, and he couldn’t help it, but he found it so sexy. Corey didn’t find much in life sexy; the idea of physical contact with another person in that way had been enough to ensure that he made it to twenty-three as what others would call a virgin. Hell, there was no other way to explain it—he was a virgin. He didn’t care for the term, he wasn’t lacking in orgasms by himself, and he didn’t exactly require all the baggage that came the messiness of a relationship. But Angel was… hell, he didn’t know what Angel was. Angel was a danger to the peace Corey had found in admitting to himself that he didn’t need anyone. Because since meeting Angel, the idea of kissing him was forefront in Corey’s mind way too often.
Angel was different.
I’m getting hard. What the hell? Thank God for long T-shirts.
Corey focused on the fact that Angel was attempting to be the voice of reason, talking about how their combined vocal styles would be all over the place, and he nodded his agreement at the sense that Angel was speaking.
“I agree with Angel,” he blurted. All eyes looked at him, and abruptly Corey didn’t know what to say. So instead he spoke the absolute truth that was like a lump of lead in his stomach. He huffed. “Like there’s any possibility I could be in the same band as the rest of you. I don’t even know your names.”
Corey’s people skills were lacking and the words came out in what his Aunt Mim called his rude tone. He could identify his own failings; he just couldn’t stop himself. He caught Angel raising a single eyebrow in silent condemnation of the way he’d spoken, and just that simple action had Corey feeling all kinds of shit. “I’m just being practical,” he defended himself.
Practical was a good word to use, he often got away with that as an excuse. Somehow just saying that made people think he was not a complete asshole.
It clearly didn’t work with Puppy. “Fuck you, wanker,” he snapped. “It’s not like you’re anything great.”
Corey rounded on him. “At least I remember my words.” That was a kicking comeback. He wasn’t the type of man to be deliberately unkind, just truthful, but Puppy didn’t look hurt, he looked angry, maybe as if he might stand up and thump him. Corey liked being honest, but he didn’t like getting hit.
Puppy had destroyed a song by forgetting half his words. And who forgot the words to an ABBA song and still called himself a singer? It was unwritten law for vocalists to know all the words to “Dancing Queen.” Surely?
“Stop arguing,” Double K interjected loudly and placed a hand between Corey and Puppy. “This is important to us all, right?”
Everyone else mumbled agreement. Corey stayed quiet.
“So I’ll change the way I sing, the way I dance, or dress, or act, if it means getting our faces out there. We can all transform from being solo acts to being a group if we want to get on the show badly enough.”
“You’ll have to stop crying,” Corey muttered.
And the bitter nastiness just kept coming. I need to stop.
Skinny stared at him with narrowed eyes and clenched fists, and Puppy even began to roll to his feet, but Angel’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“Fucking wanker,” Puppy muttered. “Like we want him in our band.”
Corey bit his lip; he had to stop the words from leaving his mouth. He had to try so hard. He’d used up his capacity to focus, and the disappointment was acid inside him. He wanted to get on the show, and he was messing it up.
“So, what does everyone else think?” Double K asked.
“Well, I want to go to fucking Broadway,” Puppy announced. Everyone looked at him. “Seriously, fuckers, I will do anything to get in front of the agents and get myself to New York.”
Double K nodded, abruptly enthusiastic and bright-eyed. “I want to marry someone I love. Singing will get me that, maybe.”
The brightness disappeared at the last part, and he hiccupped a soft sob, but at least he didn’t full-out cry.
“Yeah, I agree. I want to get my own money.” Skinny stood up and stalked angrily around the room, and everyone waited until he sat down again. “So I don’t have to be a barman at a shit dump for the rest of my natural life, fighting off a manager who thinks he’s a hard man and can shove me about.”
So that’s where the guy’s bruises came from.
Corey caught his mind wandering and sighed, centered his thinking, and made his own announcement. “I want to write rock songs and play stadiums, but for now this would be a start.”
And build a big house somewhere away from everyone where I can play my music really loud.
“Don’t go overboard with the enthusiasm,” Skinny muttered.
They all looked at Angel expectantly.
All he did was shrug. “I just want to sing and not have to paint walls.”
Corey took up his position, sitting cross-legged, his head aching like a bitch, waiting until finally Angel joined them on the carpet, to complete the circle of five.
“So, it’s all of us then?” Angel summarized.
Skinny cleared his throat. “Okay, so you said you don’t know our names. Well, I’m Toby, and I’m from Essex. I work a shit job making sure drunk people don’t cause trouble, and I have anger issues.”
From this close, Corey could see the bruising on Toby’s face was extensive and would likely be even worse tomorrow. Looked like he’d been in a fight recently, and a quick glance down showed scraped knuckles. The last thing they needed in a band was a fighter. How the hell could that ever go right?
Toby nodded at Double K to speak next.
Double K didn’t really need to say anything because he made a point of introducing himself to everyone he met, which was how Corey knew he had some kind of name full of k’s. Still, that didn’t stop him from confirming his name.
“I’m Krishkin Kulkarni, but no one seems to remember me,” he said sadly. “People who do remember me call me DK, because of the double k’s.” He looked expectantly at the others, but no one reacted. Corey had gotten quite close all on his own; at least he’d remember that one. “I’m from Ealing, just outside London, and I work for my dad in his property business. I have six sisters and three brothers,” DK finished.
“Fuck me,” Puppy said. “There’s ten kids?”
DK nodded enthusiastically. “And my parents, and my gran.”
Puppy goggled. “Shit, do you ever get a turn in the shower?”
“We have a big house,” DK said with no sign of bragging. He was simply taking the question and answering it practically. With a subtle shrug, he qualified the statement. “With a lot of bathrooms.”
“Okay, my turn,” Puppy said. “I’m Scott, with two t’s, and I’m from Bristol. Well, not from Bristol itself, but this shit-in-the-middle-of-nowhere village that’s three fucking houses and one pub.”
“You swear a lot,” DK said softly.
“Fuck yes.” Scott gave a wry grin.
Angel didn’t say anything, so Corey guessed he was expected to go next. “I’m Corey,” he began with a tired sigh. The fact his dreams had vanished from in front of him was starting to tell in his words. “I’m from the Southwest.” He wasn’t going to be more specific than that at this point. No need to muddy the waters with extraneous information.
“Angel,” Angel said simply.
“Who christens their son fucking Angel?” Scott asked. He wasn’t being mean, more incredulous.
“I live just outside London,” Angel added.
Corey glanced at him; Angel was being about as specific as Corey had been.
So Toby, DK, Scott, Corey, and Angel sat in a circle and stared at each other. Five men, wildly different in percentage of swearing per sentence, geography, style and, most importantly, voice.
And Corey knew one thing.
In Puppy’s words—no, in Scott’s words, they were, indeed, fucked.