It’s not always easy to be loud and proud – unless you have someone to show you the way. A fun, exuberant and moving gay novel by an exciting new voice in commercial fiction, where these diverse stories can be hard to find. This is a contemporary love story – or uplifting ‘bromcom’ – ideal for fans of Honeybee and Heartstopper. Set in Brisbane during Australia’s 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, 26-year-old Sean Preston confronts his internalised homophobia and guilt, eventually learning to accept the most important love of all – the love for oneself.

When Sean’s relationship of three months comes to a humiliating end, he vows to never become emotionally attached to anyone again. Sean lives through a revolving door of hook-ups, stimulants, and booze. The rest of his life is also a mess. His job as a professional online troll moderator doesn’t help his mental health. Then there’s his best friend, former girlfriend Abby, who still resents Sean for coming out. Even his own mother seems to hate him. Caught between Abby’s narcissism and his mother’s constant allusions to Sean having ruined her life, Sean reels from one crisis to another. And yet a strange connection with Meredith, an 85-year-old nursing home resident, somehow unites the worst of Sean’s tangled identity crisis. When Sean meets William, who is shy and naive about the gay dating scene, an unlikely friendship blossoms. Sean begins to understand the value of friendship and true connection, and slowly dares to hope for a kinder life for himself. But how to begin?

AUTHORS NOTE: As an open and proud gay man in my 30s, I am still trying to make sense of the shame and internalised homophobia I grappled with in my teens and early 20s. This novel explores the difference between being ‘out’ and being ‘out and proud’, and how ‘coming out’ is not a single act but an ongoing journey of self-acceptance. As a reader, I want to see more adult novels depicting gay culture and its flaws, including the community’s obsession with image and labels that straight audiences may not at first recognise. Some may think legalising same-sex marriage was the final step in achieving equality in Australia; on the contrary, too few gay men see their stories or experiences represented, and living with that shame remains all-too common for gay men of all ages today.

ABOUT LUKE RUTLEDGE: Luke Rutledge has worked as a communications specialist since 2014. He studied journalism and professional writing, editing and publishing at the Queensland University of Technology. Before that, he studied music at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, where he majored in classical flute. He lives in Brisbane with his fiancé and their West Highland terrier, Rufus. A Man and His Pride is his debut novel.