Jojo Arias, a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, didn’t expect to meet a U.S. Marine in a tony bar in the Philippines. But, Jojo can’t deny the electricity they have once he meets Adam.
Although they come from different worlds, they struggle to keep their relationship private to protect Jojo’s status and position as an heir to one of the wealthiest and powerful families in Filipino society. Billions of dollars could be easily lost if his family business is jeopardized by Jojo’s secret love affair.
Because of his standing in society, Jojo is pressured to abandon Adam and live a life in the closet. But he doesn’t want to leave the man he loves. As he struggles to maintain their secret romance, things begin to unravel and Jojo has to make a life-changing decision. Should he choose to stay with his family, or does he have the courage to pursue the love of
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Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Bad Breakup, Coming Out Later in Life, Cultural Differences, Famous / Not Famous, Find Love and Come Out, In Uniform, Interracial Relationship, Out for You
Word Count: 73000
Setting: Philippines, California
Languages Available: English
Under the Jasmine Flowers
By W.S. Long
James Joseph Garcia Arias savored the last few drops, then set the now empty pilsner down, right next to two other empty bottles of San Miguel beer. Despite the thick glass windows in the swank Makati bar that should have offered some soundproofing, Saturday Manila traffic passed noisily one floor below. The rumble of buses, cars honking, and steady stream of headlights never bored him. He preferred the noise of the city to the quiet stillness that his parents called home.READ MORE
He glanced at his Patek Phillipe Nautilus watch his grandmother had given him. He texted Erwin. Ready. Barely a second or two passed, when his phone received the reply text. Be right there, boss. He sighed. He’d asked Erwin not to call him that for the longest time, but Erwin insisted. Jojo stood, fished out the right amount of pesos, plus a slightly larger gratuity than what was expected, then headed for the men’s room. A large group of Americans sat around the glass-tiled bar, laughing loudly. He guessed they were military, based on their crew cuts, hanging out to blow off steam. When he returned a few minutes later, after peeing an hour’s worth of beer, one of the military guys glanced up, and smiled at him. The man’s eyes followed Jojo.
Walk on by. Don’t stop.
He wanted to listen to the voice inside his head but he couldn’t. Maybe the alcohol made him less inhibited, maybe he was still reeling from the breakup with his fiancee and maybe he wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t an employee or a family member, or maybe because no one left in the bar knew him because the next thing he did was he stopped, inches away from the blond.
“Is this seat taken?” Jojo asked.
The stranger smiled more broadly and shook his head. “No.”
Jojo waited a second to see if the handsome man would say something else, but all the blond man did was smile even more. “American right?” Jojo asked.
“I’m guessing you guys are U.S. military?”
“Marines, yeah. We’re sending one of our guys off, rotating from the Embassy here. My name’s Adam, by the way.” Adam offered his hand, which Jojo shook.
“James Arias, but my friends call me ‘Jojo’.”
Adam opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by his friends who came over to meet Jojo. It didn’t take Jojo long to figure that Adam was probably the only sober one in the group, as the four other guys slurred their words, and often laughed uncontrollably at each other’s jokes. When Adam’s friends returned to their seats at the bar, Adam leaned in. “Your English is perfect, no trace of an accent, so I’m guessing you’re American too?”
“You’re partly right. I was born in America. My mother was a medical student in the U.S., and we lived in San Francisco but we moved back here after she got her degree.”
“So your mom’s a doctor?”
Jojo smiled. He wanted to tell Adam the whole long story of why his mother had never practiced medicine after she completed medical school because the family had seen no need of her working at a hospital or a clinic, and that these days her mother was busy hosting, or attending social and charitable events, but he thought the better of it and just answered simply. “Yeah, she is.”
“So you live here. . . I mean the Philippines?” Adam asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’m sorry I’m asking stupid questions because you don’t look Filipino. I hope I’m not offending you by saying that. Most Filipinos are short and very Asian looking. You look more like my Latino friends from Southern California and in a good way.”
Jojo laughed. “It’s probably the lighting, but my father and mother are both parts Spanish and Filipino so maybe that’s why my features are different than most.” Jojo’s cell phone vibrated. I’m downstairs, boss. Jojo palmed the phone for a second, aware that Adam was studying him. Erwin, something’s come up. Head back to the garage until I text you again.
Jojo shook his head without looking up from his phone.
Jojo raised his head and laughed at the handsome man’s brazenness. He liked how Adam’s strong jawline, full lips and dark eyebrows peered at him, waiting on every word. Maybe it was the alcohol. He moved within earshot so that only the Marine could hear. “No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in a long time. But, I did just break up with my fiancee.”
“Is that why you were nursing several beers over in that corner after your friends left you?”
Jojo narrowed his eyes. “You’re very perceptive, Adam. Except they weren’t my friends, they were . . . co-workers.” Jojo almost said employees, but stopped himself. Maybe it was the Arias family tendency to be secretive, and not give out too much information, but here he was on a Saturday night in a bar, drinking, when he was usually still in the office poring over engineering details, building plans, and contract proposals.
“I’m sorry about the break up. You look torn up about it. I couldn’t help but notice earlier when we first arrived. Can I buy you a beer?”
Jojo smiled, then laughed without meaning to. The last time a guy had bought him a beer was in a dive bar right outside CalPoly, after an engineering final.
“What’s so funny?” Adam asked, as he chuckled along.
“It’s been a while since another guy offered to buy me a beer.”
“No worries. It looked like earlier you needed it. Did she break your heart?” Jojo faced toward the bar, away from Adam. Jojo didn’t say anything, but he wanted to respond.
Adam spoke again. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”
Jojo pondered Adam’s question as Adam’s friends got louder and louder on their end of the bar.
“Don’t worry about them,” Adam said as he pointed to his friends. “I’m the designated driver, and in about an hour they’ll all be sound asleep snoring in the government issued van I’m driving.”
So he’s brazen without alcohol.
Jojo faced Adam and breathed deeply. He couldn’t tell the color of Adam’s piercing eyes but Jojo couldn’t deny his own intense interest in the serviceman. Adam leaned in and prolonged his gaze. Jojo was mesmerized. Adam seemed genuinely concerned. And maybe he was wrong, but Adam appeared compassionate. “She asked me if I was ever going to marry her. If I loved her, and if we were only together because both our families wanted it. I had to tell her the truth, and that as much as I had feelings for her, I didn’t love her.”
“Ouch!” Then Adam smiled, his voice took on a tone of playfulness. “And you’re here, living and breathing with no scratch on you.”
“She is a very logical, rational person. That’s why I liked her when we first met. She was so completely different from the other girls my parents tried to set me up with.”
“You have a picture of her? I’m curious.”
Jojo nodded, fished out his phone, and scrolled through some pictures before showing a good one of his ex, Lani.
“Wow. She’s hot. Your parents had good taste if they thought she would be a good wife.”
One of Adam’s friends sauntered over and peered at Lani’s photo. “Dude, your girlfriend?”
“Ex,” Adam said. “That’s his ex.”
“How about giving me her number? She’s pretty.”
Jojo shook his head. If Lani, a black belt in tae kwon do, found out he’d ever given her number to someone, she’d probably roundhouse kick him in the head before he knew anything about it. “Sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Well, at least I tried,” the Marine said. “Hey, Adam, we’re thinking we should head on over to the bars downtown.”
“Downtown?” Adam asked.
“Ermita,” the man said.
Adam turned away so that only Jojo could see his face as he rolled his eyes.
“What do you say? For old time’s sake?” his friend asked. “You’re welcome to come along––’’
“––Jojo, my name’s, Jojo,” as they both shook hands.
“Mine’s Nate. Yeah, come along with us, I’m sure Adam won’t mind,” the Marine continued. “It’ll keep him company, and his mind off his ex-boyfriend he’s probably still pining after.”
Adam slouched. Adam’s reaction to his Marine buddy’s comment must have hit a chord and Jojo was compelled to find out more about Adam. Jojo hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t used to spontaneously accepting strangers offers to hang out, but Adam’s eyes beckoned him to say yes. Besides, maybe a few more hours out on the town would make him feel better for breaking up with Lani.
“If you’re sure I won’t be a fifth wheel, yeah, I’ll join you.”
Adam smiled. “Nate’s a little bit of a douche bag. So sorry about that.”
“Well, your friend’s had a little too much to drink.” Jojo leaned closer, sticking a hand in his pants pocket, his lips almost touching Adam’s ear, and whispered. “But to be honest, that scene is a little too, I’m trying to find the right words to say it––”
“––Red light? Yeah, I hate going down there.” Adam put his hand on top of Jojo’s wrist, squeezed it, and then removed it. The quick touch happened in a blink of an eye. “Do you have any other suggestions?”
Jojo didn’t say anything. He was shocked that Adam had just placed his hand on him, so casually, so friendly like. He couldn’t deny the electricity he felt when Adam touched him either.COLLAPSE
Becca on Love Bytes Reviews wrote:
5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing story 🙂
May 18, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
Jojo and Adam wanted what plenty of others do - happiness and freedom to build a life with your chosen partner. As in many cases, that is where real life, a.k.a. society comes in and tells you how difficult it may be.
W.S. Long build an amazing story set in Philipines. But instead of just a brief description the location, the customs, history and every day reality of the country became a vital part of the book, with rich descriptions and thorough explanations. Not only does it make for a fascinating read, but makes the overall story more riveting. Plenty of secondary characters are introduced, but they all play an important role in the story. Yes, the book is long. Yes, there is plenty of information and descriptions to absorb. YES, this is a great read and an absolutely worth recommending book!
I received an ARC of this book for free, but the above review is 100% honest and all mine.
5.0 out of 5 stars
A secret relationship
May 18, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
This story takes place in modern-day Philippines, and the main characters are Jojo, a young man from a wealthy Philippine family and sole heir to the family's business, and Adam, an American marine temporarily stationed in Manila. Jojo and Adam become attracted to each other from the moment they meet, but they have to be very discreet because no one must know that Jojo is not straight; it would destroy his family, the family's business, and Jojo himself. Jojo feels that it's his duty to protect his family and their business, but he also deeply loves Adam, and doesn't want to lose him. It's a hard decision to make, why can't he have both? The gist of the story is how society can interfere in people's private lives if they don't meet society's expectations. This story is very well told, the events flow evenly throughout the book, and the author doesn't dwell on any one point for too long, he keeps the story moving along at a steady pace. A lovely book, and if there is a sequel, I would want to read it too.
5.0 out of 5 stars
May 18, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
Under the Jasmine Flowers by W.S. Long is a wonderful contemporary m/m romance. I love JoJo and Adam and the evolution of their relationship. The family interactions and friends kept my interest as well.i thought the story was a nice mix of sweetness and drama. Truly enjoyable.
I received an advanced reader's copy of the book and I am voluntarily leaving my honest review and recommendation.
This book broke my heart in so many ways, but yet it’s a beautiful story at the same time. It’s a hard story. Cultures are different and not as accepting as others. Goodness, you still see the problems we have in the states and we are far more progressive than others. But this story, is about so many things. It’s about loss, grief, anger, and more, but it’s also about hope, love and finding oneself and the road they want to travel. It’s about finally being true to oneself. And learning what’s really more important in your life.
Jojo never wanted to take over the family company. But since his brother died, he’s been stuck having to fill that role. And along with his brother’s death still looming, he has become more angry and more grief filled. He’s pushed people away, and there’s a rift between many of his family because he’s not allowed to be himself. Which is a gay man in a culture that isn’t accepting. As well as his father. And most of his family. But not all. But one night in a bar, on his way out the door, a beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed Marine caught his eye. And his life started changing before his eyes. Before he knew it, he was falling in love. And having to hide behind his friends and others to keep their relationship secret. But along with the secrets, came some more misery. He didn’t want to have to hide Adam and who they were, but he didn’t know how to make his family understand. It wasn’t until an incident with his cousin, that had caused Adam to have to go back to the states early. And because of it, Jojo had to make up his mind. What was more important…his father’s company or his happiness?
My heart ached for these two in this book. I hate that other cultures can’t accept that love is love and everyone deserves it no matter who they are. Male/male, female/female, or whoever. And having a family that can’t support you in the matter just makes it worse. I hate when families don’t back up their children. And give them the support they so desperately need as they find themselves. So for Jojo having to hide himself all the time, is heartbreaking. He’s miserable in a life he can’t seem to get free of. And now that he has Adam, he’s happier than he’s been in years. Except for the part where they have to hide everything they are. But sometimes, the pressure gets too much and you just have to let loose. And for Jojo, he was falling apart at the seams. He was finally starting to lash out and make his voice known of his unhappiness and how he wasn’t liking how things were turning out. It was sad it had to come this, but it was finally what needed to happen in order for Jojo to move on. And it was long overdue. He needed Adam, and the love that Adam gave so freely to him. He needed him in his corner as he was. Adam did everything he could to support Jojo and know that no matter what the outcome, he was in for the long haul. It was just up to Jojo to decide when.
Sometimes it takes something drastic to change the way our lives work out. Sometimes it doesn’t. I hate for Jojo that it did, but if it pushed him in the direction he needed to be in order to be free, then it had to be done. He had just as much right at happiness as anyone else, and it was time to live for himself and for Adam. It’s a beautiful story, but hard.