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The Guncle Abroad

Part of THE GUNCLE

Author Steven Rowley On Tour
Paperback
$18.00 US
5.95"W x 8.97"H x 0.82"D   (15.1 x 22.8 x 2.1 cm) | 13 oz (380 g) | 24 per carton
On sale May 21, 2024 | 320 Pages | 978-0-593-71825-4
Sales rights: US, Canada, Open Mkt
Export Edition
From the nationally bestselling author of The Guncle comes the much-anticipated sequel, in which Patrick O’Hara is called back to his guncle duties…at a big, family wedding in Lake Como, Italy.

Patrick O’Hara is finally in a league of his own…professionally. Inspired by his stint as Grant and Maisie’s caretaker after their mother’s passing, Patrick has "un-stalled" his acting career with sit-com, Guncle Knows Best. Still, some things have had to take a back seat. Looking down both barrels at fifty, Patrick is single and lonely after breaking things off with Emory. But at least he has family, right?
When his brother Greg announces his big, second wedding in Lake Como, Italy, Patrick feels pulled toward Grant and Maisie and flies to Europe to attend the lavish event, only to butt heads with a newfound Launt (Lesbian Aunt), curb his sister Clara from flirting with guests, and desperately restore himself to the favored relative status in the eyes of the kids, as they struggle to adjust to a new normal. But is it Patrick’s job to save the day? Or is simply celebrating love enough to quell the family chaos?
Gracing the page with his signature blend of humor and heart, Steven Rowley delivers the long-awaited sequel to a beloved story, all about the complicated bonds of family, love, and what it takes to rediscover yourself, even at the ripe age of fifty.
ONE

Patrick mustered the last of his patience to smile warmly at the Claridge's doorman before slumping against the revolving door into the hotel to jump-start its spin. Nothing. Even employing his full weight he didn't have the strength to nudge the London hotel's door from a dead stop, and he looked pathetically at the doorman for an assist. Over his weeks-long stay he had come to find the doorman's commitment to the top hat to be, well, a tad over the top-a bit of a bad habit-dashery-but as the man tipped his brim with a wink and sprang to help, Patrick was charmed in spite of himself. At last he was inside the hotel.

"Evening, Pip." Patrick waved as he emerged from the door at last. The night clerk looked up from his paperwork with wide eyes; instead of the string bean his name might suggest, Pip was squat and muscular and filled out his classic uniform quite nicely. Claridge's was a London institution situated between Hyde and Green Parks, triangulating it perfectly with Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, and everyone who worked there was seemingly named after a Dickens character, even Pip, who had moved to England just three years prior from Jaipur. During Patrick's first week in residence at the hotel, he amused himself by assigning names to the people he did not know. Mr. Bumbleporridge. Jiminy Pocket. Madame Squeers. But no such made-up name was required for his favorite employee. "Have anything for me?"

"Evening, sir. Nothing for you, I'm afraid, but I do have an envelope for Jack Curtis."

Patrick chuckled as he accepted his mail. Jack Curtis was the name he used when he didn't want to attract attention (a combination of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis from the movie Some Like It Hot). He used the envelope to salute Pip.

"I see you're leaving us on Friday," Pip said.

"The party had to end sometime." Shooting a film wasn't exactly a party, and certainly not this one, which had been plagued by both poor weather and endless rewrites, but Patrick was committed to use the last of his energy to charm.

"Shame." Pip held Patrick's gaze and a spark of electricity crackled between them. "You look pretty knackered. I could have something else for you. Turndown service, perhaps?"

Patrick had invited Pip up to his room once, weeks earlier, and so he knew this turndown would be full-service. Was he up for this tonight? He studied how sharp the desk clerk looked in his waistcoat and thought maybe it was worth getting a second wind. "Sure. Give me a few minutes?"

Pip playfully slapped the front bell. "I'll find someone to cover the desk."

As he waited for the elevator, Patrick weighed the envelope in his tired hands and snarled at the overwrought calligraphy. Ivory. An invitation, he surmised, which was the last thing he wanted-when this movie wrapped he was booking a trip for himself somewhere far away from everyone else (or at least all the people he knew). He reached for his phone, but there was no service in the elevator. His hands were dry, and the skin on his knuckles creped. The hours on this film had been insane and he'd been neglecting his self-care, and for early summer, London was surprisingly cold. That's what his upcoming vacation was meant to address. It was time to put himself first, in a warm climate-Sitges perhaps or Tenerife, or even the South of France-someplace with a climate that might remind him of his old home in Palm Springs. When he spied the envelope again he was almost surprised to find he was still holding it. He slid one finger under the seal; it caught a hangnail, and he sucked on his finger until he was sure it wasn't bleeding. Indeed it was an invitation. A wedding invitation.

As the elevator reached his floor, he glanced at the time; it was still early evening in Connecticut. He opened the door to his room, which was both cozy and too formal in that British drawing room kind of way. The furniture looked inviting but was stuffed with sawdust or some other filling that made it not at all comfortable (and most certainly a fire hazard). The chairs were narrow and encouraged good posture and there was some sort of tufted left-arm chaise, which he had weeks ago drafted into service to hold his dirty clothes. (The underbutler, he called it.) His brother, Greg, answered his call on the third ring.

"So you're actually doing it."

"Doing what?"

"Marrying the Baroness."

"You got our summons!" Greg joked, but Patrick did feel like he was being called for jury service. He could hear his brother fumbling with something on the other end of the line. "I worried my assistant got the international postage all wrong. Livia should never have put me in charge of the mailing." More fumbling. "Also, she's not a baroness, she's a marchesa."

"Yeah, like that's a real thing." Patrick picked up the RSVP card and looked at the back side, thinking it might reveal this all to be a practical joke. Instead it was blank.

"It's very much a real thing." Indeed Livia hailed from an Italian noble family whose company was a client at Greg's firm. Attorneys weren't really supposed to date clients, but he worked mostly with her father and apparently there was no way for the partners to enforce these things.

Patrick thumbed through the rest of the envelope, the tissue and some information about hotels, before losing interest and ditching the entire thing on the room's quaint writing desk. He turned his attention once again to his hands. "Listen, you're a doctor-"

"I'm a lawyer."

"Same difference. Why do my hands look so much older than the rest of me?"

"You only say that because you can't see your face."

Patrick took the punch, but didn't strike back. There was no denying it, especially with family: he was looking down both barrels at fifty and didn't quite know how to feel about that. He wished he had more role models for gay aging; sadly, many men-too many men-in the generation above him were lost.

More clanging. "Are you fixing the kids dinner or building them a car?"

"I'm making pasta. A little regional cuisine to get them excited for Italy."

"Why, what's in Italy?"

Greg groaned. "Did you read the invitation, or are you waiting for the movie?"

Patrick picked up the invitation again and this time glanced at the actual words. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Lake Como, Italy. And then he noticed the date. "Aw, man. I was going to take a vacation."

"People vacation in Italy."

Not with their entire family. "It's in four weeks! That's not much notice."

"We sent a save the date!" More clanging. "Maybe we sent it to your apartment in New York."

"I'm not in my apartment, as you know."

"Patrick, it took us a lifetime to find one another. We don't believe in waiting longer."

Patrick rolled his eyes, but the thing about Greg, if his first wife was any indication, was that he had great taste in women. Sara had, after all, been Patrick's best friend from college. "Livia's rich, in any case. Good for you for locking it down." Although to Patrick's great surprise, Greg seemed about as interested in her fortune as he did in her title, which is to say not much at all. He genuinely seemed into the woman, or at least he projected as much. "First marriage for love, second for money."

"And the third?"

"Is there going to be a third?"

"No. But you sounded like you were on a roll." More clanging from Greg's end. Honestly, it was like he was fixing a carburetor. "I'm worried about the kids, Patrick."

"Why. What did you do to them?"

"I didn't do anything. They're just . . . They're having a difficult time."

"With the pasta? Cook it longer."

"With this."

Patrick took a deep breath. In many ways he knew this day would come. He had hoped perhaps that Grant and Maisie would be a little older. If they were closer to leaving the nest and spreading their wings to begin exciting lives of their own, they might welcome their father having someone new enter his life. But they were still young, eleven and fourteen-a long way from independence. Their mother's loss was still a wound that had yet to fully scab.

Patrick wasn't ready to tackle his brother's dilemma. "Remember when we were kids and we thought al dente was a way to say pregnant in mixed company? She's, you know, al dente."

Greg laughed. "By the way, Livia thinks I'm still in my late thirties, so can it with the shared memories when she's around."

Patrick pushed his laundry aside and plopped onto the underbutler. So that's what these couches are for. "Aren't you forty-five?"

"Forty-six."

"Why would she think you're in your thirties? Can't she see your face?"

Deserving that, Greg dismissed the insult. "She was really into the young-widower thing when we met. She made assumptions, I didn't correct her. It fueled some fantasy in her and the sex was great, like really great. This one time-"

"What are we, girlfriends?"

Silence on the other end of the line. Patrick pulled his phone away from his ear to make sure they hadn't accidentally been disconnected. Greg continued. "She knows the truth deep down. It's just our little game. Anyway, don't draw attention to it."

Livia herself was in her late forties and she probably liked the idea of being the older (and more well-to-do) woman; Europeans didn't have such hang-ups about age and wealth, which was a point in their favor. So on one hand, Patrick didn't see the harm. On the other, falsehoods were no way to start a marriage. He was hardly a traditionalist, but he believed that much to be true.

Patrick ran the bath, hoping he would have time to get in a soak before entertaining. "You're getting married, Gregory."

"Do you think it's too soon?"

A knock at the door. So much for the bath.

"Who's that? Are you expecting company?"

"It's just Pip."

"PIMP?" Greg asked, horrified.

"No, Pip. Pip. PIP. What's wrong with you? He's here for turndown service. ONE SECOND!"

"Now, that's a euphemism. And are you running a bath?"

Patrick sat on the edge of the tub. "Should I take a dip with Pip?"

"Why? So he can hop on Pop?"

Patrick groaned. "I'm hanging up now."

"Patrick," Greg began, before hissing like he'd been burned, and Patrick could hear him dumping water out of a pot. "I really do need your help with the kids."

Patrick promised to call back soon. A guncle's work was never done.


Pip brought with him a bottle of scotch, and he poured two glasses, which they drank on the balcony. Patrick’s view was the rooftops of affluent Mayfair, which was charming, even at night-exactly what you’d want from London, as if Mary Poppins and her merry band of chimney sweeps might shoot out of smokestacks with a gentle cough of ash and start stepping in time.

"Mayfair lays claim to the most expensive spot on London's Monopoly board," Pip offered as conversation.

"Does it?" Not that Patrick booked his travel by way of Parker Brothers, but he was nonetheless tickled by this piece of trivia. He sniffed his scotch; its fragrance was both salty and sweet.

"It's a single malt. Fifteen-year. Aged primarily in bourbon barrels, then the last three in oloroso casks. Not our most expensive bottle, but certainly far from the worst."

"Did you charge it to my room?"

"Nah. This is on Claridge's. A going-away gift of sorts. You'll be missed around here."

Patrick's face grew hot. "I don't know about that."

"Hold this." Pip handed Patrick his glass and disappeared inside the room. A moment later Patrick heard him turn off the faucet; Pip reappeared a moment later. "That's better. Don't want the tub overflowing."

"Sorry. I was a bit distracted, I guess."

"No apologies necessary," Pip said, reclaiming his glass. "So long as I'm the distraction."

Patrick offered his own glass to cheers, as he didn't want to seem rude. But the truth was he was occupied with thoughts of the kids. They were unhappy, Greg had reported. Maisie was acting out at school and Grant had developed a tic, constantly picking at moles on his body; Patrick heard in horror that Grant had nearly ripped one clean off, requiring a trip to urgent care. They needed their uncle, his brother had told him. Patrick had made the kids a promise a long time ago: if they needed him he would be there. But he wasn't so sure he was anyone's magic solution; he, too, was unhappy these days, at least since his breakup with Emory. And he'd promised himself this upcoming trip, time alone to re-center himself and make new plans as he moved forward once again on his own. That was important, too, wasn't it? A bit of selfless selfishness, like the securing of your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs?

"Earth to Patrick," Pip said, and Patrick realized he had drifted.

"Sorry." He snapped back to attention just as Pip relieved him of his scotch. Pip set both glasses down on a little side table before nuzzling into his host. With the difference in their heights, his head rested perfectly on Patrick's chest.

Housekeeping had placed a fresh arrangement of magnolias by the door and they smelled like sugar and champagne. They reminded him of flowers Emory had once given him and he imagined it was Emory there now, pressed against him, with his goofy grin and infectious laugh. Patrick had done the right thing, hadn't he? Emory was young, still in his twenties when they met. He was five years older now (they had a blast in Mexico celebrating his thirtieth), but then again, so was Patrick, who had a big birthday himself coming up-one he felt less celebratory about. "How old are you, Pip?"

"Twenty-eight. Why?"

Jesus. Patrick was going in the wrong direction. "No reason. Just thought we should know each other a little better."

This delighted Pip. "My favorite old movie is In the Mood for Love. My favorite new movie is RRR. My favorite food is my mother's daal."

"In the Mood for Love is an old movie?" Patrick winced. If he recalled, it came out this century.

"I think so. Why? How old are you?"

Patrick wondered if Pip could hear his heart momentarily stop. "We'll have to look it up on IMDb. Pip . . ." he began. "I'm pretty beat. I wonder if maybe we shouldn't call it a night." May to December was all fine and good, but no one talked about what was supposed to happen in the long, cold month called January.
Featured on Zibby Owen’s Summer Reading List
One of BookBub’s Best Beach Reads
One of The Nerd Daily’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024

One of Scary Mommy’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024
One of Electric Hit’s The Best Books of Spring 2024
One of Book Riot’s Recommendations for Summer Reading
One of Brit & Co’s Essential LGBTQ+ Books for Pride Month
 
“Hilarious and heartwarming.” –Brit & Co

"All the ingredients you have come to expect from a Steven Rowley novel are here (and elevated!). This story on the complicated bond of family is infused with so much heart and humor that it will have you cracking up with laughter on one page and wiping a tear away on the next. Reading a Steven Rowley novel always makes me appreciate being alive with the urge to call up my friends and family and say, ‘I love you!’" —Nantucket Magazine

"Maisie, Grant, and GUP, their Gay Uncle Patrick, return in Rowley’s funny, heartfelt sequel to The Guncle. . . . This follow-up has a humor and affection for the characters in a story with just the right amount of domestic tension but will still be a balm to readers." —Library Journal

"Rowley’s cunning sequel is as much travelogue as uplifting love story, with happy endings all around." —Booklist

"The wise-cracking and wisdom-dropping protagonist of The Guncle returns for more adventures in Rowley’s diverting sequel . . . The author’s fans will gobble this up." —Publishers Weekly

"Few authors possess the infectious mix of light- and heavy-heartedness that makes every Steven Rowley novel an experience; his gift is to make the reader laugh out loud one minute and clutch their chest the next." —Electric Lit

"From the New York Times bestselling author of The Celebrants comes the much-anticipated sequel to the Thurber Prize-Winning novel The Guncle, in which Patrick O’Hara is called back to his guncle duties . . . this time for a big family wedding in Italy." —The Nerd Daily

"Steven Rowley’s 2022 hit, The Guncle, charmed readers with its heartwarming story and hilarious cast of characters. The sequel promises more of that, with an overseas twist." —Queerty
© Afonso Salcedo Photography
Steven Rowley is the bestselling author of five novels including, Lily and the Octopus, a Washington Post Notable Book; The Editor, an NPR Best Book of the Year; The Guncle, winner of the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor and Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Novel of the Year; and The Celebrants. His fiction has been translated in twenty languages. He resides in Palm Springs, California. View titles by Steven Rowley
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About

From the nationally bestselling author of The Guncle comes the much-anticipated sequel, in which Patrick O’Hara is called back to his guncle duties…at a big, family wedding in Lake Como, Italy.

Patrick O’Hara is finally in a league of his own…professionally. Inspired by his stint as Grant and Maisie’s caretaker after their mother’s passing, Patrick has "un-stalled" his acting career with sit-com, Guncle Knows Best. Still, some things have had to take a back seat. Looking down both barrels at fifty, Patrick is single and lonely after breaking things off with Emory. But at least he has family, right?
When his brother Greg announces his big, second wedding in Lake Como, Italy, Patrick feels pulled toward Grant and Maisie and flies to Europe to attend the lavish event, only to butt heads with a newfound Launt (Lesbian Aunt), curb his sister Clara from flirting with guests, and desperately restore himself to the favored relative status in the eyes of the kids, as they struggle to adjust to a new normal. But is it Patrick’s job to save the day? Or is simply celebrating love enough to quell the family chaos?
Gracing the page with his signature blend of humor and heart, Steven Rowley delivers the long-awaited sequel to a beloved story, all about the complicated bonds of family, love, and what it takes to rediscover yourself, even at the ripe age of fifty.

Excerpt

ONE

Patrick mustered the last of his patience to smile warmly at the Claridge's doorman before slumping against the revolving door into the hotel to jump-start its spin. Nothing. Even employing his full weight he didn't have the strength to nudge the London hotel's door from a dead stop, and he looked pathetically at the doorman for an assist. Over his weeks-long stay he had come to find the doorman's commitment to the top hat to be, well, a tad over the top-a bit of a bad habit-dashery-but as the man tipped his brim with a wink and sprang to help, Patrick was charmed in spite of himself. At last he was inside the hotel.

"Evening, Pip." Patrick waved as he emerged from the door at last. The night clerk looked up from his paperwork with wide eyes; instead of the string bean his name might suggest, Pip was squat and muscular and filled out his classic uniform quite nicely. Claridge's was a London institution situated between Hyde and Green Parks, triangulating it perfectly with Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, and everyone who worked there was seemingly named after a Dickens character, even Pip, who had moved to England just three years prior from Jaipur. During Patrick's first week in residence at the hotel, he amused himself by assigning names to the people he did not know. Mr. Bumbleporridge. Jiminy Pocket. Madame Squeers. But no such made-up name was required for his favorite employee. "Have anything for me?"

"Evening, sir. Nothing for you, I'm afraid, but I do have an envelope for Jack Curtis."

Patrick chuckled as he accepted his mail. Jack Curtis was the name he used when he didn't want to attract attention (a combination of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis from the movie Some Like It Hot). He used the envelope to salute Pip.

"I see you're leaving us on Friday," Pip said.

"The party had to end sometime." Shooting a film wasn't exactly a party, and certainly not this one, which had been plagued by both poor weather and endless rewrites, but Patrick was committed to use the last of his energy to charm.

"Shame." Pip held Patrick's gaze and a spark of electricity crackled between them. "You look pretty knackered. I could have something else for you. Turndown service, perhaps?"

Patrick had invited Pip up to his room once, weeks earlier, and so he knew this turndown would be full-service. Was he up for this tonight? He studied how sharp the desk clerk looked in his waistcoat and thought maybe it was worth getting a second wind. "Sure. Give me a few minutes?"

Pip playfully slapped the front bell. "I'll find someone to cover the desk."

As he waited for the elevator, Patrick weighed the envelope in his tired hands and snarled at the overwrought calligraphy. Ivory. An invitation, he surmised, which was the last thing he wanted-when this movie wrapped he was booking a trip for himself somewhere far away from everyone else (or at least all the people he knew). He reached for his phone, but there was no service in the elevator. His hands were dry, and the skin on his knuckles creped. The hours on this film had been insane and he'd been neglecting his self-care, and for early summer, London was surprisingly cold. That's what his upcoming vacation was meant to address. It was time to put himself first, in a warm climate-Sitges perhaps or Tenerife, or even the South of France-someplace with a climate that might remind him of his old home in Palm Springs. When he spied the envelope again he was almost surprised to find he was still holding it. He slid one finger under the seal; it caught a hangnail, and he sucked on his finger until he was sure it wasn't bleeding. Indeed it was an invitation. A wedding invitation.

As the elevator reached his floor, he glanced at the time; it was still early evening in Connecticut. He opened the door to his room, which was both cozy and too formal in that British drawing room kind of way. The furniture looked inviting but was stuffed with sawdust or some other filling that made it not at all comfortable (and most certainly a fire hazard). The chairs were narrow and encouraged good posture and there was some sort of tufted left-arm chaise, which he had weeks ago drafted into service to hold his dirty clothes. (The underbutler, he called it.) His brother, Greg, answered his call on the third ring.

"So you're actually doing it."

"Doing what?"

"Marrying the Baroness."

"You got our summons!" Greg joked, but Patrick did feel like he was being called for jury service. He could hear his brother fumbling with something on the other end of the line. "I worried my assistant got the international postage all wrong. Livia should never have put me in charge of the mailing." More fumbling. "Also, she's not a baroness, she's a marchesa."

"Yeah, like that's a real thing." Patrick picked up the RSVP card and looked at the back side, thinking it might reveal this all to be a practical joke. Instead it was blank.

"It's very much a real thing." Indeed Livia hailed from an Italian noble family whose company was a client at Greg's firm. Attorneys weren't really supposed to date clients, but he worked mostly with her father and apparently there was no way for the partners to enforce these things.

Patrick thumbed through the rest of the envelope, the tissue and some information about hotels, before losing interest and ditching the entire thing on the room's quaint writing desk. He turned his attention once again to his hands. "Listen, you're a doctor-"

"I'm a lawyer."

"Same difference. Why do my hands look so much older than the rest of me?"

"You only say that because you can't see your face."

Patrick took the punch, but didn't strike back. There was no denying it, especially with family: he was looking down both barrels at fifty and didn't quite know how to feel about that. He wished he had more role models for gay aging; sadly, many men-too many men-in the generation above him were lost.

More clanging. "Are you fixing the kids dinner or building them a car?"

"I'm making pasta. A little regional cuisine to get them excited for Italy."

"Why, what's in Italy?"

Greg groaned. "Did you read the invitation, or are you waiting for the movie?"

Patrick picked up the invitation again and this time glanced at the actual words. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Lake Como, Italy. And then he noticed the date. "Aw, man. I was going to take a vacation."

"People vacation in Italy."

Not with their entire family. "It's in four weeks! That's not much notice."

"We sent a save the date!" More clanging. "Maybe we sent it to your apartment in New York."

"I'm not in my apartment, as you know."

"Patrick, it took us a lifetime to find one another. We don't believe in waiting longer."

Patrick rolled his eyes, but the thing about Greg, if his first wife was any indication, was that he had great taste in women. Sara had, after all, been Patrick's best friend from college. "Livia's rich, in any case. Good for you for locking it down." Although to Patrick's great surprise, Greg seemed about as interested in her fortune as he did in her title, which is to say not much at all. He genuinely seemed into the woman, or at least he projected as much. "First marriage for love, second for money."

"And the third?"

"Is there going to be a third?"

"No. But you sounded like you were on a roll." More clanging from Greg's end. Honestly, it was like he was fixing a carburetor. "I'm worried about the kids, Patrick."

"Why. What did you do to them?"

"I didn't do anything. They're just . . . They're having a difficult time."

"With the pasta? Cook it longer."

"With this."

Patrick took a deep breath. In many ways he knew this day would come. He had hoped perhaps that Grant and Maisie would be a little older. If they were closer to leaving the nest and spreading their wings to begin exciting lives of their own, they might welcome their father having someone new enter his life. But they were still young, eleven and fourteen-a long way from independence. Their mother's loss was still a wound that had yet to fully scab.

Patrick wasn't ready to tackle his brother's dilemma. "Remember when we were kids and we thought al dente was a way to say pregnant in mixed company? She's, you know, al dente."

Greg laughed. "By the way, Livia thinks I'm still in my late thirties, so can it with the shared memories when she's around."

Patrick pushed his laundry aside and plopped onto the underbutler. So that's what these couches are for. "Aren't you forty-five?"

"Forty-six."

"Why would she think you're in your thirties? Can't she see your face?"

Deserving that, Greg dismissed the insult. "She was really into the young-widower thing when we met. She made assumptions, I didn't correct her. It fueled some fantasy in her and the sex was great, like really great. This one time-"

"What are we, girlfriends?"

Silence on the other end of the line. Patrick pulled his phone away from his ear to make sure they hadn't accidentally been disconnected. Greg continued. "She knows the truth deep down. It's just our little game. Anyway, don't draw attention to it."

Livia herself was in her late forties and she probably liked the idea of being the older (and more well-to-do) woman; Europeans didn't have such hang-ups about age and wealth, which was a point in their favor. So on one hand, Patrick didn't see the harm. On the other, falsehoods were no way to start a marriage. He was hardly a traditionalist, but he believed that much to be true.

Patrick ran the bath, hoping he would have time to get in a soak before entertaining. "You're getting married, Gregory."

"Do you think it's too soon?"

A knock at the door. So much for the bath.

"Who's that? Are you expecting company?"

"It's just Pip."

"PIMP?" Greg asked, horrified.

"No, Pip. Pip. PIP. What's wrong with you? He's here for turndown service. ONE SECOND!"

"Now, that's a euphemism. And are you running a bath?"

Patrick sat on the edge of the tub. "Should I take a dip with Pip?"

"Why? So he can hop on Pop?"

Patrick groaned. "I'm hanging up now."

"Patrick," Greg began, before hissing like he'd been burned, and Patrick could hear him dumping water out of a pot. "I really do need your help with the kids."

Patrick promised to call back soon. A guncle's work was never done.


Pip brought with him a bottle of scotch, and he poured two glasses, which they drank on the balcony. Patrick’s view was the rooftops of affluent Mayfair, which was charming, even at night-exactly what you’d want from London, as if Mary Poppins and her merry band of chimney sweeps might shoot out of smokestacks with a gentle cough of ash and start stepping in time.

"Mayfair lays claim to the most expensive spot on London's Monopoly board," Pip offered as conversation.

"Does it?" Not that Patrick booked his travel by way of Parker Brothers, but he was nonetheless tickled by this piece of trivia. He sniffed his scotch; its fragrance was both salty and sweet.

"It's a single malt. Fifteen-year. Aged primarily in bourbon barrels, then the last three in oloroso casks. Not our most expensive bottle, but certainly far from the worst."

"Did you charge it to my room?"

"Nah. This is on Claridge's. A going-away gift of sorts. You'll be missed around here."

Patrick's face grew hot. "I don't know about that."

"Hold this." Pip handed Patrick his glass and disappeared inside the room. A moment later Patrick heard him turn off the faucet; Pip reappeared a moment later. "That's better. Don't want the tub overflowing."

"Sorry. I was a bit distracted, I guess."

"No apologies necessary," Pip said, reclaiming his glass. "So long as I'm the distraction."

Patrick offered his own glass to cheers, as he didn't want to seem rude. But the truth was he was occupied with thoughts of the kids. They were unhappy, Greg had reported. Maisie was acting out at school and Grant had developed a tic, constantly picking at moles on his body; Patrick heard in horror that Grant had nearly ripped one clean off, requiring a trip to urgent care. They needed their uncle, his brother had told him. Patrick had made the kids a promise a long time ago: if they needed him he would be there. But he wasn't so sure he was anyone's magic solution; he, too, was unhappy these days, at least since his breakup with Emory. And he'd promised himself this upcoming trip, time alone to re-center himself and make new plans as he moved forward once again on his own. That was important, too, wasn't it? A bit of selfless selfishness, like the securing of your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs?

"Earth to Patrick," Pip said, and Patrick realized he had drifted.

"Sorry." He snapped back to attention just as Pip relieved him of his scotch. Pip set both glasses down on a little side table before nuzzling into his host. With the difference in their heights, his head rested perfectly on Patrick's chest.

Housekeeping had placed a fresh arrangement of magnolias by the door and they smelled like sugar and champagne. They reminded him of flowers Emory had once given him and he imagined it was Emory there now, pressed against him, with his goofy grin and infectious laugh. Patrick had done the right thing, hadn't he? Emory was young, still in his twenties when they met. He was five years older now (they had a blast in Mexico celebrating his thirtieth), but then again, so was Patrick, who had a big birthday himself coming up-one he felt less celebratory about. "How old are you, Pip?"

"Twenty-eight. Why?"

Jesus. Patrick was going in the wrong direction. "No reason. Just thought we should know each other a little better."

This delighted Pip. "My favorite old movie is In the Mood for Love. My favorite new movie is RRR. My favorite food is my mother's daal."

"In the Mood for Love is an old movie?" Patrick winced. If he recalled, it came out this century.

"I think so. Why? How old are you?"

Patrick wondered if Pip could hear his heart momentarily stop. "We'll have to look it up on IMDb. Pip . . ." he began. "I'm pretty beat. I wonder if maybe we shouldn't call it a night." May to December was all fine and good, but no one talked about what was supposed to happen in the long, cold month called January.

Praise

Featured on Zibby Owen’s Summer Reading List
One of BookBub’s Best Beach Reads
One of The Nerd Daily’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024

One of Scary Mommy’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024
One of Electric Hit’s The Best Books of Spring 2024
One of Book Riot’s Recommendations for Summer Reading
One of Brit & Co’s Essential LGBTQ+ Books for Pride Month
 
“Hilarious and heartwarming.” –Brit & Co

"All the ingredients you have come to expect from a Steven Rowley novel are here (and elevated!). This story on the complicated bond of family is infused with so much heart and humor that it will have you cracking up with laughter on one page and wiping a tear away on the next. Reading a Steven Rowley novel always makes me appreciate being alive with the urge to call up my friends and family and say, ‘I love you!’" —Nantucket Magazine

"Maisie, Grant, and GUP, their Gay Uncle Patrick, return in Rowley’s funny, heartfelt sequel to The Guncle. . . . This follow-up has a humor and affection for the characters in a story with just the right amount of domestic tension but will still be a balm to readers." —Library Journal

"Rowley’s cunning sequel is as much travelogue as uplifting love story, with happy endings all around." —Booklist

"The wise-cracking and wisdom-dropping protagonist of The Guncle returns for more adventures in Rowley’s diverting sequel . . . The author’s fans will gobble this up." —Publishers Weekly

"Few authors possess the infectious mix of light- and heavy-heartedness that makes every Steven Rowley novel an experience; his gift is to make the reader laugh out loud one minute and clutch their chest the next." —Electric Lit

"From the New York Times bestselling author of The Celebrants comes the much-anticipated sequel to the Thurber Prize-Winning novel The Guncle, in which Patrick O’Hara is called back to his guncle duties . . . this time for a big family wedding in Italy." —The Nerd Daily

"Steven Rowley’s 2022 hit, The Guncle, charmed readers with its heartwarming story and hilarious cast of characters. The sequel promises more of that, with an overseas twist." —Queerty

Author

© Afonso Salcedo Photography
Steven Rowley is the bestselling author of five novels including, Lily and the Octopus, a Washington Post Notable Book; The Editor, an NPR Best Book of the Year; The Guncle, winner of the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor and Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Novel of the Year; and The Celebrants. His fiction has been translated in twenty languages. He resides in Palm Springs, California. View titles by Steven Rowley

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