Friday, 29 December 2017

Fiction Friday - December Reads

Normally I'd manage about 20 books in December, Christmas stories are normally by nature quite short and low angst, which makes them easy to read. Unfortunately (from a reading point of view), I spent a lot of the month finishing Calamine & Christmas Cake, and although I'm proud of the work I put into that story to get it out by the 20th, it did have an impact on my reading time. Then, my Kindle died and I had to wait almost until Christmas Day to get a new one. I did finally get around to reading a few Christmas stories though and I've been happy with each and every one.

36564410Christmas Can Kiss My Dickens by Hunter Frost - A contemporary take on the Christmas classic. Cute, with the requisite amount of angst to do that story justice without being over the top for a Christmas romance.

Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton -  I love a 'gentle giant' story and this really has the perfect one. Adorable story. (In Kindle Unlimited.)

The Peppermint Schnapps Predicament by Clare London - Fun, fun, fun. I absolutely adore Frankie. Ms London writes contemporary British stories that often make me giggle out loud, or at least grin inanely at my Kindle, this is no exception.

The Power of Peppermint by L.D. Blakeley - A quick, cute read. Also free in one of those 'a million free books to clog up your e-reader' giveaways. I'm quite proud that I actually read one of them :D (In Kindle Unlimited.)

Yours For The Holiday by D.J. Jamison - A super cute frenemies to lovers story that will make you melt. Adorable. (In Kindle Unlimited.)

Secret Santa by Jay Northcote - Another Brit boys read. This one stars a reluctant Santa, and a dad of a 4 year-old who doesn't have time to date. The guys meet on Grindr and seem to hit it off, but how much do you reveal about yourself after only a couple of dates? This is a problem they both struggle with, and is the point that causes the main conflict in the book. The kid is well-written and realistic, thank God, and Theo's struggle with being a single father rings true. The slightly grumpy Luke was probably my favourite though. Cute, well-written with just a smidgen of low level angst. (In Kindle Unlimited.)

Snow Angels with Bear (Love off Leash #4) by Bonnie Dee - First off I just want to say that this isn't really a Christmas story (the climax is set around Christmas) and so this can be read at any time of the year. If an older MC appeals to you, Eric is in his forties and quite set in his ways, and I love the fact that he breaks through his isolation and routines to pursue August. This book had great (and not perfect) MCs, some light angst to squeeze a few tears out of the reader, and two adorable dogs. Recommended. And I plan to read the rest in the series.

I'm posting this with a couple of days to go, but since I'm currently reading a paranormal mystery and I've two ARCs lined up to read it seems unlikely I'll get back to anymore Christmas stories this year.

Monday, 25 December 2017

End of Year Sale

Smashwords are having an end of year sale from today until the 1st January 2018.

Most of my self-published books are 25% off during the sale. 

You can find a list of all my self-published titles here.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Rainbow Snippet makes a welcome return for the end of the year

I'm hoping to stay on top of these in the coming year, but I'm going to end the year as I hope to start the next.

Rainbow Snippets is a Facebook Group that invites authors to post 6 sentences of their work each weekend. It can be from anything you like, your current WIP, a recent release, the golden oldie that even you had forgotten you had written, or just a scrap of an idea (as long as it has 6 coherent sentences). Nothing of your own work worth mentioning? How about a 6 sentence review of your favourite LGBTQ+ story.

I'm going to kick off these final snippets of the year with a few lines from my new Christmas novella, Calamine & Christmas Cake.

As an irritant, a measles rash turned out to be far more potent than a philandering non-boyfriend. The prickliness of hot itchy skin drove me out of the bed and into the bathroom about ten minutes after the call with Xander. I didn’t have time for self-pity after that, not when trying to calamine my arse and the backs of my legs had involved twisting like a pretzel. It’d taken all of my concentration to stay upright. Then I’d laughed myself silly at the sight of my dick covered in pink splotches and by the time I’d wiped the tears from my eyes my frustration and self-loathing had ebbed away. Hard to stay pissed when the reflection in the bathroom mirror looked like Mr Blobby.

Buy Links

Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords
Universal Amazon link:

Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Rainbow Advent Calendar - Day 23

Day 23 and I think I'm one of the last to contribute. I hope you've had an enjoyable reading experience with some fun and interesting ficlets from our many authors. If this is the first time you've heard of the Rainbow Advent Calendar, then the masterlist is here. And you can join the Facebook group here (which is the easiest place to show some love and engage with the authors).

Many thanks to Alex Jane for arranging the event.

This ficlet features Rick and Mal from Resistance. And when I get a free minute I will be making this in a downloadable version.

Dark Nights and Inner Light

“Do I need to be concerned, Dholna?”

“What?” Rick’s long, confident strides faltered and he spun around, nearly taking Mal out with the axe slung casually over his shoulder. His boyfriend had hefted the weighty tool with barely a qualm, and certainly without a word. He’d just expected Mal to follow along behind with no clue as to where they were going.

And this was his point. Or was it? He was fast losing his train of thought, what with the way Rick’s biceps were straining against the flannel shirt he wore. And what was with that, no coat, not even a jumper. In mid-December.

Oh well, if he was going to die he could think of worse ways to go than watching the flex of those bulging muscles wielding an axe.

“Mal?” Rick sounded concerned. He dropped his gaze down to the ground, and then over at Mal’s suede trainers. “Did you want to change your shoes, or something?” Mal glanced at Rick’s sturdy boots and the sodden mulch that the ground became once the past the tree line into the forest. “Be quick if you do. I want to get this done before the light fades completely.”

They’d been home all day—a rare full day spent together because of Mal’s shifts—so if the light was that important, why had Rick waited until now to go out.

Mal looked at his trainers, they were slightly scuffed at the toes but nothing too bad, they still had plenty of life left in them, even if he didn’t. “Not like I’ll be needing them soon,” he muttered.

“Eh?” Rick frowned, but Mal could tell he was restless, eager to get on. You got to know these things when you’d been living together for six months. “What’s the matter, hun?”

“It’s almost twilight and you’re leading me into the forest with your trusty chopper. You won’t tell me where we’re going.” Mal shook the empty sack that he held in his left hand. A sturdy rope was looped over his shoulders. “This sack has got to be six-foot long. Do you plan to carry me home in it?” His voice rose in consternation, even though he tried to keep it level. “I love you. If it’s the disparaging remarks I made about your attempt at mince pies—”

“Attempt!” Rick sounded affronted all over again.

Don’t piss off the man with the massive chopper. Mal eyed the axe warily. “Sorry. If I’ve done something wrong, I’d much rather we talk about it than you chase me around the forest with an axe.”

Rick threw back his head and laughed. Did it have a slightly maniacal edge? No, Rick reminded Mal of the huntsman in that film they’d watched the other night. Or maybe a character from a fairy tale—not the Grimm versions, but like one from the Christmas play the kids had put on at the village hall last week.

“I told you not to go to that lecture on forensic science. It’s not like reading your murder mysteries. That shit is real.” Obviously satisfied Mal was simply being an idiot, Rick started walking deeper into the forest.

Mal had to agree, Rick went out of his way to save ducklings from a drain, and he openly admitted what a bad cook he was, although he was trying, even if Mal still cooked most of their meals. Rick wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Motive is not important. Nobody knows what could drive someone to kill.

But Mal did know Rick. He fell into step behind his—still chuckling—boyfriend. “I had to go. How often do you get to see a lecture on forensic science by an actual working Federal Forensic Investigator in Hillchester?”

And Geoff Samson had been a revelation; interesting, funny, and knowledgeable. That confidence had been a turn on, as had the Wolverine-style sideburns. Maybe he could convince Rick to try and grow some, but Rick’s fair hair made his beard hard enough to see until it grew in thickly, by which time Rick’d had enough and was ready to return to being clean shaven.

Geoff had taken the time to talk to the audience afterwards over tea and coffee, despite most of the audience being made up of authors wanting to discuss plot points and gory modes of death.

Rick had been working, so Mal had gone with Raleigh and Smudge. He’d thought the two of them would have apoplexy when Geoff had introduced them to his husband, the romance writer. Who knew the pair of them read that stuff? Although having listened to the author’s passionate speech on the subject of romance, Mal could possibly be tempted away from his police procedurals and cosy mysteries, at least for the occasional read.

“So where are we going?” Mal asked, sliding in next to Rick. On the side where he wasn’t carrying the axe, naturally.

“Now that you don’t think I’m going to hack you into little pieces over a disagreement about festive pastries? Has that been bothering you? I admit they were shit and I was honestly more pissed at myself for fucking them up than your comments. I just need to resign myself to the fact that I can’t cook and let you bear the brunt of that revelation.”

“You’re a good chopper,” Mal glanced at the axe, “whatever size your tool.”

“Yeah, we both know yours is bigger. But I make a mean breakfast, even without bacon.”

“You do.” Mal slipped his hand in Rick’s. “Why aren’t you cold? Is it much further?”

The pathway came to a junction, left or right the only options, and Mal didn’t know which way Rick would chose. On their walks and cycle rides they normally veered away on a different path at the last fork they’d passed. Mal hadn’t been down this path before. Several feet through the trees Mal could make out a mesh fence.

“This way.” Rick tugged on Mal’s hand, stepped off the path and into the trees.

They followed the wire fencing for a couple of minutes, ankle deep in fallen mouldy leaves. Mal cursed himself for not taking the chance to change his shoes when Rick had given him the option.
“In here.” Rick let Mal’s hand drop and ducked down.

“Where?” But Rick was already scrabbling through a large hole in the wire fencing. “What are we doing? Is this breaking and entering? Am I going to be arrested?”

“Not if you stay on that side of the fence you won’t.” Rick chuckled. He bent to drag his axe through the hole and straightened. “You can stay here if you’re worried.”

“Worried?!” Mal’s voice shot up an octave. “Should I be worried? What are you planning to do?”

“I’m losing the light. I’ll argue the toss with you later but right now I need to get to the grove. Or Nigel will be turning up in the dark.”

Nigel, their farmer neighbour, was somehow involved in all this skulduggery. Mal had met him several times over the last few months and he would have sworn he was as straight as they come; rigid, stoic, his only concern the animals under his care and the quality of the produce with his farm’s name on it. Had he stumbled into some sort of cult?

“Come on, make your mind up. Happen you’ll get lost on this side without a guide. Christmas will be over the way you’re dallying.”

They couldn’t argue about anything later if Mal didn’t know the extent of what was going on. He scrambled through the gap and stood next to Rick. “Come on then. If we’re breaking the law, let’s do it together.”

Rick led the way through the trees. There was no path to speak of, although a way had been cleared by foot traffic of some sort, but it was a treacherous thing with fallen branches and rabbit holes. Mal would have been lost in an instant on his own, or broken an ankle.

He was concentrating so hard on keeping his footing that he didn’t notice the change in the tree canopy until darkness made moving forward even more difficult. He glanced around, the bark on the trees rougher than before and the sudden leaf covering confirmed they were heading into a batch of evergreens.

“We’re here.” Rick stepped through a line of trees and disappeared.

Mal followed. Rick stood in the centre of a clearing. The moon flooded the area even though the sun hadn’t quite set, casting a strange light. Mal turned slowly, taking in his surroundings. The axe made sense now. He was staring at a dense stand of Christmas trees.

“Pick one.” Rick gestured to the trees.

“We’re stealing a Christmas tree?”

“Stealing is quite a harsh term. No one lives here anymore. The trees need thinning out or the whole lot of them will die out.”

“So you help yourself to one.”

“Originally someone would come from the estate to share the trees around the village but it seemed to have been forgotten over time. My dad used to do it with Nigel’s dad, they’d bring us to help carry the trees back to the gate and we’d load them on the tractor and distribute them around the village. I don’t have time for that, and loads of people have fake trees now, so I only clear four trees.”

“One for you and Nigel. Where do the other two go?”

“You’ve seen them both. One’s in the coffee shop. And the other is on the village green.”

“The village tree? We went to the lighting up ceremony of a stolen tree. Does everyone know?” Surely the village Christmas committee weren’t aware of this.

“Where do you think it came from?”

“The Christmas tree farm that appeared just off the bypass on the last week of November.”

Rick laughed. “Those trees are crap. These trees were planted for the village. You’ll have to ask Raleigh the details of the story. But they were planted at some time in the Victorian era, and every year the largest tree was felled by the gardener of the big house and taken by cart down to the village green where the Lord at the time would present it to the villagers. He’d bring roasted meats, and toffee apples for the kids, and mulled cider and he’d help the villagers decorate the tree. That became the basis for the lighting up ceremony.”

“I wondered about the toffee apples,” Mal said. “So the trees belong to the village. And you’re a villager.”

“And you are too, aren’t you?”

“I hope so.” Mal meant that. He really loved living in Slopy Bottom. “Do you still pick the largest tree?” Mal frowned. “When did you come and get that tree?”

Rick wandered to a stump just at the edge of the clearing. The wood looked freshly chopped. “I do. The biggest I can easily get to anyway. You were at work. Smudge, Adam, Trevor, and a couple of the other lads from the cricket team came to help me.”

“Trevor? But he’s police.”

“They belong to the village,” Rick said softly but insistent. “Now would you pick our tree.”

Rick wandered off into the trees. Mal watched for a moment, the way his boyfriend laid a careful hand on the bark of nearest tree, paused, nodded and then moved on. He let himself be lulled by the tempo of Rick’s movements, until he lost sight of Rick completely.

The dull rhythmic thud that followed reminded Mal that Rick had given him a job to do. An important job. This tree would stand in their lounge, would hold the carefully wrapped decorations that Rick had carried down from the loft. Their first Christmas together. The first of many. What made a good tree? Mal reached out and placed a hand on the nearest trunk. The bark scuffed his palm, but apart from that he could feel nothing. What had Rick been doing?

He moved on to the next tree. It looked promising, the branches a wide sweep of dense needles, but still with enough spread to get his hand to the trunk. Perfect for showing off the decorations. The bark beneath his palm trembled as though the tree was alive.

 I’m a tree whisperer.

The trunk shook, something skittered over Mal’s hand, and a dark shape pounced out of the branches and scampered off across the clearing. Mal squealed, his heart pounding in his chest.

“Everything okay?” Rick hurried through the trees. “You screamed.”

“I didn’t scream. I yelped.”

“Squealed.” Rick grinned, his worry apparently dissipating as he realised Mal was unharmed.

“A manly squeal.” Mal protested.

“Oh, definitely. Not rodent like at all, my city mouse.” Sweat beaded on Rick’s brow and caught like diamonds in the golden hairs that were scattered throughout his beard.

“You haven’t called me that in a while.”

“You’ve not reacted that badly to anything countrified for months.” Rick brushed the wayward fringe back from Mal’s face. He smelt of sweat and the forest, a woodsy, musky scent that Mal would gladly bottle and take with him everywhere. “What spooked you?”

“I found our tree.” Mal gestured to the conifer in question. Rick glanced over and nodded approvingly. “But I was feeling the trunk like you do and something ran over my hand, then leapt out at me. Frightened me half to death.”

“Squirrel.” Rick tugged Mal into a hug, slipped his hand, which had been lingering in Mal’s hair, into the thick waves and massaged his scalp. “Nothing to be scared of.”

“Not scared.”

“Your heart’s going wild.”

“That’d be my hot lumberjack boyfriend, pressing his sweaty body against me.”

Rick hummed in agreement and hugged him tighter.

“We have loads of ninja squirrels in London. Wasn’t a squirrel,” Mal said after letting the caress carry on a few moments longer. “Too small. Wrong colour.”

Rick’s hand stilled from stroking Mal’s hair, then he eased back. His eyes shone with excitement. “Fluffy tail? Rusty colour? Tufty ears?”

“Maaaybeee,” Mal stretched out the word, not wanting to commit to what Rick obviously wanted to hear. “It’s getting dark and that critter was fast.”

“But it could’ve been a red squirrel?”

“I guess.”

Rick let go of him, stepped away, and peered at the tree in question—their perfect tree. “This one? Shame, it’s a nice tree, would look great in the parlour, but we can’t take it. Not if it’s a red squirrel nesting area, or even a run through. I’ll come back tomorrow. Set up some cameras.”

“Cameras?” Mal asked because he knew it’d be expected of him, but he couldn’t shake his disappointment. They couldn’t have their tree, the one he’d picked out himself.

“I’ll need proof if I want to get the preservation society out here. Hey,” Rick stepped back into Mal, wrapped both arms around his waist, “we’ll pick out another tree. And while it might not be as perfect as the one you chose, we’ll have picked it out together.”

“Together. And that sounds like a perfect symbol for our first Christmas of many. A new tradition.” Mal agreed, settling their hips together. He rocked into Rick, relished the hitch in Rick’s breathing the move elicited. After all, they were already breaking and entering, why not add something raunchier to the list of charges. He reeled Rick in for a filthy kiss, worked a hand up under his flannel shirt, and long-sleeve Tee, resting his palm on the downy dip at the small of Rick’s back, and savouring the heat he found there.

“Jesus Christ! Do you two need to shag every time you’re alone? Where’s my tree?”

* * * * *

“It’s gorgeous.” Mal slipped his arms around Rick’s waist and, resting his chin on Rick’s shoulder, contemplated their tree. The branches weren’t as equally spaced as on the first tree he’d found and the top listed slightly to the left, but covered in Rick’s family collection of ancient and modern glass decorations, and with the light from the multi-coloured fairy lights twinkling off the myriad of reflective surfaces, all the tree’s tiny imperfections disappeared.

“Worth breaking the law for?”

“You are.”

Rick laughed and craned his head back, pressing a kiss to Mal’s neck when he found skin. “How far did you intend to take things? If Nigel hadn’t turned up for his tree?”

“All the way, Dholna.” He turned to capture Rick’s lips, keeping things chaste for the moment. “That’s not the first time Nigel’s caught us out. I’m beginning to think he likes watching.”

“He’s—” Rick cut himself off. “No. I was about to say he’s not gay, but I’ve made that assumption incorrectly once or twice already. He must be lonely, though. He dated Martha Tilsbury back when I was fifteen, but I don’t recall anyone since. Maybe we could ask him over on Boxing Day, once he’s finished with the cows.”

“Sounds like a plan, one more won’t make a difference since Smudge and Raleigh are coming. But for now,” Mal nuzzled Rick’s neck, “can we finish what I started before Nigel interrupted?”

“Hmm. Oh, no!” Rick pulled away and hurried over to the sideboard. He opened a drawer and shifted a few papers.

Then he returned to Mal with sheepish expression, and held out a small parcel wrapped in tissue paper. “I hope this is okay. Not disrespectful or anything. But your religion is important to you and I wanted it to be a part of our Christmas.”

Curious after that little speech, Mal carefully peeled back the wrapping, the metallic green surface catching the light. Nestled in the tissue paper was a disc, carefully cut to show a relief of the crescent moon and a star.

“Inner and outer light,” Mal muttered, the words hard to force out past the lump in his throat.

“Is it alright?” Rick asked. “I got the symbolism right, didn’t I? Love and strength?”

Mal nodded. The threat of tears stopped him from speaking.

“That’s what you are to me.” Rick stepped up, slipped one arm around Mal’s waist. With his free hand, he reached up and swiped at Mal’s cheek. Dampness smeared across his face. “Your love gives me the strength to be myself. Now, let’s hang this on the tree, then you can take me out into the garden and finish what you started in the forest.”

Allah be praised, he loved this man.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

New Release - Calamine & Christmas Cake

It was a mad rush getting this out in time so there's been no cover reveal or teasers. Sorry about that.

Anyway here's my Christmas story for 2017.

Calamine & Christmas Cake

There could be worse places to be quarantined over Christmas, especially when your waiter might just be an angel in disguise.

A romantic getaway at an all-inclusive boutique hotel over Christmas seems the perfect way for Glenn Trevor to celebrate the festive period with his boyfriend.

But he could have done without waking up on the first morning delirious and covered in spots. Abandoned by his boyfriend, Glenn’s only saving grace comes in the dynamic form of Bastian, the waiter assigned to attend his every whim, and who might just be an angel in disguise.

Bastian, has only two rules: always make the guests feel as comfortable as possible—not a problem with his innate nurturing disposition—and never ever get involved with a guest. But the quarantined guy in 210 needs someone to take care of him, and Bastian’s more than up for the challenge of making Glenn Trevor’s stay the best ever, even if he has to run himself ragged to do it.

If Bastian can learn to accept the same nurturing care he hands out so readily, and Glenn can get over the farce of his previous relationship, between them maybe they can make it the Christmas of Glenn's dreams.

Buy Links

Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords
Universal Amazon link:

From 1st Feb 2018 this book has been transferred to Kindle Unlimited for a short stay so only the Amazon link will work.

Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Fiction Friday

A thousand apologies. I've been trying to get a story finished and my blog seems to have just fallen by the wayside. I think I should round up my remaining reads for the year before December starts.

When Heaven Strikes by F.E. Feeley Jr. - Audio book for this one and also a new to me author. Narrator had a soft tone that really suited the story. And the story, well, that gave me all the feels. FYI, this book is written from multiple POVs.

An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities #3) by K.J. Charles - An exceptional end to an excellent series. I can't recommend the trilogy highly enough. I'm sad that it's over, but I've already got the audio books and they are perfectly narrated. 5 stars.

Bonds of Denial (Wicked Play #5) by Lynda Aicher - Despite being book 5 in the series, I didn't think I missed anything by having not read the other books. This was amazing. A character driven romance with two very broken characters. Loved it.

These Haunted Heights by Ally Blue - This book is almost 7 years old and I've had it on my Kindle for nearly 5 years. I should have read it earlier. Poor Drew was so broken. I loved it.

A Bell for Andy by GL Roberts - An interesting idea for a reincarnation/missed chances story. It could have benefited from less repetition on the dream front and more focus on the romance. But worth a read.

One More Chance (The Boys of Oceanside #3) by Rachel Kane - This book made me cry, ugly, throat-tearing tears and made me want to scream and pound my fist into people's faces (Ransom and Toby). But it made me feel, even if some of those feelings were anger and injustice.

Strong Side (Eastshore Tigers #1) by Alison Hendricks - An engaging coming out and self discovery story with a backdrop of American Football and two endearing leads.

The Only Option (Dubious #4) by Megan Derr - I have to admit that I don't really like the new cover art on this book. A dragon and a necromancer walk into a bar... After a slew of sweet reads from Megan Derr this takes a more raunchy tone right from the start. Tilo was a sweetheart and I wanted things to work out for him.

Spell Weaver by Megan Derr A Cinderella story, of sorts. The story is familiar, as fairy tales should be, but told with style and sweetness.

The Eagle and the Fox (A Snowy Range Mystery #1) by Nya Rawlyns - Another audio book. This is also a new to me author. Narrator is Nick J Russo, whose work I really enjoy, and who gave a stellar performance here. The MCs are both older characters, which I really enjoyed, and I adored Josh. The mystery was interesting and wasn't all neatly tied up by the last page.

Sons of Devils & Angels of Istanbul (Arising) by Alex Beecroft - Firstly the publishers should be questioned as to why they decided to publish this as two separate book instead of the epic it deserves to be. It's history, fantasy, and the paranormal all rolled into one, with a gentle but underlying love story beneath the surface. Told from the POV of 5 strong but very different characters, all broken in their own way, but all with the ability for greatness. Highly recommended.

A Taste Of Copper by Elin Gregory - Currently out of print. Knights and honour and unrequited love. Well written and well researched.

December will mostly be Christmas reads, although I may add other stories to mix it up. Any Christmas reads that I want to recommend will probably be posted in individual posts just so you can pick them up and read them in the appropriate time frame.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Fiction Friday - Are you in the mood for a fairy tale?

Let's talk about LT3 Press. They do publish an excellent fairy tale and I was obviously in the mood for a lot of sweet, low steam short (and not so short) stories in September. And who consistently writes the best fairy tales in gay romance? Yes, there is a flurry of Megan Derr on this list.

Once Upon a Dream by Megan Derr - Collection of short stories and ficlets that have previously been published elsewhere. Same are teasingly short and others are longer. Great for dipping into when you need that sweet, low steam fix. And it's free.

The Novelty Maker by Sasha L. Miller - Sweet (but not sugary) and heartwarming short story with a fantasy, almost steampunk, vibe.

Ravenhearth by Lotus Oakes - Enchanting fairy tale. It did leave me with a few unanswered questions (and I really hated the twins -- they creeped me out) but I could easily overlook those issues.

The Matchmaker by Megan Derr - I think this is a marmite book because you either love Sorrel or you hate him. I thought he was great. Plus a link to some free ficlets in this 'verse.

Crown Jewel by Megan Derr - Great world building and engaging characters.

Fairytales Slashed 2 (Fairytales Slashed #2) by Megan Derr - A collection of 4 stories. 'The Beast' & 'The Huntsmen' are by Megan Derr & 'The Wizard's Tower' & 'Sleeping Beauty' are by Sasha L. Miller. Much darker in tone than some of the fairy tales by this pair, especially The Huntsman, but I really enjoyed them.

The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr - Second chances and betrayal wrapped up in a short story.

And I still have so many more to read. *happy sigh*

Friday, 6 October 2017

Fiction Friday - Where did September go?

Well, gosh, that month just flew by. Um, I don't appear to have posted anything at all in September, my bad. Let's start with a Fiction Friday post, although I may need two... *wanders off to Goodreads to check what I read last month*

32321485Lullaby: A Yaoi Fable by Amelita Rae. If you've read any of this author's other work then you'll be surprised by this one. It's a dark fairy tale (very dark; horrific events and non-con dark). But it's excellent and has a happy ending.

Talk To Me by K.C. Beaumont. This is a charming and funny short story. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy. Unfortunately it looks like this book is no longer available. But if you already have it in your TBR pile I suggest you dig it out.

Provoked (Enlightenment #1) by Joanna Chambers. Audiobook. This was one of the rare occasions where I listened to a book I hadn't yet read. Both the author and the narrator did an excellent job of holding my attention. The narrator is excellent, with perfectly differentiated voices for the MCs and a great tone to his voice. I'll be digging the sequels out of my TBR pile to get those boys their happy ever after.

Worst Men (The Boys of Oceanside #2) by Rachel Kane. Enemies to Lovers with just the right amount of angst. Set in the same series as Best in Show, but I didn't realise this. It didn't impact on my reading so I'd say it can be read as a standalone.

Solid Education (Campus Cravings) by Bianca Sommerland. After a slightly uncertain start I enjoyed this and really rooted for the MCs. Loved the epilogue.

Spell Cat (The Aloysius Tales #1) by Tara Lain. I enjoyed this story of witches and the machinations of the witch council. For me this needed fewer sex scenes, or at least different terminology, but most of them were quite short which made them bearable. This has lots of different POVs but they were quite distinct and worked for this story.

A Kind of Honesty (A Kind of Stories #3) by Lane Hayes, This is Tim (the drummer) and Carter's story. I adore this series and Carter is amazing.

Drag Marks by Darian Smith. Drag queens and zombies. Nuff said.

Nachos & Hash (Mary's Boys #1) by Brandon Witt. Cute but with just enough angst to make me shed a tear. A great group of secondary characters.

Tartan Candy (Fabric Hearts #1) by K.C. Burn. A broken porn star forced into retirement and kilts. What more do you need?

Friday, 25 August 2017

Fiction Friday

Some truly excellent books for Fiction Friday this week.

The Spectred Isle by KJ Charles – Set just after WWI, this tale tells a story of a war fought on two fronts, the one we all know about and the world of the supernatural. Of course the government just had to use the Supernatural world as a weapon and in doing so has weakened the barrier between our world and the world beyond. The world in which this is set is the same one that Charles wrote about in The Casebook of Simon Feximal, where things feel familiar but aren’t necessarily the same. Saul and Randolph are a well-matched couple. They are both broken men, unable to trust easily or even able to trust their own judgment on matters of friendship or the heart. Also neither of them thinks they are worthy of the others regard or affection. The story gave me serious plot envy. And the writing could go from chilling to absolutely delightful on the turn of a phrase. Highly recommended. (NB This book is the first in a trilogy and while the relationship arc is complete the overall story isn’t.)

The Heart of the Lost Star by Megan Derr – This is book three in The Tales of the High Court. Jader’s surprise as he falls in love is adorable, while Kamir’s belief that he is only a dalliance is heart-breaking. Not that Kamir is weak, he’s actually remarkably strong as someone who has faced abuse head on and survived, and who is still plagued by the gossip of the High Court and manipulations of his family. Also a great chance to catch up with the rest of the couples in the series so far. Highly recommended.


A Kind of Truth by Lane Hayes – I’m not normally one for rock star books. I find the ego required for the rock star persona often rubs me up the wrong way. In this one the band are just starting out and rand, the wannabe lead singer is an interesting mix of cocky and, when it comes to his relationship with Will, adorably confused. Will is actually the bigger enigma. Well written with engaging leads and a lovely developing relationship. But I could only give this book 4 stars. One character and the plot point revolving around her kept me on edge for a large portion of the book, making me feel physically uneasy it the point where I had to put the book down for several days on two occasions.

A Kind of Romance by Lane Hayes – Book two in the series. This features Benny, Will’s best friend, and Zeke, the son of the Bagel shop owner where Rand works in the first book. Will and Rand also make occasional appearances in this book if you’re hoping to catch up with them. This book was a good as the first but without the threat of impending doom. It made me happy and I read it through without a break. Highly recommended.

There are also a couple of freebie stories on the author's website for the 'kind of' series.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Just Hanging Out review

Check out this 4 heart review for my novella 'Just Hanging Out' from Amber at Love Bytes Reviews.

" I thought Lillian Francis did a great job in making these two men likeable and endearing."

"I liked this story. Was this one of my most favorite novellas of all time, no. But it was uniquely told and I’m a huge sucker for unrequited love coming to fruition."

"Overall, super sweet, cute, and funny story…recommend."

Read the full review here.

Buy Links: Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords
Universal Amazon link:

Monday, 21 August 2017

Lesson Learned review

 A great 4 star review from Bayou Book Junkie.

"It's a slow progression from friends to lovers and it felt natural. I really enjoyed the interactions between Drew and Nathan both as friends and later as lovers."

"This was a well-written story with lovable characters you could really root for to get their HEA. The chemistry and sexual tension between Drew snd Nathan was off the charts. The story is filled with friendship, family, love, a little angst and some steam as well."

Read the full review here.

Buy Links

Universal Amazon link:

Buy Links: Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords

Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Release Day - Lesson Learned

The 2nd edition of Lesson Learned is released today.
Cover by Meredith Russell

It will be $2.99 for the first two weeks. After this it will revert to the regular price of $3.99.

The Book

Drew Jackson is sick of constantly being on the move, running away from his mistakes, his desires, and a secret-filled past. He's decided his new teaching job in Cardiff is his chance to finally settle down. Perhaps here he can have a home, and even friendships that won't end in disaster. Like his growing rapport with history teacher Nathan Morgan.

Nathan has been careful to keep his sexuality a secret at work. He doesn't want that kind of attention from the student body. There's one body he would like attention from, though—the new science teacher, Drew. But it's much too risky to let Drew know how he feels. He won't gamble their fledgling friendship on an awkward confession of lust. And Drew's probably straight anyway.

Their friendship is derailed when a student's accusation forces a reluctant confession. Drew is tempted to run again until he comes face to face with the inescapable realisation that flight has ruined every relationship he's ever had.

But maybe he's finally found someone worth staying in one place for.

Buy Links

Universal Amazon link:

Buy Links: Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords

Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Cover reveal

The re-release of Lesson Learned is almost here. (Finally! I've had the rights back for well over a year and this cover for about 9 months.) I promise I will have it out before the end of August.

Anyway, I'm sure you all remember the cover that graced the first edition of the book. Nothing wrong with it per se but nothing whatsoever to do with the content inside the cover. They even gave Nathan a massive tattoo for some reason. But it was my first book and my editor told me not to argue with the art dept because they never changed anything. And so I didn't.

Fast forward five years and I've met the lovely Meredith Russell, who has already done several covers for me (Theory Unproven, Lovers Entwined). Just the person to see into my head and pull out the perfect cover for Lesson Learned. (Because she really has that ability, I'm telling you. It's a superpower. The TU cover is exactly as I imagined it.)

Yes, yes, I know I'm blathering when all you want is a glimpse of the cover. Okay then...

Maybe moving forward means staying still, once you’ve finally found someone worth putting down roots for.

Drew Jackson is sick of constantly being on the move, running away from his mistakes, his desires, and a secret-filled past. He's decided his new teaching job in Cardiff is his chance to finally settle down. Perhaps here he can have a home, and even friendships that won't end in disaster. Like his growing rapport with history teacher Nathan Morgan.

Nathan has been careful to keep his sexuality a secret at work. He doesn't want that kind of attention from the student body. There's one body he would like attention from, though—the new science teacher, Drew. But it's much too risky to let Drew know how he feels. He won't gamble their fledgling friendship on an awkward confession of lust. And Drew's probably straight anyway.

Their friendship is derailed when a student's accusation forces a reluctant confession. Drew is tempted to run again until he comes face to face with the inescapable realisation that flight has ruined every relationship he's ever had.

But maybe he's finally found someone worth staying in one place for.

Add to your Goodreads page here

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Massive reduction

Theory Unproven is reduced to 99c/99p at Amazon for a limited time only.

That's 75% off.

Not sure what it's all about? Check out the blurb, other buy links, and reviews here.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Fiction Friday

Back to the regular title since it's actually Friday.

Puss in Prada by Maria Jacquelyn. – (Short read – Less than an hour.) A-freaking-dorable. The narrator is in the body of a cat for 95% of the story having been cursed by a witch. This is a tale of second chances, learning to give rather than take, and, as befitting any fairy tale, True Love. It’s also funny, cute and adorable and yet still had me on the verge of tears as Alex realised all that he had lost. His ‘voice’ as Alex the cat was priceless.

Rain Shadow by LA Witt. – Back to Bluewater Bay. This is book 10 in the series. This started off so well for me, both MCs over 40, an alpha security guard, a silver fox, lots of hot sex, and a pair of clueless MCs that don’t realise they are in a relationship despite their insistence they are just fuckbuddies. And then we met Jeremy’s kids. I disliked them both, but I hated the daughter. I actually thought she was 13/14 from the immature way she was acting not 18. In the end, Jeremy’s so called family almost ruined this story for me. If Jeremy wasn’t suffering so much from not talking to them I’d say f**k’em. They don’t deserve him.

City Boy: Hot Off the Ice #1 by AE Wasp – Closeted 30something hockey player who doesn’t realise he is gay, blows a tyre out in the back of beyond and is rescued by a knight in shining leather on the back of a motorbike. Actually, he blows more than a tyre ;) This was really good. Bryce is a great character who embraces his new newfound revelation that he is gay with gusto. I liked both characters, and all their friends and family. The sex scenes are hot, especially if you’re partial to a gay virgin. Considering the premise, I didn’t think there was a great deal of angst or conflict. This was a sweet, sexy read and I’m already looking forward to book #2.

True Colors by Anyta Sunday – This seemed familiar when I started but when I checked I realised that I’d read the first book True Luck back when it was called Bottle Boys, and the two stories overlap. This is friends to enemies to lovers and a beautiful story of second chances. It broke my heart in places. 5 stars.

I’ll Still Be There by Keelan Ellis – New to me author. And a book I don’t even remember buying. This is a tale of two love affairs from two different periods, tied together by a house. This was a clever story, tying the two threads together in a most satisfying way. Something in the writing style distanced me from the emotions of the lovers. This book should have made me cry, but it didn’t. If it had I’d have given this 5 stars for sure. I've just bought the sequel.

Knit Tight (Portland Heat) by [Albert, Annabeth]Delivered Fast by Annabeth Albert – Book 3 in the Portland Heat series. And my favourite of the series so far. This got 5 stars from me. I love a grumpy MC and Chris is old (35!, okay he’s a mere pup) and cranky. And I knew from the blurb this had the possibility to make me cry and it did, ugly, blurry-kindle, tight-cheeked tears. I couldn’t let go of these guys, so I followed it up with Cranky Christmas (Portland heat 3.5) and their sequel, where we catch up with the guys 2 years later. Short and sweet, if slightly predictable.
When I went to do the link for this Amazon said it was 91p! That's nothing for such a brilliant story. I don't know if it's the regular price so grab it, grab it now!

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert - Book 4 in the Portland Heat series. This series started off quite sweet and angst-free, what happened? This one had me in tears twice. Brady and Ev were an adorable couple, even when they weren't (a couple). The children were believable and realistic.
This might be my favourite one yet.

The 91p price tag appears to be across the board for the first 4 books of this series. No reason not to grab all four then.
And there is a 10K mini sequel to this story, Quick Knit, which might be even more adorable than the original story, because we finally get Ev's POV. *hugs him so tight*

And that pretty much has caught me up since I've taken a break to do some beta work and then fell back into the fanfic rabbit hole for a while.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Reading Round-up

Regular service is resumed after the comic edition on Monday.

There's several freebies in this list...

Afternoon Americano (Coffee Boys Book 3) by [Brant, Becca]
A pretty typical gay romance cover
Afternoon Americano by Becca Brant (Coffee Boys #3) – The only one of these books that is a recent release. And more than 99p. However it is available to read on KU. Sweet romance, low angst, and an easy read. With the added enjoyment of one of the MCs being a gay romance author. My first read by this author. I will probably pick up the rest of the series.

Half Past Forever by A Morell. - A free DRitC story. A stripper and a half-incubus walk into a bar… Actually, a far sweeter and more romantic story than I was expecting from the prompt.

The Backpack by Sue Brown – Only 99p! Don’t read the blurb! I mean it. This book benefits from not being aware of what is going on and the blurb really does give too much away. An unusual dual tense choice which may put some readers off. I found the story both hopeful and melancholy. It made me cry.

Something a bit different.
I really like this cover.
Atle’s saga by Kit Edwards. - A free DRitC story.Viking era historical. Excellent. I was enthralled. Yes, I know Vikings didn’t talk like that but when the story is that good I really can’t bring myself to care.

Knowing Patrick (Maewyn’s Prophecy) by Emily Veinglory. - Free short read from Loose ID. Interesting. I can’t say much more without giving away the suspense. It leads into a series but I’ve not read anymore of the stories. 

Ask, Answer, Look, Kiss by Livia Frost. Another free DRitC story. Fiends to lovers. Miscommunication. Sweet story with low angst.

So that's a couple of recs there that you can grab with very little outlay. How do you feel about free reads? Are you willing to take a chance on a new to me author if you don't have any outlay?

Monday, 24 July 2017

Reading Round-up

Because I can't keep calling it Fiction Friday when it's not (Friday).

I know not many of you follow this for recs on graphic novels but I feel remiss when I leave them out since they do make up a large proportion of my reading. Since I'm still catching up from my FF hiatus I thought I'd give this one up solely to my comic reads in that period.

Flintlock by Steve Tanner – An indie comic. I picked this up at Comic Con. I always enjoy this way of buying graphic novels because you often get to speak to the creators. Black and white line drawings make up the majority of the panels here. It’s a collection of three short stories, almost an introduction to three of the six characters the author intends to focus on. All the stories take place in the same timeline, although there is no guarantee that they will ever meet (or so the author tells me) and feature diverse main characters. My favourite of the three was the final one, with two urchin pickpockets recounting the tale of the newest addition to the Bow Street Runners—a metal man called the Clockwork Cavalier.

18710780Widdershins Vol 1: Sleight of Hand by Kate Ashwin. - Another Indie comic that I picked up at Comic Con. Magic. Victorian. Crime fighting. Well-drawn and an interesting story.

The Backstagers issue 1. - Firstly, I was disappointed because I thought I was getting the whole volume but it turned out to only be the first issue. However, it was an interesting introduction to the world behind the stage. Jordy, the new boy at school, needs to find an after-school club and he joins the backstagers, the prop boys that support the theatre club. Jordy might have found somewhere to belong, some friends and maybe someone who can be something more. Wacky and well-drawn. Kudos for a comic with LGBTQ characters.

Fantastic Four, Vol 3: Doomed – I know this has been quite widely slated but I enjoyed most of it. There were three (yes three) Johnny Storms in this volume. Seriously people, three. What’s not to like.

Dash – Issues 1-4. - Independent comic. 1940’s hardboiled PI meets Indy meets The Mummy with an LGBT lead character. Be still my beating heart. The artwork is kind of basic but it suits the story. I loved this, devoured all 4 issues. My only complaint is the story arc isn’t finished. Things are left very up in the air. With the last issue having been published in 2015 I was prepared to put this down to one of those things. (Books/comics don’t get finished for whatever reason, any fanfiction reader will tell you that. Hell, as a fan fiction writer I’m guilty of that myself.) I was all ready to fix everything with a bit of fanfiction. But I decided to do a bit of Google Fu and I found that the project is back on track after a two-year hiatus and there should be two new issues in the autumn. Hoorah. Highly recommended. 

13227852Justice League of America #1 Origins (New 52) - Geoff Johns (writer) and Jim Lee (artist). I like this writer/artist pairing.  This, as the title implies, shows the formation of the JLA at the start of the New 52. The panels are bright and colourful, and all the characters look great. The origin team are Green Lantern (Hal), Flash (Barry), Batman., Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg (Cyborg is the only one whose Origin story we get and it’s pretty much the same as the one I’ve recently read in the Rebirth issue of the same name). Hal is a bit of a dick (think Johnny Storm at his most obnoxious) but this makes for some very funny scenes between him and Batman. And OMG Superbat <3 Batman strips off his cowl and as Bruce Wayne goes to rescue Superman!  I read this as a copy from the library but I’m already planning to buy a copy of my own.

Justice League of America #2 The Villain's Journey (New 52) – An excellent continuation of the previous volume.

And Justice League of America #3 The Throne of Atlantis (New 52) – A change of artist for this volume but not too great a change in style. There was a weak story to start with Cheetah as the villainess but thankfully Arthur (Aquaman) is the focus of the rest of this volume. Oh and we get to see Clark rip open his shirt to reveal Supe’s costume underneath.

I've got the next volume of this already lined up and hopefully by then volume 5 will have turned up in the library.

I've been a Marvel gal for a long time but I'm really enjoying my new foray into DC.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Fiction Friday

All For Show: A Fake Boyfriend Gay Romance by [Kane, Rachel]
Back to showing my favourite covers of the books
recommended here. It's probably the dog.
I would have picked KJ's but 

the cover model reminds me of Jason Orange.
Yes, it's really Friday this time. And this post is a catch-all of different authors.

Babyvamp by Lyssa Dering – Okay, now as a rule I don’t do vampires but I did two in the space of a week and enjoyed them both. I thought the world building was excellent with the vampire police and registration etc. Certain parts squicked me out (the bloodily fluids and use of the word ‘child’ for a lover) but the story was entertaining and the characters were fun. I’d happily read more in this world, especially about the human, Taylor.

Fake it ‘til you feel it by Ashley Oaks – This is just the cutest fake boyfriend trope story I’ve read in a long time. (There’s a short sequel, Valentine, Interupted, catching up with the lads on their first Valentine’s day, which while cute had one event that made me ragey. I'll link you to my GRs review because I can't put things under a spoiler tag here.)

Make Me a Match Vol 2 – Dreamspinner anthology. Overall a mixed bag with a couple of right clunkers in there, but I’m listing it here for ‘Fragments of a Fiery Sun’ by M Jules Aedin. A glorious historical about wharf rats and an Irish lad fresh off the boat. I could have happily read a novel about these guys. Well-crafted and a joy to read.   

All For Show by Rachel Kane – Would have benefited from less introspection and more dialogue tags, but I adored Owen and the author had a deft hand with a lot of Owen’s amusing one liners. Not quite the romantic comedy I was expecting. With issues of poor self-esteem, depression, and manipulative relationships this story had more substance than the light and fluffy tale I thought I was getting. 

And my highly recommended, 'must read' book for this post...

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]
Sod it. I love the background of this cover.
Even if the cover model looks like he's going to
burst into a verse of 'Pray'.

An Unnatural Vice by KJ Charles. (Sins of the Cities # 2)
 This overlaps with An Unseen Attraction and continues the overarching story line.
 This book was damn near perfect for me.
I adored the awkwardness of the first book and how sweet Clem and Rowley were together.
This one has a completely different vibe. Enemies to lovers and flawed heroes. Perfect. 
Now I can’t wait for Mark’s story.
5 stars. 

Enjoy. They'll be at least another 3 FF posts next week, but one will be graphic novels only.

And I'll leave you with two questions to consider.

I've blogged about vampire stories two days on the trot now. How often do you read outside your comfort zone?

And how likely are you to give up on an anthology if the the first few stories aren't very good?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

My poor neglected blog (aka Fiction Friday - the Clare London edition)

It's been a month since I last posted here. And nearly two since I've done a Fiction Friday post. That’s what happens when you try to write and publish a book in two months. (Just Hanging Out, for any of you that might have missed it.)

Hasn't stopped me reading though and I've decided to share my highlights over several posts until we are all caught up. So Fiction Friday will be cropping up on other days, don't let that confuse you. I take no responsibility for confusion over the day of the week from reading my posts.

While compiling these posts I noticed one author got a lot of my attention in these last few weeks so I have decided to dedicate this post just to her. Welcome to

Fiction Friday (on a Thursday) - The Clare London Edition

Normally I pick my favourite cover to illustrate
these posts. Not this time. Publishers take note,
this is not an enticing cover. The cover models
bear no relation to any of the characters &
it gives no indication of the content of the story.
Out of Time – A short read (less than an hour). An interesting take on vampires (although that word is never used), the effect of immortality, and of being turned against your will. Well written and slightly melancholy as the two MCs meet periodically over time and their attraction turns to affection. Lovely.

No Angel – Okay. Let’s get my grumps out of the way first. I hate this cover. It has no bearing on the story and the models don’t seem to resemble any of the characters. But this cover is for the out of print edition so anyone buying in the future won’t need to put up with it. Second grump: It’s out of print. Boo *thumbs down* (as opposed to Boo!) Because yes, this story is about ghosts, or one in particular; Bryn, a ghost who pinches Felix’s bum on the bus. Be prepared to dislike Bryn at first, he’s a dick, but he’s dead and he’s not had any (dick, that is) for a while. And he’s not the love interest. The love interest is Mickey who is adorable.  This is a really fun read, with lots of Clare London’s trademark humour.
Rest assured this is being repackaged (with additional content - yay!) and will be available again soon. So add it to your GR shelf for a future purchase. You won't be disappointed.

Looking for a quick read. Try...

Chat Line  - Short read. Less than 30 mins. Jerry needs a hand cleaning up his flat. He phones Helping Hands, surprised to find them open on New Year’s Eve. But the service Sean is offering isn’t quite what Jerry was expecting. Sweet, sexy, and funny.

And my highly recommended, must read choice...

Romancing the Ugly Duckling - Clare's latest release and part of the Dreamspun Desire range from Dreamspinner. Gorgeous re-telling of The Ugly Duckling. It had the perfect balance of gentle comedy and romance. Some nice fish out of water moments with Perry. But it’s Greg, all gruff and self-deprecating (and the perfect book boyfriend for me) who steals the show. I got to the end and I wasn’t ready to let this story go. Brilliant. 5 stars.
And I don't have to let them go because I have just purchased this book in audio. I'll let you know how that goes in a future post.

I could recommend Clare London's books until the cows come home but these are the books of hers that I've read in the last six weeks. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

It's Release Day - Just Hanging Out

Just Hanging Out

Only 99p

The Book
“Come and honour the Oak King.” 

The countdown to the company solstice picnic is one of Shawn’s favourite times of the year. The scents of sage, mint, basil, sunflower, and lavender fill the air as the workshop mixes up the final batch of Litha, their solstice soap. It’s celebration time! This year, Shawn has an extra spring in his step, and it’s all for the new buyer, Tim. Shawn’s fine having a crush on the gorgeous new straight guy. Until he isn’t. 

As the clock ticks down to Picnic-Day, Shawn’s confidence and Tim’s sexuality become mired in doubt and second guesses. It’s a minefield of embarrassed glances and missed opportunities. Seems like they’ll never get together… 

To cap it all, Shawn’s drawn Tim in the secret solstice gifting. What to get for the quiet man who turns Shawn’s legs to jelly and has the best underwear hanging from the washing line in his garden? And will that tempting rainbow of colour be forever seared onto Shawn’s brain?

Word count: ~16700

Cover designed by Lillian Francis at Finally Love Press

Buy Links: Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords
Universal Amazon link:

Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here. 

About the Author
Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write. 


“Come on, everyone. Time to honour the Oak King.” Miriam stood in the centre of the office and jiggled a deep wooden bowl, exquisitely carved with the face of the Green Man. “Come and pick your giftee.”

Yes, I did say Oak King. Miriam’s a new-age hippie, whose 100% natural soap has taken her from cooking the stuff up in her kitchen and selling it from a stall at various markets, to a thriving shop and workshop with a staff of twenty plus. We’ve branched out into candles in the last few years, but it’s the soap, especially the seasonal range, that brings in the punters. Oh, and she’s a Pagan. Hence, the honouring the Oak King statement.

Don’t worry. There’s no sacrifice involved. We have a massive picnic on the Downs on Midsummer’s Eve, drink too much local ale, and the Oak King—normally Ali from Packaging, in a headdress made of antlers and a myriad of leaves, flowers, and herbs—hands out our jokey gifts. Then we settle in to watch the sunset and bid the Oak King farewell for another six months. In other words, it’s a chance to eat well, drink better, and have a laugh, all the while showing appreciation for an amazing boss and honouring her beliefs, even if we’re a mix of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists. Dunno why the atheists can’t have their own capital letter. Me, I’m probably an agnostic with Taoist leanings.

“You too, Shawn,” Miriam called over to me. “Stop hogging the copier and grab a name.”

I glanced at my watch and then flicked my gaze surreptitiously out the window. Still time. If I was quick, and Miriam didn’t choose that moment to chat, I could be back at my station without missing a moment of the action. Shaking a leg, and my impressively pert behind, I slipped in between two of the admin clerks and plucked a slip of paper from the pot. Without bothering to even glimpse at the name written on it, I stuffed the folded slip into the front pocket of my jeans and returned to the photocopier. One more glance at the time—8:52—and I pressed the button to start my items printing.

There were enough pages in this print run to keep me at the copier for a good few minutes. I saved up all but the most urgent for these five minutes just before nine. It was a routine I’d been keeping for the last few months. As the copier warmed up after a night of inaction, with the gentle whirr of reanimated machinery, I took a moment to enjoy the view from the window. The azure blue of the sky contrasted with the white blossom on the tree just on the edge of the company’s land at the rear entrance. Beyond, a neat row of cottages caught the eye and drew the gaze of anyone who had time to stop and watch.

As I appreciated the view, a door of one of the cottages opened and a tall, broad man stepped out onto the path that led down a well-kempt front garden to the road. Yeah, I know that kempt means well cared for, so the well is redundant. I work in communications and I’ve a Desmond in English Lit and Environmental Science. That’s lower second class honours for those of you not in the know. Not bad for a lad from Saath London. Of course, four years at Canterbury, another four living in this small Sussex town, coupled with some conscious effort, have more or less knocked that accent out of me.

Less about me, back to another thing that was kempt and well put together. The object of my voyeuristic tendencies stepped through his gate and out onto the pavement then turned in my direction. A happy sigh escaped me as the early morning sun caught his wavy hair just right; fiery copper reflected back to me in reds and gold. His eyes were green, and flecked with amber. Not that I could see his irises from this distance—I could barely make out the strong features that made up his ruggedly handsome face. And the freckles that gave him an oddly incongruous boyish look were filled in from memory at this point. I sighed again, far too dramatically for my own liking.

Rather than concentrate on the parts of him that required my imagination, I studied the visual feast in front of me. Now he’d cleared the obstruction of his neighbour’s privet, I had an uninterrupted view, where I could drink my fill without the risk of getting caught.

Chinos—the russet pair today—encased long legs, and heavily muscled thighs bunched beneath the material with every determined stride that brought him a step closer. Finally, the man disappeared below my sight line. The photocopier whirled to a stop, spitting out the last few pages of my weekly comms report and a stack of sample leaflets for Miriam’s perusal. I had about five minutes to school my features and get back to my desk, or get caught tongue-tied. Again.

A flash of colour caught my eye as I turned away from the view and I spun back to the window expecting to see the swoop of ring-necked parakeets. The birds were becoming a more common sight in local gardens these days. Maybe the green bastards thought I was homesick and followed me from London.

Instead of the expected flap of wings, my gaze found the source of the flashes of colour: a washing line strung in the back garden of one of the cottages. Clothes hung from the line, fluttering in the gentle breeze of a pleasant June morning. Not just any clothes, though.

Nope, a whole line full of bright, skimpy, tight underwear. Underwear that I’d seen advertised in Attitude that very morning as I read on my bus journey to work. And by seen, I meant studied. Intently. Double-page spread. Three all but naked guys getting handsy with each other and appearing to love every minute of it. Hell, I’d even stuffed in my headphones, thanked any deity who wanted to listen that I was sitting in the back, and watched the ‘making of’ video. Those models were having fun, no doubt about it.

Get A Grip. Flamboyant, colourful, crotch-cupping, butt-caressing underpants. With a marketing campaign that focused on the gay man. Ask a straight guy about GAG and 95% wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

Not only that, but the garden the washing line was located belonged to—

“Morning, Shawn. Printing again?”

Now I was close enough to see the green of his eyes. The deep rumble that came from his broad chest caressed the vowel sound in my name and threatened to turn my legs to jelly.

Stupid! Answer him. All I could do was echo the greeting, anything else was beyond me, the sight of those pants hanging in a neat rainbow of colour seared on to my brain. “Morning, Tim.”

Tim faltered as though expecting there would be more forthcoming, but I had nothing. Nothing workplace appropriate, anyway. Asking your colleague to model his undies for you was probably frowned upon, even for a liberal employer like InScents, and Tim was still comparatively new and seemed kinda shy for a big guy. I wouldn’t say we were friends yet but I hoped we were getting there. So I kept my mouth shut.

The moment stretched on but it could have lasted no more than a second or two, then Tim carried on past, heading for his desk. I thought I’d detected a dusky flush of rose under his freckles but I was easily distracted and couldn’t quell the urge to watch the tight pull of Tim’s chinos as he walked away from me.

Not an unfamiliar feeling any time Tim walked in front of me.
But now I couldn’t stop myself from imaging his muscular arse cheeks enclosed in a pair of GAGs.

* * * * *