Fridays at Ofelia’s | A Tricky Situation by Ellie Thomas

Trick or Treat

Thank you so much again, Ofelia, for having me as your guest today! I’m Ellie Thomas, and I write Historical Gay Romance. In this blog, I’ll be chatting about A Tricky Situation, my contribution to JMS Books’ Trick or Treat Halloween stories.

It was a real treat (if you’ll excuse the pun) to join in with all the other JMS authors who took part in this. However, given I write historical stories, a Halloween idea had to be handled slightly differently. Since my story is set in late 18th century Bristol, there were no pumpkins for my characters to carve or Halloween parties to attend wearing witch or skeleton costumes! So the Trick or Treat theme had to suit the context.

As Bristol was historically known as the “City of Churches”, it seemed a fitting background to set a story in the week leading up to All-Hallows Eve, where my main character Kit suffers a crisis of the soul.

Outwardly, Kit’s life is more than comfortable. He is a privileged young white man, son of a wealthy merchant and living in a comfortable outer suburb. A chance encounter with Edmund, a working-class blacksmith and man of colour, who rescues him from a gang of thieves, upends Kit’s existence with their instant mutual attraction.

Following this chance meeting, Kit faces facts about his life direction and sexuality as Halloween approaches. He realises that in blithely following the easy path, obeying his ambitious father, befriending upper-class louts and tolerating their bad behaviour, he is betraying his true nature and embarking on the road to a personal hell.

In researching this story, as Kit’s family home is in the beautiful 18th-century area of Kingsdown, it was lovely to revisit the website for The Kingsdown Conservation Society, a residents’ group that, in its first incarnation in the early 1970s, saved much of the area from the wrecking ball of developers. The photos and information were informative and enjoyable and helped so much with the local geography.

However, as usual, I had a look through my bookshelves to see if I had any relevant reference books and came across a hidden gem. The Bristol Landscape is a book commissioned by the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to acknowledge the early 19th century watercolours of Samuel Jackson, known as “the father of the school” of Bristol artists of the period.

The reproductions of Jackson’s work are from the 1820s, some forty years after my story. However, they have a timeless atmosphere of the pre-Victorian city before the building of the railways and subsequent rapid urban expansion.

Leafing through this beautiful book, I could visualise Kit’s home in one of the few grand houses newly built in rural Kingsdown, depicted in the charming painting of nearby Mother Pugsley’s Well before it was built over and became Somerset Street. Then there were the paintings of the busy port area and the vistas over the city centre churches, where Kit prays desperately for inner courage on Halloween night.

One of my favourite watercolours in this collection is the view down St. Michael’s Hill, slightly outside the old city with its fine houses that were old even then! As this is the route my couple take when Edmund walks Kit home to Kingsdown at night, I could imagine them turning off the hill to climb peaceful Horfield Road, holding hands in the darkness.

Samuel Jackson’s paintings inspired my visual impression of Bristol for this story. So, it seemed only fitting to pay tribute by placing the fictional blacksmith’s shop owned by Edmund’s father in city-centre Wine Street next to the dry-salters in which Jackson’s father was a partner.

These delightful paintings are not only a pleasure to look at but were the perfect background for my characters and their growing romance. As I enjoyed each illustration, I could picture Kit’s apparent life of ease while inwardly grappling with a life-changing decision between shallow aspiration or meaningful love and loyalty.

Blurb:

a tricky situation

Christopher Holloway lives a comfortable existence in 18th-century Bristol as the son of a wealthy merchant. Until, when on a night out with some aristocratic companions, he is set upon by thieves.

His grand friends don’t come to his rescue, but he is led to safety by a stranger, a working-class man of colour, Edmund Lowe. Although now physically safe, Kit’s sense of danger lingers due to his growing feelings for Edmund. Their mutual attraction forces Kit to question his previous values, causing an inner crisis as Halloween draws near.

Will Kit submit to the demands of family ties and social advancement? Or can he find the courage to follow his true path and choose Edmund?

Exctract:

Crowding around a table near the door, his companions banged on the table, yelling for service. The loudest of them was a scion of the aristocratic Jeffery’s family, full of importance. However, Kit thought, although he brayed blusteringly for his beer, there was no real harm in him. It was his closest companion, Matthew Villiers, who had a spiteful streak.

While the server stoically brought them their drinks, to more general verbal abuse, Kit scanned the uneven corners of the room for Edmund, but to no avail. When Kit had almost abandoned hope, and his noisy cohorts were calling for yet more drink, Edmund entered the tavern with two friends.

As the waiter had disappeared into the kitchen, Kit rose from his chair and offered to find the landlord, raising a rousing cheer. Edmund turned at the commotion and caught Kit’s eye. His smile of recognition encouraged Kit’s approach.

May I stand you a drink to thank you for your assistance the other night?” Kit asked diffidently.

Edmund grinned as there was another roar from the table. “I think your friends are more in need,” he said. “And I’d better join mine,” he added, nodding his head towards a recess.

Before Kit could walk away, his hopes blighted by such a brief encounter, Edmund asked diffidently, “Perhaps I could walk you home again later? Just to make sure you keep out of trouble.”

I’d like that,” Kit replied, trying not to sound too eager.

Edmund smiled and went to join his fellows while Kit managed to catch the attention of the landlord to order more jugs of strong ale.

After a while, since the tavern was quiet and orderly, his easily bored companions started to talk of other diversions. One boasted of an assignation with an opera dancer from the nearby theatre, others mentioned a cockfight in a low establishment a few streets away. Having no interest in either activity, Kit thought this might be good timing to make his exit.

As the others left the tavern with a shower of coin and so much carousing that no one could miss their departure, Kit lagged behind, pausing inside the tavern door. Despite it being a quiet night, he did not want to risk loitering in the street for another encounter with the rogues who had singled him out.

His breathing was shallow, but not from fear. Tonight, he was anxious for very different reasons.

Edmund did not keep him waiting long. He greeted Kit with that warm smile and they left the inn, traversing Back Street towards the Exchange.

Kit was tongue-tied. Any attempt at polite conversation was stifled by his nerves. In the end, it was Edmund who broke the silence.

Looks like your grand gentlemen didn’t notice your absence again?” He said with a smile.

Kit laughed nervously. “They were too busy thinking of their own entertainment, smitten by the lure of a cockfight or the charms of the opera dancers at the Royal Theatre. Neither of those is to my taste,” he added lamely, thinking, you fool, you sound such a stuffy prude.

Edmund merely smiled as if in agreement. A few paces along, it was Kit’s turn to try to converse. “Your friends will not miss you?” He asked.

Not at all,” Edmund reassured him. “They’ll finish their tankards and head home. Us working men have early starts,” he said with a grin that took the sting out of his words.

I’ll be employed soon,” Kit protested, urged to distance himself from the vacuous existence of his erstwhile companions. 

Edmund said easily, “All the more reason to enjoy your leisure while you can.”

Crossing Baldwin Street, they turned into a shortcut towards St. Nicholas’s Street. “What do you do for enjoyment?” Kit asked.

I have a jar with my mates when we have a few pennies,” Edmund replied and then he stopped, and turned to look at Kit, who was achingly aware they were alone in the deserted lane. “And I also like to do this,” he smiled faintly, then he bent his head down to Kit’s who moaned at the touch of his lips.

Universal Book Link:

https://books2read.com/u/bWGxE1

Bio:

Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.
Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.

https://elliethomasromance.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/elliethomasauthor/

Guest Post | October by Candlelight by K.L. Noone

Trick or Treat

Today, K.L. Noone is here to share a little about her Trick or Treat story, October by Candlelight, which is released today. Welcome!


Happy October—and thanks to Ofelia for letting me stop by to share an autumn-themed new release!

“October by Candlelight” is roughly 12,000 words of soft cozy (but a little spicy!) m/m romance—all about moving in together, and about autumn candles and decorations, and about learning to listen. Plus some pumpkin cinnamon rolls!

Autumn is my favorite season—full of pumpkin-orange and rustling branches and nutmeg-hued leaves and skies like twilight velvet—so when JMS Books put out a Trick or Treat themed call for stories, I knew I had to write something! And I knew it would be about love: love of the season, love of a partner, love of making a home, together.

In “October by Candlelight,” autumn is also Finn’s favorite season—and there’s a reason for that, one that’s personal. It’s a story his boyfriend Wes doesn’t know yet—but he will, once he learns how to ask. And once he figures out what Finn’s been trying to say, with the candles and the pumpkins and the leaf-garlands and all the decorations that’re making a celebration out of their home…

Also, there’s at least one truly terrible pun. Because Finn has that sense of humor. (So do I, I’m afraid. You’ll just have to…humor us. As it were.)

There’s more to come with Wes and Finn, I suspect—perhaps a Christmas story, to continue the holiday theme? We’ll have to see. Wes might have a certain question in mind, eventually…but for now, I hope you enjoy meeting them—and all the autumn scents and glowing lights—in “October by Candlelight”!

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Barnes & Noble

Bio:

K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, usually LGBTQ, and always with happy endings – when not grading papers or researching medieval outlaw life. She is currently the servant of a large black cat named Merlyn, who demands treats on a regular basis. 

Excerpt:

Two days later, on Saturday, a delivery arrived: three pumpkin-spice candles, a paperback copy of The History of Silver Age Superheroes, a zucchini, and a loaf of raspberry wheat bread. None of these had been on the shopping list tacked to the fridge, except Finn’s zucchini, which had a muffin-related destiny.

Wes, who’d answered the door and opened the package, considered this fact. “I’m not sure you’re allowed to buy things without me.”

Finn gave him a sorrowful-kitten look. Wes knew that look. He gave in to that look just about every time.

“Is this what living with you is like? It is, isn’t it? Not,” he added hastily, “that I mind.”

He didn’t. Not at all. This house had room for their combined eclectic library; Wes’s organized desk and an old guitar from his wayward college rock band days lived alongside Finn’s hobby-of-the-month origami and card-trick magic practice and ocean-themed coloring books, finding three-month-old harmony. The pool out back was good for Finn’s physical therapy and also just for floating around in, and they did a lot of that. These days Wes’s world was wondrous.

He lifted up a bright orange shape, turned it around. “More candles?”
“They were on sale,” Finn protested. He’d gotten up, and Wes nearly argued, but it seemed to be a good day; that wasn’t even much of a limp. “They smell like pumpkins. And autumn grass. And bonfire smoke. Here, I can help—”

“Yes, thank you,” Wes said, now juggling three candles and bread and zucchini and a book, trailing Finn into the kitchen. “You want pumpkins and bonfires in our house.”

“I’ll make cinnamon rolls with pumpkin cream cheese.” Finn was only half paying attention, entranced by autumnal temptation and finding gleaming silver to put candles inside. “Anyway you like pumpkin spice.”

“I’m not sure I want to, you know, breathe and eat pumpkin…” He did love Finn, though. And he loved the sparkle in those huge eyes, diving into the world with full-on enthusiasm. “I can build a fire if you want. In our fireplace. For you.”

Finn set down the third candle. Smiled. “Come on, baby, light my fire.”

“Terrible classic rock puns,” Wes informed him, “mean absolutely guaranteed seduction,” and took a step forward, everything else shoved onto a countertop, hands finding and cupping Finn’s face, thumb skimming over a dimple because it was there and he could.

Finn looked at him, smiling, waiting; pure anticipation danced in every line of him, every lifted eyebrow. Wes kissed him for it.

Blurb:

october by candlelightLiving with former teen idol Finn Ransom isn’t like a movie. But it’s worth it.

Wes loves his boyfriend, and he knows all the stories about Finn’s celebrity past and old accidents and rebuilt career — or he thinks he does. But Wes also loves his organized historian’s life, neat and tidy and efficient — and moving in with Finn is the opposite.

Finn’s messy, colorful, exuberant … and in love with autumn. Pumpkins. Black cats. Fall leaves. Rain. Wes wants to be patient, but one more cinnamon candle might be one too many.

But maybe Wes doesn’t know everything about Finn’s past. And autumn candlelight is good for sharing stories … and opening up hearts.

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Queer, historical, paranormal romance audiobook relaunch!

Guest-Post

Thank you so much Ofelia, for inviting me to visit today! I’m doing some guests post around and about to let people know the 1920s London Border Magic trilogy has relaunched in audio. The books are now available wide rather than just with Audible.

Trilogy

If you’ve never read or listened to any of my books before, I usually describe them as paranormal, historical and queer. There’s a scattering of contemporary short stories and a couple of novellas that are lacking in screaming monsters from beyond the void, but most of my books are set in 1920s England. The 1920s London trilogy features a gay couple—Lew and Alec—and a gay/non-binary couple—Fenn and Will.

Lost in Time was the first book I had published and I discovery-wrote it, meaning I had no clue what the ending would be when I began. Of course I knew Lew and Alec would end up together…but I didn’t know how I’d get there. It was 2015, the middle of the centenary of World War One and my driving motivation was to explore how the experiences of someone born in the 1980s would contrast with those of someone born a hundred years before. And to make it gay 😊.

Lew gets sucked back in time from 2016 for magical reasons and there he suddenly is, just after the First World War, rubbing shoulders with all these people who’ve been through something he simply can’t imagine. A hundred years might as well be another planet. Plus his sexuality is illegal, which is something he has to work really hard to get his head around—the need to hide. I tried to contrast him with Alec and Will, who are middle class and upper class respectively, and both gay. In the later books, Fenn appears as another contrast to the 1920s norms—they are non-binary, a fae to all intents and purposes, from a culture where their gender and pansexuality is completely the norm.

It sounds completely ridiculous now, but looking back six years I honestly didn’t intend to create an entire parallel England where magic is real, or a world that runs in tandem with ours behind a magical veil. I just needed a mechanism to displace Lew in time at the beginning of the first book, so I could have him floating around being confused in the 1920s. I started off with that and I kept writing. I like creating characters who are just doing their thing and who then end up having to cope with situations completely outside their experience. I suppose that’s what I began doing by making Lew time-travel in Lost in Time…and then I doubled down by throwing in malevolent creatures, magical power struggles and the like as I continued writing.

Callum Hale, my narrator, is brilliant at pinning down the tones of each of the characters, modern, historical or fantastical. Lost in Time was out in audio before I finished writing The Hunted and the Hind and I found myself hearing his interpretation of the characters in my head as I was putting them down on the page. I have four audiobooks with him so far and fully intend to use him for future projects if I can persuade him to put up with me! Lew comes across as a modern Londoner, and Alec and Will are perfect for their class and their time. Will is my favourite character of all the people I’ve ever written. He’s very upper class and comes from a monied background. Before the war he’d be off to country house parties each weekend, and his father was terribly confused that he wanted to actually work for a living…and as a policeman! Good grief! The clipped British drawl Callum has given him is wonderful.

You can find most of my audiobooks at my Authors Direct page—all three 1920s London books can be bought for $20!—but they are also available wide at Apple, Hoopla, Scribd, LibroFM, Kobo, Chirp etc. and I think Audible have them on Whispersync—I am perpetually confused by how they work. I know some audio-library services are carrying them too. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I’ve enjoyed hearing Callum bring the characters to life!

Lost in Time

Lost in Time

You can listen to the first half hour of Lost in Time here at Bookfunnel!

Gruesome murders taking place across 1920s London draw Lew and Alec together through the desolation of the East End and the smoky music clubs of Soho. They both have secrets that could get them arrested or killed. In the middle of a murder investigation that involves wild magic, mysterious creatures and illegal sexual desire, who is safe to trust?

Not Lew, who is struggling to get to grips with life a century before he was born. Or Alec, who wants Lew in his bed, despite liking him for murder.

#1 in the 1920s London series. Gay paranormal, historical, romantic suspense of 53,000 words, set in the Border Magic Universe.

Buy the audiobooks!

About A. L. Lester

Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.

She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.

Join my newsletter for a free copy of the novella An Irregular Arrangement, visit my website at allester.co.uk or find me on social media via my link-tree.

Ally