#SalesSaturday | A Touch of Spice by Ellie Thomas

Today, we have Ellie Thomas on a visit! She’s here to tell us about A Touch of Spice that’s released today 🥳 Welcome, Ellie!

Touch of Spice Promo 2

Thank you so much, lovely Ofelia, for having me as a guest on your blog today. I’m Ellie, and I write MM Historical Romance novellas. Today is release day for my new story, A Touch of Spice, set in Elizabethan London, so it’s great to celebrate that here!

I tend to write about a range of historical periods in my MM Romances, so I always enjoy trying to give my readers a flavour of the specific period in which my stories are set. The Tudor period is so colourful and immediate and yet so different from our 21st-century lives in terms of attitude and customs.

This is the second story about my couple, Gregory and Jehan, who got together in last year’s Valentine’s tale, The Spice of Life, set in the early 1570s. For my new story, it’s a year later in their ongoing romance, and they are hoping to live together after some delay to their plans. So I wanted to place them firmly in the streets of Elizabethan London with day-to-day life bustling around them.

Of course, resource books are an invaluable aid in conveying a specific era. As usual for all things Tudor, I snagged my copy of Ruth Goodman’s How To Be A Tudor, which relates everyday life from dawn to dusk.

It was such a great help with the details of Gregory and Jehan’s daily life as they manage the spice shop in a lane off bustling Fleet Street. After some reading, I could also describe street scenes in terms of what people wore, how they acted and what they might say. This is where Ruth Goodman’s book How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain came in handy. I mean, who could resist an entire chapter on insults?

Early in my story, after Gregory visits Jehan in the spice shop, he comes across an altercation about a badly parked cart blocking the street. I simply had to follow the pithy comebacks of the time when the carter runs out of patience and asks the interfering do-gooder to, “Kiss my arse!” Some insults are as effective now as they were then.

In writing gay historical stories, I’m always aware of the punitive laws in past centuries. In 1533 under English law, sex between two men became illegal and punishable by death. Since it was normal for men to share bedrooms and even beds without remark, the law seems at odds with established and accepted customs.

It was fascinating to learn from How to be a Tudor, that much of the population might have been confused or unaware as there was no specific explanation of sodomy in this law. As Ruth Goodman explains, “those who took part in male homosexual behaviour, as well as their friends, colleagues and neighbours, could simply fail to see the connection between that which was condemned and that which formed everyday life.”

In this way, I could imagine Gregory and Jehan peacefully settling into their new domesticity, sharing the business, a home and a bed, at least privately, like any young couple starting out together, with little fear of outside interference to their future happiness.

Touch of Spice Promo 1

Excerpt:

Mistress Cecily looked up from her stitching with a smile as Gregory entered her sewing room. Gregory felt a sting of nostalgia, that increasing sensation of being caught between two worlds. The safe patterns of boyhood grated against the exciting challenges of impending adult independence as he passed the age of a serving lad, only tied to this place by family loyalty.

As a courtesy, Gregory reported the purchase of the nutmeg and delivered his lady’s remaining money. Mistress Cecily nodded her head absently without bothering to count the change.

“And how is young Master Zanini today?” Mistress Cecily inquired.

“Both he and his trade are doing well, and he sends his compliments,” Gregory replied, the courtesy causing Mistress Cecily to smile more widely.

The Master and Mistress, Gregory’s de facto parents, had been delighted when he broached the notion of entering into merchandising. Jehan’s skill and knowledge of the goods he sold were never in question but Master Crossley had previously dealt with the business side of running the shop where Jehan was apprenticed. So the newly established merchant had scant experience of running a business and little certainty in his ability to notate letters and numbers.

Here, Gregory held the advantage. Growing up in a considerable household and being involved in its daily management proved invaluable, and Master Robert had guided him through the rest, poring for hours over the business ledgers and discussing how best to invest Jehan’s store of sovereigns.

If Master Robert had gladly imparted his knowledge of bookkeeping, Mistress Cecily had immediately bestowed her patronage on the Ludgate shop. Gregory reckoned that Master Crossley would not be dismayed at losing such a prestigious customer since he owned both premises, but Mistress Cecily’s friendly support to Jehan was a boon, as well as her recommendation of his services.

A few months after Jehan started trading from the narrow shop, Gregory was set to join him, openly as a partner in the business and privately, to conduct their burgeoning love affair. In overcrowded London, it was usual for men to share a room or even a bed without inciting gossip or moral outrage. Additionally, there was a small upstairs front room in direct proportion to the shop below, ideal for keeping the shop’s records. This chamber had a decent-sized window overlooking the street, garnering enough natural daylight for scribing.

Gregory had been preparing to decamp to Ludgate permanently in the depths of winter, when Master Robert’s elderly father had fallen down from the icy front steps of the Bishopsgate house. The doctor declared that Master Edward was lucky to get away with shock and bruising and a clean break of the bone in one arm. Gregory was a particular favourite of the old gentleman and had attended him in recent years more from fondness than duty. After the accident, not only did Master Edward require more practical assistance until his limb was mended, but the shock of the injury suddenly aged and confused him. For some months, it seemed that only Gregory’s presence could restore his good humour.

Neither Master Robert nor Mistress Cecily expected Gregory to remain to tend to their kinsman, but he could not bear to leave under the circumstances. After all, he reasoned, they had unhesitatingly opened their home and hearts to an orphaned boy. It would be unthinkable to repay those long years of kindness with desertion, especially when the old master needed him.

When he tried to explain his decision to Jehan, he feared outright rejection, even the end of their dreams of forging a life together, but although Jehan’s expressive face was sombre at the disappointing tidings, his dark eyes were full of compassion. “Family comes first,” He said. “You can’t desert Master Edward now. I sympathise, and I would expect no less of you. After all, if you hadn’t stuck by me when I was in trouble, where would I be now? You’re not the kind of man to abandon loved ones to follow your own desires, and I cherish you all the more for that quality. Never fear, I can wait a while longer.”

A Touch of Spice

atouchofspiceIn the spring of 1573, twenty-one-year-old Gregory Fletcher is a happy man, set to move into the spice shop on London’s Ludgate Hill with his true love Jehan Zanini, who he spared from being condemned as a thief the year before.

But Gregory’s kind inclinations to help others in need tend to thwart the couple from fulfilling their dreams as Gregory delays living with Jehan to assist his adoptive family in a crisis.

Then William Anstell, their friend and the cause and saviour of Jehan’s previous problems, gets amorously involved with an unscrupulous tavern server and relies on Gregory and Jehan to resolve his embarrassing mess.

Can the lovers finally put aside distractions and other people’s problems to find lasting happiness?

Book links:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Books2Read :: Goodreads :: Bookbub

About Ellie Thomas

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.

Website: https://elliethomasromance.wordpress.com/

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

Twitter: @e_thomas_author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19835510.Ellie_Thomas

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ellie-thomas

WhatToReadWednesday | The Devil Will Care

The Devil will Care Whatotread

I’m here as Holly today! And what I think you should be reading is aliens. My story, The Devil Will Care, was released a few days ago. I wrote it to celebrate World Nutella Day, so I guess I could’ve popped on here to say you should read books with Nutella in them. But how many books do you know of that have Nutella in them?

Maybe there are loads, and I just don’t pay attention. In contrast to my lovely aliens, I’ve never understood the thing with Nutella. Don’t get me wrong, it tastes good, but what do you use it for? If I want to eat chocolate, I buy a bar of chocolate. Sticky things in a jar won’t be my go-to thing when I crave something sweet. Sorry, but it’s impractical. 

But, we’re talking aliens, not Nutella. It’s not often I write alien stories, and I might read them more often than I write them, but not by much. I do love a nice alien, I’m just not big on the sci-fi-y parts. 

One of my all-time favourite books is Bone Rider by J. Fally. I love the Claimings series by Lyn Gala. If you like dark, check out Where Willows Won’t Grow by Lia Black. Blind Space by Marie Sexton is good, and as insane, as it might sound, I’ve read The Last Pure Human by Twisted Hilarity more than once. 

But what I wanted to talk about today is that there isn’t only Nutella in space, in some places you might even find ice cream. Or a burger. More specifically, if you go to the Luna Terminal, you’ll run into Max, and Max has a restaurant selling human food.

If you want to know more about Max and Noir, you should check out It Doesn’t Translate by Ofelia Gränd. And it might just be that Azrail and Khaal from The Devil Will Care will have some ice cream in Max’s diner since they’re planning to escape prison and go to the Lunar Terminal.

The Devil Will Care

thedevilwillcareWhat would you do if the devil claimed you were his destined mate?

Khaal Lupehell isn’t really the devil, but he’s a red-skinned, horn-wearing, tail-waving, eight feet tall alien who claims Azrail Crow is his mate. For eight months, Azrail has been in an intergalactic prison, and for the most part, he’s managed to keep his head down and melt into the interior. That all changes when he runs into Khaal.

Khaal has to get out of prison. He’d planned to escape even before he met Azrail, but now he has to find a way out. He can’t live with his mate in a prison cell. It’s out of the question. So he’ll steal a ship, take Azrail, and they’ll run for their lives. It’ll work out fine. Hopefully.

Azrail has read stories about destined mates, but surely it can’t apply to him. He’s human, and humans don’t have mates. But when Khaal talks about escaping, Azrail wants to come with him. Being mated to the devil can’t be worse than being locked up in prison, can it?

Buy links:

Paranormal Gay Romance: 35,225 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/TheDevilWillCare

Excerpt:

Steps drew closer, and they turned toward the door. Azrail walked in first, stiff and tired-looking, with his hands in the pockets of the prison suit trousers he wore. Behind him came Dot, all dressed in black, but not in a dress. Khaal narrowed his eyes. He’d never seen her wear anything but a dress. The black pants clung to her, and there were chains and straps. Would the guards allow her chains? She wore an over-sized knitted thing up top. He didn’t know if it was a tunic, a sweater, or a cardigan. It was black with white weird-looking skulls, and it had been ripped in several places, though he suspected she wanted it to look like that.
“Hi.” Azrail stepped into the cell. His lips were a blue shade, and he moved as if he’d hurt his back.
“Are you okay?” Khaal took a step closer, but before he could get close enough to touch, Azrail held up a jar of human food.
“For the stash. It’s not a peace offering, and it’s not to be eaten.”
Khaal took the offered jar. “How did you get it?”
“From a guard, said I needed it because Dot was in shock.”
He looked at Dot. She looked well enough. Without thinking, he curled his tail around Azrail’s arm. “Did the guards get you?” He turned his gaze away from Dot and assessed Azrail. Was it why he was so stiff? Had they hurt him?
“No, we made it back to our cell before they came running, but we have to get out of here. It was too close. If they’d gotten Dot, I’d have… I don’t know what I’d had done, but I think it’s safe to say with the combination of the two of us, no one would’ve survived.”
The combination of the two? They were tiny little humans. Though he’d seen Dot call fire, and Azrail… A shiver went through him. He didn’t know what Azrail had done, but Dot had dropped within a blink of an eye.
“Look, we’re in on the plan. We have to get out of here sooner rather than later, so from now on we work together. Right?” He looked first at Khaal, then at Yilea and Chavir, only to turn back to Khaal again.
“Yes, we work together.”
Azrail turned a little and motioned for Dot to get closer. “So, we’ll be honest?”
Unease curled in Khaal’s gut. Would he say he didn’t want him? That they’d work together to get out but then split up? It wasn’t an option. Azrail needed to be at his side at all times. “Honest.” He nodded, despite not knowing what he was nodding about.
“I don’t know where you come from.”
Yilea shifted her weight. “Dogron, but we’re not going back.”
Longing hit Khaal. Part of him would always want to go home, but it wasn’t an option.
“Because?”
Chavir snorted. “We killed the leader of one of the biggest clans and stole his ship. They’ll kill us if we go back.”
“And it’s too far.” Yilea sighed. “Going back would take too long, and we’d have to have a planned route to stock up and get fuel. We have nothing to trade, so we’ve been taking what we need. It got us here.” She flashed her teeth.
“Pirates.” Dot’s voice was neutral, but he suspected it was an act.
“Yes, pirates.” Khaal flashed fangs. “More out of necessity than desire, but pirates all the same.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Dot grinned, and Khaal reassessed. Maybe she didn’t mind much.
Azrail broke in. “So, where are you going?”
Khaal looked at Yilea, then Chavir and both shrugged.
Azrail huffed. “I believed you had a plan.”
“We do. We’ve taken over this cell, so we’re right next to the dock. When a ship arrives, we’ll take it and get out of here.”
Azrail’s nod was slow, and if a nod could be, a bit condescending. “And you have a destination in mind? A plan for food, fuel, manpower, and so on?”
“So far, we’ve focused on the first part of the plan.”
The sound coming from Azrail was one he couldn’t describe. It flowed out of him, and it made Khaal shiver and tingle. A couple of seconds later, Dot joined in. Both of them were shaking and water was gathering in their eyes.
“What’s going on?” Chavir rubbed his arms and looked at Khaal.
“I don’t know.”
What had them making more noise? Azrail touched a hand to his forehead, and it looked like he made an effort to quiet the sounds. “Nothing but a little breakdown.” A new wave of sounds spilled out of him, and Dot touched his shoulder. Khaal stared at the hand, the casual touch, and wanted to snarl. He’d been so focused on his reaction to Azrail, he hadn’t considered his and Dot’s relationship.
“Will you stop?” It came out harsher than he’d meant to.
Azrail straightened. “Of course.” The sound died away, and Khaal regretted having interrupted because now Azrail looked angry. Dot quieted too and glared at Khaal. Damn, he didn’t want to catch fire.
“So, to put it plainly. You invited us to share your plan, but you don’t have a plan.”
“We have this cell and—” Khaal held up the jar of human food.
“Yes, a jar of Nutella we gave to you.”
Yilea took a step forward, forcing Khaal to either block her or take a step back. “What do you suggest we do?”

TropeTuesday | Squirrel Circus by Holly Day

TropeTuesday Squirrel Circus

Hiya! I’m here as Holly today, and I thought I’d tell you a little about Squirrel Circus, which was released a few days ago 😊 I wrote it for Squirrel Appreciation Day because squirrels are cute, right?

In this story, we have Jyran, who is a squirrel shifter. Squirrel shifters are near extinct because people – both humans and shifters of predatory species – hunt them.

Then we have Gideon, who is a grumpy werewolf who wants nothing to do with squirrels.

Jyran is a darling. Did you know squirrels misplace about 75% of the food they gather? Well, Jyran misplaces food too. 

I’m not here to talk about squirrels today, not much, at least, and as you can see, I’m failing. But what I came here to talk about is fated mates. I write a lot of fated mate stories. I don’t really know why I do. I often say it’s because I can cheat on the romance, but that’s not entirely true. 

It’s a shortcut, but just because you have a soulmate doesn’t mean you can skip the getting-to-know-each-other part. It’s just that it’s decided from the beginning that they’re gonna be together. But if you read romance, you know the characters are gonna end up together, fated mates or not. If there isn’t a HEA or at least HFN, it isn’t romance you’re reading.

What I like is the willingness to sacrifice yourself for your mate. I’m not saying you don’t see sacrifices in contemporary stories, but it’s not the same. In most fated mates stories it’s ingrained in the characters to protect each other, and they want to be together at all costs. 

Though not always. Squirrel Circus is a rejected mate story, my first! Unless I’m forgetting something 😆 I don’t think I do. So far, I have 12 fated mate stories. The level of choice varies in them, some are more in the potential mate category, and some are that there is a one-and-only.

In Squirrel Circus, it’s a one-and-only, but that doesn’t stop Gideon from rejecting Jyran. He does not want to be mated to a squirrel, and it takes a long time before he can accept that his mate, his better half, his one-and-only, is in fact a squirrel. 

I think I’ll write more rejected mate stories in the future. I loved writing this one!

Squirrel Circus

squirrelcircus

Can you forgive being rejected by your mate?

For as long as Jyran Pechman can remember, he’s dreamed about finding his soulmate. As a child, he lost his family, and he’s been moving around ever since. He hates it, and he wants nothing more than to have a home. A mate. A place to belong.

Gideon Everett might have dreamed about the day he’d find his mate, but his mate was never an unorganized, nut-hoarding squirrel shifter in those dreams. Wolves eat squirrels, so when Jyran walks into Gideon’s bar, he throws him out and tells him he wants nothing to do with him. He has a reputation to think about, and he will not be known as the wolf who mated a squirrel.

Being rejected hurts more than Jyran ever imagined, and he swears never to set foot in Gideon’s bar again. After the initial shock, Gideon is almost sure he made the right decision. Almost. What if he made the wrong decision? Now when he knows his mate is out there, can he live on as if they’ve never met, or does he have to … ugh … apologize?

Buy link:

Paranormal Gay Romance: 36,035 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/squirrelcircus

Excerpt:

Gideon was slicing lemons for the evening when the air stirred, and Adara appeared in front of him. He sucked in a breath, for more reasons than one, and his gaze jumped to the entrance. Was Jyran with her? Hot and cold washed over him.

“What do you know about Valerie?”

Gideon forced himself to look at her and not wait for someone else to enter. “What are you talking about?”

She slammed her palm against the bar, and Gideon swallowed a growl. “Valerie, who used to work for me.” It took his brain a second to catch up, but Adara was furious… and maybe scared. It had tension creeping into him. What could scare a vampire?

“I don’t know anything about her. Are we talking about the bear?” If so, she’d come here with Adara a few times, but it had been a few years since he’d seen her.

“Yes, the bear. She’s not been in here? She lives here now.”

Gideon hadn’t seen her, but it didn’t mean she hadn’t been in. He had a pretty good idea of who his customers were, but it didn’t mean he never missed anyone, and on occasion, he had a night off. “I haven’t seen her.”

Adara glared, and Gideon’s initial annoyance melted into confusion. “Are you here for a few days?” He could use a good night, and if he could get her to play, it would get him to the end of the month. She hadn’t played at The Howling Moon since that night… She was big shit now, though. Toured the world. She didn’t do gigs in seedy bars anymore.

“No, Ordbury.”

Close enough. “Want to come to Doson, for old times’ sake?”

She shook her head. “Can’t bring Jyran here. I have to get to the bottom of this before I take him anywhere.”

Ice filled his gut, but he refused to ask what she meant. “You can come without him.”

She huffed. “I’m not leaving him unprotected. I might have to cancel the gigs in Ordbury.” She leaned against the bar with a dramatic groan. “Fuck, he’ll hide spiders in my bed if I do.”

Gideon would not get involved in this. “Why did you ask about Valerie?”

“She was attacked.” Adara looked around the bar. He hadn’t changed anything since she’d last been there, he didn’t think.

“And it has something to do with Jyran?” Damn. He didn’t want to know.

“He doesn’t think so, but he’s never realized his worth. People always treat him like shit, so he believes it’s what he deserves.” She shook his head, seemingly forgetting Gideon treated him like shit. He wasn’t. He wasn’t treating him at all. “I wouldn’t last a day without Jyran. Valerie tried to warn me about something, but I was too busy playing superstar to call her back. She mentioned Jyran, and she never mentions Jyran. If anyone wanted to ruin things for me, all they’d have to do is get to him. If they know we’re in Ordbury… and it’s not much of a secret, is it?” She sighed. “They’d know I’d come if Valerie was attacked. Either they wanted me to come, so Jyran would be unprotected, or they’d assume he’d come with me. Most likely the latter since he’s always with me, and they don’t know you’re an ass.”

So many questions were resting on Gideon’s tongue, but he wouldn’t ask them. “He’s safe now?” The cold in his gut spread to his veins after he’d uttered the words. It wasn’t pleasant.

She shrugged. “I left him in bed with his boyfriend—” Gideon saw red but forced down a breath. In bed. With his boyfriend. “—but Justin isn’t enough protection. He’s human.”

“He’s… dating a human?” Fuck his traitorous tongue. He wouldn’t ask questions.

She shrugged. “There is always someone, but they can’t protect him properly. They don’t know what he is or the danger he’s in. I have to find out who attacked Valerie and why. I think it’s connected to what she was trying to tell me.”

Gideon couldn’t think. There is always someone. His bed hadn’t lacked lovers for the last six years, but he’d never imagined Jyran being with someone other than him. He was his mate, why would he want to bed anyone else? The voice in his head snorted. “Human?”

“What? No, shifter. She had scratches from claw marks. I’m heading to the hospital in a minute to talk to her. When I called, her mother was there, so I figured I’d pop in here first.”

“I mean Jyran. You left him with a human.”

He watched as a little light came on in her eyes. “Right, yeah, our entire team is human these days. Valerie was the last to go. I didn’t renew her contract when it came to an end. No hard feelings.”

“What? Why?” Who would want to work with humans? Humans couldn’t protect them.

She shrugged. “They love Jyran.”

Right, and shifters would want to kill him.

“Oh, and he wrote you a letter.” She pulled a paper that had been folded a million times from her pocket.

“He wrote me a letter?” He tried to halt the warmth spreading in his chest.

“Sure. He does it all the time, and then we normally get drunk and burn them. He’s a cute drunk.”

Gideon tried to process what she was saying while clutching the letter.

“Go on, read it.”

Part of him wanted to, another part suspected this would end badly. He slowly unfolded the paper and read the date in the corner. It was dated two weeks prior. He glanced at her, but she was studying her nails.

Skimming the first paragraph, he grinned as Jyran told him about Fewood. How lovely the city was, and how he’d gotten two pairs of shoes from the biggest shoe store he’d ever been in. Then the paper crinkled in his grip as he described, in detail, how Justin had sucked him off in a park under the moonlit sky and now was sleeping in his bed. How lovely he was, how Jyran wished he could love him. Then he went on a rant about how much he hated wolves and ended the letter with a fuck you. It was more like a diary entry than a letter.

“He wanted me to read this?”

“No, of course not.” She yanked it from his grip and tore it. “I had to steal it while he was in the shower. I’d have taken a juicier one, but he was done in the bathroom, so there was no time.”

Gideon filled his lungs. “How many letters are we talking?”

Adara shrugged. “He writes to you almost every day, but then, when he’s extra depressed, we burn them.” Her grin was evil. “You don’t deserve him.”

Maybe not, but he didn’t want him either, so it didn’t matter.

“Why give it to me, then?”

“Because you’re an ass.” She made a move to leave but turned. “If you hear anything about someone wanting to skin a squirrel or kill a singer, let me know, yeah?”

Gideon didn’t know what to do. His inner wolf whined with the need to protect his mate, but he was a stupid, mindless beast. Gideon couldn’t have a squirrel mate. “You think you’re in danger? For real? You’re not here to punish me?”

“Gid, had I wanted to punish you, you’d be bleeding. I’m sorry your idiocy is hurting Jyran, but as long as you’re pushing him away, I can keep him, so the selfish part of me doesn’t mind your stupidity at all. The day Jyran settles down with someone, I’ll be lost. I might stop touring. I’ve made enough money to last me a lifetime, but I kind of like it. He doesn’t, though. One day, he’ll settle for someone, and we’ll stop this nomad way of living.”

“You’ll stop touring?” He didn’t believe her. “For Jyran.”

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Jyran, but not until I know he can be happy. Justin is all right, but he’s not the one. I had higher hopes for David. For a while there, I believed David would be enough for him.”

It hurt more than it should. Gideon had worked his way through a long line of lovers, but he’d never kept anyone for more than a night. Jyran had relationships, and it hurt. He laughed with someone, cuddled with someone, shared meals with someone.

But he was a fucking squirrel. Gideon couldn’t be with a squirrel.

About Holly Day

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

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