Guest Post | Twelve Letters by Ellie Thomas

As always, it’s a pleasure to announce that we have Ellie Thomas on a visit today. Welcome, Ellie!

Twelve Letters Promo 2

Thank you so much, lovely Ofelia, for having me as your guest again today! I’m Ellie Thomas, I write Gay Historical Romance, and I’m here to chat about my new release, Twelve Letters, written for JMS Books.

When a submission call was announced to celebrate the Twelfth Anniversary of JMS Books, I was intrigued by the suggested concept. Given the celebration, participating authors were requested to write their stories to include the number 12 as an essential part of the plot – naturally enough! It’s always exciting to discover how inventive authors can be with such a prompt. I’m looking forward to reading a wide variety of stories, including Ofelia’s Keep It Down, featuring twelve post-it notes, which looks terrific!

However, although I was interested, my first reaction to this submission call was to hesitate. As I was in the middle of planning a few other stories with deadlines looming, I checked my schedule and thought I might be pushed for time to fit another new story. So although I was tempted, I sensibly decided to draw back from this opportunity.

Inevitably, I woke up the next morning with a fully-fledged story in my head, to the point where I could picture my main character Jo Everett, dashing down the steps of his London lodgings, brow furrowed, determined to stop his best friend Ben from fighting a duel. Muses can be so fickle!

I imagined this story to be set in the rarified West End of Regency London, as most, if not all my ensemble of characters, are gentlemen rather than ordinary working people. I found a fabulous online map of London from 1806 (since my story is set in 1814, that was remarkably close), and I spent far too long poring over it, working out where each of my characters lived, depending on their status and income. And crucially, how all those various twelve letters wended their way across town to intended and accidental recipients.

This is the world of gentlemen’s clubs, coffee houses, taverns and exclusive Bond Street shops that I first read about in Georgette Heyer’s books as a teenager. It was such fun to place my fictional characters in real historical locations, some of which, like the Golden Lion pub in St. James’, are still open for business!

The story might contain a comedy of errors but Twelve Letters is essentially a romance, so I relished pulling all the strands of miscommunication together for a romantic happy ever after, aptly finishing the story with the twelfth and final letter.

Blurb:

twelvelettersIn Regency London, Jolyon Everett is determined to dissuade his irascible friend, Captain Ben Harding, from fighting a duel. However, before commencing on the pressing business of defusing Ben’s misplaced anger, Jo writes two letters, one to Percy Havilland, his very demanding paramour and the other to his tailor, Daniel Walters. With those trifles out of the way, he can concentrate on persuading Ben to reprieve young Edward Stephens, a newly qualified doctor, who Jo suspects has a serious crush on Ben.

But the best-laid plans can go awry, as do the letters and, as well as a furious Ben, Jo finds himself at the mercy of an outraged Percy and an amorous tailor. Can he convince Ben not to shoot Edward after all? Will he soothe Percy’s ruffled feathers? And might Jo realise that true love can be found under the most unexpected conditions?

Extract:

Jolyon arrived at the Piccadilly quarters of one of his closest friends, Captain Ben Harding. Despite the early hour, he was unsurprised to see that gentleman ready for the day, his long trousers and gleaming Hessians hiding his missing foot, the result of an injury at Badajoz, and wearing a ferocious expression. With his smouldering dark eyes and wayward curls, he could be compared to the notorious poet, Lord Byron, but Jolyon knew better than to voice that opinion to avoid being skewered by the poker within reach on the hearth.
“I know why you’re here, Jo,” Ben said to him, waving him into the other armchair at the side of the fireplace while he poured coffee for them both, “and you won’t coax me to soften my resolve.”
“I think this has all been a misunderstanding,” Jo replied patiently, as though he hadn’t spent hours of the previous evening, or rather early morning, trying to persuade an irascible Ben to pardon the unfortunate young man who had caused him such dire offence.
“That damned stripling belittled me,” Ben said, with a glare as hot and black as the scalding coffee.
“On the contrary, I don’t think that was his intention,” Jo corrected him gently. “The lad is quite new to town ways and was deeply in his cups. We’ve all been there,” he shrugged forgivingly.
Ben merely snorted his disagreement, and Jo wouldn’t have been surprised to see steam emanating from his nose. He had the mental image of Ben as a bull, a ring through his nose, pawing the ground in rage, raising a cloud of dust. He quickly stifled a smile.
“And anyway,” he continued stoically, “as you have appointed me as your second, I don’t need to point out how serious the consequences could be. Frankly, for a man of your military experience, this is no less than a deliberate execution.”
At that, Ben harrumphed but did not yell at him, which Jo felt was progress. Even hampered by his artificial foot, Ben was a dead shot and could still competently hold a sword. The poor young doctor was no match for him. The problem is, thought Jolyon, Ben’s spoiling for a fight, and this feckless young fellow simply blundered into his sights.
Since the siege at Badajoz, Ben’s attitude had become increasingly sour. Jo couldn’t be more sympathetic at his friend’s long months of recuperation, slowly learning to walk again, coming to terms with the fact he was no longer physically whole. Ben was fiercely proud, and only a few of his intimates knew what a harsh struggle this had been.
The other loss, that of his Lieutenant, his love, his faithful companion who had perished during the siege, was even more unbearable. After two years of grieving, rather than coming to terms with his bereavement, Ben seemed increasingly embittered and permanently angry. As he sipped his coffee, Jo reflected that although he loved Ben like a brother, even the most commonplace remark could set him off in a rage these days.
“It will take more than your blandishments to change my mind,” Ben said. Jo reckoned this was a retreat from thirsting for blood and spitting fire. He prepared to press his advantage when they were interrupted by Ben’s serving-man, Cribbins, another veteran of the Peninsula Wars.
“Excuse me, Captain. A letter has arrived for you by hand. I was told it was urgent,” he said, passing over the note to Ben before picking up the empty coffee pot.
As Cribbins left the room, Ben unfolded the letter, scanned it briefly then handed it over to Jo. “Is this your doing?” he asked suspiciously.
The note was written in crabbed handwriting eminently suitable for an aspiring doctor, but once deciphered, Jo saw with some relief that the meaning in the short paragraph was genuine enough.
If I have to face the consequences of my actions, I will do so as a gentleman, even if it causes my demise. I am writing not to abjure myself from bodily harm, but I bitterly regret offending someone who deserves only the greatest admiration and respect and so, whatever may happen, I apologise unreservedly.
“Nothing to do with me,” Jo said blandly as Ben stared into the fire, mulling over the letter, looking more than ever like a brooding Romantic poet. Jo observed Ben’s countenance with a glimmer of optimism. With those simple, heartfelt words, the lad had inadvertently appealed to Ben’s strong sense of fair play. Couldn’t have put it better myself, Jo thought with some satisfaction.

Book links: 

https://books2read.com/u/4AjyzA 

https://www.jms-books.com/ellie-thomas-c-224_420/twelve-letters-p-4391.html 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B5NYBM6Z/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i12 

Twelve Letters Promo 1

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. 

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 

Guest Post by Jackson Marsh

Guest-Post

Today, we have Jackson Marsh on a visit, and he’s talking about his research behind The Clearwater Mysteries and The Larkspur Mysteries series which I found really interesting. Welcome, Jackson!

Hello everyone. I am Jackson Marsh, an author of MM romance, historical gay mystery, and the occasional ghost story. Today, I wanted to say a little about my research and my Victorian mystery series. 

If I had to say what is my favourite thing about being an author, I would say research. If I was asked to give advice to an aspiring author of any genre, I would say, Learn to enjoy thorough research. Let me explain… 

The Clearwater MysteriesThe Larkspur Mysteries carries on from the previous series, The Clearwater Mysteries, but you don’t have to read that collection of 11 novels in order to enjoy or understand the Larkspur stories. The Clearwater books start in 1888 at the time of Jack the Ripper, and are an ongoing set of adventures where the main characters are gay, living in a world where and when being gay was illegal. Within that outer casing of personal danger, we have the lives, loves and mysteries surrounding Lord Clearwater, his new-found love, Silas Hawkins, and his loyal friends and staff. The action mainly takes place in London, but sometimes moves to his country home in Cornwall, Larkspur Hall, and an academy he has established there for talented but disadvantaged young (gay) men. 

In my books, I mix fact with fiction. Larkspur Hall doesn’t exist, though it is set on the edge of Bomdin Moor, a real place, and much of what you read in the stories actually exists, existed or happened. Sometimes, I involve people from the past, so in some of the Clearwater books, you find Bram Stoker, Henry Irving and others, and in the Larkspur series, we’ve already met Prince Albert Victor (Queen Victoria’s alleged gay grandson), we’ve also lived through the outbreak of Russian Flu in 1890, and we have delved into the mysteries of Cornish standing stones. 

While all that is going on, we meet characters whose circumstances are based on real events. For example: Book one of the Larkspur Mysteries series, ‘Guardians of the Poor’, opens with Dalston Blaze, aged 18, in court on a charge of ‘intending to commit an unnatural act.’ Or, as we would say now, intending to sleep with his boyfriend. Intending to, note. Even intention of a homosexual act was grounds for up to two years in prison. Dalston’s court appearance is based on an article I found in the London newspapers of 1890 which involved a scandal at the Chelsea workhouse. I chose the Hackney workhouse for my setting because I’ve been there, and the story developed from there. 

Without giving anything away, as the story unfolds, we meet Dalston’s love, a deaf pauper called Joseph Tanner, and we learn how the pair came to be in the workhouse, and how they came to fall in love. One of the challenges of writing Joe was his deafness. I am hearing, and I needed to find out how someone deaf from birth read, understood and ‘heard’ in their heads, as we do, and as we take for granted. So, I took a course in (modern) British Sign Language (BSL), talked to people and read articles, both academic and personal. I learnt, to my surprise, that although deaf schools and sign language had been in existence since the 1800s, sign language was outlawed in deaf schools at the time my Joe would have been brought up. I am now able to use basic BSL, and am thinking about taking another course in the language; or at least, refreshing my skills as there are no deaf, British people where I live. 

Meanwhile… 

‘Guardians of the Poor’ leads into the second book, ‘Keepers of the Past’ where Joe investigates the mysterious standing stones on Lord Clearwater’s estate. We also learn of a ten-year spree of unrelated murders, the magic and mystery surrounding the number 9, and see Joe and Dalston’s love tested as they adjust to life outside the workhouse.  

Larkspur Mysteries, first 3 booksThat story then leads nicely into number three, ‘Agents of the Truth’ which I released a couple of weeks ago. 

‘Agents of the Truth’, like my other books, uses fact and fiction. I researched the fashion for masked balls, prisons in Victorian England, and archaeology. In this book, Joe meets famous (real) archaeologists such as Flinders Petrie, and the (then) young Howard Carter, as Dalston seeks to end the mystery that started in book one.  

Now, I have started on book four of the Larkspur Mysteries, but it doesn’t yet have a title, other than the working title, ‘Chester Cadman’, the name of the new main character. Like the other Larkspur novels, this story is inspired by an article I found in a newspaper of the time, in this case, one about the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, and the Victorian obsession with mesmerism, spiritualism, and all things séance and other-worldly. I am delving into the realm of ghosts for this novel, and my research also includes monastic life in Medieval times, the landscaping of grand gardens and country homes, the winter wildlife of Cornwall, and a host of other fascinating things. 

Now then, the thing is, there is no library near where I live, and although I am writing about London and Cornwall, I live in Greece. Mind you, I am not living in Victorian times either, so those things are hardly obstacles. It does help that I am British, have always loved history, been interested in crimes of the past, lived in Hackney, London for 12 years, and often visited Cornwall before I moved to Greece. Some of my research is based on my knowledge and experience, while the rest comes from reading, investigating and sideways thinking. 

When I am not writing, I am reading history books, biographies and old newspapers. All are an invaluable source of inspiration and detail, and thanks to being online, the newspapers are only a click away. I use the National Newspaper Archive online to fix days of the week against dates, see what was going on in the world of my characters, find adverts to give authenticity, discover boat and train times, and I even look up the weather to help with authentic atmosphere. 

And d’you know what? I love it. I enjoy my research as much as I enjoy inventing characters, but mostly, I enjoy mixing the two things and putting my created people into what was a living, breathing real world.  

Jackson's desk - Reserach Central

Jackson Marsh is the pen name of James Collins, and between my two selves, I have written over 35, full-length novels. Jackson’s MM Romance and gay historical mysteries can be found at my Amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/Jackson-Marsh/e/B077LDT5ZL/ and my backlist includes the Mentor series of age-gap romances, plus contemporary ghost and mystery novels. 

Excerpt:

Excerpt from the first draft of The Larkspur Mysteries book three. As yet untitled, you are the first to read this!

Disturbed from its hunting in the copse, the owl landed atop the last remnants of the ancient church, and settled there, looking down to where monks had once processed to their altar. Its unmoving eyes focused on the place where worshipers had knelt, and its pupils shrank as a stray shaft of moonlight escaped its cloudy prison. The yellow irises glinted before it blinked, and its feathers gathered above its beak in concentration as its head turned.
Something in the night had changed. Not the scent of the kill, nor the desperate scurry of the fieldmouse; they were as always, and could wait. It was another hunt that made the owl drop from the wall, wings spread, eyes piercing, and swoop low over the lawns towards the moor.
A beat of silence, and it rose with the hill, turned, and looked back across the grounds, the ruined church, the massive Hall with its lights fading one by one, up to the tower, beyond and around. Hovering, wings shuddering, it cried a warning, and remained there, a sentinel of the night, watching and curious.
Below, from the deepest folds of the rising hill, a shape moved from dark to dimness. Made lustrous by fugitive moonbeams, the figure glided as soundlessly as a mist across the moor, and floated toward the ruins. Neither furtive nor afraid, fast nor faltering, it advanced with incandescent purpose as it had done hundreds of years before, until it reached the grey walls. There, it became one with rocks that absorbed its shape as they had once absorbed chants and prayers, and like the men who had offered them, it descended into the earth.
The night once again undisturbed, and the hunting ground her own, the owl twitched its head at the curiosity, and turned its hungry eyes to the affairs of the vulnerable fieldmouse.

Links: 

Website: www.jacksonmarsh.com/  

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

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jackson-Marsh/e/B077LDT5ZL/ 

Queer Romance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/jackson-marsh/  

Fridays at Ofelia’s | A Marriage for Three by Ellie Thomas

Guest-Post

Thank you so much, 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 my latest story with JMS Books, released on September 4th. It’s a novella entitled A Marriage for Three. 

I first got the idea for this story from a submission call about ‘moresomes’ or relationships between more than two people. As I write historical romance, what sprang to my mind was a trio, at the heart of which is a settled gay relationship complicated by an arranged marriage.  

The setting is rural southwest England in the final years of the eighteenth century. As this is familiar territory for me, I didn’t need to consult my bookshelves too much for reminders of geographical locations. However, I did get the chance to peruse one of my books on historical costume for my female character. I couldn’t quite remember when waistlines rose from natural level to the under the bust silhouette of the Empire Line and checked Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield. This wonderful book doesn’t contain the usual sketches from contemporary fashion plates but illustrations of real garments worn by real people (now very fragile and carefully guarded in private collections). 

I found a detailed picture of a cotton dress from the last decade of the eighteenth century, where the waistline was carefully unpicked and altered to emulate the new high-waisted fashion. Throughout writing this story, I had the book open at that page, thinking of my character sewing a similar dress. 

My plot evolved from several questions. What would cause a gay man with a loving partner to offer a woman marriage? Why would she be obliged to accept such an offer? In what ways might that affect the central relationship? How would my trio resolve that dilemma and still have a happy ever after? 

The character who causes the relationship upheaval is Anthony Wallace, a wealthy, independent young man and landowner. He’s a gentleman scholar, more comfortable with books than people. I picture him as an absent-minded professor who thinks he can arrange other people’s lives as neatly as the books in his study. For Anthony, proposing to Charlotte, the Grenvilles’ eldest daughter, is a practical solution for financial hardship in a family he regards as almost his own.  

Warm-hearted Simon, his Anglo-Indian estate manager and life partner, more than makes up for Anthony’s lack of sensitivity. Simon knows Anthony’s intentions are genuine, but also that it would not occur to his partner to consider the emotional consequences of his edicts.  

For the romantic plot to evolve, Charlotte must be aware that Anthony and Simon are a couple. However, the late eighteenth century was a different world in terms of sexual awareness. In wanting to make Charlotte a woman of her own time, rather than jarringly modern, I had to devise reasons for her understanding. Her tactless loud-mouthed older brother, Anthony’s closest friend from childhood, is a partial solution to her worldly knowledge. Also, Charlotte’s own recent life experience, working as a superior domestic servant and ladies’ companion since her family’s loss of fortune, would inevitably broaden her outlook. 

At first, Charlotte rejects Anthony’s proposal out of hand. It is only when her family’s circumstances worsen that she reconsiders his offer. 

What engaged me about this storyline was that my three characters, although very different, are all decent people who respect and care deeply about each other. It was enjoyable to put my mismatched trio under the same roof; autocratic Anthony, kindly Simon and selfless Charlotte, and observe how they work things through together. 

A Marriage for Three

Blurb:

At twenty-three years old, Charlotte Grenville has resigned herself to spinsterhood. With no dowry, she works as a lady’s companion to support her widowed mother and younger siblings who live in the country town of Marlborough in Wiltshire. When, out of the blue, she receives a proposal from a family friend, Anthony Wallace, she is perplexed. 

Not only does Anthony have the habit of ordering everyone around, convinced it is in their best interests, but he is also devoted to his Anglo-Indian partner and estate manager, Simon Walker. 

Lottie is aware that this prospective marriage is purely a business arrangement to rescue her and her family from financial hardship. But should she accept? And will her growing attraction to Simon destroy the delicate balance between the trio?

Extract: 

Simon knocked on the door and as he entered, Anthony was muffled in a clean shirt. Simon had a tantalising glimpse of his lover’s taut pale belly, that tempting arrow of dark hair leading down to his breeches before it was covered with the linen garment and Anthony’s head emerged. 

Simon leaned against the bedpost as Anthony reached for a fresh neckcloth. 

“How are the Grenvilles?” He asked. 

Anthony frowned. “Well enough, but the cottage is in a poor state. There’s still damp in the parlour and Mrs. Grenville says the roof is leaking again.” 

Simon made soothing noises. “We don’t have to rush away, do we? Even if I have to return to the manor, you can always stay for a while longer to organise repairs.” 

Anthony grunted something that might have been assent as he concentrated on his reflection in the mirror. While tying the knot in his cravat he said, “Lottie’s home again.” 

Simon smiled, “How lovely. It will be good to see her.” 

Anthony finished the straightforward arrangement of his neckcloth and frowned. “She’s looking hagged,” he said. “That succession of awful women she’s been attending has dragged her down. I’m surprised she hasn’t been foundered under it all.” 

Simon opened his mouth to voice his concern when Anthony blithely continued, “So I’ve asked her to marry me. It seemed the best solution.” 

Simon was initially stunned. Then, as so often following his beloved’s more outrageous statements, he closed his eyes and counted to ten. When he opened them, Anthony was grappling with the buttons of his waistcoat. 

“The best solution for what?” he asked with deceptive calm. 

Anthony turned to look at him with that direct blue gaze. “For the whole family,” he replied impatiently. “Lottie won’t have to exist in servitude any longer. She’ll only be twenty miles away from Marlborough so she can visit her mother whenever she wants. Finally, no one can object if I move Mrs G. and the children away from that poky cottage and into a suitable house. There’s one available just off the High Street that I have in mind.” 

Simon resisted rubbing his hand wearily over his eyes. “So where are you going to put Lottie once you’ve married her?” 

Anthony looked perplexed. “What do you mean? She’ll be in the manor house with us, of course.” 

“Doing what?” Simon persisted.  

Anthony looked uncertain for a moment and then his expression brightened. “She can reorganise the family library. Father left it in an awful state and it requires someone with a good mind like Lottie to sort it out.” He looked extremely pleased with himself at that suggestion. 

“Marvellous,” Simon said flatly. “That will keep her busy for a year. And what is she expected to do for the following fifty-nine?” 

Anthony looked blank as Simon inexorably continued, “And naturally, Lottie will want children.” 

With a horrified countenance, Anthony exclaimed, “Oh no! There won’t be any of that!” 

“Have you informed Lottie?” Simon asked sharply before carrying on in the same tone, “Then, of course, I will have to hand in my notice and look for a new situation as it would be unfair on Lottie for me to crowd your new marriage.”  

For the first time, the consequences of his rash proposal seemed to permeate and Anthony appeared almost scared. “You can’t leave me, Simon,” he said. “I can’t manage without you,” he almost pleaded. 

Simon relented and sighed. “My dear Tony,” he said more mildly. “You can’t move people about like they are collections of statuary or pieces on a chessboard. We do have our own opinions, you know.”  

Anthony said nothing, gazing anxiously as Simon continued, “I can see that, in theory, your marrying Lottie would be a way out of the Grenvilles’ problems. No one could doubt your good intentions. But you haven’t considered what this would mean for Lottie. She might be more comfortable and secure than in her current situation, but would she be happy in the kind of marriage you are suggesting?” 

Anthony frowned before saying, “Well, she refused me anyway.” 

“I always knew she was a sensible woman,” Simon said with a wry smile. 

Anthony blinked at him uncomprehendingly then was saved by St. Mary’s Church clock striking two. 

Snagging his coat and making his escape from the uncomfortable conversation, he said, “We’d better be going. They’re expecting us.” 

“This is not finished. We will speak about it later,” warned Simon at Anthony’s back as he reached the door. 

Universal buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/4joMYo

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/