Tuesday 22 December 2015

Out Today - Brit Boys: With Toys




Out Today, Brit Boys: With Toys, a collection of 8 M/M novellas written by 8 top British M/M authors. All stories feature British characters and the stories are set in British locations. This seriously sexy boxed set is initially available at the bargain price of 99c/99p, (that’s a steal for 422 pages of unforgettable M/M literary entertainment that will leave your eReader, and you, burning up) so go and treat yourself this festive season to some uniquely British man-on-man erotic romance, or if you have Kindle Unlimited, grab a copy for free.


With stories by

Ashe Barker
MK Elliott
Lucy Felthouse
KD Grace
Lily Harlem
Ashley Lister
Sarah Masters
Tabitha Rayne

Back Cover Information

From coast to coast and city to country Brit boys enjoy playing with each other and their toys. Not any old toys, though; guitars, rope, plugs and Moleskine journals all prove to be enormous fun. Throw in a shop that’s wall to wall with kinky ideas, a journalist on the lookout for the next big thing, and Dominants who insist on obedience and there’s sure to be something to cater for everyone’s taste. 

Whether it’s a quickie or a slow indulgence, Brit boys know how to hit the spot and they aim to please every time. So take a ride, fly high, come enjoy these sexy boys and their toys. 

Brit Boys: With Toys is an anthology of M/M stories written by British authors, featuring British characters in British locations.

Available now on Amazon.



Brit Boys: With Toys

Hard Riders
By Ashe Barker

If there’s one thing Liam loves more than a scorching hot lust-on-wheels superbike, it’s the gorgeous sexy guy who owns such a dream machine. When Jackson finds him all but drooling over his tyres and offers him a ride Liam takes no persuading at all. Soon they discover that their mutual fascination with boys’ toys is not limited to the two-wheeled variety, so it’s just as well that Jackson owns his own sex shop and Liam’s job leaves plenty of scope for dressing up. 

But real life is much more than just a few kinky games, and has an unfortunate habit of getting in the way.

All Roped Up
By M K Elliott

When Alex Fraser interviews Conner ‘Big-Mac’ McCaughey, the champion of London’s bare-knuckle boxing scene, he has more than just the fighter in his sights. Hoping to expose the fight club’s illegal dealings, Alex will stop at nothing to get the story, including doing whatever Conner asks.

The moment Conner sees Alex Fraser, all he can think about is what the young reporter will look like bound. Shibari—the ancient art of rope bondage—is the fighter’s passion, and he can’t think of anyone else he’d like to practise on more.

But Alex’s quest to expose the truth could land them both in serious danger...

Doctor’s Orders
By Lucy Felthouse 

Hospital porter Aaron Miller isn’t expecting a very exciting birthday. He and his doctor boyfriend, Blake Colville, are working opposite shifts, leaving Aaron to go home to an empty house and the prospect of another shift the following day. Just as he’s leaving work, however, an unexpected sexy encounter in a supply cupboard leaves him feeling in a much more celebratory mood. And an impending dirty weekend away with Blake just puts the icing on the non-existent cake. But who needs cake when you’re dating a dominant doctor?

Toys for Boys 
By K D Grace

Alpha Nerd, Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.

Mile High Kink Club
By Lily Harlem

Rhodri’s looking for love, but not ordinary love. He needs a man who’ll bend to his will, submit to his desires and obey his every command–including chastity.

So when Gay Hook Ups finds his perfect partner it’s well worth a trip to London. What he doesn’t bet on is his fragile-looking match being a sharp and successful entrepreneur. So when things between them soar, will he unlock the passion, free his desire and will they reach the dizzying heights of ecstasy together? It all depends on whether Darius is prepared to be caged in order to be set free.

Open Mike
By Ashley Lister

Ken finds Mike reading poetry in a bar. Mike is confident and clever and seems capable of teaching Ken everything he needs to know about poetry. And, when Ken asks for his guidance, Mike gladly offers to share his expertise. Consequently, when Mike offers to share more than his expertise in poetry, Ken discovers there are a lot more things he wants to learn from him.

I Get You
By Sarah Masters

Morton is Warren’s boss, and they fancy each other like crazy. Except neither of them has the courage to say so, until Warren blurts out an inkling of his feelings. Morton is stunned by Warren’s offer for them to go away together, but not half as stunned as Warren when Morton accepts. Both of them are pretending to be someone they’re not. And both of them soon realise that being yourself is the best bet.

The Guitar
By Tabitha Rayne

When shy, awkward Kel plays guitar, it’s the only time he feels at home in his own skin. On stage he can hide in plain sight behind his band and the music. It turns him on to play and he can’t help rubbing up against his guitar. Kel is enraptured by a guy he sees every night in the audience and is shocked when this gorgeous guy seems to notice him. So full of his own self-loathing, Kel just can’t accept that someone as perfect as Damien wants to be with him. Will his insecurities put their happiness in jeopardy?

Grab your copy now from Amazon.



And if you want more Brit Boys, check out the first anthology, Brit Boys: On Boys, available from Amazon and all other good ebook retailers.

Saturday 12 December 2015

The Master has a dangerous secret...

Sometimes a risk is worth taking....and sometimes there's no other choice

BLURB: Circumstances force Melanie Grey to accept a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where horses are forbidden. Her curiosity is aroused by Lord Jarrow’s secret life and strange night-time activities and once she discovers what it is that occupies him, she must decide if she will lie for him, or condemn him.

EXCERPT:
‘Come in, come in.’ Lord Jarrow did not raise his head, but simply lifted one hand and beckoned her forward.
The walk across the stretch of carpet seemed to last for ever. She positioned herself at the right hand side of his desk and warily examined his profile. Thick dark hair curled over his collar, and the warm, umber tones of his skin surprised her. She had expected the pale, pasty skin of a man who spent his life indoors, grieving.
He went on writing.
In her former life, she would have swept into the room with a smile and a comment about the weather if nothing else seemed appropriate. In this situation, she must wait patiently for him to finish whatever he had been writing when her tap at the door interrupted him. She watched his hand move across the paper, saw him begin a new sentence and against all her good intentions, irritation rose in her breast. She may be applying for the post of housekeeper, but she deserved the usual courtesies.
Her toe began to tap on the carpet.
Melanie cleared her throat. ‘Sir?’
At the single word, his quill stopped moving. Slowly, his head lifted and swivelled in her direction, displaying a short, straight nose, firm jawline and a mouth of generous proportions. His gaze focused on the grey stuff of her gown and then rose to her face. ‘Miss Grey?’
Melanie inhaled sharply, caught her lower lip between her teeth and did not speak.

http://tinyurl.com/of36bwa

Sunday 29 November 2015

Tuesday 24 November 2015

A Perfect Christmas Read - One Christmas Knight - Out Today

ONE CHRISTMAS KNIGHT, an anthology of medieval novellas, is now out at Amazon. There are seven wonderful historical romances here, by various authors, all set around Yule and Christmas.

Here's a blurb for each of  the stories, plus the blurb and an excerpt from mine.

DEBORAH MACGILLIVRAY—THE SELKIE’S DAUGHTER

Sir Rhys de Valyer, on his way to Scotland to join his liege, Julian Challon, becomes lost in a blinding snowstorm. But this is only the start of his troubles. In a brutal ambush, he and his men are attacked and left for dead. Rhys only escapes the horrible fate due to his trusted steed, who manages to drag him away from the battle. Fearing death’s approach, he never expects a beautiful snow angel to come to his rescue.
After being cast out by her family for being the bastard child of a Selkie, Annys Bràigheach has made her life in the sanctuary of Rowenwood Forest, far away from the world. In spite of her acceptance of the solitary life, her heart still yearns for more. To her surprise, after making a Yuletide wish, she discovers a handsome knight, clinging desperately to his horse, half-frozen with two arrows piercing his body. Her healing skills may save him, but can she reach his heart?
Magic can happen at Yuletide if only you can believe….

KEENA KINCAID—AN UNEXPECTED GIFT

When Meryk the Outlaw finds a badly beaten woman beside the road, he almost rides on. With a price on his head and a winter storm raging, even a short delay could cost him everything. But when he discovers she’s ready to give birth, he takes the risk and vows to protect her.
Ada of Bew doesn’t want the outlaw’s help—much less his protection—but she has no choice. Unable to run any farther and ready to give birth, she must place her faith in this stranger…or die at the hands of the men who want to kill her unborn son.
In the struggle against the cold and would-be kings, Meryk and Ada discover love is the most unexpected gift of all, but will they survive long enough to claim it?

LIVIA J. WASHBURN--KEEPSAKE

Sir Hugh Tarrant returns home from war with a limp from an enemy's sword and a hole in his heart from the death of his beloved. Lady Margaret Dillon is filled with anger at the man she believes deserted her sister. On a stormy Christmas Eve night filled with danger, fate throws them together and makes unexpected allies of them. Will passion ignite as a result...or will they survive to find out?

ANGELA RAINES—LOST KNIGHT

Annalisa has lost everything to her uncle. Taking sanctuary in a convent for safety, she yearns to go back and reclaim her rightful place. When she discovers a seriously wounded man, she realizes that he might be the one who can help her.
Jack wakes up in a convent, wounded and fearing for his own sanity. The last thing he remembers is a firefight in the Middle East, and the pain of being shot. Waking up centuries in the past is not what he expects—but Jack has his own code of honor, and when Annalisa asks for his help, there’s no way he can turn her down.
With the help of Mother Albrade, a nun who has powerful visions and knowledge of the future, Jack and Annalisa begin a journey of discovery and bravery that just might change both their lives—or end them.

C. MARIE BOWEN—HAWTHORN AND MISTLETOE

Cursed by a bitter enchantress in ancient times to wander the earth as an immortal, Jurian Locke is bound by both love and magic to answer his beloved's need in times of danger.
Into each new life, his soulmate is born, unaware she is tied to him by magic, unknowing that a threat to her life will send forth a summons to a man she doesn't know.
Drawn together in dangerous times—his eternal love is her single chance at life. His curse, the only time he can be with the woman who possesses his heart.
Her call reaches him, this time, in 1328 at a Yuletide tournament for King Edward III.

TANYA HANSON—CANTICLE

To save her family’s fortunes, Lady Alisoun must wed an elderly earl the day after Christmas. But in the chapel on Christmas Eve, her heart collides with that of an elegant, mysterious stranger. Is he…one of King John’s spies?
Raised in a monastery, Lord Kitt has no experience with love, but finds his heart lost to a lovely lady. Yet he cannot succumb, for the day after Christmas, he must marry a woman he has never met.

LINDSAY TOWNSEND—SIR BALDWIN AND THE CHRISTMAS GHOSTS

Ambitious and arrogant, the young knight Sir Baldwin returns to his family’s lands and estate at Brigthorpe to face disaster. The pestilence has struck, destroying his parents and all his family save for a young half-brother, Martin, whom Baldwin does not wish to acknowledge because Martin is the bastard child of a serf. Baldwin needs to learn kindness and how to be a lord–and quickly.
Into this hopeless situation comes Sofia, a young woman who can see glimpses of spirits, of the restless dead. These revenants are very restless around Sir Baldwin.
Somehow, Baldwin and Sofia must work together, to make a true Christmas for the survivors of Brigthorpe and the Christmas ghosts. Can they do so in time—or will the gulf of class and custom make any love between them impossible?


For sale here at Amazon here 

And at my author Amazon page here

For sale at Amazon UK here


Excerpt from Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts.


One Christmas Knight


Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts

Lindsay Townsend



December, North of England, 1369
                                                                                                                    

“I can help you with your ghosts, sir.”
For an instant, no longer than a single beat of his heart, Sir Baldwin of Brigthorpe was too startled to answer. That a stranger had entered the manor and he had not heard any approach was disconcerting, that the said stranger could sense the spirits that accosted him every night was disturbing. Not that he let such unworthy, serf-like feelings show on his face. He was a knight—courage and power were his.
“Sir? Do you wish for my help?”
He would have ignored his own peasants if any had dared to keep questioning him, especially one certain grizzling boy, but courtesy to strangers had been ground into him. Reluctantly, he fashioned some reply. “I do not think anyone can aid me. There are too many ghosts.”
I should not have admitted that. Mother of Almighty God, I must be wearier than I thought.
Scowling, Sir Baldwin swept the last of the rotted floor strewing into the fire-pit in the great hall and watched the stinking mess smoke and slowly burn. His back and shoulders ached worse than after a sword practise but he forced himself to straighten and relax. He had not been physically attacked yet and doubted he would be. There are few left alive to try. The ghosts were another matter. There are so many...

Reminded of his losses afresh, the grief sharp as broken glass within him, Baldwin looked at the dais. A swift glance reassured him that the brat was still asleep on the platform, snuggled down in his own long winter cloak. Last year I would never have given a cotter bastard any of my clothes, even though we are akin. Frowning anew, he flicked the broom from hand to hand and raised his head. “How did you come here?”


Lindsay Townsend

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Post-War Issues

When World War II ended there was a feeling of anti-climax, as if the bright blue, sun-filled sky had clouded over, leaving a feeling of uncertainty about the future. A grey chill seemed to hang over everything. But then the country was in a mess, near bankrupt. There were bombed areas and rubble everywhere, homes lost or wrecked, many empty shops and huge bomb craters everywhere.

Women had become much more hardened and independent, having worked hard jobs usually occupied by men, spending endless sleepless nights in shelters fearing they could be killed. And suffering years of anguish worrying over the fate of their loved ones in the war.

When the fighting men returned, these problems were not always taken into account, the husband too beset by his own problems. Women lost their jobs, expected to concentrate on being a wife and mother again by creating a family and home. Housework did take much more time in those days, of course. Even so, many of them resented this change in their lives. They were also urged to no longer wear plain looking suits, trousers or overalls, but to be bright and pretty females again.

She might also have to cope with a shell-shocked or injured husband, outbursts of violence, depression or infidelity. A soldier having been trained to kill was not always the same civilised a person he’d once been. He could be far too accustomed to giving orders and inflicting punishment in order to achieve his aim, for him to show much patience for her. Or he might feel in desperate need for peace and quiet and hardly move or speak.

Many men suffered from sleepwalking, nightmares, or shouting in their sleep. Settling back into Civvy street was not easy, nor was finding a home and employment. He might be missing his pals, decide she’s grown old and become bored with her. Lives had changed and relationships were often badly affected, not least because couples had seen little of each other as leave generally were quite short, and many men had gone overseas. Even letters were often late and much of them blacked out. Whatever his reaction to the traumas he’d suffered, she would largely be the one left to cope. There was little in the way of counselling or assistance.

Cathie is remarkably patient with her fiancé, perhaps a little too kind and vulnerable. She does her best to help by listening to the advice given out over the radio and from the WVS. But then finds there is a price to pay.

1945:
Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. 

When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 



Published 17 November by Mira books.

Read an extract:

Buy from your local book shop or at:

Amazon



Wednesday 4 November 2015

“Are you come to kill me, or help me?”

Blurb: In 1543 Harry Wharton is caught up in a reivers' cattle raid and left for dead. Alina hides him, but her father threatens to kill him and subsequent events force her into a life-changing decision. An exciting historical romance set in the Anglo-Scottish borders in Tudor days.

Excerpt:
“Are you come to kill me, or help me?”
At the sound of the croaky, laboured voice, she dropped his cap and jerked backwards. Her heart loosed a single mighty thump against her chest wall. Poised to rise and flee, she hesitated when the man made no effort to move. She frowned. He hadn’t sounded like Harry at all. His eyes were open, but only as mere slits. Careful to stay out of reach of his arm, she bent low to peer into his face.
She prodded his shoulder. “Harry?”
His eyes had closed again.
“Sir? Sir?”
His lids lifted, but only half-way. “Yes?”
Alina shuffled to one side, so he did not have to adjust his line of vision to see her. “What are you doing here?”
His lids closed once more. “My head…hurts.”
“You have a swelling. There.”
“Ahhhhhh!”
She whipped her finger back from his brow. “I’m sorry. I did not mean to cause pain.”
One of his eyes opened to the merest slit and regarded her with displeasure. “My horse has a gentler touch than you, madam.”
“Well!” Affronted, Alina could think of nothing to say.
“No,” he said. “Since you ask, I am not well.”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Then you should have done.” He closed his eyes again.
Alina stared at him. His name was Harry Scott, and because of that, hurt or not, her father would kill him. But Harry had saved her from the bull, so she owed him something. She couldn’t walk away and leave him.
Yesterday the intensity of his gaze made her heart flutter.
Today he behaved as if she were a stranger.
Birdsong flooded from the branches above. Dragon dozed in the sunshine. The stranger’s horse moved a pace or two out into the meadow and continued to graze. Could she keep him hidden? Father might return at any moment. She turned back to the prone figure.
“Can you walk?”
His dark brows drew in towards his nose while he considered the matter. “I doubt it.”
“I can’t shift you on my own.”
“No need. Just let me be. Sleep…would be…good.” His voice slurred on the words and his eyes closed.
Alina leaned over and shook his arm. “You can’t sleep here. Someone will find you, and then it will be all over. There was a raid last night, and Father will think you were a part of it.” He took no notice, so she shook him again and raised her voice. “Do you want to die today?”
He groaned, and his hand lifted, fingers splayed, to stop her rough shaking. “Enough, I am awake.”
She sat back on her heels and surveyed him. “I hope you are not too heavy, Harry.”
His fingers clenched on the fabric of her skirt. “You know me?” His voice was sharper, demanding. “You know my name? Wait. Help me sit up.”
“Please.”
It was the kind of flippant reply she gave Lionel when he tried his new found authority on her. Lionel didn’t like it when she stood up to him, but she was the elder and had no intention of being brow beaten by her brother. Harry, however, was unmoved. He stared at the damp hem of her brown skirt as if fascinated by it.
“You are correct,” he said. “I am sorry. Would you please help me sit up? I shall do my best to assist.” Resigned amusement flavoured his apology.
Lionel never reacted like this. Alina made no move to help the man at her feet, but studied the lines of his face and remembered the oddness of his remark. “What do you mean when you ask if I know your name?”
“For God’s sake, woman! Help me!”
“How do I know you won’t attack me?”
He groaned. “By the Rood! How will I manage to attack you when I can’t sit up? You could fell me with a hazel twig at the moment.” Frustrated resignation rang through his voice.
“Can you turn over? It will be easier if you are on your back.”
“I can but try.” His mouth lifted in a crooked smile.
She observed his careful sequence of movements with a critical eye. Each limb seemed sound, and when he rolled over and stared at the spreading canopy of green leaves above him, she could not help but gasp, for his eyes glowed like sapphires in the soft light beneath the tree. Her heart gave an odd little jerk.
“Where are you?”
“Here.” She moved closer, confident he would not hurt her. “Can’t you see me?”
“I can now you’ve moved.” His eyes flickered and squinted as he struggled to focus on her. “What lovely eyes you have. I hope they are kind eyes. If I move my head it makes me dizzy, so just now I prefer not to, if you don’t mind.”
“Then how am I to move you?”


Tuesday 27 October 2015

New Release from Lily Harlem


My new MMF novel set in London, Muscling In, is out today! I adore the details on the cover that hint at the location.


Back Cover Information

My husband has a secret. Desires he’s kept locked away in a deep, dark place.

Determined to pry details of this forbidden longing, I had no idea how much this new side of him would turn me on. So when I met the object of his lust I couldn’t let it rest.

Edward Moorland was a force to be reckoned with, a man who fought for his country and what he wanted. But did he want me and my husband? Would I ever experience his passion let loose or would I remain on the sidelines, watching, waiting, hoping?

One thing I knew, I wasn’t the type of girl to give in without a fight. I wanted to be part of the action too. More than part of it, I wanted to be in the goddamn middle of it with bells, whistles and fireworks when it all exploded. Yes…I wanted it all.

Buy Links








Thursday 22 October 2015

New cover for my Victorian novel, To Gain What's Lost

This story is very close to my heart as it was the first historical I wrote back in 1997 when I was at home with my small children. The characters Anna, Matt and Brenton, whom had been in my head for years, suddenly demanded to be written or I should say typed. I had an electric typewriter I used to work on my family genealogy, and one day I put a clean white piece of paper into the machine and started to reveal their story(and thankfully six months later I got my first computer!). It took me two years to write and it turned out to be a huge piece of work - over 150,000 words - too big!
Over the next few years I edited it, gave it different titles, put it through a critique group, and tried to sell it to agents. The novel was published twice by two small publishers, both went out of business, then it was published by Black Opal Books a few years ago, but I asked for my rights back and now I'm re-publishing it wit a new cover and hopefully a new audience. It's time for this story to shine properly.


She thinks her life has changed for the better, her dark secrets hidden, but little does she know…

The daughter of a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire, England in 1864, Anna Thornton leads a privileged life. But she is not content. She wants her life to mean something and longs to be accepted for the free-thinking, independent woman she is. When the dashing, adventurer Matt Cowan sweeps her off her feet, she thinks she has finally met her soul mate. However, he’s not the man she thinks he is. After he sails for South America, leaving her behind in England, Anna discovers she’s pregnant. Heartbroken she flees her family home, determined to keep her child’s illegitimacy a secret. 

He has a few dark secrets of his own…

Brandon O’Mara is a strong, independent man who wants to make his own way without relying on his father’s wealth. He comes to Anna’s new home looking for work and convinces the reluctant woman to hire him. But Anna's wary of men, of love, and treats him as nothing more than the penniless labourer she believes him to be. Then, just when Anna seems to feel she is getting on with her new life, and Brandon believes he is breaking down her barriers, the past rears up to confront them and their future hangs in the balance.  

Available on Kindle at Amazon.
USA and UK and all Amazon countries.

Thursday 15 October 2015

A VICTORIAN ROMANCE ~ The Craigsmuir Affair by Jen Black

A story set in 1893 when the Victorians were really into technology and women were thinking a career might be a possibility. Some homes had electric light  and a telephone - if you moved in the right circles! Others suffered headaches from gas light.  Daisy wants to study art, but finds it more difficult than she thought, especially after she meets Adam Grey, mine owner - and a man with a broken heart.
EXCERPT:
He kept his gaze on the hem of her blue silk gown as it slid across the worn carpet. She glanced over her shoulder, then halted in mid-step and laid a graceful hand on the newel post at the foot of the stairs. ‘You don’t suspect I stole the wretched picture, do you? Is that why I am not allowed to go alone to my chamber?’
She was clever, too. It had not taken long for her to make the connection. Adam’s momentum carried him two steps up the staircase before he looked down into her wide eyes and saw the flash of temper there.
‘Oh!’ Her fingers tightened on the post. ‘Once in my room I shall tamper with the evidence. Is that what you think? What a silly idea!’
He looked down from his vantage point. With every breath she took, her breasts rose against the deep blue silk of her gown. His body tightened in response, startling him. Was he mistaken, or did the faint thrum of lust hang in the air?
‘Damn it all,’ he said softly. ‘Can we just collect the wretched lists and be done with it?’

The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR, published 20th July 2015 on Amazon kindle.

and for the UK -

Tuesday 13 October 2015

A VIKING ROMANCE! ~ THE MAGICIAN'S BRIDE by Jen Black

BLURB:
Gisla has escaped the clutches of magician, Karli Olafsson, but can she continue to evade his demands? In desperation she turns to a handsome young stranger who doesn't believe in magic. His name is Olli...and luckily he has friends who will help….This exciting story is set in Ireland and Scotland in AD 1046, a decade after Far After Gold.

EXCERPT:
Thorkel turned his head and spat on the floor. ‘Enough of this,’ he muttered, and nodded at the man who held me. ‘Get her to the ship.’
In spite of my exhaustion, that woke me. I squealed ‘No!’ and threw myself toward Olli, but weakness made me stumble. The guard caught my plait in one brawny fist and reeled me in. I yelled and clapped my hands to my head. I heard his laughter as he hustled me toward the door.
The crowd did not make a space for him as he expected, but forced him to halt. His back stiffened and his grip tightened on my arm. Desperate, I hurled words over my shoulder.
‘I cannot marry Karli now. I have lain with another.’
There was a moment’s shocked silence and then a sly snigger ran through the crowd as everyone stared at Olli. Thorkel seemed stunned and stood there with his mouth hanging open.
I hardly dared meet Olli’s shocked gaze, much less sustain it, but I hoped he would not let me down. Claiming we had bedded when we had not was a risk, but there was nothing else I could think of to say that would stop Thorkel taking me back to Karli. I would apologise to Olli as soon as I could.
Blood rushed into Olli’s face. Our glances met briefly before he dipped his head and turned shiftily to meet his foster-father’s considering blue stare. I expected Olli to be annoyed with me; but he was trying to suppress a smile and seemed both flattered and embarrassed by my claim. Emer had one hand to her mouth and slowly shook her head. I hated to have her think badly of him, but the lie was the only thing that might save me. I could repair the damage with Emer and Flane later.
Somewhere in the crowd, a man laughed and a woman called out ‘She’s no good to you now, man. Let her go.’
Thorkel stood in frowning silence, as if thinking very slowly. Olli braced himself as if he suspected it was only a matter of time before Thorkel’s brutes turned on him. He flexed his shoulders and casually rested his hand on his dagger.


http://jenblackauthor.blogspot.com

Thursday 24 September 2015

LIFE CLASS

To celebrate the launch of LIFE CLASS in its new clothes - new publisher, new cover - I reflect on how I came up with a couple of the characters.  


To celebrate the launch of LIFE CLASS in its new clothes - new publisher, new cover - I reflect on how I came up with a couple of the characters.  


At the time I was developing the story of LIFE CLASS, I had - and still have - a friend who did a very interesting (occasionally, even amusing) job.  If I gave the heroine of my story a job like my friend’s, she would be coming into contact with people - maybe people she knew - at very vulnerable, embarrassing and possibly life-changing moments. More than that, she might make perfectly reasonable assumptions about those people, assumptions which could colour her view of them and give her an ethical dilemma.  This was the crucial seed which turned on the ‘what if’ part of my brain.  Although the personality, biography and appearance of my heroine, Dory, is nothing like my friend’s, I gave Dory the same job, a lab technician at a sexual health clinic.

So I had my heroine, but I then I needed a hero. I had another friend who, at the time, worked as an admin assistant to a man who designed and sold fountains. It struck me that designing fountains was an unusual and interesting job. But I was thinking in terms of the artistic and creative aspects.  My friend put me right. Her boss was an engineer not an artist. He dealt more in the science of hydraulics and water flow. But the spark had been lit.

Other students at the sculpture workshop

The career which would fit the story better than "engineer" was "sculptor". In fact, when I thought about it, why bother with fountains at all? Fountains added an unnecessary complication. After all, a figurative sculptor is someone who himself needs to study the human form, but in a class set-up he would be more likely to be the teacher than a student. 

My hand, modelling the clay figure

Fortunately I knew two sculptors with whom I could do research. I could talk to them about their craft, their attitudes to their work and how they went about getting commissions, but more than that, I wanted to know how it felt to sculpt. I had dabbled in the past with clay, but wanted a more in-depth experience. So I signed on for a two day work shop with one of the sculptors I knew, Elisabeth Hadley.



I knew I had my bare bones. All I needed to do was begin adding flesh. There were still two more characters to find - LIFE CLASS was always going to be a story about four people - but their emergence into my imagination is another story.

About art, life, love and learning lessons, LIFE CLASS follows four members of an art class, who meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They each come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.

Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationships. The time seems right to pursue what she really wants in life, if she can work out what that is. She moves back from London to the country town where she grew up and where her sister still lives, yet she remains undecided whether to make it a permanent move. She’s always been clear eyed realist  ̶  love doesn’t figure in her view of the future – and yet she finds herself chasing a dream. 

Stefan is a single-minded loner, whose overriding ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. So how the hell did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? If he can sell the big old house he’s inherited, he’ll be able to concentrate on his work and maybe give up the part-time teaching job. Love is an emotion he long ago closed off  ̶  it only leads to regret and shame  ̶  but it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat? 

Fran ̶ Dory’s older sister ̶ is a wife and a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. Her husband’s early retirement plans throw her into a panic. She sees her life narrowing into staid middle-age. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.  

Dominic is a damaged child. He has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? If he can grow up enough to accept the help and love that is now being offered to him, he has the chance to transform his life. 

Thursday 10 September 2015

Guest blog: Merryn Allingham - 'Daisy's Long Road Home'

Excerpt: 

That decided her. Grayson had been adamant she must say nothing that could precipitate the danger he feared. But she wouldn’t be saying anything. She wouldn’t be involved in any confrontation. In the strictest sense, she wouldn’t be going against his wishes. If she crept to the room while the palace slept, no one need ever know. She could make a brief search and return before anyone was
awake.

She slipped noiselessly out of bed and dressed in the clothes she’d worn the previous day. Grayson was still sleeping soundly when she let herself out of the suite and tiptoed into the corridor. Despite the brave words to herself, her fingers were tightly crossed that she could find her way back to the study and without meeting a fellow night wanderer. It turned out to be a more difficult journey than she’d anticipated. On several occasions, she turned in the wrong direction and found herself looking at a blank wall or down an unfamiliar corridor, and all
the time her heart was in her mouth at every creak of a wooden door or sigh of the palace walls. But eventually she stood outside the room she sought. Its door was no
longer ajar and that halted her. She could have no idea what, or even who, was behind its blank facade. She breathed deep and gathered her courage. She needed all of it to turn the door handle.

There was nobody. For a moment, she was overwhelmed with relief and had to grasp the back of the nearest chair to steady herself. She waited until her breathing had settled before she gave the room a swift scan. She must be quick, she couldn’t afford to linger. Grayson would be awake in less than an hour and ready to leave on his own adventure. She made for the desk. It was the most obvious place to look, but a cursory glance at the papers strewn across its surface, made plain there was little to interest her here. She bent down to the drawers on one side of the desk, methodically flicking through their contents and making sure she replaced everything as she found it. One side completed, but again nothing of interest. On to the drawers on the far side. She found them locked and her pulse beat a little quicker.

This could be it. Inside could be the letters she sought, the diary, the journal, anything that Karan had written in his time in Brighton. She tugged at each of the three compartments in turn, hoping the locks were too old to withstand an assault, and forgetting in her furious concentration that she’d intended to leave no trace of her visit. The drawers remained obstinately shut. Frustration made her careless and she shuffled the papers here and daisy’s long road home there on the desktop, looking for anything that might be strong enough to break the locks. A tray of pens, a sheaf of blotting paper and a paper knife, were all she found. Nothing she could use.

But perhaps, after all, it wasn’t the desk she should focus on. The bookcases that lined every wall might hold what she wanted. She walked slowly from one set of shelves to another, searching first the lower tiers and making sure she felt behind each row of books, then when that proved unsuccessful, dragging a chair to each bookcase in turn and clambering to the very top shelves. Still nothing. It had to be the desk. She bounced back across the room.

There was a madness in her now; the more frustrated she became, the more she believed there was something in this room, something locked in this desk, something that Talin Verghese did not want to be seen. If so, it had to concern his
dead son, and she had to get those drawers open. She went back to the desk and picked up the paper knife. It looked a feeble tool, but it was the only thing possible. She bent over the top drawer and had begun prodding and poking the lock with the knife, when a voice from the doorway made her heart jump in fright.

‘Are you quite mad?’

It was Grayson. Thank heaven for that at least.

‘I have to get these last three drawers open,’ was her sole explanation.

‘What are you thinking of? This is a private office, and if I’m not mistaken the Rajah’s personal domain. And you’re burgling it?’

‘It looks bad, I know.

‘Looks bad!’ Grayson’s expression was explosive. ‘It looks bloody lethal—for us. Now come back to the room, for God’s sake.’

‘I can’t. I have to open these drawers.’ Her whole life, it seemed, depended on opening them. It was stupid, but if she had been drowning and the drawers were weighing her to the ocean floor, she would have clung to them still.

Grayson took only an instant to decide. He strode over to the desk and took the paper knife from her hand. In three swift clicks, he’d opened three drawers.
She gaped at him.

‘What did you expect?’ His anger hadn’t abated. ‘That I couldn’t open locked drawers? Now get on with it.’

She scrambled through their contents as quickly as she could, but finished desolate. ‘There’s nothing.’

‘How surprising. Now let’s get the hell out of this place.’

‘Excuse, sahib, memsahib.’ A servant had slipped from behind one of the pillars lining the corridor and was watching them from the open door. Grayson slammed the drawers shut, his face the picture of chagrin.

‘We couldn’t sleep,’ he lied blatantly, ‘and decided to explore a little and then became lost.’

‘Of course, sahib. Please to come with me. I will escort you to your suite.’

In single file, they trooped back to the apartment, their feet as heavy as their hearts. As soon as the door had closed on their escort, Grayson turned to her in a fury.

‘You realise what you’ve done, don’t you? Compromised the whole
expedition. How could you?’

Despite his anger, she stood her ground. ‘I had to get into that room and this was my only chance. I can’t speak to Verghese. I can’t speak to his advisers or his servants. You’ve laid the law down on that. So how else can I get to what I need?’

‘What I need,’ he mimicked. ‘It’s always what you need, isn’t it? Everyone and everything else can go to hell.’

‘That’s not true. How can you, of all people, say that?’
She turned away from him and walked to the closed windows, her arms folded across her chest as though to keep the hurt she felt enclosed within.

‘I owe you my life, Daisy. Don’t you think I don’t remember that every single day? You’re brave, you’re determined, you’re loyal—up to a point. But if push comes
to shove, it’s what you want that will count. And with this obsession of yours, push does come to shove fairly frequently, doesn’t it? And this time, we’re talking a matter of life and death.’

‘It’s not like that,’ she said desperately. ‘You don’t understand.’

‘I never do, according to you. But what I do understand is that you’re prepared to act as selfishly as you choose. So selfishly that you’ll endanger not just your own life
but others’ too.’

She had never seen him so furious. His jaw was rigid and in the muted light his blue eyes were the darkest navy, glinting and angry. She was forced to concede then that she had done a very stupid thing and the fight went out of her.

‘I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. I was so sure that I would find something.’

She must have been in the grip of madness, she thought, to think she could rifle the Rajah’s sanctuary and not be discovered. Even to think she could uncover any kind of clue.

‘But you didn’t find anything, did you? And just suppose you had.’ His voice was quiet but brittle. ‘Is that more important than finding Javinder, than saving Javinder?’

‘No,’ she mumbled miserably.

‘That’s what it amounts to, doesn’t it? You’ve put your own concerns before a young man’s safety and, to add insult to injury, you found nothing.’

She had found nothing and her heart ached for it.

‘I’m going back to bed.’ He began untying the robe he’d worn. ‘There’s little point in doing much else. Whatever plan I had is in tatters. From now on, they’ll be watching us every minute of the day and night.’

And without as much as a glance at her, he stalked into the adjoining room, leaving her staring at the closed door. The servants wouldn’t be gossiping after all, she thought forlornly. She was filled with sorrow, her legs weak, her feet shuffling into the bedroom they’d shared just an hour ago. The outline of his body was still there in the sheets, the pillows that had nursed his head still dented. The most

abject misery gripped her. It was as though the ribbon of her life had unspooled and, in that instant, been wiped blank. The quest, the obsession—and Grayson was right, the need to discover her history had become an obsession— had died an abrupt death. Why had she thought it so very important?

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