Read Around the Rainbow: AI vs Me

For this month’s Read Around the Rainbow, we’re dealing with the hot topic of AI. As you can imagine, given the controversy surrounding the potential impact of AI, this spurred plenty of discussion.

We each decided to choose a gay romance trope or subgenre and ask AI to write a short story, and then we would create our own for comparison. I chose Regency Romance as it wasn’t too challenging for my technological limitations.

Part of our group discussion centred on which AI content generator to use, a hot topic for a technophobe like me. I randomly chose one that didn’t require too much personal information on the signup form. Interestingly, unlike other generators, it refused the prompt of writing a gay romance ‘as it might be offensive and inappropriate’, a somewhat chilling response. It was fine with MF Regency and hilariously and alarmingly, once I omitted the word ‘gay’ and instead suggested male character names, it wrote exactly the same story but with name changes.

So my prompt was to write a 400-word Regency romance set in London using the character names James and Luc. Here it is.

James had never been one for the glittering balls and endless rounds of social engagements that defined London society. But when his friend Luc invited him to a ball hosted by the Duchess of Devonshire, he couldn’t say no. He had known Luc since childhood, and he trusted him implicitly. So he put on his finest clothes and made his way to the ball, hoping to avoid the worst of the crowds.

But as soon as he arrived, James knew that this was going to be a night to remember. The ballroom was filled with the cream of London society, all dressed in their finest clothes and glittering with jewels. But as James made his way through the throng, he couldn’t help feeling like an outsider. He was a newcomer to society, and he didn’t know anyone.

That’s when he saw him. Luc was standing by the refreshment table, looking just as out of place as James felt. James felt drawn to him, and before he knew it, he was standing beside him, striking up a conversation.

They talked for hours, dancing and laughing and forgetting about the rest of the world. James was struck by Luc’s easy charm and quick wit, and he found himself falling for him, hard.

As the night wore on, James realized that he was in love with Luc. He had never felt this way before, and he was both exhilarated and terrified by the feeling. But he couldn’t deny the pull he felt towards him, and he knew that he had to see him again.

They arranged to meet the following day in Hyde Park, and James spent the rest of the night dreaming of their next meeting. When they met in the park, it was like they had never been apart. They talked and laughed and walked for hours, lost in each other’s company.

As the days turned into weeks, James and Luc fell deeper in love. They spent every moment they could together, stealing kisses and dreaming of a future together. But they knew that their love was forbidden, and that society would never accept them.

Despite the odds against them, James and Luc refused to give up on their love. They knew that they were meant to be together, and they were willing to fight for it. And as they stood together in the fading light of a summer evening, they knew that they would face whatever challenges lay ahead, as long as they were together.


So far, so generically Regency. I’m sure I could have got something a bit more specific using particular keywords if I was in any way adept at this, but it was interesting to see what it came up with from a basic description.

For my story, I got the idea of using existing characters from my ongoing Regency Twelve Letters series. I decided to contrast the process of AI prompts with the (much slower) imaginative process, choosing characters that are already rattling around in my head.

So my short story is about the meeting between James Beaufort, the baddie in Gentlemen’s Agreement, book 4 in my series and Luc, the MC in book 5, The Misfit. These two have an intense fling in the background of Gentlemen’s Agreement until Luc realizes that Beaufort is a wrong ‘un.

The story isn’t exactly a romance and is a couple of hundred words longer than the AI-prompted piece. I think that illustrates the point that if you feed key terms and a word limit to AI, it spits something out automatically. Suggest an idea to a human brain and, after time for consideration, it comes up with something organic and offbeat, which is the entire point of creativity.

Vauxhall Gardens, London, Summer 1815

James Beaufort was partial to music. His status as an important man in his middle years accorded him access to exclusive recitals at private gatherings in Mayfair. But when it came to his favourite composers, he was prepared to sacrifice some dignity.

At a loose end on a balmy summer’s evening, not compelled to cram into an overcrowded salon for the sake of marital or political duty, it amused him to while away the twilight hours at Vauxhall Gardens before retiring to the gaming tables at Watiers Club on exclusive Piccadilly. Mozart’s compositions interpreted by the finest musicians would justify the interim sacrifice.

The variety of concertgoers at Vauxhall Garden’s Rotunda didn’t disgust him unduly. Taking his seat, Beaufort simply ignored their vulgarity with a barely-concealed sneer as he waited for the performance to begin.

Cobham’s in fine form tonight, he thought, briefly closing his eyes as the violinist launched into the concerto. Beaufort surveyed the players as the musician was accompanied by the rest of the orchestra. He noted a few celebrated faces and decided to linger after the concert to spread some mutually beneficial bonhomie.

Beaufort was cognisant of his impressive good looks and enviable position as a well-connected senior civil servant. His gaze drifted over the musicians, rapt amid their performance, and he lingered over an unfamiliar face. The violinist was young, perhaps in his early twenties, the exertions of his craft causing his thick dark hair to fall over his olive-toned brow. His nose was aristocratic, and his chin held a stubborn strength contrasting with his tremulous, expressive lips.

Beaufort admired the slender artistic fingers that held the bow with such skill. The young man was clearly a rising talent, holding his own amongst more established musicians. But that was not why he commanded Beaufort’s focus.

He considered the lad’s spare frame under the cover of evening clothes, a working musician’s uniform. The coat was slightly shiny at the elbows, the revealed shirt cuffs slightly frayed. There was an intriguing dichotomy between financial struggle and creative passion. Beaufort felt a tell-tale flicker of excitement.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a lover, he surmised. Beaufort had to be discreet about his occasional affairs, especially those with men. He didn’t want to alienate his wife altogether. More to the point, he couldn’t afford to incur the censure of her wealthy and influential relatives who had secured his government post. Their support, allied with his raw ambition and considerable charm, allowed him within tantalising reach of the seat of ultimate power.

Lulled by the unfolding music and the striking young man, Beaufort calmly considered his options. Is he worth the risk?

A smile played over his distinguished features. Beaufort was a gambler by nature, not only in the rarified surroundings of gentlemen’s clubs. He was currently engaged in the ultimate speculation, backing Napoleon, England’s most notorious foe, against his own political colleagues. Just thinking of the odds should make him sick with fear. Instead, it made him feel more alive than ever.

If his wager paid off, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams. His wealth would liberate him from the narrow regulations of society, unconfined by his marriage, no longer answerable to a collection of stuffed shirts.

The music swelled before fading, allowing Mr. Cobham to excel in a solo passage. The young violinist lowered his bow, awaiting his turn to recommence playing. Beaufort watched him greedily. Momentarily distracted, the musician met his gaze.

He had beautiful eyes, wide set and deep brown. They were still dreamy, spellbound by the music. Beaufort allowed himself to imagine that was exactly how the boy would look when he allowed him his release.

Those dark eyes surveyed Beaufort and widened unmistakably. He could have purred with satisfaction at such a swift and satisfactory response. That settles it, Beaufort judged. The thrill of high-stakes gaming hells could wait for another night while he pursued more earthy rewards.


My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to read how they got on versus AI!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : A. L. Lester : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis : Fiona Glass : Holly Day :

Read Around the Rainbow: As a reader, what’s more important to you, the story itself or the way it’s told?

I’m sure we’ll get some hugely interesting insights from the blog ring on this month’s topic, suggested by the lovely Addison Albright.

For me, as a reader and a writer, this question poses a conundrum.

Personally, when reading, I can’t separate one from the other.  I hasten to add this is purely down to personal taste and has nothing to do with the author! We all have our individual preferences in writing style. A story may hugely appeal from the blurb or a recommendation but might not feel accessible when reading. Then, of course, there are those offbeat stories that just grab us because we’re caught up in the storytelling. To be honest, while reading, I’m pretty relaxed about my reaction to a story either way.

But when writing, this occupies far too much of my attention! When I have a storyline in my head, I agonise over its telling to a ridiculous degree. I try to do my best by my characters to depict them in a way that grabs the reader. I want my audience to be equally invested in the story’s outcome.

As someone who reads and writes MM romance, I appreciate there are countless ways of depicting a love story, whatever the subgenre. I enjoy reading romantic suspense as much as I relish historical stories and anything laced with a sense of humour. But I’ll try anything at least once!

With my author hat on, I completely understand that my writing style won’t appeal to everyone – and there’s not much I can do about that! But that doesn’t stop me from digging deep to make my couple’s romance as meaningful as possible and hoping that the reader will love my boys as much as I do.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are five other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to discover how they feel about stories and storytelling!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : A. L. Lester : K. L. Noone :

Read Around the Rainbow: How do you feel about blurbs?

I gather that some of us approach blurbs with a sense of trepidation from the feedback about the topic chosen for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog. I have to say (very quietly) that I don’t mind writing book blurbs. I hasten to add that they’re not my favourite admin task, but as a less is more kind of writer (one of the reasons I write novellas) describing something relatively brief is a mild blessing compared to other lengthier challenges that have me tearing my hair out.

I wouldn’t say this generally, but in this instance, I think it helps that I write historical stories. Once I’ve popped in the date and era, my MCs name, their love interest and the setting, I’m halfway there! Of course, it’s not easy to cram a coherent précis of a complete story in a few paragraphs (or even less for a short blurb), but it can be quite a fun puzzle to extract the essentials from my story.

When the necessary facts like time and place are added, I find that latching onto the nearest relevant tropes can be helpful for me as a writer and for readers to conclude if the story is their cup of tea or not. For the blurb of my upcoming story, The Misfit, released on April 1st, and currently in the 20% pre-release sale at JMS Books, I tried to include Society of Gentlemen, Friends to Lovers and Second Chances to describe Luc and Harry’s love story.

So my checklist for blurbs tends to include background facts, a summation of the overall storyline and any useful tropes. It’s up to you to decide if I’ve managed to include all the above in the blurb for The Misfit!

At the start of 1816, Luc Gerrard is summoned home to rural Essex from his sanctuary in the West Indies due to a dangerous downturn in his mother’s health. When she recovers, Luc is determined to pick up his musical employment in London’s theatres, concert halls and ballrooms.

He receives support and even friendship from a surprising source, the circle of gentlemen who spirited him away from certain arrest due to his connection with his former lover and Napoleonic plotter, James Beaufort.
Luc juggles his pride and finances while attempting to gain an orchestral position at Drury Lane Theatre for the upcoming spring Season. Bittersweet memories are revived when he inevitably meets his longtime companion and sometime lover, Harry Kent. However, charming, easy-going casual Harry seems changed by Luc’s absence.

Can Luc re-establish his interrupted career with a little help from his new friends? And might he and Harry find a lasting connection?

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are six other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to discover how they feel about blurbs!

Lillian Francis : Holly Day : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : Amy Spector : Nell Iris :

Taking Flight by A. L. Lester free from March 7th – 9th

As A huge fan of A. L. Lester’s stories, with a particular weakness for the author’s gorgeous Celtic Myth series, I’m delighted to host this fascinating blog and free offer. Take it away, Ally!

Taking Flight is one of my Celtic Myth collection of short stories/novellas and is free from 7th to 9th March. Thanks so much for letting me pop in and tell your readers all about it!

Taking Flight is drawn over a story from the Mabinogion, a book of Welsh folk tales. It’s about Brânwen, sister of King Brân of Wales. Her brother marries her off to Matholwch, King of Ireland, but the marriage goes bad, because Bran and Branwen’s half-brother Efnysien is angry that he wasn’t consulted about the wedding and cuts off all King Matholwch’s horses’ eyelids during the wedding feast as revenge. Just your average nightmare party guest.

The marriage goes ahead despite this; but once they are back in Ireland the disapproval of his people becomes too much and Matholwch banishes Brânwen to the kitchens where she is beaten daily by the butcher. She tames a starling and sends it with a message to her brother for help. He comes to rescue her with an army and there are various battles and unsuccessful negotiations and Efnysien turns up again making trouble by throwing Brânwen’s son into a fire but then bravely destroying a resurrection cauldron and killing some warriors hiding in flour bags to redeem himself. It’s one of those stories where everybody dies… Brânwen kills herself and Brân is killed in battle but his head keeps giving his seven remaining warriors good advice until they bury it at the Tower of London.

It’s all a bit gruesome, but I knew I wanted to write about the starling part of the story and make the bird in to a person. To begin with I was trying to hitch him up with Brân, but then I realised that it would be a better story if it centered around the Brânwen character, who is very much an object to be moved around in the original legend and is very much not so in my own version.

I’ve also cut out the child-murder, the horse-disfigurement, the battles and the resurrection cauldron. Sorry.

Branwyn’s grave is supposed to be at Llanddeusant on the Isle of Anglesey and the discovery of a high-status Bronze Age mound there is a possible root of the legend. Welsh folk stories were passed down orally for centuries before being written in the Mabinogion in the thirteenth century.

Taking Flight

Gwyn is trying to balance his business aims with his desire to leave the Kings of Ireland hotel. He honestly thought Mal knew he was trans before they hooked up. It takes a blow to the face in front of all the kitchen staff before he reaches his own personal line in the sand and leaves with the help of Darren. Could the delicate pull of attraction between them grow into something stronger?

If you’d like another free Celtic Myth short story, AWing and a Prayer (3.500 words) is free when you join my newsletter. The other stories are all just over ten thousand words, which makes them long for a short story and short for a novella. ‘Novellette’ sounds like they should be about Victorian maidens though, and they’re not! They are all based on at least a seed of some sort of myth from the wild edges of Europe; Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man, our Celtic west. There are a lot of saint’s stories to pick from and tales that were probably passed down orally before writing was common. There are currently five stories that are all in KU and usually priced at $1.99.

About A. L. Lester

Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group : Mastodon : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

Recent Reads: Criminal Intentions, Season One

Usually, for Recent Reads, I tend to pick two or three stories I’ve recently read, depending on the length of the books and my time limits. This week, I’m only sticking to only one. But I think I can be forgiven since it’s a 13-part series!

For the last week or more, I’ve been completely involved with Criminal Intentions Season 1 by Cole McCade. I’m trying (and failing) to resist going straight on to Season 2!

I do love a bit of MM Romantic Suspense, so I thought I’d give this Baltimore-based detective series a whirl. I dipped into Episode One, The Cardigans and enjoyed meeting Malcolm Khalaji, a larger-than-life veteran Baltimore Homicide detective in his early forties and his new, younger, unwanted and unwilling professional partner, Seong-Jai Yoon, a transfer from LA. I really enjoyed the opposites-attract vibe between exuberant renegade Malcolm and icy, reserved, by-the-book Yoon. I also found the emphasis on LGBTQIA+ and multicultural characters very involving and I thought I’d carry on with the series at least for a few books. Then I got absolutely sucked in and I couldn’t stop reading compulsively!

Initially, although I totally appreciated Code McCale’s choice of titling Criminal Intentions as a television series with episodes, I was a few books in before his reasons absolutely clicked with me. I’m dense that way!

This is a carefully crafted slow burn, about so much more than simply getting our central couple together with a background of detective investigation. When I was getting to the halfway stage, I realised that the first books set up major supporting characters and situations (exactly like a tv show) and also that initial incidents that seemed fleeting or unimportant were planting the seeds of a series-long and vitally important story arc.

Once I’d got into the rhythm of Criminal Intentions, I realised the pattern was one homicide case per book, together with underlying story arcs slowly coming together with increasing dramatic tension as the story continued. Sorry for being vague, but I’m doing my best not to spoil things and give away too many specifics here!

Of course, the beating heart of this series is the deepening connection between Malcolm and Seong-Jai, as the sparks of reluctant attraction become a tempestuous, passionate and deeply-felt love affair. The exquisite language Cole employs when they are alone entwined together away from crime scenes is so convincing of their mutual love. I had to stop and read a few passages twice as they were so beautiful and lyrical. As a result, I’m completely sold on these two very different, complicated and equally wonderful men.

The author creates a fantastic sense of tension between their professional and personal lives and at least one encroaching outside threat that might tear them apart. Criminal Intentions is high-stakes edge-of-the-seat stuff and you can see why I’m struggling not to plunge straight into Season 2!

Read Around the Rainbow: Someone insults your main character. How do they react?

There was a great deal of discussion about this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog topic until lovely Addison Albright came up with the final wording. I am so looking forward to reading about everyone else’s MCs and the different ways they respond to being insulted!

When we were chatting about this idea, I couldn’t help but think of the ensemble cast of my Regency romp Twelve Letters series and how each of them would react to an insult. For those of you unfamiliar with the series so far, my cast consists of three increasingly established couples living in Regency London.

They are Daniel Walters, a Bond Street tailor and Jo Everett, a gentleman but not wealthy, then Jo’s best friend, Captain Ben Harding and Dr Edward Stephens and finally, the immensely rich and business-minded Nathan Brooks and (mainly reformed) Regency himbo, the Honourable Percy Havilland. In the first book, Twelve Letters, which is set in spring 1814, Percy is the youngest in his early twenties, with most of the group in their mid-twenties and Nathan, the oldest in his mid-thirties.

The series and the central relationships progress with Queer Relations, set in autumn 1814, Coming of Age set in spring 1815, Gentlemen’s Agreement set in the autumn of the same year and upcoming stories The Misfit and May Wedding are set in spring 1816 and 1817 respectively.

Daniel, a working man serving the tailoring needs of the gentlemen of the ton, can’t really afford to be insulted. So it’s probably a good thing that he’s such a mild and generous person. I’m sure during his working days, he’s received many a ticking off from gentlemen who refuse to believe they’ve put on a couple of stone since their last fitting and blame Daniel for making their clothes in an incorrect size. Then there’s the fashionable trend of gentlemen delaying to pay off their account, often for several years, ending up owing fortunes to shopkeepers. Such types have to be dealt with firmly but tactfully. If anyone can manage that without being insulted or causing offence, it would be Daniel.

Jo, Daniel’s partner in life, is equally good-natured. If personally insulted, he’d probably react by apologising instantly. However, if anyone criticised his group of friends, let alone Daniel, he’d probably get quite cross, which would be very noticeable in someone usually so easygoing.

Ben is far more irascible than Jo, who never rises to the bait of Ben’s uncertain temper, which is probably why they’ve been friends since their school days. Although disabled from serving in the Napoleonic Wars, Ben is a crack shot and handy with a sword, so insult him at your peril! He even threatened to challenge poor Edward to a duel before he decided to fall in love with him instead.

Despite excelling at his profession, and being unmoved by injury and illness, Edward is a gentle soul and any insult would cause him much heart-searching. However, his relationship with Ben has probably caused him to be less thin-skinned since Ben’s bark is far worse than his bite.

Our final couple, Nathan and Percy, would take insults very seriously. Any gentleman of the ton would be even more cautious of insulting Nathan than they would Ben. Not that Nathan is particularly martial, but he’s physically imposing and forbidding and has excellent connections within the world of finance. A would-be insulter might pause before considering the consequences of vital lines of credit refused or suddenly discover that no one wishes to offer them that crucial loan.

Percy, tall, slim, blond, youthful and beautiful, is deceptively angelic in appearance but won’t take slights lightly, whether to himself (I mean who could criticise such an exquisite) his close friends or his beloved family. Having weathered a family scandal and subsequent gossip, Percy takes no prisoners. Unlike Ben or Nathan, the effects of an insult might not be immediate, but revenge will be served eventually and with devastating relish. Fair warning, the guilty party would have to watch their back for the next thirty years or so!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are six other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about how their main characters respond to insults!

A .L. Lester : Ofelia Grand : Holly Day : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : Kristin Noone