Read Around the Rainbow: Favourite MM Romance Reads with Autumnal Covers

It was great to have a seasonal suggestion from the lovely Ofelia Grand for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow topic. Now autumn is on its way, it was proposed we might blog about our favourite MM Romances with Red, Orange and Yellow covers.

That might send a technophobe like me running for the hills, but lovely Nell Iris saved the day with a definitive list (and I even managed to save the link!) to happily look through the different colour-coded lists and see what jumped out at me.

Starting with red, there was the first book in a favourite series of mine, the delightfully bonkers Adventures in Aguillon by Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey. Red Heir is inventive, filthy and utterly hilarious. The premise is about an unlikely band of bravos breaking into a prison cell on an unlikely mission to rescue the lost Prince of Aguillon, undeterred by the fact that likeable opportunist thief Loth and his grumpy cellmate Grub both claim to be the red-haired prince.  I thoroughly enjoyed this offbeat mix of Wargaming tropes, medieval quest and bawdy humour that ticked all the boxes for me in terms of entertainment!

I was also thrilled to find a terrific story by our own Fiona Glass in the red list, the wonderfully atmospheric Echoes of Blood. Fiona is brilliant at building atmosphere, and in this subtle, eerie vampire novella, university professor Daniel, friendless and alone in a new city, makes connections that are more unnerving than he could ever have dreamed. The mood of uncertainty and threat is beautifully developed.

I found another favourite of mine with an orange and yellow cover, a delicious short tale by J.L. Merrow called Good Breeding. Short and sweet, this story is full of humour, crisply-drawn characters and situations. Giles’ initial snobbishness was hilarious and countered by Oz’s more nuanced approach to class. A vibrant coming-of-age story and great fun to read.

I’m sure there will be plenty of colour-coded recommendations to add to my TBR list from the other bloggers!

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 about their top three non-romantic reads!

A.L. Lester : Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Holly Day : Amy Spector : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis

Read Around the Rainbow: What are your three top non-romance reads?

Although I both write and read romance, I also avidly read almost anything, so I was delighted by the chosen topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog. My only problem was choosing only three books – even though that was a splendid excuse (if I needed one) to have a lengthy perusal through my bookshelves. I could happily have chosen ten books at least (or more) but whittled it down to three contrasting non-romance reads that I thought would be fun.

The first is one of my all-time number 1 picks, Roaring Boys – Shakespeare’s Rat Pack by Judith Cook. Whenever I need any details about one of my favourite historical periods, the Elizabethan theatre scene, this wonderful book is my go-to. Although Judith Cook’s research is formidable, rather than textbook dry, she plunges the reader into incredible detail about the vibrant, thriving, cut-throat and often dangerous background of the early commercial stage in late 16th-century London.

I am always swept away by the opening chapter as the author introduces the scene, bustling, raucous Bankside in 1591, the cast, the people of London from all walks of life, then one of the playwrights, the notorious Robert Greene, “his feet squeezed into fashionable boots,” and “his wine-stained doublet is in his favourite colour, ‘goose turd’, a virulent yellowy green. Irresistible! I challenge anyone not to want to read on.

In terms of fiction, as well as romance, I do relish a good mystery or suspense series. Although I enjoy plenty of modern police procedural fiction, my author of choice is from the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction in the early 20th century, and that’s Dorothy L. Sayers. I read all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels as a teenager and re-read them regularly. The book I’ve chosen is Gaudy Night, one of the few books in the series not written from Lord Peter’s point of view.

This story focuses on Wimsey’s love interest, Harriet Vane, who happens to be a mystery novelist. This formidably clever, brusque and observant young woman is requested to solve a puzzling series of events at her old Oxford College. Since this was written in the 1930s, it is a very different world, but Sayers unerringly draws me into the long-forgotten mores and customs with her exact descriptions. In the unresolved relationship between Harriet and Peter, there is a romantic element, but what works for me every time I read this story is the development of Harriet’s character during the investigation as she comes to terms with her difficult past and her feelings for Peter. It’s simply wonderful storytelling.

My final choice is a bit left-field. It’s not a book I read very often, but if ever I lend or lose a copy, it’s one I have to replace immediately. Goblin Market by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti is a cautionary folk tale in poetic form as two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, are lured by forbidden fruit from goblin vendors. The richness of the language and imagery is dizzying, and despite the fairytale feel, this poem is far too complex and sensual to be intended solely for children. It begins with a catalogue of wares, including “Plump unpecked cherries, Melons and raspberries, Bloom-down-cheeked peaches, Swart-headed mulberries, Wild free-born cranberries,” and the list goes on. I’d be tempted, too!

I’m looking forward to finding out the other bloggers’ non-romantic book choices!

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 about their top three non-romantic reads!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone : Amy Spector : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis

Read Around the Rainbow: How does music affect your writing?

I always enjoy reading about how music or sounds influence fellow authors when they are writing. So when music was suggested for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow topic, I was very much looking forward to hearing about everyone’s story playlists or what sounds inspire them to write.

Personally, I was slightly stymied, as at the first sound of music, I’m compelled to get up and dance. As that’s counterproductive to writing, I tend to write in silence! I thought I might have to give this month a miss, but when chatting online to the other lovely authors in the blog ring, we discussed the topic more generally, which gave me a germ of an idea.

My upcoming August story for JMS Books Night or Day submission call is called One Summer Night. It’s set in Regency London, and luckily enough, one of my main characters, Will, is a talented violinist, a profession he is unable to pursue due to his wealthy father’s disapproval. Although Will’s musical accomplishments are a side element to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the popular musical entertainments of the era when researching for this story.

The late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century were prolific for jobbing professional musicians. In London alone, orchestras were in demand, not only for private parties but also for performing in the many theatres, for example, Drury Lane or the Lyceum as well as other venues such as the Pantheon and the Argyll Rooms which hosted exhibitions, masquerades, balls and concerts.

Also, outdoor places of entertainment during the summer months catered for all sections of society and were hugely popular, like Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea (which still exists intact) to Vauxhall Gardens across the River Thames. In 1749 a rehearsal of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks at Vauxhall attracted an audience of 12,000, and in 1786 a fancy-dress jubilee catered for 61,000 revellers! In her wonderful Regency blog, the author Rachel Knowles has a couple of fascinating articles on the layout of the gardens and the variety of musical entertainments at Vauxhall in that period.

I stumbled across a comprehensive list of musicians who performed at Vauxhall Gardens in its heyday, and unsurprisingly, they were also regularly employed in theatre and assembly room orchestras. London’s live music scene was as vibrant then as it is now!

In One Summer Night, I couldn’t resist mentioning a performance featuring John Addison, a well-known and popular cellist at Vauxhall in the early 1800s. And when my characters attend a concert at The Pantheon on Oxford Street, I had to show Will, my violinist, escaping the confines of a theatre box and braving his father’s fury to mingle with his musical colleagues.

I’m looking forward to reading about the other bloggers discussing actual music!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are four other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about their musical inspirations and playlists!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : K. L. Noone :

Rainbow Snippets: Stage Struck

Saturday has come around again, and it’s time for Rainbow Snippets! Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook.

I look forward to checking out the Rainbow Snippets group to read everyone’s extracts and thoroughly enjoy perusing my ebook catalogue to choose six lines from one of my stories. So this week, I’ve chosen Stage Struck, which I can’t believe has been published for a full year! It’s included in JMS Books12% Anniversary sale for the month of July.

This very short story (under 5000 words) is written in one of my favourite settings, the colourful and often dangerous world of theatre in Elizabethan London. So this was a pleasure to write and felt like sheer self-indulgence!

My main character, Stephen, a young scribe, is bitten by the theatre bug and regularly crosses the Thames to Southwark to the Rose or the Globe to watch the latest plays and admire the players. After one performance, he follows his latest fancy, a bit player of his own age, to a nearby tavern and plucks up the courage to approach him…

Close-up, he was even better looking than he had appeared on stage. He had changed into simple clothing that befitted his rank, in contrast with his fashionably styled hair and pointed beard that were the marks of the nobility he pretended to be during the play.

Stephen thought that the waves of thick dark hair falling over his collar suited him. In profile, he glimpsed well-opened dark eyes and long black eyelashes that almost swept his cheek. To add to the look of a privateer he caught the glint of a gold earring.

Stephen braced himself, clearing his throat nervously. “Can I stand you a tankard of ale?”

Recent Reads: The Power of Zero and Hidden

So this week’s recommended reads are two series, one an established collection of ongoing stories and the other, the very first of six hot short tales!

I accidentally stumbled across the Power of Zero books by Jackie Keswick while taking part in a social media event and then luckily got chatting to this lovely author!  I was very intrigued by the prequel series, starting with The Power of Zero (Zero Rising #1) and had to download it straight away.

This first back story portrays the main character, Jack Horwood, as a child and young teenager. Although his background and circumstances are harrowing, the story is perfectly pitched as a Young Adult tale, as we see Jack surviving and thriving on the streets of central London and eventually trusting the kindness of a stranger, Rio Palmer a British Secret Service hacker, who becomes his mentor.  

Of course, I was hooked and moved straight on to the next prequel, Two Divided by Zero, where having left the army in his early twenties, Jack becomes a mature student, and am thrilled to learn there will be a third book in this series. Then I moved on to the Power of Zero proper, starting with Job Hunt, where Jack is all grown up, fully qualified and at a loose end. Puzzling out what to do next, while at a job interview, he bumps into Gareth Flynn, his former CEO, who Jack has held a torch for since he was seventeen. Jack’s feelings for Gareth are undimmed and he discovers the spark is mutual.  From there, I galloped through Ghosts, House Hunt, Swings & Roundabouts and Dating Games and will eagerly await book 6!

The chemistry and deepening relationship between Jack and Gareth (I challenge you not to fall in love with them both) is the heart and soul of these books, with plenty of skullduggery, personal vendettas, hacking, military intelligence and police procedure to drive the complex, visceral and exciting plot! Jackie writes romantic suspense at its very best.

I was also chatting to the lovely Nadia Mack the other day. She’s a wonderful author who writes under two other names, Bronte Meredith for her LGBTQ+ Young Adult stories (I read and loved Sunkissed) and N E Mack for her erotic MM stories.

As I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Hidden by N E Mack which is the first in a series of erotic shorts about Bryan, a young Australian student, who reckons he’s straight but does a little camming from home to pay the rent and afford a few luxuries in life. This is a sly little gem of a story, rich with characterisation, including Bryan’s flatmates and a mysterious cam patron who unexpectedly gets Bryan’s panties in a twist. Oh, and talking of panties… Well, you’ll have to read the story to discover more! Bryan is not the straight and confident hunk he assumes he is and the author teases out the very beginning of his journey into unknown and naughty territory. There is so much in this short tale that it reads like a much longer story than 6k words and s funny, knowing, teasing, surprising and very erotic. I will try not to badger Nadia too much for part two!

50% Flash Sale at JMS Books!

For July 12th and 13th only, there is a 50% ebook and paperback sale at JMS Books! I’m about to nip over and bag some bargains!
This sale includes all my ebooks plus my new release, Twelve Letters, a Regency romp written for JMS Books’ 12 Anniversary submission call, where, naturally enough, all stories had to incorporate the number twelve!

Before Jolyon Everett rushes to rescue his best friend Captain Ben Harding from fighting a duel, he hastily dashes off two letters, one to his demanding lover, Percy Havilland, and the other to his tailor, Daniel Walters. In his hurry, Jo has no idea what chaos he has caused. But might his muddle pave the way to unexpected romance?

Rainbow Snippets: Twelve Letters

It’s very fortuitous that Rainbow Snippets Saturday has fallen on the release day for my new story, Twelve Letters!

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy reading everyone else’s snippets!

Twelve Letters was written for JMS Books’ 12th Anniversary submission call, where stories had to be based around the number twelve. It’s currently on 20% off in the JMS pre-release/new release sale with an additional 12% July anniversary discount. It’s also included in the July Smashwords 50% sale. As I write historical stories, a tale where the sending (or missending) of letters dictates the plot seemed irresistible!

This is a fun MM Regency romp featuring an ensemble cast of gentlemen and unexpected romance. My snippet is taken from the first chapter of my story, where my main character, Jolyon Everett has written a love note to his impossibly spoiled current squeeze Percy, before dashing off to dissuade his best friend from fighting a duel.

Setting off toward Piccadilly, he smiled at the thought of the reception of his letter to his paramour, Percy Havilland, who liked nothing so much as words of worshipful fervour to rouse his ardour and retain his fluctuating interest. 

Percy was a veritable Adonis with blond curls, large blue eyes, kissable lips and the most delectable arse in London. It was also a very popular arse, given any discreet gossip among men of their tastes. “Changes his lovers as often as his drawers,” one gentleman had said rather wistfully. 

Jolyon knew he was fortunate to have those dazzling sapphire eyes stray his way, and even if the affair didn’t last until the end of the Season, he was doing his best to hold Percy’s flickering attention for as long as he could. He’d been rather pleased with his turn of phrase, flowing over two pages, painstakingly penned at his writing desk, while he was wrapped in his banyan. When glancing through the note, Jo rather smugly judged his tone to be the correct combination of slavish devotion and utter filth to garner an enthusiastic reception.

Universal Book Link

Release Day! Twelve Letters

And it’s release day for my new story Twelve Letters! This Regency romp was written for JMS Books’ 12th Anniversary submissions call where romantic plots had to hinge around the number twelve.

As I write historical stories, I couldn’t resist the idea of unexpected romance springing up amongst my ensemble cast of Regency gentlemen as their letters swirled around London in this light-hearted frolic.

This story is currently on a 20% off pre-release/new release sale until July 16th at JMS Books added to the month-long 12% anniversary discount. It’s also included in the 50% off Smashwords July sale. Bargains galore!

In 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?

Universal Book Link.

July Sales at Smashwords and JMS Books!

There are not one but two fabulous ebook sales throughout July! Smashwords has its annual Summer to Winter 50% off sale. Just add the coupon code SSW50 at checkout. All my books are included!

As part of their 12th Anniversary celebrations, JMS Books has a 12% sale until the end of the month. As this includes up upcoming release Twelve Letters, that reduction will be on top of the 20% pre-release/new release sale. Bargain time!

I’ll certainly be filling my basket from both these sales. Happy reading!

Before Jolyon Everett rushes to rescue his best friend Captain Ben Harding from fighting a duel, he hastily dashes off two letters, one to his demanding lover, Percy Havilland, and the other to his tailor, Daniel Walters. In his hurry, Jo has no idea what chaos he has caused. But might his muddle pave the way to unexpected romance?

Rainbow Snippets: Shore Leave

It’s always fun to join in with Rainbow Snippets! Authors who take part post six lines from one of their stories on their blog, with a link back to the group post on Facebook.

My Rainbow Snippet for this week is from Shore Leave, published by JMS Books, and I can’t believe this story is now over a year old!

This gentle romance is set in the heyday of eighteenth-century Bath, where Naval Lieutenant Jacob Longley, more at ease at sea than on land, is accompanying his younger sister Letty in her first introduction to polite society. Jacob is immediately attracted to the gallant Sebastian Fforde who appears perfectly at ease at every Assembly Room function.

In this scene, Sebastian has just given Letty an informal dance lesson and is now putting Jacob through his paces, and for a brief moment, the men are left alone…

Jacob was achingly aware that their hands were still clasped from the dance, bodies almost in contact. Sebastian looked at him teasingly from under his long lashes and deliberately closed the gap. Being slightly shorter, he rose forward on the toes of his dancing pumps to raise his lips to Jacob’s.

Even after the steady escalation of attraction and longing since his initial sight of Sebastian, Jacob was rocked by the power of that first touch. He thought that such a gentle kiss should be full of promise and not this earth-moving thunderclap. Jacob felt like the oaken main mast of a ship that had been struck by lightning.