Rainbow Snippets: Gentlemen’s Agreement

This week, I’m continuing snippeting from my ongoing Regency romp Twelve Letters series, and it’s the turn of Gentlemen’s Agreement, the fourth novella in the series. The entire series, including the latest release May Wedding and all my other titles, are in the 45% off ebook Memorial Day weekend-long sale at JMS Books from May 26 – 29.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend 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 joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

Gentlemen’s Agreement continues the story of the lives and loves of the three couples in my Twelve Letters ensemble cast, Jo Everett and tailor Daniel Walters, Captain Ben Harding and Dr Edward Stephens and Regency himbo Percy Havilland and Nathan Brooks. I also threw in a Napoleonic spy plot just for fun!

Ben is asked by a former commanding officer to volunteer some society friends to help with surveillance in Mayfair’s ballrooms on some highly-placed figures who are suspected to be involved in the intrigue. In this snippet, Ben discusses the confidential matter with his best friend Jo.

“Colonel Graham said he’d be grateful for extra recruits at our discretion. Is there anyone trustworthy you can think of offhand?”

“Well,” Jo began. “There’s always Percy.”

Ben glared at Jo in disbelief. “Percy?” He remonstrated. “Unless he’s gazing at his reflection, I wouldn’t grant him any abilities of observation.”

“You’d be surprised at Percy’s powers of perception,” Jo said thoughtfully. “A year ago I would have said you had a fair point, but now he’s…”

As Jo paused to find the correct phrase, Ben could have easily supplied several examples including, become more bearable, less of a pointless popinjay, begun to notice other people exist. He was about to interject witheringly with his favourite, no longer a completely selfish arse, when Jo added, “…mellowed.”

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 :

Recent Reads: The Strangest Forms, The Old Wheel and Reality Royal

I have some treats of contemporary reads for you this week from Gregory Ashe and Kristian Parker.  Gregory Ashe is an author I’ve been meaning to read for ages so when I saw he had a YA Gay Romance series reworking of the Sherlock Holmes stories, I decided this was the moment to take the plunge into The Adventures of Holloway Holmes.

I was really intrigued by the blurb for book 1, The Strangest Forms, an American-set, modern-day Holmes story, based on the premise that Sherlock was a real rather than fictional character. So, in a school for troubled rich kids in Utah, the teenage Holloway Holmes (a descendant of Sherlock) is a student, along with a member of the Watson family.

So far, so interesting. But the point of view is from Jack Moreno, also 16, and the son of the school custodian, trying to keep everything together while his dad struggles to recover from brain injury due to a serious car accident that killed Jack’s mother.

Jack grabbed my attention from the start. He’s a street-smart wheeler-dealer but also possesses a huge heart and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. He’s mixed-up, funny, charming and tough and heartbreakingly vulnerable. So when a murder happens at the school and Jack and his dad are under suspicion for the crime, he is forced to join forces with chilly oddball Holloway.

The mystery was pleasingly complex and labyrinthine in true Holmes fashion (I loved all the sly references), but it’s the main protagonists and their growing understanding that makes The Strangest Forms such a fulfilling and hugely engaging read from Gregory Ashe.

Having devoured The Strangest Forms, I had to read The Old WheeI, the second book in the Holloway Holmes series. Although Jack’s life has stabilised slightly following the events of book 1, that doesn’t mean it can’t be turned upside down by his own actions and outside events, especially when he takes on another ‘consulting detective’ case of blackmail.

The mystery in The Old Wheel was complex and multilayered, and the pace never let up, even when it became clear that it was far more sinister than Jack (or this reader) imagined. What I enjoy most about this series is the emotional component. Jack and Holloway might be smart and resourceful but they’re still teenagers. It’s their imperfections that make this story so involving and compelling and makes them both so irresistible as characters. I can’t wait for book 3 which comes out in June.

Poor Kristian Parker must be sick of me mentioning his books on my blog. It’s entirely his fault for being such an entertaining writer! He’s also very prolific and seems to manage juggling at least two different series with ease. His latest release Reality Royal is from his ongoing Queen’s Crescent series, about how the glamorous other half of society lives, set in London’s exclusive Kensington.

I really enjoy how Kristian makes the privileged inhabitants of the crescent so likeable and relatable. Alexander, the MC in Reality Royal was no exception. He may be posh, but he’s also a trier and it seemed only fair that his latest venture into being a tv reality star teams him up with gorgeous soap star and older man Zac.

Their burgeoning romance was nicely contrasted by Alexander’s appallingly manipulative family and also Zac having to face his own shocks and revelations. This mix of steamy romance and emotional turmoil in Reality Royal made both characters all the more endearing and had me cheering on their HEA.

I’ve already said to Kristian that Queen’s Crescent is like a literary version of Made in Chelsea but much more entertaining and with far more realistic characters! I hope fans of the reality tv series will forgive me for that quip!

Words in Progress: Twelve Letters London Tour – Part 2

This week on my writing blog, I’m continuing my Twelve Letters tour of Regency London with the help of the wonderful clickable Mogg map of 1806.

Last time, branching out from Piccadilly (which runs between Hyde Park Corner in the west to the Haymarket in the east), we had a look at where our characters live in the streets of London’s West End. Now we’ve got our bearings, I thought that we’d dander around specific hangouts of the Twelve Letters gang.

Roughly at the halfway point along Piccadilly is Bond Street (both old and new) where Shelford’s, my fictional tailor’s shop is situated. The premises is pivotal to Twelve Letters. It’s Daniel’s place of work and Jo is one of his established customers. It’s also where (after the mixed-up letters debacle) Jo starts to see Daniel as so much more than a tailor’s assistant. Here, Percy finds shelter in Queer Relations while he waits for Nathan.  Shelford’s might be entirely imaginary, but to this day, Bond Street and the surrounding shopping streets are still very much in demand for those not on a budget.

As I mentioned last week, and as you can see on the map, all the amenities a gentleman about town could need are within easy walking distance. The Argyll Rooms, off Oxford Street (just at the top of New Bond Street) where Jo and Percy listen to a recital in Queer Relations, is one of the many grand assembly rooms where the ton flocked to be entertained.

Then there are the numerous coffee houses and gentlemen’s clubs of St. James and beyond, some of which appear in my stories. White’s Club, still on St. James’ Street today, is where Percy gets hounded in Queer Relations and rescued by Jo and Ben. On the same street was St. James’ Coffee House where, once he’s persuaded Ben not to shoot the young doctor, Jo arranges to meet Edward to smooth over the potential duel.

Another famous club was Watier’s at the Hyde Park end of Piccadilly, where Jo tails Luc and his rascally lover in Gentlemen’s Agreement.  Watier’s was the most exclusive of gambling clubs, patronised by no less than the Prince of Wales, where thousands of guineas could be wagered in a single bet.

What I find so interesting about the scale of Regency London is how quickly the areas change. Around the corner from the aristocratic eastern end of Piccadilly, is the then respectable middle-class district of Soho, where on Brewer Street, Jo and Daniel arrange to meet for a meal at a chop house in Twelve Letters, which becomes a regular haunt for their dates together.

Of course, I can’t finish the blog without mentioning The Golden Lion, the tavern on King Street in St. James’ where my ensemble meets regularly for supper each week. This pub, established in 1762,  is still very much there, serving food and drink and now owned by Greene King Brewery. Many years ago, on shopping expeditions to London, I would pop into the upstairs bar of The Golden Lion for a very reasonably priced pub lunch. I always prefer to use locations in my stories that are familiar to me, which made part of the upstairs dining area of The Golden Lion an obvious meeting place for my Regency boys.

Rainbow Snippets: Coming of Age

Following the release celebrations for May Wedding, the 6th story in my Regency romp Twelve Letters series, I’m returning to recap some Rainbow Snippets from the previous novellas in the series.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend 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 joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

This week, it’s the turn of book 3, Coming of Age, which features my regular ensemble cast of characters and charts the change for the better in Percy Havilland, the group’s Regency himbo.

This snippet is written from the point of view of regular Twelve Letters cast member Jo Everett and shows Percy at his most unrepentant! Jo, Percy and his lover Nathan are at a society ball in Mayfair. Jo observes how, after a disagreement between the couple earlier in the day, caused entirely by Percy, he manages to wrap Nathan around his little finger, in his own inimitable way.

Jo could not help but notice how, apparently artlessly, Percy orbited closer, casually selecting dance partners in ever-decreasing circles to Nathan’s proximity. Once they were within touching distance, instead of confrontation or apology, there was a teasing glance, just a flash of those glorious blue eyes directed at Nathan. The next occasion warranted a delicate half-smile revealing a hint of a dimple. 

Depending on the prowess of his current dance partner, Jo watched this progress with fascination as Nathan’s forbidding expression subtly softened at each circuit until Percy’s careful choreography drew them together. By the time Jo consumed a well-deserved glass of punch and discreetly mopped his brow with his handkerchief, the previously warring duo was standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Percy tilted his golden head winningly as he uttered a bon mot that made Nathan smile in genuine amusement, all annoyance forgotten.

Jo was unsure whether to be impressed or appalled at Percy’s scheming ways and his ability to manipulate the most clear-thinking and hard-headed fellow from a state of severe exasperation to pliable putty. 

Recent Reads: Ancient History and Perfect Day

I have two lovely contemporary second chance romances with a historical element for this week’s Recent, Reads Ancient History (South Rock High Book 1) by A.J. Truman and Perfect Day by Sally Malcolm.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the books so far in A.J. Truman’s South Rock High stories. The series is loosely linked to the Single Dad’s Club stories, with both series set in the small town of South Rock with interlinked minor characters.

But South Rock High focuses on a small group of gay teachers at the high school, getting them together with their perfect match with plenty of fun, humour and emotional depth. So we’ll kick off with book one, Ancient History.

Amos, the history teacher of the title, is in his late twenties and well into his teaching career when he encounters Hutch, the other half of his closeted high school couple 10 years previously. Amos still hasn’t fully recovered after Hutch broke his heart and is horrified to learn that Hutch is joining the school as a staff member!

The highs and lows of teaching, the small-town atmosphere and a great cast of friends and family only add to Amos and Hutch’s rekindled romance. And I have to give a special shout-out to Hutch’s wonderfully colourful and well-meaning Pop! Ancient History sets up the premise and characters for the series in enjoyable style.

Perfect Day has a slightly different historical angle as an absolutely note-perfect modern-day MM Romance retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

I loved that although Sally Malcolm faithfully included all the major points and pivotal events of the original, this was unmistakably Joshua and Finn’s story.

Their youthful love, acrimonious parting and the way that impacted Joshua’s life 8 years after their break up was so beautifully evoked, including the realisation that in taking the advice from a trusted older relative to walk away from Finn for very sound reasons, he made a huge mistake.

Joshua’s narrow existence, cut off from his wealthy family, and eventually drifting back to settle in his home turf, is turned upside down when Finn reappears. And he clearly hasn’t forgiven Joshua.

The setting is flawlessly drawn. I could see the beach, the big house and the town and its inhabitants in my mind’s eye which made Joshua and Finn’s situation all the more poignant.

Written with assurance and sensitivity, Perfect Day is a gorgeous read. You don’t have to be familiar with Persuasion to enjoy this, but if you are, it’s even more special.

Words in Progress: Twelve Letters London Tour – Part 1

Since I’m still in a post-release glow from May Wedding, the 6th story in my Twelve Letters Regency romp series, I thought I’d stick with some research for these stories for this week’s writing blog.  So welcome to the Twelve Letters tour of London!

When I started this blog, I didn’t realise how much information I had gathered over the course of these stories, and soon realised I had to split it into two parts! This week I’ll stick to where my characters reside and next week, we’ll do a guided tour of key places where they meet.

Armed with the inevitable and necessary Mogg 1806 map of London with its all-important zoom function, we’re good to go. Nowadays, we’re accustomed to the massive urban sprawl of major cities. Although London was growing fast in the early 19th century, it was still possible to get from one end of the city to the other on foot.

When it comes to the West End, the small section of London inhabited by high society, then the city shrinks even further. Most of the places where my ensemble cast lives are within an easy 5-10 minute walk.

We’ll start off in Piccadilly. In Regency times, this major thoroughfare ran along the edge of the West End with the Haymarket to the east and Hyde Park Corner at its western end. Mayfair, where the aristocracy lived, was sandwiched between Piccadilly in the south and Oxford Street at its northern juncture.

Unmarried gentlemen tended to have their lodgings along exclusive Piccadilly. It’s also where Captain Ben Harding lives with his faithful henchman, Cribbins. Behind Piccadilly, in Mayfair, is where Edward stays with his society relatives in Twelve Letters. Percy also graces Mayfair in his bachelor pad on Mount Street for the first few stories before moving out beyond the West End at the end of Coming of Age to what was then the straggling hamlet of Little Chelsea.

As we stroll east along Piccadilly, past Ben’s lodgings, at the far end beyond Haymarket is Leicester Square, where Nathan has his mansion. By the mid-19th century, the area had gone downhill as fashionable London migrated ever further west, but at this stage, it was still an up-market place to reside, handy for gentlemen’s clubs and the City of London where Nathan does business deals. Orange Street, where Jo lodges until the end of Gentlemen’s Agreement is only a street or two away – but definitely not as prestigious as Leicester Square or Piccadilly!

In the first four stories, Daniel lives in a working-class area beyond Covent Garden. This might be a million miles away from the grandeur of Mayfair but remarkably is only about fifteen minutes away on foot.

Tottenham Court Road, where Jo and Daniel move to by The Misfit, the fifth story in the series, is in the rapidly developing area north of Oxford Street. Nowadays, this is very much central London. It seems unbelievable that in Regency times, not far beyond the smart new shops and terraces, Tottenham Court Road soon dwindled into a country lane leading to the Elizabethan manor house for which it was named.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of the tour with the invaluable help of the Mogg map! And please feel free to ask any questions in the comments. My inner history geek will relish the challenge!

Rainbow Snippets: May Wedding

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, I thought I’d quote another few lines from my recent release, May Wedding, the 6th book in my Regency romp series, Twelve Letters, featuring an ensemble cast.

Along with the rest of the Twelve Letters series and all my other titles, May Wedding is in the 45% ebook Mother’s Day weekend sale at JMS Books until midnight on Sunday, May 14th.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend 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 joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

In last week’s snippet from May Wedding, we had a scene between established couple Percy and Nathan. This time, it’s the turn of another couple in my ensemble, Jo and Daniel. Jo is a gentleman (if not a very wealthy one) and Daniel is an upmarket tailor. At this period, very few men would openly flaunt their relationship so the difference in class between them is an additional challenge. It takes a lot of love and determination to get to where they are, sharing an apartment above a Tottenham Court Road tailor’s shop.

In this snippet, Jo is trying on his outfit in advance for Percy’s sister’s wedding with Daniel’s input.  I just thought these few lines summed up how much these two lovely men adore each other.

Jo had stood before their bedroom mirror, wrestling with the coat buttons. “If I carry on like this, I’m going to need a corset, like Prinny,” he announced flippantly, referring to the increasingly heavy Prince of Wales whose overstrained underpinnings often audibly creaked at public engagements.

Daniel, half a head shorter than Jo, stood at his shoulder with calm appraisal, unfazed by Jo’s predicament. “No one apart from your tailor would notice the gain of an extra inch or two. You look at least as handsome as ever.” Jo ceased tugging at his recalcitrant garment to look down into Daniel’s warm brown eyes, the colour of rich sherry wine. “Anyway,” Daniel continued with a winning smile. “How can I complain if there’s more of you to love?”