Tag Archives: London setting

Review Tour: Stoker & Bash: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Selina Kray

Stoker & Bash: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree | Selina Kray

Copy of RTBanner (11)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 100,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Tiferet Design

Copy of Copy of Stoker _ Bash 2 FINAL (1).jpg

Blurb

 

When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Finding lost poodles and retrieving stolen baubles is not how DI Tim Stoker envisioned his partnership with his lover, Hieronymus Bash. So when the police commissioner’s son goes missing, he’s determined to help, no matter what secrets he has to keep, or from whom.

When a family member is kidnapped, Hiero moves heaven and earth to rescue them. Even if that means infiltrating the Daughters of Eden, a cult of wealthy widows devoted to the teachings of Rebecca Northcote and the mysterious contents of her box. The Daughters’ goodwill toward London’s fallen women has given them a saintly reputation, but Hiero has a nose for sniffing out a fraud. He will need to draw on some divine inspiration to rattle the pious Daughters.

Like weeds gnarling the roots of Eden’s fabled tree, Tim and Hiero’s cases intertwine. Serpents, secrets, and echoes from Hiero’s past lurk behind every branch. Giving in to temptation could bind them closer together—or sever their partnership forever.

Stoker & Bash Series

Book #1 – The Fangs Of Scavo – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Excerpt

When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Hieronymus Bash contemplated the question posed by the long, red-lettered banner that blazoned over the otherwise quaint fruit and vegetable stall. A sharp tug of the arm from Callie, his ward, brought him to heel. He’d already been struggling to match her brisk pace, having been dragged from his early afternoon repose in the cozy climes of his study into, of all things, the sunshine, or what passed for it on this weak-tea day.

Rays of piss-yellow sun trickled down over the city, tinting the fumes that oozed up from the Thames. Clouds of smog blurred the distant Albert Bridge into an impressionist’s nightmare. A growing crowd choked the small stage erected just before the river’s edge, scuttling in from both directions of Cheyne Walk like ants over a carcass. A bald man with a white mustache that flapped out to his ears checked his pocket watch for the fourth time since Hiero and his companions descended from their carriage.

At the far end of the stage, a squad of low-rank militia struggled to keep a path clear for the Duke of Edinburgh and his bride, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, only beloved daughter of Tsar Alexander II. The newlyweds were, in the timeless tradition of royals everywhere, unfashionably late to the opening of the Chelsea Embankment, the third and final stage of the sewage system that had transformed London’s riverside.

“Look, it’s Bazalgette!” Callie tugged him forward, doing a fine impression of an excitable hound.

“While I admire your enthusiasm, I do wonder if it’s not a tad misplaced.”

Callie scoffed. “Only you would prefer the arrival of some dippy duke over the architect of this entire endeavor.” She threw her free arm out wide. “Can you not spare a moment to admire this feat of engineering? In the place of muddy banks, pavement has been laid, a fence with lampposts erected, with gardens and greenery to come. And running beneath it, the waste of London, and soon an underground train! How can you be so trout-mouthed in the face of such marvels?”

“Not your most persuasive argument, comparing the face that dropped a thousand trousers to a fishmonger’s wares.”

Callie sighed, relinquishing his arm to chase after her muttonchopped idol. Hiero watched her go, marveling at how much she resembled her Uncle Apollo, Hiero’s long-deceased lover who had charged him with her care in character and spirit. Theirs was an unconventional household, where the lady moonlighted as a detective, the servants were part of the family, and the lord of the manor—Hiero himself—was neither a lord nor owned the manor.

“Come now.” Han, his friend and self-appointed keeper, fell into step beside him. The rhythmic taps of his lotus-headed walking stick slowed their pace to a stroll. “You’re no longer catch of the day with Mr. Stoker about.”

“Perhaps if he were about, someone would defend my honor.” Hiero bristled at the mention of his fair-weather paramour, Timothy Kipling Stoker, a detective inspector with Scotland Yard who shadowed them when there was a mystery to solve but otherwise preoccupied himself with… well, finding them another mystery. His dedication to duty exasperated.

“Not likely.”

“No, I rather thought not.” Hiero pressed a lavender handkerchief to his mouth and nose. Mr. Bazalgette’s innovations would have to work much harder to filter out nearly a millennia of filth, the river being a cesspit into which the city had poured every conceivable kind of rubbish, from human to animal to otherwise. A place where sins had been cast off and bodies buried. A few of Hiero’s personal acquaintance.

“Where has your Mr. Stoker taken himself off to this—” Han considered the urinal murk of the embankment and found himself at a loss of an adjective. “—afternoon?”

“I do not presume to know what impulses rule that man.”

“And yet you are the one who rides his… coattails.”

“Only when he deigns to undress for the occasion. Otherwise…” Hiero huffed, his mood irretrievably spoilt by this line of conversation. “I cannot think where I’ve gone wrong with him.”

“No?” Han evidenced something close to a smirk. “It wouldn’t have something to do with meddling in his work affairs, compromising his relationship with his superiors, forcing him into our fellowship, risking everything he holds dear, and then sharing nothing of consequence about yourself, now would it?”

Hiero peered at him out of the corner of his eye. “Nothing of the sort, I’m sure.”

“Ah. Well, then, it is a mystery.”

“Coo-coo! Mr. Han!” a voice trilled at them from behind.

With a pair of heavy sighs, they turned to heed an all-too-familiar call. A hand waiving a white handkerchief fluttered up and down amidst a dense crowd. A grunt from Han parted the sea of surging revelers to reveal Shahida Kala, the latest of Hiero’s charity cases, hopping with the vigor of a spring hare. Her compact figure contained a carnival of personality.

The instant this bright light had beamed into his study on the arm of her father—who served under Apollo in Her Majesty’s Navy—Hiero recognized her for one of the rare people who could steal his spotlight. So he had relegated her to the least enviable position in the household, that of nurse to Mrs. Lillian Pankhurst, Callie’s permanently indisposed mother. But the long days of attic dwelling and reading Richardson’s Pamela ad nauseam had not snuffed a single spark.

Instead Lillian had transformed from bed-ridden depressive into a semifunctional member of the family. Every morning she and Shahida took a two-hour stroll. They cultivated a rooftop garden. Shahida had imposed an afternoon tea regimen on their household, always leading the conversation as Hiero, Callie, and Han plotted ways to return to their preferred solitary occupations. Dinners were always a family affair, but Shahida’s insistence on more healthful, nourishing fare that conformed to Lillian’s new diet had Minnie, their cook, weekly threatening to resign. Callie was the only other member of the household resistant to her charms.

Even Han, cynical, monkish, seen-it-all Han, danced to whichever melody she played. Hiero watched as he bounded over to her, biting his lip at the comical sight of a surly giant bowing to the whims of a pretty imp, but also to keep from emitting a growl of frustration. He glanced back to search for Callie, but the crowd had swallowed her. By now she’d likely clawed her way to the front of the stage and barked questions at a baffled, bewhiskered Mr. Bazalgette, which Hiero thought should be his formal title.

Schooling his features, he joined Han and Shahida’s conversation in medias res and was somewhat aghast to discover them talking about produce.

“… the plumpest, juiciest berries. Artichokes the size of a fist. Fat aubergines and cabbages and cauliflowers, and cucumbers as long as…” Shahida pressed two fingers to her mouth. Hiero didn’t miss how her eyes flickered down. “Well.”

Shameless, that was the trouble. As if she’d snipped the best pages from his playbook and then had the temerity to improve on his notes.

Han chuckled. Chuckled! Hiero hadn’t seen his friend so much as shrug in all the time he’d known him.

“A religious order, you say?” Han asked.

“The Daughters of Eden.” Shahida leaned in, gave him her most conspiratorial smirk. “And I think they might be.” She didn’t even have the grace to straighten when she spotted Hiero. “Oh, Mr. Bash! Mrs. Pankhurst and I don’t mean to spoil your fun. But if you wouldn’t mind, we’ll stay here for a while. We’ve discovered the most—”

“Impressive cucumbers. So I heard.”

“Mrs. Pankhurst is just beside herself. We’ve big ideas for our garden, but this…”

Hiero was unmoved. “And what is it you want?”

“We’ve done our third crate and could fill two more. The crowd is bit much for Mrs. Pankhurst, so I thought Mr. Han might take us back to Berkeley Square? We’ll send the carriage back for you.”

“As it is my carriage, I rather think it will return for me regardless.”

That got her attention. “Of course. If you’d like us to stay—”

“Let us see these berries from heaven.” With a sweep of his hand, Hiero directed them back toward the stall that had earlier piqued his interest. “Their Majesties will wait upon our leisure.”

A long line of enterprising vendors hawked their wares along the edge of Cheyne Walk, hoping to entice royal watchers to purchase a bit of refinement for their life. One stall lined up its dainty little bottles of oils and perfumes like Russian nesting dolls. A mini royal portrait gallery sold likenesses of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their progeny in a variety of poses. The gentleman scooping iced lollies for the children had his work cut out for him on such a tepid day, Hiero thought. The pub with a street-side stand offering hot tea and cider already did brisk business. A few watercress girls fought against the crowd’s undertow, but their wares looked shriveled as seaweed compared to the glorious bushels of the Daughters of Eden.

Even Hiero had to admit, upon inspection, the quality of their produce astounded. Fat and luscious, their fruit allured like the bosom of an opera diva, ready to smother and enthrall. Their vegetable stalks evidenced a virility that would put most molly-houses out of business. Little wonder their customers meandered around the baskets like lovestruck swains. Their bounty conjured images of orgies culinary and carnal. Hiero didn’t doubt there were more than a few serpents lurking about this tiny Eden, eager to defile a peach or two.

All of this was overseen by a trio of women dressed in immaculate white uniforms that somehow defied the city’s grime. Hiero drifted away from his companions to better observe these wyrd sisters. The tallest was also the least remarkable, a stout but cheery woman with farm-worn hands and hard-earned streaks of gray in her brown hair. She milled through the customers, answering questions and nudging reluctant buyers toward the register.

A skittish dove of a girl dutifully kept the ledger and the cash box, cooing her thanks before slipping some sort of pamphlet into people’s baskets. Her crinkly hair had been woven into two winglike braids that perfectly framed her heart-shaped face. A sprinkling of dark freckles contrasted with her pale-brown skin, all but disappearing when she blushed.

Which she did whenever the third sister glanced her way. “Willowy” did not do this petite, flopsy woman justice. A willow branch would look as leathery and stiff as a whip compared to her wispiness. Near-translucent skin and stringy cornsilk hair completed the otherworldly effect. Hiero almost questioned whether she was really there, such was the nothing of her regard. She appeared to have no occupation other than to pose under the sign in a demure attitude. The crowds gave her a wide berth, and little wonder. Nobody wanted to mingle with a possessed scarecrow.

Except possibly meddlesome not-detectives stuck on a boring outing with friends who had abandoned him for some phallic parsnips and a walrus architect.

Just as Hiero made to pounce, the waif leapt as if lightning struck. Eyes ravenous, mouth agape, hair billowing in an invisible breeze, she stared into the buzzing hive of customers. Transformed in an instant from trinket to spear, her astonishment gave color to her cheeks and heft to her bearing. She appeared somehow taller, bolder, a colossal spirit crammed into a compact package: a genie unleashed from its lamp.

All the better to bedazzle you with, my dear, Hiero thought.

Hieronymus Bash, professional cynic, knew a performance when he saw one. He read again the red sign that screamed above her head: When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box? But there was no box he could see, and if this woodland sprite was Mrs. Northcote, he’d eat Han’s walking stick. These Daughters had lured in quite a crowd with their sensuous produce. Was she the serpent come to tempt them? And if so, to what end?

Hiero shuttered his natural radiance to watch the spectacle unfold. The pale sister glided, arms outstretched, into the maze of crates, eyes fixed on her prey. Hiero hissed under his breath when she stopped at Lillian Pankhurst. In a state of docile confusion at the best of times, Lillian continued sorting out a mess of string beans, oblivious to this starry-eyed suitor. Han, ever protective, moved to Lillian’s side just as the sister shrieked…

“Daughter! You are found!”

The woman at the ledger jumped to her feet. “Juliet?”

“I’ve heard your spirit call to us these long nights, and now you have come home!” Juliet continued at eardrum-splitting pitch, making herself heard to all in the vicinity and probably those across the Thames. “Welcome, Daughter, into Her grace and light! Welcome home!” She hugged a startled Lillian with impressive fervor for one so slender. Lillian, looking to Shahida for a cue, patted her on the back.

A frowning Han caught his gaze from across the way, but Hiero signaled he would play Polonius behind the curtain. Hopefully without the knife in his gut.

“Don’t fear, Daughter. You are among friends,” Juliet nattered on. “We have come to shepherd Her back to Eden through our good works, and, by your pallid cheeks and trembling hands, I can see that you are eager to play a part.”

“Oi!” Shahida hollered, shoving her way between Juliet and Lillian. “Mrs. Pankhurst gets three square a day, and her arthritis is much improved. I dare anyone here to say otherwise.”

“But her spirit, dear girl, droops like a flower too long out of the sun.” Juliet backed away a step to address the customers, every one of which stood rapt. “She knows how this frail woman has struggled. She has heard her prayers and her anguish. She has shone Her glorious light into her, lit her like a beacon for her sisters to find. She is a Daughter, called upon to continue Her good work and bring about a second Eden!”

Shahida let out a trill of laughter three octaves too high. It effectively pierced the balloon of hot air Juliet had been huffing and puffing.

“Angel with a flaming sword you’re not, ma’am. Sorry.” Shahida locked an arm around Lillian. “Stick to the fruit and veg.” A pointed look directed Han to escort their charge away.

“But I haven’t finished the beans…” Lillian muttered as they disappeared into the gaggle of onlookers.

“Shame!” Juliet bellowed, beseeching the yellow sky. “Shame! It is the burden of womankind.” The customers moved into the space vacated by his friends, and Hiero followed, curious as to how she would spin such a public defeat. “The prophet Rebecca Northcote warned against it in her great bible, The Coming of the Holiest Spirit. Too often we ladies wait upon the actions of others. Are made to feel shame and guilt and worthless when we do act. Allow others to lead us astray, away from the truth in our hearts. We pay the price for the sins of our fathers and brothers and husbands. But She… oh, She is coming to deliver us from these injustices, from our fears and torments. As our Holy Mother Rebecca divined, if we join together, Daughters, and build the garden, She will come to save us all. She will gift us with her light!”

“Amen!” the ledger-keeper cried, having abandoned her post to shove pamphlets into the hands of any who would take them.

“Thank you, Mother!” the other sister seconded, lifting a basket of golden pears for all to see.

Juliet scanned the crowd. “You reap of the bounty we offer, but you do not know of how we labor in Her name. To prepare for Her coming, our prophet Rebecca chose each of Her Daughters with care. And though a shame-filled few will deny Her, everyone is welcome to hear Her message and to contribute however they can.” Hiero swallowed a snicker as she gestured to the donation tin. So transparent. “If you are committed to peace and prosperity, if you would see heaven retake the Earth, then I invite you to heed our prophet Rebecca’s call. And She will shine Her light upon you for all the days of your life.”

Juliet seemed to resist taking a bow, but only just. She gave each customer a final angelic smile, then returned to her perch beneath the red sign. A few of the curious chased her with questions; a ragdoll sag and a vacant stare shut them out. Instead the ledger-keeper, who introduced herself as Sister Nora, gathered them around the donation tin before addressing any queries.

“And?” Han appeared beside him, sudden as Banquo’s ghost. “Showstopper or second-rate?”

Hiero rubbed a thumb over his knuckles. “Better than a pair of poncy royals cutting a ribbon, but only just.”

“Fit for a return engagement?”

“Perhaps. Their setup is commonplace, but she does have a certain je ne sais quoi.”

“Enough to en savoir plus?

“Time will tell. You know how religion turns my stomach. But their focus on Lillian was…”

“Agreed. That Sister Juliet read her too easily.”

Hiero nodded. “Could have been instinct.”

“Or she saw a mark.”

They shared a look weighted by their years of friendship and experience, a partnership of equals who knew, without another word, how to protect their own.

Copy of TourGraphic (7)

October 31 – The Novel ApproachNovember 1 – Mikku-chanJoyfully JayNovember 6 – Love BytesNovember 7 – Mirrigold: Mutterings & MusingsLillian FrancisBonkers About BooksPadme’s LibraryBayou Book JunkieBook Review By Virginia Lee, MM Good Book ReviewsNovember 10 – My Fiction Nook

About The Author

Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd).

A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.

Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present, she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.

If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website: www.selinakray.net

Google

Twitter

Facebook


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

Book Blitz: For The Love Of Luke by David C. Dawson

For The Love Of Luke | David C. Dawson

BBBanner (2)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner Press

Length: 61,267 words

Cover Design: L.C. Chase 

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

 ForTheLoveOfLukeFS_v1.jpg

 

Blurb

A handsome naked man. Unconscious on a bathroom floor.

He’s lost his memory, and someone’s out to kill him.

Who is the mysterious Luke?

British TV anchor and journalist Rupert Pendley-Evans doesn’t do long-term relationships. Nor does he do waifs and strays. But Luke is different. Luke is a talented American artist with a dark secret in his life.

When Rupert discovers Luke, he’s intrigued, and before he can stop himself, he’s in love. The aristocratic Rupert is an ambitious TV reporter with a nose for a story and a talent for uncovering the truth. As he falls deeper in love with Luke, he discovers the reason for Luke’s amnesia. And the explanation puts them both in mortal danger.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Rupert Pendley-Evans had not expected to find the body of a naked man lying on a bathroom floor that evening. But for Rupert Pendley-Evans, life had a habit of taking odd turns.

HE guided his 1200cc motorbike through the gap between the lines of London’s Sunday evening traffic and stopped at the junction. The journey back from his parents’ estate in rural Buckinghamshire was taking longer than usual. To pass the time, he planned his evening ahead. He would take a shower to wash away the grime of the journey, followed by a glass of chilled pinot grigio.

The lights changed, and the traffic began to move. Rupert’s thighs hugged tight to the fuel tank of his BMW. He turned the bike past the two lines of slow-moving cars and took the fork in the road for Vauxhall Bridge. It would lead him across the Thames to the south bank of the river and at long last home.

He twitched the throttle, the engine roared, and the bike accelerated up the outside lane, past yet another line of stationary traffic. Rupert glanced to his right as he reached the middle of the bridge. The last rays of July sun silhouetted the upstream London skyline of Battersea and chic Chelsea. It was good to be back in the metropolis after his dutiful two-day visit to the family seat, in the tiny village of Middle Claydon.

He concentrated on the road before him, the final mile of his journey. Ahead, on the south bank of the river, stood the offices of MI6, home to Britain’s secret service. It was housed in an imposing piece of postmodern architecture made famous by several appearances in James Bond films. The setting sun glinted orange on the smoked-glass windows, giving the building a warm, rosy glow, belying its true purpose.

As Rupert reached the far end of the bridge, the lights stayed green, and he leaned into the curve of the road. It detoured around Vauxhall bus station and took him past a huddle of modern high-rise apartment blocks funded by Russian investors. He wove the powerful bike in and out of the five lanes of slow-moving traffic and relished the liberty it afforded him.

At the third set of lights, he took a left onto Paton Road. The brutal high-rise landscape gave way to a street of elegant Edwardian villas. The rows of shabby front doors and grimy windows were evidence of a former era of long-faded grandeur. Rupert was resigned to the thought one day they too would be swept away by developers in pursuit of tax-free profits.

Rupert slowed the bike to twenty miles an hour. The street became a narrow corridor, and he was hemmed in on both sides by rows of parked cars. Halfway down, he slowed the bike to a crawl and turned sharply onto the forecourt of number 54. He stopped in front of one of the bay windows of the double-fronted Edwardian villa and cut the engine.

He fumbled with the buckle on his chin strap. When he at last removed the crash helmet, the fresh breeze cooled his matted hair, and he breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long journey. He kicked down the bike’s side stand but stayed seated in the saddle. Even though his home was less than half a mile from the bustle of the Vauxhall traffic interchange, it was quiet and peaceful. Rupert listened to the birds singing in the trees on either side of the street. In this tranquil spot, he could fool himself the polluted London air was somehow purer.

The city was in the middle of an English heat wave, and Rupert’s leather jeans clung to his thighs with sweat. He looked forward to stripping off and standing under the shower. He stood up, dismounted the bike, and took off his gauntlets. He unzipped his heavy leather jacket, and the evening air cooled his sweat-soaked T-shirt. Rupert unhooked his small overnight bag from its mounting points on the fuel tank and strode to the front door. He punched in the security code and entered the communal hallway of the house.

Number 54 Paton Road was divided into three apartments, each with its own front door. There were two smaller apartments on the ground floor and a third spanning the whole of the upper floor of the house. The apartments all shared the communal entrance hall. A grand, sweeping staircase led to the floor above. Rupert stood outside the front door of number 54a and fumbled in the pocket of his leather jacket for his key.

As soon as he entered the apartment, he sensed something was wrong. There was a strange, musty smell, and he could hear the sound of water running somewhere in the semidarkness beyond. He dropped his overnight bag on the floor, set his crash helmet on the oak hall table, and walked down the corridor leading to the back of the apartment.

The sound of running water grew louder as he approached his open bedroom door. Standing on the threshold, he could see why. The ceiling was bowed, and a steady stream of water poured down onto the polished wooden floorboards below.

Rupert cursed and ran back up the hallway to retrieve a bucket from the hall cupboard. He returned to the bedroom and placed the bucket under the stream of water. He watched it fill with alarmingly rapidity and cursed again.

Rupert had never met the new resident upstairs at number 54c Paton Road. He knew it had changed hands a few months ago, while he was away working for four weeks in the Middle East. He had planned to introduce himself when he returned, but somehow he never found the time. Rupert wished it could have been in better circumstances.

He went out of the apartment to the main staircase and sprinted up the stairs two at a time. The half-glazed door of number 54c was directly in front of him. Rupert rang the bell. After a short pause, he banged hard on the door for good measure. When he still got no response, he tried the doorknob to confirm the door was locked. He pressed his ear to the glass and listened intently. He could hear the sound of running water After banging on the door one last time, he stood back and breathed heavily. Perhaps the tenant had fallen asleep in the bath. Perhaps he had drowned.

Rupert raised his hand and felt the solid wood frame of the door. It would take a lot to open it His only option was to break the door’s beautiful stained glass panel. He looked around. To his left was a jumble of flattened cardboard boxes, some discarded packing materials, and three full refuse sacks piled against the wall. He needed something that would help him break the glass safely.

On the right, tucked in the corner, was a black metal fire extinguisher. Perfect. Rupert picked it up and tested its weight in his hands. Holding it horizontally, he rested its base against the panel. It was a shame to destroy the glass, he thought. But it was a choice between that and a collapsed bedroom ceiling.

The glass gave way with a satisfying crack. Rupert set down the fire extinguisher and picked up a piece of the discarded packaging material. He wrapped it around his hand and cleared shards of glass from the gaping hole in the door. He reached in cautiously and felt for the catch. It turned easily, and the door swung open. Rupert stepped over the broken glass into the hallway of number 54c.

A series of white spotlights in the ceiling illuminated the corridor. Their light reflected off the white walls of the hallway. The sound of running water was loud and came from a doorway down the corridor. He strode down the hallway and stood on the threshold of the bathroom at number 54c. That was when he saw the body.

The man was naked, lying prostrate on the floor. Water from the overflowing bath lapped around him. Rupert stepped into the bathroom, turned off the water, and crouched down beside the body. He lifted the man’s arm and felt for a pulse. The man was alive but unconscious. Rupert reached into the pocket of his leather jacket for his mobile.

“Hello? Ambulance please.” While he waited to be connected, Rupert assessed the situation. The man’s head rested at the foot of the washbasin, his feet stretched out toward the doorway. His short, curly black hair was matted with congealed blood. Some of it turned the pool of water in which he lay a sickening red. The man looked to be about thirty years old and well over six feet tall. He had an athletic, muscular build. Rupert leaned forward to take a closer look at the head wound. He noticed the man’s well-defined cheekbones and his perfect, kiss-shaped lips. Pretty cute, all in all.

Before he could get too distracted, a voice in his ear announced he was connected to the ambulance service.

“Hello? Yes, my name’s Rupert Pendley-Evans. I’m at apartment 54c Paton Road, in Vauxhall. It’s the one upstairs to mine. There’s a guy here unconscious with a head wound. I think he slipped and fell in the bathroom.”

Rupert gave his details and as much information about the unknown man as he could provide. He ended the call, stood up, and took a couple of bath towels from a shelf in the corner. He knelt on the floor and did his best to wrap them around the motionless naked body. The man stirred, sending small ripples of movement across his muscular shoulders. He tried to pull himself up and groaned loudly.

“Hey, fella,” said Rupert. He leaned close to the man’s well-defined cheekbones. “Don’t try to move just yet. Looks like you’ve had a helluva bang on the head.”

The man whispered something, and Rupert leaned closer.

“I can’t hear you,” said Rupert. “Don’t worry, the ambulance is on its way.”

“I’m freezing,” whispered the kiss-shaped lips. The man’s body shook in a spasm of shivering to confirm the statement.

Rupert leaned across and massaged the broad back and shoulders. He hoped it would stimulate the man’s circulation. A set of long black eyelashes flickered open and revealed dark brown eyes.

“Who are you?” asked the man.

Rupert paused before he replied; the eyes held him captivated with their intensity.

“Hey, welcome back,” said Rupert with a sense of relief. “My name’s Rupert. I’m your guardian angel from the apartment downstairs. An apartment that’s now flooded with your bathwater. What’s your name?”

“Luke,” replied the man. He grimaced with pain. “Jeez. My head feels like it’s been run over by a steamroller. And this water’s freezing my balls off.”

“I don’t think you should move until the ambulance gets here,” replied Rupert. “I’m a journalist, not a medic. So I don’t really know what I’m doing. And I don’t want to risk doing you damage if I try to get you up.”

“Then I’ll do it myself,” replied Luke somewhat petulantly. He levered himself partway into a sitting position and leaned against the side of the bath. He looked at Rupert, and his eyes twinkled with an air of triumph. They partly closed for a moment, and Luke’s head lolled from side to side. Rupert caught him before he fell. With difficulty, Rupert held him upright while he sat alongside him and looped his arm over Luke’s shoulder.

“Thank you, guardian angel,” said Luke, and he rested his head on Rupert’s shoulder. He turned his face, and his intense brown eyes stared at Rupert once more.

“What beautiful blue eyes you have,” said Luke. He shook his head and winced with pain. “Oh shit. Inappropriate. The stupid American’s opened his mouth. Forget I said it.” His eyelids drifted shut, and the deep brown eyes disappeared from view.

“Luke? Luke?” said Rupert. “Oh shit. Stay conscious for me.” He gently massaged the American’s arm and shoulders. “I need you to stay awake until the ambulance comes.”

The long black eyelashes flickered, and Luke reopened his eyes.

“That’s better,” said Rupert. “Stay with me. You’ve had a head injury. You’ve got to keep awake. Talk to me. What’s your last name?”

“Diamond. Luke Diamond.” The long black eyelashes flickered shut. Rupert massaged Luke’s shoulders again.

“Hey, Luke Diamond,” said Rupert. “Don’t drift off. Have you got any family I can contact? Is there a friend I should call?”

Luke slowly turned his head from side to side. “Don’t bother.” He leaned his head back against the side of the bath. “You don’t need to call anyone. Okay?”

Before Rupert could reply, a door buzzer sounded insistently.

“That’ll be the ambulance,” said Rupert. “Is your entry phone by the front door?”

Luke said nothing but nodded his head.

“I’m going to lay you back on the floor for a moment,” said Rupert. “Don’t try to get up again. And don’t go to sleep.”

He gently lowered Luke onto the tiled floor of the bathroom. He reached up to the rail beside the bath, pulled down another towel, and wrapped it around the American’s body. Luke mumbled something indistinct, and Rupert leaned in close to hear.
“What was that?” asked Rupert gently.

“I meant what I said,” repeated Luke. “You have beautiful eyes.” He stared intently at Rupert and sighed. “But you should keep away, handsome blue-eyed Englishman. I know I’m just trouble.” The rosebud lips curved upward into a smile.

“I don’t believe that for a second.” Rupert stood and looked down at Luke. “Don’t go away now,” he said and headed out of the bathroom to let in the ambulance crew.

Author Bio

 

David C Dawson writes contemporary thrillers about gay heroes in love. For the Love of Luke is his third book, and is published by Dreamspinner Press on October 9th. It’s a romantic suspense about an American who falls in love with a British man in London.

David’s debut novel The Necessary Deaths, was published by DSP Publications and has been described as “a real page-turner”. It won Bronze for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA awards. Rainbow Reviews said it was “an exciting read with complex characters”.
DSP Publications published The Deadly Lies, the second book in the series, last December.

He also wrote a short story about a chance encounter with George Clooney for the anthology Love Wins, published by Dreamspinner Press.

David worked for the BBC as a journalist. He now lives near Oxford in the UK, with his ageing Triumph motorbike and two cats.

 

 Giveaway

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions
iNSTApROMO (16).jpg

Second Stoker & Bash mystery is just as enthralling as the first

Copy of Copy of Stoker _ Bash 2 FINAL (1)The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Selina Kray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review when I’m at the laptop tomorrow.

This was awesome! Oh my word it had everything I wanted from a Victorian detective melodrama and then some. I love Kip & Hiero as a pairing they’re not perfect, in fact, they spend as much time being cross with each other as they do loving each other.

There’s lots more of Hiero’s background slowly revealed in this one too, and it drip feeds into the overall narrative in a very clever way as Stoker and Bash and the gang investigate two separate crimes all centred on the dodgy Daughters of Eden.

We also have tensions from the arrival in the household in Berkeley Square of a new helper for Lillian Pankhurst and, again, here parts of this are woven into the wider mystery which centres on just what’s going on behind the very impressive walls of the home of the Daughters.

As with book one, Selina draws on real events for inspiration and, as it would be impossible to summarise without spoiling the plot, let me just say I had no clue right up until the denoument who the villain was going to be.

Love the pacing, love the setting, love the characters. Don’t love the fact Book Three won’t be out until Autumn next year!!

PS: I love the cover concepts for this series but I do have a wee criticism in that Kip is supposed to be flame-haired, have copper tresses, Bash loves his auburn locks etc

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review

View all my reviews

Release Blitz: Stoker & Bash: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree by Selina Kray

Stoker & Bash: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree | Selina Kray

RBBanner (11)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 100,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Tiferet Design

Copy of Copy of Stoker _ Bash 2 FINAL (1).jpg

Blurb

 

When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Finding lost poodles and retrieving stolen baubles is not how DI Tim Stoker envisioned his partnership with his lover, Hieronymus Bash. So when the police commissioner’s son goes missing, he’s determined to help, no matter what secrets he has to keep, or from whom.

When a family member is kidnapped, Hiero moves heaven and earth to rescue them. Even if that means infiltrating the Daughters of Eden, a cult of wealthy widows devoted to the teachings of Rebecca Northcote and the mysterious contents of her box. The Daughters’ goodwill toward London’s fallen women has given them a saintly reputation, but Hiero has a nose for sniffing out a fraud. He will need to draw on some divine inspiration to rattle the pious Daughters.

Like weeds gnarling the roots of Eden’s fabled tree, Tim and Hiero’s cases intertwine. Serpents, secrets, and echoes from Hiero’s past lurk behind every branch. Giving in to temptation could bind them closer together—or sever their partnership forever.

Stoker & Bash Series

Book #1 – The Fangs Of Scavo – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Excerpt

When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box?

Hieronymus Bash contemplated the question posed by the long, red-lettered banner that blazoned over the otherwise quaint fruit and vegetable stall. A sharp tug of the arm from Callie, his ward, brought him to heel. He’d already been struggling to match her brisk pace, having been dragged from his early afternoon repose in the cozy climes of his study into, of all things, the sunshine, or what passed for it on this weak-tea day.

Rays of piss-yellow sun trickled down over the city, tinting the fumes that oozed up from the Thames. Clouds of smog blurred the distant Albert Bridge into an impressionist’s nightmare. A growing crowd choked the small stage erected just before the river’s edge, scuttling in from both directions of Cheyne Walk like ants over a carcass. A bald man with a white mustache that flapped out to his ears checked his pocket watch for the fourth time since Hiero and his companions descended from their carriage.

At the far end of the stage, a squad of low-rank militia struggled to keep a path clear for the Duke of Edinburgh and his bride, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, only beloved daughter of Tsar Alexander II. The newlyweds were, in the timeless tradition of royals everywhere, unfashionably late to the opening of the Chelsea Embankment, the third and final stage of the sewage system that had transformed London’s riverside.

“Look, it’s Bazalgette!” Callie tugged him forward, doing a fine impression of an excitable hound.

“While I admire your enthusiasm, I do wonder if it’s not a tad misplaced.”

Callie scoffed. “Only you would prefer the arrival of some dippy duke over the architect of this entire endeavor.” She threw her free arm out wide. “Can you not spare a moment to admire this feat of engineering? In the place of muddy banks, pavement has been laid, a fence with lampposts erected, with gardens and greenery to come. And running beneath it, the waste of London, and soon an underground train! How can you be so trout-mouthed in the face of such marvels?”

“Not your most persuasive argument, comparing the face that dropped a thousand trousers to a fishmonger’s wares.”

Callie sighed, relinquishing his arm to chase after her muttonchopped idol. Hiero watched her go, marveling at how much she resembled her Uncle Apollo, Hiero’s long-deceased lover who had charged him with her care in character and spirit. Theirs was an unconventional household, where the lady moonlighted as a detective, the servants were part of the family, and the lord of the manor—Hiero himself—was neither a lord nor owned the manor.

“Come now.” Han, his friend and self-appointed keeper, fell into step beside him. The rhythmic taps of his lotus-headed walking stick slowed their pace to a stroll. “You’re no longer catch of the day with Mr. Stoker about.”

“Perhaps if he were about, someone would defend my honor.” Hiero bristled at the mention of his fair-weather paramour, Timothy Kipling Stoker, a detective inspector with Scotland Yard who shadowed them when there was a mystery to solve but otherwise preoccupied himself with… well, finding them another mystery. His dedication to duty exasperated.

“Not likely.”

“No, I rather thought not.” Hiero pressed a lavender handkerchief to his mouth and nose. Mr. Bazalgette’s innovations would have to work much harder to filter out nearly a millennia of filth, the river being a cesspit into which the city had poured every conceivable kind of rubbish, from human to animal to otherwise. A place where sins had been cast off and bodies buried. A few of Hiero’s personal acquaintance.

“Where has your Mr. Stoker taken himself off to this—” Han considered the urinal murk of the embankment and found himself at a loss of an adjective. “—afternoon?”

“I do not presume to know what impulses rule that man.”

“And yet you are the one who rides his… coattails.”

“Only when he deigns to undress for the occasion. Otherwise…” Hiero huffed, his mood irretrievably spoilt by this line of conversation. “I cannot think where I’ve gone wrong with him.”

“No?” Han evidenced something close to a smirk. “It wouldn’t have something to do with meddling in his work affairs, compromising his relationship with his superiors, forcing him into our fellowship, risking everything he holds dear, and then sharing nothing of consequence about yourself, now would it?”

Hiero peered at him out of the corner of his eye. “Nothing of the sort, I’m sure.”

“Ah. Well, then, it is a mystery.”

“Coo-coo! Mr. Han!” a voice trilled at them from behind.

With a pair of heavy sighs, they turned to heed an all-too-familiar call. A hand waiving a white handkerchief fluttered up and down amidst a dense crowd. A grunt from Han parted the sea of surging revelers to reveal Shahida Kala, the latest of Hiero’s charity cases, hopping with the vigor of a spring hare. Her compact figure contained a carnival of personality.

The instant this bright light had beamed into his study on the arm of her father—who served under Apollo in Her Majesty’s Navy—Hiero recognized her for one of the rare people who could steal his spotlight. So he had relegated her to the least enviable position in the household, that of nurse to Mrs. Lillian Pankhurst, Callie’s permanently indisposed mother. But the long days of attic dwelling and reading Richardson’s Pamela ad nauseam had not snuffed a single spark.

Instead Lillian had transformed from bed-ridden depressive into a semifunctional member of the family. Every morning she and Shahida took a two-hour stroll. They cultivated a rooftop garden. Shahida had imposed an afternoon tea regimen on their household, always leading the conversation as Hiero, Callie, and Han plotted ways to return to their preferred solitary occupations. Dinners were always a family affair, but Shahida’s insistence on more healthful, nourishing fare that conformed to Lillian’s new diet had Minnie, their cook, weekly threatening to resign. Callie was the only other member of the household resistant to her charms.

Even Han, cynical, monkish, seen-it-all Han, danced to whichever melody she played. Hiero watched as he bounded over to her, biting his lip at the comical sight of a surly giant bowing to the whims of a pretty imp, but also to keep from emitting a growl of frustration. He glanced back to search for Callie, but the crowd had swallowed her. By now she’d likely clawed her way to the front of the stage and barked questions at a baffled, bewhiskered Mr. Bazalgette, which Hiero thought should be his formal title.

Schooling his features, he joined Han and Shahida’s conversation in medias res and was somewhat aghast to discover them talking about produce.

“… the plumpest, juiciest berries. Artichokes the size of a fist. Fat aubergines and cabbages and cauliflowers, and cucumbers as long as…” Shahida pressed two fingers to her mouth. Hiero didn’t miss how her eyes flickered down. “Well.”

Shameless, that was the trouble. As if she’d snipped the best pages from his playbook and then had the temerity to improve on his notes.

Han chuckled. Chuckled! Hiero hadn’t seen his friend so much as shrug in all the time he’d known him.

“A religious order, you say?” Han asked.

“The Daughters of Eden.” Shahida leaned in, gave him her most conspiratorial smirk. “And I think they might be.” She didn’t even have the grace to straighten when she spotted Hiero. “Oh, Mr. Bash! Mrs. Pankhurst and I don’t mean to spoil your fun. But if you wouldn’t mind, we’ll stay here for a while. We’ve discovered the most—”

“Impressive cucumbers. So I heard.”

“Mrs. Pankhurst is just beside herself. We’ve big ideas for our garden, but this…”

Hiero was unmoved. “And what is it you want?”

“We’ve done our third crate and could fill two more. The crowd is bit much for Mrs. Pankhurst, so I thought Mr. Han might take us back to Berkeley Square? We’ll send the carriage back for you.”

“As it is my carriage, I rather think it will return for me regardless.”

That got her attention. “Of course. If you’d like us to stay—”

“Let us see these berries from heaven.” With a sweep of his hand, Hiero directed them back toward the stall that had earlier piqued his interest. “Their Majesties will wait upon our leisure.”

A long line of enterprising vendors hawked their wares along the edge of Cheyne Walk, hoping to entice royal watchers to purchase a bit of refinement for their life. One stall lined up its dainty little bottles of oils and perfumes like Russian nesting dolls. A mini royal portrait gallery sold likenesses of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their progeny in a variety of poses. The gentleman scooping iced lollies for the children had his work cut out for him on such a tepid day, Hiero thought. The pub with a street-side stand offering hot tea and cider already did brisk business. A few watercress girls fought against the crowd’s undertow, but their wares looked shriveled as seaweed compared to the glorious bushels of the Daughters of Eden.

Even Hiero had to admit, upon inspection, the quality of their produce astounded. Fat and luscious, their fruit allured like the bosom of an opera diva, ready to smother and enthrall. Their vegetable stalks evidenced a virility that would put most molly-houses out of business. Little wonder their customers meandered around the baskets like lovestruck swains. Their bounty conjured images of orgies culinary and carnal. Hiero didn’t doubt there were more than a few serpents lurking about this tiny Eden, eager to defile a peach or two.

All of this was overseen by a trio of women dressed in immaculate white uniforms that somehow defied the city’s grime. Hiero drifted away from his companions to better observe these wyrd sisters. The tallest was also the least remarkable, a stout but cheery woman with farm-worn hands and hard-earned streaks of gray in her brown hair. She milled through the customers, answering questions and nudging reluctant buyers toward the register.

A skittish dove of a girl dutifully kept the ledger and the cash box, cooing her thanks before slipping some sort of pamphlet into people’s baskets. Her crinkly hair had been woven into two winglike braids that perfectly framed her heart-shaped face. A sprinkling of dark freckles contrasted with her pale-brown skin, all but disappearing when she blushed.

Which she did whenever the third sister glanced her way. “Willowy” did not do this petite, flopsy woman justice. A willow branch would look as leathery and stiff as a whip compared to her wispiness. Near-translucent skin and stringy cornsilk hair completed the otherworldly effect. Hiero almost questioned whether she was really there, such was the nothing of her regard. She appeared to have no occupation other than to pose under the sign in a demure attitude. The crowds gave her a wide berth, and little wonder. Nobody wanted to mingle with a possessed scarecrow.

Except possibly meddlesome not-detectives stuck on a boring outing with friends who had abandoned him for some phallic parsnips and a walrus architect.

Just as Hiero made to pounce, the waif leapt as if lightning struck. Eyes ravenous, mouth agape, hair billowing in an invisible breeze, she stared into the buzzing hive of customers. Transformed in an instant from trinket to spear, her astonishment gave color to her cheeks and heft to her bearing. She appeared somehow taller, bolder, a colossal spirit crammed into a compact package: a genie unleashed from its lamp.

All the better to bedazzle you with, my dear, Hiero thought.

Hieronymus Bash, professional cynic, knew a performance when he saw one. He read again the red sign that screamed above her head: When will She open Rebecca Northcote’s box? But there was no box he could see, and if this woodland sprite was Mrs. Northcote, he’d eat Han’s walking stick. These Daughters had lured in quite a crowd with their sensuous produce. Was she the serpent come to tempt them? And if so, to what end?

Hiero shuttered his natural radiance to watch the spectacle unfold. The pale sister glided, arms outstretched, into the maze of crates, eyes fixed on her prey. Hiero hissed under his breath when she stopped at Lillian Pankhurst. In a state of docile confusion at the best of times, Lillian continued sorting out a mess of string beans, oblivious to this starry-eyed suitor. Han, ever protective, moved to Lillian’s side just as the sister shrieked…

“Daughter! You are found!”

The woman at the ledger jumped to her feet. “Juliet?”

“I’ve heard your spirit call to us these long nights, and now you have come home!” Juliet continued at eardrum-splitting pitch, making herself heard to all in the vicinity and probably those across the Thames. “Welcome, Daughter, into Her grace and light! Welcome home!” She hugged a startled Lillian with impressive fervor for one so slender. Lillian, looking to Shahida for a cue, patted her on the back.

A frowning Han caught his gaze from across the way, but Hiero signaled he would play Polonius behind the curtain. Hopefully without the knife in his gut.

“Don’t fear, Daughter. You are among friends,” Juliet nattered on. “We have come to shepherd Her back to Eden through our good works, and, by your pallid cheeks and trembling hands, I can see that you are eager to play a part.”

“Oi!” Shahida hollered, shoving her way between Juliet and Lillian. “Mrs. Pankhurst gets three square a day, and her arthritis is much improved. I dare anyone here to say otherwise.”

“But her spirit, dear girl, droops like a flower too long out of the sun.” Juliet backed away a step to address the customers, every one of which stood rapt. “She knows how this frail woman has struggled. She has heard her prayers and her anguish. She has shone Her glorious light into her, lit her like a beacon for her sisters to find. She is a Daughter, called upon to continue Her good work and bring about a second Eden!”

Shahida let out a trill of laughter three octaves too high. It effectively pierced the balloon of hot air Juliet had been huffing and puffing.

“Angel with a flaming sword you’re not, ma’am. Sorry.” Shahida locked an arm around Lillian. “Stick to the fruit and veg.” A pointed look directed Han to escort their charge away.

“But I haven’t finished the beans…” Lillian muttered as they disappeared into the gaggle of onlookers.

“Shame!” Juliet bellowed, beseeching the yellow sky. “Shame! It is the burden of womankind.” The customers moved into the space vacated by his friends, and Hiero followed, curious as to how she would spin such a public defeat. “The prophet Rebecca Northcote warned against it in her great bible, The Coming of the Holiest Spirit. Too often we ladies wait upon the actions of others. Are made to feel shame and guilt and worthless when we do act. Allow others to lead us astray, away from the truth in our hearts. We pay the price for the sins of our fathers and brothers and husbands. But She… oh, She is coming to deliver us from these injustices, from our fears and torments. As our Holy Mother Rebecca divined, if we join together, Daughters, and build the garden, She will come to save us all. She will gift us with her light!”

“Amen!” the ledger-keeper cried, having abandoned her post to shove pamphlets into the hands of any who would take them.

“Thank you, Mother!” the other sister seconded, lifting a basket of golden pears for all to see.

Juliet scanned the crowd. “You reap of the bounty we offer, but you do not know of how we labor in Her name. To prepare for Her coming, our prophet Rebecca chose each of Her Daughters with care. And though a shame-filled few will deny Her, everyone is welcome to hear Her message and to contribute however they can.” Hiero swallowed a snicker as she gestured to the donation tin. So transparent. “If you are committed to peace and prosperity, if you would see heaven retake the Earth, then I invite you to heed our prophet Rebecca’s call. And She will shine Her light upon you for all the days of your life.”

Juliet seemed to resist taking a bow, but only just. She gave each customer a final angelic smile, then returned to her perch beneath the red sign. A few of the curious chased her with questions; a ragdoll sag and a vacant stare shut them out. Instead the ledger-keeper, who introduced herself as Sister Nora, gathered them around the donation tin before addressing any queries.

“And?” Han appeared beside him, sudden as Banquo’s ghost. “Showstopper or second-rate?”

Hiero rubbed a thumb over his knuckles. “Better than a pair of poncy royals cutting a ribbon, but only just.”

“Fit for a return engagement?”

“Perhaps. Their setup is commonplace, but she does have a certain je ne sais quoi.”

“Enough to en savoir plus?

“Time will tell. You know how religion turns my stomach. But their focus on Lillian was…”

“Agreed. That Sister Juliet read her too easily.”

Hiero nodded. “Could have been instinct.”

“Or she saw a mark.”

They shared a look weighted by their years of friendship and experience, a partnership of equals who knew, without another word, how to protect their own.

About The Author

Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd).

A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.

Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present, she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.

If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website: www.selinakray.net

Google

Twitter

Facebook


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

Release Blitz: Top and Tails by Clare London

Top and Tails | Clare London

With A Kick #9 

RBBanner (11)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 46,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Lou Harper

TopAndTails_v3

 

With A Kick Series

Book #1 – A Twist and Two Balls – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #2 – Hissed as a Newt (Sue Brown) – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #3 – Slap and Tickle – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #4 – Bells and Balls (Sue Brown) – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #5 – Pluck and Play – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #6 – Nice and Snow – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #7 – Smack Happy – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #8 – Double Scoop – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

Three men, one love—and a passion he only ever dreamed of.

Karel Novak is content with his busy job in hotel refurbishment, enjoying the social scene in Soho, London and the company of new friends he met through working at With A Kick. All he’s missing is a special man in his life. Or maybe two.

His first meeting with the mercurial pole dancer Leroy and his socially anxious partner Griff isn’t impressive, but none of them can ignore the sexual spark that flares between the three men.

Their relationship builds in steps of passion, frustration, and finally love. Both Leroy and Griff have complex issues in their lives to work through, and at first Karel brings a new dynamic that both settles and supports them.

But although he loves his men, Karel gradually realises the issues are still present. His partners struggle with living individually as well as together.

His heartfelt wish is for them to create a lasting bond as a trio—but that means putting others first, all too often.

And will that mean sacrificing his own joy and dreams?

Excerpt

Karel needed to stop this conversation. Not that the guys weren’t perfectly entitled to talk about whatever they chose, in their own home. But he didn’t want to get drawn into—

“There are several sculpture exhibitions in the arts festival, one at the local school.” Griff opened the booklet, as if ready to search the index.

“Karel?” Leroy was looking at him curiously. His hand squeezed Karel’s, his thumb distracting, massaging Karel’s wrist. He threw a comment to Griff, over his shoulder. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Huh?”

Leroy rolled his eyes. “Man, it’s too late tonight for chatting about art and stuff. Isn’t it?” The question was aimed at Karel.

“I… don’t mind,” he said.

But Leroy laughed. He swept the brochure from Griff’s hand, dropped it on the far end of the counter, then turned fully to face Karel. “Yeah. Talk about something else, Griff. Something just for fun. Like the time you made chilli frozen yoghurt and burned my mouth at the same time my tongue froze to my teeth—”

“—or the time you bought kids’ dance tights by mistake, fell over trying to put them on, and nearly strangled your balls?” Griff countered.

Everyone laughed. The awkward moment had passed. Karel was relieved he hadn’t been led astray by his own worries. The kitchen was suddenly full again of amused banter, with Griff leaning over the counter to gossip, and Leroy’s soothing yet stimulating touch on Karel’s skin.

And underlying all of it, a thread of fizzing, humming desire growing between them. Karel wondered how he would have coped if the conversation had gone a more cultural route, when all he could think about at the moment was energetic, obscene sex with these men.

He didn’t think he was presuming anything, either.

Finally, Leroy collected their empty plates, placed them in the dishwasher, then sauntered back to where Karel sat. He didn’t sit back down again, but stood there, his hip nudging Karel’s. Griff wiped the counter briskly but thoroughly with a wet cloth, placed it neatly on the side of the sink, took off his glasses, then came to stand beside him.

The dance was moving into its second set.

Karel stood, as steadily as he could. His skin prickled as if electricity sparkled over it, and his limbs felt almost too weak to respond. But when Leroy leaned in to kiss him, he was more than ready. He cupped Leroy’s cheek, thumbing the gentle bed of stubble, enjoying the brush of Leroy’s hair on the back of his hand.

Karel pushed his tongue gently at Leroy’s mouth and the lips parted quickly, eagerly, for him. They kissed in near silence, the only sound their panting, the soft slick of their mouths.

And Griff’s soft breath in Karel’s other ear.

“We’ve taken this evening in the wrong order,” he said. When Karel turned reluctantly from Leroy’s kiss, he found Griff staring at him with a slow, seductive smile that Karel hadn’t seen before. “Dessert before the main course.”

“No,” Leroy said from behind Karel. “That was only ice cream. The proper dessert hasn’t even been served yet.”

“Whatever,” Griff murmured, rolling his eyes like Leroy had earlier, still smiling at Karel. He lifted his face for a kiss. His lips were plumper, his mouth wider. Karel didn’t know why he should be shocked that Griff’s taste was so different, but he was delighted by it. Griff was surprisingly assertive, thrusting his tongue into Karel’s mouth, his beard softly tickling Karel’s chin.

Leroy hadn’t moved away. His breath was warm on Karel’s neck, but Karel appreciated the way Leroy took his time: no one was hurrying. He relaxed into Griff’s kiss as he had Leroy’s, and behind him, Leroy’s lips touched the nape of his neck, kissing around to Karel’s throat and down towards his collarbone.

Griff nipped briefly at Karel’s lower lip, just shy of breaking the skin and Karel gasped. Leroy slid his fingers briefly, tantalisingly, under the neck of Karel’s T-shirt, running along the seam, tugging it away from his body.

“I worked on the site today,” Karel said, not surprised to find his voice was hoarse. “I’m sweaty. My clothes are dusty.”

“You can shower here,” Griff said quickly. “If you want. Or…”

“…No. Do it after,” Leroy said, just as quick. His tone roughened. “I want you like this.”

Jesus. A wave of desire swamped Karel from head to foot. He leaned away from Griff as Leroy peeled the T-shirt over his head.

Griff’s gaze dropped to Karel’s chest and he licked his lips.

Leroy sighed happily. Then he took Karel’s hand and led him out of the kitchen.

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant.

She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy.

Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions
InstaPromo (12).jpg

 

Release Blitz: Risk Taker by Lily Morton

 

Risk Taker | Lily Morton

Mixed Messages #3

Risk Taker RDB banner

MM Romance

Release Date: 22.07.18

Risk-Taker-Generic

Cover Design: Natasha Snow

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2Oal9WI

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2LD9u0F

BLURB

Being in love with your best friend is hard.

Henry’s the odd man out. All his friends are settling down, and his reputation as the Hook-Up King of London seems more like a curse than a blessing these days. Especially when it keeps photojournalist Ivo, his best friend and the brilliant man he’s loved since they were fifteen, at arm’s length. But that’s where Ivo wants him, right? Putting aside his feelings, Henry decides to give up casual sex and look for the real deal. After all, he has no chance with Ivo – or does he?

Henry is everything to Ivo. Best friend, soul mate, the one person who has never let him down. The one person he is loyal to above everything and everyone. But Henry’s in a box marked best friend and that’s where Ivo’s kept him for nearly twenty years, despite steadily falling in love with the gentle man. And besides, why would Henry want to date Ivo? Burned out and injured, he’s the walking embodiment of damaged.

Distance has helped Henry and Ivo keep a lid on their attraction, but when they find themselves in the same city for a change—Ivo hurt and needing assistance, and Henry more than willing to provide it—the two best friends grow closer than ever, forcing a realization, and a decision. Risk their friendship for their hearts? Or can they have both?

From the bestselling author of Rule Breaker and Deal Maker comes a tender love story about two best friends who are perfect for each other, and always have been – if only they knew it.

This is the third book in the Mixed Messages series, but it can be read as a standalone.

RiskTaker-Teaser1

EXCERPT

The bell in the shop rings as the door opens, and I smile as I feel his presence behind me.

“Is there a particular reason, Henry, why I am standing in an art supply shop rather than sitting in a perfectly good restaurant eating lunch?”

I shift the basket over my arm and turn to face one of my best friends. “Gabe, you really should be a bit more highbrow. Otherwise, you’ll never keep that pretty totty you’ve got.”

His perfect-looking face scrunches up in disgust. “Totty. What an utterly disgusting word.”

“I know,” I say cheerfully, turning back to the shelf I was perusing and chucking in another tube of Rose Gold oil paint.

“Makes you sound like your father,” he says snippily, and I nudge him.

“Now that’s petty. Anyway, I’m nothing like him. I have all my own teeth, and my complexion is milky-white perfection, if I do say so myself.”

He snorts. “Apart from those freckles.”

I shake my head and touch a finger to my face and my bête noire, the multitude of freckles that span my nose. “I wish that cream I got off the internet at uni had worked,” I say forlornly, and he laughs loudly, making it echo around the shop.

“I did so enjoy the way your face turned that shade of green. Made you look like Grotbags from The Rod Hull and Emu Show.” He reaches over and grabs a tube of paint. “It was this shade precisely. Hmm, Pistachio Green.” He chucks it into my basket, and I patiently remove it and put it back on the shelf.

I toss a couple of tubes of Prussian Blue into the basket while he leans casually against the shelf looking like the perfect picture of a lawyer in his dark grey, hand-tailored suit.

“Why are we here, Henry? Because if you’re thinking of giving up the law and becoming an artist, I really will have to stage an intervention.”

I laugh. “I think I’d make a very good artist.”

“Piss artist, more likely,” he says, poking my arm with one long finger. “So, if we’re not shopping for what would be the shortest career in art history, who are we shopping for?” His gaze sharpens, and I mentally groan because aside from Ivo there is no one who knows me better. “Hmm. Would we be shopping for a six foot four blond photographer who a certain red-headed lawyer has had the hots for, for years?”

“That’s such a non-Gabe expression,” I sneer. “Has Dylan been influencing you?”

He looks startled and shakes his head. “Those fucking phrases of his and Jude’s. They’re messing up my vocabulary. Yesterday one of the senior partners asked me if I was okay and I said I was cool. He went out and asked his assistant to tell maintenance that the building heating needed to be turned up.”

I laugh helplessly, and he gives me a rueful grin. “Don’t distract me, Henry. Is Ivo back?” I nod slowly and his expression darkens. “Is he okay?”

I shrug, picking up a brush and studying it intently so I don’t have to look at him. “Not really. He’s got a hole from a fucking bullet in his side, and broken ribs and bruises all over him from being near a car bomb when it went off.”

“What?” he says instantly. “Is he okay?” Gabe has always had a complicated relationship with Ivo. He loves being with him, and they can talk for hours, but he hates the effect that he unknowingly has on my life.

“He’s fine. Silas checked him over.”

He checks with his hand out to grab the brush from me. “Henry, isn’t Silas a vet?”

I shrug. “He was very good at biology at school.”

“I was good at it too. You don’t see me turning up at St Bart’s Hospital and performing a few appendectomies during my lunch hour though, do you?”

“The only biology you were any good at was the male anatomy kind,” I say tartly, and chuck the brush in the basket.

He smiles. “That I was. I’m a very learned man in that area.”

I snort. “You’re practically PhD material.”


Lily Morton Logo

Lily writes contemporary romance novels, and specialises in hot love stories with a good dose of humour.

Lily lives in sunny England with her husband and two children, all of whom claim that they haven’t had a proper conversation with her since she bought her first Kindle.

She has spent her life with her head full of daydreams and decided one day to just sit down and start writing about them. In the process she discovered that she actually loved writing, because how else could she get to spend her time with hot, funny men!

She loves chocolate and Baileys and the best of all creations – chocolate Baileys! Her lifetime’s ambition is to have a bath in peace without being shouted by one of her family.

Facebook Author

Facebook Profile

Website

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vibrant Promotions Logo

 

Release Blitz: Believe by Garrett Leigh

Believe | Garrett Leigh

Skins #3

RBBanner (4)

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 55,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Black Jazz Design
40209429
 
Skins Series
 
Dream (Book #1) – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Whisper (Book #2) – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 

Blurb

Flight paramedic Rhys Foster is hooked on adrenaline. By day it’s blood and guts, by night it’s the thrill of the club. With a different face in his bed most nights, he doesn’t have time to be lonely…right?

Entertainer Jevon Campbell is a play therapist like no other—dancer, magician, acrobat, he brings it all to his global mission to help children in need laugh again. He’s on a rare home visit when he encounters enigmatic Rhys in a London bar.

Their connection is instant, but Rhys fast realises Jevon’s easy confidence doesn’t stretch as far as the bedroom. He has no idea how mesmerising he is—how beautiful—and Rhys resolves to show him.

They grow closer, but time isn’t on their side. Rhys seems unable to articulate how he feels, and with Jevon’s imminent departure from the UK hanging over them, their separate commitments could tear them apart forever.

As the days slip by, Rhys must learn to believe he’s worth the happiness Jevon is offering.

Copy of GLLogo

 About The Author

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award-winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

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

Website: http://www.garrettleigh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh

 Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

« Older Entries