COVER REVEAL: “The Valet” by Mel Gough

COVER REVEAL

Book Title: The Valet

Author: Mel Gough

Cover Artist: Black Jazz Design

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance

Trope/s: Forbidden love

Themes: Restoring trust

Heat Rating: 3 flames

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When love does not dare speak its name, trusting is the hardest thing to learn.

Blurb

England, 1910 – Ted has a good situation as first footman at Montague Hall, the splendid Gloucestershire manor of the 6th Earl of Carran. But he has just made a mistake so serious it could cost him his position, and even land him in prison if the authorities found out.

As valet to the 9th Duke of Argyll, Richard’s London life is glamorous. But when he has his heart broken, he longs to get as far away from the city as possible. The pace at Montague Hall might be sedate, but its tranquillity is like a salve to his shattered soul. And unforeseen diversions are to be found even here. Like handsome, despondent first footmen.

The last thing Ted needs is a new temptation. But his Lordship’s new valet isn’t just gorgeous. Richard is also brave and kind – and he wants to make Ted happy, something Ted never dreamt would come to pass.

Trusting again is hard, and in a world that reviles their love happiness is hard-won. Can they hope to carve out a contented life against all odds?

Excerpt

Dorcas was just coming through the baize door, carrying a tray stacked high with serving bowls. Ted hurried to hold the door for her.

“Thank you.” She gave him a smile and quickly but gently deposited her load on a sideboard.

Ted was fond of the head housemaid. They got on well, and unlike many of the other servants, Ted trusted her. Dorcas was plain-spoken and a hard worker, and she didn’t tolerate the mean kind of teasing that some of the younger servants engaged in with impunity.

He went to open one of the tall cabinets where a couple of shelves were bare. “Here, I’ll do it.” He started stacking the bowls on the shelves, which were too high for Dorcas to reach without a footstool.

“Thank you.” Dorcas rubbed her arms. “Golly, those were heavy. Good thing Mrs Stokes didn’t see me. That would’ve been quite the hiding.”

“She would’ve had good reason.” Ted hefted the bowls. “Imagine if you had tripped with these!”

“Yes, but the stairs are steep and narrow, and it’s bad enough coming up once with that huge tray.” She watched as Ted opened a different cupboard and started counting bread plates. “Aren’t you done yet? You’ve been up here an age!”

Ted made a face. “You know what Mr Wymer is like. He won’t stand for a single spoon out of alignment. And Jimmy’s managed to wriggle out from under him, so I’m doing the dogsbody work.”

Dorcas clicked her tongue impatiently. “You have to stop letting him walk all over you, Ted.” She stood with her hands pressed into her sides, shaking her head. “Who’s the first footman, hmm? You or him?”

Ted kept his eyes on the plates. He might have confided many things in Dorcas, but the reason why he didn’t dare vex Jimmy was too shameful to share even with her. “You’re right, of course. But…you know what he’s like.”

“Oh Ted.” Dorcas sighed. “What are we to do with you?” She turned back towards the door to the back stairs, but then wheeled back around. “I nearly forgot! You were up here, and you wouldn’t have heard yet.” With a glance at the door to the dining room, which was half-open, she lowered her voice. “You won’t believe what happened. Mr Brown has handed in his notice. He just told us.”

Ted stared at her. “What do you mean?” He nodded towards the dining room. “But Mr Wymer didn’t say anything. He must be aware.”

“You know what Mr Wymer is like. Discreet to a fault.” Dorcas put on a serious face and lowered her voice. “An upstanding servant does not gossip, Theodore.”

Despite himself, Ted grinned. The imitation was spot on. Then he remembered the news and grew sombre again. “So Mr Brown’s gone.” After Dorcas, the Earl’s valet was Ted’s second favourite amongst the servants. They weren’t bosom friends – clearly, or Mr Brown would’ve confided his plans in him – but Ted valued the man’s support against Jimmy and Mrs Dankworth, who was the Countess’s lady’s maid and who liked to team up with Jimmy to make Ted’s life hell. Losing the valet would bring change to the balance downstairs, and that would not bode well for Ted. An unease settled in his gut.

Dorcas seemed not to notice. “He’s not gone yet, but he will be by the end of the week. The Earl agreed to let him go on short notice. You know he’s courting the daughter of that Cheltenham pub. Her father died a few days ago, and they need to move quickly so that the pub can stay open.”

“Mr Brown is going to be a pub landlord.” Ted was bemused by the idea. “You’d think that being valet for an Earl would beat that life any day.” He couldn’t imagine leaving service. The work at Montague Hall wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but the house was comfortable and the Peytons were fair employers. After what he’d left behind at home in Yorkshire, this house was paradise. But then he remembered the impossible situation he’d gotten himself into with Jimmy. Maybe starting over new somewhere wouldn’t be so bad.

Dorcas shrugged. “I guess love trumps all in the end.”

Ted didn’t know what to say to that. He knew that people like Dorcas believed this, but he also knew that for people like him, this was not likely to ever happen. He picked up the stack of plates. “I better take these through, before Mr Wymer sends out a search party.”

“Right you are.” Dorcas gave him a smile and a wave, and vanished through the baize door.

About the Author

Mel Gough loves writing about love – but with a twist. Nominated for the 2019 Selfies Awards, her bisexual romantic suspense novel He is Mine is a typical Mel Gough story. She needs her HEA fix, but on the way there will be thorns and fire, and sometimes brimstone. All right, that might be over the top, especially since her stories are firmly based in the real world – though not always in the here and now.

Born in Germany, exploring other realities has been Mel’s siren call since she was young. Books opened up a plethora of worlds, and soon gave her a strong love of the English language. After an MA in Anthropology, field work in the middle of nowhere seemed like one adventure too far, so Mel settled in London, which, to misquote Dr. Johnson, she will never tire of.

Mel loves to bend genres – her romances are gritty and dark, and sometimes there’s a dead body. She’s been told that her prose is beautiful yet disturbingly real. She’s curious about bygone times, and hopes to speculate about the future in one of her next books.

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Cover Reveal: Rise of the Nobleman” by Valentina C. Brin

COVER REVEAL

Book Title: Rise of a Nobleman

Author: Valentina C. Brin

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow Design

Release Date: June 10, 2019

Genre/s: M/M historical, dark

Trope/s: Forbidden love, master and servant

Themes: Heartbreak of betrayal, hurt/comfort, possession, falling in love,

revenge, trust issues, murderer, ambition, sexual awakening, self-acceptance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Blurb

London, 1680. For the young Charles Rochester, Marquess of Bolton and heir to the Duke of Norfolk, desiring another man is unacceptable. His fierce attraction to the new scullery boy must be suffocated at all cost. But it’s not easy to silence your heart when the people who should understand you end up betraying you, and the only one loyal seems to be the one you’re desperately trying to avoid.

But Dorian Pratt knows he’s hopelessly lost the second he first lays eyes on his new master. As a lowly servant, he understands he can never have him, but he can’t stop his body—and heart—from reacting to the dark, handsome nobleman.

When dangerous secrets hidden within the walls of Norfolk Manor come to light, everything collapses. Charles has only one hope for hanging onto Dorian, but to make it work he must be prepared to sacrifice the most valuable gift God has bestowed upon him: his very humanity.

Sins will not be forgiven and there’s always a price to pay when blood is spilled.

Warning: Due to some raw content of a violent nature which some may find upsetting, as well as the depiction of graphic sex between men, Rise of a Nobleman is recommended only for consenting adults.

 

 

Excerpt

Charles was still standing in the doorway, arms at his sides, fists clenched. The semi-darkness was masking part of his face, rendering his expression inscrutable. But Charles was looking directly at him, that much Dorian saw clearly. Too clearly.

“What are you doing, standing there like an idiot?”

“Nothing, my Lord.” Just waiting for my heart to start beating again.

Since he couldn’t tell him he planned to wait as long as it took for Charles to stop staring at him, he had little choice but walk towards him. He did it with his head down again, because he honestly couldn’t bear being close to him, in range of that turbid, caustic essence lurking in his eyes.

“If you have no objections, I’d like to go to bed. It’s late and—”

Lord Bolton didn’t let him finish. He grabbed young Pratt’s arm and twisted it behind his back, shoving him against the door jamb.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he hissed in his ear. The depraved edge to his voice made Dorian’s heart rear up in his chest. Swollen with excitement and fear, it was pushing against his ribs, and he was suddenly at a complete loss. All he knew was that he was trapped, chest pressed against the wooden door frame, Lord Bolton’s hands finally all over him.

“I’ll teach you not to look at me like that,” Charles snarled through his hair before pushing it off his face. “Do you think I didn’t notice? The way you look at me when you think I’m not watching?”

Oh, God!

He had to get out of there. Slip out of his grip as soon as possible, before he lost control of his body. He was already feeling it in his groin—the fire Rochester had lit was already making his balls throb.

His reply was desperate, a whisper, a tiny, brazen lie: “You’re mistaken.”

“Oh, that’s how it is, then? You have the nerve to tell me it’s not true?” The next moment he felt something firm pressing against his buttocks. Something hot and shameless. Charles’s rock-hard erection.

Dorian’s lips parted in a surprised moan. The air escaped his lungs and treacherous arousal rose all the way to his throat, breaking his voice and his willpower.

“No…” I don’t know. “I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t spying on you on purpose.”

“But you did. You always do.”

 

 

About the Author

Valentina C. Brin is a self-published Italian author who lives in Padua with her partner and their four pudgy cats. She enjoys writing both MM and MF books, especially angsty ones. Powerful, dark, sexy stories are sort of her thing, and her psychology degree comes in handy for crafting twisted characters that never fail to surprise her many readers. Rise of a Nobleman is her debut novel and the first in her dark historical MM series.

 

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Blog Tour: “Strokes on a Canvas” by H. Lewis-Foster.



BLOG TOUR


Book Title: Strokes on a Canvas

Author: H. Lewis-Foster

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Cover Artist: Cherith Vaughan

Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3-4 flames 

Trope/s: Friends to lovers

Themes: Overcoming the past

Length: 29,060 words/114 pages

It is a standalone book.



Love and art escaping the past in 1920s London


Blurb

London, 1924. Evan Calver is enjoying a quiet pint, when he notices a man smiling at him across the bar. While the Rose and Crown isn’t that kind of pub, Evan thinks his luck might be in, and he narrowly escapes humiliation when he realises the man is smiling at a friend. Eavesdropping on their conversation, Evan discovers the man is named Milo Halstead and served as an army captain during the war.

When they meet again by chance in the British Museum, artist Milo asks Evan if he would sit for a portrait. Evan is amazed that an upper-class artist wants to paint the son of a miner, and he’s just as surprised when their acquaintance blossoms into friendship. When he discovers that Milo is a man like himself, he hopes that friendship might become more. But as Evan and Milo grow ever closer, can they escape the fears of the past to find their future happiness?


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Excerpt

On the opposite side of the cabinet, a man was gazing intently at the Athenian amphora. Evan doubted he was having the same thoughts as himself as he scrutinized the naked athletes, but he seemed transfixed by its sporting design. The dark-haired man was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, the kind seen in newspaper photographs of famous actors and royalty, which Evan could never hope to afford. The stranger looked born to wear his stylish attire, his confident posture showing the suit’s fine cut to full advantage. Then he raised his eyes, and Evan saw the man was not a total stranger. His hair was smooth with Brilliantine, and he wasn’t wearing his gold-rimmed glasses, but he was unmistakably Captain Milo Halstead.

Evan was about to make a hasty exit when he realized the former soldier was smiling at him through the glass. He may have looked smarter than he had last night, but his smile was still as warm and kind as a Nightingale Nurse’s. Evan didn’t imagine the captain remembered him, but he smiled back, thinking it would be impolite not to, then turned to walk away. To his surprise, Evan’s action was mirrored on the other side of the cabinet as Captain Halstead moved in the same direction. He was still looking at Evan, still smiling, and as they both reached the end of the cabinet, Evan wondered what would happen next. Would words be exchanged? And what would those words be? If Milo remembered him from last night and he wasn’t the genial man he seemed, they might hint at blackmail or violence.

Evan was tempted to put his head down and make a run for it, but he didn’t want to attract the attention of the museum guards. He took a breath and stepped forward, only to find Milo standing in his way.

“Excuse me. Could I get past?”

“Of course, but…” Milo’s smile was uncertain now, but he didn’t move from Evan’s path. “It was you I saw in the Rose and Crown last night, wasn’t it?”

Evan lowered his eyes and weighed up his options. He could admit he was at the pub and ask to know what business of Milo’s it was. Or he could deny being anywhere near the place, or even knowing of its existence. The latter seemed the most sensible choice, avoiding all confrontation, but when he looked up and saw Milo’s blue eyes sparkling cheerfully back at him, Evan was overwhelmed by a longing to spend a few seconds more in his company.

With no idea of Milo’s intentions, Evan answered, “That’s right. I saw you there too.”



About the Author

H. has worked with books for a number of years, and is delighted to finally find herself on the author’s side of the bookshelf. She enjoys writing historical romances, and contemporary stories too, and while her characters travel all over the world, they always have a touch of British humour.

H. has lived in various parts of the UK and currently lives in the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life as much as the beautiful countryside. In her spare time, H. loves going to the cinema and theatre, and her very eclectic tastes range from quirky comedy to ballet and Shakespeare, and pretty much everything in between.
 


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Book Blast: “Pain and Promise” by Lazlo Thorn

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Pain and Promise

Author: Lazlo Thorn

Publisher: MLR Press

Cover Artist: Melody Pond

Genre/s: Gay Romance / Erotica / Historical

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 73 000 words/230 pages

It is a standalone book

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Buy Links

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Blurb

June, 1981: The small town of Frentana on the Adriatic coast of Italy was the last place Bobby would have suspected that his titanic struggle with being gay would come to a head. But then he hadn’t reckoned on the town’s evil secret weapon – Dario, a Michaelangelo man with a missionary zeal for sex with men and the tightest trousers that Bobby had ever set eyes on. But then Bobby wasn’t the first Englishman in that bright land where the olive trees grew, to be dazzled and beguiled by a local boy. For there was another love story that had yet to be told. A hidden affair separated from Bobby and Dario by almost forty years. An inspiring tale of a great war time romance between two very special young men and one with which Bobby would become strangely linked.

 

Excerpt

August, 1969

Florence, Italy

As the short, strong stranger drew level with Bobby, this young man, still engaged in deep conversation with his friends, nonchalantly reached down and pulled at the front of his trousers, as if scratching an itch in his groin. For a split-second, time seemed to freeze, and Bobby became lost in a moment of furtive fascination as this Florentine beauty continued touching and prodding himself between his legs. Then, in complete disregard for the very public place in which they stood, he suggestively adjusted the contents of his trousers, in much the same way a shopper in a supermarket might casually rummage in a heavy bag of vegetables.

The encounter lasted only a few seconds, and then the young blood and his equally attractive gang of friends were gone, leaving Bobby strangely crushed at the thought that this beautiful creature hadn’t even noticed he was there. The clock on the tower above his head struck eight, and time started up again. When Bobby glanced back at his family, his father was pointing enthusiastically toward the corner of the square where, having finally spotted their destination, they went on to spend a very enjoyable evening at the restaurant, and he thought no more about it.

Bobby found coming home to England after such a great holiday in Italy quite depressing, particularly when he realised that school would resume the following week. So once again, he turned his attention to more mundane matters like his unfinished holiday homework, and all too quickly, the glittering streets of Italy seemed just a distant memory.

Until that day when he made his bitter discovery.

It was early evening, not long after returning home. Alone in his bedroom, he gazed out of the window at their back garden. The red summer roses were dying back, and the rain was drizzling down. Why the memory came to him then, he wasn’t sure. Perhaps he heard the clock in the hallway downstairs chime eight. But come it did and, for whatever reason, he suddenly remembered the attractive young men in the street outside the restaurant in Florence. In particular, the one with the very tight trousers and the bulging fly. The one who couldn’t have been less like a girl. And then the penny dropped. He had been admiring a man, and, he suddenly realised, it hadn’t been the first time. These days, he was often looking at men that way and in particular at the contents of their trousers. Furthermore, when he thought about it, he always had. The picture by his bed, the rugby players in the park and the rough cowboys on television, and, yes, he was marvelling at men because he liked the look of them and the way they made him feel when he captured them in his sights. He wanted them. He had gazed at those men in the street back in Italy the way other boys at school or indeed his brother Charlie talked about looking at girls. So, there in the bedroom that evening at the end of the summer, staring into the back garden through the window, Bobby finally made the connection. A moment forever fixed in time. There was a name for this. He was a homosexual.

 

About the Author

Lazlo Thorn published his first novel (The Signal Box) in 2018. In his work he explores themes about life, death, love and sexuality, set against the social mores and prevailing attitudes to gay sex at different times and in different places. Pain and Promise is his second novel and takes the reader to a small town on the Adriatic coast of Italy where two love stories, separated by almost forty years, become linked in an unexpected way. The author has lived and worked in various countries and travelled widely in Europe and beyond. Today, he lives in England with his husband, in a quiet seaside town on the south coast.

 

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