Sunday Snippet, 2.5.23

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

Wren, meanwhile, rummaged through his satchel. From its depths he produced a hand-mirror and held it out to Shrike.

Shrike took it. Throughout his centuries he’d heard of mirrors in stories and songs and glimpsed them in the hands of fae and mortal gentry. Then Wren had brought his to Blackthorn—a plain thing, he’d called it when he caught Shrike staring, merely a palm-sized circle of silvered glass set in an oaken frame and handle. Shrike had watched him ply his razor with it many a morn.

But he’d never held it in his own hand until now.

His face looked rather like it had in reflections of still water and in Wren’s sketches. There were but two difference—the bulbous, velvet-covered sprouts of a pair of antlers, one on either side of his brow.

“Ah,” said Shrike.

“You don’t seem terribly surprised,” said Wren.

“It’s a bit early for the first tines to split off,” Shrike admitted. He gingerly touched the tips of the new prongs, then pulled his fingers away with a hiss of pain.

“So,” Wren said, filling Shrike’s mug again—minus the laudanum—and pouring another for himself. “Antlers.”

“Aye,” Shrike replied.

“And this has never happened to you before?”

“Never.”

“So you don’t know how long they’ll take to grow in. Or how broad they’ll be when they do.”

“No,” Shrike admitted. Then, “Do you mind them?”

Wren looked at him as though he’d just asked something absurd. “I mind the pain they’ve caused you.”

Shrike chuckled into his tea.

“But, no,” Wren added with a smile of his own. “I don’t mind them.”

Shrike supposed he ought to have surmised as much, given Wren’s reaction to the Court of Hidden Folk, but it still relieved him to hear the answer.

“Do you?” Wren asked. “Mind them, I mean.”

Shrike shrugged. “They’re coming in whether I mind them or not.”

Wren blinked. “Fair enough.”

~

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Sunday Snippet, 1.29.23

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

The following se’en-night passed much like the first. By the end of it, Shrike’s antlers bore twelve points, and spread far beyond the breadth of his shoulders to span over a yard—very nearly an ell.

This made passing through the cottage doorway rather more difficult than otherwise.

The first time he knocked his antlers against the door-frame it rang through his skull to his very teeth. He staggered back to clutch at the rim of the hollowed stump for support whilst he waited for the pain to recede and his vision to return. He only felt thankful Wren hadn’t witnessed his stupidity. Still, he repeated his error twice over that very morning before he learnt to turn his head aside and duck and so work his way through.

As for the pots, cobwebs, and bundles of dried herbs hanging from the hooks on the rafters—well, he gave thanks again to fortune that Wren didn’t see him tangled up in sprigs of rosemary or knocking a copper cauldron down onto his own head. Shrike spent much of the afternoon taking down the herbs and pots and stowed them elsewhere in the cottage wherever he could fit them.

For some minutes after Wren’s arrival, in the evening, Shrike hoped his idiocy might remain unknown. Until, after Wren had kissed him, he pulled away to gaze in confusion at something over Shrike’s head. Before Shrike could ask after it, Wren reached up gingerly between his antlers and plucked something out of his hair.

“Is this… parsley?” Wren asked, turning the sprig over betwixt forefinger and thumb.

“Aye,” Shrike admitted, and hurried to turn their talk toward supper.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 1.22.23

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian cross-class romance, Mr Warren’s Profession, featuring hurt/comfort and a happily-ever-after – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

Aubrey felt a slight pressure on his thigh. He glanced down to find Lindsey’s hand upon it.

He buried his initial reaction of wild, inappropriate glee deep down where Lindsey would never see it. Yet while he could hide his joy from the outside world, he couldn’t escape it within the confines of his own mind. His imagination presented a whirlwind of vignettes—Lindsey’s fingers brushing the arm of his jacket as they walked to the theatre; once inside, Aubrey taking advantage of the darkness to rest his hand in Lindsey’s lap; he and Lindsey sharing a cab home after the show, Lindsey undoing the buttons of his waistcoat, Lindsey’s mouth on his throat, Lindsey straddling him, Lindsey—

At present, Lindsey’s hand remained on his thigh. Aubrey reined in his fantasies, lest Lindsey encounter more than he’d expected there.

Or perhaps precisely what he’d expected.

Aubrey swallowed hard. Regardless of his tempting offer, Lindsey remained Aubrey’s superior. If Lindsey tired of his companionship, Aubrey would be tossed back in the gutter. The alternate possibility, that Aubrey’s own interest would wane, and Lindsey would demand continued affection as a condition of his employment, didn’t sound any more appealing. And if by some miracle a third path appeared, as the stupider parts of Aubrey’s brain hoped, wherein he and Lindsey remained inseparable in mutual bliss until the end of their days, Aubrey couldn’t conceive of a world in which he became anything more than Lindsey’s pet clerk, a filthy little secret. No. He’d moved on from that role long ago. He had no intention of returning to it now.

Then again, considering all he’d accepted from Lindsey, it looked as if he’d returned to it already.

Realising this uncomfortable truth left Aubrey with only one respectable option. He took a deep breath, gathering courage along with air, and spoke.

“Mr Althorp, I am not entirely comfortable with the position of your hand.”

~

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Sunday Snippet, 1.15.23

Please enjoy this Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian whaling romance, HOLD FAST – available now wherever fine books are found.

~

Turner took Evelyn’s wrists in his hands. Evelyn, startled, looked down at the point of contact, but made no move to resist. Truth told, he had no wish to pull away from his grip. Turner had a firm hand, sure and supportive. A touch such as Evelyn hadn’t felt in many years. He watched passively as Turner rearranged his limbs.

“Your left hand will settle onto the lady’s waist,” said Turner, placing Evelyn’s hand in accordance with his words.

Evelyn’s breath caught in his throat as his palm met Turner’s jacket. Instinct encouraged him to squeeze, to feel the flesh beneath the cloth, to pull Turner close. He ignored it.

“And your right hand,” said Turner, going on as if no untoward thoughts raced through Evelyn’s mind, “takes the lady’s left,” and here he shifted his grip, his hand palm-to-palm with Evelyn’s in a gentle hold—such soft hands, “and holds it aloft. Not down by her waist, nor up over her head, but in line with her shoulders. Allow for a slight bend of the elbow. Do not pull her arm straight out. Just hold it, thusly. You will look the lady in the eye.”

With difficulty, Evelyn tore his eyes away from the sight of Turner’s hand in his own and met Turner’s gaze.

“You will not watch your feet,” Turner continued. “Nor will you allow your glance to settle upon anything between her feet and her eyes.”

Turner’s gaze was steady as the tides—and Evelyn was just as powerless to resist its pull.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 1.8.23

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

“Nell reminded me,” Shrike added as Wren gazed at the mask. “I need something to disguise my oddities from mortal eyes.”

“They’re not oddities,” Wren said without even considering the matter, the words spilling forth from his heart rather than his head.

If Shrike minded, it showed neither in his face nor his speech. “I need your help to finish it.”

“How?” Wren blurted. He’d felt desperate to alleviate Shrike’s agonies since they’d begun and equally hopeless he might ever do so in his own mortal failings.

Shrike reached out his forefinger and tapped the centre of the mask’s brow, where a smooth field devoid of veins spanned between the two antler valleys. “It requires a cunning sigil.”

Wren’s unease increased. Even after all the hours they’d spent in each other’s company, hours in which Wren thought it woefully apparent his own mortal skill couldn’t hold a candle to Shrike’s fae mastery, Shrike thought him some manner of wizard. “What ought it to look like?”

“I know not,” said Shrike. “I’ve no gift for glamour. I’m ill-accustomed to seeming anything other than what I am.”

Wren had spent more than three decades disguising his truest self from society’s judgment. Shrike could not have chosen a more experienced practitioner in the art of deceit.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 1.1.23

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance, Oak King Holly King – available now wherever fine books are found!

~

“Then, if none but friends may enter Blackthorn, why did you draw your sword when you found someone already in the cottage?”

To Wren’s surprise, Shrike appeared chastened by the question. He glanced away and hesitated, the silence broken only by the slight clink of his sword in its scabbard as his fingers played upon the pommel. When he met Wren’s gaze again, the fathomless depths of his dark eyes shone soft with reverence. In a much-abashed tone, he replied, “I have far more to lose now than ever I had before.”

To be wanted was one thing. To be cherished and defended was another. To be loved… Wren dared not think so far as that. But nevertheless his heart sang with the knowledge that Shrike considered him worthy of protection, and that the loss of Wren would pain Shrike as much as the loss of Shrike would pain Wren.

No words seemed sufficient to express even a fraction of what Wren felt. As such, he abandoned language entirely. Instead he reached out his hand to Shrike’s scarred cheek, turning his face so he might capture his mouth in a kiss.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 12.25.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available wherever fine books are found!

~

“They say,” Mr Hull continued in a lower tone, “that those who meet beneath the mistletoe must kiss to bring good fortune.”

Ephraim cleared his throat. “Yes—well—servants often indulge in such superstitions for their own merriment.”

“Only servants?” enquired Mr Hull. His dark gaze never broke from Ephraim’s own.

“And young persons,” Ephraim conceded.

“Might gentlemen take part in the tradition, as well?” asked Mr Hull.

Ephraim hesitated. Thoughts he didn’t wish to entertain clouded his mind. Impossible notions. Dangerous ideas. Mr Hull didn’t mean to imply anything of the sort. He merely meant to ascertain, as one newly arrived to English shores and unfamiliar with their custom, whether or not he might, as a gentleman, kiss a lady beneath the mistletoe. Ephraim told himself this even as Mr Hull’s gaze flitted to his lips again.

“They might,” Ephraim conceded. After all, Mr Hull was a handsome young gentleman, and young ladies liked to be kissed by handsome young gentlemen. Or so Ephraim had been told all his life.

Mr Hull bit his lip.

~

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Happy Winter Solstice! + Excerpt

Happy Winter Solstice! On the longest night of the year the Oak King duels the Holly King to turn the silver wheel of the seasons. You can read all about it in OAK KING HOLLY KING, a gay Victorian fae romance available now wherever fine books are found. And you can read an excerpt of Shrike and Wren’s first winter solstice together below.

~

As the two kings reached the centre mark, the Holly King turned to cast one final glance back up at the queen’s bower. The glimmer in his eyes froze before it ever reached his cheeks. He raised his two-handed longsword aloft in salute, then resheathed it, as to begin the fight fair.

Shrike did no such thing. Instead he cast his gaze over the crowd in a last desperate quest for Wren. He’d almost consigned himself to defeat when he spied him at last—a pale bespeckled face, chestnut locks tumbling in disarray over his brow, his dark eyes wide and deep with a longing that sang through Shrike’s own heart.

Shrike vowed to return to his arms. Then put him from his mind for the remainder of the duel.

The herald—an apple-cheeked, toad-mouthed courtier in exquisite wasp-lace—called for the combatants to take their places marked on either side of a ring some three ells wide burned into the ground. He held up the queen’s token between them. A scrap of emerald velvet, shimmering with sunbeams, a portent of the spring to come. Then he turned to the queen herself for the signal.

Shrike didn’t bother glancing back at her bower.

She gave her sign regardless, for the herald dropped the token and leapt backwards out of the fray as it fluttered to the ground.

The moment the merest corner touched the dead grass, the peal of metal against metal rang out through the cold air as the Holly King unsheathed his longsword.

Shrike did the same with his arming sword an instant after. He had time to do little else before the first blow fell from the Holly King’s blade and forced him to dive to the side. The blade sang as it cleaved the air by his head.

In its wake there came a sharp sting in the tip of Shrike’s ear. Something cold trickled down its length.

First blood.

The crowd roared in approval.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 12.18.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available wherever fine books are found!

~

Fae recovered from injury far faster than mortals.

Shrike had always known this. Yet to have proof of it before him now, in the form of his beloved enduring day after day of agony, wrested his heart in twain.

The skull-crusher bite would’ve laid Shrike up, true enough, but he would have fully recovered within a few months, if not in a fortnight or two. It staggered him to hear from the chirurgeon’s own lips that his Wren would require years to regain his strength.

And for Wren to think of Shrike’s suffering when Wren himself lay overcome with pain was more than Shrike could well bear.

~

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Sunday Snippet, 12.11.22

Sunday Snippet from my gay Victorian fae romance collection, Tales from Blackthorn Briar, a sequel to Oak King Holly King featuring hurt/comfort and many happily-ever-afters – available wherever fine books are found!

~

One might say, as doubtless Dr Hitchingham would, that this was all just as much as any clerk ought to do for their employer. Ephraim might have agreed with this, were it not for how, whenever they dined at the Red Lion, Mr Hull made a point to reach the table in the back room first and draw out Ephraim’s chair for him and wait for him to settle before he seated himself. This behaviour drew even Dr Hitchingham’s notice. Ephraim didn’t mind, and supposed this must be how all clerks conducted themselves in distant lands. The thrill he felt at having an admittedly extraordinarily handsome young man perform such attentive services on his behalf, he shut away in the little lock-box in his heart and did not dwell upon.

~

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