Sue Brown’s A Cock in the Window Blog Tour

Sue Brown’s A COCK IN THE WINDOW Blog Tour

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So this is the final stop for Sue Brown’s A Cock in the Window and Sue has promised me I can take a rest for Christmas. Thanks for that Sue. I’m Kit Stone, the eponymous hero of the first Kit Stone mystery, A Cock in the Window and I’m running back to boyfriend as soon as Sue lets me go. Think of Steve and me as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (I’m Brad, Steve is Angelina. Oy, stop hitting me, Steve!). I own a shabby gift shop in a seaside town which hasn’t made it into the twentieth century and I hand carve the cocks of gorgeous porn stars for a hobby. That’s how I met Steve. He spotted his dick in the window of my shop and the rest is history.

Are you ready for Christmas yet? I’d love to say I have everything ready but no, I’ll be rushing around on Christmas Eve to buy the food. Our mothers are coming for Christmas Day. They’ll eat our food, tell us how we could have done it better, and bitch about their useless sons to each other. I can’t wait. This is my first (of many) Christmases with Steve.

I was looking for a suitable Christmas cartoon and I came across this fab piece of advice from Graham Norton to a woman at the end of her tether about her mother-in-law’s bah humbug attitude.

When all the book sellers started yanking books with erotic covers and content left, right and centre (thanks to the storm in a teacup created by the Daily Mail) the gorgeous Alexa Corza made several covers for Sue as alternatives to the ‘cock’ version. This is going to be the new cover. *fingers crossed the title can stay the same*


Because Sue’s almost at the point of picking the winner, she’s told me to point out that the winner gets the ‘cock’ cover, rather than the ‘chicken cover’ but you can ask for the tamer version if you’d prefer. 


Buylinks: All Romance eBooks


Kit Stone hides away in his shabby gift shop, supplementing his income by editing romance books. In his spare moments Kit carves wooden cooks but he never expects the model of one of his carvings to step into his shop. Steve Mullins is gorgeous and pushes all of Kit’s buttons. For a few days they get to know each other and Kit is the happiest he’s been for years. Then one of the local businessmen is murdered and Steve discovers the body. When Steve becomes the number one suspect, Kit discovers his friends and family have been hiding a dark secret.


I take the opportunity to do another half an hour on the edit from hell. A couple of potential customers come in and I smile briefly, leaving them to wander around.

“Sweetheart, you can’t buy one of those for Grandma. Why don’t you buy her a Union Jack ashtray?”

In the middle of trying to make a paragraph resemble English, my attention is distracted by a woman and her late teenage daughter standing near the cocks.

“Because she doesn’t smoke and she’d much rather have one of these.”

“It’s a… it’s a….”

“Penis, Mum. You can say the word. You won’t explode. Gran’ll love it. She’ll put it on the mantelpiece next to the picture of Liam and Sam.”

“Kylie Owens, you shut your mouth. Grandma is a good woman.”

I watch the teenage roll her eyes and bite my cheeks not to giggle.

“Mum, you want to make Grandma’s day, buy her one of these. She’s got a room full of dusty crap. Buy her the big black one. Sam’ll find it hysterical. He’ll probably want to borrow it.”

The woman went so red I thought she really was going to explode. I kept my head down whilst they carried on bickering.

“I brought you a cuppa,” Steve said, handing me a cup of tea.


“Are you okay? You’re kind of red in the face.”

“I’ll explain later,” I say, tilting my head towards the customers.

The teenager stares at me and then at Steve, and then her eyes open and they shoot to the sandalwood cock. Christ, what was she doing watching gay porn?

“We’re getting this one,” she says, ignoring the black cock in favour of Steve’s.

Embarrassment and conflict is clear on Steve’s face. Oblivious to the byplay, Kylie’s mother continues to fuss until Kylie stomps over to Steve, not me, and asks sweetly for it to be wrapped, staring at him so predatorily, I want to get between them and tell her to back the fuck off.

Steve thrusts it at me and flees back up the stairs. I wrap the cock in tissue paper, making sure the shape is very obvious.

Kylie is obviously disappointed at Steve’s rapid exit but she beckons to her mother. “Pay the man, Mum. I’ll search for something for Dad.”

“Dear God, buy the bloody ashtray for Dad. If you get him anything like this he’ll have a heart attack.”

“Ewww, gross. I’d never buy anything like this for him. He can have the ship in a bottle.”

I felt rather sorry for the man, thinking he was going to be short-changed in the deal.

After they left I went to the bottom of the stairs.

“You can come down now. It’s safe.”

Steve appeared at the top, relief on his face. “I made a tit of myself, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you.”

“It was just… she’s a girl.”

“Yeah? So?”

“She knew it was mine.”

I pat his arm. “Steve, I hate to break it to you but girls watch porn too.”



Sue can be found at her website,; her blog,; Twitter,; and her Facebook,


The blog tour finishes at on Friday 20th December and prizes will be drawn at 10pm GMT. Leave a comment with your email address here or anywhere along the blog tour to take part.

Thank you to everyone who hosted me and commented.

My previous stops on the tour were at:


 1st Prize – Wooden Cock

Plus a copy of A Cock in the Window with original cover (mobi, epub or PDF)

Plus $10 Amazon gift voucher

2nd prize – Wooden Cock

Plus a copy of A Cock in the Window with original cover (mobi, epub or PDF)

3rd Prize x3

A copy of A Cock in the Window with original cover (mobi, epub or PDF)

Disappear with Me by L. Dean Pace-Frech

Thank you for having me today! I am new author, L. Dean Pace-Frech and my second novel, Disappear With Me, was just released on December 6.

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In 2006, a co-worker shared with me that one of her bucket list goals was to write a novel. That comment awakened a desire in me that had been buried since I was in the fifth grade. After a visit to Pea Ridge National Military Park near Pea Ridge, Arkansas, my characters and their story revealed themselves to me and I started writing.

I have always loved history. I grew up reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The Young Adult category didn’t exist when I was growing up, so I graduated from those books and went on to read historical dramas like Roots, The Blue and the Gray, the Kent Family Chronicles, and the North and South Trilogy.  It’s inevitable that I write historical fiction.

Disappear With Me is the story of the search for love and acceptance. First of all, orphaned Reverend Leander Norris searches for self-worth and unconditional love. Once he discovers unconditional love, he gains the courage he needs to fight the accusations against him.

Although my characters are gay, the book is classified as LGBT fiction, and I am gay, my goal was to make the story universal.  Frank and Gregory could be any couple facing parental influences, natural disasters, or societal prejudices.

My goal was never to create an allegorical story or political statement with my novel. I started out writing what I wanted to read:  historical fiction with strong LGBT characters.  With our current political climate and the issue of marriage equality, it’s difficult to deny that there are some thematic elements that support equal rights.  I read in the mid-1990s that just being an out gay man at the time was a political statement.  I think it’s hard not to be an LGBT writer right now and avoid any thematic messages about marriage equality or other civil rights issues.

As a writer, I try to create stories that are interesting to different types of people.  If just one person who doesn’t understand the fight for LGBT equal rights is persuaded by my novel to be open to those discussions, then I have done my job.

Thanks for having me.  You can join the discussion on social media using the hashtag #disappearwithme and I will join in.

Here’s a little more about Disappear with Me:

Love is greater than hope or faith, but can Reverend Leander Norris convince a jury that the love he shares with another man is natural?

In 1910, the United Kingdom was in turmoil. King Edward died after only nine years on the throne. The social class system that upheld British society for centuries was being chipped away by social, political, and economic unrest across the Commonwealth. Amidst this backdrop, Reverend Leander Norris is accused of sodomy. After discovering his own self-worth and unconditional love, Leander finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right and pleads not guilty to the charges. Throughout the trial, Leander’s past is revealed, including the temptations that bring the accusations against him. By the end of the trail, Leander is once again reunited with a romantic interest from the past, but it may be too late to rekindle any love that might remain, given the circumstances of the era and Leander’s likely sentence.


“Are you not a scholar?” Weeks asked. “Do you not know the Bible that you preach from each Sunday?”

“I know it very well,” Leander answered. “But the Bible has many interpretations. I think you can guess that mine might be a little less than conventional.”

Weeks reclined back in his chair. He made a steeple with his fingers and rested them on his pursed lips. “You’re actually sitting here telling me that, as a man of God, you’re all right with buggery and feel you’ve done nothing wrong?”

“Mr. Weeks, do you realize you keep asking me the same question over again, using different words?”

“As your counsel, I need to be sure that I understand your position, the one you expect me to defend.”

“You sound shocked that I would suggest such a thing. I can’t have you defending me if you don’t believe it yourself.”

“Reverend, my beliefs about the situation are irrelevant; it doesn’t matter what I believe. I need to be able to defend our position in court and hope our defense can refute what the prosecution will present.”

“I have to have conviction in my sermons each Sunday morning. I think you also know you need to have conviction when defending your clients.”

“And I can assure you that I have that same conviction to make sure that you receive a fair trial. I will do my best—”

“Do your best to what? Go through the motions and make sure that the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed so it looks like I’ve been given a good defense?”

Weeks didn’t answer and that was all the answer that Leander needed. After a moment, Weeks tried to start again. “Look, Reverend, I am your assigned counsel for this trial. I am on your side. I want to see you get a fair trial, but you must understand what we’re up against is quite overwhelming.”

“I know; I’ve never done anything the simple way.”

“Sir, you must understand that we are going up against laws that are rooted in two thousand years of Christian tradition and about as many years of British attitude.”

“Mr. Weeks, do you love your wife?”

Weeks let out an impatient sigh. “Of course, but here you go asking intimate questions about me that have no bearing on my defending your case.”

“Humor me, sir. Do you love your wife?”

“Yes, I very much love my wife and family.”

“What if you woke up tomorrow and a constable showed up on your doorstep and arrested you because they said the love you share with your wife was illegal?”

Weeks didn’t answer him. Instead, in a quiet voice, he said, “You know you and I are just two people. We’re not going to change these laws overnight.”

Buy Links:

Directly from Musa Publishing

Check my Author Page at Amazon US for availability here.

Check my Author Page at Amazon UK for availability here.

Check Barnes and Noble for availability here.

 About the Author:

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With inspiration from historical tourism sites, the love of reading, and a desire to write a novel, L. Dean Pace-Frech started crafting his debut novel, A Place to Call Their Own, in 2008. After four years of writing and polishing the manuscript, he submitted it for publication and Musa Publishing offered him a contract in early 2013. Disappear With Me is his second novel.

Dean lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his partner, Thomas, and their two cats. They are involved in their church and enjoy watching movies, outdoor activities in the warmer weather and spending time together with friends and family. In addition to writing, Dean enjoys reading and patio gardening.

Prior to novels, Dean did some technical writing in his career. He plans to write a sequel to both A Place to Call Their Own and Disappear with Me.

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Blog:  Dean’s Web Site

Facebook:  Dean Pace-Frech, Author page or send me a friend request Dean Pace-Frech.

Twitter: @deanpacefrech

Google+: +deanpacefrech

Goodreads: L. Dean Pace-Frech

Pinterest:  Dean Pace-Frech

Check out Dean’s first book, A Place to Call Their Own, at Musa Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other great sites!

A Place to Call Their Own on Musa Publishing

A Place to Call Their Own on Amazon US

A Place to Call Their Own on Amazon UK

A Place to Call Their Own on Barnes and Noble



Release Day Fever: Burning Ashes by H. Lewis-Foster

I am incredibly excited about the release of my debut novel Burning Ashes. It’s been a long journey for Nat and Scott to finally reach the printed page. They began as a quietly curious ‘What if…?’  one sunny day a few years ago, as I sat with hundreds of cricket fans in Regent’s Park, watching the final match of the Ashes series on a giant screen. I love watching cricket when I get the chance, especially if I’m in London. I’ve even queued all the way round St John’s Wood to get a ticket for a match at Lord’s—but it was a fantastic match, so it was worth it!

At its best, cricket is a sublime concoction of elegance, patience and pure aggression that is hard to find in any other sport. And of course, the men who play at the highest level embody all of these qualities. While I won’t pretend every professional player is some kind of Adonis, there is something undeniably sexy about a man in cricket whites. (I’m afraid the multi-coloured one-day strips just aren’t my thing!) Perhaps it’s down to the fact that very little bare flesh is on show. The all-covering modesty of their white shirts and trousers lets the imagination run wild, and picturing the perfectly toned muscles beneath adds a whole new dimension to the game.

So back to my ‘What if…?’ on that wonderful summer’s day, as the bowlers thundered across the turf and the batsmen smashed the ball to the boundary; young men in their physical prime, giving their all to beat the old enemy. But what if those talented, powerful limbs were used for a quite different purpose? What if that intense rivalry were flipped on its head and turned into an equally intense love? Now there was a story I wanted to tell.

The characters of Nat, the supremely confident, openly gay Australian bowler and Scott, the inexperienced and utterly endearing England batsman, took shape pretty quickly. They are completely different characters, both in looks and personality, but the connection between them is immediate and I wanted to explore their story from the very beginning—from the moment their eyes meet across a cricket pitch.

Their tentative affair begins with a cold, wet week in the Lake District. (Apologies to those of you in that beautiful part of the country. I know you have some fabulous weather too!). And from the start, Nat and Scott know there are so many reasons why a relationship should be out of the question—the reactions of their teammates, the public and the media—and these pale into insignificance compared to the time they would spend apart each year. But the attraction they feel is unstoppable, and so begins a deeply romantic story of fun and passionate stolen weekends, heartbreaking months of separation and a determination to do whatever it takes to be together.

I absolutely love these characters and I hope that you will too. And if you’ve never seen a cricket match, or didn’t think it was your cup of tea, perhaps Burning Ashes might change your mind. The Ashes tour of Australia is only a few weeks away, so you’ll soon get your chance to see the real thing.

   Burning Ashes


Intelligent and confident, Australian cricketer Nat Seddon is one of the world’s best bowlers. He’s openly gay, but keeps his private life to himself, with everything under control. But on the last day of his team’s Ashes tour of England, he meets Scott Alverley, England’s promising new batsman. Nat tries not to be attracted to Scott, but he can’t help finding the privileged young man handsome and endearing. Nat is tempted by a little end of tour fun, but finds himself playing agony uncle to a virgin. Instead of going home to bask on a beach, he spends a wet week in the north of England with Scott. Try as he might to resist, he can’t help falling hopelessly in love.

The hectic sporting calendar is a persistent obstacle to their growing romance; Nat and Scott are rarely even on the same continent. They make the most of the time when they can be together, but the months apart take a toll on Scott, professionally and personally. The possible solutions are nearly unthinkable, but if they are willing to make sacrifices that will change their lives forever, they might hold on to the love they found in the Ashes.


Author Bio

H. Lewis-Foster has worked with books, in one form or another, since leaving university. As a keen reader of gay fiction, she decided to try writing herself, and is now the proud author of several short stories and a debut novel.


H. has lived in various parts of the UK and has recently moved to the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life, especially the theatres and cinemas. She tries not to watch too much television, but is a big fan of Downton Abbey, and while she’s writing, she loves listening to Test Match Special (where they spend far more time talking about cakes than cricket!)







Inspiring Places by Charlie Cochrane


Authors get inspired by all sorts of things. A favourite actor, an overheard conversation, and interaction seen in a car park that makes you think, “I wonder what’s going on there?” Places can be inspirational, too, especially if you’re a writer (like me) who sees scenes in their head, almost like a film playing through. I like to have a clear mental image of where my heroes are – although this sometimes drives my editors to distraction. I can envisage the locations so clearly I forget to include the detail of them in the manuscript and have to edit them in like mad!


I have three places which have really got my writing juices going. The first is Cambridge, where I was at university and – as a little cockney girl from a not very well off family – I seemed to spend an awful lot of time just going round with my mouth wide open in a state of “How can I actually be studying here?” gobsmackery. A place like that stays with you forever, providing an atmospheric and instantly recognisable location. That element of worldwide place recognition makes life easier for the author, as it’s likely that the reader will have a general mental image of Cambridge to slip the characters into.

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The second place is Jersey (old, not New), which inspired the second in the series of Cambridge Fellows Romantic Mystery books and is nudging me to finish a contemporary WIP. For a small island, just five miles by nine, it has a huge range of locations. Stunning clifftop walks, headlands, long sandy beaches, little coves, lush valleys and dramatic headlands. And everywhere the lush flowers and lovely local granite buildings. Who couldn’t experience these things and not want to put their heroes/heroines there, feeling the sand between their toes or having the exhilaration of turning the corner of a cliff path and finding a chine cut by a tinkling stream? It may not have the familiarity of Cambridge for the reader, but every time I post pictures of the place on my blog, people are enchanted.


The third place is that part of the Thames either side of Maidenhead, particularly Monkey Island and Cliveden, both of which I’ve been privileged to visit, eat at and – in the case of Cliveden – stay. There’s a magic about both of them, partly to do with the opulence (and eccentricity!) of the surroundings and partly in the connection with the past, a world of “upstairs downstairs”, bells to call servants and gentleman in suits and ladies in long dresses pleasure cruising along the Thames. Talking of those bells, the ones at Cliveden gave birth to a particular plot twist, from which all the story sprung.

Cliveden Bells

All photos property of Charlie Cochrane

Charlie’s Bio

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name.
She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, MLR and Cheyenne.

You can reach Charlie at (maybe to sign up for her newsletter?) or catch her on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, her website or her blog.


Lessons for Survivors


Cambridge, September 1919

Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics.

With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando’s hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance?

The answer looks like being a resounding “no” when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar’s death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence.

Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn’t improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations—professional, private and as amateur detectives?

Coming Soon


Lessons for Suspicious Minds


An invitation to stay at a friend of the Stewart family’s stately home can only mean one thing for Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith — a new case for the amateur sleuths! With two apparently unrelated suicides, a double chase is on.

But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the chance of discovery (and disgrace) is ever present — how do you explain yourself when a servant discovers you doing the midnight run along the corridor?

The chase stops being a game for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. And the solution presents them with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make…

Taking the Gardener by T.J. Masters

Over the last few weeks we have welcomed many authors to UKGayRomance, but it’s about time we welcomed a book. Taking the Gardener by T.J. Masters is on your favourite UK gay romance list, and I leave it to the author to describe the story in more detail.


This is my first M/M novel. It’s a story which very much combines the worlds of male BDSM and gay romance. The tale is set firmly in the English Home Counties and starts with young dominant Eric Broderick leaving  London after the sudden death of his parents. He travels to Pittlesburne, a small village in the Chess Valley in Buckinghamshire, in search of some sort of peace or respite from his grief. Eric needs time away from the home where he lived with his parents in Richmond upon Thames in South West London and also a break from the London gay scene.

Arriving in this haven of rural tranquillity, Eric meets Megan, a young woman who runs the Glebe House guesthouse. From the window of the guesthouse’s kitchen he sees Tom, a handsome young gardener, and is instantly smitten with him. However, there’s a catch: Tom is engaged to Megan. Eric decides to treat his attraction to Tom as nothing more than a harmless crush.

Later that day, Eric goes to eat at The Bricklayer’s Arms, a local pub owned by Megan’s parents. There he sees Tom fresh from a rugby match, and his desire for him grows despite his best efforts.

It is important to me that the stories I write, the characters I describe and the locations that I use are both real and believable. Pittlesburne is a fictitious village but it could be any one of the quintessentially English villages dotted along the valley where the River Chess runs through Buckinghamshire and West Hertfordshire. The chalk stream was itself once known locally as the Pittlesburne,  hence the name of my village.

Eric sets about the healing process in this rural idyll taking himself out for long solitary walks in the countryside. He bumps into Tom while taking a walk by the river and sees that he’s in the middle of sketching the opposite overbank. Eric is extremely impressed with the drawing – he knows many artists in London, and can see that Tom has obvious talent for recording the natural world which surrounds him. They go back to Glebe House and end up having sex for the first time, with Tom slipping easily into a submissive role.

On the face of it the two men have little in common and they represent the classic dichotomy of ‘city boy meets country boy’. Their relationship evolves quickly however, with Eric guiding Tom along the path to become a passionate lover and a well-trained sub. Although there is an underlying tension to things because they have to hide it from Megan, Eric feels as if Pittlesburne has become an almost idyllic escape from his fast and furious London life with its coldness and its artificiality. For the first time since his parents’ deaths, he is beginning to feel at peace. The village is healing him.

Tom accompanies Eric on a short trip back to London and he is firstly amazed by the size and opulence of Eric’s home, and clearly begins to feel uncertain of his place in Eric’s life due to the stark differences in their backgrounds. Eric tries to ease his worries by introducing him to Mrs. Perkins, his family’s long-time housekeeper, who treats him like a member of the family and never questions his rural roots.

Tom is in awe of the openness with which gay life exists in the big city and, away from the constant attention he receives in his village community, he is able to explore his new found feelings for another man away from prying eyes and wagging tongues.

The trip to London gives Eric the opportunity to take Tom on a shopping trip visiting some of the more fashionable stores in London’s West End. They also visit the popular gay district around Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. This is an eye popping experience for country boy Tom.

Eric is eager to get back to the simplicity of the country and so they return to Pittlesburne, both of them now certain that they are in love with each other. It’s not long before Megan discovers their secret and Eric becomes angst ridden feeling that he has contaminated their pastoral happiness with his big city ways.

Eric decides that the best thing for him to do is leave Pittlesburne for good so that Tom and Megan can repair their relationship. He travels back to London, intending on never seeing Tom again. Maybe the countryside has gotten under his skin for he now spends his time out of the house walking the vast open space of Richmond Park.

I will not spoil the ending for you here but suffice to say that the ways of country folk should not easily be dismissed as simple.

This book was published by Dreamspinner Press in Feb 2013

TJ Masters’ Bio

T.J. Masters is a 57-year-old author and Life Coach living in Hertfordshire just to the north of London, England. T.J. has shared 30 years of suburban life with his Civil Partner Ian. In 2009 T.J. took early retirement from a 33 year school teaching career and decided to follow a new path for himself. After qualifying as a Life Coach, T.J. found that he was coaching a couple of authors who were going through the process of giving birth to the book which they “had always been inside them”. This rekindled T.J’s long held desire to write and get published.

With a lifelong passion for books, learning and the sharing of knowledge, T.J. woke up to the knowledge that he had stories to tell, books to write and less than half a lifetime left to do it in. As for the kind of books he is writing….well, let’s just say that he decided to channel over 30 years of experience in the gay BDSM lifestyle into a genre where it would be most appreciated. There is a whole list of planned writing in the Gay Romance and Gay BDSM fields as well as some non-fiction projects.

Alongside this passion for books and writing, T.J. also found an outlet for his inner geek and has become a great advocate for social media in various forms. Blogging has become a great outlet for T.J’s many interests including the writerly ones. The author has a website where he blogs regularly and he loves to interact with his readers and followers on Twitter and Facebook.


Taking the Gardener 

Buylink: Dreamspinner

Like almost every other residence in Pittlesburne, the guesthouse was shielded from the buildings around it by a tall, dense yew hedge. It was old, seventeenth or eighteenth century at least, and covered in a great swathe of ivy. To Eric’s surprise, there were no cars parked out front. A quaint wooden sign out front had the words ‘GLEBE HOUSE’ carved into it.

He rang the doorbell with an odd tingle of trepidation. He had called ahead to make his booking, but suppose it had been lost somewhere? He felt, ridiculously, that being turned away would sour the whole experience of arriving in Pittlesburne. He was suddenly desperate for this to go well.

A pleasant, slightly flustered young woman opened the door. “Oh!” she said. “You must be-“

“Eric Broderick, yes,” he said, extending his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“You too. I’m Megan. We spoke on the phone?” She shook his hand and then beckoned for him to come inside. “Your room isn’t quite ready yet. We just had a rugby team staying, if you can believe it. They only left an hour ago.”

Pity, Eric thought. He imagined sharing a small guesthouse with an entire rugby team would be quite an experience. “Don’t worry about the room,” he said, looking around the narrow hallway. “I thought I might go for a walk anyway.” Of course, he had just gone for a walk, but that path from the train station was just begging for further exploration…

“No, no, I won’t be a minute,” Megan said, apparently determined for him to see his room before he went out again. “Just make yourself at home in the kitchen, won’t you? I’ll come back to get you as soon as the room is done.”

She hurried away before he could protest again, leaving him with no choice but to acquaint himself with the downstairs part of the guesthouse. A month before he would have called it tacky, but that had been before he soured on London’s more urbane charms.  It was…kitschy.

No, that was how his friends would have described it, most likely with a derisive snort. It was homely and comfortable. Small, old-fashioned, just a bit rundown, and all the more welcoming for that. He decided that he liked it.

He went into the kitchen (which bore the distinction of being large and old-fashioned; apparently there was variety in Pittlesburne after all) to get a glass of water. But as he walked around the big farmhouse-style table, the view from the window stopped him dead in his tracks.

The back garden was both huge and far better tended than he would have expected given the riotous growth of weeds out front. That wasn’t what got Eric’s attention though. What made him stop and stare was the very fit looking young man who happened to be in the middle of standing up to stretch his back  as  Eric reached the sink.

He was one of those young guys who are on the shorter side, but all muscle – ‘compact’ was the word that sprang to Eric’s mind. This particular specimen possessed blond hair that was ever so slightly dampened by sweat and the kind of tan one did not normally find among residents of the British Isles. Aiding Eric’s appreciation of said tan was the fact that the young man was shirtless, revealing that the bronzed tone of his skin reached down to at least as far as where his underwear poked up from the back of his jeans.

Eric’s brain kicked back into action after a good ten seconds of mindless gawking on his part, and he was able to take in the rest of the scene: the wheelbarrow, the pile of fresh grass clippings, the garden rake lying on the ground nearby. The captivating country lad was the gardener, it seemed.

Better than a whole rugby team, Eric thought, experiencing a painful rush of lust for the first time since his parents’ deaths.  It took him entirely by surprise. He was used to viewing his potential sexual conquests with a kind of cool detachment, as though they stood in a line-up and he was choosing them based on a checklist of their merits. He was not used to having his heart suddenly begin to hammer in his chest or for the sight of a man – no matter how attractive a man– to captivate him so utterly that he felt rooted to the spot. It wasn’t just the young gardener’s body, although that was admittedly perfect. It was the whole scene: how he stretched as though resting for the first time during a hard morning’s work, the way the sun seemed to accentuate every line of his lithe musculature. Eric wanted to make every part of the picture his. Most of all, he wanted the gardener for himself.

“That’s my boyfriend.”

Eric returned to the present using the mental equivalent of a crash of gears. Megan stood behind him, her arms crossed over her chest. She nodded out the window. “Tom, my boyfriend,” she said. Was it his imagination, or did she put particular stress on the word ‘boyfriend’?