Stoker & Bash: The Case of the Tricksy Treasure Hunt — Free Holiday Short!

Happy Holidays, my lovelies!

This year I had the huge honor of being invited to participate in the Rainbow Advent Calendar where authors new and known are contributing free holiday short stories. Two per day! An embarrassment of riches for your reading pleasure. So once you’ve done reading Stoker & Bash 2.5, please head on over to the RAC FB page for more gifts than a romance reader could ever hope to ask for (and don’t forget to pop back in once you’ve read the stories to give the authors some love). You can also access the stories on one convenient page using the Master List.

Enjoy this sweet little bonbon of a tale, featuring Hiero and Tim from my Stoker & Bash series, and I hope the season is kind to you.

S&B Tricksy Treasure Hunt

August 2nd, 1874

The sight of his Kip easing himself out of the sultry waters of a midmorning bath never failed to draw Hiero’s undivided attention. He ceased the trimming and sculpting of his crown jewel—his moustache—to turn away from the mirror, toward a vision comparable to Venus on her scallop parting the waves of the Aegean. Weeks of convalescence had softened and slimmed Kip’s muscle-striped frame, which only made him look more elfin. With his wispy trails of copper hair and rosebud pallor, not to mention the horn of plenty that jutted from between his hips, Kip could have played the pan in a Dionysian rite. Hiero had certainly done his damndest to indoctrinate him in the ways of debauchery.

Over time Hiero had trained his eyes to ignore Kip’s war wounds: the angry scar that snaked around his left calf, the bramble of rosacea raised across his chest by weeks of poultices, the purple smudges that ringed his throat. Timely reminders of how close Hiero had come to losing one most dear. Perhaps one day he would see them as badges of honor, but today was not that day.

No, today he would attempt to foil one of the keenest minds in his acquaintance, that of the very man who stood, dripping and naked, before him.

As Hiero dragged his kicking and screaming mind away from thoughts of pinning Kip to the bed and drying him, pantherlike, with his tongue, Kip scrubbed a towel up his legs, giving Hiero a side view of the most pert buttocks in the land, further testing his resolve. Kip must have been in one of his deductive fugues, because only once he was wrapped in his robe, his dark-red hair finger-combed off his face but still trickling onto his collar, did he notice Hiero.

“You’ve dressed?”

“One does, when the occasion calls for it.”

Kip no longer smothered his smiles, even when they were at Hiero’s expense. He considered this a personal victory.

“And what occasion beckons at such an ungodly hour, on such a…” He peeked around the edge of the heavy curtains that blacked out their bedroom. “Well, to be charitable, fair London day.”

“The only kind that would see me rise before noon,” Hiero declared. “An appointment with the finest lady of my acquaintance.”

“Ah.”

Normally Hiero might have bristled at his displeasure. A vital part of maintaining the charade of his high-society persona (and securing them cases) was making calls to those who would receive him and attending lavish dinners, the price of his admission being he would entertain the hostess’ guests with tales of his mysterious escapades. Kip, perceived to be his social inferior, could not accompany him and Callie. Nor did he particularly care to, Hiero knew. The barred door, the airs, the snobbery, and the fact that Hiero sung to these vain lemmings for his supper burned Kip, not his own lack of an invitation. But needs must, and so Hiero often absented himself of an afternoon or an evening, leaving his convalescing detective to stew.

Not a healthy pastime, either for Kip’s recovery or their relationship. Hiero well remembered how stifled Kip felt earlier that year, how he’ almost lost him amidst the drudgery of the moneymaking in-between cases, the lost dogs and stolen jewels and misplaced letters. Not every case of theirs could involve man-eating lions or baby-farming cultists, but Hiero could keep Kip’s voracious mind well fed during these intervals by finding him… Well, that was the rub. Until he’d done some scheming of his own—in other words, consulted Han—and devised a challenge his intrepid amour would be unable to resist. He could, after all, lure a Kip to water, but he could not make him drink.

“Lady Weatherby again?” Kip asked with only the slightest petulance to his tone. “She’s made you her pet.”

Hiero scoffed. “I am done with collars after our last adventure, and, as you well know, you’re the only one I care to be leashed to.” Hiero drew him close and showed him just how much he appreciated being tethered to him. After a thorough kissing, he slipped the first clue into Kip’s pocket. “An idea to be thoroughly explored at a later hour. For now I must warn you not to exert yourself too much and bid you good morning.”

At Kip’s bewildered look, Hiero almost lacked the wherewithal to leave. Then Kip fished the key out of his pocket. Hiero wanted to cheer when that telltale furrow creased his brow.

“What’s this?”

“Something to occupy you whilst I’m gone.”

“Care to tell me what it opens, or shall I use it to—”

“No on both counts.” Hiero smiled his wickedest smile, dove in for another kiss, gave the most pert buttocks in all the land a fulsome squeeze, and grabbed his cape off the hook. “Come find us when you’re done, if you care to. You are very much invited to tea.”

“Tea? With whom? Where will you be?” But Kip gave soft voice to these questions, already examining the key for revealing details.

“That, my dearest of dears, is for you to discover.”

***

Tim paused every so often while he dressed to glance at the key on the nightstand, but no new insight sprang to mind. The mystery here was twofold: what did the key open, and why had Hiero given it to him? He made quicker work of solving the latter. Ever conscious of the threat boredom posed, Tim had been working on small assignments for the Yard: translating letters, searching through financial documents, evaluating the quality and clarity of junior officers’ reports, and the like. Nothing that would tax his still-precarious health. Also nothing that would catch Hiero’s attention since Tim deferred to these duties when Hiero was either sleeping or out. Still, the key… intrigued. As did the notion Hiero had designed a puzzle for him.

The thought infused him with a rush of warmth. In truth, the fortnight since he’d moved into Berkeley Square had been some of the best days of his life. Mornings spent taking exercise with Han, noontime debates around the dining table, afternoons of study, evening recitals, and nights spent in every kind of intimate conversation with his Hiero. Tim had hardly had time to grow accustomed to this routine, let alone take it for granted.

He reclined back on his favorite pillow, the one that smelled like Hiero’s hair oil, while he considered this peculiar gift: a heavy iron key with little embellishment. A sizeable key for a sizeable door. Perhaps a front or cellar door? Surely Hiero couldn’t expect him to try every lock in the house. But then Tim had no evidence the key’s complement lived here. Narrowing the possibilities down to “somewhere in London” got him precisely nowhere. Until.

While reexamining the loop, he noticed a slight irregularity. The join between the loop and the stem was thicker on the left side. Tim applied a bit of pressure using his pinkie finger, and… The stem sprang open like miniature jaws, spitting out a teensy scroll of paper. Tim hurried to unspool it.

 

I’ve been abandoned in plain sight

One of forty, favored by none

A hideaway for one long gone

Now hidden away for far too long

Once the jewel of this hallowed house

Now naught but a forgotten tomb

Find me

 

An abandoned room, then. But where? Tim read the riddle through five times, then again once he’d retrieved his notebook. “One long gone” doubtless referred to Admiral the Viscount Pankhurst. But surely Hiero hadn’t gone to all this trouble to give him a key to Apollo’s study. Was there another room he’ liked to use as an escape? “Hallowed house” might have pointed an amateur away from Berkeley Square, toward a place of worship, but Tim knew Hiero considered their home the holiest of holies.

Which, Tim admitted to himself, he hadn’t truly explored. Despite being a detective, he didn’t make a habit of nosing about in other people’s private quarters. That, he feared, was about to change. He hopped off the bed, laced his boots, and slung on his coat. To the hunt!

After stopping to test a few obvious doors just in case the riddle proved simpler than expected, Tim went outside to count the windows. Each of the forty rooms alluded to in the riddle, with the exception of the cold room in the cellar, had at least one window. If Tim could account for every window, he would find Apollo’s hideaway.

As he sketched out a rudimentary version of the townhouse in his notebook, Tim crossed out the windows he could identify on sight. The attic only had three rooms, and the number of windows matched this assessment. He’d looked out of the study’s two often enough to X them out. After a bit of deduction, he located their bedroom apartment on the third floor. It dismayed him to think those were the only eliminations he could make. Perhaps this little adventure served a greater purpose after all.

Tim reentered through the servant’s entrance in the back. A fog of cinnamon-scented steam engulfed him. In defiance of the season, Lillian and Shahida, guided by Minnie’s sure hand, decorated a sheet of apple tarts with leaf-shaped scraps of dough. Tim stole a scoop of applesauce from the cooling pot, shared a conspiratorial wink with Shahida, then sprinted upstairs. Three windows deliciously accounted for.

Tim had frequented the first floor often enough to hurry through it, poking his head in the drawing and dining rooms before being brought up short when he looked in the parlor. He hovered half-in, half-out of the doorway as three familiar faces turned to him. Hiero was indeed enjoying tea with a very fine lady. Two, in fact: little Ting, the daughter of Angus, their chauffeur, and Jie, their ladies’ maid, and Callie, glamorous as a Scandinavian queen in her ice-blonde wig and twinkling blue dress.

Tim understood something of an etiquette lesson was underway, what with Ting swathed in a miniature version of the latest fashion, her normally sleek black hair pinned and ringletted in a style that mirrored Callie’s. A bountiful tea service had been spread between them, dainty china cups and a swan-necked pot, filigree trays of scones, sandwiches, and petit fours. Tim felt far less envious, and a good deal more enamored, having learned how Hiero spent his time away.

“Mr. T!” Ting squealed, dropping a mangled finger sandwich to wave at him with both hands. “T for Ting, T for Tim!”

Hiero, chuckling, clicked his tongue. “Now, now, Princess Teongsang, one must wait to be introduced to a new guest by the hostess.”

“But I know Mr. Tim.”

“As do we all, but manners must be observed.”

“He’s yet to be invited in,” Callie noted in an accent so haughty Tim snorted.

“Quite correct.” Hiero beamed his dark-star eyes at Tim, a challenge glimmering in their depths. “Would you care to join us, Sir Kipling?”

“A kind offer, but no.” He met and matched Hiero’s bold look. Challenge accepted. “I’ve only stopped in to count the windows. Princess Teongsang, will you help me? How many do you see?”

“One, two… three!”

“Thank you kindly.” Tim performed a deep bow. “I bid you a pleasant afternoon.”

He climbed the stairs with an extra swing to his step, further motivated to solve the puzzle before the end of the tea party. But Tim hesitated when confronted with the uniform row of doors on the second floor. He’d recuperated from a brutal beating in one of the guest rooms the year before, but otherwise rarely ventured into what was Callie’s domain. He picked out her string of rooms at the far end but didn’t dare intrude upon them. Even in so lax a house as this, Tim wouldn’t enter a lady’s private space without permission.

He took account of the guest rooms while he pondered how to proceed, moving toward the back of the house. And unfamiliar territory. There, where the corridor hooked around to what Tim had assumed was a linen closet, he found it. A massive, ornate oak door engraved with nautical motifs. The door could not have been more Apollo if there had been a nameplate.

The key gave him some grief, but soon enough, the lock clicked open. After a hard shove and a resounding crack, he entered… and stood, gaping. Two glorious stories of empty bookshelves. A compass tiled on the floor mosaic. Gas lamps in the shape of ships with illuminated sails. Dust and cobwebs galore, but beyond, potential. And above it all, a stained-glass skylight, through which shot gauzy rays of sunlight in naval colors: yellow, silver, and every shade of blue.

A library.

Handkerchief to his mouth, Tim spun around the center of the room, taking it all in. He’d completed five revolutions before succumbing to a coughing fit. Hiero hadn’t been wrong about protecting his recovering lungs. He spared a moment to catch his breath before attempting the ladder to the upper floor, when he caught sight of Hiero looming in the doorway.

“Thrown over by the princess?”

“In favor of pie-making, yes.” Hiero sighed eloquently. “I also hadn’t foreseen how tedious it would be to send you out on a treasure hunt but not bear witness to your triumph.”

Tim smiled so wide his cheeks ached. He hopped off the ladder and moved to join Hiero.

“It’s magnificent. But why is it empty?”

“My dear Apollo never managed to fill it.” Tim didn’t miss the wistful glimmer in his eyes. “Not the most devout reader. He donated his collection of military and historical tomes to some university or other, and his collection of signed play folios—more quietly—to the Reading Room at the British Museum. We’d burned so many holes in the upholstery between my cigarettes and his pipe that they weren’t fit for scrap. And so it is, as you see, a tabula rasa.” He startled himself with a cough, reaching for his own handkerchief. “One in need of a thorough cleaning. I’ll instruct Jie to begin at once.”

But Tim couldn’t spare a thought to anyone but his Hiero. He caught his hands and pulled them around his waist, then sank against him. Tim found his lips parted and ready for a kiss that promised more than simple gratitude.

“Thank you,” Tim whispered before delving deeper… only to be barred by a determined finger.

“Tempting as you are, I fear I would be remiss in taking advantage when you have not yet completed your quest.”

“Not…?” Tim followed the finger as it pointed to a nearby bookshelf. Where stood a note addressed to him.

“Part two. On which I would care to accompany you, if you’ve no objections.”

“Of course not.”

Hiero grinned a decidedly un-innocent grin.

“Then do lead on.”

Not quite ready to relinquish his hold on Hiero, Tim twined their hands before guiding him over to the bookshelf. He reclined against his chest as he considered the note, pleased when Hiero anchored an arm around him and rested his chin on Tim’s head. In private they’d become more tactile over the months of his convalescence, ever conscious of how the public affections others were permitted would forever be denied them. After years of solitary living, Tim had already become somewhat addicted to their togetherness, to these rudimentary expressions of their care. Though theirs was the love that still had not spoken its name, their bodies were in deep and constant communication.

Tim turned the note over once, twice before unfolding it. He sniffed the envelope’s edge, detecting a sour note under the trace of Hiero’s musk.

Hiero chuckled. “You’re meant to read it, not test its vintage.”

“A shrewd investigator uses every clue available to him.”

“Including the biscuits I ate?”

“Perhaps.” Tim curled the word around his tongue as his lover might, relishing his laugh in response. Tim slid the card out and held it to the light.

 

Let me paint for you a scene

A fanatical crowd, a jaded host

A glass box of salt and secrets

An interloper parts the seas

Across the room, meets eyes so green

As to stop his heart, his breath, time

Enough to find a lesser key

And ’scape the lion’s maul

 

To end the play begun that night

Go to the place where first we met

 

“You mean for me to venture to Lord Blackwood’s house?” Tim turned in Hiero’s embrace that he might read his expression. “Last I’d heard it had been sold.”

“As did I.” Hiero gave nothing away except a spark of amusement in his dark eyes.

“And the contents… Ha!” Tim pressed the note to his nose, inhaled deeply. “Newsprint!”

He tugged Hiero after him as he dashed back down to the kitchens. The entire family had been conscripted in Minnie’s pie-making efforts, though they’d switched from sweet to savory. Han and Angus butchered strips of fish and venison into mince while Callie, Jie, and Ting diced the vegetables. Shahida and Lillian rolled out enough dough to fit the massive plate. Minnie enjoyed a well-deserved cup of tea by the hearth as Aldridge stoked the fire. Feng gurgled in his bassinet, oblivious. Everyone chattered and teased as they always did, with more than a few scraps surreptitiously launched across the table in an ongoing silent battle.

Tim felt a bit foolish, racing in to interrupt this quaint domestic scene. But they welcomed him and Hiero with a cheer, and Aldridge presented him with yesterday’s newspaper before he could ask. They all whispered clues until Hiero hissed at them, but Tim remembered the item well enough.

And there it was on the back page, in the coded language that spoke to believers in the occult. An auction, taking place that very afternoon, that promised “rare items and treasures unseen for decades.” No exaggeration, that. From what Tim had seen during that fateful night of the second séance, Lord Blackwood’s trove of books and tools stood unrivaled among private collectors. He must be in dire straits indeed to be selling off the lot.

The thought welled not a drop of sympathy in Tim.

He looked up from the paper to find them all staring at him, eyes bright, mouths poised to cheer, anticipating his delight. And how Tim wanted to please them, this lovely new family of his. How he wanted to throw himself in Hiero’s arms and squeeze him silly, this man who would pluck the stars from the sky for him.

Instead he folded the paper with the advert on top, then tucked it under his arm.

“Hiero, a word?”

Tim cursed himself five kinds of villain as he watched Hiero furrow his brow, or perhaps not villain enough to take further advantage of such immeasurable kindness. The family returned to their chores as they moved out to the back mews and into the stables, hands flirting with gentle touches though they dared not link.

“It’s too much.” Tim cut to the quick before Hiero could blanket him with words. “You’ve given me a home and a family. You still won’t accept any rent despite my continued protests. You arranged for Lady Odile’s far too generous reward for what was simply my duty. You’ve just given me a library! And the gifts, the thoughtful, precious gifts: the suits, my room, the nights at the theater… My dear, you need not woo me as if you were some horse-faced baron with pitiful table manners and a pea-sized cock. I am yours.”

Hiero regarded him thoughtfully for a time, then said, “I think that’s the longest speech I’ve ever heard you utter.”

Tim barked a laugh. “Possibly.”

“Definitively. You’re given to economy.”

“All the better to partner someone as verbose as you.”

“In that and so many ways.” He shined Tim a warm smile. “Let me give you this.”

Tim sighed. “I cannot in good conscience.”

“Then join me on the dark side. It’s rather more fun.” He lifted a hand when Tim made to renew his protests. “Allow me to clarify. I confess I do want to give you the world, but my motives here are not so pure. First among them is to use the information contained in Blackwood’s collection against those like him. You would serve not as owner, but as curator and researcher, for as long as our team remains in operation. The second is…” The corner of his lip curled, giving him a sinister air. “Well, revenge.”

“Revenge? Whatever for? Last I recall, he’s ruined and set to hang.”

“For threatening your life.” Hiero’s fingers caressed down the side of his face, his own more sober than Tim had ever seen it. “For nearly succeeding in ending it. For feeding that boy to his beasts and so many before him. Set to hang?” He scoffed. “A crack of the neck’s no punishment at all. But to know that your most precious possessions, the treasures you’ve collected and hoarded for decades, now belong to the men who foiled you… That you, with your keen mind and your righteous heart, are using his weapons to better the world…”

Tim crashed a kiss to his lips. They staggered, groping, devouring until Hiero slammed him against the stable wall, drawing indignant snuffles from the horses. Their passion lit, they ground against each other until a flicker blazed into flame. Tim sank to his knees to worship him, this wicked, wounded, complicated man who went to such lengths to avenge and to keep him. Lord Blackwood would never understand just what he’d wrought when he introduced them.

Afterward, as Hiero righted Tim’s shirt while continuing to kiss him boneless, Tim had a thought. Unexpected given the circumstances, but such was the mystery of his ever-working mind.

“Let me have the key.”

Hiero moved away from him with visible reluctance. “I believe that’s how this whole adventure started.”

The Lesser Key of Solomon, I mean. You may purchase the rest, but the grimoire is mine.”

“As a trophy of sorts?”

“A memento, more like. Of the case that brought us together.”

Hiero looked at him then with fondness, with admiration, with an emotion they could not yet name aloud but which resonated in every glance, every gesture.

“As you wish, my dearest Kip.”

The End

 

The Stoker & Bash series is now available in print and ebook from all major vendors!

Book 1 – The Fangs of Scavo

Amazon eBook and print edition

Books2Read Universal Book Link

Book 2 – The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

 

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Holiday Party and Giveaway Schedule!

Friends,
Since there’s no rest for the wicked or for the side-hustling romance writer, I wanted to let you know about some fun holiday events I’ll be participating in, where there will be big, big giveaways, and not just from me!
Sleight Ride Party
 
On the 21st, I’ll be at Vicki Locey’s Sleigh Ride Party! The party will run from 2:00-8:15 p.m. EST and is jam-packed with guest authors dropping by. See the attached lineup. And join the group here to participate.
 
 
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On the 22nd and 23rd, Rj Scott is hosting a huuuuuge Christmas bash. Major giveaways from some of the biggest names in the business. My spot is on the 23rd at 3pm EST. To join the group and get in on the action, go here.
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All month long, the Rainbow Advent Calendar has been going on. Two holiday short stories per day from so many of your faves! And a taste of someone new, perhaps? Bookmark it and check it out! And there may be a little something from me before it all ends on the 24th… Go here.
 
Happy holidays to all!
Selina

Stoker & Bash: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Out Now!!!

Stoker & Bash #2: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is out!

Buy Links:

Universal Buy Link (i.e. Kobo, B&N, Apple, Tolino, Overdrive, Biblioteca)

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 #2: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Now Available for Pre-Order!

Fancy a little Gothic mystery to spook up your Halloween, friends?
Stoker & Bash #2: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is coming October 30th! And it’s now available for pre-order (in ebook formate only) at…
Universal Buy Link (i.e. Kobo, B&N, Apple, Tolino, libraries coming soon)
S&B #1: Fangs of Scavo is discounted throughout the month of October!
Don’t miss the blog tour, release blitz, and Facebook party!
More info to come, watch this space…
The 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 2 FINAL

Author Interview: Lee Welch!!

Friends,

I am so excited to welcome author Lee Welch to the blog today. Her new paranormal, historical M/M romance Salt Magic, Skin Magic is, as the French say, my newest coup de coeur. Not only is it an incredible twist on the usual country house drama, it deftly combines folklore, a novel magic system, and Victorian tropes into a book that I defy you to put down. Not to mention two protagonists that will make you swoon and break your heart. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the talented Ms. Welch had to say.

SK: What inspired you to write Salt Magic, Skin Magic?

LW: A folktale, but if I tell you which one, it’ll be a huge spoiler, so I’ll tell you a story instead…

Originally, I planned to write a completely different book. It was going to be set in a dystopian future Antarctica (not Victorian England). It was a M/M romance between a monk and a charismatic meat-smuggler (in this future world, eating meat is illegal). There was no magic, though there was some pretty cool technology.

I loved this idea so much I was scared I wouldn’t do it justice because I hadn’t written anything for years. So, I decided to come up with another idea “just to practice on” – and that idea was Salt Magic Skin Magic. The MCs – Soren and John – quickly asserted themselves on the page and I realized my “practice idea” was actually going to be heaps of fun to write and worth putting effort into.

SK: The magic system used in the book is very unique. I would never have thought to imbue everyday things like pins and bricks with magical properties. How did you devise it?

LW: Traditionally, magical objects are quite common – think about lucky horseshoes or four-leaved clovers; think chalk pentagrams and bowls of blood. So, it wasn’t too big a leap to imagine a magician who works with other everyday things.

Also, John’s an industrial magician. His type of magic is considered ‘rather common’. It’s looked down upon by elite magicians who are more likely to conjure demons. I wanted John’s methods to reflect this hierarchy. Most people are careless with everyday things; if they lose a pin, they don’t care because they don’t value it.  Of course, John cherishing seemingly unimportant things is key to the plot.

SK: The world of the book is, in some ways, recognizable to fans of historical romance–the country house, the family hierarchy–but you turn a lot of that on its head by tying it in to local myths and folklore. What kind of research was involved in writing the book?

LW: I’ve had a lifetime of reading folklore. I didn’t have to research much of that.

What I did do was read LOTS and LOTS of Victorian history. I had to get the customs and everyday life right. I also had to know about the Crystal Palace and the people involved (such as Joseph Paxton and the Duke of Devonshire) because of course John would know them. It’s mainly backstory, but that kind of thing gives a book depth.

I also spent a lot of time checking etymology as I wrote to make sure I didn’t use any words or metaphors that wouldn’t have been used by people in 1851.

SK: At the heart of the book is the age-old push-pull of class differences. What’s the best thing, and the most challenging, about writing characters within these social restrictions?

LW: It was great fun writing characters from different classes because their experiences of life are so different. This means the metaphors that occur to them are different, their observations about life are different, and so on.

For example, Soren (an Oxford-educated aristocrat) sees a Savonnerie carpet and a rather fine painting by Lawrence. John (a magician and the son of an ironmonger) sees something he’ll need to roll back if he wants to put his salt down, and a picture of a beautiful woman.

SK: Like all the author interviews on the blog, I end with a fun question. Choosing from any of the characters in the published works you’ve written, with whom would you like to have a one-night stand, a long-term relationship, and an HEA?

LW: OMG! Do other authors really answer that question? My characters are taken (by each other). To imagine them with me feels absolutely transgressive. Soren would NEVER cheat on John. Or vice versa. Same with Alex and Joe in Mended with Gold. They’re together. They’re in love. To try to imagine myself having an HEA with Joe means that Alex would be alone somewhere. Alex would be sad. Oh, God, all the noes. I can’t contemplate it. I’m ignoring your question 😉

However, if I was to invite someone for dinner, I’d choose John from Salt Magic Skin Magic. He’s a spectacularly good listener and kind to hedgehogs (I like hedgehogs). We’d talk about magic, and life in Victorian London, and he could tell me what all my household objects are thinking.

 

Blurb:

Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray.

When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are altered.

To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?

***

“Magic, folklore, dark deeds, and hot romance combine in this wildly enjoyable, inventive story set in a lovely alt-Victorian Gothic world. More please!”

—KJ Charles, RITA™-nominated author of THE MAGPIE LORD and SPECTRED ISLE

“Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch is the sort of book you want to read again the moment you reach the end. Beautifully written, with a romance that is by turns sweet and scorching, it belongs on the keeper shelf of any lover of paranormal historical.”

—Jordan L. Hawk, author of the WHYBORNE AND GRIFFIN and HEXWORLD series

***

Cover art: Simone: http://www.dreamarian.com/

Buy links

All links: https://books2read.com/u/b5rXzO

Separate links (if preferred):

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8GLY4Y/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/salt-magic-skin-magic-lee-welch/

https://www.kobo.com/nz/en/ebook/salt-magic-skin-magic

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40722060-salt-magic-skin-magic

 

Author bio

Lee Welch lives on a hill in the windiest city in the world – Wellington, New Zealand. She shares the house with her partner, two kids and two cats. Hedgehogs visit occasionally, which makes her happy. Lee wrote her first novel (an unpublished pastiche of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) when she was seven and has been writing on-and-off ever since.  She studied ancient history at Auckland University and creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.

By day, she works as an editor and business communications adviser for a large government department. By night, she writes mostly m/m romances, usually with magic in them. She likes crumbling mansions, cavernous libraries and most things with tentacles.

Contact information

Email: leewelchwriter@gmail.com

Website + newsletter sign up: www.leewelchwriter.com

Twitter: @leewelchwriter https://twitter.com/leewelchwriter

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

Thanks so much, Lee, and best of luck with the book!

Selina

Author Interview with Sara Dobie Bauer!

Friends,

Today I’m welcoming romance author Sara Dobie Bauer to talk about the first book in her new paranormal romance series, Escaping Exile. I’ve had a chance to read the book, and I can tell you, it introduces two smouldering characters in Andrew, the man in exile of the title, and Edmund, who shipwrecks on the same small, cannibal-infested island. But the larger world of Victorian era New Orleans provides a backdrop and a promise for future instalments. But Sara herself is here to tell you more…

SK: What inspired you to write Escaping Exile?

SDB: Oh, my gosh, I wish I knew! I’m sure it grew from some smutty fantasy of mine: gay vampire meets shipwrecked sailor … and so it goes. I very rarely know where stories come from. Often, I’m inspired my music or my many muses, which include Benedict Cumberbatch, Timothee Chalamet, and Cillian Murphy. I love beaches, too, so maybe I was on a beach and thought, “Hmm, this looks like a good place for sex and cannibals.” Who knows?

SK: Your protagonist Andrew fits very nicely into the beguiling anti-hero mold. You strike an expert balance in terms of his misdeeds and the softer side of his character. What challenges did you face writing him? Did you worry he might turn some people off?

SDB: Andrew wasn’t challenging to write once I figured him out. Sure, on the surface he’s a bloodthirsty, murdering monster, but I opted for the “save the cat” method: presenting a decisive moment when the protagonist does something nice. Despite his deviant history, Andrew saves Edmund. Over the course of Escaping Exile, he protects Edmund and eventually falls in love with him. Andrew overcomes his past to become a hero—not to everyone but to the man he loves.

That said, there is one flashback scene involving an innocent young prostitute in New Orleans that worried me a little. I mean, Andrew is bad… but I believe he earns his redemption and eventual hero status. It’s up to the reader to decide!

SK: What’s your vampire origin story? What was the thing that sparked your fascination with them?

SDB: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I read it in sixth grade—which, looking back, was maybe a bit early and also revved up my teenage sexuality to critical mass. Despite Louis being the protagonist, I fell in love with bad boy Lestat: a lifelong pattern that I am certain has annoyed my parents to no end. In my defense, I married one of the good guys… as far as you know. (Wink.)

SK: Escaping Exile is the first book in a series. Can you give us a sneak peek of future instalments? Will they follow Andrew and Edward or other characters?

SDB: The love story of Andrew and Edmund is the focal point of the entire trilogy, as they both have a lot of developing and changing to do. They are not exactly morally upstanding men. They both doubt themselves and carry a lot of darkness in their pasts and presents. Together, they hope to make a bright future, but they have to first survive Victorian New Orleans and eventually London, while conquering some serious monsters—literal and metaphorical.

SK: As a fun final question, I always ask authors to pick which of their characters, from any of their works, they would have a one-night stand with, a long-term relationship with, and HEA with. What are your choices?

SDB: That is so damn difficult in Escaping Exile. Okay, lemme try…
One-night stand: Michelle
Long-term relationship: Andrew
HEA: Edmund (I’m very partial to my shipwrecked sailor.)

ABOUT ESCAPING EXILE:
Andrew is a vampire from New Orleans, exiled to a tropical island in the 1800s as punishment for his human bloodlust. During a storm, a ship crashes off shore. After rescuing a sailor from the cannibals native to the land, Andrew becomes fascinated with his brilliant, beautiful new companion, Edmund.

Edmund is a British naturalist who has sailed the world seeking new species. Intrigued by creatures that might kill him, immortal Andrew is this scientist’s dream-but so is making his way back home. Edmund will fight to survive, even while wrapped in the arms of a monster.

As light touches and laughter turn to something much more passionate, the cannibals creep ever closer to Edmund. Can the ancient vampire keep his human alive long enough to escape exile and explore their newfound love, or will Andrew’s bloodlust seal his own doom?

BUY LINKS:
https://amzn.to/2LAMPWi
https://ninestarpress.com/product/escaping-exile/
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40958274-escaping-exile

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody series, among other sexy things. Learn more at http://SaraDobieBauer.com.

SARA DOBIE BAUER SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSaraDobieBauer/
https://twitter.com/saradobie
https://www.instagram.com/saradobiebauer/
https://saradobiebauer.tumblr.com/

In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook: Limoncello

Welcome, paisans, to the final installment of the In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook series. There’s a reason the word “lemon” is in the title of my M/M contemporary romance, and that’s because the one thing you cannot escape when you visit the Amalfi Coast are the lemon groves. There are lemons, lemons everywhere, from the orchards to the food to the patterns on everything from ceramic plates, linens, clothes, and other decorations. Most hotel rooms with greet you with a bowl of lemons on the counter. And, of course, the first thing most restaurants will offer you as a digestivo after your meal is a shot of limoncello.

But beware! That ambrosia-like elixir is potent, and too many shots might inspire a wild night of dancing in the streets, as my protagonist Seb discovers, much to his embarrassment the morning after. But nothing says summer or Italy like a limoncello cocktail, so here are a few recipes sure to brighten up any party you throw in this, the fairest of seasons.

Homemade Limoncello

Limoncello is ridiculously easy to make at home. Your local lemons might not be the fist-sized ones you get in Italy, but this recipe from Vincenzo’s nonna packs the same punch. If this doesn’t work for you, there are hundreds of others online to choose from.

 

Limoncello Crema

If you want a less intense and creamier version of limoncello, especially good for making ice creams and sauces, consider making crema di limoncello instead. This also makes an excellent holiday gift. Here’s Joe with his version of the recipe.

 

Limoncello Cocktails

Limoncello3

Once you’ve made your limoncello and you’ve sampled it au naturel, it’s time to spritz it up. Limoncello pairs exceptionally well with bubbly or berry liqueurs, or something dry, like gin. Here are a few recipes to sample at your next Italian feast.

Raspberry Limoncello with Prosecco

Lemon Drop Martini with Limoncello

Limoncello Collins

Limoncello Fizz

I hope you’ve enjoyed these In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook posts as much as I have, and that you’re inspired to try your hand at some cuisine from the breathtaking Amalfi Coast! And if you can’t afford a trip, my M/M contemporary romance In Wild Lemon Groves will take you right there.

Arrivederci!

In Wild Lemon Groves is available in ebook and print formats:

Universal Buy Link