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Gay Romance University 601—Once you have your scientist, keep him happy… and alive! (Course lessons drawn from Shadowboxing, first book in Anne Barwell’s Echoes series)

Please take your seats people, we want to get started…. What’s that? Boxer shorts? Certainly they’re allowed…. Yes, sir, briefs, certainly. Sure, speedos are not only allowed but encouraged. Be comfortable, but do pay attention in class.

Even though Kristopher Lehrer’s last name means ‘teacher,’ as we examine the early pages of our textbook, Anne Barwell’s novel Shadowboxing, it is Kristopher who is most in need of schooling. Oh, he is a learned man, it’s true—a physicist working on an important, possibly world-altering project. Unfortunately Very Important Projects often become the clouds where a scientist’s head is most comfortable. Kristopher’s attitude, as the novel opens, is reminiscent of the fearless forward motion of a horse with blinders.

To illustrate, consider this: Kristopher’s friend—the man that could have been his first true love if Kristopher had been honest—is Jewish, and in World War II Germany the yellow Star of David he must wear means that he is in danger every time he steps out in public. And, though David is a respected physician, he can no longer practice medicine for the same reason. Yet when Kristopher meets him for coffee he has no clue why his friend is upset, or scared. Read along in your text (or look over your neighbor’s shoulder if you haven’t yet picked up your text). We look at what happens with David challenges Kristopher’s naivety, beginning on page eight.

“Have you any idea what kind of people you are working for?” David spoke quietly, as always, but there was an underlying tone of fear in his voice that Kristopher didn’t remember hearing before. David’s emotions were always controlled; it was something that Kristopher had envied. “Have you any idea of their real agenda?”

Kristopher snatched his hand away, trying to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Why had David come to him? Surely he couldn’t have presumed to use the closeness they’d once had to further whatever agenda he had? “I’m a scientist, David, trying to make the world a better place, just as you are. We are working for the advancement of science and for the good of the Fatherland.” The last sentence came out sounding like the mantra it was. Any doubts that Kristopher had were always dealt with efficiently when he repeated those words. While he knew the potential danger of the device they were working on, the chances of anyone considering utilizing the catastrophic component of it were remote.

“You always were naïve, Lehrer.” David raked a hand through his hair and replaced his glasses, adjusting them when they slipped down his nose. “Wake up and take a look at what’s going on around you before it’s too late.” An edge of desperation and fear sharpened his voice as he lowered it to almost a whisper; it sounded as though he was talking about the end of the world.

“Too late? Too late for what?” His earlier fears of being used vanished at David’s tone. Kristopher’s voice rose in pitch, all attempts of hiding his conflicting emotions lost as he tried to desperately work through his rapidly escalating confusion.

David shook his head, unwilling to say more, his eyes darting nervously around the small Kaffeehaus before his gaze settled on the man who had entered several minutes earlier. “I have to go. I’ve said too much already.”

“Wait!” David was already halfway out the door before the word was out of Kristopher’s mouth. He pushed his chair back, ready to follow his friend, then hesitated, suddenly unsure as to what had just happened.

A week later, dining at home with his sister Clara (whom he loves and depends on) and his father (with whom he has a strained relationship), he is shocked to hear that David has disappeared, and clueless as to why such a thing had happened. What’s more, he is just as dumbfounded when Clara says (on page 11)…

“Poor Kristopher.” Clara rolled her eyes. “You’re so involved in your work that you haven’t noticed what’s going on around you.” There was no teasing in her voice now. Whatever this was about, it was something very serious. “It’s because he’s Jewish, of course.”

… as he is when his father says…

“They are Jewish, Kristopher. What other reason is needed? Better that they are rounded up and sent somewhere more suited for their place in the scheme of things. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Jews are nothing more than parasites interested in taking control of the economy for themselves.”

We, the readers can take our first lesson from this, and the downhill spiral of father-son relations that follow. Please take this down in your notebooks. It will be on the test:German_Experimental_Pile_-_Haigerloch_-_April_1945

The longer you keep your head stuck in the clouds of denial (about anything, really), the more it hurts to pull it out.

Our next unit of study follows Kristopher as he goes about his work the next day. The clouds around his head have been disturbed, but not quite dislodged. Feeling cranky and a little wooly due to a poor night’s sleep, he enters his boss’s office when the boss is out, and rather clumsily knocks a pile of papers on the floor, and reads this sentence on one of them:

Cue ominous music.

We look forward to putting these plans into reality. Such a device will ensure the continued success of the Fatherland during this war against our enemies.

Kristopher’s head falls from the clouds with a mighty thud, which hurts and can’t be ignored even by a dreamy physicist.

Gott im himmel, as my very German mother would have said. Here Kristopher had been, believing he was working on nuclear fission for peaceful purposes, and suddenly he realized he’d been living in a lollipop world.

For a number of minutes, our scientist is unable to think straight. He knows what he saw, but he’s unsure of what he might do about it, or even how to keep from getting in trouble for standing in his boss’s office with his pants down (figuratively of course, because that would be far too weird).

But a guard comes along, Obergefreiter (Sargent) Schmitz, and helps him organize his brain and move his body, thank goodness. Of course, at first, Kristoffer is afraid that Schmitz will actually contribute to his danger, but he soon realizes he was lucky the Obergefrieter came along. He leaves the office that day still waffling about what to do. Like most ordinary Germans of the day, he loves his country and has some significant blind spots about it—a phenomenon not unknown at any age of the world in just about any country, including all of those where readers of this blog might be living today. But you don’t become a leading physicist if you are slow-witted. Once Kristopher’s sight is forcibly cleared, he cannot escape the truth about the leaders of the Nazi regime and what their intentions are.

After much soul-searching, presumably some hand-wringing, and a few horrid nightmares, Kristopher Lehrer confronts his boss… and is told in no uncertain way to mind his own business. The encounter goes from bad to worse. (You can read about this in home study, chapter three of the text.) When he is discovered in the room with his dead boss by the same Obergefreiter Schmitz, he figures his number is up.

Thank heaven for pleasant surprises, large and small. When Schmitz asks Kristopher if, as smart as he is, he can come up with no better plan than to threaten the guard with broken glass, here’s what happens (at the beginning of chapter four).

“My plan? […] I don’t have a plan. […] Do you honestly think I would be standing here waving a piece of broken glass if I had a plan.”

“Good point,” Schmitz admitted.

[Text elided by blogger… er, I mean university professor Lou Sylvre. Kristopher says:]

“Have you come to hand me over to the Nazis?” Whatever happened he didn’t intend to go easily.

The corner of Schmitz’s mouth turned up in a half smile before he shook his head. “I’m here to help you, Herr Dr. Lehrer.”

“You expect me to believe you?” Kristopher wished the desk behind him would disappear into thin air, although it still wouldn’t be of much help as Schmitz was blocking the path to the only door. “I know you’ve followed me for the past week.” He noticed the slight look of surprise on Schmitz’s face with a degree of satisfaction.

“You need to trust me, Dr. Lehrer.”

You may guess that Kristopher isn’t so sure that’s the best course of action, but like people everywhere when they’re in danger and want to trust someone, he looks for a way to do so.

“Give me one good reason.”

“The Nazis will be here in, Schmitz said, consulting his watch, approximately ten minutes. Either you trust me, or you tell them what you’ve just told me. I doubt they will believe your story.”

His voice softened. “I do.”

Now, students, you may have guessed that the Obergefreiter isn’t really the Obergefreiter. His real name is Michel, and he’s not even German. And his interest in Kristopher, like Kristopher’s trust of Michel, soon weaves into a whole new feeling. After negotiating much hell and highwater together, Michel soothes a startled, overwhelmed Kristopher in his own native tongue.

“A l’aise, Kit. Je suis ici… Ssh, tout est bien.”

Yes, Michel is there and all is well for the moment. There’s a whole lot more trouble to face, more evil to evade, more heroes to meet—all kinds, German, foreign, soldiers, everyday people. But Michel does whatever he needs to do to keep Kristopher alive. And since this is Gay Romance University, it isn’t giving away secrets to let you know, that once Michel has WinterDuetLGseen to the matter of Kristopher’s continued existence, he gets the opportunity to use a little French term of endearment.

“It’s all right, mon cher. I love you. I’m not letting you go.”

That is the end of our lesson, today. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, click the cover image above for a link to the blurb and purchase links. (And while you’re there, check out the continuation of this beautiful story in book two of the Echoes of War series, Winter Duet.

I thank Anne Barwell, Kristopher, and Michel for the privilege of treating the serious story of one of the world’s most painful times with a bit of irreverence. Truthfully, the heroes in this story are a reflection of all the real life heroes on every side of that war and every other, especially the quiet ones not lauded in headlines. They all deserve our gratitude, and I take no such service or sacrifice lightly.

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Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment!

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HAHAT 2014 blog and giveaway—Celebrate, but stay for the long haul, because *this is beautiful*

HAHAT 2014

Another year has gone by, and equal marriage rights have been popping up all over the USA.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is a yearly event on May 17th, and the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia is one way some of us bloggers participate. (Click that link for a list of all participating blogs!) Since last May, the US Supreme Court has made a landmark decision, believe it or not, helping to prevent California state law from undermining marriage rights for people who love another of their own gender. And several states have found their conscience and passed laws equalizing marriage rights. And some state courts have overturned bans. Even the IRS has joined in to treat people in same-sex marriages equally with their heterosexual counterparts. The list of accomplishments goes on—there’s a lot to celebrate. In that spirit

I’m giving away $15.00 in money for (what else) books from Dreamspinner Press.

All you have to do to enter is comment below, naming the one event since May 2013, personal or public, that most spurred your hope for equality. You don’t have to use a lot of words, a few will do and they don’t have to be fancy. I just want to cheer when I read your comment. 🙂

But I’m no believer in blind optimism. I think there are many good reasons to hope and envision a day when who a person loves is not hung from the town hall for public judgment. We’re not there yet, though. I recently was asked why I write homophobic events into my stories. Well, my characters are gay. I’m bisexual. Homophobic stuff happens. Hate crimes happen. Bullying and abuse of LGBTQ spectrum teens continues to happen, be tolerated by some who should know better, and to cause despair to the point of suicide. And as for marriage equality, here is a map of the US. After you’ve looked at the map,

consider this: Only the solid dark blue states have fully legalized same-sex marriage. I count sixteen.

For a greater eye opener, look at the full legend, here.
US states by same sex marraige status

Honey, we have a long way to go, just for the legal stuff! Changing minds and hearts, stopping homophobia and transphobia, is another layer—a thicker, crustier, more corrosive one, and it moves glacially slow. I remind myself of this so that I

don’t lose heart, and do dig in for the long haul

.

Why does it matter?

Because this is beautiful:


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Filed under Contests, HAHAT 2014, homophobia, Marriage equality

Gay Romance University course 501: The rewards of exceptional service — Servitude by Rebecca Cohen

As advertised, Gay Romance University is delving into the ins and outs of the life of exceptional service to a well-endowed… er, I mean well-tended master, as experienced by Lornyc, in service to Methian, and recorded in tale well-told by Rebecca Cohen, entitled “Servitude.”

Lest you think this is just your average tale of loving service, let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. The person doing the serving is… well, exceptionally able.

Oh, I see a student has raised their hand. There in the back of the hall, did you have a question, sir?

Oh, my! Well, I’m not going to repeat the question, because I fear you simply meant it as an off-color joke. Those are not appropriate in a university class, unless it’s me telling them, so please refrain. But, since you asked, although Lornyc may indeed be exceptionally capable in that respect, judging from Methian’s inability to resist him, I refer to his capability in terms of intellect—perhaps mind-over-matter describes it well. Witness, on page 5, in the labarotory.

In a darkened corner, beside a rack of spare parts for machines long scrapped, was a large black curtain. He walked over to it and pulled the heavy cloth back to reveal a gray rectangle about the size of a standard doorway. Next to it, in a chrome-plated bracket, sat a ball. It was small enough to have been held easily in one hand, and was a cerulean color flecked with gold. When he pressed his hand to the surface of the orb, it began to glow, and with a gentle push, it began to spin in its bracket.

Accompanied by a low hiss, the gray rectangle came to life with a series of waves and swirls appearing across its surface. Lornyc cast a final glance over his shoulder and stepped into the portal.Man in portal from Stockvault photos

Stepping out into a tastefully decorated but obviously seldom-used room, Lornyc called out, “Are you here?”

A muffled reply came from what Lornyc knew to be his lover’s bedroom. With a decidedly wicked grin, Lornyc advanced toward the bedroom door, stripping off his tunic as he did so. “I thought,” he said to a figure reclining on the large bed, “I’d put in another long night in the lab—that’s if you’ve not got anything better to do.”

The sandy-haired man grinned and bounced to the end of the bed, holding out his arms in invitation. “You know I’m always willing to help with your studies.”

Lornyc laughed as he walked forward. “Your dedication, Methian, is touching.”

Methian’s strong arms wrapped around him, and the kiss they shared chased away his worries from the lab. Lornyc yelped in a most undignified manner as Methian pulled him forward onto the bed, but any further complaint was lost as he let his lover distract him fully.

Before any servitude comes into play, Lornyc has already managed to demonstrate a successful principle of gay romance—any romance, really. That is:

Access, access, access. Even if you must create a trans-dimensional portal to do it, make sure you can always reach your lover when need arises.

Self-explanatory, right? So I’ll say no more about that.

But even persons with exceptional ability and high station in life in very interesting (and well-realized, thanks to Ms. Cohen) alternate worlds will at times find that not all events are under their control. In order to keep within the time limits of this university course, I’ll summarize events:

Long before Methian or Lornyc were twinkles in their respective daddy’s eyes, Lornyc’s legendary, long-lived grandfather, Reagalos, signed some contracts. Possibly unbenownst to him, these contracts included interwoven magic that would bind a certain grandchild to fulfill them no matter what. One of them said that his grandchild would be servant to a descendant of the house of Hadral. Lornyc is that Reagalos grandchild, and Methian is—you guessed it—that Hadral. So while Lornyc and Methian where busy playing in-and-out-the-portal (yes, very tacky euphemism, I know), their parents were busy binding Lornyc to Methian as valet. Despite the fact that the men had a well-known history of indiscretion! Read along on page 17 of your text:

“Unfortunately, while it would be usual practice for my personal manservant to be housed within my suite of rooms, Tancorix vetoed that immediately. Apparently I’d be unable to control myself and would have my wicked way with you,” said Methian with a wry smile. “As I did when we were at College.”

“Your wicked way?” Lornyc leaned away with a bemused look on his face. “They’ve never thought that poor, sweet Lornyc could’ve possibly gone after Methian Hadral. The way I remember it was that I had my wicked way with you. The mighty Methian seduced by a seventeen-year-old virgin.”

The second lesson to be drawn from this text begins to come clear immediately thereafter, and it’s one to be remembered by all who are wise.

Methian had to work hard not to get distracted at the memory of that encounter. “But it doesn’t matter. You’ll be below stairs—with the rest of the staff. You should be grateful that she’s decided against making you wear Hadral servant livery.”

Lornyc raised an eyebrow in response. “Really? I thought that would’ve been a definite, fitting me out in that gaudy blue you Hadrals seem to like.”

“Careful, it’s not too late to reverse that decision,” warned Methian, pushing Lornyc backward so that he landed on the pillows. “That sort of cheek will have to be punished.”

“Promises, promises,” Lornyc said playfully.

Methian grinned and crawled toward Lornyc, stopping once his knees were either side of Lornyc’s hips and his hands rested on the pillows next to Lornyc’s head. Methian leaned down to kiss him.

A bolt of fiery pain shot through Lornyc’s arm. He sat up abruptly, his head connecting sharply with Methian’s with an accompanying sickly crack.

Methian growled in pain and sat back, clutching his nose.

“My arm! It feels like it’s on fire,” cried Lornyc. He grabbed his shirt, tearing away the sleeve.

Lornyc grunted in agony but seconds later was hit by a wave of ecstasy, which rolled over him, stripping away the heat and the pain.

The two men stared at Lornyc’s left bicep. There, in vibrant colors, was the Hadral family crest: a blue shield embossed with a golden H.

“Bloody hell,” whispered Methian, reaching out and stroking the newly adorned patch of skin.

Right. Simply put: Magic complicates everything.

When magic rears its ugly, controlling head, how does a lover cope? For answers, we look to dear Lord Methian. We find this little jewel of romance on page 34:

Lornyc sagged into Methian’s arms. “I have no choice but to treat you as my master when you command it.”

Methian cupped the back of Lornyc’s head with his hand. “If anything, you are my master, and have been since you were seventeen.”

So, as far as I’m concerned that is the most notable principle to be gained from these two men—loving is give and take. Love is kind, and love is… well, noticeable. See? (This is on page 52.)

“Your grandfather could do amazing things, and from what I felt, you’ll be able to do even more. He didn’t need to rely on muttered words and hand movements, the world yielded to him—and now we need to make it do the same for you.”

“But….”

“No time for buts, my boy. This contract will be fulfilled, and if what Tancorix has told me is true, we need to get you connected and up to speed as soon as possible. You don’t have the luxury of time to procrastinate. Sooner or later you’re going to be Katraman’s High Lord—and you need to be everything your father isn’t.”

“But the contract to the Hadrals….”

“From what I saw, Methian—that’s what you called him, didn’t you—seems to be willing to cooperate.” The mage grinned. “If you truly are his valet, then you’re doing things way beyond the remit of your job description.” Kat laughed at Lornyc’s expression. “I can see your imprint all over him. Valet, my ass!” Sexy naked guy posing in studio with roses

“My what?”

“Even though you can’t do much, you’re still projecting raw energy. One of my talents is to see an individual’s magical signature if it’s being broadcasted, and Methian is covered in yours.”

Oops. But hey, being marked is not always a bad thing, right?

In truth, the lessons to be learned from the interwoven lives of these two men go far beyond romantic words and a master being marked by his servant. They persevere through so many things: parents, politics, grief—even females. But we’ve reached the end of the course seminar, and the rest can be absorbed through home study.

If you’ve been working with a borrowed text book and want to buy it, click the (fabulous) cover image for the buy link at Dreamspinner Press.

Thank you Lornyc and Methian for allowing us to spy on your joys, sorrows, and bafflements. And thanks Rebecca Cohen for a unique and delicious romance.

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Filed under Gay Romance University, M/M romance

Expect the Unexpected: Free story coming soon! (Don’t Read in the Closet 2014, Love’s Landscapes)

Expect the Unexpected Cvr (2)

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by | May 13, 2014 · 1:15 pm

(1) I love my cover artist! (2)I forgot to post on my own blog

Because of Jade cover design Reese DanteRegarding title number 1: Reese Dante. I probably need say no more, but I have been so lucky to have her create all my covers for the Vasquez and James series. Frankly, she’s outdone herself on the cover for Because of Jade coming up for release on 5/23. (Goodness! I just realized that’s less than three weeks!) Virtual hands in the air if you agree it’s lovely. (And I’ll blow you virtual kisses in return 🙂 )

About number 2: Yeah, hard to believe isn’t it. I had Pride-Promotions arrange a fabulous cover reveal, and my cover was all over the internet for quite some time… but I forgot to post it here! I need heavy doses of Ginkgo Biloba, or something.

So, I’ve posted it here now—better late than never, I hope. Book releases 5/23, and can be preordered now. (Click the cover image for the buy link.)While I’m catching up on things, here’s the blurb.

Luki Vasquez receives the news he’s still cancer free after five years, and he wants to celebrate with his whole family. He and his husband, Sonny James, take a road trip south, intending to gather at the home of his nephew Josh, Josh’s wife Ruthie, and Jade—a little girl who was still in the womb when she and her mother helped Luki beat lung cancer.

Halfway to their destination, Luki learns Josh and Ruthie have met a tragic death. The horrible news lays Luki low, but he pulls himself together in time to be the family’s rock and see to the dreaded business of tying up loose ends. The most important business is Jade, and when Luki and Sonny head home, they take Jade with them.

Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s spurious claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.

I hope you all love it! There will be giveaways and good times coming up–watch for posts if you’d like to join me in celebrating.
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Filed under Because of Jade, Dreamspinner Press, New M/M releases, Vasquez & James

Gay Romance University 104: Important considerations regarding gingers and foxes (courtesy B. Snow, A Cunning Plan)

Hello everyone! Gay Romance University on my blog is back, this time drawing course material from a Regency romance of the male/male kind—A Cunning Plan, by B. Snow.

I said Regency, and perhaps that conjures a certain type of romance full of frilly girls, mostly filthy rich ones, attending lots of balls, waltzing in painful shoes, and each giving up her virtue to a marquess or a duke.

That romance is not this romance.

Though one of the characters is an Earl, and rather rich, and his virtue might be compromised. And his love interest might even where a frilly dress or two, under unusual circumstances. 

But let’s get down to brass tacks. The lesson, like the text, begins with strangers popping up in our Earl’s bedroom.

Note this; it will be on the quiz! If you are a titled, unmarried, heavy-drinking man with a cash-heavy wallet, post a man outside the bedroom when you crash for the night at your neighbor’s party. Consider poor Alec Ferguson, Earl of Whittlesey. A man pounds on his door, and he wakes to discover there’s a girl already in his room. Clearly, the man is up to no good. (The girl, his daughter is just as clearly mortified by her father’s shenanigans.) Yes, he wants to force you to marry the girl—no surprise there.

One of the most important points I’d like you to take away from this mini-course on gay romance, regency style is this: liquorgroup_medFortify, fortify, fortify! To illustrate, let’s peek in on Alec, beginning on page five.

Alec slammed the door behind them and then sagged against it. He wanted nothing more than to leave that room, escape from the house entirely, but the corridor was crowded with other guests eager for some gossip that would make it worth their while to have left London at the height of the season. […]

He lifted the bottle and drained it, then stumbled to the wardrobe and dug through his clothes until he found the other bottle he had hidden there in case of emergency. If having an unwanted engagement foisted upon one wasn’t an emergency, Alec didn’t know what was.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, be aware that, whereas drinking and driving is illegal, climbing while drunk is not a prosecutable offense. Which is good, because sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Once again, we look to our hero, the Earl of Whittlesey, to show us how it’s done safely without losing your supply of fortification.

Before we continue reading from page 6, however, I want to make one thing clear. You may think that in the modern world, you will never be confronted with a girl in your room, having been ordered there by her father in order to marry her to your money and title. Remember my motto (or one of them anyway: Never say never! Seriously. Could happen.

He corked the bottle and put it inside his shirt as he stepped out onto the balcony. The vines that grew up the side of the house didn’t bend when he pulled on them to test their strength, so now he had only to climb down them. As children, he and his brother had been quite adept at using vines to sneak out of their nursery on moonlit summer nights. At twenty-eight, however, he was decidedly less agile than he had been as a child, and the brandy he’d drunk would not improve his agility.

Grasping the vines, he swung one leg over the railing. After finding a foothold, he swung his other leg over and started downward. Stretch out one leg, find a foothold, let go with a hand—Alec repeated the process until he got within ten feet of the ground. There, he let out an oath upon discovering the vines narrowed to a single trunk. Holding on to the lowest horizontal branches, Alec slid his feet down the trunk, said a quick prayer, then let go, landing with a thump and falling backward onto his posterior. Not dignified, but he made it to the ground without breaking his neck or the bottle.

Now what?

Well, I don’t know how you would feel in such a situation, but Alec has become quite morose once he’s out in the cold. Inevitably, sneaking out in the cold middle of the night without your greatcoat will remind you of your childhood. Right? Here’s the earl on page seven:

The winter chill nipped at Alec’s skin, but he didn’t regret leaving his overcoat in the house; he had the brandy to keep him warm. Alec remembered how he used to fasten Hugh’s cloak for him. Even in summer they had needed to wear them, at least until they reached the lake, where they kept warm by running along its muddy shore. Alec had taught Hugh early on that if they could keep from laughing until well away from the house—no mean feat—they would have hours to play in the night.

But Alec’s memory turns dark when he remembers a mysterious visitation from a white fox one night when he and his little brother had snuck out to this very same lake. And then… there it is. That very same fox. (Bottom of page 10—)

The way it stared at him gave Alec the feeling the animal disapproved of his obviously drunken state. white_fox_by_mvelovesmusic-d5v4ac8[…] “You’d drink too, in my situation.” He looked down at the brandy he held loosely in one hand. “And if you could hold a bottle.”

All students of gay romance will recognize this truth: Being, threatened, drunk, cold, outdoors, alone, and lost in memories will cause you to become morose. And, can we not empathize with Alec? I mean, to use academic terminology, what a bummer!

Empathize or not, however, this is where I wish to caution you, class: Do not emulate the choice Alec Ferguson makes on page

As he lifted the bottle to drink again, he looked out over the lake, at its smooth, moonlit surface, and made a decision. Any man with one ounce of honor or courage would have dealt with his madness and his drinking long ago.

Well, better late than never.

He drank the last of the brandy and set the empty bottle aside. […] walked unsteadily down the bank, letting out a yelp when his foot touched the cold water.
An answering yelp came from a few feet away. Alec turned to see the fox still watching him, now with its mouth open in what looked like a canine grin. “Don’t you laugh at me,” he muttered

Clenching his jaw, Alec continued deeper into the lake, the water coming up to his ankles, then his knees. The mud on the floor of the lake was warmer than the water and soft against the soles of his feet. He stopped for a moment, shivering, watching the reflection of the moon on the water broken up by the ripples he had made. He didn’t need to go any further; he could do it from here. Just lean forward, put his face into the water, and breathe deeply.

drowning man goo ftuosDrowning wasn’t the easiest way to kill oneself, but it was undoubtedly the tidiest.

Luckily for Alec and for the future of M/M Regency romance, foxes have a knack for tricking drunken, depressed, earls out of the cold, cold lake. And… well… it turns out Alec is luckier still, because, a fox of another stripe altogether soon shows up in his life. A fox in the shape of a man, with flaming red hair and green eyes and freckles every-visible-where. A quick-witted fox, and an insolent one who nevertheless plans to be Alec’s friend—or more?

Alec stopped. “You will explain yourself, now. Who are you, and why have you come here?”

Villenie’s narrow, freckled face split in a grin. “I’m the man who’s going to solve all your problems.”

Of course that’s not quite the way it worked out, but the lessons in this course offering are complete. To prepare for the final exam, memorize the following and be prepared to recite:ginger nude muscles from hips up
The earl was not mad, and neither am I—I’m just a bit eccentric. If life is a mess, booze won’t fix it—but a hot, foxy ginger just might. Perhaps like this:

“On my honor as… as a Villenie. Whatever your illness is, I will try to help you fight it, and no matter the outcome, I swear not to tell a soul.” Some of the color had returned to Villenie’s face, though his eyes were still huge and dark with concern. He brought one hand up to Alec’s cheek.

Alec didn’t move away from that hand. Instead, he leaned into it, taking another deep breath and letting the beast uncoil. Villenie’s hands, the heat of his body, his breath on Alec’s face were all too much. Alec, who had struggled so long to cage the monster, could no longer hold it back. “You want to see my illness?” Alec whispered. “Take it all, then.”

He reached out, seized Villenie by the shoulders and pressed him back onto the seat, then leaned forward and kissed him. Just as he had feared he would, Alec lost all control as soon as their lips touched. Grasping at Villenie’s head and neck, he pulled him closer, sucking and biting his lips. Their noses, chins, and teeth bumped as Alec moved his mouth madly over Villenie’s, then down over a rough cheek to his throat, where he continued his frenzied attack with tongue and teeth. The taste of Villenie’s skin made his head swim, and he pulled Villenie’s cravat loose, laying bare more skin to feast upon.

Unfortunately, GRU will not offer the advanced course in Regency romance, but you may find further study helpful (or at least good reading). The whole of the text can be purchased by clicking on the cover image and following the link. Thanks, B. Snow, Whittelsey, and Mr. Villenie for allowing GRU to twist your words about. 🙂

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Gay Romance University 102: How to have a solid romance with a ghostly lover (Haunted, Brynn Stein)

Hello class! Luki Vasquez and Sonny James are on hiatus, resting up before their new book release in May—more about that soon. In their absence, this Gay Romance University course draws an all-important lesson from author Brynn Stein’s novella, Haunted.

(If you don’t yet have a copy of the text book, you can pick it up at Dreamspinner Press dirt cheap. 🙂 Just click on the cover image for the buy link.)

If you’ll open your text to page 11 (or read the brief excerpt below), you’ll find Lenard Blake has, after initial skepticism, come to believe ghosts exist and in fact one resides in his house (a ‘fixer-upper’, you might say).

He finally decided to assume the ghost existed and to try to make peace with it. After all, it didn’t seem to wish him ill will. It didn’t seem to be trying to get him to leave or frighten him in any way. It just seemed to want the house kept in good shape. Lenard figured he could help with that. abandoned house whirling stars iStock_000033218692Large

He made sure to return any books he started reading to their rightful places. “Is it okay if I leave a bookmark in this before I put it on the shelf?” he had asked the ghost he still didn’t completely believe in. When nothing happened, he figured it was okay to leave the bookmark in the book and replaced it on the shelf.

The first point of this lesson is contained in these brief paragraphs: If a ghost doesn’t want you to mess with the books, ask permission before placing your bookmark.

Oh… wait, no.

The first important point of this lesson is communication! As in all relationships, the first thing you must do if you want anything good to develop is find a way to get through to the other party. In this case, when the ghost said and did nothing, Lenard knew he had his reply. Well done, Lenard.

The second thing I’d like you to take away from this lesson is this: The “honey-do” list is a sure way to gain your ghosts appreciation, and if the ghost keeps fixing the screen door, it’s on the list.. Consider, further down on page 11:

He decided the reason the screen door kept falling off after the ghost had fixed it was because the screws were stripped in the rusty hinges. screen door google ftuos 8142836247_80aaca3c65_oThey had already pulled away from the wall, so just putting them back in the holes wasn’t really helping. So, Lenard bought new hinges and screws and new wood for the door facing. He wasn’t as good a woodworker as the original craftsman, and the door frame would be considerably plainer, but it would be new and solid and would hold the screws in the new hinges so the screen door wouldn’t fall off again.

iced tea google ftuos 2903455081_d4d851c5d1_o
Lenard cleaned up his mess and went into the kitchen to get a drink. There he found the pitcher of iced tea he had made earlier, and had put in the refrigerator to get cold—sitting on the counter along with a glass.
“I’ll take that as a ‘thank you’ for hanging the door,” he called to Jason and downed the drink. “And thank you for the tea.”

(Okay, so that’s not a ghost in the image with the screen door. It’s a zombie. Call it literary license.)

If a live man continues to develop his relationship with a dead man, he may be privileged to see him. In the middle of the night. Standing by the bed. Which of course would not be startling at all. We’re reading from page 16 of the text, here:

If Lenard still had any doubts about the existence of his ghost, it was finally taken away one night around two in the morning.
Lenard had come home from an abnormally troublesome day at the station and had stripped quickly and fallen into bed, practically asleep before he hit the mattress. As tired as he was, though, something woke him from a sound sleep in the middle of the night.

At first, he couldn’t identify what had awakened him, and then he saw it… or rather, him. male ghostly image by bed google ftuos 8135574517_8d185c393f_oA young man was standing in front of the ornate closet door. Just standing… hip cocked with his hands hooked in his pockets, but looking as if he had lost his last friend.

And then there is bound to come a day, if a man is patient with his ghostly lover, that he reaps his sweet reward, and a truly solid relationship can materialize (all puns intended) (page 33):

…One morning, Lenard decided to take the chance. He was awake enough, as Jason went to get out of bed, that he caught the ghost by the hand, still almost surprised—as he always was—that he could actually grasp his arm. “Stay, Jason.”

The ghost stopped his movement, neither leaving, nor coming back, also seemingly a bit shocked that they could maintain contact this long. “I wanted to have your breakfast ready for you, Barnaby.”

“I’d rather have you ready for me, old man.” Now that Len knew he and Jason could actually touch, he couldn’t help but want to explore thoughts he had been having for a while now. He positively leered at Jason and answered the age-old question of whether or not a ghost could blush.

Jason settled back down onto the bed, propped up on an elbow, and whispered, “Anytime, Len.” He reached out to cup Lenard’s face, enjoying the prolonged ability to touch. He ran his hand up Lenard’s cheek and into his hair.

Lenard took the invitation and brought Jason’s face closer until their lips met. He was pretty sure by then that they would, indeed, be able to kiss, but he still sighed in relief into Jason’s mouth. They both just savored the kiss. There was a promise of passion, but for right now, they kept it light. A brush of lips that had longed for each other… then another, longer contact… and another.

Lenard slowly pulled the ghost back down toward him, wiggling onto his back so that Jason could lie on top of him. They continued the kiss with a little more passion. Neither fought for control; they simply let it go where it wanted to. But they both knew it wouldn’t stay with just kissing for long.
male ghost in chair google ftuos 353807265_37832270f1_zLenard let his hands roam over the body he had admired… had wanted… for a long time now. He explored the powerful arms and traveled down the lean, but muscular back to settle on well-developed glutes. Len was pleased to find that Jason had been right. The only way the ghost looked nineteen was in his youthful face. In every other way, he was all man.

“Probably a good thing you’ve gotten the hang of being solid in the bedroom,” Lenard whispered as he nuzzled his lover’s cheek… blond hair mixing with dark brown.

Of course, there is more to loving a ghost than good times. Ghosts hang around because they have needs, right? So yeah, Lenard has his detective work cut out for him, but we can’t cover that in class. The remainder of the novella is recommended reading for inquiring minds.

Thanks for coming to class, and great big thanks to Brynn for allowing me to embarrass her characters in this way. If you’d like to offer your sympathy (or contact her about her writing) you can find her:

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Never Doubt! Vasquez and James Romance Will Live On!

I got to thinking, when I’ve posted about Because of Jade (Vasquez and James novel coming from in May), I share so much about the Luki and Sonny’s relationship with the little girl, Jade, that you may think there’s no romance. On the contrary… Luki always delivers. For instance, here’s a very teensy excerpt that leads up to a long, hot night of spoiling Sonny and loving him senseless.

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Three Authors, Three Giveaways: Rainbow Gold chat 3/31

VJ 4 covers by Monique
Join me (Lou Sylvre), Violet Joicey-Cowen, and Teodora Kostova on March 31st, 1:00 PM Pacific, 10:00 AM Eastern! We’ll be chatting for one hour on Rainbow Gold. (That’s a link, click to go there.)

Teodora Stoyanova DanceWe’ll each be giving away a book. It should be fun, so come on by! violet joicey-cowen The Choosing

It’s going to be a Rafflecopter giveaway , multiple chances to enter, easy peasy!

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New Vasquez and James coming May 2014—Because of Jade, from Dreamspinner Press

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by | March 21, 2014 · 6:05 pm