Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Lillian Francis for stopping by today.
Title: Lovers Entwined
Author: Lillian Francis
Publisher: Finally Love Press
Cover Artist: Meredith Russell
Genre: M/M Romance
Ewan Matthews is one of Boston’s leading genealogy experts. When a would-be bridegroom comes looking for confirmation that there are no skeletons in his ancestral closet, Ewan considers turning the job down. Trey Capell is a jerk of the highest order and yet Ewan experiences an infuriating attraction that’s easy to justify. Trey’s exactly his type—a carbon copy of the man Ewan’s been looking for his entire life.
Harder to explain is the sense of recognition that leaves Ewan speechless the moment Trey steps into his office. Or the stomach-churning sensation at the thought of casting the job aside.
Trey gets more appealing by the day, leaving Ewan struggling with forbidden desire for his client. Desire not helped by strange voyeuristic dreams that have started to haunt his sleep. Dreams that appear to be an echo of the past.
I’ve always been a film buff. As a teenager, while all my female friends were shopping for clothes and make-up, I was ensconced in front of BBC2—there were only three channels at the time—devouring whichever black and white film they were showing that afternoon.
In my late teens, film noir was my genre of choice. Normally dark in nature as well as devoid of colour, rain was these characters regular companion as they stumbled through their wretched lives in greytone. Attempts have been made to revive the genre, remaking some of the classics. But they rarely matched the originals, the filmmakers’ preference to use colour film killing much of the magic. Plus film noir was very much of its time, a product of post-war disillusionment, and the McCarthy communist witch hunts.
Anyway, I would sit and immerse myself in the tragic lives and loves of PIs, soldiers on leave, and embittered cops who walk a fine line. Seemingly strong men who were often manipulated and betrayed by wanton women; women immaculately turned out with an elegance and wit that I (as a social awkward, short, crop-haired tomboy) could only dream about. And more often the men were brought down by their own desire for said harlot (and what a wonderful word that is, so much more satisfying than slag or slut).
Humphrey Bogart. Glenn Ford. Alan Ladd. Robert Mitchum. Dana Andrews. Veronica Lake. Rita Hayworth. Lauren Bacall. Gene Tierney. One or more of the above would capture my attention and hold it for the hour or two needed to tell their tragic tale.
I loved film noir so much I named my first adult pets, a pair of cats, Bogart and Bacall.
But it wasn’t just about the films. Having seen the film I would then root around second-hand bookshops trying to find a copy of the work that inspired it. Stories normally even darker in tone than the film it spawned.
These stories rarely ended well for any of the parties involved. A strange choice of reading for me you might think since I strive to guarantee a happy ending in my own work, but I never read romance as a teenager or even into my twenties. So, whilst my personal desire for a Happy Ending negates me writing Noir as a genre, it’s should be no surprise that film noir makes an appearance in my writing in some shape or form, even if it is from the more popular, less tragic, end of the genre.
In Lovers Entwined, Ewan spends part of his Thanksgiving watching Casablanca. (1942, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman. Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.)
In my last release, Theory Unproven, the bush pilot names his plane Gilda. (1946, Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford. The sinister boss of a South American casino finds that his right-hand man Johnny and his sensuous new wife Gilda already know each other.)
And one of my pending WIPs references a film that, whilst not technically a film noir, is black and white and Hitchcock. John Buchan’s The 39 Steps (1935—so too early to be Noir, and it’s British–Robert Donat, Madeleine Caroll. A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and he stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring trying to steal top secret information.).
So when in Lovers Entwined one of my characters is caught unashamedly reading m/m fiction on his e-reader, the temptation was to reference something within our genre that I had read. And since in my mind Ewan was reading something almost Noir’ish in style my thoughts automatically went to one of my first, and still one of my favourite m/m books, ‘Snowball in Hell’ by Josh Lanyon.
But when wrote Lovers Entwined I was still very new to the genre and I was uncomfortable referencing other m/m books in my work. What was the etiquette for such things? Would readers think I was referencing Josh in an attempt to jump on the shirttails of his success? I wouldn’t have dreamt of contacting Josh and asking his permission. Nowadays I wouldn’t falter in putting fingers to keyboard and tapping out a message, but back then as a newbie, no way in hell.
Insttead I decided to invent my own story, a murder mystery staring a 1950’s private investigator and a nightclub owner. Something definitely black & white, with shades of grey. (No, not those shades of grey). Vaguely noir in style but with a happy ending.
The invented book filled a mere two lines in Lovers Entwined. A drop in the ocean for a book whose word count exceeded 90K. Yet every time I re-read that passage I want to read that story. A story that doesn’t exist. So I guess if I want to read it I’m going to have to write it first.
Unless any of you know of a similar story?
Fingers brushed against the thin cotton khaki material as they eased the brass button through the buttonhole. Experienced in their task, these were deft, sure movements, nothing tentative or uncertain. These hands had undressed a man—this man—before. Fingers paused on their path to the next button to pick the worst of the offending debris of a day in the field from the material.
More buttons opened to reveal a white cotton undershirt, backs of fingers brushing against the thin layer of material that separated skin from skin. An audible sigh drifted between the two men, ruffling the dark hair of the man whose head was bowed in supplication.
The last button was slipped free and the man ordered, “Arms out.”
Obeying without question, hands, which had previously been stuffed casually in pockets, were pulled free. They hung by the officer’s sides, fingers curled just sufficiently to graze against his garish tartan trousers. Palms smoothed over the material of the undershirt, flat strokes that eased the material of the jacket off over broad shoulders. Hands were gone long enough for the batman to move around behind his officer before they returned to peel the jacket down his arms.
The slow, lingering movements of disrobing became purposeful and more hurried now that there was no contact. The willowy dark-haired man strode to the wooden valet, moulding the material over the body-shaped dummy. He reached for the brush, which was laid out with other cleaning materials on the top of a large trunk and, with definite, precise movements, started to swipe it over the dusty material.
If he was aware of the way the officer swivelled on the balls of his feet to follow his path across the large tent, which acted as barrack room for the officer and his batman, then he gave no indication. He certainly seemed unperturbed by the intensity of the pale-blue gaze that watched his every movement from under a mess of auburn eyebrows. Eyebrows, which coupled with the reddish-brown moustache, gave a true indication to hair colour which the slicked cropped cut couldn’t.
“When this war is over,” the officer began, his American accent a shocking contrast to the British style of the uniform he wore. A shock to the voyeur at least, the batman didn’t so much as blink, continuing the soothing whisper of bristle over fabric without even raising his head. In a tone commanding, but fond, the officer continued, “You will stay with me, won’t you?”
“If you feel you have need of my services, sir,” his batman answered deferentially, barely pausing in his work.
The sigh was scarcely audible, but it drifted off into a name. “Owen.”
It was admonishment and question all rolled into one and it had the desired effect. The batman, Owen, glanced up from his task, fingers rubbing reverently over the two stars on the jacket’s epaulette. A small smile quirked at his lips, making his eyes dance and lighting up his pale features. Features all the more pronounced by the dark hair that framed his face.
“With respect, who else would put up with you, sir?” The honorific was uttered in a tone so soft that it almost appeared to be an endearment.
“We had cake in the officer’s mess today. Clifden got a parcel from home. How it made it here in one piece, I’ll never know.”
“An extremely clever and sneaky Battalion Quartermaster, I suspect,” Owen said, throwing the comment over his shoulder as he gave the jacket one last swipe with his brush.
The Lieutenant snorted in amusement and then nodded toward a battered trunk. “I smuggled out a piece for you. It’s gingerbread, your favourite. I put it in with your stuff.”
“You shouldn’t have.” Owen’s softly spoken words were an admonishment, but the smile on the younger man’s face said he was more than happy with his gift.
“Why not?” the officer muttered, his voice gruff and belligerent. “I was an ass to you earlier.”
“I know you didn’t mean it how it came out. You speak before you think.” Owen shrugged. “I know you, sir, better than anyone.”
“I don’t know why you put up with me.”
Owen turned and placed the brush on top of the larger of the two trunks. “Yes, you do.”
“Doesn’t make it right.” The officer shook his head. “Anyway, you need feeding up. You’re too skinny.”
The Lieutenant dropped into a rickety canvas chair with more force than the furniture was possibly designed for, and the sigh that escaped his lips was almost certainly intended to be heard. It filled the canvas room with anticipation and something heavier than the sum of its parts, something a watcher could have no hope of understanding.
The batman’s smile grew melancholy and he made his way back toward his officer, dropping to his knees on the thick colourful rugs, indigenous in nature, which appeared to be layered to keep out the worst of the dust and the sand. Reaching for the right boot first, Owen swiftly unfastened it, tugging it free. He paused, his hand cradling the ankle with the officer’s socked foot resting on his thighs. When Owen looked up, his gaze was serious, eyes shimmering pools of green and gray, and he focused all his attention on the man in front of him.
“If we make it home, then I’m yours for as long as you want me,” he paused for barely a heartbeat,
“It may be difficult to word on a contract of employment,” Owen said with a laugh in his voice, the emotion accentuating a previously barely registered Scots brogue, “but always seems satisfactory to me.”
The laughter caught in his throat, turning into a dry cough that left him breathless.
“I wish you would see the medic about that cough.” Tristan didn’t bother to conceal the concern in his voice and he leant forward, hand reaching out…
* * * * *
Something caused Ewan to wake with a start, and he brushed a hand over his cheek at the ghost of a touch. He’d been dreaming, he was sure of it, but the dream was quickly scurrying away from him as was their habit to do. His throat was dry and scratchy, almost rough, and he felt strangely unsettled, as though his subconscious had been exploring events which he couldn’t quite remember.
Throwing back his quilt, he rolled from the bed and padded into the bathroom, fingers idly scratching against the material of his boxers. He’d take a piss in a minute. Right now, the urge for a drink was overwhelming. Opening the cold tap, he cupped his hand beneath the running water, allowing it to flow, cool and clear, over the edge of his palm. Bring his face down to meet the gushing water, Ewan slurped the liquid noisily and vigorously into his mouth, drinking his fill greedily.
Sated, he splashed the water onto his face, remnants of the dream returning as his head cleared. Lifting his gaze to the mirror, he watched as a droplet of water collected on his eyelashes before dripping down to join the swirling water in the sink. The distraction focused his gaze on the reflection of his irises, hazel eyes suddenly breaking down into slivers of green and gray.
The shock of recollection hit him, and with a gasp, he recoiled from his own reflection. He blinked, once, twice. Long, drawn-out pulls of eyelid over eyeball, and when he finally dared to look again, his eyes were the green that predominantly made up his irises, together with the more familiar flecks of blues and browns. More importantly, they were most definitely his and not some random soldier’s from a random dream.
Maybe a history book wasn’t such a good choice of bedtime reading after all.
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About the Author
Lillian Francis. Author of gay romance. Happy Endings guaranteed. Eventually.
An avid reader, Lillian Francis was always determined she wanted to write, but a “proper” job and raising a family distracted her for over a decade. Over the years and thanks to the charms of the internet, Lillian realized she’d been writing at least one of her characters in the wrong gender. Ever since, she’s been happily letting her “boys” run her writing life.
Lillian now divides her time between family, a job and the numerous men in her head all clamouring for their stories to be told.
Lillian lives in an imposing castle on a wind-swept desolate moor or in an elaborate ‘shack’ on the edge of a beach somewhere depending on her mood, with the heroes of her stories either chained up in the dungeon or wandering the shack serving drinks in nothing but skimpy barista aprons.
In reality, she would love to own a camper van and to live by the sea.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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