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Title: Tournament Of Shadows
Author: S.A. Meade
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Gay Romance, Historical
Release Date: 03/21/2014
In a shadowy game where defeat can mean death, a deal with the enemy can change things forever. In 1842, Captain Gabriel O’Riordan of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars is sent on a mission to Bukhara. His task—to try to free two of his compatriots from the clutches of a mentally unstable Emir. On his way, he encounters Valentin Yakolev, an officer in the Russian Army, who is also on a mission—to persuade the Emir that an alliance with Russia would be in his best interests. Gabriel, disguised as a holy man, is not happy to be the object of Yakolev’s intense scrutiny. After all, he’s working for the opposing team in the Great Game being played between their two nations. When Gabriel realises that his mission is little more than a forlorn hope, a game he has no chance of winning, he’s desperate enough to turn to Valentin to help and offer him anything in return. What he doesn’t expect is to have his plans to return to Calcutta scuppered by events. Instead, he and Valentin flee north, fighting off bandits, their desire for each other and the hardship of desert travel. Their travails bring them closer together until a secret from Valentin’s past tears them apart. Can they set the past behind them and move on together?
Adventures along the Silk Road
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to take a trip following the route of one of the Silk Roads, from Islamabad, in Pakistan to Samarkand. It was, if you’ll pardon the cliché, the holiday of a lifetime. There are still Silk Road tours available these days but Pakistan is no longer the starting point.
An account of the whole trip would take many blog posts. It is a vacation I will never forget. Not only did I come away with many memories, but also a desire to set as many books as possible in that part of the world. Islamabad and Gilgit and the wild mountains beyond feature in my first novel, Stolen Summer. The stretch of Silk Road between Kashgar and Gilgit also forms the setting for an m/f historical romance that I need to brush up and get submitted.
Then, of course, there is Tournament of Shadows. The title of the book comes from the name the Russians gave to the secret war between the Russians and the British that Rudyard Kipling called the Great Game. The first part of the story is set in Bokhara. And, dear reader, here is my journal entry for our visit there:
Tuesday, 30th August_Bokhara
Arrived in one piece in spite of dubious state of plane (an ancient Antonov twin-engine prop).
Very hot but also very windy here with dust all over the place, but not uncomfortable. After lunch we went to a madrassa, then saw the old trading domes. Performance at open air tea house where we had to sit on beds for an hour. The dancing was very good, gorgeous costumes and the music more Arabic in flavour than Uyghur. Food here not bad (compared to China) and (touch wood) peoples’ stomach problems appear to be subsiding. Probably because everyone plugged-up with Imodium.
Wednesday 31st August_Samarkand
“…Yesterday, we did more of Bokhara…
“…We visited the Ark where Stoddart and Connolly met their fate. This has been extensively restored and the outer walls (brick) are very impressive…”
“…On the way back to the hotel we stopped to look at the prison where Stoddart and Connolly were kept (The Bug Pit). This was closed, so we could only see it from the outside, but our guide, Fatima, was able to give a fairly good description of what it’s like inside…”
The writer in me winces when I read that post. Where are the descriptions of the Ark? Of the minaret from which the Emir threw his enemies? The market place? The shady streets? The madrassa? I have photos somewhere, probably in a box I have yet to unpack. So, everything is in my head, including the moment when our tour guide told us the tragic tale of Stoddart and Connolly. And, when I wrote the Bokhara scenes for ToS, the unrecorded memories flooded back. I could feel the heat, see the cloudless blue sky and the walls of the Ark towering above what is now a car park, under which those hapless officers are buried…somewhere.
There are still plenty of novels for me to write, inspired by that trip, and by the many stories which came out of that shadowy war. One of these days, I may even get round to writing one or two. They are unlikely to feature dodgy, old Russian planes or Imodium, however.
About the Author
S.A. Laybourn lives in Wiltshire with her son and two needy cats. She works as a freelance editor and sometimes writes stories. Her alter-ego S.A. Meade writes gay romance. She loves cooking, reading, gin and tonic and the occasional glass of wine. She is not terribly domesticated and has trouble finding things that she thought she’d put in a ‘safe’ place.
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