Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations for the amazing
In our final post, we're going to take a look at Theory Unproven and Under The Radar, plus the soon to be re-released New Lease Of Life. There's also our author interview and one more chance to win one of Lillian's books.
First up, Theory Unproven
But in an area where bushveld prejudices and hatred bleed across the borders, realising their love will be a hard fought battle. Keeping hold of it might just kill them.
An unexpected job offer finds zoologist Eric Phillips transported from the elephant house at a zoo just outside London to the wildlife reserves in the South African bushveld. Being able to work with his own herd of elephants, and analysing their behaviour, more than makes up for the remote nature of the research station. The one bright spot on the horizon, quite literally if the sun hits it at the right angle, is the silver freight plane that brings his supplies and half an hour in the company of Tyaan, the gorgeous but taciturn pilot.
As a zoologist Eric likes to think that he’s adept at anticipating how a creature will react in any given situation, and they don’t come any more beautiful and skittish than Tyaan. Despite Tyaan’s jittery behaviour Eric has a theory they could be good together but when things go catastrophically wrong it appears their relationship will remain a theory unproven.
“Howzit,” Tyaan said in greeting, that one word in his gravel-rough voice enough to ignite a spark of want that tingled across Eric’s pale skin, raising the hair on his arms. Tyaan lifted his gaze from Eric’s and scanned the line of the trees, letting it settle on the truck before returning to Eric. “It’s a big delivery today. I thought you’d have help.”
“Howzit.” Having been addressed by Tyaan in this manner on a dozen or so occasions now—not that he’d been counting—Eric had soon fallen into responding in kind.
“Masamba’s working on the broken steps on the veranda. I didn’t want to stop him.” Eric shrugged and hoped his smile covered the discomfort he felt. He could hardly confess that Masamba gave him a severe case of the heebie-jeebies.
“Reverse your bakkie”—Tyaan indicated to the truck, inadvertently assisting Eric with the meaning of the unfamiliar word—“up to Gilda and I’ll give you a hand getting all this stuff loaded up.”
With that Tyaan disappeared back into the belly of his beast, pulling the door shut behind him.
By the time Eric backed up the truck, the cargo door was open and Tyaan was waiting. His scruff of hair was pulled back off his face by the tan wide-brimmed hat jammed onto his head.
Sliding from the cab, Eric swiped his rolled-up sleeve over the sweat that had beaded on his forehead from just that short time in the vehicle.
Two steps into his journey up the ramp, Tyaan paused, his sun-bleached eyebrows pulling together into a frown.
“Your hat,” Tyaan prompted, nodding toward the cab.
Ducking his head, Eric focused on a patch of browning scrub. Anything to avoid eye contact while he made his admission. Leaving the homestead without his hat was like forgetting his water canteen. Basic mistakes like that could get him killed. Tyaan had told him as much the second time they met.
“I forgot it,” Eric admitted sheepishly. “I thought I was going to be late.”
Heavy boots echoed on the ramp as Tyaan stomped wordlessly into the fuselage.
Dammit. Surely Tyaan wasn’t leaving him again already. Every time he thought he might try flirting with Tyaan, Eric managed to say or do something to put a stop to it before he could start.
He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten his hat. For all Eric’s university education and his twenty-eight years, Tyaan must think him either simple or a child if he couldn’t follow basic rules to keep himself safe out in the bushveld.
Before Eric even registered the other man’s return, a dark bundle was flying through the air toward him. He caught it instinctively, the thick suede beneath his fingers all but answering his curiosity before he glanced down at the object he was holding.
“It’s my spare,” Tyaan said by way of explanation. “Put it on.”
Doing as he was told, Eric ruffled his hair, allowing it to fall back across his forehead—he hated the pale expanse of flesh above his eyebrows, there was far too much of it—before tilting the hat far on the back of his head like an on-screen cowboy.
Eric knew what Tyaan meant with that curt instruction. He’d given up wearing his hat at the wrong angle in the hope that Tyaan would repeat the actions of that first delivery where he had crowded Eric’s personal space rearranging the angle of his hat until it shaded his face perfectly. But today, today seemed different, and he faltered. Would not following Tyaan’s instructions get him what he wanted? Tyaan up close and personal.
Tyaan jumped off the ramp, stalking toward him, and Eric had to swallow against what felt like the sudden leap of his heart lodging in his throat. Had he spoken those thoughts out loud? No. Based on previous behaviour, that slip would have resulted in Tyaan turning tail and running back to the safety of his aircraft.
In fact Tyaan was doing the opposite of running away, every step brought him closer until the distance between them had all but vanished. Eric could have rested his hands on Tyaan’s hips. He even gave the fantasy a fleeting moment of flight, but then Tyaan lifted the hat from Eric’s head and a charge of electricity shot down his spine even though the pilot hadn’t touched him directly. Eric held himself tightly in check, determined not to gasp or allow traitorous fingers to reach out and touch, for fear of spooking his friend.
Being almost three inches shorter than Tyaan, Eric had to look up to avoid staring at a bristled chin and chapped lips. His tongue flicked out to wet his own suddenly parched lips. The hat was settled more squarely on Eric’s head, immediately shuttering the glare of the sun from his eyes. He blinked rapidly, adjusting to the reduction in light.
“That’s better. You’re not squinting now,” Tyaan said. Despite the naturally gruff quality of his voice, Tyaan’s tone softened and his eyes crinkled interestingly at the corners. “Don’t forget your hat again. I’d rather you were late than you didn’t turn up at all.”
“You would?” Eric asked, searching the amber depths for a sign that the statement meant something more. This close he could see flecks of gold in the pale brown irises, as if the African sun was trapped within them.
“Course,” Tyaan confirmed, but his voice wasn’t soft anymore. He frowned and stepped back, as if suddenly aware he was too far inside Eric’s personal space. Pivoting on the balls of his feet, he covered the ground with powerful strides and then hoisted himself back into the cargo area of the aircraft.
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Book 2 in today's line-up, Under The Radar
It’s 1942 and after a sexual indiscretion, US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is sent to serve in the Royal Navy’s submarine service—a shockingly harsh punishment for a man who loves to fly. The submarine is oppressive and frustrating for him, and he’s marked out from his peers, publicly by being American, and privately by his attraction to men.
The only bright spot is the company of his steward, sonar operator Gethin Llewelyn. Despite the differences of rank and background, they’re drawn to each other. Gethin’s integrity complements Zach’s casual joie de vivre, and soon the friendship develops into something much more.
As the threats of war increase, the submarine is plagued by potentially hostile vessels, and circumstances lead them to suspect there’s a spy amongst their own crew. Being forced even closer together as they work for the greater good reveals a new awareness, and Zach doesn’t know what is in more danger, the vessel under his charge or his heart.
Gethin straightened quickly, doing his best not to nudge the table and, by his own actions, spill the coffee he’d taken such care over. The lieutenant’s attention had returned to his cards, so Gethin accepted his dismissal with a murmur and a dip of the head. He got as far as the door when the sound of his name stopped him in his tracks.
Gethin dropped his hand and turned back towards Lieutenant MacKenzie. “Sir?”
“I can’t really keep calling you Llewelyn. What’s your first name?”
Not certain what he’d expected—but it certainly wasn’t that—Gethin took a moment while he stepped back into the mess, away from the door.
Lieutenant MacKenzie must have taken his pause as reluctance because he continued. “Think of it as a way for me to differentiate between you and Llewelyn in torpedoes.”
Llewelyn in torpedoes? “With respect, sir, the gentleman in question is not in our mess. Also, he is five foot six, built like Popeye and has only three teeth.”
“You can appreciate my difficulty, then?”
“Wha-?” The soft sound of laughter interrupted Gethin’s indignant exclamation. Was he being teased?
“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
“That really wouldn’t be proper, sir.”
“I’m American. Propriety isn’t really one of my strong points.” Lieutenant MacKenzie grinned and it reminded Gethin of an encounter he’d once had with a dog that had been worrying the sheep back home. “My name is Zachary, but most people call me Zach.”
Zachary. The name suited him. Not that Gethin should be giving that even a moment’s thought.
“Your face.” The lieutenant grinned. “Forget I told you. Or not. Consider it a secret between ourselves if you wish. Now, your name.”
“The men call me Taffy, sir.”
“Like toffee? Because you’re sweet?”
A blush seared Gethin’s cheeks. “Taffy. Because I’m Welsh.”
“I think I prefer Toffee. I’ll call you that, instead.”
Gethin sighed. The last thing he wanted was another nickname, especially one that’d have him blushing like a maiden every few minutes. He was certain the lieutenant was relying on his reluctance. While he didn’t really want to give him the satisfaction of winning, the lieutenant was within his remit to request—and use—that information. “Gethin, sir. My Christian name is Gethin.”
“Thank you…Gethin.” The lieutenant made an attempt, stumbling over the unfamiliar name. In an accent too harsh for the soft th sound, it came out Ge-then.
“It’s th, sir.” Gethin let the sound float through his teeth, barely pushing it through with his tongue.
“Oh, th?” The officer made a second attempt. “Gare-th-in.”
Better, if not quite what he was used to hearing. Gethin nodded his approval.
“Gare-th-in. Geth-in. Geth-in. Gethin.”
With the lieutenant engrossed in rolling Gethin’s name around his mouth, he used the distraction to make his escape, the cadence of the lieutenant practising his name over and over, like a litany, following him from the room.
“Everything all right, Taffy?”
Intent on the echo of his name spoken in such an unexpected accent, Gethin jerked in shock at his nickname. A flick of his wrist ensured the door slid tightly shut behind him. Then he stepped away from the wardroom and faced the man who’d addressed him. “Johnny, you damn near gave me a heart attack.”
“Fit young thing like you? I doubt that.” Johnny’s narrow-eyed gaze swept the length of Gethin’s body, then he nodded his head in the direction of the wardroom. “Is he giving you any trouble?”
“Our American friend.” A frown marred Johnny’s features, the dark V-shape of hair at his forehead making his expression appear even more severe. “You looked perturbed.”
“Lieutenant MacKenzie?” Johnny’s question had taken him by surprise and he needed a second to collect himself. “No.”
“Good.” Johnny started to move away, paused and reached up, giving Gethin’s shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Don’t let him take advantage, if you know what I mean?”
Take advantage. Trouble. Gethin didn’t have a clue what Johnny was talking about. In the end, his response came out sounding more like a question. “I…won’t.”
As if satisfied by his answer, Johnny nodded and continued on his way. He reached the end of the row of berths before Gethin summoned up the courage to ask something that had been bothering him since the first day.
“Johnny?” Gethin paused and waited for the other man to turn and face him. “You were a valet before you signed up. Why didn’t you accept the steward’s job?”
“Because we’re on the same watch and it would have meant doing you or Harris out of it. I don’t need the money or the hassle.” His dark eyes flicked towards the wardroom door. “I know when to keep temptation at arm’s length.”
Temptation? What did he mean? But Johnny had already turned in the direction of the heads, and you couldn’t beckon a man back from a call of nature just to ask pointless questions.
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And coming soon, New Lease Of Life
Phillip used to laugh a lot, back when his friends called him Pip. However the good deed that left him hospitalized not only marred his body, it stripped him of his good humor too. Ever since, he has pushed his friends away and shut out the world. Donating his vintage clothing to a charity shop should have been the final act in a year-long campaign to sever the links with the man Pip used to be, but the stranger on his doorstep awakens feelings in Pip that he hasn’t experienced since the incident that left him angry at the world and reliant on the cold metal of the hideous hospital-issue crutch.
Colby forces his way into Pip’s life, picking at the scab of his past. Colby isn’t interested in Pip’s money or his expensive address. He has only one goal: to make Pip smile again. With every moment in Pip’s presence, Colby chips away at the walls Pip has built around himself. Pip knows it’s impossible to fight his attraction with Colby’s sunny disposition casting light into the darkness in his soul.
1. What inspires you? What gets you writing?
Lesson Learned was spawned from one line in The Police song, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’: Wet bus stop, she’s waiting, his car is warm and dry.
Lovers Entwined was triggered by a single scene in the TinTin movie.
Theory Unproven from a BBC documentary about animal intelligence.
Under the Radar from a trip to the Submarine Museum in Gosport.
Barefoot from a visit to the supermarket.
A you can tell, literally anything.
2. What's your writing process? Seat of your pants, lots of sticky notes, complex spreadsheets?
I wish I could be so organised. I get an idea (see above) and it normally comes in the form of a scene or two. I write those scenes then try to get a grasp on the characters. I’ll do a brief timeline of where the story needs to go and how it should end. Then I sit down and try and stitch that all together. I tend to edit as I go rather than use the ‘just get words on paper’ technique, so my first drafts are normally pretty solid.
3. Which character from your books is your favorite, and why?
What sort of a question is this? How can I choose? I couldn’t so I cheated and asked the readers. Gethin from Under the Radar came out on top. The elephants from Theory Unproven got an honourable mention.
4. Which character is your least favorite, and why?
Honestly, I don’t have a least favourite. Each have their good points and their bad. Pip is grumpy and thinks he no longer deserves nice things. Zachary is a man whore (if such an expression existed in the 1940s) and seducer. Drew is naïve. Rick feels safe in his closet. Certainly, some were harder to write than others. Tyaan fought me tooth and nail against his HEA. But generally it was the cultural things that were foreign to me that made me worry about how I portrayed them on page. Tyaan and his Afrikaans heritage. Mal, a British born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Shawn and the secret that I don’t reveal or hint at on page (a conscious decision on my part) and only one reader has picked up on it. So, no, I don’t have a least favourite character at all; with them all I have moments of irritation or frustration while writing and then I love them. Just like you do with family or friends. If I didn’t love each and every one of them, then I could expect the readers to love them too.
5. If you could go back into one of your books and change one thing, what would that be? And why?
In Lovers Entwined I would possibly make Trey’s fiancé a man. It was finished at the time all the gay marriage rulings were coming in and I considered changing this then but I was working to a publisher’s deadline at the time and we were too far along in the process.
6. What's next for you? What amazing book are you working on?
Book 3 in the Village Love series. Poor Trevor has been waiting patiently in the wings for a while now. I really need to get his story written. And then maybe another historical, either a sequel to Under the Radar, or something new entirely.
Thank you, Lilllian!
More about the author:
Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.
This Grand Finale for Lillian Francis, is our final Author Of The Month post for the foreseeable future.
It's Turkey Day (Thanksgiving) in the US today, which is fitting in some way. We are THANKFUL for YOU, our readers, our loyal visitors, who hopefully have enjoyed these AotM posts through the five years we've run this feature, and to the many authors who graciously and generously worked with us to bring them just a little closer to their readers, and perhaps gain some new ones.
It's been a labor of love, and we enjoyed featuring these many diverse authors.
And happy reading!