Welcome to our first week of celebrating the amazing
In our first post, we're going to look at the Village Love series.
Village Love is set in the fictional Sussex village of Slopy Bottom. I'll let Rick (from Resistance) tell you how Slopy Bottom got its name.
“It’s one p, Slopy Bottom. The village has been there for centuries. Local historians think it started life as Slope Bottom since the oldest houses are on the low slope at the bottom of a hill. The rest of the village spread out into the valley as the years went by but the name stuck. At one point the village was all but owned by a French lord, which could account for the mispronunciation, and it appears to have been Slopy Bottom ever since.”
Who’s this Rick you mention? I notice he’s in the blurb for book two, as well.
Rick is the village gardener/handyman. His story of how he struggles to fit his sexuality and his London-born Pakistani boyfriend in to his life in his sleepy village home is told in Resistance (Village Love #1). Rick and Mal’s meet-cute is told in a short story, Resonance. As Resonance doesn't take place in the village it has been assigned as Village Love 0.5.
Do I need to read the books in the series in order?
No. Each book deals with a separate couple. However, in such a small village people bump into each other all the time. So yes, characters will appear that the reader has been introduced to in the previous books.
Hang on, these covers don’t look anything like any gay romance novels I’ve ever seen? Are you sure they’re not garden manuals?
You definitely don’t want gardening advice from me. I wanted something different but that still portrayed an English village, with a gentle, soothing feel. Garrett Leigh did an amazing job with these covers.
Will there be more books in the series?
Definitely. I'm gearing up to start work on Book 3, Trevor’s tale. I have very brief story lines, if they work out, for at least a Book 4, and maybe a Book 5. If you read a particular character that you like drop me a line and let me know, I've undoubtedly got a plan to pair him with someone!
I've already been asked about Adam, the coffee shop owner. Yes, he will definitely get his story told.
Starting with the first book, which is at position 0.5 in the series, Resonance
Rick Brandt would never have said he was claustrophobic; after all he’s been in plenty of enclosed spaces in his job as the village’s only handyman cum gardener. He even squeezed into a disused coal chute to rescue a trapped dog for an elderly resident. So why did opening his eyes in the MRI scanner induce a breath stealing freak-out that has him jabbing at the panic button.
Luckily, Mal, the radiographer running his scan has a pleasant voice and an excellent bedside manner that soothes Rick’s frayed nerves and rabbity heartbeat. Soon the resonance of his tone has gone beyond calming and Rick is lost in a fantasy of the man behind the voice. But things aren’t always what they seem and when Rick’s shocked surprise at the reality causes offence, the likelihood of him getting to experience Mal’s true bedside manner appears to be slipping away.
“I cancelled an appointment with the vicar’s wife for this.” I gasped out as a tongue traced the outstretched dragon’s wing that crested my shoulder and wrapped around my bicep. “I’m officially going to hell…” That wicked tongue caught the edge of my armpit on the way back and in my surprise I inhaled a mouthful of quilt cover. “In a hand basket.”
Warm breath ghosted over my flesh and my skin broke out in a rash of goosebumps.
“If my Ammi knew I was picking men up at work she’d be mortified.” Pausing in his ministrations, he rested his forehead at the base of my neck and sighed. “Or vindicated. Always a disappointment.”
I thought of his body. Of him. Long legs with muscled thighs. Dark hair that flopped endearingly over his forehead. His laugh, sudden and surprising from his studious demeanour. The encouraging comfort of his voice. The gentle focused way he was taking me apart with just his mouth and the lightest touch of his fingertips.
“Not to me, Mal. Not to me.”
Exhaled into my skin on a damp breath I could barely make out his response but I think he mumbled “So glad you freaked out today”, before returning his attention to my artwork and his lips to the body of my dragon.
Something thick and heavy still lingered in the air along with the smell of sweat and spices and sex.
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In the actual number 1 slot, Resistance
How long can you wait on a promise?
After his first night with Mal, Rick broke the habit of a lifetime and invited the sexy radiographer to spend the weekend in the sleepy English village he called home. Rick isn’t in denial but he’s afraid to reveal his sexuality in the close-knit community that has known him since he was a babe in arms.
The sex is amazing but equally Mal loves lazy days spent in the garden at Slopy Bottom, and every precious moment he spends with Rick. For Mal the village quickly becomes an oasis of peace, far from the noise and grime of life in London, a slice of tranquillity with Rick at the heart. But Mal has defied his family and his religion to be true to himself, and there is no way can he join Rick in his self-built closet, no matter how comfortable it is...
Rick is afraid revealing the true nature of his relationship with Mal will change the way his neighbours see him. He adores these people, this village, and he can’t face the thought of losing everything over who he chooses to sleep with. When the alternative is giving up a man who has slotted perfectly into his life—a man who he might just love—it’s no choice at all. But, knowing what has to be done isn’t always as easy as putting it into practice.
Make something? Visions of Rick swinging his hammer and brandishing a saw flashed into Mal’s mind. The muscles in Rick’s upper arms bunching as he knocked in nails or cut through a plank of wood, sweat soaking his T-shirt. Until he had to get rid of the sodden material and he stood there, tanned and topless for Mal’s viewing pleasure. And all because Mal had expressed an interest in a piece of furniture. Please let him make it when I’m around. Mal would happily buy the wood to watch that show.
Silence followed as the scene in Mal’s imagination veered away from PG-13, and Rick frowned. “Handyman, remember. But I could certainly set up a double hammock for now.”
“Oh, I remember. Do you have a tool belt?”
“Kinky fucker. Yeah, I do.” Rick winked. “Want me to wear it for you?”
Mal blinked. This cheeky Rick was a world away from the worried man full of excuses and furtive glances who had greeted Mal at top of the lane. “Would you be comfortable with us lying together like that?”
“Sure.” But the glance towards the other two houses on his side of the lane undermined the certainty in Rick’s tone. “The rear garden is completely hidden from the lane and can’t be accessed easily from the front, and the houses my dad had built are angled so that they can’t look over my garden from their top floors.”
“Good to know. Especially about the tool belt.” Mal grinned, and then indicated down the garden. “So, what’s at the far end?” It was so far back and the garden planted at such different stages and angles that Mal could barely make out the stone wall. “On the other side of the wall? Is that yours, too?”
“Holy shit. Cows.” Rick shook off Mal’s hand and scrabbled to stand.
“Surely our secret is safe with them.” But Rick had already disappeared through the opening into the cool shade of the living room. “I doubt if their eyesight is that good, anyway,” Mal mumbled to himself.
“Come on, I’ll take you down there,” Rick said when he reappeared with an impressive digital SLR camera around his neck and a notebook and pen in his hands. He reached out to help Mal to his feet. If the camera hadn’t been there, Mal would have been tempted to pull Rick down on top of him and sort out those buttons on his shorts. Instead, he curled his fingers around Rick’s wrist and admired the flex and release of muscle in Rick’s forearms as he hoisted Mal to his feet.
“Are there really cows?” Mal asked, as they covered the main expanse of lawn and ducked through an archway that could have originally been a portion of wall from an old church or country house.
“Moooooo!” Rick let loose and grinned. “Real cows. Nigel, the farmer who owns the fields behind my place, stopped me while I was waiting for you. He’s letting the cows into that field today and they like the taste of the plants that grow in the wall. I just want to document any new ones before they eat them all.”
“Oh. Eww. What’s that smell? Is it the cows?”
Rick grinned. “Aww, my little city boy. That’s my compost heap. The cows smell much more pungent.”
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And in the #2 slot, Renaissance
After his tumultuous teenage years, Smudge has settled into his quiet life in the sleepy English village of Slopy Bottom. He’s his own boss with the time and space to indulge his artistic creativity. And he has friends. He’s happy. Satisfied. Lonely. And the pool of potential soulmates is almost non-existent. His friends, Rick and Mal, flush with their own happy romance, keep trying to set him up with the most incompatible men, and he's never finding true love on Grindr. Hell, he's not even going to manage a hook up based on the kinky messages he’s been getting recently. He'll just have to slake his desire to find his own HEA in the pages of bosom-heaving romance novels.
Raleigh is the darling of Slopy Bottom’s blue rinse brigade: church organist, mobile librarian, and apparently wedded to his trademark cardigans. He seems to be the polar opposite of the artistic Smudge, whose brightly coloured mohawk and piercings should be a red flag to Raleigh. Yet he’s yearning for company too. It’s just that Raleigh has less expectation and definitely less courage to chase after it, for reasons that he keeps very close to his chest. Reasons that don’t stop him from being drawn irresistibly to Smudge.
Smudge is sure that the way Raleigh runs from him whenever he sees him is cruelly deliberate. A reflection on his bad boy looks and his disdain for Raleigh’s precious church. So why can’t he stop thinking about the softness of Raleigh’s curls and his delicate body? Then Raleigh offers an olive branch of sugar and caffeine, Smudge’s favourite combination, starting them on a road to an awkward truce. And when they are conned into working together on a community project at the local hospital, the proximity ignites a spark that can’t be ignored. But navigating the murky waters that could take their relationship beyond tentative friendship all depends on whether Raleigh can release his secret fears – and whether Smudge is the man to share and allay them.
Luckily Raleigh knew the picture book in his hands inside out. Nobody seemed to notice the way he faltered over his words in the middle of the reading. A simple glance up to make eye contact with the kids had resulted in more than he’d bargained for. Smudge leant against the side of the bus, his gaze fixed and apparently listening intently to Raleigh’s reading.
After that realisation, Raleigh had been unable to avoid looking in Smudge’s direction, lured by the glint of bright sunshine off the myriad of piercings and gauges. Whenever Smudge moved his head the flash of green—and was that purple? Had Smudge added more colour to his hair?—against the side of the bus caught Raleigh’s attention.
When Smudge had swiped his bare arm—bare if you didn’t count those damn tattoos that set Raleigh’s heart pounding—across his forehead, the move displayed a tuft of brown hair at Smudge’s armpit, thick and visible even with the distance between them. Of course, Raleigh knew what to look for, had seen it before. Smudge flaunted flesh and hair in those carelessly ripped sleeveless T-shirts that he wore. All. The. Damn. Time!
Without a doubt, he’d drawn Smudge’s attention to the fact that Raleigh knew he was there by sending over the drink, but it gave Raleigh a moment to collect himself until Smudge had tipped back his head to drain the juice. The long line of his throat had grabbed Raleigh’s attention and held it there. He’d only just dropped his gaze back to the children in time. For a moment he chatted to several of the children about the next read but couldn’t recall the words he’d used or the answers he’d received while he composed himself. Book chosen and satisfied that his face wouldn’t give anything away he glanced back up, sweeping the area as casually as possible. Smudge caught his eye and raised the disposable cup.
The sun beat hard against the side of the bus, bouncing off one of the buses few remaining windows and throwing a halo of golden light around Smudge’s head. A roguish saint.
Raleigh caught himself before the snort escaped. Smudge, a self-confessed atheist would hate that analogy. Heat flooded Raleigh’s cheeks but he acknowledged Smudge’s gesture with a quick nod and ducked his head to hide his blush.
With the book open at the first page, Raleigh cast his gaze over the children and let out a deafening roar. The children squeaked and squealed, a few laughed out loud.
Raleigh grinned and flicked his eyes up to the patch of sunlight.
Smudge had gone.
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Lillian's favorite things:
Food: A really good steak, maybe.
Drink: I’m rather partial to a glass of Prosecco. And I’ve recently discovered a cocktail called a Godfather, which tastes just like alcoholic Dr Pepper!
Music: I have such eclectic taste in music that pinning down my favourite is almost impossible because it changes on any given day. But if you stranded me on a desert island with only one artist on my Spotify I guess I would have to go with Frank Sinatra.
Animal: Red Panda. Those little guys are adorable. And endangered.
Movie: The Princess Bride
Book: Another impossible question. I honestly can’t pick my favourite. If I go by what I’ve read the most: M/M? Josh Lanyon’s Somebody Killed his Editor. Non M/M? The Maltese Falcon or The 39 Steps.
Candy: Chocolate, especially dark with sea salt
Font: Book Antiqua
Place to go: Anywhere by the sea.
Place to vacation: Anywhere coastal, especially in the UK. I love Wales and North Cornwall.
Place to blow £100: That one’s easy, my local comic book shop.
Favourite accessory: My Kindle
Favourite restaurant: Don’t really have one. I like small local places rather than big chains though.
About the author:
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Thank you for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of Lillian's books and five little-known facts about here. There will also be another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!