Please say hello to JL Merrow and
Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today to celebrate the release of my new rom-com, Counter Culture, which features a clash of cultures between a socially conscious steampunk and a stressed-out department store retail worker.
Customer service has never been this personal.
Robin Christopher, beleaguered retail worker, isn’t having an easy November. His boss is raising stress levels planning a Black Friday to end all Black Fridays, his family doesn’t understand him, and his best friend thinks his new crush is a hallucination brought on by watching too many episodes of Doctor Who.
Archie Levine dresses in Victorian style and divides his time between caring for his young son and creating weird and wacky steampunk gadgets from bits of old junk—when he’s not looking after his mum and trying to keep on good terms with his ex. The last thing he’s got time for is a relationship, but the flustered young man he met while disembowelling a fridge is proving very tempting.
When his mum’s social conscience is roused by a local store with a cavalier attitude to the homeless, former rough sleeper Archie shares her anger. Little does he know that Robin works for that same store. When Archie finds out he’s sleeping with the enemy, things could cut up very rough indeed.
Get the book:
“Cheesecake for me, please.” Azrah said, rising. “And you’ll have to excuse me. Need a trip to the ladies’.”
Robin jumped up from his seat, desperate not to be left alone with his parents in their current mood. “Me too! Um, the gents’, I mean. Not the ladies’.”
Dad muttered something that sounded like, Are you sure?
Robin’s wince was totally not visible to the human eye.
Azrah sent him a sympathetic glance, but he’d long suspected she wasn’t entirely human. She linked her arm in his as they headed off towards the facilities. “Come on, we can touch up each other’s makeup.”
“You’re not wearing any makeup.”
“What, and you are?”
“No, but . . .” Robin shook his head and dropped her arm. “Never mind. See you in a bit.”
He pushed through the double doors to the gents’, and nearly had a heart attack.
Fridge Gent was there, his back to Robin. It was the first time Robin had had a good look at him from behind, and with his jacket off. It was an arresting view, his tailored clothing emphasising his trim waist and hips, set off by those impossibly broad shoulders. If they stuck him in the window of Willoughbys, waistcoat sales would quadruple overnight. He was standing in front of the mirror waxing his moustache, and why did that sound like a euphemism in Robin’s head?
Play it cool. He strode confidently into the room, slipped on a rogue piece of loo roll, and only saved himself by flinging out a hand to the wall of the nearest cubicle. It hit with a sound like a clap of thunder, swiftly followed by an almighty Oi from the bloke inside.
“S-sorry,” Robin stuttered. “Slipped.”
As if drawn by magnets, his eyes rose to the mirror, where the reflection of Fridge Gent—Archie—was staring back at him in surprise, his eyebrows arching—hah!—in perfect counterpoint to that natty moustache. And yes, the monstrous, sweaty, anguished beetroot looming behind him was indeed Robin’s face.
Maybe the ladies’ would have been a better choice, after all.
Archie turned to stare straight at him, which didn’t improve Robin’s composure one bit. “Are you all right?”
“F-fine. Sorry.” Robin turned to escape, realised that he did, actually, need to pee quite desperately, and spun back round again, almost tripping over his own feet as he did so.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Archie was still giving him concerned looks. “Do you want me to get anyone? Treacherous things, tiled floors. You might have turned an ankle. Hit your head on the wall— Did you hit your head on the wall? You could have a concussion—” He stepped forward, a hand held up as if to feel Robin’s brow for a fever.
“No! Really, I’m fine.” To prove it, Robin marched up to the urinal—watching carefully where he put his feet this time—unzipped his flies, and waited for the blessed relief of an emptying bladder.
And waited. There was no sound of retreating footsteps behind him. Mortified, Robin flung an angry glare over his shoulder. “I can’t go with you standing there!”
Was there a hint of a blush on Archie’s cheeks? “Sorry. Just wasn’t sure you were, er . . . I’ll see you around, all right?” He turned and left.
Robin resisted the urge to bang his head against the tiles above the urinal. It probably wouldn’t be very hygienic.
About the author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.
She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers Association, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Find JL Merrow online at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $10 gift card to Riptide. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 9, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
Promotional post. Materials provided by the publisher.