Curzon & Harkstead are visiting!

Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead write as a team and they have two new books out for your delectation and delight. Eleanor is here today to answer intrusive questions and talk about their books! Welcome, Eleanor!

Your starter for one: Why are you doing this interview?

Eleanor Harkstead: I’m here today because we (writing team Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead) have not one but two new books out. The Captain and the Baker, our summery romcom set in Cornwall, and our Halloween novella How to Make the Perfect Man.

What started you writing?

The first story I wrote that wasn’t something I was told to write at school was about a skeleton who lived in a wardrobe, and his friends a witch and a vampire. I must’ve been about six!

Fast forward several years and I’d kept writing. My first published title was Poison Panic, a non-fiction book about Victorian poisoners. Catherine writes historical non-fiction for the same publisher, so that’s how we came to meet. We discovered a shared love of tea, chaps and fine tailoring, and that we have a similar sense of humour, and off we went! We’ve been writing together now for over three years.

Where do you write?

I tend to write at my desk at home, but if I’m out and about I write on my phone. I’ve written at the hairdresser’s waiting for the dye to take! Catherine and I write together online, which means we can be as mobile as we need to. Once we were both in different hotels, two hundred miles apart, finishing one novel and embarking on the next.

What do you like to read?

Over the past few months, I’ve been enjoying Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels. They’ve got such a compelling sense of place, and he’s really good at creating a cast of very different characters to inhabit the world of his stories. And the mysteries keep me reading. Like most people, I haven’t travelled very far over the last few months, so I’ve enjoyed my vicarious travels to Khan’s Mumbai by book!

It might sound odd, but in some ways, his writing reminds me of the stories Catherine and I write – even down to the way he writes his animal characters with the same vividness as he does his humans.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Catherine and I are our own support group!

I’m in the Romantic Novelists’ Association too. I started to go to lunches with members of my local chapter several years ago. I was writing a romance, then was commissioned to write the book about poisoners, yet I was still welcomed by the group, which shows how lovely and enthusiastic RNA members are about writing. It was a proud moment when I went back to writing romance and was able to join!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like gardens and I enjoy visiting old towns and cities. My only visits in the past few months have been to Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and to Warwick! Warwick was great as my partner and I went to Lord Leycester’s Hospital, which dates back to the 1300s. We went to Hill Close Gardens, which was really lovely – there were even summer houses there which are listed buildings.

But then I expect you can appreciate the lure of historical places!

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

The Captain and the Baker came about when I visited Catherine and we were watching cookery programmes on the telly. Catherine already had in mind the idea of a mild-mannered baker, who would turn into gentle Cornishman Locryn. Watching a sweary chef losing his rag on the telly created the idea for his foil – Jake, who’s so very different to Locryn. And as everyone knows, opposites attract…

Writing the food scenes was great fun, even down to the giant wedding cake shaped like a boat. And I enjoyed penning Jake’s creative use of profanities! Creating the village of Porthavel was wonderful, showing readers the harbour, the village’s buildings, and the people who live there. Sometimes elements of novels you’re writing can feel so real, that once or twice I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find Porthavel on Google Maps!

To be honest, the thing I hate is when a story comes to an end, but it’s never long before we’re writing something else!

Read on to find out more about The Captain and the Baker and How to Make the Perfect Man!

The Captain and the Baker – out now

Buy the Captain & the Baker : Out in Ebook, KU, paperback

How to Make the Perfect Man came from a prompt for writing a Halloween story. I liked the idea of writing a “mad scientist” character after spending time among the real test-tubes of my Victorian non-fiction, and doing it in a light-hearted way. I had fun imagining what Aubrey’s laboratory would look like, and how a twenty-first century Frankenstein would create his man. I enjoyed writing my tweedy, geeky scientist opposite Catherine’s swish alchemist, Trismegistus (Tris for short), in his shimmering suits, and teasing out the mutual attraction that the old friends have. And peopling the Halloween ball they go to with all manner of vampires, werewolves and ghouls was really fun too.

When a hot-tempered TV chef and a mild-mannered baker meet on the rugged Cornish coast, they’ve got the perfect ingredients for a red-hot snack.

Sweary and stressed celebrity chef Jake Brantham is the captain of several floating restaurants. When he’s sent to the idyllic village of Porthavel to turn a pirate ship into the next gastronomic sensation, it’s the last place on earth he wants to be.

Locryn Trevorrow is the bakery king of Cornwall. From the humble pasty to a wedding cake fit for a mermaid queen, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the art of baking. He lives in a cosy world of gingham and ganache, but at night he goes home to his smugglers’ cottage alone.

When he’s adopted by a lost kitten, Jake soon discovers that there’s more to Portavel than cream teas, lobster pots, and the annoyingly fastidious Locryn. As the village prepares for the wedding of its favourite young couple, Jake and Locryn find themselves as unlikely matchmakers for two locals who’d given up on love.

Torn between the call of Hollywood and the kisses of Locryn, will Jake choose a mansion in Beverly Hills or a cottage on the Cornish coast?

How to Make the Perfect Man – published 27 October, just in time for Halloween!

How to Make the Perfect Man : Ebook

Love isn’t science. It’s alchemy.

Needing a date for the hottest Hallowe’en party in town, scientist Aubrey Waldegrave sets to work creating his perfect man. Unfortunately, the Adonis who emerges from his laboratory is a free spirit who has no time for Aubrey’s brogues and tweeds.

Alchemist Trismegistus Nimlet can turn anything into gold, but when his apocathery’s alligator starts talking back and his werewolf allergy leaves him sneezing, it looks like Halloween might be a washout. Worse still, is Tris really about to lose the chap he secretly loves to a manmade surfer dude who’s more flash than Frankenstein?

With werewolves leaving fur in the ornamental fountains and a banshee making enough noise to wake the dead, Aubrey’s Halloween is going from bad to worse. All he wanted was to make his perfect man, but what if he was right there all along?

Find Catherine & Eleanor

Nell Iris: Regaining Trust

My early-morning writing buddy, Nell Iris is here today to talk to us about her new book, Regaining Trust, a story about coming back together after infidelity. You can also read her interview with me from last year, when she was the very first person to subject herself to my nosy questions!

What would you do if your partner cheated on you? Would you pack your bags and leave them behind, or would you choose to stay and fight for your relationship?

Would you feel differently for your partner after an infidelity? I mean, your trust would be shaken, betrayed, maybe destroyed, which is a huge blow and difficult to overcome. But would you stop loving them? Would it matter to you if you still loved them or would you leave anyway?

I realize that’s a bunch of hard, maybe even unanswerable, questions, but these are the things I was thinking about when I wrote my new story, Regaining Trust. I was thinking about what I would do if I were in Law’s shoes. Law says to Frankie; “I don’t just stop loving you, no matter what,”and I agree with that sentiment. But would the trust in my husband be irreparably broken or would the love I have for him be enough to heal what was broken?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. But they stayed in the back of my mind the entire time I wrote, fueling my pen, making me write so fast I feared my fountain pen nib would melt.

In Law and Frankie’s case, Law decides to give Frankie another chance, despite his trust being smashed to pieces which is devastating to Law whose background has formed him into someone who doesn’t trust easily. But for Frankie, the only one he’s ever trusted, the love of his life, he’s willing to at least try. Because no matter how hurt he is by Frankie’s actions, his love doesn’t come to a screeching halt. Even if it would have been easier.

Regaining Trust is the story of how Law and Frankie work hard to find their way back together.

Read on for the blurb, more about Nell, and an excerpt or Buy Regaining Trust.

Blurb:

When workaholic Lawrence Weller walks in on the aftermath of his fiancé Frankie cheating on him, his world shatters. Frankie’s the love of his life, the only person he’s ever trusted, and the betrayal leaves him devastated.

Franklin Ennis makes a huge mistake that he regrets deeply before it’s even over. He pleads for a second chance, willing to do whatever it takes to save their relationship.

A love that deep doesn’t just stop, so Lawrence agrees to try. But mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum. Are they both willing to own up to their part? Will their love be enough to repair what was crushed? Can trust once broken be rebuilt?

Buy Regaining Trust

Who’s Nell, then?

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.

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Excerpt:

“You never told me you were lonely,” I say.

“I did!” His protest is loud and takes some of the defeat from his body. “I’ve told you a thousand times. How I miss you when you’re always working late and wish we could do more stuff together.”

I knit my eyebrows together, trying to think back and remember. He’s right. He always hugs me tightly and tells me how much he’ll miss me when he knows I’ll work late. Or how he wishes we could do something together, even if it’s only watching a show while cuddling on the couch.

”I thought that was your way of showing me how you feel about me. You being sweet and caring. Not once did I think it meant ‘I’m so fucking lonely I’ll suck someone else’s dick.’ Was it even your first time?” The question is a pained scream, hurting my throat, my head, my soul. I don’t like yelling, so I take a deep breath and start counting to ten in my head to calm down, but I’m interrupted before even reaching three.

“Of course, it was the first time,” he roars. “I’m not a cheater.”

His words are a thundercrack in an otherwise dead silent apartment, and I rear back, scramble off the couch, and turn to leave.

“No. Please.” He’s pleading now, voice cracked and bleeding out on the floor. “Please don’t leave me, Lawrence. I’ll do anything. I love you so much, don’t leave me.”

I’m frozen on the spot. Undecided. The hurt, overly-dramatic part of me wants to storm off in a huff, throw some stuff in a bag, and retreat somewhere to lick my wounds, and rage and scream and curse the treachery, while wailing out my broken heart. But the other, more rational part of me won’t let me move, the part that still remembers how much I love him, still remembers his loving kisses, his devotion. His passion.

So I sink back down on the couch. Rub my palms over my face and swallow. “I don’t know what to do here, Frankie. I’m hurt and betrayed, but at the same time I just can’t turn off my feelings for you. But how can I be with you if I can’t trust you?”

“You can trust me. You can.” He’s so sincere, so heartfelt, leaning forward—hands twitching so he shoves them between his knees—begging, willing me to believe him. And I want to. I really do.

“How?”

“I’ve never done anything like this before, never kissed anyone, hardly ever looked at anyone like that. It was a huge mistake and I regret it. So, so much. I know I can’t prove it, but I was going to tell you. That’s what I was worried about when you walked in. How I would tell you. How you’d react. If you’d hate me.”

I must look skeptical because he hurries to continue. “I know. It’s easy to say when there’s no way of proving intent. But I’m not a liar. You know I’m not.”

“Do I?” I push out the question around the lump in my throat.

He slides to his knees on the floor in front of me, sits back on his heels, and tries to catch my gaze. I give in to his silent pleas and meet his eyes.

“You know me, Lawrence. You know you do. You know what kind of person I am. I’m only human and make mistakes like everyone. This one was huge and more stupid than most, I know that. I’m not perfect, but I’m not a liar. I’m not disloyal. And I own my mistakes.” His face is open. He blinks away tears, but his gaze never falters. His hands rest on his knees, palms open and turned up, and everything about him invites me to see the honesty in his heart.

And maybe I can see it. The slight tremble of his hand and the pulse fluttering visibly in his neck betrays his anxiousness, but he doesn’t move. Doesn’t squirm or fidget, doesn’t look away from me. Nothing indicates that he’s lying.

There’s no way he’s that skilled a liar. He’s always been open and honest and prone to blurting his emotions as soon as he experiences them. That thought deflates me and I fall back against the couch.

“Yeah, I know. I believe you.” And I do. At least my head knows. I’m not sure about my heart. Or my gut, rather.

His eyes well up and a tremble racks his body, but it’s the sight of his wobbly chin that finally cracks me. I hold out my hand, unable to not touch him anymore. “Come here.”

Buy Regaining Trust

Deleted Scene: Taking Stock

I’ve got a little deleted scene for you from Taking Stock, today. Laurie is in hospital and he wants to come home. Scroll down to read.

I’m so pleased with some of the lovely things people have said about the story:

  • “A quiet, beautiful story about decency, love and finding your family.”
  • “Laurie and Phil have a chemistry that is quite beautiful.”
  • “a thoughtful, delicate story…very refreshing.”

Buy Taking Stock

Deleted Scene

“What do you mean, I can’t go home?” Laurie was almost crying with frustration. “I can go home if I like!”

Sally glared at him. “And how are you going to get up and down the stairs? Or even down the hall to the bathroom?” she said. “And wash when you get there? And turn over properly in bed? And what happens if you actually fall out of bed in the night and can’t get up? And come to that, who’s going to take you home, you idiot? You can’t drive!”

He glared back. “I thought that you might!”

“No! Not me!” her glaring was so much better than his.

He pushed against the pillows, but because he was unable to brace properly with his weak leg, he couldn’t make himself sit up any further. She stood up and hauled him forward with competent strength, shoving more pillows behind him to support his bad arm and shoulder. Damn her.

When she sat back down, he lowered his gaze to his lap. His hand lay across his legs, curled and useless. He imagined moving his fingers and he felt it happening in his head. But in his lap, they lay dead and still, obvious betrayers of his helplessness.

“Laurie…,” her voice was kind. “You need to stay in here for a bit and let them help you. They say at least some of the use of the your arm and your leg should come back quite quickly, specially if you work at it. And then we can get you back home.”

Buy Taking Stock

Come and chat to me!

As I may have mentioned in passing (SNORT), Taking Stock is out tomorrow. I am dropping in to chat to a few places over the next day or two, so please do come along and say hello!

8.20 to 8.40pm BST (15.20 EST): Bryce Winters’s Wildflowers. Bryce also has a release, today! So I’m popping in there for a bit to chat.

9 to 10pm BST (4pm EST) I’m at the Talking RoMMance with a British Accent group! I’m considering doing a reading. Maybe. If the kids have gone to bed. Perhaps.

Tomorrow the 19th, I’m at QueerRomanceInk from 9pm BST (4pm EST) for an hour for a chat. Sarcasm and prizes!

Plus, I have five copies of Inheritance of Shadows to give away to celebrate! Join up here!

Anne Barwell: Family & Reflection

Today I’d like to showcase Anne Barwell’s re-release, Family and Reflection! It’s a 76k word story, part of The Sleepless City, a shared world with Elizabeth Noble.

When a rebel werewolf and a vampire thief fall in love, only one thing is certain—trouble.

For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Boggslake—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Boggslake for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.

Authors Note: This story was originally released in 2015 by another publisher. This edition has been re-edited.


Excerpt:

“If someone had told me twenty years ago I’d be having a conversation about something like this with a vampire, I’d have told them they were crazy.”

“You’re having this conversation with a friend,” Declan corrected him. “It doesn’t matter what we are, but who we are.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I want to.” Declan thought for a moment, wanting the right words. Why was this so difficult? He’d given advice to Jonas and Simon many times without any trouble.

“We’re both as bad as each other, yeah?” Lucas seemed sad.

“Why do you say that, and about what?” Declan let go of Lucas.

“I’m a werewolf, and you’re a vampire—”

“You’ve only noticed that now?” Declan interrupted dryly. He walked back to his chair, adjusting it so he was opposite Lucas and could see his face.

Lucas laughed, but this time it sounded natural, not forced. “I’ve gotten used to living at the castle. I love it here, and the guys are my friends. Most of the time I forget we’re different. They’re family. I don’t care what they are. It’s like you said. The important thing is who they are.” He sobered. “Then crap like this goes down… Why do I suddenly feel as though I’m a part of the pack again and need to follow their stupid rules?”

“You’re a part of whatever family you want to be, Lucas.” Declan knew what he wanted—needed—to say now. “One thing I’ve learned with having a long life is that family is who you choose. I didn’t get on with mine that well. I had a father who had expectations too.” He pulled himself up sharply before he went anywhere near those memories. Very little of what he’d done had pleased his father. “We might be different, you and I, mon ami, but in many ways we’re the same.”

“I kind of get the expectation thing with you guys.” Lucas paused and looked apologetic before continuing. “Simon’s not said much about his past, but I get the impression his father expected him to do stuff he didn’t want to do as well.” He scowled. “Be a good son and carry on the family name and traditions. I’m guessing Forge went through the same thing, but he’s never said anything about it. At least not to me.”

“Why do you get it with us?” Declan figured he already knew the answer but wanted to be certain he and Lucas were talking about the same thing.

“You’re a lot older than I am. I can understand this stuff going on a hundred, or even two—”

“Closer to three hundred,” Declan said.

“Yeah, that. You’re old. No offense.” Lucas waved one hand.

“None taken.” Declan couldn’t help but smile. “I know I’m old. But you know what they say about fine wine?”

“Yeah, and, hey, I’m not complaining.” Lucas took a long drink of coffee. “You interrupted my flow. I was making a point here.”

“Sorry.”

“So you’re old, so I expect that kind of stuff from you guys. It was a long time ago.” Lucas growled low in his throat. “But us… the pack… we… they’re carrying on like we’re still living in that society. I’ve told my father that he needs to move with the times or the pack will be left behind. Sure, they use technology, but for the rest of it, you’d think we’d only just gotten off the Mayflower or something.”

“It takes a long time for some people to accept change.” Declan leaned over and brushed a lock of hair back from Lucas’s forehead. “Some never do.” He’d seen vampires who couldn’t move past what their lives had been like as humans. Most of them hadn’t survived.

“Yeah.” Lucas swallowed. He shook his head when Declan started to move his chair farther back and away from temptation. “I don’t mind you touching me like that,” he said softly.

“I should…” Declan hadn’t thought, just reacted. He’d meant what he’d said about flirting and had no intention of leading Lucas on. “We’re friends,” he said finally.

“I wouldn’t be talking to you about this stuff if we weren’t.” Lucas looked like he was about to say something but cleared his throat instead. “I know you’re kind of touchy-feely and all that. So am I. So—”

A loud knock sounded at the front door.

“Now what?” Lucas muttered.

Boggs materialized in front of them. He looked annoyed. “There are two gentlemen at the door,” he said. “I don’t know who exactly they are, but I heard them talking before they knocked. They’re from the council.”

“I already apologized about that weird stuff in the garbage,” Lucas said.

“Not that council.” Boggs rolled his eyes. “The other one.”

About the Author:

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Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.