Thank you so much for having me as your guest again, lovely Nell! I’m Ellie Thomas, I write MM Historical romance, and today I’ll be chatting about my new release, One Summer Night, written for JMS Book’s Night or Day story submission call.
When I chose to write about the option of Night in this story, I didn’t realise it would be such a contrast to my bright and breezy July story, Twelve Letters, written for JMs Books 12th Anniversary celebrations and concerned with the social life of the ton. Although these are both Regency stories, this one is centred around the political power base of London society. Martin, one of my main characters, is working as a clerk in Whitehall, and aristocratic Will, his love interest, is under the thumb of his wealthy and politically influential father.
Will is under so much pressure that something has to give, so it’s no surprise that his first meeting with Martin is no-holds-barred and passionate! These two first lay eyes on each other in an ordinary tavern (The Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, which is still a very popular pub). But when researching this story, I was fascinated to learn about numerous well-known meeting places for gay men in Regency London. As well as indoor locations such as bagnios (Turkish baths), certain coffee houses and Molly Houses, there were plenty of outdoor areas, such as Sodomites Walk on Upper Moorfield, where men could meet and hook up. Despite punitive laws, the Regency gay scene was thriving!
That public yet secret world informed so much of my story, with Martin and Will, unsure of the other’s feelings and intentions have to don a social mask in their everyday lives. This element of secrecy inevitably causes confusion until they have the opportunity to talk. Only then do they have the chance to transform a brief night of passion into the start of a true love affair.
In 1801, Martin Dunne spends his days as a hardworking clerk at the War Office in London’s Whitehall. One summer evening, after a drink in a Fleet Street tavern, he has an unexpected passionate encounter with a seducer who haunts his dreams.
But when they accidentally meet at a society function, the alluring stranger not only turns out to be the son of one of Martin’s superiors but also betrothed to a trusting young lady.
Martin’s hopes are dashed as he imagines the Hon. William Grant is a cynical rake of the worst kind. But has he misunderstood the situation? And might he allow Will to explain and give their fleeting connection a chance to develop into a fully-fledged romance?
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Feeling hot and tired by the end of the working day, Martin trudged home along Whitehall. Not having the luxury of a valet, once washed and shaved, he struggled into his evening clothes and combed down his thick dark hair. Then he practiced a smile in the spotted mirror, softening his serious expression, before setting forth on foot along the busy Strand towards Charing Cross. As he walked past his fellow citizens, the sticky evening made him uncomfortable in his constrictive evening clothes. At least it’s not raining, he thought, and he wouldn’t disgrace his superiors by arriving at a prestigious destination looking like a drowned rat.
Once at the palatial and newly renovated mansion, where no expense or extravagance had been spared, there was the usual endless queue on the stairs before the formality of announcements and resultant herding of guests into an already crowded reception room. Martin made small talk with some vaguely familiar faces from Whitehall who wouldn’t normally have deigned to notice him. He was anticipating when he might be able to escape when Sir Hervey was before him, smiling in gracious condescension.
“Enjoying yourself, Dunne?” He asked, and Martin replied with suitably muted enthusiasm.
“Met many people as yet?” The great man inquired, and as Martin demurred and started to say that he had been conversing with mutual acquaintances, his host turned to call someone forwards.
Martin felt a dull sense of obligation as Sir Hervey introduced a young lady in her early twenties, fragile and sweetly pretty in a simple white gown, the fashion for narrow skirts flattering her petite form.
“Miss Imogen Ashley,” Sir Hervey intoned, as the young lady curtseyed, her eyes demurely downcast, “affianced to my son. I don’t think you’ve met my youngest, William, have you?”
Without waiting for an answer, he moved to one side to tap a young man on the shoulder. Martin’s first thought was that he was almost as fair and delicate as his intended, and then, as those all-too-familiar eyes met his, he realised with a jolt that this perfectly turned out pink of the ton, furnished with a dauntingly influential father and a winsome bride to be was the seductive stranger from the alleyway who filled his tumultuous dreams.
During the blur of introductions, that sultry gaze, so full of unspoken desire the night before, was blank, betraying no emotion after a flash of alarmed recognition. In such a crush, since neither of them reacted, no one noticed the sudden tension between them. Despite this, Miss Imogen moved a little closer to her betrothed, taking his arm as if sensitive to a change in his mood.
For the remainder of the reception, Martin could not have said who he spoke to or what he said, and as soon as he was able, he slipped away from the party unnoticed. On his way home, when he stopped off at a tavern for a tot of rum, all he could see in his mind’s eye was the shock in those speedwell-blue orbs.
Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.
Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.