Thank you so much, lovely Nell, for having me as your guest again today. I’m Ellie, I write MM Historical Romance novellas, and I’m here today to chat about my latest release, Gentlemen’s Agreement which is currently in the 20% off pre-release/new release sale at JMS Books until January 20th.
This is the fourth story in my Regency romp Twelve Letters series, with an ensemble cast and a London setting. The first story takes place during the spring Season of 1814 and introduces three potential couples. Jo Everett, my MC, a gentleman about town, falls in love with Daniel Walters, a Bond Street tailor. Jo’s best friend from schooldays, Captain Ben Harding, meets his match when he decides to woo rather than shoot Doctor Edward Stephens, after Edward’s first catastrophic attempt to admit his feelings for Ben.
The third couple, who get together properly in the second story, Queer Relations, set in the autumn of 1814, are Percy Havilland and Nathan Brooks. Nathan, a much-respected gentleman in his thirties with a sharp business brain, should have more sense than to fall for the lures of the divine Percy. Blond, bratty and physically gorgeous, Percy’s an appalling flirt with a vast number of notches on his bedpost.
In Queer Relations, a family scandal upturns Percy’s rarified existence, and his rocky relationship with Nathan deepens. Percy also finds he has true friends in the group who rally around to support him when he faces social rejection.
In the third story, Coming of Age set in late spring 1815, the three relationships are well-established, but the course of true love never runs smoothly. Edward and Ben’s relationship is strained by distance and family disapproval. Edward is now based in rural Wiltshire, assisting his father in the family medical practice. Although Ben, in the guise of a patient, is more than happy to abandon London for Edward, the older Mr Stephens worries that Edward is wasting his skills pandering to one wealthy invalid. Although Jo and Daniel are blissfully in love, their desire to live together is thwarted by the rigid class divide, almost driving them apart.
During books 2 and 3, Percy is preoccupied with looking after members of his family and relies on Nathan’s support and advice, even if he has to be persuaded to act on this wise guidance.
In Gentlemen’s Agreement, which takes place in September 1815, these issues of the heart come to a head for our couples. Will Ben and Edward, pining horribly for each other, get the chance to be physically closer? Will Jo and Daniel get their heart’s desire to share a home? And will Percy manage his increasing family responsibilities and still find time for Nathan?
When writing this fourth story about my couples, I thought it would be the finale. But I’m currently writing a spin-off story, The Misfit, out on April 1st, and have a short Twelve Letters story scribbled in a notepad, titled May Wedding, for a May release. So Gentlemen’s Agreement may be the final story in the main thread leaving our three couples happily settled, but my Regency boys will return!
The group of Regency men who meet each Thursday at The Golden Lion in London’s St James’ find their lives become increasingly intertwined during the early autumn of 1815. Now the long wars with France are finally over, Jo Everett and Captain Ben Harding are heavily involved with their charity to assist injured ex-servicemen, as well as encountering personal complications.
Ben’s romantic interest Edward Stephens remains a hundred miles away in Wiltshire, and although Jo and his true love Daniel Walters are in the same city, they are no closer to fulfilling their dream of sharing a home. Reformed brat Percy Havilland has a deluge of relatives and increasingly convoluted family problems to deal with in his new Chelsea abode, distracting him from his older partner Nathan Brooks.
As the gentlemen juggle their feelings and duties, Ben’s former commanding officer involves them in capturing a spy ring that has inveigled the most exclusive ranks of high society. Their remit is to help foil Napoleon’s restoration as Emperor of France before he reaches the remote island of St. Helena and permanent exile.
Can this motley group of Regency men attain their happy ever after with their chosen partners? And as the nefarious treachery plays out in the select ballrooms of Mayfair, might Percy save the day by flirting for England?
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“Me?” Jo’s voice rose to a squeak. “Are you certain that the Colonel mentioned me by name? I’m bound to be the last person considered fit for subterfuge, as I’d go blundering around like a bull in a china shop. Doesn’t your lot have properly trained agents for this sort of venture?”
“My lot, be damned! Leave me out of it,” Ben grinned, sitting in his armchair and sipping the brandy he felt he deserved to extinguish the lingering taste of Amontillado and spycraft. “If you reckon you have no talent for espionage, what about me? I always steered clear of that side of operations while in the field. Although,” he said more seriously. “I was grateful enough for any information received in advance of a skirmish.”
Jo’s cheerful expression grew momentarily serious. “If that brought you safely through battle, then it must have some merit. But, even if I wanted to assist, I can’t fathom how an ordinary fellow like me, with no military connections except for you, can be of any assistance.”
“You’ve hit on the Colonel’s point exactly. Now hostilities are over, he posited that the arena of conflict is no longer the battlefield but the evening party. If he or his informers suddenly started to flock to Mayfair, the likely suspects would reconvene somewhere safer and hard to reach. But since the drawing room is your natural habitat, you would rouse no suspicion.
Jo gave a noncommittal grunt as Ben warmed to his theme. “I can’t imagine I’m the only junior officer he’s approached. I surmise the Colonel has an extensive brigade of ex-soldiers and their cronies amongst the clubs and sporting venues to cover all eventualities.”
As Jo looked slightly reassured at not being singled out alone, Ben continued, “I have to admit the Colonel is astute in his selection. You’re not only more than socially acceptable, but you’re eminently reliable. No, don’t contradict me, I’ve known you too long. You never ratted on me at school for hiding Granger’s riding crop when he threatened to use it on us younger boys, even when he swore he’d truss you up over an open fire if you didn’t confess.”
Jo did not seem completely reassured by this fulsome commendation as he said doubtfully, “If you put it that way, I’ll be glad to do my bit, naturally, but I can’t promise I’ll be much use.”
“I won’t leave you in the lurch. I might even attempt to attend a few more parties for a good cause. Heaven knows I get invited to enough of them. Colonel Graham said he’d be grateful for extra recruits at our discretion. Is there anyone trustworthy you can think of offhand?”
“Well,” Jo began. “There’s always Percy.”
Ben glared at Jo in disbelief. “Percy?” He remonstrated. “Unless he’s gazing at his reflection I wouldn’t grant him any abilities of observation.”
“You’d be surprised at Percy’s powers of perception,” Jo said thoughtfully. “A year ago I would have said you had a fair point, but now he’s…”
As Jo paused to find the correct phrase, Ben could have easily supplied several examples including, become more bearable, less of a pointless popinjay, begun to notice other people exist. He was about to interject witheringly with his favourite, no longer a completely selfish arse, when Jo added, “…mellowed.”
Ben grinned. “If you say so. I remain to be convinced, but I bow to your superior knowledge. I have to admit I wasn’t keen on imposing on you or any of our friends, but Colonel Graham’s dire warnings of conspiracies convinced me. We simply cannot risk Napoleon getting free again and raising another army.” He shuddered at the recollection of Napoleon’s daring escape from exile in Elba, landing near Cannes in the South of France and sweeping through the country unchecked until his narrow defeat at Waterloo.
“I was unable to take part in the battle, but I can assist now, with a little help from my friends.”
“I’ll be glad to join your civilian platoon and be on the lookout for those all-important names you mentioned. And, with your approval, I’ll mention it to Percy, on a need-to-know basis.”
“Then I can advise Colonel Graham that matters are in hand.” Ben raised his glass, “To Operation Ballroom!”
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.