Book Recommendations

Sunday Book Recommendation

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I find nothing interesting, all blurbs sound like blah-blah-blah to me and it makes me sad and frustrated. Back before we moved to Malaysia, my day job made me so stressed I completely stopped reading, I didn’t read a single book for years and years. It sucked, and I don’t want that to happen again. So I’m re-reading old favorites. I’m re-reading Harry Potter fanfics I love, just to keep up with the reading habit because reading is important to me. It’s a big part of who I am.

I’m also reading ARCs generously provided to me by author friends, or throwing myself on new releases by favorite authors. Which is how I stumbled upon these two gems that I’m going to talk about today.

When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming an actor. Not in movies, no my love was in theatre. I was a part of a theatre group, living and breathing theatre, and even applied to acting schools. I wasn’t accepted, and now I’m happy about that because I’m not cutthroat enough for that business. But I haven’t lost my love for the theatre, so when my dear friend Ally said she was writing a story set in the world of theatre, I made grabby hands and said GIMME!! And because she’s Britishly nice and polite, she obliged and kindly gifted me an ARC 😀

Out of Focus Book Bingo. If you have Welsh theatre on your bingo sheet, look no further!

”Oh bollocksy bollocksy bollocksy bollocks. Fuck-shit-wank.”

Quote from Out of Focus by A.L. Lester. Possibly the best quote in the world?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll most likely say it again, but I simply adore the quiet, understated romances Ally writes. There are no flowery, over-the-top gestures, no sentimental drivel, only down-to-earth characters that feel like real people, struggling to find love. And yes, maybe sometimes reading is about escaping the real world, maybe it’s a moment of hanging out with shifters and vampires instead of regular people, but I have a huge soft spot for regular people. And Ally writes those characters so well.

I read this book in one sitting, unable to put it down, and when I finished, I messaged Ally and demanded more books set in this fabulous Welsh theatre world. I was promised that more books are forthcoming, and I can’t wait. But until they are released, I warmly recommend this book. And I’ve added it to my list of favorites to re-read if the reading slump doesn’t let up.

So to sum it up: Britishness, Welsh Theatre, a quiet romance, and regular guys. Oh, and I almost forgot: tea! What else is there to do than give it five stars?? 😍

(Read the blurb at the bottom of the post)

I don’t have to tell you that K.L. Noone is one of my favorite writers, right? So it won’t come as a surprise that the second book I’m going to recommend is written by her, right? 🙂 She also teased me terribly on Facebook with excerpts from the book before it was published, so the moment it was released, I one-clicked it so hard my phone almost broke.

He told himself that. He told Finn’s ring that. They were both cold and scared, sitting in a hospital waiting area.

Quote from Tempests in April by K.L. Noone

Tempests in April is the fourth book about established couple Wes and Finn, and I’ve read them all, and mentioned them on the blog. October by Candlelight was the first one and I raved about it here. I read the second one, December with Peppermint, in December when I was sick for five weeks (not covid, people apparently still got regular flus) and it was a soothing balm for my poor achey self. I read the third one, February Sugar, by the kitchen fireplace, and it made me crave chocolate.

And now I’ve read the fourth one, Tempests in April. It’s possibly my favorite one, and it made my heart ache. Poor Finn is hurt and Wes is panicking, and I was panicking right along with him. When Wes was crying, I was crying. It made me feel so much, and it was exactly what I needed at the time when I read it. I felt as though there were no more good books in the world, and then I found this darling book. It saved my soul. (Yes, yes, a slight exaggeration. But you know what I mean!!)

Go buy it. It’s an order.

Blurb Out of Focus (17500 words / MM Contemporary)

Alex has never quite believed he’s good enough. Not as a person and not as a lighting technician. He hates that however hard he tries he can’t get his boss, Luke, to like him. In the two years he’s been in the job it’s become a Thing with him and he’s got a huge crush on the man. He needs to move on for his own sanity and his career and he’s just about to accept a job at a bigger theatre when one of the volunteers he’s bedded and dumped pushes him off a ladder.

Luke likes Alex a lot and has done since the day he walked through the door of Theatre Fawr two years ago. He doesn’t date his staff though, or do casual—and Alex is the epitome of casual. So Luke keeps his distance despite Alex’s constant flirting.

Will Alex’s injury give Alex and Luke the push they need to open up to each other? Or will Luke’s inadvertent discovery that Alex has a secret job offer push them further apart?

Blurb Tempests in April (14305 words / MM Contemporary)

The weather might be terrible, but Wes is having a good day. He has a boyfriend he adores, Finn’s acting career’s going well, and Wes just might be making plans to ask a certain question very soon.

But when an accident leaves Finn injured, none of Wes’s plans can help. There’s nothing he can do, and he’s afraid it was his fault. Even worse, Finn’s the one comforting him when Wes falls apart.

Wes wants to be strong for the man he loves. But he’s scared he isn’t doing enough. And there’s something Finn isn’t telling him.

With love and checklists and cinnamon-walnut scones, Wes will try his best … and hope he and Finn can weather rainy days and tempests together.

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: Perfect Rows by Holly Day

My dear friend Holly Day is the last of the naked gardener writers to visit my blog, and before I leave the space to her, I just want to say that I completely adore the cover. Admittedly, the guy is decidedly un-naked considering the theme, but it’s a trivial matter, let’s ignore it 😀

Hello everyone! Thank you, Nell, for letting me swing by today! As I’m sure you know by now, we’ve done this author collaboration thing where we’ve all written a story for World Naked Gardening Day. With we, I mean my lovely hostess, Nell Iris, A.L. Lester, K.L. Noone, Amy Spector, and me.

My story is called Perfect Rows, and it’s about Grayson and Camden who share a garden. They live in two cottage-style houses facing each other, and between them is a big kitchen garden. It was Grayson’s great grandfather who bought the property and had the houses built the way they are. Once they were built, he gave one house to Grayson’s grandmother and one to her sister. The two of them had no problems sharing the space, Grayson and Camden however… They don’t get along. 

Grayson thinks Camden is hot but always leaves their conversations feeling sad and inadequate. Camden’s mum is a drug addict, and they had it rough growing up. It’s no excuse for acting like a prick, but Camden feels inferior. He refuses to let it show, though.

It wasn’t until I was done with my edits that I realised that I’ve used an example to show how Camden had it growing up that might not make sense to everyone. I’m sure Nell will get it since she’s Swedish too, but I talk about how Cam’s mum forgot to pack field day lunches and how it embarrassed him.

In Sweden, school lunch is free. No one brings anything to school. Everyone is served warm food in the canteen. For free. There is a law prohibiting schools to charge for food, but when I was a kid, we brought our own lunch on field day. Kids don’t anymore. If they’re going on field day, they either pack cold food from the school canteen. My kids’ school is in favour of pasta salad with ham, or they make a fire and heat up some hot dogs. Today, no Swedish kid will go through a school day without getting fed.

When Camden was in school, kids still brought their lunch on field day, and I use that to show that his mum was unable to care for her kids. The shame he’s carrying around from having been that kid who never had lunch on field days has made him into the slightly prickly person he is today. 

So, I realised too late, that I’ve used something perhaps only Swedes will understand to paint the picture. My bad.


Everything would’ve been perfect if Grayson Dawe hadn’t been forced to share his garden with Camden Hensley. Grayson has everything he needs in life – a job, friends, a house he loves, and a garden. He wants to grow enough vegetables to cover his needs over the summer, and he has a plan for how to achieve it.

Camden Hensley loves his garden. He loves beautiful flowers in perfect rows, sweet scents and buzzing bees, but his neighbor, Grayson, messes everything up. He mixes vegetables with flowers in the growing beds and is incapable of placing plants in straight lines. And when Cam pulls out the plants growing in the wrong place, Grayson snarls at him.

Grayson doesn’t want to fight with Camden, but he’s completely unreasonable. Cam only wants Grayson to stop creating chaos and to grow flowers instead of vegetables. Neither of them is willing to back down, and days in the garden usually end in shouting matches, at least until Grayson realizes he can shut Cam up by kissing him. But will they ever be able to agree about what plants should grow where?

Contemporary Gay Romance: 16,427 words

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon ::


Camden Hensley watched Grayson stalk off and blew out a breath. That was one fine ass; too bad it was attached to an ass. The garden could be lovely, it was lovely, but it could be truly beautiful if Grayson could only find it in himself to be a little more organized. Everything was higgledy-piggledy with Grayson. Everything. The way he dressed, the mess in his car—he mixed black T-shirts with white when he washed, for fuck’s sake. Though, Cam guessed he should be glad he washed at all.

A painter.

Who wanted to paint walls all day? And this obsession with chickens… He shook his head. It had started as soon as Grayson had moved in. He hadn’t been there more than a day or two before he’d approached Cam about wanting to build a chicken coop.

They would not have chickens running around, roosters crowing at dawn—no, thank you.

Cam loved his home, loved the garden, and the peace that came with living outside the city. But everything had been so much better when Frances had been alive. She’d been an adorable little lady and instead of criticizing everything Camden did in the garden, she’d been pleased.

He couldn’t believe Grayson was her grandson. They were nothing alike—not in appearance, not in manner, and Frances had never snarled at him. She baked cookies and used them as bribes to get him to sit with her in the garden and chat for a bit. She was easygoing, satisfied with life, and it was a welcome break from the ugliness of the world.

The garden had been his oasis until Grayson had moved in. Loud, demanding Grayson. He towered over Camden as if he believed his size would intimidate him. It did, but he’d never admit it.

Cam remembered Grayson from school, though he doubted Grayson remembered him. He’d been the rail-thin kid in the corner with unwashed clothes whose mother forgot to pack lunch on field day. She forgot to serve dinner too, but it wasn’t as obvious as the lack of lunch on field day.

Grayson had been wild. Not mean, but loud, though Camden had been terrified of him. He’d spent more time roaming the corridors than he had attending lessons, and then one day he’d been gone. Cam didn’t know what had happened, but someone had said he was working at his uncle’s painting firm, and since he was a painter now, Camden assumed the rumor had been true. He’d been fifteen then, so Grayson had been sixteen.

Camden looked at the house Grayson had stormed off to. Twenty-one years of painting walls, no wonder he was growling all the time. Cam would’ve died of boredom. Perhaps he should give in on the chickens simply to give Grayson something new in his life—no. No chickens. No noise. No mess. If Grayson wanted more excitement in his life, he could go back to school and get himself a better job.

He glanced at the house again. Had Grayson put on clothes?

About Holly Day

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee. 

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

Connect with Holly on social media:

Website :: Facebook :: Twitter :: Pinterest :: BookBub :: Goodreads :: Newsletter

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: Warning! Deep Water by A.L. Lester

Hello everyone! Thank you so much to Nell for letting me pop in today to tell you a bit more about my part of our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project. Nell, Holly DayK. L. NooneAmy Spector and I have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when our stories happen to be released!  You can read about all of them here

Warning! Deep Water is a 16,300 gay romance set in the UK 1947, just after the worst winter in living memory and eighteen months after the end of the second world war. Let me tell you a bit about George, one of my main characters!

George Parker 

Description: Short hair. Brown eyes. Shorter than average and a bit pudgy round the middle. Nearly forty and feeling it.
Personality: Prefers flowers to people.
Occupation: Owns a flower nursery.
Habits/Mannerisms: Runs hand up through hair when frustrated. Doesn’t swear. 

George served in the army during the war, although he didn’t have to join up because agriculture was a reserved occupation. However, he’d always worked with his parents on the family horticultural nursery and he desperately wanted to get away. 

His parents were killed in a bombing raid on London when they’d gone up there for the day in 1942 and George is running the nursery with the help of some ex Land Army women. They kept the place going in the gap between his parents dying and him coming home. He’s sad about his parents but also a bit relieved they’re dead because they were sometimes emotionally abusive. 

George is aware he has internalised homophobia. He has a convoluted belief that he doesn’t deserve good things because of both that and because of his sexuality, a sort of dual guilt from two different angles. His parents more or less beat it in to him that he owed them everything. They caught him with another boy when he was in his teens and they used it to keep him in line. The other boy was sent away and George never saw him agan.

During the story, it becomes clear to us that he is gradually coming to terms with his sexuality, a process that began when he left home to go to war. Meeting Peter and falling in love with him challenges George’s belief that he  is somehow wrong for being queer and that queer people can’t have nice things.

George is a quiet, reliable person who just wants to get on with life and not have any drama. He spends a lot of time during the day hiding from his workforce and then comes out at night and spends time with the plants and with his dog, Polly. Part of his healing process when he meets Peter is that he becomes slightly more social again.

He’s never going to be going to social clubs or doing anything with crowds of people, but he begins to make quiet friendships and (I hope) we see him grow as the story progresses.

Without further ado, here’s some more about Warning! Deep Water. I hope you have as much fun reading it as we all have writing our stories. 

Warning! Deep Water

It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.

It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.

What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?

A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.

Buy from JMS Books – Add to Goodreads – Buy from Amazon USBuy Everywhere Else


“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard. 

“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”

There was clearly a story there. 

“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”

“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”

George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato. 

Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”

George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”

Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”

He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life. 


What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment. 

Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.

George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room. 

Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot

About A. L. Lester

Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: The Hermit of Aldershill Manor by K.L. Noone

Please help me welcome K.L. Noone to the blog, my second visitor here to talk about her naked gardening shenanigans, and all around lovely human being. Welcome, Kristin, we’re happy to have you!!

Hi there! Thank you to Nell for letting me drop in again – this time, it’s to tell you about my contribution to our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project – for which Nell, myself, A.L. Lester, Holly Day, and Amy Spector have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when all our stories will be released!

My story for our project is called The Hermit of Aldershill Manor, a 17,000-word m/m romance between Lionel, a gardener on a historic estate, and Charlie, the newly arrived historian, here to help with the archives. There’s a bit of an age gap, and an unexpected summer storm, and shelter in an old hermitage. And an instant spark, among rain and flowers and green growing things.

My family loves gardens, and it’s always been a part of our lives (even though at the moment we’ve got low-maintenance and drought-tolerant landscaping—it’s far too hot where we live for anything else!). When we travel, especially with my parents, we always find a garden to explore—we’ve been to historical and botanical gardens in Ireland, Iceland, England, and Australia, as well as here in the United States! It’s also the field my father works in, so my brother and I grew up with flowers and trees and roaming around the (plant) nursery and getting his help on botanical science-fair projects, as kids. (We got good grades on the projects, of course!) So when our writer chat was tossing around the World Naked Gardening idea, well…of course I wanted to join in the celebration! Plus, I got to make some truly terrible puns about roots and seeds. (I couldn’t resist. But at least I avoided the joke about being sappy?)

I always have music on when I’m writing, and I know Nell likes songs about rain, so I figured I’d share a couple from this playlist before I go! This time, we’ve got the Eurythmics, with “Here Comes The Rain,” and Savage Garden, “The Best Thing,” because how could I not have Savage Garden in a gardening-themed story, plus The Pretenders, “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” and for something very recent, Wet Leg, “Wet Dream,” and also Tegan and Sara’s “Closer,” because it’s so perfect for the fizzy bubbling-over wanting-more emotion. And Lionel and Charlie definitely do get closer. (And naked, as per the theme…)

Here’s a bit more about Hermit! I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy all our Naked Gardening stories—I’m so excited to share this project with you all!

Buy Links:

JMS Books :: Amazon


Charlie Ash is ready to start a new job and a new life at Aldershill Manor. As a historian, he’s thrilled to dive into the estate’s archives. Plus, he can move on from the end of his last relationship, when the man he’d thought he’d marry broke his heart. He’ll find solace in exploring the manor’s famous gardens…until he’s caught in the rain, and found by a gardener.

Lionel Briar enjoys making people happy, as long as he doesn’t have to talk to them. He does not enjoy tourists, small talk, or social obligations. But he does like plants and history and his job, taking care of Aldershill’s gardens, helping beauty grow. He likes gently tending the world.

So when Lionel discovers the estate’s adorable new historian getting drenched by a summer thunderstorm in his gardens, he offers Charlie shelter…a rescue that could bloom into love.


Just around the bend, and up the small rise; the old hermitage beckoned: an eighteenth-century fantasia of ornamental tower-curved stone and climbing roses and tumbling ivy, tucked into a garden corner by the stream. The honeysuckle and irises by the door, drenched in rain, perfumed the afternoon. Old stones welcomed wet feet, going up the shallow steps.

Lionel opened the door, tugged Charlie in—the young man was looking at the tower with wide-eyed delight, as if expecting dragons and princesses—and only then realized that he’d done more touching of another person, in the last five minutes, than he’d done in the last three years.

His hands catching a slim arm when Charlie’d slipped, earlier. His hands brushing ungloved fingers, handing over a jacket. His hands resting on Charlie’s shoulders, nudging thinness inside.

It’d felt right. It still felt right. He didn’t know why. 

Charlie hadn’t protested being nudged, either. Though he was now gingerly peeling off Lionel’s coat, wincing, apologizing. “I’ll just stand over here, I’m dripping everywhere…” His hair, darkened by rain, had flattened into treasure-box colors: old gold and shimmering amethyst. 

“You’re not a problem. You need to get warm.” Lionel yanked off his own boots, winced as the tangle of his hair got into his face, shoved it back. “I’ll find you some clothes.”

“I’ll be right here.” Charlie waved a hand at him. “Which is already better than being out there, thanks.”

Lionel did not know how to answer, and so escaped, heart beating faster than it should’ve done. He felt Charlie’s presence at his back as he went.

The hermitage had been converted to a residence sometime in the nineteen-thirties, and then updated in the seventies, and then again much more recently, with the influx of visitors and finances to the estate. It was an odd shape, only four rooms, the one main tower and the three smaller towers joined on at the back, all of them short and snug. But the walls were white-plastered and the wood floorboards were pleasant, and books lined most of the main room, and the central fireplace would heat the whole space, once he got that going.

Lionel had always liked the hermitage. They fit each other, awkward but hopeful, part of the garden grounds. 

He tried to hurry, crossing the main room, opening the third door. He tried not to drip on his sofa or his books or the braided rugs, not too much, at least.

The wardrobe and his bed took up ninety-five percent of the space in the bedroom tower, and that wasn’t an exaggeration: he barely had room to walk around. He liked his bed, though. The wood had been hand-carved by a local artisan, crafted from a fallen oak on the estate; it belonged here, and had a purpose. Right now it gazed at him in silent four-poster astonishment, as Lionel flung open the wardrobe and dove into denim and flannel and knit.

Too large, everything would be too large—sweatpants, perhaps—heavy socks—

His hair, wet, got into his eyes. He swore. Found a hair tie, and contained it.

He ran back out. Charlie had obediently remained in place by the coat-rack, dripping onto the mat, which was designed for that. His lips were more pale, and he was shaking, though he was trying to hide it.

He was still beautiful. Those cheekbones, that chin, the way his eyes were framed by the knowledge of laughter. Lionel swallowed roughly. Thrust clothing his way.

Charlie took the offering, but paused. “Should I…go and change in your bathroom? I mean, unless you want me to sort of do that right here, and not get anything else wet.”

Lionel’s cheeks got warmer. He felt it, wondered if it was visible, tried to recall how to speak to humans instead of rosemary and yarrow. “You. Either door. Bedroom. Or bath. You can.”

“Thank you again,” Charlie said, and went off to the second door, which led to the hermitage’s small but serviceable bath. He was careful, Lionel noticed, to leave muddy shoes back on the mat, and to drip as little as possible along the way. Precise, and considerate.

Precise, considerate, beautiful, and in Lionel’s house. Lionel exhaled, and wanted to collapse back against the aged stone tower wall and let it hold him up. He didn’t, because he was still gently damp. But he wanted to.

A person. A man, obviously an adult but also obviously younger than Lionel himself, probably by a good ten years. Someone he’d only just met. 

And now here. In his home. How’d that happened? What had possessed him to offer? For that matter, why had Charlie said yes?

He scrubbed a hand across his face. He also needed to shave. And evidently he’d had a leaf in his hair the whole time, which he only discovered upon dislodging it.

He took a deep breath, let it out. What mattered most was the next step. Charlie was here now, and Charlie needed to get warm. Which meant a fire, and tea. Perhaps biscuits. Or bread.

He could do those things. Concrete, clear-cut, things. Warmth and comfort. Yes.

He found the kettle. He tried not to shiver, because although he wasn’t too wet, he hadn’t managed to change clothes yet.

Which a mysterious young man was doing. In his house. Which he was not thinking about. Obviously.

He built up the fire, in the old-fashioned fireplace. He made it large and glowing.

He turned from poking a log, and found Charlie behind him, having just come in.

Their eyes met. Lionel forgot how to breathe, momentarily, because that was what happened when one discovered a petite American garden sylph standing in one’s living room, dressed in too-long sweatpants and a thick knit jumper. He managed, “Sorry.”

Charlie’s eyebrows went up, spring-blond drifts of surprise. “For what? I hung the wet stuff in your tub, by the way. If you’ve got a dryer—”

“In the kitchen. Don’t worry about it. Sit down.” He dove for tea, a shield. “Tea? Chamomile. From the gardens here.”

Thunder boomed, and rain burst against the windowpane, a sharp rattling clamor. Charlie laughed, and curled up in the chair closest to the fire, giving in. “I guess I’m not going anywhere.”

“No. Yes. I mean. Not in that.”

“Well, thanks for the sanctuary.” Charlie accepted tea, wrapping slim fingers around warmth. He took a sip and made a small pleased sound, and Lionel couldn’t take that and therefore gulped half his own to drown out any thoughts. It was very hot.

“So,” Charlie went on, grinning at him, pushing one too-large knitted sleeve up, “what’s your name? And what do you do? When you’re not rescuing academics in distress, that is.”

Lionel stopped to gaze at him. Academic? A scholar? Not an enchanted flower-sprite or dryad? With that bewitching gift for conversation, familiarity, putting the world at ease? 

He was holding the mug halfway up, in front of his face. Neither here nor there. He lowered it hastily. Felt his cheeks flush. “Lionel. Is my name. Lionel Briar. I’m a gardener.”


K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, usually LGBTQ, and always with happy endings – when not grading papers or researching medieval outlaw life. She is currently the servant of a large black cat named Merlyn, who demands treats on a regular basis.

Guestpost, Release Blitz

World Naked Gardening Day: The Death of Digby Catch by Amy Spector

Today Amy Spector is visiting, the first of my fellow Naked Gardener writers. It’s Amy’s first visit to my blog, so please help me make her feel extra welcome! ❤️

Hello everyone! First, I’d like to thank Nell for letting me drop by and share a little about myself, and my new release for our World Naked Gardening Day project!

I always enjoy writing as part of a group, though up until now, other than taking part in a few anthologies, my group project experience mostly consists of working one-on-one with Ofelia Gränd (aka Holly Day) on a series of supernatural/paranormal/horror collections. And I’ve noticed, the larger the group, the more decisions there are that need to be made. But I’m easy going, something I credit to being a middle child. The quiet one. The peacekeeper. Embarrassed by attention, and still—even as an adult—regularly horrified by scenes my family make.

Which brings us to The Death of Digby Catch. A story about murder, struggling with forgiveness, instant attraction, and ill-behaved family that makes you—if not want to crawl under a rock—want to move far away.

I personally still live close to my family, but I do try and limit being out in public with some of them. LOL

In the Death of Digby Catch, Theo Webb has a complicated relationship with his mother. And when he returns for the funeral of the family’s estate groundskeeper, Digby Catch, the strain is still very much alive. And it doesn’t help that she has an eye for younger men.

At least, not when he might just have his eye on the same man.

You can read the blurb and an excerpt from the story below.

Buy Links:

JMS Books • Universal Link


It had been more than eighteen years since August Catch’s uncle Digby had disappeared to the Cape to mourn the death of his sister. So, when August arrives at Arachne’s Loom to collect his late uncle’s things, he wasn’t expecting to find stories of a man larger than life. Or the very real possibility that Digby’s death may not have been from natural causes.

Theo Webb has had few people in his life that he loved, and fewer still he could trust. But the estate groundskeeper, Digby Catch, had been one of them. Returning home for his funeral, he’s thrown together with Digby’s nephew, and the attraction is instant. But so is Theo’s certainty that things surrounding Digby’s death don’t add up and that at least one person isn’t telling the truth.

Discovering a killer is difficult when someone is desperate to keep more than just their identity a secret. And when all the clues point in one direction, even Theo isn’t sure what to think. The two of them must work together if they’re going to solve a murder, and not let the thing growing between them be a distraction.

But then, maybe a distraction is exactly what they need.


“You look nice this morning.”

She made a noncommittal noise, too absorbed in the paper she was reading, just as his father had always been on those rare occasions when he joined them for breakfast. But she did look nice, in a pale blue blouse and a colored tint to her lips she’d been wearing for as long as he could remember.

Theo was hit then with a sad longing for something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, so he busied himself with breakfast, not looking up from his plate until he heard the door to the room open.

“Mrs. Webb?” Silvia, his mother’s assistant, was always so serious Theo thought it a miracle she’d stayed at his mother’s side for as long as she had. “Mr. Catch is here.”

He looked up then, and sat straighter in his chair.

August Catch was even more spectacular looking now after a few hours’ sleep and some dry clothes than Theo had imagined possible.

“Mr. Catch. Welcome to Arachne’s Loom.” His mother was out of her chair, animated in a way that only the presence of an attractive man was able to accomplish. “So glad you came.”

“Please, call me August.” He stole a look at Theo, and Theo smiled and tried hard not to apologize. For what exactly, he didn’t know, not yet. But there would inevitably be something, and it would be mortifying. The day was still young.

As she walked their guest down the length of the buffet, encouraging him to fill his plate, and practically wrapping herself around his arm like a snake, Theo’s appetite disappeared altogether.

“So, August.” They’d taken their chairs, and his mother had folded her newspaper and placed it on the corner of the table next to Theo. “Is this your first time to the Cape?”

“Yes.” August took his cloth napkin as he spoke, unfolded it, and placed it on his lap. “Digby invited me up to stay with him a few times, but it never worked out.”

“I think he might have been eyeing you as his replacement.” His mother was smiling, leaning toward him, making slow, deliberate circles on the tablecloth with one French-tipped nail. “Tell me, do you enjoy World Naked Gardening Day as much as your uncle did?”

“Good Lord, Kitty.” Theo was saved from having to cover his mother’s mouth with his hand by the appearance of her lawyer. Never had he been more happy for the arrival of Dante in his life. “Let the poor man eat his breakfast.”

“August?” Instead of looking embarrassed, his mother just smiled. “This is my dearest friend in all the world, Dante Lolan. Dante, this is August Catch.”

“Nice to meet you.” Dante poured a cup of coffee and took a seat at the far side of the table, looking less than pleased.

“Glad to see you’re feeling better.” Theo’s mother was still smiling serenely, as if she liked annoying the man.

“You’ve been sick, Dante?” Theo grabbed onto the change of subject.

“It was nothing. A little stomach bug. So, Mr. Catch.” Dante put an abrupt end to that conversation too. He didn’t like to share his personal life. It made Theo wonder what he and his mother found to talk about. “What is your plan, and how can Mrs. Webb be of service?”

“Well.” August picked up his fork, fiddling with it a few moments, before putting it back down. “I believe my uncle had a bedroom on the estate? I thought I could go through his things this afternoon, box up what I’ll be keeping, and make arrangements to ship it back…home.” He hesitated on the word home. “Or depending, swap out my rental for something larger and drive it back myself.”

“A house.” Theo wanted more than a single nightmare of a breakfast to get to know Digby’s nephew. “There’s a groundskeeper cottage at the back of the property. Near the greenhouse. Three bedrooms, one and a half baths, a kitchen, living room, and a study. It’ll probably take a little longer than an afternoon.”

“I’ve already had boxes and bubble wrap dropped off. And I’ll send you over a few of the girls to help.” For once, Theo hated his mother’s love for efficiency. “I’m sure you have a life to get back to.”

“Mom, August might want a little privacy.”

“Oh.” His mother turned and blinked at him, as if she’d just realized that they were talking about August’s dead uncle’s belongings. “Of course. I wasn’t thinking.”

“No. That’s alright, but yeah. I might prefer a chance to go through at least some of his things myself. But if you don’t mind, as soon as I think I’m ready, I would be grateful for the help.”

“Not to break this up, but there are a few things we need to discuss, you and I.”

Dante held Theo’s mother’s gaze for a long moment before she seemed to give in. She stood, pardoning them both, leaving Theo alone with August at the table.

“After breakfast, I can walk you over to the groundskeeper’s cottage.” August gave him a smile and did little more than slowly pick at his plate. “Digby used to use one of those…little utility vehicles to run around the property, but it’s not far, and a beautiful walk. “

“I’d appreciate it.” August gave him another one of those polite smiles, and Theo felt like he was failing at whatever it was he was trying to do. Maybe it was just that since Theo felt like he somehow knew August, he hoped August would look at him with the same recognition, and not paint him with the same brush as his mother. Or if nothing else, their shared connection with Digby would make them fast friends.

“So, you’re ground manager at a horse farm?”

“Up until recently.” August seemed relieved at the subject change. “The Blue Horse. It was more of a horse center really, with an equestrian history museum and campgrounds. And they host different events throughout the year.”

“Sounds nice. Do you ride?”

“No. I had someone that was teaching me.” August shrugged, and then seemed to abandon the pretense of eating altogether. “But that fell through.”

After a few moments of silence, Theo made a show of checking to see if anyone might be listening, looking to his right and then to his left, before leaning in. “How about we swap plates and then I’ll walk you over before my mother gets back. She’ll never even know you weren’t particularly hungry.”

This time August gave him a genuine smile, and Theo would have sworn he felt butterflies.

“You’d be my hero.”

You can check out another excerpt on my website at HERE.

About Amy Spector

Amy Spector grew up in the United States surviving on a steady diet of old horror movies, television reruns and mystery novels.

After years of blogging about comic books, vintage Gothic romance book cover illustrations, and a shameful amount about herself, she decided to try her hand at writing stories. She found it more than a little like talking about herself in third person, and that suited her just fine.

She blames Universal for her love of horror, Edward Gorey for her love of British drama and writing for awakening the romantic that was probably there all along.

Amy lives in the Midwest with her husband and children, and her cats Poe, Goji and Nekō. 

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