New Release Spotlight: Squirrel Circus by Holly Day

The lovely Holly Day is back on the blog today. Yay! She’s here talking about squirrels, and let me just say one thing before I leave the floor to her: even with Temporary Squirrel Brain Syndrome, Holly is more organized than the rest of us when we’re our best selves! ❤️

Welcome, Holly!

Hello, everyone! Thank you, lovely Nell, for allowing me back on the blog 🥰 I hope you’ve all had a good start to the new year. I feel like I’m standing a little steadier on my feet again – I lost my mother-in-law in September and then my mother in November, both to cancer, and both too young, so I’ve been on shaky ground. We’re not through yet, far from, but we’re moving forward.

This month, we’re celebrating Squirrel Appreciation Day, and I’ve felt a bit like a squirrel these last few months. Did you know squirrels misplace about 75% of the food they gather? Poor things. That’s how I’ve felt. Normally, I’m organised, and I never miss a date or forget an appointment. If you had any idea how many times I’ve asked Nell about when I was to be here, what we decided concerning this or that, you’d laugh. But luckily, I’m not a squirrel, and there is food in the shop, so I don’t have to starve when I misplace/forget/mix up things. And as mentioned above, I’m doing better.

But squirrels. Do you like squirrels? My house is surrounded by trees, so I have quite a few squirrels jumping between the branches, chasing each other. But squirrels have enemies, and in Squirrel Circus, their biggest threat is wolves.

So naturally, poor Jyran, our squirrel shifter, has a fated mate who’s a wolf. Gideon, the wolf, takes one look at him and says no. He will not be known as the wolf who mated a squirrel.

The result? They both live their lives, for years, without having any contact. The problem, if we are to see it as a problem, is that they have a friend in common, and when shit hits the fan, they have no choice but to cooperate.

My greatest joy with this story was writing Jyran. Squirrel brains unite!

He’s surprisingly organised when it comes to work, but when it comes to his things, he tends to want to hoard and often misplaces things. Poor soul.


Can you forgive being rejected by your mate?

For as long as Jyran Pechman can remember, he’s dreamed about finding his soulmate. As a child, he lost his family, and he’s been moving around ever since. He hates it, and he wants nothing more than to have a home. A mate. A place to belong.

Gideon Everett might have dreamed about the day he’d find his mate, but his mate was never an unorganized, nut-hoarding squirrel shifter in those dreams. Wolves eat squirrels, so when Jyran walks into Gideon’s bar, he throws him out and tells him he wants nothing to do with him. He has a reputation to think about, and he will not be known as the wolf who mated a squirrel.

Being rejected hurts more than Jyran ever imagined, and he swears never to set foot in Gideon’s bar again. After the initial shock, Gideon is almost sure he made the right decision. Almost. What if he made the wrong decision? Now when he knows his mate is out there, can he live on as if they’ve never met, or does he have to … ugh … apologize?

Paranormal Gay Romance // 36,035 words

Buy link:

JMS Books :: Amazon ::


The next morning when Jyran exited the bathroom with a towel around his middle after having showered, Adara was in his room, riffling through his briefcase. Icy cold filled his chest. Those letters were private! “What are you doing?”

He’d imagined she’d jump and look guilty at finding him watching her, but you didn’t sneak up on a vampire. She’d heard him coming a mile away.

“I have to go.” She continued to riffle through his letters, though her fingers moved so fast, he relaxed a fraction. There was no way she’d have time to read what he’d written on them at the pace she was going.


“Valerie was attacked, and some human found her and took her to the hospital. I have to get there and see if I can get her out before they realize she’s healing too quickly.”

Jyran stared. Valerie had been on Adara’s team when she’d picked up Jyran. She was a bear shifter, and she hadn’t been overly pleased to know Jyran existed, but she hadn’t tried to kill him. It was nice of her. They’d kept away from each other. “Attacked how?”

“I’m not sure, but I have to go.”

“To Doson?” Last Jyran had heard, Valerie lived in Doson.

“Yeah, she’s in the hospital there.”

“Aren’t… eh… her sleuth nearby?” Did she have a sleuth? He knew nothing of her other than he did best to stay away from wherever they could get food because she was bound to be there.

Adara huffed. “Can’t have a hospital room filled with bears. Jesus, Jyran, use your brain.”

Jyran winced. Adara often made fun of his squirrel brain, but then she was joking, not snarling at him as she was now.

She sighed. “Sorry, I’m just… She’s freaking strong. Who could get the drop on her?”

Jyran shrugged. Who attacked a bear? “Was she in human form?”


“Maybe they believed she was human and was easy prey?”

Adara shook her head. “No, there are claw marks on her. It was a shifter, but who attacks a bear? It’s suicidal.” Silence stretched while Adara frowned at the wall. “She called me.”

“Valerie?” Jyran hadn’t believed they stayed in contact.

“Yeah, about a week ago, left a voicemail. It was cryptic. I meant to call her back, but we were on the road, and I kept forgetting. She said something about being careful and keeping an eye on you. I was gonna ask what she meant, but…” She shrugged.

Keeping an eye on him? Valerie had never cared about him. She cared about Adara, of that he was sure, but she didn’t care about him.

Adara looked around. “Where is Justin?”

“He went down for breakfast.” Jyran had made excuses, said he wasn’t hungry yet despite always eating first thing in the morning, but he needed to distance himself from Justin.

“Stick close to him. I’ll be back as soon as I can, but don’t be alone until we know—”

“Doson is an hour away. I have a hard time believing the shifter who attacked Valerie is here.”

“Unless they’re out to get you.” She pushed the briefcase away. “Where is the paper with all the phone numbers?”

Oh, that’s what she’s looking for? “In the work briefcase.” Which was brown leather, not black. “Why would you think they’d be out to get me? I’m no one.”

He was invisible. No one but Adara wanted him around.

“You’re a squirrel.”

He grabbed the work briefcase and handed her the folder with all the phone numbers to everyone who’d ever worked for her.

“Yes, people kill squirrels for fun. They don’t go around attacking bears to get to them. We’re entertainment they stumble upon.”

Adara stared at him. “What do you mean?”

He sighed and grabbed a shirt from the closet. He might be a shifter, but he preferred to be dressed. “If you’re gonna take down a bear or a pack of wolves, you need to plan. A squirrel? They walk past me on the sidewalk and pounce. It doesn’t take any planning. It’s no big deal to them. I’m the appetizer before they get to the main course. No one would attack a bear who used to work for you to get to me. It’s too much work.”

He reached for a pair of plum pants. He could pull off a plum-colored three-piece suit. Grinning, he pulled the pants off the shelf and frowned as a bag of peanuts fell to the floor. Oh, nice. But had he put them there? He couldn’t remember touching the plum-colored suit in weeks, except when he moved it from his suitcase to the shelf. He must have, though.

“It would hurt me greatly if they got to you.” The panic shining in Adara’s eyes made him pause.

“Oh, thank you, babe. I’d be devastated if something happened to you, too.”

“No.” She was in front of him in a blink of an eye. “I don’t only mean I would mourn you—which I would. It would wreck me to lose you. I mean, you’re the one who keeps everything afloat. I know you hate moving around. I know you hate the planning, the double-checking, the triple-checking, the phone calls, the bookings, and so on, but without you, I’d get nowhere. If someone wanted to sabotage me, all they’d have to do would be to get to you.”

Jyran stared. “What?” He was no one. She’d taken him in to protect him. He was a burden she carried because she was a good person.

She shook her head. “What do you do for me, Jyran?”

“I travel with you.”

She nodded. “And what, freeload?”

He winced. “Yeah… I live in hotels you pay for, eat food you pay for, and so on.”

The huff surprised him. “You’re the one who books all the hotel rooms.”

He nodded. He did.

“You’re the one who books the arenas. You’re the one who talks to the ticket companies, to the marketing people, to the food people, to the light technicians, and whatever the hell else we have traveling with us.”

He frowned at her. “No, we make a plan, you and I.”

She stared at him long enough to make him squirm. “What is it I do?”

“You say, I want to go to Ordbury.”

“Mmm, and you make it happen.”

“We make it happen.” And it was pretty cool. They looked at a map, Adara would say: I want to go here, and then they did. He wouldn’t have been able to if he was in Doson with his mate. The pain stabbing his heart was so familiar, he barely reflected on it.

“You. You’re the one who makes it happen. You make an estimate of what we need. You tell me what I need to do. You make all the phone calls.”

“Anyone can do that.” He was a squirrel. He couldn’t be in charge of anything. The peanut bag on the floor was evidence enough. He forgot where he kept his food.

“No, Jyran. Everyone can’t. I wouldn’t last a day without you.”

“You would.” She would. He was no one special.

The glare wasn’t what he’d expected. “I’m going, and I’m going to get to the bottom of this. No one threatens what’s mine and walks away unharmed.”

Jyran blinked, well aware his eyes were like saucers. “Valerie hasn’t been working for you for more than a year. I don’t think this is an attack on you.”

“It better not be. If it is, I’m gonna slaughter everyone living in Doson.”

Wincing, Jyran stepped into his pants only to realize he’d forgotten to put on underwear and stepped out of them again. “It might not have anything to do with Doson.”

“We’ll see. Don’t be alone, and I’ll call you as soon as I know something. I might need you to build a case file.”

Oh… did it mean he could get a new briefcase? “I want a leather messenger bag with double straps and a key for the lock.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Then she narrowed her eyes. “Is a key a good idea?”

There were so many places you could hide a key. “No, probably not. But dark leather and double straps. Vintage-looking.”

“Go for it. I’ll call.”

Giddiness bubbled up in his chest. Yes! A new bag.

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:

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New Release Spotlight: Gentlemen’s Agreement by Ellie Thomas

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.

Twitter: @e_thomas_author


New Release Spotlight: A Christmas Engagement by Ellie Thomas

Thank you so much Nell for having me as your guest blogger today. I’m Ellie Thomas, I write MM Historical Romance and I’m dropping by today to chat about my new release for JMS Books’ Naughty or Nice Christmas call A Christmas Engagement.

When I chose Nice as my theme for this Regency-set Christmas story, I wanted that quality to embody one of my two main characters so that quality would shine through when all looked lost. Of course to engineer that, I had to cause a major crisis, so at the beginning of my story, my main characters Charles and Avery (my Mr Nice) are an established couple who have recently become estranged.

Although Charles is responsible for their separation, I didn’t want to make him undeserving of Avery’s goodness. Charles is off kilter and out of is depth due to the sudden illness and passing of his father. This loss causes for him (at least temporarily) to reject his longstanding partner.

As a man in his mid-twenties, Charles not only has full responsibility for running a working farm and estate but also the practical welfare of his mother and younger siblings to consider. So his sensation of being overwhelmed is understandable. He reasons that now he is the head of the family, he should marry to consolidate the family’s lasting security. This would be reasonable enough if not for the fact he’s gay and has been in an exclusive relationship with Avery since university.

Although this may seem drastic to modern sensibilities, in less enlightened times, some people from the LGBT community did feel forced to compromise to society’s norms and to marry women, which must have been a very sad and difficult situation for everyone concerned. So Charles’ dilemma (although self-imposed) is far from unique.

As this is a romance, I wanted it to be clear that the only person putting pressure on Charles is himself. His mother is astounded by this sudden decision, and puzzled by the fact that Charles intends to travel to the popular resort Bath immediately to select himself a bride at haste, which explains the semi-ironic story title.

When Charles arrives in Bath, complete with his mental clipboard to check list attributes of suitable ladies (although he seems fairly terrified of most of them) inevitably, fate intervenes to have Avery visit the city with his wise Great Aunt Clarissa, who has quietly supported her great-nephew’s relationship with Charles since the very start.

The story is from Charles’ point of view, but I hope Avery comes across in all his unfailing kindness, never losing his ultimate faith in Charles. Rather than being bitter or angry, he sees Charles’ uncharacteristic behaviour as lost and misguided because he understands Charles so completely. Avery’s tactic is to wait for Charles to see reason.

Even as I was writing this, I was urging Charles to come to his senses before he did something irrevocably stupid. There was always the hope that the temptation of Avery, in all his glorious niceness, would win the day, especially since he never really lost Charles’ affection for these two to win their Happy Ever After. 

In 1805, Charles Denham’s comfortable life in Regency London with his long-term partner Avery Mallory is disrupted by the sudden death of his father. As the heir to a modest country estate in Gloucestershire, Charles returns home to care for his bereaved family and take up his new responsibilities.

Overwhelmed with grief, rather than leaning on Avery, Charles rejects his love and becomes fixed on the idea of taking a wife for reasons of family duty alone. With this plan in mind, during early winter, he travels the short distance to Bath only to find that Avery and his family have already arrived at the resort.

Will Charles follow through with his ill-conceived plan for a hasty betrothal by Christmas? Or will he come to his senses and resume his relationship with the nicest man in England?

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Books2Read :: Goodreads :: Bookbub


Charles paused before saying clearly and deliberately. “With Papa’s passing, it seemed expedient to start to look out for a wife.”

He heard Avery’s sharp intake of breath as Aunt Clarissa looked at him shrewdly. Her bright, old eyes, darker and sharper than Avery’s, seemed to pierce his soul. “You have come to the right place,” she remarked. “Far better to make your selection at your convenience in Bath than to be bothered with the fancy folderols of the London Season. I might be biased as I have fond memories of the place. The town will never be the same as in the heyday of Beau Nash, but it still passes muster, although I say it myself. And you should find a wide array of suitable ladies now you are resolved on matrimony.”

Charles had the sneaking suspicion that Aunt Clarissa was laughing at him and was spared further embarrassment by the timely approach of Mr. King. 

“Ladies,” Mr. King uttered, addressing the group. “Might I interest you in a game of Cribbage at the Card Room tonight? The tables are filling up quickly, and I’d be glad to put your names down. From experience, these events prove very popular and can be over-subscribed.”

That popularity was confirmed by eager fluttering from the group of ladies, mercifully distracting Aunt Clarissa’s attention away from Charles. 

Charles’ dearest hope was for Avery to have melted away into the surrounding throng during the conversation. Having only begun to establish himself in the confines of Bath’s society, Charles could not afford to cause gossip or general disgust by delivering a cut direct. And in truth, he flinched from being unnecessarily and publicly cruel. None of this was Avery’s doing. He must simply accept that Charles’ priorities had altered with his father’s death.

But when Charles glanced around, Avery was still standing there. He looked a trifle pale at Charles’ announcement but managed a smile as he said conversationally, “You must wonder why we are here. I’m sure you remember all those letters from my aunts pressing Aunt Clarissa for suggestions for her seventieth birthday celebrations?”

Charles nodded as he remembered their shared London rooms in Rupert Street, Avery’s face alight with laughter as he passed Aunt Clarissa’s typically scathing letter over the breakfast table for Charles’ amusement, in a gesture of everyday intimacy.

“Well, Aunt Clarissa refused to be contained by any sedate or convenient notions and decided to drag us all to Bath for the occasion, complete with a hired house on The Circus. According to her, since she’s in her dotage, she won’t get another opportunity to relive her past successes or criticise the current fashions and assembled company at the top of her voice. As you can imagine, both my aunts are thrilled.” Avery’s mobile mouth quirked with humour, and Charles was almost tempted to smile with him until Avery asked, “What does your mother think of your resolution to marry?”

Avery was still smiling, but his eyes seemed almost as shrewd and watchful as Great Aunt Clarissa’s. Charles was only glad that the necessarily loud interchange between the Master of Ceremonies and a lady of the party who was hard of hearing masked the personal turn of the conversation.

“She is delighted I’m assuming my obligations in seeking to establish our family connections.”

“Is she?” Avery sounded mildly surprised. “I’d have thought she would be far more concerned about your happiness and state of mind.”

“I am happy,” Charles retorted.

“If you say so,” Avery smiled agreeable before asking casually, “and since when have you been attracted to women?”

Charles bristled, “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Everything, I’d say if you seek marital accord.” Avery had the gall to look faintly amused as Charles cast around for a suitable retort, stumbling over half-remembered phrases he had recited to his mama. As Charles reeled off homilies on duty and family responsibility, Avery’s smile faded. But rather than displaying the outrage or bitterness of a repulsed lover, Avery’s expression was full of compassion, tinged with sadness. 

Charles completed his speech, sounding pompous and prematurely middle-aged even to his own ears. Avery opened his mouth to impart an urgent observation before hesitating. Instead, he patted Charles on the arm, saying, “I’m sure you know best, Charles,” in a manner that implied no confidence whatsoever in his former lover’s judgement.


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.

Twitter: @e_thomas_author


Willow Road by Holly day and JMS Advent Calendar

Today, my dear friend and all around fabulous human being, Holly Day is back on the blog. She’s here to talk both about her newest release and also a little about the JMS Advent Calendar. Please help me make her feel welcome!

Hello, everyone! Thank you, Nell, for allowing me to steal a spot on your blog again 🥰

A few days ago, Willow Road was released. It’s a story I wrote for Crossword Puzzle Day, which is today. Crossword puzzles don’t play a huge part in the story, but everyone knows Jeremiah solves the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper. The story takes place in a paranormal world where shifters rule and humans are treated like second-class citizens.

Jeremiah was allowed to attend a shifter school despite being human. It should have been great, shifter schools are much better than human schools, but Jeremiah was bullied. It got so bad he developed a social phobia, and as an adult, he doesn’t leave his house. His bullies are still living in town, and since they know he’s solving the crossword puzzle every day, they put personal ads right next to it, encouraging people to drop by his house for one reason or another.

This has gone on for years, but when Zeeb, the new chief of police hears about it, he’s furious. Human or not, no one in his village will be harassed.

Zeeb is a wolf shifter, and wolf shifters have fated mates. Zeeb can’t have a human mate, so when he meets Jeremiah, he tells himself he’ll be fine without him. All he has to do is get to the bottom of the ad problem, and that will be enough. He’ll know Jeremiah will be safe.

Lying to yourself is never a good idea, though 😆

Often when I write, I borrow things from the city I grew up in – streets, parks, the beach, and so on. This time, I’ve borrowed from where I live now. I have no idea who lives in Jeremiah’s house, but a friend of mine used to live there. It’s right next to the cemetery, and I used to walk by it every day when I went to work. It used to be a post office, and there was an old postal sorting cabinet in one of the rooms. It might still be there, I don’t know. I don’t plan on ringing their doorbell and asking the ones who live there now 😊

If you continue over the river on the footbridge at the end of the street, you’ll come to the area where Zeeb lives. A former colleague of mine lives there, not in Zeeb’s house, but close enough 😄

And do you know what? JMS Books has an advent calendar. It’s not many doors left to open now, and if you’ve missed a door, you can’t go back. Sorry. Today though, behind door 21, you’ll find Willow Road. So hop on over there and grab your copy! Tomorrow, it’ll be too late.

Willow Road

Jeremiah Pace hasn’t left his house in thirteen years. He doesn’t trust anyone, least of all shifters. School was a nightmare, and despite never interacting with anyone in the village, the bullying continues in his adult life. Someone is putting ads in the paper, encouraging people to drop by his house for one service or other, but Jeremiah never opens his door.

Zeeb Hemming is a lone wolf and the new chief of police. He’s only been in Stoneshade for six weeks when he learns about the ads and goes to knock on Jeremiah’s door. Not because of what today’s ad said, but to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Human or not, Jeremiah deserves to live life in peace. The moment Zeeb nears Jeremiah’s house, he knows he’s his mate. But he can’t have a human mate.

Jeremiah pleads with Zeeb not to stir anything up. Yes, the ads are bad, but things can always get worse. Zeeb is furious someone is mistreating his mate and is willing to skin anyone who has any connection to the ads alive. But how is he to convince Jeremiah to trust him when he talks to Zeeb through a gap in the window instead of opening the door to his house?

Gay Paranormal Romance: 19,909 words

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Zeeb slowed his car and peered at the red wooden house right next to the cemetery. Snow was falling, and the December dark subdued all life in the small village.

Jeremiah Pace. He’d checked before he left work, and Jeremiah was thirty-one, like Dolph. There were no complaints about him. He’d never been arrested, never been married, didn’t have any children, and so on. There was next to no information about him.

He crept by the house. It was… quaint. The blinds were drawn, and the snow lay in a thick layer on the stairs, making the house look uninhabited. Zeeb sighed and drove on.

The tiny one-story row house he rented was on the other side of the river. If he followed Willow Road to the end, there’d be a footbridge from where one could turn right into a small walkway, but he couldn’t get there in his car.

He drove out on the main road going through the village, crossed the river, and turned left into the small area with row houses. It was a U-formed road with ten houses, six on one side and four on the inside of the U. He hated it. There was no privacy. Everyone watched his every move, and everyone had opinions.

He’d have to look for something else, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay in Stoneshade. He’d wanted away from the city, but…

Parking his car, he looked at the dark windows of his house. Depressing. He’d eat something, then go for a run. It wasn’t too cold, and the snow was coming down in big, slow-falling flakes.

He heated some leftover chicken from the day before and ate standing by the kitchen counter. He’d been unable to relax ever since he’d learned about Jeremiah. He didn’t care about some recluse, except… It pissed him off when people laughed. Whatever had happened, it had traumatized the poor soul. He’d checked the record. Jeremiah’s father, Robert Pace, had reported it. The police chief at the time, Harvey Farkas, had conducted some interviews, but from what Zeeb could tell, he hadn’t pushed for answers, more a friendly chat with some of the prominent shifter families in the village, and no one had volunteered any information.

The case was closed for lack of evidence only a couple of weeks after it had been opened. Quick and easy without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Zeeb would bet his tail that half the village knew exactly what had happened, and the other half could guess. With a growl, he put the plate in the sink and stalked into the bedroom. Pulling his shirt over his head, he kicked off his shoes and pushed down his jeans and underwear. A former tenant had installed a dog door, which was terrible from a security perspective, but Zeeb had soon come to appreciate it. He could shift indoors and sneak out through the dog door without having to freeze his bare ass off.

Trotting down the road, he kept to the shadows as much as he could. When he reached an area with some trees, he slipped in between them instead of sticking to the paved road. In a village as shifter-dense as Stoneshade, no one raised an eyebrow at a wolf scurrying down a road, but he preferred that no one knew where he was going.

The night was quiet. He caught a whiff of a rabbit ahead but ignored it. To cross the river, he had to make it to paved ground again, but as soon as he’d cleared the footbridge leading to the end of Willow Road, he snuck in behind the houses. Stalking the small forest, he hoped he wouldn’t run into anyone there, shifter or otherwise.

The blue light of a TV shone inside the house Zeeb had assumed was abandoned, which made him slow his steps. Was there someone living there? It had a cracked window, and the lawn hadn’t been mowed, you couldn’t tell now with the snow, but when Zeeb first had arrived, the dying grass had been knee high.

It was a good thing someone lived there, though. Before he’d believed Jeremiah lived between a cemetery and an abandoned house, but him having a neighbor was good. If Jeremiah ever was in danger, they’d hopefully notice and call for help.

He crept forward, keeping to the edge of the forest. There was a slope leading down to Jeremiah’s house, and to his surprise, there was a patio with an outdoor masonry oven. Images of barbecues in the summer flashed before his eyes, but Jeremiah wouldn’t have any barbecues, would he?

The blinds were drawn on the bottom floor apart from the hallway window where the lamp was on. There was light on in one of the rooms on the upper floor too, and Zeeb pictured Jeremiah in there. He didn’t have a clue what he looked like, but his brain provided him with an image of a faceless man huddling in a corner, terrified someone would ring his doorbell.

He hoped no one did. By now, the entire village was most likely in on the joke, but did people outside of Stoneshade read the ads? How local was the local paper?

Shrugging off the snow clinging to his fur, he settled down under a pine tree. He wouldn’t stay long, only a few minutes.

About Holly

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.

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A.L. Lester Visits: Christmas, Cheap Books, and a Giveaway

Happy Christmas from Webber’s Farm!

Hello everyone! Thanks so much to Nell for inviting me to come along and share my Advent greetings this month. I have the fire lit, candles burning and seasonal music playing; so settle in here with me to hear a bit about my novella Inheritance of Shadows and Christmas at Webber’s Farm. (It’s 99c in ebook and $1.99 in audio; plus I have a giveaway for you!)

Inheritance of Shadows is not a seasonal story per se, as it begins in the summer of 1919 when Matty and Rob return home to the farm from the trenches of the First World War. However, it plays out over the autumn and winter and finishes at Christmas. The happy ending is tied up with big slabs of Christmas cake in front of a roaring fire and being stuck on the sofa too full to move.

Webber’s Farm is based on my childhood memories of a local farm where a friend of my mother’s lived as a housekeeper for the farmers, who were two brothers and their cousin. Rob and Matty sort of slid in to residence sideways; they don’t really bear much relation to the old gentlemen—and they were very old by the time I knew them. However, the shape of the house is taken from my memories. I made up the yard and fields of the farm to go round it. It’s a comfortable, cosy sort of place with stacks of paperwork in the little room used as an office, a comfy faded sofa in the living room and a white-scrubbed kitchen table where the farm men come to take their meals with the family.

Is it idealised? Of course it is. There’s no central heating; it’s got a thatched roof that probably needs re-doing because everyone’s been away in France for four years and the weather hasn’t stopped raining in that time; and the yard is full of mud, which gives Matty the yips because he never, ever wants to have muddy feet again after four years in a trench.

The novella started off as a short story, The Gate, which was a freebie in 2017 to drum up interest in my first proper release in the Border Magic Universe. It’s complete in itself—or at least, I felt it was when I wrote it. But it also felt like the beginning of something and I couldn’t quite leave it alone, even as the Border Magic Universe expanded to six more books. Finally my pen fingers were twitching too much and I returned to it and expanded it in to Inheritance.

And…even after that, I couldn’t quite leave the farm alone. Taking Stock is set there in 1972, starring Laurie, Matty’s nephew. It doesn’t have any (much) magic in it; but the farm is central. And when I wrote The Fog of War last year, I picked up Dr Sylvia Marks, a minor character in Inheritance, and gave her a book of her own. Rob and Matty, and the farm, reappear to help her solve her own mystery.

From such small beginnings, Rob, Matty and the farm have grown and connected in my writing in a lot of different ways. And I think that sense of connection with my own idealised childhood idea of a ‘proper’ farmhouse is what drives that. I was delighted to be able to bring it all to life in audio with Callum Hale’s absolutely wonderful narration.

The Webber’s Farm Christmas is sprinkled with snow and is friendly and down to earth and full of good things to eat. There are chestnuts roasting on the hearth and they’ve dusted off the brandy bottle that rarely gets used—because they both prefer beer. There are boots and coats drying by the range in the kitchen because the animals still need seeing too even at Christmas. The dogs are dozing in their basket with one eye on the humans to work out whether anything interesting might be about to happen any time soon; and if not, whether anyone will drop any of the goose from their sandwiches and not realise.

Welcome to Webber’s Farm. If you don’t mind the odd magic spell gone wrong and a portal to another dimension, you’ll be very welcome to visit this Christmas.

Inheritance of Shadows

It’s 1919. Rob and Matty both return to Webber’s Farm from the trenches only to find Matty’s brother dying of an unknown illness. As Matty starts looking sicker and sicker, the answer to the illness seems to be in the esoteric books Arthur left strewn around the house.

It’s taken a decade and a war for Rob and Matty to admit they have feelings for each other. They are determined that nothing will part them. What is Rob prepared to sacrifice to save Matty’s life?

A stand-alone 35k word novella set in the Border Magic Universe.

Inheritance of Shadows is available as an ebook for 99c on all platforms and an audiobook for $1.99 at most non-Amazon place.  

Buy Links: Ebook & Audiobook

If you want to listen to an excerpt here’s a link.


“What’s to be done, then?” Rob had asked one Sunday morning in early October as they were moving the churns of milk out to the block by the lane where the carter would pick them up to take to the station. “I don’t like the look of you, lad. And I don’t want you to go west like Arthur.” He obviously felt awkward bringing it up and had steeled himself to flank Matty with the question as they were working. Matty was getting tired more easily and he supposed that there was no hiding from Rob his diminished appetite and weight loss.

He launched the last of the churns up on to the platform and stepped back, taking his cap off, and wiping his brow with his sleeve. “I’m glad that’s done. I like giving Jimmy the Sunday off, but it all takes longer.”

“Jimmy’s wife’s got him painting the bedroom, he said. She took him out to buy the paint last weekend.” Rob allowed Matty to prevaricate, but as they turned back to walk up the drive, he had put his hand on Matty’s arm. “Matty. I’m serious.”

Matty shrugged his hand off gently. “I know you are. I don’t know. This was Arthur’s enterprise, not mine. I run a farm. He was the brains.”

Rob had looked at him long and hard. “Do you really think that?” he’d asked quietly. “Because you’re wrong. You might have chosen not to follow the same line as Arthur, but you and he have the same amount up here,” he tapped Matty’s head, “however you choose to use it. So, don’t give me any of that.” He had returned Matty’s solemn stare. “We’ll work it out. I promise you. I’ve waited more than a ten-year for you. I’m not losing you to this. Whatever it is.”

So, they kept on with the books.

Buy Links: Ebook & Audiobook


To win a copy of one of my Celtic Myth short stories, please leave Nell a comment recommending your all-time favourite seasonal story! I’ll come back on Christmas Eve and pick a winner with my Randomiser and email you. (My Randomiser is fifteen, grumpy, and can be bribed with chocolate to throw out a random number).

In the meantime there’s a free copy of An Irregular Arrangement, a free short story also set in Bradfield, when you sign up to my newsletter.

Happy Christmas everyone!

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.

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