Tag Archives: FF romance

Lockdown Fiction: Burning Love

Here’s another little story, written to fill the Improbable Press prompt on 23 April.

Burning Love

When Meredith’s girlfriend dumped her right at the start of their fifth anniversary date, her share house didn’t provide a lot of comfort. Caitlyn’s lunch dishes were still on the coffee table and her sewing project covered the sofa, the armchair and a footstool.

‘Least you could do is tidy up when it’s your turn,’ growled Meredith. Her mood for several months now had been at odds with her childhood nickname of Merry.

‘Time got away from me,’ said Caitlyn, trying to soothe. ‘I’ll put it away now.’ She bustled around, tidying up.

Meredith slumped on a kitchen chair, face in her hands. Her tear-wrecked kohl smudged over her palms. ‘Sorry, Caitie. Oh god. I’m such a mess.’

‘You’ll be all right,’ her friend reassured her.

Meredith suspected Caitlyn was right, but that wasn’t helpful. She didn’t like to think that her Great Love had not been such a great thing after all. ‘Thank god I didn’t tattoo her name over my heart.’ This had been a plan, of sorts, in year one. If they made it five years, Merry ♥ Nadia would have been inked on her pale skin forever.

Earlier in the week, Caitlyn had upset Meredith by suggesting she wait until after the anniversary dinner before getting inked. ‘It’s more a gift for you than Nadia,’ she’d suggested. ‘Get her some flowers and have her go with you for the tatt.’

Wise Caitlyn. Bloody irritating Caitlyn. Now Meredith would have to call Black Heart Ink and Piercings to cancel Tuesday’s booking.

‘Did you know she was going to dump me?’ Meredith demanded.

‘No. But you haven’t been happy,’ Caitlyn replied.

Now Meredith was waiting for Caitlyn to say I told you so. Caitlyn didn’t, and that only made Meredith sadder and angrier. She went on the attack.  ‘You should have said something.’

‘I tried. You couldn’t hear it. You wanted her to love you.’

‘She did love me.’

‘She did. Once. She’s been making you miserable lately.’

‘Like you know me so well.’

‘I do, Merry. I’ve been your flatmate for three years. I know you well enough to know she made you miserable.’

Meredith folded her arms on the table and sank her face into them. ‘She did.’ And she sobbed.

‘Let me make you dinner,’ Caitlyn said, a plea rather than an offer. Meredith’s tears obviously made her uncomfortable.

‘Don’t go to any effort,’ whispered Meredith.

‘It’s no effort at all, Merry. I want to.’

Meredith first went to the bathroom to wash her panda eyes. Fresh towels were out. The tiles gleamed.

She then retreated to the living room; she slumped on the sofa, head tilted back. She regarded the newly cleared spaces. Underneath the pieces of patchwork quilt and plate, the room had been impeccably tidy. The bathroom shone. The kitchen, too.

Poor Caitlyn. A good flatmate, a good friend, even when unfairly bearing the brunt of Meredith’s wounded heart. Why on earth did she stand it?

Meredith found the remote control, launched Spotify and proceeded to play tragic love songs at top volume. Maybe This Time. All By Myself. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Nothing Compares 2U.

Caitlyn brought her a glass of wine. A plate of cheese and crackers.

‘I know you didn’t get to eat. Nibble on those while the veggie pie is baking.’

‘You’re making me a pie?’

‘I had the ratatouille already. I’ve just put a puff pastry lid on it and a swirl of goat’s cheese through the mix.’

Meredith gazed at her with mingled gratitude, apology and self-deprecation. ‘Thanks, Cait. You’re a good friend.’

‘So are you.’

‘I’m not, sometimes. I don’t know why you put up with me. You must love me a lot.’

Meredith laughed softly and then did not laugh at all at the look on Caitlyn’s face. ‘Shit.’

‘I’d better get back to the kitchen.’

Caitlyn fled. Meredith hesitated long enough to realise several things.

Caitlyn is my best friend.

Caitlyn loves me.

Nadia is nothing like Caitlyn, but for months I’ve wished she was.

Perhaps that’s why Nadia had dumped her tonight. Perhaps Meredith had been making Nadia miserable too.

Meredith stood at the kitchen doorway. Caitlyn, stricken, wrung her hands and looked for escape.

‘It’s okay,’ said Caitlyn shakily. ‘You don’t have to love me back.’

‘But I do,’ said Meredith.

‘Don’t say that.’

‘It’s true, though.’

‘You’re my friend. You love me like a friend.’

‘I love you like a friend,’ Meredith agreed. ‘I love you like a best friend. I love you like a co-conspirator. I love you like a soulmate. I love you like the sun. You’re the one I run to tell my happiest news to. You’re the one I want to cry with when the news is bad. You’re the one I come home to because you’re the one. You’re the one.’

Caitlyn cried. ‘You’re on the rebound.’

‘I’m an idiot, but I’m not that much of an idiot,’ said Meredith. ‘But it’s okay. I understand why you don’t believe me.’

She walked slowly to Caitlyn and touched her twisting hands.  ‘You’ve been so patient. I can wait. I’ll wait till you believe me, Caitie.’

Caitlyn blinked tears away. She met Meredith’s earnest, smiling gaze. For the first time in a long, long time, Meredith looked… Merry. Caitlyn leaned towards her friend, magnetised, drawn by the pull of her long unspoken love, until their lips met.

Their first kiss was soft, sweet. A bit wet from the crying.

It smelled of heat, of baking, of fire, of smoke…

And then the smoke alarm went off.

A dinner meant to offer kindness and care was a burnt offering, but that was all right. Merry said, for years and decades after, that it was fitting that their love be heralded by a noble sacrifice.

Review: Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure By Courtney Milan

The author Courtney Milan came to my attention recently as the result of some fairly unpleasant decisions (and their consequences) made by the Romance Writers of America in response to some of Milan’s robustly framed but justifiable critique on racism/racist tropes in romance (and on one book in particular). The Guardian has a summary.

Not having read anything by Milan, but seeing the comments threads full of praise for her work, I decided to give her books a try, and the what’s the first thing I found listed but a wonderful tale of 70ish ladies teaming up for delicious revenge and late blooming lesbian love!

Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure is a romp, with a dastardly villain and dashing heroines – the wealthy Mrs Bertrice Martin and the impoverished but proper Miss Violetta Beauchamps. What begins as a gentle kind of lie to get Violetta out of some desperate straits turns into a Regency buddy tale of two fed-up women burning down the patriarchy!

It’s not anything like a nuanced tale set in the gritty realism of London’s seedy streets. As Courtney Milan states in her Author’s Note:

Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him because he deserves them. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

The Nephew is indeed Terrible – a liar, a fraud, a sex pest, a bully, and arrogant and insufferably lazy lout – which makes his come-uppance a particular joy. Each woman has her troubles and secrets; each needs to grow and to listen to each other. Even as the plot as a whole is an unvarnished escapade, these two central characters are portrayed vividly. You can’t help wanting them to get away with all their zany plots.

And oh, it’s a glorious and often hilarious ride. Violetta may be a bit diffident, and Bertrice a bit oblivious to her privilege of wealth, but they both know what it’s like to be a woman at the mercy of unscrupulous men, and their schemes of retribution are also the framework that brings them close, helps them to learn their own worth and to accept the love they want and deserve.

It’s always a delight to read some queer historical romance, and the delight is doubled when we get some older women as the romantic leads.

Milan has an excerpt on her website. I for one am an instant fan, and will be looking up more of “The Worth Saga” (of which this is book 2 ¾).

Buy Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

Ten eBooks Return!

Ten titles make a return to ebook platforms

Last year, my publisher’s distributor went kaput. Some quick work saved my ebooks from being swallowed in the process, but it’s taken several months of wrangling to get the titles back onto Amazon! (Well, for some reason Expendable still isn’t there, but it’s shown up on other, related platforms so it should follow soon.)

I’m particularly delighted that the Duo Ex Machina novellas are now finally available again to readers across several ebook platforms: iBooks, Google Play, Nook Books, Kobo and Kindle!

The titles that have made a return are

Of course, while the books are back, none of the previous reviews have come back with them. If you’ve read any of them and would like to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, that would be enormously helpful in getting the algorithms to help people see the titles. Reviews don’t have to be long. A sentence to say whether or not you liked it, and perhaps another sentence or two about why, is enough for any platform and to help readers decide if the story is for them.

But either way, hooray for these ten titles being available once again!

Cover Reveal: Scar Tissue and Other Stories

At the beginning of May, my Patreon reached its first goal of $100 a month! That means that, as soon as I’ve finished writing the last few stories, getting them edited and getting it all formatted, all my supporters will be getting a free short story collection from me! (The rest of the world will be able to buy it a week or so later.)

Once those final three stories are completed I’ll release a Table of Contents to whet your appetite. In the meantime… TA-DAAAA! This is the cover! Designed by me, using Canva. 🙂

Scar Tissue and Other Stories will contain several stories that have appeared in print elsewhere, along with stories, poems and photo art that were written just for this collection!

Stories include Lost and Found flash fiction, stories set in the worlds of some of my novels, Holmes♥Watson fiction, Holmes+Watson epic besties fiction, and one of the few non-genre stories I’ve written, which gives the collection its title.

If you want to get a free copy of Scar Tissue and Other Stories when it comes out, and get access to other books, works in progress and other exclusive content, you can support me on Patreon for as little as US$1 a month.