Tag Archives: MM romance

Review: Ghost Story by GV Pearce

The latest book from Improbable Press gives us a piquant blend of love story, character study and spoooookiness.

This Holmes/Watson tale has an original contemporary London/York setting and opens with John and Sherlock, married for several months now, on what ought to be a belated honeymoon but which John knows to be a case – a case which Sherlock said he wasn’t pursuing. Already it’s clear that while they love and adore each other, there’s rockiness ahead.

Sherlock’s not the only one keeping secrets, however. From the very first chapter we know that John sees ghosts, and has done since he was a child. He can’t tell anyone – people would think him unbalanced – so he avoids thinking about it whenever possible. That is not as often as he’d like.

Ghost Story is both a great little Holmesian mystery about the missing Gloria Evans: it’s a fantastically spooky tale of a man haunted by ghosts and the traumas of his past; his relationship with a man who seems equal parts obliviousness and devotion; and a study of the cracks in a loving relationship when the deceptions pile up, whatever the motivations.

The unravelling of those secrets and why they’re being kept are part of a beautifully texture of a low-key case that feels very intense in terms of its impact.

A couple of the scenes are deeply affecting and gorgeously evocative. Gloria’a abandoned flat, where greenery has invaded the spaces; the streets and buildings of York; the banks of a river; the flashbacks to John’s childhood and the attack on the ambulance convoy in Afghanistan – all of these are described so splendidly that I could almost scent the atmosphere – Gloria’s flat particularly.

One of the many things I love about Ghost Story is how it becomes gradually clear that the spirits that John encounters are not the only ghosts of the title.

John and Sherlock are both a little ghost-like themselves, not quite anchored in the world or entirely present for each other. Sherlock flits in and out of John’s life for a while, through the flashbacks of how they met and their first case, and he still keeps secrets and disappears without explanation. At the same time, in avoiding confrontation and acceptance of his unwanted gift, and the secret that he’s therefore keeping himself, combined with the effects of his war injuries, John is absent in key ways too.

It’s a beautiful theme that threads through the whole and makes the conclusion – in which the resolutions for the hauntings and John and Sherlock’s relationship are linked – particularly satisfying.

GV Pearce has written us a wonderfully atmospheric, beautifully paced book – it may take a little time for case/relationship/ghostiness to come to a head, but every step is deeply involving and the reader is fully engaged with wondering how all the elements will turn out. It is in turns poignant, charming, funny and unsettling, but it’s deftly wound together in a conclusion that satisfies without being heavy handed.

I hope Pearce considers another book for Improbable Press – in this universe or any other they care to write in. I’ll pounce on it the minute I can!

Buy Ghost Story

Lockdown Fiction: Tumble

I wrote this brief piece in response to the Improbable Press prompt of last week.

Tumble

His eyes were green, his skin pale. A right Irish honeypot, and everyone wanted a taste of the sweet lad.

His hair was his glory: golden red, which burned like a holy fire when the sun caught it.

When he walked, the little sway in his hip made traffic stop. He didn’t aim to seduce, but he could hardly help it. Fey blood made a fey boy potent, sparking desire even in those who never expected to desire a boy: a red-golden, cream-skin, emerald-eye, honeypot boy.

He ought to have been hung about with a sign.

Be careful.

His laugh was a siren call and a warning.

That cackle of joy burst out of him at the most unexpected things; but seriousness could also descend without notice, coming upon him like a solemn oath. He would burrow briefly into the dark, rooting uncomfortable truths from the soil and the roots of life, before turning it  all upside down again, flinging what he found into the light, cackling again.

The fey honeyed boy drew the flies, but also the bee, a lad sumptuously large, striped black and golden, full of the solemn hum of life, heavy with a rich nectar. Where the fey boy cackled, the sumptuous boy smiled, his solemn hum lilting lighter. The fey boy burrowed into the dark loam of him, turned it upside down into the light. The gold inside one glinted in the burning sun of the other.

Honeypot and bee, the fey and the earth, the sun and the glow.

Carelessly, they tumbled into love.

Review: The Case of the Misplaced Models by Tessa Barding

Improbable Press, recently acquired as an imprint by Clan Destine Press, has released two new books already under the new banner. I’ve reviewed the first – A Question of Time, a collection of 50 short stories with illustrations – and have just finished this new novel by Tessa Barding.

The Case of the Misplaced Models takes place in a contemporary London and is narrated by a John Watson who is fitting back into his old life. He works in a local surgery, keeps fit while keeping an eye on the limitations of his reconstructed let, and has an eye for a hot guy – especially when one shows up outside consulting hours needing a gash in his leg sewn up.

Dr Watson ends up in a flat share with this same enigmatic and attractive man – Sherlock Holmes of course – and before long they are sharing morning runs, simple breakfasts and a frisson of attraction. Yet while John is falling in love, it’s less clear what Sherlock wants. Sex, certainly, but is his heart in the game?

While John gradually becomes involved in Sherlock’s cases, he’s also keeping in sporadic touch with his university friend, the perpetually busy finance broker, Karim Halabi. Halabi’s stumbled across an odd algorithm in the figures he’s modelling – and then one day disaster strikes.

Barding has created a rich, modern life for Holmes and Watson. John’s relationship with Karim is believably deep for all the trouble they have getting their schedules to match up. It’s easy to respond to John’s magnetic attraction and confusion over Sherlock’s feelings and intentions as well.

Holmes is, as always, fascinating. His hard-to-read emotions suggest a troubled past that readers of the original Doyle stories (or viewers of modern interpretations) will recognise as an old drug habit. He’s odd and unpredictable, not always picking up on the social and relationship cues, yet still likeable, as he should be.

Barding’s Sherlock is brilliant and eccentric. His affectionate relationship with his brother Mycroft is a lovely throwback to canon, and his warm working relationship with DI Gwen Lestrade a nod to Conan Doyle’s work describing the DI as being “the best of the professionals”.

A special shout-out goes to Bodie and Doyle, John’s pets in this iteration.

The Case of the Misplaced Models zips along at a great pace, scattered with several cases before Karim’s trouble takes over the focus. The sex scenes are hot, and the emotional growth attached to them satisfying. I’m hoping Tessa Barding will consider bringing more of this John and Sherlock to us!

At the time of writing, Improbable Press is offering a very cool deal. Buy all three of its most recent paperbacks – A Question of Time, A Study in Velvet and Leather and The Case of the Misplaced Models – and you can get another two ebooks from its or Clan Destine’s range – for free. Details are on the Improbable Press website.

Buy The Case of the Misplaced Models

Cover Reveal: Duo Ex Machina – Kiss and Cry

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my upcoming fourth Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Cry.

Set in 2014, Kiss and Cry sees musicians and life partners Frank Capriano and Milo Bertolone facing new challenges. Milo is taking part in a celebrity ice dancing show for charity; Frank is a busy music producer. They’re both working too hard and losing touch with the love that has kept them strong for so long. At the same time, some odd things are going on with other participants in Icing It! What new and unlooked-for danger threatens them now, and is it worse than the miserable estrangement they’re going through?

Kiss and Cry is currently being serialised for my $3 supporters on Patreon. That will finish in February 2020, when all Patrons will get the book as one of their regular awards. Soon after, it will be available for general sale.

In the meantime, this is the lovely cover by Willsin Rowe, who has created all the new series covers to date.