Tag Archives: queermance

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

Review: A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird

Improbable Press, recently acquired by Clan Destine Press, has come of of its new gate with two new books: A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird, illustrated by Janet Anderton, and The Case of the Misplaced Models by Tessa Barding.

A Question of Time is the third in IP’s 221B series (which began with my own A Dream to Build a Kiss On and then K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather) and continues the theme of writing Holmes/Watson love stories a succinct 221 words at a time. (The last word of each short story begins with ‘B’, hence the 221B name for the form.)

The Blurb

Sherlock Holmes
whether he’s a grimy student in 1980, a consulting detective in 47BCE, or a smitten neighbour in 1969, will always find his…
John Watson
whether he is a military doctor in 1917, an angry Saxon with an axe in 1086, or a priest in 1603.

A Question of Time is an illustrated journey through the ages told by our heroes, by their friends, and by a scorched manuscript.

This new collection begins with 221 words set in 2085, a bittersweet eulogy for two men who loved each other all their lives, delivered by their child. There is so much love and humour in these words you feel like you’ve known the three of them. The illustration of the twined elm trees is a lovely, evocative symbol of the emotion of this window into their story.

The remaining 49 stories flit about through time, from 19,873 BCE (oh, how heartstrings can be tugged in 221 words about ochred hand paintings!) through the disco years [and two world wars and molly houses and Jack the Ripper’s London] to a lovely two-parter in 2019 where an appreciative and babbling Watson meets a busking Holmes.

Each is a delicious little tale, woven into history yet standing alone as a snippet of a time and place. Huge amounts of personality, delicious wickedness and humour are part of the weave; as are darker moments during the black plague and its 20th century counterpart during the 1980s with the AIDS crisis.

All the cleverness, compassion, giggle-out-loud-at-the-cafe quirks are turned into double delights with Janet Anderton’s illustration: the orchids, bees, coins, singed manuscripts and strange paraphernalia, and glimpses of hands, mouths, eyes in each setting highlighting elements of and adding dimensions to each story.

In short, A Question of Time is small and perfectly formed, the delights of the text enhanced by the charms of the illustrations, and if you like your Holmes and Watson to be in love, no matter where in time they exist, you’ll get 50 little hits of joy.

Buy A Question of Time

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.

Research: A home in Carlton

When Duo Ex Machina‘s Frank and Milo first appeared in a story, they’d just returned from Amsterdam – they were kinda big with the Dutch – to attend a funeral in Fremantle. They had no home but a hotel. 

By the second story in 2004, they were on a publicity tour, and still no home was mentioned. At this stage, Frank had in fact inherited a flash house by the Swan River but here they were in hotels again. Milo’s mother and some extended family were dotted about Melbourne, though.

So here we are in 2009 with Number One Fan and I thought it was about time they had a home of their own. The house by the river was full of sad memories, and besides, it’s a lot harder for me to research locations when I don’t live in Perth any more.

When looking for a home for them in Melbourne, I knew I wanted them to live in one of those beautiful Victorian-era two-storey houses with iron lace and stacks of charm. I knew I wanted them to be somewhere with an open view in front of them, in a suburb that connected to their Italian roots. While they had a heritage home, I wanted them to live somewhere full of young energy; maybe on the line between traditional and hipster.

After a bit of poking about, I kept coming back to Carlton. Although Lygon Street, also called ‘Little Italy’, is a bit overhyped, it’s still a lovely area when you get away from that central street. It’s said Melbourne cafe culture started here, with all the Italian restaurants. It’s home to La Mama Theatre (where playwright David Williamson made his debut), Readings Bookstore, Cinema Nova, and Italian delicatessens, and Melbourne University is just over the tramlines.

Carlton was established just after the Victorian Gold Rush, in 1851. It started out a bit posh – Sir Redmond Barry (the man who pronounced the death sentence on Ned Kelly) lived on Rathdown Street in the early days – but became a place of small industry and the working class. The Jewish population got their synagogue in 1919, and after WWII an influx of Italians strongly influenced the area’s character, along with all those hungry minds at the university.

Some beautiful houses with iron lace are dotted all about Carlton. Quite a few parks are in the area too. I went for a walk around it one recent sunny day to choose where I’d like their house to be, and to see what was nearby. 

This row of terrace houses opposite Argyle Square was the best option. From those front balconies, people can look over the English elms in the park and see the students lollling about on the lawn to study, or families picnicking and eating ice-cream they bought up on Lygon Street, a short walk away. Around the corner is The Lincoln Hotel if they want a quietish drink.  At the Lygon Street end of the square is what was in 2009 a red brick power substation, but as of a few months ago is a new cafe called Parco.

The location was right but the houses there weren’t so I took some small streets, crossing Lygon and heading towards Drummond and Rathdown Streets. There I found two lovely white terrace houses. One of them has beautiful leadlighted decorations on the downstairs window and above the door. The other was plainer at ground level, but had lovely etched glass in the upstairs window and the balcony door.

A wee bit of googling gave the prices that they last sold for. One of them, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and even a car space, went for $800K in 2005. I think Frank’s Swan River place would have covered that.

Of course, Frank and Milo’s place isn’t really real. I’ll be playing around with its insides and outsides, maybe having them refurbish and add a fancy music room onto the back of the house while the front gazes onto the park with its demure 1890s lace of iron.