It’s April of 1816 in Another England.
And Jeremy—a whore from the Dock—is living in a guest bedroom at the London home of the (in)famous Iron Marquess, with over fifteen days missing from his life.
For someone who remembers everything from his third birthday on, it’s unnerving not to know. Fine, fourteen days for the coma and the infection delirium. But those first thirty-six hours. Do they explain how he got hurt, how he got to Ireton House, and why his lordship’s mountain-sized valet is taking care of him? Or why his ironness looks at him with nothing iron at all in his eyes?
Jeremy and the Iron Marquess both have dark secrets. Forced engagements, an inheritance, a scheme to clap Jeremy in Bedlam, the revelation of the missing hours, a problem with plumage, some numbered accounts, and a long sea voyage, all seem to mean there’s no way out of the snares surrounding them. Or is the old saying true: where there’s a waltz, there’s a way?
All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.
Author: Eric Alan Westfall
Genres: MM Romance, historical, alternate history
Keywords/Categories: MM romance, historical, humor
Series Title: Another England
Position (Number) in Series: #3
Necessary to Read Previous Books: No
What led you to write in your genre?
If I were to use “gay”—romance or otherwise—as the genre, I’d have to say because I’m a gay man, and my ideas aren’t mainstream. Writing MM books didn’t happen, at least not for publication, until I got hooked by the Don’t Read in the Closet events of the Goodreads MM Romance Group in 2013. Within the broader MM category, I have two genres: fantasy and historical.
I answered this question about my interest in fantasy on the blog tour for Of Princes False and True, so here I am talking about historical novels.
Part of the reason is my “meeting” Georgette Heyer in 1961, as a freshman in college. Ms. Heyer was a prolific writer in the first half of the 20th Century, and for all practical purposes she invented Regency historical novels. Not a moment of sex in any of them, but they’re all marvels of historical precision in terms of dress, food, manners, mores, entertainments, etc., etc. More important, though, they’re witty, clever, remarkably fun and she always tells a good story.
I went on reading Regencies after college, especially when so many were released by the major publishers. By that time, the books had to have explicit sex, and since they were MF, I’d enjoy the plot, hit the 37-page sex scene, go flippity-flippity-flip through the paperback pages until it was over, and then go on with the plot.
My first historical was The Rake, The Rogue, and The Roué, which was inspired by a picture prompt and a letter in a DRitC even. That book was the creation of my “Another England” back story. The second AE book was also a DRitC picture (a remarkably explicit actual 1893 photo collage of men, er, having fun while wearing socks). The combination pretty much hooked me.
So you can blame Georgette Heyer and DRitC for my writing gay historicals.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Finishing it. I went back and checked, and I wrote the first half of the opening chapter in mid-2011. I wrote in starts and stops over the following six years (if you have a substantial amount of time I can offer you a long list of reasons/excuses why). I got started with MM romances in 2013, but this one stayed on the back burner, though by the end of 2017, it was up to 120,000 words.
The book just sat there, occasionally reminding me of its existence, for most of 2018, until July, when I committed myself…as in paid out money!!!!…for the guys at Other Worlds Ink to set up the pretty much back to back blog tours for Of Princes False and True and no way out. Which meant both books had to be finished in roughly a month each.
The final words, bringing the grand total to just of 152,000 happened in August. For whatever reason, philosophical (as one of my characters might say, “’e finely got ‘is ‘ead out of ‘is arse, ‘n’ got it done”) or financial (he’s too cheap to let that non-refundable payment go to waste), I wrote every day. And each day, for whatever chapter I picked to work on—I don’t write gaily forward from beginning to end—the words were there.
Now let’s see if I can keep up…not quite the same pace…but a reasonable one and get some more books done and out the door.
What are some of your favorite writing resources?
Resources, plural? There’s something other than Google? Really?
Okay, so maybe there are a couple of resources I rely on.
Google mostly. For example, in no way out, I had a question about trousers, pantaloons and breeches in Regency England. Yep, they’re all different. Plus underwear. (Oh, c’mon. This is a gay romance. Of course they’re going to get undressed, so I had to be sure how they’d do it, especially for the scene on the quarterdeck.) A quick bit of Googling led me to a site devoted to the Regency period with an article on men’s clothing. As I don’t do the kind of research which makes the historical novels of the likes of Heyer and Dunnett so accurate, Google provides me enough of the details to give the flavor of the period.
And as I am fond of slang, there are two resources I own.
There’s The Big Book of Filth, edited and compiled by Jonathon Green, who is in fact a renowned British lexicographer and authority on slang. This little book (with its clever cartoon illustrations) has 6500 slang words and phrases about sex, and it even tells you roughly when the word came into use.
An even better resource is Green’s Chambers Slang Dictionary, a 1500-page hardcover, that not only defines the slang word or phrase, but gives you a history of its use, and when it was first used. This is all kinds of English slang, not just related to sex. If you want to be sure your slang is right, or if your story is set in a particular period and you don’t know whether you can use “gobsmacked”…you can find out with this marvelous book.
How do you handle a story that doesn’t go as you planned?
With abject gratitude to Mike the Manly Muse and his character cohorts in crime. I’m the proverbial “pantser” and only twice can I say I actually planned a book: no way out and the one I’m currently hooked on writing regardless of what I should really be doing (a gay version of The Tinderbox, starring Charlie, our intrepid soldier hero, and Prince Caspian the Charming, who needs rescuing from a copper cauldron).
In no way out, Mike stepped in, fairly near the end of writing, and said, “What about this? Wouldn’t it work about X?” (Nope, not telling you which MC.) It would, indeed. And at the same time, while X didn’t change any of the already written or to-be-written actions of the MC, it created…an explanation, if you will…of who he was, and made him a more complex person than he was before. Some of what had been done had to be revised, but with an idea like X, it was worth it.
Other times, Mike will murmur in my far-from-shell-like ear suggestions for sentences or phrases or paragraphs. Sometimes, too, Mike suggests an alternate route for getting to the end. I almost always start knowing the title, the beginning and the ending, and pretty much how to get to the point of typing “FIN.” Usually Mike’s suggestion is better than what I’d first had in mind.
There were parts I really liked about this book. The guys and the plot were fine, and there was a good amount of sexy times in nice detail. So. If I say there’s a lot I liked, there was some things I didn’t like. You know how in classic books, the sentences go on for ages, and by the time you’ve gotten to the end of the sentence, you’re just confused about what was said? Like, a five-line sentence littered with 87 commas. I can’t keep that all straight in my head. That’s the style of this book, so it’s no wonder it’s 300+ pages. There were also numerous instances of the author kind of sort of saying something but not *quite* being explicit about what exactly it is happening on the page. So I kind of squinted and looked around and either eventually figured it out after reading another few paragraphs or I just never figured out exactly and specifically what he was trying to convey. It was sometimes exhausting. Several times it was written something like “He said the word.” Wait, what word? What did I miss? Frustrating.
At one point, one hero actually has raunchy sex with another man, which is generally a no-no for me, but fine, it was explained why and I got over it. And honestly it’s probably more realistic that way. But while there is seemingly an HEA, it was definitely not enough for me! These guys went through some stuff and I wanted declarations of love and forever and possibly one sexy times scene for the road, but it ended rather abruptly.
Giving this 3.5 for the story, as I liked the guys and there was some nice angst.
- IT ALL BEGINS
6 April 1816
Ireton House, London
The voice was back.
Inside my head.
Still I swiveled, twisting to look behind, knowing I would see what I always see when the words are said—nothing. The unpainted, scuffed wooden floor was empty. The door to second story elegance had not creaked since we passed through, shutting it behind us, moments ago. The stairs to lesser third-story elegance and fourth story no elegance at all were both bare of bodies who might whisper words only I could hear.
I turned forward again, teetered, and reaching out, slapped my palms flat against the walls of the narrow servants’ stairs. Pressing hard, I tilted back, but my socked foot slipped on the slick wooden edge. When I landed, the floor made known its displeasure with a sharp splinter through the rope-belted loose trousers, ill-fitting smalls, and into my bum. I yelped.
The cold voice of Thomas, the senior footman, rose up the stairwell from the landing below. “His lordship is waiting.”
I shifted my weight to my left hip, and rolled to my knees, giving him a fine view of my bottom if he was watching, which was by now instinctive. I made a point of lifting my left leg with great care, and with equal care placing my foot on the floor, again in case he was watching. A right foot repeat and then some clearly awkward struggling to get myself as upright on the landing as I could—although a boy with a twisted spine and a twisted leg can never be truly upright—followed by a shuffle-step away from the edge. I suppressed the temptation to rub my right arse cheek. Without turning around I called down, “Well, bugger ‘is bleedin’ lordship! Me feet ‘urt ‘n me arse ‘as been ‘urt, too.”
My feet didn’t hurt much any more. Though bandaged still, and covered with the thick wool stockings sagging around my ankles, they had almost healed. But the pretense might keep me here, with a comfortable bed, and good food, for just a while longer. I grinned a small, wicked grin to myself, and wiped it away as I turned to face the stairs. “Right, then. Shall I drop me britches, turn ‘n bend and you can see what’s stickin’ in me bum, ‘n maybe come up ‘n pull it out?”
It was amazing how much disdain could be contained in stare and stance. Thomas even managed to look down his nose while looking up the stairs.
“Orright, orright. Jus’ wait a bleedin’ minute. ‘n you might want to close yer eyes so’s y’don’t see somethin’ what might ‘orrify you, just in case me grip slips, ‘cause I ain’t goin’ nowhere with somethin’ stickin’ in me arse.”
My hands were on the knot in the rope, and I grinned broadly when the footman closed his eyes, with a stern “Be quick about it then, boy.”
I untied the knot, loosening the waistband since whoever supplied the trousers was much thicker around the middle than me, using my left hand to hold the pants up. I reached behind, and working my right hand into my smalls and found the painful little bugger. With thumb and forefinger I wiggled it free, brought my hand round to the front, and looked at the bloody, bloody thing. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I lifted the three-quarter-inch sliver before my face. “Oi! Is this a dagger wot I see before me?”
Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody, bloody hell. Maybe Thomas wouldn’t…. Well, bloody hell all over again, he did. The footman was looking at me now, his eyes wide, his mouth open to say something, and then he slowly shut it.
It would only make it worse if I tried to cobble together an explanation of why, or how a sixteen-year-old street boy (the age I gave) could paraphrase The Scottish Play. I shut my own mouth, dropped the splinter, retied the knot, and began descending the stairs with care, one thumping step at a time. I braced one hand against the wall—his lordship did not believe in hand rails for his servants—in case of another slip. The footman waited until I was almost at the landing before turning away. Watching my downward struggle, he was unconcerned about the possibility of another fall, his expression informing me if I fell I was on my own. I followed in silence as we went through the halls of the first floor to the front of the house.
Ah, his lordship’s library. I stared at the door.
I’d been in there, just the once, when I shouldn’t have been. But then, I shouldn’t have been in the house in the first place, but I was, though I didn’t know why. Or how I came to be here. Both were part of what was missing. I could remember every…bloody…thing in my life up to the night before…whatever…happened. Remember the Dock on the 12th, the clock in my head saying it was ten thirty at night when I finished the last man. I remember the glint of the shilling as it spun through the air, making me get off my knees, bend and stretch to reach it in the muck. The feel of the metal between my fingertips as I picked it up. Then the twist and roll away, my back taking the brunt of the kick meant for my belly. The man was one of those who, once done, and eager to be tucked and buttoned away, feels guilty and lashes out at the one responsible for his sin. I remember his silhouette as I got to my feet, his realizing how much taller I was, and how the silhouette turned and hurried away.
Then nothing more until I woke up too damned many days later in a bloody nobleman’s house, in sobbing agony, weak, my feet, head and thigh throbbing with pain.
Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.
The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the Roué (Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture (Victorian), with no way out (Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.
Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar (Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats (of the gruff variety).
Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)
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