Love Christmas Romances? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol by Drew Marvin Frayne (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol

Author: Drew Marvin Frayne

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 36100

Genre: Historical Holiday, LGBT, Christmas, romance, fairy tale, businessmen, ghost, prostitution, poverty, 19th century England, pirates, tear-jerker, time travel

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Synopsis

Peter Cratchit, a young lad preparing to make his way in the world, is the eldest son of Scrooge’s lowly clerk Bob Cratchit. Peter flourishes under the tutelage of his “Uncle” Scrooge and seeks to make his mark as a man of business, like his uncle before him.

One Christmas Eve, as Scrooge lays dying, Peter embarks on a risky ocean voyage that he believes will secure the future for his family. Onboard, Peter finds love, happiness, and success, only to lose it all by the voyage’s end.

Returning to London, Peter shuns his family and instead finds himself living on the streets, haunted by his failures and his dead lover, selling his body just to survive while he waits for the winter cold to claim him once and for all. But winter snows also mean Christmas is coming, and for the Cratchit family, Christmas is a time of miracles. Can a visit from three familiar spirits change Peter’s life again? Is there one more miracle in store for the lost son of one of Dickens’ most enduring families?

Excerpt

Peter Cratchit’s Christmas Carol
Drew Marvin Frayne © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Scrooge was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. He died some two years past on this very day, Christmas Eve. I would it were not so; yet I suspect the old man would not agree. He became rather infirm at the end, frail and forgetful, and though he did his best to remain cheerful, I know he hated to show weakness of any kind. It wasn’t a matter of pride, nor vanity; no, it wasn’t for his sake that he cared so. It was that, as he himself often said, he had become a sort of safeguard, a protector, to his family and to his community, and he hated the thought of us carrying on without him there, watching over us all. And we, of course, would clasp his hand and tell him that he would be looking over us in the next life, and that such thoughts brought us great comfort, and they should bring him great comfort too. And he would sigh, and agree with us, and settle in, at least for a while, until another great spasm wracked his breast, and his chest would heave with immense, raggedy gasps for air, and his worries arose all over again.

He died a good death, if it could be said that any death should be regarded as good. Though I have not spent nearly as many years as Scrooge did on this planet, I have knocked about a bit, and circumstance has shown me both great fortune and great tragedy. And as such, I have come to believe there is no good death to be had in this world. I have seen many poor wretches, past all hope of recovery from whatever it was that ailed them—whether it be an infliction of the body or the soul—beg for death, pray for it, and have watched it come in many guises, be it the cold, or the cough, or the cutthroat. I have seen their prayers answered, even if those answers came in some form of pain they had never envisioned. And yet I say, when the end did finally come, each and every one begged to stay, begged for their final breath to be forestalled, begged to live for even one moment more. Yea, though I have been on this world for less than a quarter of a century, I have come to know its horrors and have learned the greatest horror of all is that there is no world, no life, beyond this one.

Scrooge would not have agreed with this; oft he told us the tale of his visitation by his old friend, Jacob Marley, dead seven years in the grave before his return, and the further visitations by the three spirits who haunted him, also on a Christmas Eve. To Scrooge, there was no greater evidence of providence than this, and he lived such feelings in his heart for the rest of his life. I was glad of it; we all were, all of London town, though those of us who were closest to him felt his change of heart and his largesse most keenly. And many was the time, as a young man, on a Christmas Eve like this one, I sat cross-legged on the floor at Scrooge’s feet and listened to his tales of Christmas ghosts and astonishing spirits, of visitations to the past, and of the wondrous things that are yet to come.

Yet even then, I was a skeptic. After his tale was complete, Old Scrooge, as wise at reading faces as he was at managing his business, would frequently tousle my hair and tell me, “Young Master Peter, you must have the conviction of your faith. It is not enough to simply believe; you must know Christmas, and keep it in your heart all the year long.” Such words were enough for Tim and for the others; but I, I would only smile, and say, “Yes, Uncle Scrooge,” in a manner and tone that were always respectful, but that the cunning old man also knew to be mollifying. And Scrooge would then bend quite low—for he was a tall, wizened old fellow, and I have always been inclined to be undersized—and he would say to me, “You must not fear the world so much, Peter Cratchit.” And I would nod, and he would pat my cheek, or sometimes playfully pinch my nose. But what he meant by those words, I cannot say. In my experience, there is much to fear in this world, and much calamity the world will set upon the unwary soul who is not ever vigilant.

A growl in my stomach disturbed my thoughts. Time to dispense with these ruminations on the past; I was hungry. I willed my body out of its bed, a small recess in the side of a crumbling brick building used for the storage of livestock, a cramped pen to house the beasts before they were led to slaughter. The recess provided some shelter from the elements; there had been rain last night, so it was useful to keep dry, though the rain had been only a drizzle, and the weather was unseasonably temperate for so late in December. That was no small mercy.

The recess had once been a side door, now sealed up, when the building had been used for some other purpose, long forgotten to time. The smell of animal excrement that clung to the building—and to those who worked or, like me, dwelt within her—was formidable, but it also meant the alley I called my home remained deserted during the nightly hours. Safety in this life often comes at great cost. Those who have suffered at the world’s hands know this lesson all too well. The men who tended the animals had assembled a small cleaning station, clean water and a strong lye soap, behind the building, and they charitably did not begrudge my use of it from time to time, provided I did not tarry, and they did not see me. I hastened in my morning ablutions and made my way out to the street.

There was a bakery on Saint Martin’s Close; it was there I would seek to break my fast. Every morning, my repast was the same: two hot buttered rolls and a small tankard of ale. The only difference was whether the baker would tally the cost of his labors on my tongue or on my tail.

I made my way down Carol Street to the main Camden Road. I used to live on this very road, as a youth, but far down the other end from those places where I now worked and resided. Camden Town was named for Camden Road; the road was the heart of the ward, bisecting it in the north and making up the entirety of its western edge. It was impossible to be in Camden Town and avoid the Camden Road. And yet, in all of my wanderings through this neighborhood, I always avoided the familiar façade of my former house, with its chipped paint and ill-fitted front door. I was more interested in the thick, oaken door that led to the alley behind the bakery, where the business received deliveries of flour and other such supplies. I knocked. Some days, the baker answered promptly, as if expecting me; other days, like today, I had to wait. He was a busy man, having woke well before the dawn to assemble his breads and rolls and pastries and cakes. His bakery was a small one, but he did a good measure of custom, enough to keep him in flour and dough and sugar and coal for the ovens. Still, he had only one boy to help him prepare the daily wares—in this neighborhood, even relative prosperity resulted in genuine poverty.

Whether the boy was his son, or some urchin off the street, I do not know. The baker and I did not converse on such matters. It was, in part, because the man’s well of English was so deficient that any conversation would prove inconsequential at best. I could not identify his native tongue, and he spoke only the English of a tradesman and knew the terms for barter and exchange, and little more. My own English improved greatly under the tutelage of Ebenezer Scrooge, who gave me books to read and provided college-trained tutors to sharpen my intellect. I was beyond basic schooling by the time our families came together; but my mind was quick and hungered for knowledge, and Uncle Scrooge filled it with book after book on all manner of subjects—history, literature, economics, philosophy, mythology, the principles of business. I eagerly took it all in, save perhaps the poets, who I found too disordered, too insubstantial, to truly relish. Still, for an occasion such as this, the silver portion of my tongue was not really necessary. It was my tongue’s other talents that the baker was interested in. I suppose, in the end, this, like so much in life, was simply a matter of business. I needed what the baker had to offer; he felt the same. Talk would only prolong the necessities of exchange.

The man finally answered and hurried me inside. In nicer weather, he sometimes took his payment in the alley, but he did not like the cold and the damp, so he ushered me into a cramped cookery room stuffed with coal- and wood-burning ovens. I had no objection to being enveloped in warmth; it made for a pleasant change of atmosphere from my usual status at this time of year.

I could see by the sights and sounds of his distresses that my morning patron was more harried than usual. His eyes were darting around the room. His gestures were quick, and rough, and impatient. He was a large, hirsute man, with a rotund belly and a gray, prickly beard, which, at the moment, was dusted in a rather generous supply of flour.

I was no longer fond of beards; I generally preferred smooth-faced youths, like myself, and not the wooly chins of older men, though, in my line of work, older men were my main custom. And this was business, not pleasure, and the baker felt the same as I, especially today. Even as he penned me into his back kitchen, he continued to bellow orders to the boy out front. I often wondered what the boy thought of our exchanges. Perhaps it was of no consequence to him. Perhaps he was grateful he did not have to provide a similar service. Or perhaps he did. Who can say.

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Meet the Author

Drew Marvin Frayne is the pen name of a long-time author (Lambda Literary Award finalist) who is finally taking the opportunity to indulge his more sentimental and romantic side. When not writing the author lives with his husband of 20+ years and their dog of 10+ years in a brick home in the Northeast. Find out more on Drew’s Website.

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A MelanieM Review: The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Nathanial Goldsmith is the only son of the richest man in the Idaho territory, Jessum Goldsmith, the Silver Baron of the Western Lands, as he is called in all the newspapers. But life in the late nineteenth-century American West weaves no magic spell for Nathanial, who longs for the academic worlds his father has forced him to leave behind.

To toughen him up, Nathanial’s father has indentured him to a ranchman, Cayuse Jem, a large, raw-boned, taciturn man Nathanial’s father believes will help teach his son to “become a man.” Cut off from his books and the life he has always known, Nathanial is not only forced to co-exist with Cayuse Jem, but to truly get to know him. In doing so, Nathanial discovers there is more to this silent horseman than meets the eye. And, in the process, Nathanial also learns a few things about life, about human nature, and about the differences in being a man and a boy…

I love historical fiction and romance but I’m also very aware of exactly how difficult it is to get it right.  Not only does the author have to craft a splendid plot, create multidimensional characters, give them chemistry with each other, as well as a romance to root for, but then they must place all that within the structure of a certain time period without making it look like a information dump.  Or that they haven’t done any research at all (please don’t get me started in on the use of Wikipedia as research).

So yes, rare is the author or novel that pulls it all together and gets it right.

The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne gets it right.

The Bibliophile is essentially the journal of young Nathanial Goldsmith.  It starts in September 1888 and ends in October 1890, three years that become a lifetime of growth.  The first thing the reader notices is that the language is correct for the time period.  Not modern in phrase or thought, it takes a while to adjust to Nathanial’s diary entries and internal dialog.  But very soon, that strangeness of “the tongue” and era become second nature and you ease into Nat’s world and connect with someone on the turning point of his life.

I can’t being to say enough of how Frayne was able to draw me into the mind and heart of Nat, a young book lover who only wants to stay in college and become a teacher yet is doomed by the fact that that he is the only son of a wealthy, hard man determined to mold him into the image of the son he wants, not the person Nathanial actually is.  The first entries are heartbreaking in their earnestness and honesty over his situation.  He’s at college and knows he must return to Idaho and a family that holds him and book learning in little regard.  And books are the only things he truly loves because he’s had so little of it in his life.

Nathanial has been away from the mansion his silver baron father calls home for a while so in many ways he’s younger than another boy who would have stayed on the frontier of Idaho.  He’s not “tough” or manly as his father would have him.  An altercation see’s his father sending him off to be an indentured servant to a brusk, somewhat wild rancher.  And this is where the story will, I believe, hit home with most readers.  The scenes where Nathanial is going through hardships he never believed of as a servant to Cayuse Jem are authentic, painful, and gritty.  He’s a child of privilege now a servant  performing chores he never dreamed of or knows how to do.  Since the reader has come to care greatly for Nat, this is an especially hard section to get through.

It’s also the beginning of Nat’s training.  Cayuse Jem starts to call him “boy”.   If you see that in terms of sexual use, you would be correct. The relationship here is very much daddy/boy or dom/sub without the kink. Although the sexual relationship does not come until an emotional bond is developed and Nat is ready for a sexual one.  He is also 18 when the journal starts.  But over and over again, throughout the story, the rancher is training Nat, gentling him as though he is one of the wild horses he works with, to be his. They love either other, no question, however, there is a definite framework or dynamics to their relationship. There are numerous references to historic Greek practices of older men taking younger ones as lovers, also Nez Perce same sex couplings, are used as foundation material by the author.  How the reader feels about all this will frame out how they will continue on with the story.

As a side thread to this is also an indelible storyline about two Nez Perce men who are incredibly important to Cayuse Jem and Nathanial.  That would be Chuslum and Motsqueh.  These two men will earn as deep a portion of your heart as Nat and Cayuse Jem do.  From them we venture into the lifestyle of the tribe, the Indian wars, the current situation, medicine and culture. It’s a rich, vivid element of The Bibliophile and one for me that is perhaps my favorite.

As Nat’s journal entries continues, you forget almost that he’s writing…you are there walking alongside them during their daily duties, getting a feel for life as it was lived in Idaho in the late 1800’s, from the politics to the books read, the food eaten,  and yes, even the clothes worn.  The author naturally immerses you into their world, making you care what happens to them, well aware that back then life was so precarious and could turn on a moment.

There are things I could go into here but this is a book that needs to be experienced.  Be prepared to weep.  I cried buckets.  I should have expected that and I still wasn’t ready. Damn you, Frayne!

The amount of emotional growth Nathanial shows during this story is amazing, especially in the last pages.  I needed that epilogue.  It was perfection. The flawless narrative touch.The author had me worried the chapter before and then delivered the 5 star send off.

After the story was done, I thought to myself….I didn’t get to savor all the nuances, the bits and pieces that I was sure that I had missed but I was still not ready to dive back in to the emotional journey that Nat needs to go through.  But I will and soon.  Because this is a book to be treasured.  I’ll just remember to have my box of tissues handy.

Cover art by Natasha Snow.  Not sure how I feel about this cover.  On the surface its fine, has all the elements.  But it doesn’t stand out, the tones,while right for the era are just blah.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 26th 2018 by NineStar Press
Original Title The Bibliophile
ISBN 139781949909432
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Second Level by Drew Marvin Frayne

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The path to true love is never easy, especially when you are on opposite sides of the world’s greatest theological debate.

It’s Halloween, and the Demon of Masturbation—Dom, for short—has come to Earth to collect sins and souls for his boss. But a representative from the Interfering Angel Network—Ian—has been sent to put a crimp in his plans. Frankly, though, the two seem less interested in sins and souls than in the three bottles of tequila they down during the night. Alcohol can lower the inhibitions, but it also impacts judgment, and Dom and Ian soon find themselves in the world’s most awkward threesome with a young mortal virgin.

Forget battling for his soul—their real passion seems to be for each other. But Halloween night is waning fast, and the veil between the worlds is only lifted for one night. How can two beings from opposite sides come together when they know they are destined to forever be apart?

Second Level by Drew Marvin Frayne has to be one of my favorites simply because I laughed so much.  And it had such a neat twist at the end.  But mostly because of the humor and the wonderful characters.  Dom the Demon of Masturbation is priceless, especially when he’s musing on how beauty and body image has changed over the centuries.  What’s a short, chunky demon to do?

However, it’s in the swing towards poignancy towards the end where the depth of the story really kicks in and pulls at your heart, surprisingly so after sort of labeling the story a comedy.  No there’s more to this little gem than just that.  Read it and find out for yourself why I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is again just perfect.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: October 23rd 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947904101
Edition LanguageEnglish