The challenge of finding love in the world today can take many forms, but at its heart love is the same: it’s all about forging a connection with another person. Experience romance at its most relatable in these four contemporary stories of male-male love with a British flavour from award-winning authors Josephine Myles and JL Merrow.
In these stories you’ll find out how to communicate without words, be teased by a memory that’s just out of reach, flash back to young love and emerging sexuality, and discover how opposites can attract when you meet a stranger in a strange land.
These stories have all been previously published, but are now available exclusively in this anthology.
Anthology introduction by JL Merrow (taken from the ebook):
Contemporary gay romance. While both Jo and I love to experiment with different genres, this is the one we both come back to most often. Why? For me, I think it’s because even though with sci fi, paranormals or threesomes we’re playing in a different sandbox, at the end of the day the game’s always the same: getting two (or more) people together and forging a connection between them that we hope will last. Contemporary romance is, as often as not, romance stripped to the bare essentials.
And it’s probably true to say that a contemporary romance between two people is in many ways the most accessible form of romance to the average reader. It can be hard to really identify with a protagonist from a different world, or a different era. Weaving a story is all about making a fictional world seem real to the reader who comes for a visit, and not everyone enjoys suspending disbelief about ghosts, shifters or space ships. If you’re not poly yourself, it can be hard to relate to a relationship between more than two people. Things that happened decades or even centuries ago can, to those more interested in the here and now, seem far off and irrelevant. (As writers, we’re often told not to distance the reader from the story, which is while I always smile when I see the familiar words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”)
Contemporary romance is immediate, dealing with the world the reader knows well—or could come to know, simply by stepping onto an aeroplane. Yes, in these stories we may still explore different realities to our own: for example one of Jo’s stories features a deaf main character, and one of mine, a blind man. Another is set in a city I’ve never visited—but they’re all firmly rooted in the world we live in today. You can imagine yourself walking down the street and seeing any of the characters in these stories. Perhaps even being a fly on a handy wall as they fall in love.
And that’s what the stories really have in common, of course: love. In the end, aren’t we all here because we believe in love?
Thanks for reading—and if you enjoy the stories, please consider leaving a review where you purchased them. Feed the authors! 😉
All the best
JL Merrow, May 2016
Individual story blurbs:
Epiphany by JL Merrow
When security guard Vinnie spots a young British guy, Gray, looking lost on a New York street, he thinks he’s never seen anyone so beautiful. The feeling’s mutual: concert pianist Gray loves everything about the huge muscle man who’s offering to walk him back to his hotel. When they stop off at Vinnie’s apartment, sparks fly—but when they finally get back to Gray’s hotel, things seem to fall apart. Is one afternoon all they’ll ever have?
Halfway up the Stairs by Josephine Myles
When Charlie wakes up alone after arguing with his boyfriend the night before, it seems like nothing will resolve the situation. Josh wants them to move, but Charlie is too attached to the house. It’s not just all the work he’s put into it, though, it’s all the memories. One memory in particular, of standing hidden halfway up the stairs, watching and wanting…
Sense Memory by JL Merrow
Blinded by a drunk driver, Colin is haunted by a sense memory—the smell of wood chippings. When he meets up with Alban, who he’s been chatting with online, he finally finds out why.
Without Words by Josephine Myles
Is that gorgeous redheaded hunk on the building site really checking him out? Nick thinks it’s worth the risk of getting his head kicked in to find out. Only trouble is, Nick tends to end up spoiling things with his nervous babbling. This time he’s going to have to keep his mouth shut. It’s either that or he’ll have to find some other way to occupy it…
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo publishes regularly with Samhain, and now has over ten novels and novellas under her belt. Her novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She has also been known to edit anthologies and self-publish on occasion, although she prefers to leave the “boring bits” of the ebook creation process to someone else. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and a soon-to- be toddler.
Excerpt from “Without Words” by Josephine Myles
I walked along the perimeter fence, sweat prickling my palms, trying to maintain a casual amble to give the impression that I was the kind of guy who did this sort of thing all the time. The site looked deserted until I passed the foreman’s cabin, where the workers sat outside on piles of breeze blocks, chatting idly under the punishing sun as they swigged down cold drinks and munched on sandwiches. He wasn’t with them. That was good. I picked up my pace, determined to find him before he decided to join the lunch crowd.
He wasn’t a sociable guy and I’d never seen him chatting – he just got on with his job – taciturn and focused. It gave me hope that here would be someone who could understand me; who could forgive my lack of social graces and ignore my nervous babbling to see the man underneath; the man with intelligent things to say if only he could pluck up the courage. The man who’d never done anything like this before, but was now carefully dressed in tight jeans and close fitted red t-shirt, intent on risking humiliation just to have a chance. It was now or never, as I was due back in London tomorrow and I knew that my work wouldn’t bring me back to Sheffield for at least another couple of months.
As I rounded the corner of the large, half-finished building, a solitary figure came into view. There was no mistaking the supple grace of his movements as he hopped up onto the scaffolding, measuring tape in hand. My breath hitched when I saw that he was bare-chested under the reflective tabard, the previously covered skin glowing pink where the sun caught it, and spattered with ginger freckles. His body was stocky, heavily muscled; the type you knew would run quickly to fat if deprived of regular manual labour. Yet despite being built like so many of these sturdy Northern men, he moved with a fluidity that belied his size. The strands of hair that escaped his hat glowed in the harsh light like burnished bronze. He was a work of art. I wanted to study him, learn him. Explore him thoroughly.
I cleared my throat, but he didn’t hear me. I waited, paralysed by indecision, clinging on to the wires of the fence panel with white knuckles. Willing him to look down and see me there; to give me that look again that I was sure I’d seen yesterday. That deliberate once over, followed by a slow smile that made my heart lurch and my cock stir.
And then he turned. The moisture leached out of my mouth and I was incapable of forming any words. He must have thought I was a prize idiot, standing there open-mouthed with lust burning in my eyes. I wondered if he even recognised me without the suit. But then that gaze that swept up and down my body, lingering a little longer than necessary, followed by that lazy curve of his lips that seemed to promise so much. He raised an eyebrow, grinned, and pointed to the gate, swinging down from the platform and strolling over with a loose-limbed grace. I followed, stumbling in my haste to get there. We stared at each other through the gate, and I had to look away from the intensity in those green eyes. I watched his grimy hands as they deftly turned the wheels on the padlock, the dust trapped in the creases of his knuckles. His hands were strong and broad, freckled, the hairs glowing like copper filaments in the sunlight, but surprisingly nimble for a builder. I swallowed audibly as I imagined what those hands could do to me. Those thick yet skilful fingers…
The gate swung open and I slipped through, brushing against his arm as he pushed it closed again. The touch raised goosebumps on my arm despite the heat. This close I could smell him; the tang of fresh sweat mingled with something spicy. My mouth started to water as I wondered how he would taste, picturing myself licking at his stubbly neck, then tasting other parts of him. My jeans began to feel uncomfortable as my cock swelled and I fought to get a grip on myself. It wasn’t like we could do anything about it here at the gate, in full view of passing traffic.
“I’m Nick,” I blurted out, but clamped my mouth shut before I ruined things by telling him my middle names, date of birth or any other nonsense.
He walked off, turning to beckon after a few yards, so I trailed behind him; absurd fears fighting with my rampant lust as we moved further into the hush of the deserted site. I didn’t even know his name, and the lack of any dialogue was starting to freak me out, but it was also pretty kinky. Besides, the less we talked the less chance I had to show myself up. I concentrated on the way his muscular buttocks moved under their denim cladding. Anything to distract myself from the possibility of humiliation, or worse. He disappeared behind a sheet of plastic hanging in a doorway. I followed. What else could I do?