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BLOG TOUR, EXCERPT AND GIVEAWAY! How the Other Half Lives by Clare London

 
 
Length: 20,000 words
 
 
 
Blurb
 

Compulsively neat freak meets chaotic slob: can their living space survive the conflict?

Martin Harrison keeps himself to himself and his Central London flat as neat as a new pin. Maybe he should loosen up and enjoy more of a social life, but in his mind, that’s tantamount to opening the floodgates to emotional chaos. He agrees, however, to join the flat-sitting scheme in his building and look after another tenant’s flat in exchange for a similar watch over his when he’s travelling for his work.

A floor away in the same building, Russ McNeely is happy with his life as a freelance cook and a self-confessed domestic slob. He also joins the flat-sitting scheme, both to be neighbourly and to help keep his flat in order, as Russ also travels for his work.

For a while, the very dissimilar men never meet. Martin is horrified at the mess at Russ’s flat, while Russ finds Martin’s minimalist style creepy. But in a spirit of generosity, each of them starts to help the other out by rearranging things in their own inimitable way.

Until the day a hiccup in the schedule brings them face-to-face at last.

 
Excerpt
 

There’s no way I think Ethan’s amusement is justified, no way at all. I suppose I imagined he would share my righteous horror at the experience I’ve just been through. No… suffered is the appropriate word.
“Holy crap in a handbasket, Martin, if you could only see the expression on your face! Was it really that bad?” He laughs, rather too loudly and too long for my liking. “Come on, we’re living in a sophisticated city, in a hub of the civilised world, not some kind of ghetto. These are very smart flats, and the tenants have to pass some kind of credit check before moving in. Your upstairs flat-sit can’t have been the hellhole you so graphically describe.”
“It was.” I’m still shuddering at the mere memory. “Initially I thought the place had been burgled. I’ve never seen such a mess in my life. Everything jumbled together. Nothing labelled, stacked properly, or cleared away.” Ethan’s still laughing at me, and I don’t approve of his levity. “There were dirty plates, Ethan. Lots of them, and not just in the sink! I found an umbrella in the bathroom, a car maintenance kit in the kitchen, and some correspondence pinned to the wall in the lobby with a fork. Like a…. Like a spear.” It remained the most aggressive vision. “There was dust on the top of every door frame, and a very disturbing colour scheme on the walls of the living room. I had a headache after my first evening visit.”
“So, what do you have to do? Do you have to live there while the owner’s away?”
Thankfully, I catch that glint of mischief back in his eye. “Very amusing, I’m sure. No, I only have to check in on a daily basis. Make sure that the alarm is set, turn off lights that have been left on—every single one, Ethan!—and collect up the post. Sensible things like that.”
“Post?”
From the sly look on Ethan’s face, I suspect he’s still provoking me. “What about it?”
“I believe you can tell a lot by a person’s post.”
“I believe so too,” I reply dryly. “But if that’s the case, I’m not much the wiser, having waded through a mass of free flyers and invitations to various gourmet events. The owner appears to be in the catering trade, or has ambitions to be. Unless they’re a professional gamer—there were several magazines with lurid covers of impossibly cantilevered animated women, or surly assassins dressed in camouflage, with guns larger than their own torsos.”
“How the other half lives,” murmurs my so-called friend, unable to hide his grin. “You sorted through it for the owner, then?”
“Well, of course I did.” I can feel a slight flush on my cheeks. “Among other things. The owner obviously needs help, and I… had a spare hour. For example, I put the car kit and the umbrella back in the hall, and took a large pile of bedding from the living room to the dresser in the bedroom. Then back in the living room, I sorted a total mess of CDs into alphabetical order.”
I’m slightly disturbed that I sound like someone’s domestic help, but I’m also secretly impressed with how efficient I’d been in the allotted time. “Oh, and there was a hideous smell in the bathroom. I was going to alert the caretaker of the building, but upon investigation, I found a filthy bottle of stagnant liquid in the linen cupboard by the boiler. I disposed of that, of course.”
“Of course,” Ethan murmurs.
“I did find washing-up the crockery particularly challenging. The tenant appears to cook extensively and uses some very eccentric, exotically flavoured ingredients. If left to dry on the china, they stain—that’s all I’ll say about it.” I finally acknowledge Ethan’s amusement at my expense. “You’re the one who told me to show some neighbourliness.”
“So, you found out who owns this flat?”
“Um. Well, barely.” One would think Ethan assumed some ulterior motive in me, like common curiosity or something equally alien to my calm self-sufficiency. “A person called McNeely, initial R. Apart from that, I have no information. The owner never turned up for the introductory meeting. The management committee provided the key and the details, including the signed agreement to my access.” I shift, inexplicably uncomfortable for a moment. “I’m not sure all of this meets your criteria of making new friends and influencing people, so perhaps I should just let it drop.”
Ethan raises an eyebrow sceptically. I think we’ve either been friends for too long, or else his empathy is improving.
“Okay.” I sigh heavily and a little petulantly. “I’ll persist with it. Actually, I had some ideas for a shoe storage rack in the hallway and more efficient shelving in the kitchen. He might be interested in that, as I’ve never seen so many ill-assorted utensils scattered all over the counter. And I did think a formal message board for him would be an excellent idea.”
“He? Him?” Ethan’s eyelids flicker and his mouth tightens, as if he’s trying hard to keep his expression neutral. Maybe my empathy is improving too.
“I saw his flat, remember? I saw the post. And—” I’m racked with another shudder. “—I saw the piles of unfolded laundry. It’s a male tenant. Please don’t ask me to elaborate.”
“Underwear?” Ethan is relentless. “I believe you can tell a lot by a person’s—”
I glare at him and he bites back the rest of the sentence. “I can assure you, I didn’t stay any longer than necessary. I was going to play some of the CDs that had been left out of their cases, just to check whether they were still serviceable, but I couldn’t get the equipment to work.”
Ethan frowns. “It was broken?”
“No, no.” I’m impatient with him now, and although I like his company, I’m hoping he’ll go soon. There’s something disturbing my thoughts, and I need to wipe the whole flat-sitting episode from my mind. I need to settle back in my own place, on my own, with my things around me. I need… peace. “The place was the most appalling jumble, Ethan. I just couldn’t find the remote control. Then when I was about to lock up and leave, I found it under the—”
Now it’s my turn to bite off my unfortunate words, but it’s too late. Ethan’s all but pounced on me.
“Where, Martin? Where did you find it?”
“Under the laundry,” The flush is all over my neck now. “If you must know, it was under a pile of boxer shorts illustrated with a character called Super Mario.”

 
Author Bio
 

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Facebook chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarelondoncalling/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon

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EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Chase the Ace by Clare London

Chase The Ace (London Lads #1) – Clare London

 
Length: 27,000 words
 
 
Blurb

Newly single in his late twenties, and bored with his life in a London insurance company, Daniel Cross soon discovers the lure of social media. Excited at the chance of tracking down his old mates from a schooldays sports club, he launches a personal quest to find out what kind of man each boy has become.

Dan’s first mistake is chatting online to the wrong man—Nick Carson isn’t one of the boys, but his brother. Nick isn’t offended and offers to accompany Dan on the trip to find the others. It’s the first step to friendship and something more for both of them.

For Dan, the reunions with the “Gang of Four” range from startling and heartening to disturbing. Nick’s company is a constant support, though neither of them are prepared for the exposure of personal secrets they’d thought long hidden. Dan begins to suspect he’s really looking for a direction in his own life—and the excitement and purpose he craves may be closer to home than a quest with its roots in a boyhood dream.

 
Excerpt

~~Daniel and Nick visit a club in Brighton, searching out the first old friend on Daniel’s list~~

We found ourselves in a narrow corridor running behind the stage and the bar, where two small rooms served as dressing areas. The young man who’d acted as receptionist was in the doorway of one of them, swigging from a can of drink and dressed in a tight, sparkling green Lycra vest and denim shorts. He turned to stare at me.

“Looking for Gerry?” he asked with a grin.

Behind him, the show’s announcer chuckled—he was sitting inside the room on a chair in front of a large mirror, now dressed only in the matching sparkly shorts. The two men were both of slight build, with similar pale good looks. All I could do was wonder if they shared outfits, taking turns to wear the top and then the bottom, until laundry day.

“I’m looking for Dina,” I said, raising an eyebrow.

Alice used to tell me I could look very forbidding, but the young man just laughed and nodded to the next room.

Dina sat in front of a similar mirror with a large cosmetic bag open on the counter in front of her. She’d taken off the huge wig and eyelashes but was still in costume, and she turned her chair to greet us as we entered.

“Hello, Daniel,” Gerry said. He was smiling, though his eyes showed some nervousness. “I saw you in the audience. Long time no see.”

His voice was lower than on stage, his natural hair a shaggy, dark mess, but he was still a long way from the schoolboy I’d known. He’d taken off the heels as well. It looked incongruous: his large, masculine feet showing under the feathered hem of the sparkling frock, the nail polish on his toes that coordinated perfectly with his fingers.

“You remember me?”

Gerry chuckled. “You’re memorable, honey. Not that you ever believed it.” He glanced at Nick and winked.

“Do I call you Gerry, or do you prefer Dina?”

He laughed, and in that moment I was reminded of the joker at summer school, the easy-going extrovert. “Call me what you like, honey. I love Dina, and I love Gerry too.”

“Are you a transsexual now?” I asked, from nothing but curiosity.

Nick’s hand tightened on my arm. “Dan, that’s pretty rude.”

“It’s okay,” Gerry said in his rich drawl. “I’ll talk about anything, you know.”

“We gathered that much from this evening’s show,” I said wryly.

Gerry laughed again. “I always liked you, Danny Boy. You were bright, but you weren’t an arsehole. No, I’m not female, and I’m not sure yet if that’s what I want. For the time being, I’m happy being both of me, whenever and whichever I choose.”

“And the diva is a star,” Nick said with a smile. “It was a great show.”

Gerry flushed with pleasure that could almost be called coy, if I hadn’t recalled how he spiked the cola in the club fridge one lunchtime with vodka he’d stolen from his mother, or the time he offered to wash the tennis kit and turned it all baby pink, or the time he smuggled in a family bucket of fried chicken and sold it piece by slimy piece to the younger kids under cover of the table tennis tournament.

He was watching me, smoothly plucked eyebrows raised. “Remembering the good old days, Danny?”

I laughed then. I realised how buzzed the atmosphere was, how light-headed I felt, and not just because of the wine. “Your costume is magnificent. You always did like playing with the dolls’ clothes. Remember that time we tried to re-enact Chariots of Fire with Sindy dolls?”

Gerry rolled his eyes. “I twisted one of the legs in its socket, taking it through the finish tape. And the homoerotic subtext? Well! That scene snapped the other leg right off, as I remember.”

“And Mark was whimpering we’d get caught, you know how tough the girls could be with him—”

“And Alec sneering how fucking stupid the dolls looked in string vests and shorts made of chopped-up dishcloth—”

We were roaring with laughter by now.

“Do you remember …?” I paused, but I’d gone too far now to stop. “Do you remember that game of chase the ace?”

Gerry stopped laughing, abruptly and startlingly. “Honey, you’re not still worrying about that, are you? After all these years?”

I flushed, and I could feel Nick’s curious eyes on me. “It’s stayed in my mind. I just wondered if it was still in yours.”

“Bloody good punch-up that day,” Gerry said, with glee that owed more to a sixteen-year-old’s boasting than an adult cabaret singer’s set.

“I just wanted to know ….”

“Of course you did,” Gerry said. “Close your eyes, honey.” His voice was suddenly stronger and much deeper. He stood, towering over me even without his heels on. “You hear me?”

Shivering, I did. God knows what Nick thought was happening. He must have worried we had some weird ritual going on, worried what kind of lunatic he’d given a lift to. Then Gerry grasped my chin, tilted my head, and kissed me.

I didn’t open my eyes; I just surrendered to it. His lipstick was sweet and slick and his lips firm. The end of his tongue brushed my mouth, but he didn’t push in, just licked briefly at my lower lip. Nick stifled a gasp, and Gerry chuckled in the back of his throat.

Then our lips drifted apart.

“Well, honey?” Gerry murmured.

I opened my eyes and smiled. “That was nice.”

Gerry raised his eyebrows again. “I’m damned by faint praise.”

“You know what I mean. It was great, but it wasn’t ….”

Gerry nodded. “I know. Even at sixteen I had a kiss you’d have remembered.” He glanced over at Nick. “And your cute man is looking daggers at me, so he needs to be in on the story, right?”

I said, “He’s not m—”

“I’m not h—” Nick said at the same time.

Gerry ignored us both. “Whatever. Fun, fascination, or fuck, you both look good on it.” He turned back to the mirror and sat again. “Now I have to get ready for my second set. You’ll stay for that?”

 

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Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Facebook chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarelondoncalling/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon