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GUEST POST: Beetlemania!

Today we are joined by Anna Butler. She’s just released a new book from Dreamspinner Press called The Gilded Scarab. It sounds awesome. Congratulations, Anna! Check out her guest post below. There’s also a great excerpt and a giveaway.

GildedScarab[The]FS

You know, being a writer is awesome.

It means you get to take half a dozen things you love—beetles, jewellery, Egyptology, coffee, steampunk, two (or three) drop-dead gorgeous men who are hot as hell for each other—and you get to play with them. Your own little theatre players acting the story that’s in your head, the one that’s bursting to get out, and you get to take all those things you love, shake them up and, if you’re lucky, your story comes to life in your hands.

I love beetles. They’re the little gems of the insect world, their bodies showing an astonishing range of colour and pattern, often in rich, jewel colours: ruby red, sapphire, a glorious emerald green. Okay, the dull black sacred scarabs of Egypt maybe don’t quite fall into that category, but they have deserts and pyramids on their side instead. They’re emblematic of sand, the Nile, and skies that are the colour of beaten copper at noon—mysterious, a symbol of the romance of ancient Egypt. I can forgive them for being a little dull to look at.

Victorian jewellers, though, didn’t let them stay dull for long. We all know that Art Deco in the 1920s went wild with Egyptian motifs after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. But Egypt had been fashionable long before that, right back to the Battle of the Nile in 1798. For the first time, Europe woke up to the fact that Egypt, that strange narrow land, actually existed and went mad on things Egyptian. Furniture, clothing, jewellery, even buildings. They were all influenced by what explorers were discovering along the Nile.

Jewellers didn’t lag behind. They created everything from pendants to tiaras using Egyptian designs and, sometimes, even the wing cases and hard bodies of scarab beetles. Rafe’s Gilded Scarab, though, isn’t as naturalistic as that. By the turn of the 20th century, scarab watches were a fashionable item to have. These are exquisite, made of enamelled gold embellished with jewels, with the wing cases opening up to show the watch face. Watches like this are perfect for archaeologists, especially Aegyptologists. You can understand why they’re a perfect gift for Daniel Meredith to present to fellow Aegyptologist Ned Winter, and to ex-pilot Rafe Lancaster when Rafe buys a coffee house.

Rafe’s watch is made with wings of scarlet enamel picked out with diamonds, much as this one here. In the image here, you can see how detailed these watches are, complete with the legs on the underside.

GSBeetlemania

As for steampunk… well, let’s just say that the scarab is important there. Too important to give away here. But to keep the link with the scarab watch, the excerpt below recounts how Rafe met Daniel, the man who was later to give it to him.

GildedScarab[The]FS

(Cover by Reese Dante)

Blurb

When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

Excerpt

The lounge was crowded that evening. The pre-Christmas rush, I assumed, when gentlemen made merry before being clasped to the bosom of their families, when they would infinitely prefer the bosom of the handsome waiter at their club. I didn’t begrudge the festive cheer, but had to push my way through to the bar. Really. In any well-ordered universe, the crowd would have noticed me and my fine clothes at the door and parted to make way for me, like the Red Sea.

A scotch and soda did a great deal to restore my equanimity. Indeed, I grew a trifle beatific, since all I’d had to eat since breakfast had been some of Will Somers’s pastries, and the scotch didn’t have a lot of insulation to work on. I wasn’t festive, you realize, merely a little mellow. So when the tall man in natty evening dress bumped shoulders with me, I merely moved to get out of range rather than apostrophize him as the clumsiest oaf in Christendom.

“I beg your pardon!” He glanced at me and then again, more slowly the second time. He looked me up and down and smiled. “It’s an unholy crush in here tonight.”

He was older than me. A good ten years at least, but his brown hair, brushed back from his brow in true aesthete style, was untouched by gray. His eyes were the bright mauvish-blue of flax flowers, framed by eyelashes of extraordinary length and thickness. I suspected him of some sort of artifice there. Those eyelashes didn’t strike me as quite natural. But everything else appeared to be the genuine article, and if he were indeed in his early forties, as he appeared, he had worn well. He wore his daisy on the left of his lapel and perhaps his acquaintanceship would be worth cultivating.

I smiled. “I should have remembered everyone comes here at Christmas. I think it’s to immunize themselves against the shock of festive family life.”

He threw back his head and laughed. Mmmn. It hadn’t been that amusing, but perhaps it passed for wit where this man normally existed.

“I could wish there were a vaccine for it,” he said, sounding heartfelt. “In lieu of it, I shall try to sate myself in a more satisfactory sort of life to build up my immunity.” He gestured to my glass. “May I refresh that?”

Did he think he might have the opportunity to sate himself in me, then? We’d see. “Scotch and soda, thank you…?” I allowed my voice to lift and trail away on an interrogative note.

“Daniel Meredith,” he supplied, half turning away to try and catch a waiter’s eye.

“Rafe Lancaster.” I held out my hand for him to shake. “I’m pleased to meet you, Meredith.”

He turned back to me and smiled, and suddenly it wasn’t merely a polite platitude to ease along society’s wheels. I was rather pleased to meet him. I could have done a lot worse.

Buy Links

The Gilded Scarab is available at:

Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.

All Romance as an ebook

Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).

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You will need to leave a Comment here. In addition, one commentator will be chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get a little pack of Gilded Scarab loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).

ABOUT ANNA

Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.

Find Anna:

Website and Blog

Facebook

The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)

Pinterest

Twitter

 

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Short stories from the DSP 2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play (PART 3)

The Daily Dose from Dreamspinner Press is a collection of themed short stories  released every day in June. The 2013 theme is sport.

Nothing fires the blood like a little friendly competition. Anything from a meeting of the minds to full-body contact, these men are making a play. There are no losers in the game of love.

The stories in this review include:

  • Audible by Dawn Kimberly Johnson
  • Running Away from Sunshine by Gwynn Marssen
  • Risking It by Posy Roberts
  • A Fighting Chance by Laylah Hunter
  • Contact Sport by Anna Butler
  • Hard D by Elinor Gray

Audible (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Audible by Dawn Kimberly Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Three years ago, cameraman Powell Perdue and quarterback Talbot Wojewódka called it quits, citing irreconcilable differences. Powell wanted to live honestly, while Talbot felt he couldn’t and still succeed in professional football. One knee surgery and a trade later, Talbot finds himself back in town and quarterbacking for the Raptors, a struggling expansion team. Powell’s also back, working as a cameraman for KJOC-TV, following two years in Amsterdam and a second failed relationship.

When an interview meant as a publicity play throws them into each other’s path, they’re forced to face a love that never quite died and wounds that never fully healed. For any hope at a win, they’ll have to change up the game. Talbot must brave walking through his closet door and into Powell’s arms, and Powell must risk his heart one more time by standing his ground and giving Talbot a second chance.

So what did I think?

Slightly predictable but highly enjoyable story about a closed professional quarterback and a TV cameraman.

Talbot still loves Powell and wants him back but his career means he can’t fully declare their love to the world. Powell won’t live in the closet and is trying to protect his heart at all costs.

I think I gave it an extra star just for the very public kiss the men finally share when they realise they are meant to be together no matter what.

4 Stars

Running Away From Sunshine (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Running Away From Sunshine by Gwynn Marssen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Nobody knows why ER resident Jake Nichols left California to move to cold and dark Calgary, Canada. Nobody knows Jake hasn’t always been a silent loner. Nobody in his new home knows he is gay, and nobody needs to know, since he doesn’t plan to let anyone in… until he meets Gabriel Montgomery, the carefree hockey player with the big blue eyes who just won’t take no for an answer when it comes to opening up and accepting the possibility of love.

So what did I think?

Overall I enjoyed this story of Jake who had been living in a world of grief for six years. It was lovely to see Gabriel start to break down his barriers and make him see that he needed to get on with living.

What I really wanted in this story story was a nice happy ending, not the outstanding issues with Gabriel where his ice hockey career determines his ability to come out.

The last paragraph was also disappointing – I could accept the HFN scenario but hated that Jake was going to visit his family without Gabriel because “But as they had agreed every time before, as long as it felt wrong, a betrayal to the memory of Sean, a betrayal to Sean’s family, who Jake would spend some time with, Gabriel should stay put, and Jake should go and conquer his demons on his own.” It had been years, surely it wouldn’t have been betrayal, particularly if his love for Gabriel was strong enough!

3 Stars

Risking It (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Risking It by Posy Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

August Farrell doesn’t have a clue how to go about finding a boyfriend. He’s eighteen, a high school senior, has barely been kissed, and the thought of flirting with a boy terrifies him. What if he gets punched? Or worse? It would be easier if he at least knew the rules of the game. Then during the state basketball tournament, August meets Luca Knutson, who flirts with him shamelessly, but is this connection worth it? Will August play it safe by sitting on the sidelines or take a chance on Luca and the freedom to love he offers?

So what did I think?

Not one of my favourites in the series but alright for a short read. The story tells of inexperienced August. He is very unsure of how he should be handling himself as a gay man. His high school sport and fear of being bullied keeps him in the closet and his lack of knowledge and shyness prevents him approaching anyone. How does he know if someone is gay or not? Should be flirt and risk being punched? Finally he takes the plunge with a good outcome.

3 Stars

A Fighting Chance (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)A Fighting Chance by Laylah Hunter

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Luis Delgado, a boxer, and Davey Taylor, an artist, live in a future when Earth is home to the destitute and the only chance for a better life is found among the colonies that orbit the once-great planet. Davey has the opportunity to make a name for himself with an art sponsorship on the Luna Minor colony, but he needs to get there first. Luis may have the answer, but it means choosing between his career and his future together with Davey.

So what did I think?

I didn’t mind reading this book because it was so short, any longer and I think I would have been disappointed. Two things let it down for me. The first was purely my own thoughts on the sci-fi theme as I’m not really a great fan – I need a strong story and brilliant characters to really enjoy the genre and I didn’t get that here. However the main disappointment for me was the relationship between the main characters. I just didn’t feel their connection. 2.5 stars

3 Stars

Contact Sport (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Contact Sport by Anna Butler

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Jamie Connor is a charming and sexy star college hockey player. He’s not the sort of man to be dazzled by someone who speaks in long mathematical formulas and worries about strategic thinking. At least, he wasn’t that sort of man until the college dean agrees to a scrimmage match with the nerds of the Blaine Strategic Institute, and Matt Blaine, son of the founder, captains the other side. In a sport where full body checks are a legitimate play, Jamie’s taken by surprise at just how much the King of Cool wants the King of Geeks.

So what did I think?

This story had potential but just didn’t quite get there. This is the story of Jamie, sports star and all-round person extraordinaire (at least according to himself!) whose hockey team faces off with an unknown team from the ‘geeks’ college, Blaine Strategic Institute.

The story starts with lots of humour as we learn how great Jamie is – star of the hockey team, great student and popular with the girls and guys. Jamie then starts whinging about the upcoming game against the ‘nerds’. “They’re nerds. Nerds don’t do sports.” It’s quite hysterical how he stereotypes them but at the same time he is spouting off mathematical knowledge that obviously indicates that he knows his stuff too!

As per the blurb, Jamie is put off his game by his wild attraction to the captain of the ‘geek’ team “Maybe love at first sight wasn’t a myth after all.” and in his mind calls him “The Pretty One” which was quite endearing.

From here the book lost its way a bit – a quick 5 minute hook up in the supply closet and exchange of names and it was the end. There were some plot elements that weren’t fully explored such as Matt Blaine (The Pretty One) being the son of the founder of the ‘geeks’ college and Jamie and his friend applying for jobs at Blaine Enterprises. Setting up for a sequel or full length story maybe otherwise there didn’t seem much significance to me.

2.5 stars

3 Stars

Hard D (2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play)Hard D by Elinor Gray

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Ben Meyers has played Ultimate Frisbee since his first week at college, and at every tournament he comes face to face with Darius O’Neill, his favorite rival. This time, though, their good-natured competition goes off the field to the after-party and beyond, when three years of tension finally breaks open on the sheets of Darius’s dorm-issue twin bed.

So what did I think?

I started reading this story and found myself very confused. I couldn’t even work out what sport was being played and had to check the blurb to find out it was Ultimate Frisbee. The first 25% of the story is pretty much taken up with descriptions of game play (even then I still couldn’t work it out!) which I found a bit boring. Yes Make a Play is sports themed but I just wanted to get to the romance. When it did, I felt disappointed – a quick sexual encounter and an exchange of phone numbers with a promise of a date. I am not quite sure what I was expecting but I wanted to see more emotional connection between Ben and Darius. This story was only ok for me and maybe would be better suited to a fan of the game.

2 Stars

Buy a book from the series from Amazon. (Select the 2013 Daily Dose: Make a Play link)

View all my reviews