Our lovely Clare London is back with another delicious concoction from the With A Kick series. Ice cream and a cowboy…now that’s a yum combo. It was definitely flavour of the month for Macky!
We have a sneak peek excerpt, Clare chats about romance and the tropes that make it work and there’s a giveaway. Dont miss it!
In With A Kick now, the jangle of the door opening called Lee back to his serving duties and Curtis was able to relax again with his mug safely back on the solid ground–and gleaming surface–of the table top. But he wasn’t going to be able to, was he? Relax, that is. There were calls and deliveries to be made today, same as always, but he didn’t have the usual stamina for the job.
His fingers played with the phone in his pocket, without taking it out. He hadn’t needed to answer the night-time calls to know who they were from, but he just didn’t want to listen. Life had been getting back on track for him. He had steady work, a nice little network of local clients, plenty of friends and a place to live. Although he worked as many hours as he could, he still had time to have fun. And now…fuck it, he wasn’t going to let anything spoil that. His dad had always told him not to whine, not to make a fuss. Curtis got a back-handed slap if he did. But that wasn’t the same as realising what he deserved in life–and what he didn’t–and making sure that came to him. Was it? But he couldn’t seem to shake off the roiling feeling in his gut.
“Hi,” said a voice from the other side of his table.
Startled, Curtis looked up. Riley, the cowboy from yesterday’s Prawn Incident, as Curtis now thought of it, was looking down on him and smiling. He had the same strong features, the same sparkling eyes, the same comfortable-looking overcoat–even the same bloody hat. Perhaps he slept in it. Curtis bit back a yawn, wishing he just slept.
“Hi,” he said back. The all-purpose greeting would have to do. Though he didn’t think the sudden increased activity in his heartbeat had anything to do with polite niceties.
“You working today?” Riley asked.
“Yeah, but I’m just…” What? What was he just doing? Drinking tea very slowly, struggling to keep his eyes open, and trying to ignore a sick feeling in the bottom of his gut? “Just taking a break,” he finished, lamely. “What about you, Riley Richmond? Made your fortune yesterday and taking early retirement?”
Riley raised his eyebrows. Curtis could hardly see them under the brim of the hat, but it made Riley look kind of mysterious. “Gonna take more than a few days’ playing. Received some constructive customer feedback, y’ know? I’m rethinking my playlist.”
“Smart move.” Curtis grinned and gestured for Riley to join him.
“Thanks.” Riley seemed to have been waiting for the invitation. Curtis found that rather pleasantly old-fashioned. Riley slipped off his coat, draped it onto the back of the chair and sat down.
“Are you on your way to the hotel?” Curtis eyed Riley’s clothes. Not as smart as yesterday, just a casual denim shirt and jeans. The jeans hugged his hips and the dusty hem brushed the floor. The toes of his cowboy boots showed underneath.
“Nope. I don’t work there any more.”
Curtis stared for a long moment before he spoke, but he knew at once what had happened. “You got fired?”
Riley shrugged. He didn’t look really bothered. “Guess they don’t like their staff beating up on each other. And obviously they’ve invested more in the fat pig than me.”
“But that’s crap!” Curtis felt both horrified and guilty.
“Maybe, but I’m okay with it. There’s always something new on the horizon, right?” Riley didn’t wait for an answer, swivelling around on his chair to look back at the counter, but Lee was already hurrying over to take his order. Riley asked for a tea like Curtis had, then turned back. Lee glanced at Riley’s back and the breadth of his shoulders with something like awe, and winked at Curtis over Riley’s head before swinging back to work.
Curtis still felt shitty. If Riley hadn’t stuck up for him–even though Curtis never asked him to–he’d still have a job. Instead, he had to go busking. Then again, judging from Riley’s clothes, maybe he had enough money for it not to matter. Jesus, Curtis had lived hand to mouth for so long now he couldn’t imagine what it’d be like any other way. Lee bustled back with Riley’s tea, a big smirk on his face.
“That’s on me,” Curtis said, and Riley nodded his thanks.
Lee was still smirking. He studiously ignored Curtis’ glare as he left the table, but cast a backward glance at Riley. There was a dazed expression on his face and a lingering, almost longing look at Riley.
“So what d’you do for a job, Curtis Wilson?” Riley took off his hat and laid it carefully on the table beside him, then ladled several spoonfuls of sugar into his tea and stirred it with enthusiasm. “Are you a music critic?”
“Enough of the sarcasm.” Curtis rolled his eyes. “I deliver stuff.”
“Hell, no. I have my own business, and a van.” Curtis knew he let his pride seep into his words, and he didn’t care. He was proud of what he’d built up. “I deal with the small, individual jobs that big companies turn their corporate noses up at. I deliver to all the businesses around here.”
“All of ’em?” Riley lifted an eyebrow. His voice sounded amused, though Curtis didn’t feel it was at Curtis’ expense. It just sounded like his default tone.
“Okay, you got me.” Curtis grinned. “Not all of ’em. Most, though.”
Riley’s gaze remained on him. “I wish I did,” he said softly.
“Wish I had got you,” Riley said, unperturbed.
Curtis didn’t know what to say, a very unfamiliar status for him. The cowboy was coming onto him, wasn’t he? There was no shyness there. Yeah, Curtis had been chatted up plenty of times, and also propositioned far more crudely. He understood all of that. But there was a gentleness in Riley’s tone that seemed to promise more than a pint and a quick fuck. It was probably just the accent. Yeah, that must be it.
Curtis liked working in London partly because there was a wide variety of people and tastes, and gay guys were plentiful. Not that he wanted to get off with them all, but he didn’t feel he stuck out like a sore thumb. It made the occasional but vicious homophobia he came across all the more shocking, but he’d learnt to roll with those punches. Now this was a different kind of punch to cope with.
“You kinda speak your mind too, don’t you?” he said.
Riley chuckled. It was a warm and very delicious sound. Curtis felt as if it physically vibrated through him. “Yeah, I do. Life’s too short to dick around.”
Curtis laughed too. “I like your language, mate.”
“So what would you say instead?”
Curtis shrugged. “Arse around. Fuck about. Mess about, if I was in company.”
Riley reached over the table and took his hand. “Yeah. Messing about works for me too.”
Curtis didn’t pull his hand away. He had to admire the guy’s nerve, didn’t he? “So you’re gay?”
Riley nodded. A “well, duh, of course” expression twisted his face.
“And you reckon I am too?”
Just for one second, doubt flickered in Riley’s eyes.
“Gotcha,” Curtis hissed, and grinned at Riley’s rueful look. They both laughed, Riley slid his hand away as if reluctantly, and they settled back in their chairs.
“It surely ain’t a surprise. You must get hit on all the time,” Riley said. His gaze never left Curtis’ face, which was very unnerving.
“Hardly.” Curtis had no intention of being led further on that one. “Anyway, you’re the cowboy. You’re the walking wet dream.” Did Riley really have no idea of the attention he drew? Lee had barely taken his eyes off him and had already scooped ice cream onto the floor by mistake because of his distraction. A table full of young girls had stopped chattering into their phones and were openly staring at him, all gooey-eyed. At least five people who’d passed the window had done an almost comical doubletake at the tall, hat-clad hunk. Curtis was amazed Riley hadn’t made more money busking just for his image. “I know gay guys who’d be peeing themselves to get their hands on a cowboy,” he said. “If he’s a real one.”
Riley raised his eyebrows. Curtis got a much better view of his face now the hat was off, and the way his hair was brushed carelessly across his forehead. “You don’t think I’m real?”
“I have no idea, mate. If you are, what are you doing in an English ice cream shop with me?”
Riley smiled. “Asking you on a date tonight.”
“You spat tea on the table,” Riley said calmly. “That’s no way to treat your national drink, y’ know.”
A date? It was another word Curtis only ever heard from his friend Polly, and maybe Phiz. “You mean, go for a drink or something? You and me?”
“Wherever you like. Whatever time you can spare,” Riley said, but it didn’t sound cheesy in his voice. It sounded like genuine pleasure. “You don’t like the idea?”
Bloody love it, but… “Look, I’m not looking for a boyfriend or anything at the moment,” Curtis said, then winced privately. Way to sound like a teenage girl. “I mean, I don’t have much leisure time. The business is really important to me. Anything else is just for fun.” Another wince. Jesus, and if there was another wrong impression still available, he’d get around to it soon.
“I understand,” Riley said. “No strings. Though I need a helping hand with my new strategy. y’ know, musically speaking.”
Curtis gave a short laugh. How the hell did Riley make a blokes’ chat about music sound like a movie seduction scene? And why was Curtis’ groin responding so enthusiastically? “You certainly need help with that,” he said, probably too sharply.
“Yeah, I do,” Riley said. “And I reckon you’re the guy for the job.” His gaze was on Curtis’ hand on the table, as if he wanted to grasp it again.
Curtis felt like a teenager, the way he’d felt back in those strangely innocent days in Webster’s bedroom, when neither of them suspected that what they were doing would bring such trouble. Curtis had never again felt that heady mix of mutual excitement and anticipation…until now. “That’d be fine,” he said. He saw the way Riley’s face lit up and was stupidly pleased. “Yeah. That’d be good,” he added.
Publisher ~ Jocular Press
Published ~ 5th February 2015
Genre ~ MM Contemporary Romance
Everyone knows Curtis Wilson around the Soho business scene: a hard-working, budding young entrepreneur, who can get you supplies of whatever you need, and always with a joke and a laugh. Only Curtis knows that’s a purely public persona. Secretly, he’s still licking his wounds after being beaten up by his ex-lover, and he’s not about to let his guard down again.
Handsome Riley Richmond was born to be a cowboy, on his father’s side at least. But after his parents’ deaths, he finds himself stranded this side of the Atlantic, an anachronism in the bustling capital, and without financial capital. His consolation is his music, albeit he’s not a very successful busker and he loses his only decent piano gig after standing up for Curtis against a homophobic bully.
After that, they keep meeting, partly by accident, partly by Riley’s design. He’s smitten, and doesn’t mind letting Curtis know. Their music brings them together – Riley’s guitar playing and Curtis’ sharp, sexy poetry are a powerful combination. But Curtis still has some unfinished business with his ex-lover that he’s struggling to handle on his own. Riley intends to be the man Curtis calls on for help, whether he likes it or not. He’ll do whatever it takes to show Curtis that people can still be trusted to be honest and caring – even if it means walking them both into danger.
I loved this novella from Clare and Sue Brown’s With A Kick series. I really enjoy Clare's stories; she has a distinctive witty edge to her writing that gives her contemporary romances a smart, snappier feel. She still manages to deliver the fictional escapism we all look for in our m/m love stories, but there's an honesty and believability factor to her characters that stops them from just being your usual fluffy, feel good, romantic fodder.
Both Curtis and Riley are extremely lovable characters, I actually liked them both as persons in their own right so I didn't need convincing much that they'd make a brilliant couple. I knew as soon as Riley stepped in to save Curtis, from an irate homophobic chef—dressed in posh totty evening wear but wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat—that Curtis was a goner. He didn't really know what to make of him at first, but within minutes of being treated to a lazy, sexy grin that transformed him from not bad looking to bloody gorgeous, Curtis was smit...but then so was Riley...and so was I!
Everyone takes to Curtis and you can see why. Cute, smiley and always willing to go that extra mile for his clients and friends, he's a sweetheart, but underneath all the smiles he's hurting from a failed relationship with an abusive ex partner who he's recently had to run from. Lying low he hasn't told anybody in their close knit community, in case his ex cottons on to where he's settled, so as far as everyone knows, on the surface he's the happy chappy they've all grown close to but he's living on a knife edge and is frightened to get involved or trust anyone again.
It's all top show with Riley too. Outwardly it looks like he's well set in life. He's living in a fairly posh house, in a decent part of London but that's all pretty much a sham, as circumstances relating to the death of his parents have put his finances in a precarious position. A true cowboy because of his family background, his heart is really in music, and he's a great musician, but after losing his piano playing job at the restaurant run by the chef who attacked Curtis, he has to resort to busking to put some extra cash in his pocket. And it's busking outside With A Kick, the adult ice cream shop that brings him back into contact with Curtis. He's good but when it comes to busking on the streets his choice of cover versions leave a lot to be desired, so the pennies don't get dropped in his hat that much. However fate keeps bringing the two of them together and soon their appreciation of music, some long ago poetry and the mutual attraction that sizzles between them, turns to something more meaningful until unwanted interferences from both their pasts catch up with them and threaten to put a (dangerous) spanner in the works.
It's not an angst fest by any means but there's enough drama mixed in to cut through the fluffiness and I loved how Clare finally brought them together at the end. It had a sort of fairytale, big screen finish, where all the past couples in the series got to make a significant appearance and even though it wasn't the most original ending in the world, it still left me with a big sappy grin on my mush. This was another of those premises I think would work really well on screen. It had that sort of feel to it. I don't know why but I always think about Richard Curtis style romance...but gay.
The ice cream themed titles are really cute but clever.They’ve fitted each couples story and situation perfectly and the recipes themselves always sound delish! Mouthwateringly so; especially if you like the idea of an ice cream sundae with an alcoholic twist. Not for the kiddies in this shop! LOL.
I have to be honest I haven't had chance to read every book in the series but from what I have read, this one is my favourite by far. Ice cream and an honest to goodness Texan cowboy! That's two things I have a bit if a yen for, for starters, so how could I not fall in love with this story! It was entertaining, engaging, sexy and satisfyingly sigh worthy … I'd happily read this again.
Romance - Same old, same old? By Clare London
There’s always a place for romance in our MM fiction, right? Always a place for getting two blokes together for fun, angst (sometimes), chatting up, dating, sex (also sometimes *g*), soul-baring, partnership, support, and (often) a happy ever after.
Same old, same old?
Considering the accepted wisdom that all stories conform to only a limited number of plot themes, and that as readers we can all recognise certain tropes and clichés in fiction – why aren’t our stories all the same?
I’ve just released #5 in the With A Kick series, written with Sue Brown, where all the stories are linked to the cheeky ice cream shop of the same name, that sells ice cream blended with real alcohol. All the books in this series have two men meeting, suffering some problems, finding mutual attraction, working together on those problems, then growing in comfort and respect for each other (and, okay okay, maybe some of that making out/sex stuff as well *g*), until they find a very satisfying Happy Ever After – or even just a Happy For Now plus PFM (Potential for More!).
Isn’t that the same as a lot of other books?
Well, of course, I posed rhetorical questions above LOL. We all agree the basic premise is the same. We’ve been writing and reading romance stories since the year Dot. And enjoying them! But it’s still a treat and a thrill to be in this world of romance fiction, because some things are VERY different.
There’s the author’s talent and style, to start with. In one author’s penmanship, the “meet / greet / hit / commit” routine (© Clare London!) is sharp and witty. In another, it’s full of tribulations and the achievement of personal growth. In another, it’s plenty of fun and frolic under the sheets. Then mix and match, and you have a whole other fresh story. There are so many more opportunities now for romance stories, for setting your story and characters anywhere in the world, in exciting careers, at any age, from different family backgrounds, in all ethnicities, sexual orientations etc.
There’s the breadth of genres – scifi, fantasy, historical crime, thriller, paranormal, urban fantasy. Romance has always been included in all these genres, but many readers read across the genres and look for the same quality. And consider the development of new genres for YA and NA etc.
Plus, social media has brought the reader and the author closer together than ever. We want to share the love! From the point of view of romance readers, they love the basic premise, but the world has opened up for them too. They expect their fictional relationships to be plausible, fascinating, sexy, sweet, shocking – and every time, a new one!
Lastly – as per my post and by no means least – there’s the increased opportunity and influence that’s come with digital publishing. Stories (and covers!) can be as bold as the market will stand, and readers can either flaunt them, or read them more discreetly on an e-reader. Books can be bought at the click of a button – can be available to read within seconds. The volume of books seems to have increased hugely, including the growth of the shorter story/novella which would never have previously made it into print.
Well…I’m staring at the freezing cold rain outside the window and the trees whipped about by the high wind that blew my marquee two gardens away last month – and I’m thinking about a story involving romance and ice cream, two very basic human needs LOL.
And I reckon there’s always a place for them both, whatever the weather!
With A Kick Series
Meet Clare London
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 is generously giving one lucky reader the chance to win an ebook copy of Pluck And Play, just enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.