We are thrilled to welcome Tam MacNeil to Sinfully as she celebrates the release of her new novel Salt and Iron.
A Word from Tam MacNeil
There are plenty of romance tropes I consider favourites. I love vacation books, where two strangers strike up the perfect romance, and I love the millionaire looking for the heart of gold. But my absolute favourite is friends-to-lovers. Maybe it’s because that’s how I fell in love, so it’s close to my heart. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing like looking up from a book and whispering, Oh man, you are so screwed while the main character tries to figure out why looking at his bestie has started to make him have pants feelings.
Friends-to-lovers is the romance I got to play with in Salt and Iron. Normally I write contemporary romance as T Neilson. It’s silly stuff with a bit of a serious undertone, and always takes place in the real world. I was pretty sure that when I treated myself to writing about the friends-to-lovers thing, I’d set it that story in New York, or LA. But when I was writing this book, I realized James had it bad for his childhood best friend Gabe, and considering the circumstances, that really wasn’t funny.
James has got all kinds of problems. He drinks way too much, and he drinks too much because he’s afraid of having to deal with what he is - a magic user in a world where magic is the purview of monsters alone. The only person he trusts with the information is Gabe, because he and Gabe have been friends forever, and they’re devoted to each other. Gabe might be the one person who understands how awful the situation is for James, and won’t judge him for what his natural affinity for magic means about his lineage. Gabe is the perfect friend. Which is exactly why James can’t ever tell Gabe how much he loves him.
Usually I write my romance with a side salad of angst. Just a little, to add some colour to the dish. But I couldn’t stop myself in this book. No side salads here. This one's the whole shebang. Especially when the monsters grab Gabe, and make him one of their own. Then love and friendship get badly entangled for James, and readers have plenty of opportunity to look up from the book and whisper, Oh man, you are so screwed.
“Hey,” James says softly, “you’re up.”
“James?” Gabe asks, voice thin and taut.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
Gabe shakes his head. “No, no you should leave.”
All around Gabe time is fractured like a broken pane of ice, growing smoother and more clear as he comes into the room. “It’s okay. We’re… we’re guests. Skinny Mary… and the Baron… I guess. Anyway, the sidhe are looking after you. Looking after both of us. You won’t hurt anybody. They sedated you. You’ve been sleeping through the worst of it.”
“The worst….” His voice gives up. He breathes in a big breath. “You should leave, Jamie.”
“You’re not going to hurt me, Gabe.”
“I’m not what I used to be.”
He ducks his head, and James can see the sticklike things that are jutting from his back. They’ve grown, expanded. He comes forward, and time smooths out a little more.
“Get away,” Gabe snarls. He looks past James, through him. He’s not seeing anything anymore.
“You’re scared. I get it. It hurts still, doesn’t it? It’s—”
“Leave me alone.”
Gabe moves his hand and sweeps the empty bourbon bottle from the table, and then he jumps, startled, and turns, and James can see. James can see his back.
The wings are out now. They hang tattered, sagging like they’re broken, or exhausted, or covered in oil. They’re brownish, maybe black, webbed with thin skin and nubbed with feathers that are just breaking through.
James hears his own startled gasp, and Gabe cringes back like he’s been threatened.
“Shit, fuck,” Gabe whispers. “I didn’t want you to see.”
James can’t stop staring. The wings are everywhere. They sprout from Gabe’s head, just above his ears, small and dark and as screwed up as his rumpled hair. They sprout from his ankles and his wrists. But those are small. It’s the wings on his back that are big, enormous. And there’s more than a pair of them. There’s three pair, upper, middle, and lower.
He should say something. He should say something that’ll take away Gabe’s panic and make it okay.
“It’s…,” he starts, but there’s nothing he can say that’s going to do what he needs. He flounders. “Does it still hurt?”
Some of the fractures in time smooth away. Gabe shakes his head, hard, silent, and James steps forward and steps into something soft and warm and wet. He looks down. It’s a bloodied clump of feathers on the floor.
“It’s going to be okay,” James says, because it’s what he’s been saying, and it’s almost been working, or it feels like it’s working, a tiny thing, a little spell. It’s making time settle out like water; it’s smoothing away the lines. His voice is shaking, but maybe Gabe won’t notice. “It’s going to be okay.”
Salt and Iron
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 7 March 2016
Genre ~ Paranormal M/M Romance, Urban Fantasy
James van Helsing is the youngest son of the famous monster-hunting family—and the family’s big disappointment. He’s falling in love with Gabe Marquez, his oldest friend and son of the family the van Helsings have worked alongside for years. Things get even harder for James when he becomes what he and everyone else despises most—a magic user.
He didn’t mean to evolve into such a despicable person, and he knows using magic is illegal, but there’s nothing James can do about it, no more than he can stop himself from loving Gabe. Just when things can’t seem to get worse, he and Gabe are called to help nab a network of magicians who are changing destiny. Not just any destiny, but the destinies of the van Helsing and Marquez families. James foresees a terrible fate, one in which monsters emerge from the cracks, along with his dark secret. And that’s when people start to die.
::: REVIEW :::
Connect with Tam MacNeil
I write all kinds of stories, from contemporary romance (as T Neilson) to superhero stories and urban fantasy (as Tam MacNeil). If you want to keep up with my latest releases, get reading recs, read musings on plot and story structure, and if you want to know the best chocolate I've tasted lately, you can find me at Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or, even better (because, hey, inside scoop and book giveaways!) you can sign up for my newsletter at Mailchimp.