Over the last few weeks we have welcomed many authors to UKGayRomance, but it’s about time we welcomed a book. Taking the Gardener by T.J. Masters is on your favourite UK gay romance list, and I leave it to the author to describe the story in more detail.
This is my first M/M novel. It’s a story which very much combines the worlds of male BDSM and gay romance. The tale is set firmly in the English Home Counties and starts with young dominant Eric Broderick leaving London after the sudden death of his parents. He travels to Pittlesburne, a small village in the Chess Valley in Buckinghamshire, in search of some sort of peace or respite from his grief. Eric needs time away from the home where he lived with his parents in Richmond upon Thames in South West London and also a break from the London gay scene.
Arriving in this haven of rural tranquillity, Eric meets Megan, a young woman who runs the Glebe House guesthouse. From the window of the guesthouse’s kitchen he sees Tom, a handsome young gardener, and is instantly smitten with him. However, there’s a catch: Tom is engaged to Megan. Eric decides to treat his attraction to Tom as nothing more than a harmless crush.
Later that day, Eric goes to eat at The Bricklayer’s Arms, a local pub owned by Megan’s parents. There he sees Tom fresh from a rugby match, and his desire for him grows despite his best efforts.
It is important to me that the stories I write, the characters I describe and the locations that I use are both real and believable. Pittlesburne is a fictitious village but it could be any one of the quintessentially English villages dotted along the valley where the River Chess runs through Buckinghamshire and West Hertfordshire. The chalk stream was itself once known locally as the Pittlesburne, hence the name of my village.
Eric sets about the healing process in this rural idyll taking himself out for long solitary walks in the countryside. He bumps into Tom while taking a walk by the river and sees that he’s in the middle of sketching the opposite overbank. Eric is extremely impressed with the drawing – he knows many artists in London, and can see that Tom has obvious talent for recording the natural world which surrounds him. They go back to Glebe House and end up having sex for the first time, with Tom slipping easily into a submissive role.
On the face of it the two men have little in common and they represent the classic dichotomy of ‘city boy meets country boy’. Their relationship evolves quickly however, with Eric guiding Tom along the path to become a passionate lover and a well-trained sub. Although there is an underlying tension to things because they have to hide it from Megan, Eric feels as if Pittlesburne has become an almost idyllic escape from his fast and furious London life with its coldness and its artificiality. For the first time since his parents’ deaths, he is beginning to feel at peace. The village is healing him.
Tom accompanies Eric on a short trip back to London and he is firstly amazed by the size and opulence of Eric’s home, and clearly begins to feel uncertain of his place in Eric’s life due to the stark differences in their backgrounds. Eric tries to ease his worries by introducing him to Mrs. Perkins, his family’s long-time housekeeper, who treats him like a member of the family and never questions his rural roots.
Tom is in awe of the openness with which gay life exists in the big city and, away from the constant attention he receives in his village community, he is able to explore his new found feelings for another man away from prying eyes and wagging tongues.
The trip to London gives Eric the opportunity to take Tom on a shopping trip visiting some of the more fashionable stores in London’s West End. They also visit the popular gay district around Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. This is an eye popping experience for country boy Tom.
Eric is eager to get back to the simplicity of the country and so they return to Pittlesburne, both of them now certain that they are in love with each other. It’s not long before Megan discovers their secret and Eric becomes angst ridden feeling that he has contaminated their pastoral happiness with his big city ways.
Eric decides that the best thing for him to do is leave Pittlesburne for good so that Tom and Megan can repair their relationship. He travels back to London, intending on never seeing Tom again. Maybe the countryside has gotten under his skin for he now spends his time out of the house walking the vast open space of Richmond Park.
I will not spoil the ending for you here but suffice to say that the ways of country folk should not easily be dismissed as simple.
This book was published by Dreamspinner Press in Feb 2013
TJ Masters’ Bio
T.J. Masters is a 57-year-old author and Life Coach living in Hertfordshire just to the north of London, England. T.J. has shared 30 years of suburban life with his Civil Partner Ian. In 2009 T.J. took early retirement from a 33 year school teaching career and decided to follow a new path for himself. After qualifying as a Life Coach, T.J. found that he was coaching a couple of authors who were going through the process of giving birth to the book which they “had always been inside them”. This rekindled T.J’s long held desire to write and get published.
With a lifelong passion for books, learning and the sharing of knowledge, T.J. woke up to the knowledge that he had stories to tell, books to write and less than half a lifetime left to do it in. As for the kind of books he is writing….well, let’s just say that he decided to channel over 30 years of experience in the gay BDSM lifestyle into a genre where it would be most appreciated. There is a whole list of planned writing in the Gay Romance and Gay BDSM fields as well as some non-fiction projects.
Alongside this passion for books and writing, T.J. also found an outlet for his inner geek and has become a great advocate for social media in various forms. Blogging has become a great outlet for T.J’s many interests including the writerly ones. The author has a website where he blogs regularly and he loves to interact with his readers and followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Taking the Gardener
Like almost every other residence in Pittlesburne, the guesthouse was shielded from the buildings around it by a tall, dense yew hedge. It was old, seventeenth or eighteenth century at least, and covered in a great swathe of ivy. To Eric’s surprise, there were no cars parked out front. A quaint wooden sign out front had the words ‘GLEBE HOUSE’ carved into it.
He rang the doorbell with an odd tingle of trepidation. He had called ahead to make his booking, but suppose it had been lost somewhere? He felt, ridiculously, that being turned away would sour the whole experience of arriving in Pittlesburne. He was suddenly desperate for this to go well.
A pleasant, slightly flustered young woman opened the door. “Oh!” she said. “You must be-“
“Eric Broderick, yes,” he said, extending his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“You too. I’m Megan. We spoke on the phone?” She shook his hand and then beckoned for him to come inside. “Your room isn’t quite ready yet. We just had a rugby team staying, if you can believe it. They only left an hour ago.”
Pity, Eric thought. He imagined sharing a small guesthouse with an entire rugby team would be quite an experience. “Don’t worry about the room,” he said, looking around the narrow hallway. “I thought I might go for a walk anyway.” Of course, he had just gone for a walk, but that path from the train station was just begging for further exploration…
“No, no, I won’t be a minute,” Megan said, apparently determined for him to see his room before he went out again. “Just make yourself at home in the kitchen, won’t you? I’ll come back to get you as soon as the room is done.”
She hurried away before he could protest again, leaving him with no choice but to acquaint himself with the downstairs part of the guesthouse. A month before he would have called it tacky, but that had been before he soured on London’s more urbane charms. It was…kitschy.
No, that was how his friends would have described it, most likely with a derisive snort. It was homely and comfortable. Small, old-fashioned, just a bit rundown, and all the more welcoming for that. He decided that he liked it.
He went into the kitchen (which bore the distinction of being large and old-fashioned; apparently there was variety in Pittlesburne after all) to get a glass of water. But as he walked around the big farmhouse-style table, the view from the window stopped him dead in his tracks.
The back garden was both huge and far better tended than he would have expected given the riotous growth of weeds out front. That wasn’t what got Eric’s attention though. What made him stop and stare was the very fit looking young man who happened to be in the middle of standing up to stretch his back as Eric reached the sink.
He was one of those young guys who are on the shorter side, but all muscle – ‘compact’ was the word that sprang to Eric’s mind. This particular specimen possessed blond hair that was ever so slightly dampened by sweat and the kind of tan one did not normally find among residents of the British Isles. Aiding Eric’s appreciation of said tan was the fact that the young man was shirtless, revealing that the bronzed tone of his skin reached down to at least as far as where his underwear poked up from the back of his jeans.
Eric’s brain kicked back into action after a good ten seconds of mindless gawking on his part, and he was able to take in the rest of the scene: the wheelbarrow, the pile of fresh grass clippings, the garden rake lying on the ground nearby. The captivating country lad was the gardener, it seemed.
Better than a whole rugby team, Eric thought, experiencing a painful rush of lust for the first time since his parents’ deaths. It took him entirely by surprise. He was used to viewing his potential sexual conquests with a kind of cool detachment, as though they stood in a line-up and he was choosing them based on a checklist of their merits. He was not used to having his heart suddenly begin to hammer in his chest or for the sight of a man – no matter how attractive a man– to captivate him so utterly that he felt rooted to the spot. It wasn’t just the young gardener’s body, although that was admittedly perfect. It was the whole scene: how he stretched as though resting for the first time during a hard morning’s work, the way the sun seemed to accentuate every line of his lithe musculature. Eric wanted to make every part of the picture his. Most of all, he wanted the gardener for himself.
“That’s my boyfriend.”
Eric returned to the present using the mental equivalent of a crash of gears. Megan stood behind him, her arms crossed over her chest. She nodded out the window. “Tom, my boyfriend,” she said. Was it his imagination, or did she put particular stress on the word ‘boyfriend’?