Review of Eleventh Hour by Elin Gregory

Eleventh Hour by Elin Gregory

Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.

Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, water board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.

Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?

The clock is ticking.

Review: A huge ***** from me.

I am new to Elin Gregory’s writing, but I heard great things about Eleventh Hour, and after a particularly fractious day, I treated myself to the book. I was not disappointed. I have a particular fondness for tales set in the first half of the twentieth century, and Elin’s expert touch drew me into the pre-war non-technological world. There is something much more exciting about an era where it was people rather than gadgets that did the legwork, and coded messages have to be left in unexpected places.

Briers and Miles are joy to read, particularly as they get to know each other. Elin handled Miles to Millie in a way I didn’t expect. I’m used to stories where the ‘wife’ stomps around unhappy at having to play a woman. This was different, and such a pleasure in the way Briers reacts to Miles’ night-time revelation, and then takes time to court him.

Much of the book is based in a boarding house, and I loved the way Elin describes the relationships between the couples, and especially Miles posing as a woman. There is a particularly delicate scene between Millie and one of the other wives under the guise of hemming a skirt.

I’m not going to give it away , but Eleventh Hour was a good old-fashioned romp of a plot. This book is a joy to read and if you like stories about spooks and old-fashioned thrillers in a London setting, with a large dose of romance, I highly recommend this book.

Highly recommended.

~~

A suggested similar book I’ve enjoyed.

London, the 1930s: With the cooperation of a top-ranking scientist and his son, Tom Langton and Robert Darnley are sent in as bait for a gang that uses blackmail to steal industrial secrets at a time when Hitler’s rise to power in Germany threatens Europe. The two men are friends, but they each have secrets of their own – and both are well aware that homosexuality is against the law. Living in close quarters, having to portray an illegal relationship, adds unexpected tensions to an already dangerous situation.

Event: Queer Company 2

We’re doing it again: Queer Company 2

Queer Company 2 banner

Reading, writing and publishing are fulfilling occupations in themselves, but we at Manifold Press also feel very lucky to be working in this particular genre – not least because of the wonderful sense of community. To celebrate our excellent friendships – and in the hope of making even more – Manifold Press is delighted to be hosting this UK-based event.

Queer Company 2 will be a small, friendly gathering designed to engage and inspire. This one-day event is planned for Saturday 5 November 2016 at The Jam Factory in Oxford.

Please be assured that everyone is welcome! Readers, authors, bloggers, publishers, reviewers … The only requirement is that you love this genre we share.

Our first event at the same venue in May 2015 was very well received. We hope these gatherings will continue, with annual events complementing the wonderful work done by UK Gay Romance and UK Meet.

We will be taking the opportunity to formally launch our new anthology A Certain Persuasion, featuring modern GLBTQIA fiction set in the Austenverse. In honour of that, we are aiming for an Austen / Regency / Romantic theme for the event.

If you’d like to join us, there is more detailed information available on the Manifold Events website.

Registrations are now open, with an early bird rate available.

Please note that, due to the nature of the event, we can accommodate no more than 50 people attending. (We will maintain a waiting list if necessary.)

Thank you for your interest. We’re looking forward to enjoying your company!

NEW RELEASE: IN DEEP BY ADAM FITZROY

Blurb:

Arriving on a remote Scottish island to investigate an unexplained death, Ted Harris finds himself entangled in the life of the community – and becomes attracted to Athol, his enigmatic landlord. Soon they’re working together, depending on each other for survival in perilous circumstances, and slowly unravelling the mystery. Will they ever figure out exactly how and why Kieran Parnes died and who was responsible for his death, and what will it do to the island – and to the tentative beginnings of their relationship – if they tell anybody what they know?

Excerpt:

As we crossed the island and I spotted the occasional distant croft or dogged tractor gleaming against the sky, it was easy enough to lose myself in my thoughts; I’d hoped to be a bit more observant right from the start and to hit the ground running, but actually I was tired. It had been quite a journey from Aberdeen to Kirkwall on the overnight ferry, and I had to admit that I wasn’t getting any younger. Maybe I should just cut myself a bit of slack for today, get a good night’s sleep and start fresh in the morning – assuming a good night’s sleep was to be had in the only B&B on the island with a room to offer me, of course.

When the Range Rover stopped outside an unprepossessing stone cottage, it was immediately obvious why the images on the island website had only shown the sitting-room and a couple of the guest rooms; this house was definitely no looker, and it was overdue a serious amount of external maintenance. As if it wasn’t ugly enough already, there was a fenced enclosure running up one side and across the back of the property with a locked gate and a sign reading ‘Calor Gas Sales and Service’. That hadn’t been mentioned in the advertising material either.

“Is this it?”

“This is it.” The engine was switched off.

Oh well; I’d booked it and now I’d have to stay here. Maybe when I was planning this trip I should have given a bit more thought to getting a room in Kirkwall and coming over on the ferry a day at a time – although though that would have been very much more expensive, both in terms of money and in time. “So what do I owe you?” I asked the driver; there wasn’t a meter in the vehicle.

“Fifteen pounds. But don’t worry, I’ll add it to your bill.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your bill. When you leave.” And that was when the penny dropped that the driver had got out of the car – not, as I thought, to open the door for me, but taking the keys from the ignition, unfastening a gate in the lichen-covered wall and reaching towards the front door.

“Hang on, then, are you … ?” Following him up the path, I was trying to recalibrate my expectations; it would make sense, I thought, if the old salt’s son drove the taxi and regularly ferried people in his dad’s direction; that wouldn’t be a bad racket to be in at all.

“I’m Athol Grey.” The driver’s mouth twisted as though he was expecting a negative response. “You’re staying in my house.”

The mature and competent islander of my imagination vanished in an instant. I was left staring open-mouthed at a long-faced intellectual type with an air of disdain, who looked as if he’d be more at home at the controls of some all-singing all-dancing computer gizmo than engaged in any form of manual labour. Culture shock didn’t even begin to cover my reaction, which probably accounted for the next thing to come out of my mouth.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake – then you’re my landlord?!”

I regretted it immediately.

“I am, although I’d appreciate you moderating your language while you’re on my property.”

“Right. Yes. Sorry.” It was a long time since anyone had spoken to me in quite that tone of voice, but now I came to think of it weren’t they all ‘Wee Frees’ or something in the islands? I had an idea I wouldn’t be able to buy alcohol on a Sunday, for example, and probably not much of anything else. I was half-expecting the inside of the place to be all poker-work texts, with dismal Biblical pictures and a vinegar-faced landlady who’d object to incomers and Sassenachs on principle, but as soon as I stepped into the house it was obvious the website hadn’t lied; it was warm, clean and bright – although small and far from luxurious – and in the sitting-room there was a large-screen TV with a stack of DVDs beside it, so clearly I wouldn’t be required to forego twenty-first century living for the duration. There was also, in a basket beside the wood-burning stove, a grubby-looking Cairn terrier that could hardly be bothered to lift its head.

“That’s Sparky,” said Grey. “He’s twelve, and he spends most of his time asleep. You don’t mind dogs, do you?”

“Not a bit. Hello, Sparky, how are you?”

The dog managed to open one sleepy eye, but that was the extent of his reaction.

“He’d be out of his basket quick enough if you’d brought him anything to eat.” Grey dropped his car keys into a wooden bowl. “Speaking of which, would you like a cup of tea?”

“Thanks, yes, I would.” I hadn’t had much breakfast in Kirkwall; I’ve been on plenty of Jumbo jets and Airbuses in my time, but the thought of travelling on a tiny island-hopper with no aisle and no toilet had made me too nervous to eat much – and, as I watched the ground slip beneath us when we took off, I was grateful I’d stuck to the toast and fruit juice. Not that I wasn’t hungry now, though. “Actually, I don’t suppose you’ve got any food about the place? I reckon I could eat a horse!”

“Well – not a horse, anyway.” It was the first glimmer of anything that might have been humour; at close quarters, Athol Grey’s face seemed set in a permanently miserable expression as though nothing good could ever be expected to happen to him – and in fact he bore more than a passing resemblance to Eeyore. “D’you just want a snack, or would you rather have an early lunch? I’ve got some raisin scones, or I can defrost a burger if you like.”

“Raisin scones sound brilliant, thanks. Mind if I use the bathroom first?”

“Sure. I’ll put the kettle on, and then I’ll show you to your room.”

Available now at Manifold PressAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk and ARe

Call for Submissions: A Certain Persuasion from Manifold Press

Manifold

Call for Submissions

A CERTAIN PERSUASION
Modern GLBTQIA fiction set in the Austenverse

Manifold Press is seeking stories set in and around Jane Austen’s novels and other writings, featuring GLBTQIA people as the main characters. Think Death at Pemberley only more fabulous, or Lost in Austen only queerer.

What other wickedness has Wickham got up to? What if Elinor Dashwood was repressing her love not for Edward but for a woman? I’m sure those rambunctious heroines of the Juvenilia didn’t bother repressing anything at all! And don’t get me started on all those ‘Rears and Vices’ in the Navy … Meanwhile, whose story might best be told by ‘a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian’? What extravagant Gothic romances might Catherine Morland dream up, and could they be matched by Emma’s imaginative pairings? Would Lady Catherine de Bourgh have been a happier person if she’d been born a Lord? What choices might Charlotte Lucas make if she lived today? And how exactly do you explain Darcy’s unexpected friendship with Bingley?

Themes and formats might draw inspiration from ‘old-fashioned’ epistolary novels, or Austen’s ground-breaking role in creating the modern novel. Whether she was turning her hand to romances and companionate marriage or satire and social commentary, she was the first ‘to give the mundane its beautiful due’. We invite you to give Austen’s writings and characters their beautiful due, likewise.

  • Editor: Julie Bozza
  • All stories need to stand alone, whether or not they relate to any existing work.
  • Sexual encounters are welcome, and can be explicit, but we love a focus on character and story.
  • Story length: Between 3,000 and 10,000 words.
  • Authors will be paid a flat fee or royalties, though the details have yet to be finalised.
  • Submission deadline: 1 March 2016
  • Planned publication date: 1 August 2016
  • Enquiries and submissions to: julie@manifoldpress.co.uk
  • Click here for a PDF version of this page.

Please note: Unlike our previous anthology, this is not a charity project.

 

Interview with Darren: Wrong Room, Right Guy by Liam Livings

wrong room poss

UKGR: we’d like to welcome Darren, from Liam Livings’ latest novel, Wrong Room, Right Guy. Darren, please could you tell us a bit about what brought you to the village hall at a Cocaine Anonymous meeting?

Darren: I didn’t think I had a problem with it, see. I thought a bit here and there wasn’t affecting me. I can handle this, with my job, it’s all find, I thought.

UKGR: and was this the case?

Darren: the ex lost a lot of money. Money we’d been saving and scrimping for a long time and then it was gone. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but yeah, I thought I’d cheer myself up.

UKGR: and how did you cheer yourself up?

Darren: to my shame, I treated myself to a bit of sniff.

UKGR: sniff?

Darren: coke, cocaine.

UKGR: and then what happened?

Darren: the ex was well into sniff too. And it sort of spiralled out of control from there. I don’t like talking about it really. Sorry.

UKGR: yes, it must be a sensitive subject. And how have you found attending the group meetings?

Darren: a life saver. Literally a life saver. I’m not the only one who’s still here today for going to the groups. It’s something regular in my routine. Somewhere where I can share my experiences without anyone judging me. It’s a place where I know my rock bottom moments aren’t going to shock everyone, like if I told you right here.

UKGR: can you say a bit more about rock bottom moments please?

Darren: It’s like, in every addicts life they do something that’s so bad, so terrible, that’s the thing that makes them realise they’ve gotta sort things out. That’s the rock bottom moment.

UKGR: what was your rock bottom moment?

Darren: I’d rather not if you don’t mind. Not here. I told people about it in the group, but the whole point is it’s in the group. Here, I don’t feel comfortable. If that’s all right with you.

UKGR: how has the addiction to cocaine affected your job?

Darren: lots of guys from the group, they lost their jobs cos of the sniff. Some of ’em worked in the city, in London. Apparently it’s like a snow storm in some places there. It’s like a time warp into the eighties. Apparently. Not everywhere mind, and not everyone. Just the blokes who talked about it at the group. I’m lucky I suppose, cos I’m self employed. I don’t have a boss to fire me. I’m a self employed plasterer. I bid for jobs on this website, quote them, then go and do the job. Bish bash bosh. In and out. If I was having a bad day cos I’d stayed up all night on the sniff, I didn’t work the next day. Otherwise it was flexible I suppose. That wasn’t the reason I went to the group for help. I could have carried on with the job and the sniff. But I knew I had to knock it on the ‘ead.

UKGR: why was it you sought help, what made you go to the group for the first time?

Darren: it was my rock bottom moment I suppose.

UKGR: which you’re not going to tell us about?

Darren: we talk about gateway substances in the group too.

UKGR: what does that mean?

Darren: it’s the substance, or the situation that leads you to then take cocaine. For some people it’s alcohol. After a few pints they have to have some coke. For others, it’s a situation, going to the pub drinking, or having a cigarette, or a celebration, or something like that. These are all the gateway to the substance you’re trying to avoid.

UKGR: can you tell us about Simon?

Darren: I could, but I don’t want to say too much because Simon tells it all in the story.

UKGR: a little bit?

Darren: all I’ll say is he’s a wonderful, caring, awkward man and I’m glad to have met him. However, I wasn’t always as happy as I am now. He did a lot of things I had trouble forgiving him for at the time. He was a bad man. All’s well that ends well, and all that, but it wasn’t really that simple at the time. But I can’t say any more, because, well spoilers…

UKGR: unless there’s anything else you’d like to say, I think we’ll close the interview there.

Darren: not really, but just to say how lovely and sensitive Simon is, and I hope you enjoy hearing his story and sometimes good people do bad things.

UKGR: thanks very much, Darren. If you’d like to win a copy of one of Liam Livings’ ebooks, please answer the following question in the comments: What do you think about good people doing bad things?

WRONG ROOM, RIGHT GUY by Liam Livings

Simon’s the wrong man in the wrong place; trying to teach English to kids who couldn’t care less, he’d really rather be a writer – but it’s only when his best friend bullies him into it that he takes the plunge and joins his local creative writing group. Even then things don’t quite work out the way he planned; blundering into the wrong room at the Village Hall he encounters a group of recovering cocaine addicts and he wants to know more … which is the start, for Simon, of a double life and a whole new secret identity, not to mention an intriguing relationship …

 

Buylinks: Manifold Press : Amazon.co.uk : Amazon.com

 

About Liam Livings

Liam Livings lives where east London ends and becomes Essex. He shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He escapes from real life with a guilty pleasure book, cries at a sad, funny and camp film – and he’s been known to watch an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’.

He has written since he was a teenager, started writing with the hope of publication in 2011. His writing focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle.

 

You can connect with Liam

Twitter @LiamLivings

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/liam.livings

Blog http://www.liamlivings.com/blog

Website www.liamlivings.com

NEW RELEASE: THE PEACOCK’S EYE BY JAY LEWIS TAYLOR

 Blurb:

Philip Standage – half-Italian, Catholic, Kit Marlowe’s last lover – is one of the Admiral’s Players, the company that rivals Shakespeare’s. Once Nick Hanham wheedles his way in to the Rose theatre, Philip even has an apprentice to share his secure life. Secure, that is, until he is caught up in Sir Robert Cecil’s plans for the future of England, and more than England.

The last years of Elizabeth’s reign gleam light and dark like a coin spinning beside a flame: wealth and dirt, glory and revolt, high poetry and bloody murder. In this uncertain world nothing is what it seems, least of all men, least of all love. Who can Philip rely on? And if he makes the wrong choice, who can save him?

Excerpt: (found on Manifold Press’ website)

A fair boy with straight hair darted through the open door and ran for the stage.

“Press-gang,” he said, barely able to draw breath.

Oh, I’m sure. But Philip knew that the boy might be telling the truth; Matthew and Elias disappeared at a run for who knew what hiding-place, and the carpenters set off for the heavens above the stage.

“John!” Philip called to the porter, who had his back to him, and did not hear. John, old and deaf and stiff in his joints, was in no danger; Philip might be, unless his disguise was stronger than the press-gang’s wits. As for the boy – “Under my skirts.”

What?” Hazel eyes, bright with laughter, met his, and Philip knew himself in danger of smiling back. He said, “You heard. You won’t reach another hiding-place in time.” A rustle of silk, a draught of air. “And keep your hands to yourself, or I’ll throw you back,” Philip added.

Henslowe came out to see what was happening; Philip, walking carefully and slowly, reached the trap-door and tapped on it imperiously with one foot before stepping back a little. Whoever was below was awake enough; there was a creak in the stage under him, a scuffle under the shelter of his farthingale, and a brief warm grasp on his ankle – I suppose I can forgive him that much – before the trap closed.

Henslowe was at his shoulder as he turned round. “What is it?”

“Press-gang – or so the boy said.”

“They’re a long time coming,” Henslowe remarked. “I’ll go to the door. You keep moving.”

Philip crossed the stage, maintaining his womanly air, and Stephen Magelt, tire-man to the company, closed the door behind him. Philip stood on the inner trap door; this side, it did not drop, but lifted. “I suppose St Paul’s school ushers are after you, and not the press-gang at all,” he said into thin air, and was answered by a laugh under his feet.

“The ushers are worse, believe me. Can I come out?”

“Not for a moment.” Philip peered through the grating that let players backstage watch for their cue.

Henslowe, returning, strode into the tiring-house. “Not a sign.”

Outside, Sol Jeanes climbed up through the stage trap door.

“Bring the ladder with you, Sol,” Philip said, and smiled at the squawk of indignation from beneath him. He has good ears, I’ll say that much. “Stephen, we’ll have the room to ourselves if you’ll trust me to stow the attire properly.”

“Trust you more than I would that brat,” Stephen said ferociously, the grin on his face belying his words.”

“Let me out!” came from beneath their feet.

“Why?” Philip said. “You wasted our time; surely we’re entitled to a little revenge?” There was too much amusement in his voice for the boy to be seriously worried, of course.

“You mean you believed me?”

“For a moment, perhaps.” Philip raised an eyebrow, and looked at Henslowe. We need another boy, he mouthed.

Pat on the word, the boy said, “I want to be a player.”

Henslowe grunted. “I need a player who can play breathless without having to run across the theatre to do it.”

“I can do that.”

Philip said, “You study at Paul’s. Your friend told me so.”

“What of it?” The voice was wary now, and a thump at the wood beneath him made Philip jump.

“Fees. Who pays them?” he said. “Apprenticeship. Who binds you over to us?”

“I’ll talk to my uncle. He sent me to Paul’s to join Paul’s Boys, but they never staged a play since I arrived.”

Philip turned towards Henslowe and shrugged. “What do we say?”

“Step off the trap, Philip.” Henslowe raised his voice. “Come out and sing, boy. Show us what you’re made of.” He bent to open the trap. “What’s your name, lad, and where from?”

“Nicholas Hanham, master. From Silton in Dorset.” He flattened his hair with both hands, and took a deep breath. “What shall I sing?”

“Whatever you like.”

Nick opened his mouth, closed it again, swallowed, and with a brief look of panic, very much like a player forgetting his words, sang. “Rose, rose, rose, rose, Shall I ever see thee wed? Aye, marry, that thou wilt, If thou but stay.”

It was a round, an easy tune but needing pure notes and good timing. Philip knew it; he relaxed his shoulders, and joined in with the tenor line. Nick, with a sideways glance of thanks or relief, sang on; and presently Henslowe, who had a fine bass voice which he used rarely, joined in.

They made Nick sing and speak and declaim; he played no instrument, but had learned to dance. At last Henslowe turned away. Nick fell silent, and cast a look at Philip, who did not return it.

He’s good. He could be very good.

Henslowe turned back. “As far as I’m concerned, join us and welcome. Your uncle will no doubt pay some heed to a letter from a Gentleman of the Queen’s Bedchamber, and I will write it – if master Standage here is willing.”

“What have I to do with your choice?” Philip asked.

“I already have two prentices. So if we take Nick on, ’tis you must hold his indentures. You are free of one of the guilds, are you not?”

Seven years have I been with the Admiral’s Players and you never troubled to ask me that yet. “The Musicians’ Company, sir.”

“Good. So; if you are willing.” Henslowe walked away.

“Please – ” Nick said.

“Be quiet,” Philip said, turning his back on the beseeching look in those hazel eyes. I suppose I must. After all, I went along with the game in the first place. “All right,” he said, without turning round. “But first you go back to Paul’s. I’ll have no man say we took you unlawfully.”

“They’ll never let me go once I’m between their walls again,” Nick said, lifting his chin and giving Philip a defiant glare. “I’m staying here.”

“No, you are not.” Philip glared back, and then softened the look. “How old are you, lad?”

“Fourteen,” Nick said, then looked at the ground. “Almost.”

“Henslowe does not fail of his word, I promise you. First, we will go to church. Then I will take you back to Paul’s. Next, I will entreat that you aren’t beaten for playing truant, though you deserve it.” He closed his eyes briefly. “And after that – “

“After that?” Nick enquired, looking as much like a cherub as a boy could with the below-stage dust on him.

“After that,” Philip said, “I will find Thomas Dekker, take him to the nearest tavern and drink myself into forgetting what I have just done. But first of all you can help me disrobe, because I can’t wear a farthingale into St Saviour’s.”

Available now at Manifold PressAmazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and ARe

COMING SOON: PRIDE OF POPPIES – AN ANTHOLOGY FROM MANIFOLD PRESS

Blurb:

Ten authors – in thirteen stories – explore the experiences of GLBTQI people during World War I. In what ways were their lives the same as or different from those of other people?

A London pub, an English village, a shell-hole on the Front, the outskirts of Thai Nguyen city, a ship in heavy weather off Zeebrugge, a civilian internment camp … Loves and griefs that must remain unspoken, unexpected freedoms, the tensions between individuality and duty, and every now and then the relief of recognition. You’ll find both heartaches and joys in this astonishing range of thought-provoking stories.

An anthology featuring authors:

  • Julie Bozza
  • Barry Brennessel
  • Charlie Cochrane
  • Sam Evans
  • Lou Faulkner
  • Adam Fitzroy
  • Wendy C. Fries
  • Z. McAspurren
  • Eleanor Musgrove
  • Jay Lewis Taylor

Buy links will be updated when book is released on 1 May 2015