book cover showing water liliesI haven’t actually had time to read this one yet, but I have a copy and am looking forward to it enormously.

Constantinople, Byzantium or Istanbul, is one of the places I would love to visit but probably never will, so I’ve made a habit of seeking out stories set there – from Russia with Love and Pawn in Frankincense for instance. I’m very excited to add this one to the bookshelf.

Title: Scent of Lillies

Author: Sarah Ash

Publisher: Manifold Press.

Genre: M/M historical set in Byzantine Constantinople

Rating: Sweet.

Gabriel wants to be an artist. His father wants grandsons. His teacher wants refuge. And the ghost of a young woman who drowned for love of one of his ancestors wants revenge. When events spiral out of control Gabriel heads to Constantinople, but his past is not far behind.

Damien isn’t sure what he wants. He doesn’t want his father’s business, whatever his stepbrother thinks. He doesn’t want his betrothed even though she may still want him. But he does want beauty, and he may find that in the yet to be consecrated church of Saint Thekla, a personal project of the Emperors.  But is it in the painting he will find beauty, or the painter?


 Sarah Ash read music at New Hall, Cambridge for four years, studying with Robin Holloway and John Rutter for her finals. Her interests in music and drama led her into teaching where she has been lucky to work with many dynamic and talented young people.



“Full moon.” Old Marta clicked her tongue disapprovingly and closed the shutters with a bang, crossing herself as she did so.

“Why shut out the moonlight? It’s so beautiful.” Gabriel had been dozing but his nurse’s voice brought him back from the edge of sleep.

“Has your mother never told you? But then she’s not from these parts, she knows nothing.” There was thinly disguised resentment in Marta’s voice as she came waddling back to tuck him in. The reek of ale on her breath mingled with the green scent of the parsley stalk she had been chewing to freshen her mouth.

“Told me what?”

“You’re eight, old enough to know these things. Old enough to be warned where not to go.” She plumped herself down on the bed beside him like a hen settling itself on its clutch of eggs. “Haven’t you ever heard tell of the Ninufarim?”

“Never.” He was fully awake now.

“Pretty child.” She leaned forward and smoothed down his wayward curls, murmuring. “Such pretty hair, even if it is the same colour as your mother’s.”

He shook his head free of her hand, hating to be touched.

“You must never leave your shutters open when it’s full moon.” She wagged a finger at him. “And you must never, never go walking by the lake. For that is when the ninufars rise to the surface and the Ninufarim are abroad.”

From Amazon USAmazon UK, Kobo and Books2Read from April 14th


I’ve been looking forward so much to this book’s release. I betaed two of the drafts and have been blown away by the way the story has been developed. Such an exciting and satisfying tale.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys tales featuring WW2, spies, gay culture and a love story.


Book Cover showing a young bearded man with the sea and a submarine in the background


Under the Radar


Navigating the deep waters of war and love.

The Book

It’s 1942 and after a sexual indiscretion, US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is sent to serve in the Royal Navy’s submarine service—a shockingly harsh punishment for a man who loves to fly. The submarine is oppressive and frustrating for him, and he’s marked out from his peers, publicly by being American, and privately by his attraction to men.

The only bright spot is the company of his steward, sonar operator Gethin Llewelyn. Despite the differences of rank and background, they’re drawn to each other. Gethin’s integrity complements Zach’s casual joie de vivre, and soon the friendship develops into something much more.

As the threats of war increase, the submarine is plagued by potentially hostile vessels, and circumstances lead them to suspect there’s a spy amongst their own crew. Being forced even closer together as they work for the greater good reveals a new awareness, and Zach doesn’t know what is in more danger, the vessel under his charge or his heart.

Author recommendation

From Polari to Polaris, it’s never been just the nice girls who love a sailor. Lillian Francis effortlessly evokes the claustrophobia and camaraderie of life—and forbidden love—aboard a WW2 submarine. – JL Merrow

Word count: ~138,500

Cover designed by Tiferet Design

Buy Links: Kobo // Payhip // B&N // Smashwords

Universal Amazon link:



Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf here.


About the Author

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.


Twitter @LillianFrancis_


Facebook Author Page

Lillian’s Lovefest – FB group



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Email: lillianfrancis@rocketmail.com



A notable day

Blue pink and white striped flag with the words "March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility"

By clicking on the picture above you will be taken to the website of the Human Rights Campaign and a page of information, resources and interviews for and by and about transgender people worldwide. Some of it is very interesting and uplifting, some of it is heartbreaking, all of it is worth watching/reading. And it’s a really good reminder that, while today is THE day to look across at our transgender friends and say “I see you and you’re admirable”, we should be putting the suggestions for how to be a good ally into practice EVERY day. Of course there will be times when we fall short, through ignorance or thoughtlessness, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again to do better.

Saturday Book Recs

It’s been a tense week for all kinds of reasons, some personal and tense for the wrong kinds of reasons and some book related because Midnight Flit flew the nest. Naturally I have been reading to calm myself down. This week it has been crime drama and I have 2 recommendations, because I enjoyed them equally for very different reasons.

The first was Murder of a Straw Man, book 1 of the Dancing Detective series by Robyn Beecroft. Not a romance, though there is potential, it very much falls within the genre of very very British cosy/quirky mysteries but this one has a more then usually engaging and diverse cast. At the end of the story a few threads are left dangling, but that is FINE as it’s book one of a series and good series need through plot, don’t they. Book 2 is available, which is nice.

The second was Kill Game, book one of the Seven of Spades mysteries by Cordelia Kingsbridge. This is very much an American book – hard boiled characters walking mean streets, and the murders are MORE, more plentiful, more graphic – but the characters are differently engaging and equally diverse. Like the Straw Man there is a through plot but this one is more of a cliff hanger and I’m looking forward to reading the several other books in the series when my book budget allows.

Morris dancers in rural scene bloodspattered seven of spades
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Saturday Book Recs

I’ve been a bit on the blink the past couple of weeks so I haven’t read much at all, but what I have read has been really good. It’s hard to choose when it’s all good but a choice has to be made so here’s my pick.

Kip’s Monster by Harper Fox has her usual blend of social interest with a hint of paranormal in this story of 2 young men, both with problems, taking a second chance at their relationship while facing down various monsters, some of which are of their own making. I loved it to bits. Especially the cover that harks back to stories I read when I was a kid.

green book cover with drawn sea serpent monster with big teeth

Saturday Book Recs

Ooh boy, this one is book 1 of a fantasy trilogy. It’s creepy, scary and not a book to get too fond of secondary characters because the author is ruthless! Oh yes. Great characters and a fascinating series of skin crawling worlds for them to inhabit. Enjoy!


Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

A Darker Shade of Magic

My latest guest in the series of interviews celebrating the release of the latest anthology from Manifold Press, is Mel Logue, author of Firebrand. Rainbow Bouquet is available now from the usual vendors [links below]

Welcome, Mel.

For how long have you been writing?

Hm. About forty years, this year! I started writing “stories” – possibly because my own childhood was rather dull and grim, being the daughter of two alcoholics – back in the days when primary school children were expected to present a narrative of the things they did in their happy normal homes. Mine almost invariably revolved around going to the pub (which was true) with two fictional horses called Napoleon and Josephine, who did much more amazing things than I did.

And I haven’t really stopped making stuff up since!

What attracted you to the brief for Rainbow Bouquet?

Book cover showing a sprig of rosemary, 17th century embroidery and the hilt of a cavalry sabre

Red Horse: Book 1 of the Uncivil War series

So basically, my first series of novels (hark at me, my first series!) is set in the 1640s and it’s the continuing adventures of a troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the British Civil Wars. Now as it falls out one of the main characters throughout the middle of the series is genderqueer; she’s a soldier, and a brutal and efficient one – she just happens to pee sitting down and, occasionally, have sex with either men or women depending how she feels at the time. So that’s always a clear and present dynamic in those books. The idea of women who dressed and fought as men was enough of a thing that Charles I got quite cross about it and denounced it publicly, but it wasn’t really right to explore that character any more fully in what are essentially adventure stories. On the other hand, it resonated with me, and when I saw the brief I thought it was an opportunity for me to think more about gender fluidity and independence and sexuality in the period, and how entwined they were.

What inspired your story?

Aphra Behn, pretty much! A year or so ago I’d started writing about an actress called Galatea Farrinor, who’s a Restoration actress existing in the same sort of physical and moral limbo inhabited by Affie Behn: a strong, independent woman making her own way in what’s essentially a male-dominated world.

Aphra Behn, 17th century lady in a low cut russet colour gown.

Aphra Behn by Peter Lely, c 1670

Initially Gally just had a short story, but I can’t help thinking that it didn’t stop there, with those two. I’m not sure how it goes on – it isn’t, I don’t think, an ongoing will-they won’t-they romance, I think they’re both far too sensible for that – but having burnt their bridges with convention, the world is pretty much their oyster. Possibly a mystery. Definitely an adventure,

Please tell me about your current work in progress.

I have three ongoing currently – plus a number of short stories, I like to dip in and out!

The third book in the Thomazine & Major Russell series published by Sapere Books, which is the sort of Happy Ever After of one of the characters from the 1640s series. If your idea of a HEA involves being shot at, intrigued at, half-drowned and knocked on the head by ne’er-do-wells, then the Russells’ marriage is a veritable fairytale. On the other hand, it’s enormously fun to write – someone grumpily said “but if the series is named after the two of them, you know they both survive, and where’s the tension in that?” To which I can only say, chum, you’ve never been married, have you…. The first is out now and is called An Abiding Fire. The second will be out soon – I’ve seen the cover and it’s lovely – but I don’t know when, and it’s called A Deceitful Subtlety, and that’s the one where the Russells tangle with Aphra. In more than one sense. You’ll have to read it….

The seventh (!!!!!) Uncivil Wars book, the bald outline of which is – the aftermath of the battle of Marston Moor, the siege of Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire, and the creation of the New Model Army.

And a timeslip romantic comedy involving a widowed archivist, a stately home in Cornwall hat needs to be saved from developers, and a troop of temporally-displaced cavalry. This started as an in-joke between friends, a sort of 1640s Outlander spoof, and took on a life of its own….

Could we see an excerpt?

This is from the timeslip romance, which is provisionally entitled The White Devil – it’s an Elizabethan proverb the white devil is worse than the black, meaning self-righteousness is worse than just plain badness. And believe you me, there is no one more self-righteous than Penitence Corder at the beginning of the book… So this is Pen, trying to play the forbidding officer in charge, having just walked into 2019 by accident.

He stalked from her presence with what he hoped was a suitably commanding demeanour, back out into the hall, and into his own quarters.

And then sat down on his own, rackety, held-together-with-rag-and-a-prayer stool, which gave its customary warning of impending collapse, and even that was reassuring – bending down and thumping the loose leg back into place with the heel of your hand, because at least it was real and solid and you knew where you were with a stool that was not intended for someone of your height –

Pen gulped, and tasted acid. And was not going to puke on his own correspondence in fear of a woman. Was not.

(Was going to lean out of the window and do it in the bushes outside instead, and then lie shivering over the sill with his hair tangled up in the lavender until he felt something like ordinary. Listening to his own company squabbling and thumping in the house, and his own remounts cropping the grass, the swish and thump of horses at peace picketed together -)

He had heard none of that in her now. Her now had smelt different, sounded different – it had felt different –

He slid off the windowsill and sat on the floor with a thump, head on his knees.

What if she had been telling the truth?

– oh, that scared him –

What if there were two nows going on at the same time,and he had walked into hers all unknowing?

Pen, Esther said in his head, I might have known thee could do nothing so ordinary as court a nice girl from Bristol.

That’s not funny. And anyway, she’s not – I’m not courting her, not like –

Surely. Thee was always sick when we were courting, too. It was the excitement. I marked it a hundred times. I only married thee in pity, for fear thee would waste away to a nothing an I did not.Thee is courting, Penitence Corder, even if thee will not own it. And about time too, I should say, for thee needs a woman like –

“A hole in the head,” he said aloud, and the door jerked open a crack.

“You all right, sir?”

All he needed. His dead wife, on the one side, offering helpful hints on a nonexistent courtship, and bloody Mayhem eavesdropping on the other. “I. Am. Fine,” he snarled, and Mayhem sniffed.

“Sitting in the dark banging about and talking to yourself is not your normal presentation, sir. If you don’t mind me saying.”

It was not so much the idea of another now, or her in it, or even him in it. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” Pen said, and Mayhem shoved the door right open and said, “Who are you talking to in here, then?”

“I was – contemplating,” he said with dignity.

“You’re sitting on the floor.”

“The stool finally surrendered.”

“Looks all right to me… sir. You’ve not finally… you know?”

“Lost my wits altogether? Probably, lieutenant. I spend too much time with you.”

“I have never sat on the floor talking to myself, sir.”

“No, Mayhem, indeed you have not. This is possibly because if you were left alone in a darkened room you would dig your way through the floorboards to feminine company, if necessary. You have never been required to talk to yourself. You can’t be on your own for long enough.”

Where may we follow you online?

Twitter I am – predictably – @hollie_babbitt

My website is http://www.asweetdisorder.com – as is my Instagram!

FB page is http://www.facebook.com/MJLogue-1653750564845159/


Stories of love in the past, present and future…

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