Title: If I Were Fire
Author: Heloise West
Published by : Dreamspinner
Pages/Word Count: 59 pages
Genre: Historical M/M
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In 18th century Siena, Count Salvesto Masello returns home to find the family villa and his father’s estate deeply in debt. In order to save it, he sells valuable heirlooms, but he is running out of silverware. Somewhere in the villa, his deceased father has hidden the art treasures that will pay the debt—but Salvesto can’t find them anywhere.
Amadeo Neruccio has been on the run from the vicious pimp, thief, and pawnbroker Guelfetto, whose toughs finally catch him and bring him to the cellar where Count Masello is selling off his silver. When the count learns what fate Guelfetto has in store for Amadeo, he intervenes, and trades the last of his mother’s dowry for the young man’s freedom.
Salvesto left home over ten years ago to live the life of adventure he craved and leave his broken heart behind. When he rescues Amadeo, he does not expect to find love again—or the start of his next adventure.
I need to do a bit of personal disclosure here. I was lucky enough to be asked to beta If I Were Fire and counted myself privileged to be able to do so. Part of the background to the story is the annual street horse race in Siena – the Palio – and I have adored it since I was small.
The Palio is one of those hangovers from waaaaay back where it has been decided that if something works there’s not much point in changing it. Every year in August the race is run – a source of vicious rivalry between the sponsoring districts of Siena. In years past horses and jockeys have been nobbled and it’s still quite common for there to be blatant interference on the course. But for the uninvolved observer the spectacle is the joy. The dressing of the streets, the men in armour, the synchronised flag juggling of strong young men in high medieval costume, the glossy slenderness of the horses, the bulky power of their garishly dressed jockeys. Fantastic. And now it’s all on Youtube. Here’s a sample:
Everyone knew everyone’s business in the small hilly honeycomb town of Siena. The house the Masello had once occupied for short periods during the year belonged to a rich merchant now. The eldest Masello had died in a hunting accident in the countryside, and his father, it was said, died of grief a year later. This event had brought the new conte home to the villa with the leaky roof, the broken-backed barn, and massive debt. Yet perhaps Conte Masello was not as bad off as they said, for he had paid Amadeo’s debt to Guelfetto.
Likely Amadeo was wrong about that, too, as the conte had traded for his freedom with silver dishes and spoons. Amadeo swallowed hard but could not dislodge the lump in his throat, a combination of gratitude and resentment. Life in a Florentine bathhouse and sexual slavery to the traditional enemies of Siena was no life at all. He shuddered. He had meant it about throwing himself on the tender mercy of the river.
What kind of master was the new Conte Masello? He glanced at the man beside him and found warm hazel eyes gazing down at him. His new master’s hair was as brown as chestnuts and touched with gray strands. Whatever he’d been doing while the family fortunes dwindled—soldiering, sailing, perhaps even tramping about in the New World—had made him a man with a face weathered by the sun and muscles that strained the seams of his fine clothes. He was broad-shouldered and a forearm’s length taller than Amadeo, who felt like a willow tree beside such an oak.
“We have another stop to make,” the conte whispered. “Finish your prayers.”
The hard press of the conte’s velvet-clad shoulder and the intimacy of his warm breath on Amadeo’s neck sent a small shock through him, and his cock stirred restlessly in response.
Oh no, you don’t. You are not to ruin this chance for me either. Pardon me, dear Saint Catherine. I pledge to you I will stay away from the gaming tables and this man’s bed.
Where You Can Find Heloise: