Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention? Message or email me and we’ll set something up.
My guest this week is Lillian Francis and we are going to be showing some love to her book Theory Unproven, a fabulous adventure set in Africa with one of the most engaging same sex couples I’ve ever seen. And her human protagonists are delightful too. I was lucky enough to be one of the betas for this story so I have a huge affection for it.
Working with elephants in their natural habitat has always been Eric Phillips dream. Getting what he’s always desired introduces him to Tyaan Bouwer, the bush pilot that flies in his supplies, and Eric discovers the allure of South Africa goes beyond the wildlife and the scenery.
But in an area where bushveld prejudices and hatred bleed across the borders, realising their love will be a hard fought battle. Keeping hold of it might just kill them.
It appeared they’d arrived at another much smaller airfield, probably private, based on the sheer variety of planes that Eric could see as the taxi bounced over the uneven surface. A motley collection of ramshackle buildings were scattered in front of the chain-link fence in the farthest corner of the field.
Beneath their tyres, the ground smoothed out. Eric glanced out of the window, noticing the grass and mud had been replaced by asphalt, albeit with weeds growing through the cracks in the faded grey surface. They headed at speed toward a silver aircraft, larger than most, the taxi bouncing and skittering as it hit potholes and crevices. The cabbie showed no signs of slowing down, and for one quite long, ridiculous moment, Eric wondered if they were trying to take off. If this run-down car of indeterminate make was about to sprout wings and launch itself into the brilliant blue above them.
With a protesting whine of brake pads on discs or maybe even metal on metal, the car slammed to a halt. The cessation of their journey was unexpected, not just for the passengers but the car as well from the way it shuddered to completion and threw Eric forward in his seat, his shoulder taking a glancing blow off the side window. To his right Akibo muttered something under his breath. Eric couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he doubted it was anything complimentary.
Unperturbed by the discomfort in the rear of his taxi, the cab driver swivelled in his seat and beamed at them. Akibo ignored him, focusing his attention on Eric instead. He gestured to the silver plane Eric had seen from a distance thirty seconds ago and which they were now parked alongside. A freight plane, Eric assumed, since the rear cargo door was open and crates and sacks littered the tarmac between them and the aircraft.
“This is our ride to the research station. You might want to get out and stretch your legs.” Akibo threw a withering glare at the cab driver. “I’ll sort him out and then get your stuff.”
Stepping out of the taxi on unsteady legs, Eric leaned against the side of the vehicle and rested his arms on the roof. The smell of burning rubber and brake discs enveloped the vehicle, searing the inside of his nostrils. He’d hoped the next leg of his journey would be in a better-cared-for vehicle than the taxi had been. This close up, the plane looked… well, old would be the best word to describe it.
As he studied the outer skin of the fuselage for missing rivets and any other manner of unseen defects, a pair of dusty leather boots appeared on the cargo ramp. The measured stride they belonged to was solid and confident, and in no time at all, a man appeared. Tall and tanned, he stooped slightly to avoid any contact with the body of the aircraft, and then grabbing a clipboard from atop a box, he hunkered down in the midst of the crates.
As Eric watched, the man studied the labels and then made a mark on the paperwork attached to the clipboard. Blond hair peeked out from under his hat, fanning out on the collar of his shirt. At no point did he acknowledge the existence of the car, even though he couldn’t have failed to have heard its arrival.
Irrationally annoyed by the well-built blond and his off-putting manner, Eric pushed himself off the car and sauntered round to the other side of the vehicle, closer to the man who was busying himself with his work and ignoring Eric.
His shadow fell across the crates and the bowed head of the— Could this be the pilot? Eric could see no other people near the aircraft. The blond raised his head, a frown pulling the skin tight between his eyebrows.
The man’s gaze settled on Eric briefly before flicking over to the taxi. When he returned to look over Eric once more, the skin of his forehead had smoothed out, but still the man didn’t smile. He nodded in acknowledgement, just once, short and curt, and then dipped his head back to his work and turned slightly away from Eric. With the stranger squatting in the dust, Eric towered above him, the position giving him the perfect view of broad shoulders and a solid frame that Eric couldn’t resist studying.
Abruptly, the man stood and cleared his throat. He dropped the clipboard onto a nearby box, throwing a curious glance in Eric’s direction, and then disappeared back up the ramp. Eric blinked, self-conscious at having been caught blatantly staring, and ruffled a hand through his short dark hair. His embarrassment wasn’t sufficient to keep him from trailing after the man, though, stopping just short of following him into the aircraft to stand near the ramp in the shade of the fuselage.
Preparing to ask the stranger his name, Eric opened his mouth to speak, when he was interrupted by a doleful bleat. Startled, he glanced over his shoulder, scanning the airfield expecting to find signs of a wayward sheep. The forlorn stuttering cry came again, and Eric whipped back round, suspiciously eyeing a crate that was securely strapped to the internal wall of the plane.
“Goat,” said the pilot—Eric had decided that’s what he was—as he came back down the ramp.
The deep timbre of that one word surprised Eric. It was rough and low, with an unfamiliar accent Eric’s subconscious demanded to hear more of. That wasn’t likely to happen, though, because the pilot was already surveying his cargo with his back to Eric. He bent to hoist a crate into his arms, leaving Eric to stare dry-mouthed at the enticing pull of khaki for several seconds. Then the pilot straightened and carried the crate into the plane.
Eric wondered if he should offer to help, but despite the ease with which the crate had been hefted into the air, Eric thought they would probably be too heavy and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself. Not in front of this man.
The blond wore the almost obligatory light khaki bush clothes similar to his own uniform The Foundation had provided. Eric hadn’t noticed a logo on his shirt, but he could hope. If this man worked for The Foundation, Eric could at least enjoy the view, since it was unlikely he was gay. He hadn’t even looked twice at Eric. Not that Eric considered himself drop-dead gorgeous or anything, but he was used to getting his fair share of interest back home in England.
Eric caught a glimpse of Akibo gesticulating wildly at the cab driver. His holdalls were piled at Akibo’s feet, Eric noticed thankfully. At least if the altercation didn’t go well and the cab driver took off, he wouldn’t abscond with Eric’s luggage.
The hollow echo of footfalls on the ramp drew Eric’s attention back to the pilot. Tiredness was pulling on Eric’s nerves, leaving him out of sorts, and the lack of conversation was doing nothing to ease his irritability.
Taking the bull by the horns, Eric graced the pilot with the brightest smile he could muster. “So, do you work for The Foundation too?”
“No.” The man’s stride didn’t even falter as he continued toward the next crate.
Not chatty, then. Downright rude, in fact.
The firm slap of a hand on his back caught him just off centre, almost pitching him forward, and Akibo’s fingers curled over his shoulder and squeezed.
“I see you’ve met Tyaan. Tyaan Bouwer. He’s the local freight pilot. He’ll run your supplies into the research station every week.”
It was almost as if the pilot finally saw Eric as anything other than an annoyance for the first time. Tyaan stepped toward him, straightening to his full height, and Eric resisted the urge to check out the breadth of his chest, instead raising his gaze the few inches’ difference in their height to meet Tyaan’s eyes head-on.
“Tyaan, this is Eric. Eric Philips. He’s the new researcher out at olifant velde.” Akibo turned back to Eric. “That’s the local name for your part of the reserve. It means elephant fields.”
“Howzit.” Tyaan stuck out his hand. Eric extended his own automatically, and Tyaan pressed their palms together, enveloping Eric’s fingers in warmth. He gave Eric’s hand a short, sharp shake before releasing him from the firm grip. “The elephant man, hey?”
Eric smiled. “I know I’m no oil painting, but I hope I’m not that bad.”
Tyaan’s top-to-toe appraisal was so fleeting that Eric thought he’d imagined it. An expression skittered across the pilot’s face. Interest, curiosity—Eric wasn’t sure. It manifested itself as a bright spark in his eyes and the faint quirk of his lips, as if he were biting the inside of his cheek. The look vanished before Eric could really work out what it meant, but the amber-coloured eyes still seemed to hold a welcome within them.
“Tyaan’s a man of few words, but you won’t find a finer bush pilot. He’s reliable too. He’ll never leave you wanting.”
Wanting. Despite the pilot’s brusque manner, Eric wasn’t surprised he already wanted to press Tyaan up against the shiny metal body of his plane.
About the Author
Lillian Francis. Author of gay romance. Happy Endings guaranteed. Eventually.
Lillian Francis is an English writer who likes to dabble in many genres but always seems to return to the here and now.
Her name may imply a grand dame in pink chiffon and lace, but Lillian is more at home in jeans, Converse, and the sort of T-shirts that often need explaining to the populous at large but will get a fist bump at Comic-Con. Lillian 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 cozy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write. Luckily there is always room for romance no matter what plot bunny chooses to bite her, so never say never to either of those stories appearing.
Lillian lives in an imposing castle on a windswept desolate moor or in an elaborate shack on the edge of a beach somewhere, depending on her mood. And while she’d love for the heroes of her stories to either be chained up in the dungeon or wandering the shack serving drinks in nothing but skimpy barista aprons more often than not they are doing something far less erotic like running charity shops and shoveling elephant shit.
Drawn to the ocean, although not in a Reginald Perrin sort of way, she would love to own a camper van and to live by the sea.
And finally a little message from Lillian:
So that’s my book that needs a little love, now it’s time to pay it forward.
I had thought about picking Death by Silver by Melissa Scott but I pimped that on my own blog quite recently and KJ Charles has also heaped praise on that book in recent weeks. So I chose:
The Wages of Sin by Alex Beecroft.
Charles Latham, wastrel younger son of the Earl of Clitheroe, returns home drunk from the theatre to find his father gruesomely dead. He suspects murder. But when the Latham ghosts turn nasty, and Charles finds himself falling in love with the priest brought in to calm them, he has to unearth the skeleton in the family closet before it ends up killing them all.
(originally released in January 2010 as part of a three book anthology.)
This book is an excellent historical ghost/horror story that managed to chill the blood and warm the heart at the same time. At first an aura of uncertainty permeated both the horrific deed and Charles’s blossoming feelings but love conquered all, in every respect. I honestly didn’t know what was coming next and the ending had me perched on the edge of my seat.
In the blurb at the end Alex asked if readers would like to read more stories of Charles and Jasper’s adventures. The answer from this reader is a resounding yes.