By Lee Rowan (Guest Blogger)
A friend on social media was complaining about not being able to find any decent m/m romance except in fan fiction, and encouraged her writer friends to think about going pro. So I did. Having found my own same-sex partner not long before, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do – we do all deserve a chance at a happy ending. Love, honor, courage... those aren't male qualities or female qualities. They're the very best human qualities, and I think we all have the capacity to experience them, no matter how different we may be when it comes to sex, age, color, or any of the other tiny subcategories. We are all human, and we all have dreams.
I've always loved the sea, big lakes, whatever – and was a big fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series (clearly not a romantic relationship!) Those books gave me a lot of seafaring info so I could at least sound like I knew a halyard from a handspike.
I had a couple of rejections that turned out to be great good fortune in the long run, and lucked out when Linden Bay (now defunct) had decided to try a gay romance. They accepted Ransom, the first book in my Royal Navy series, and the following spring Ransom won us an Eppie.
Three publishers later – that's small-press reality – I'm with Dreamspinner and, after a long hiatus, working on another book.
Blurb - Ransom
An officer, a gentleman... and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, death.
Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, Will Marshall, David Archer realizes that it’s a hopeless passion. Will's his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Will might not shoot Archer if he expressed his feelings, but friendship would surely turn to revulsion.
Will Marshall has never given much thought to feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. The Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins, a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text.
Captured by accident when their captain is abducted, they become pawns in a renegade’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer must compromise himself--trade his honor and his body for Will’s safety. When Marshall learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship.
The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.
Excerpt from Ransom
"Davy," Marshall whispered. "David!" He caught his friend by the shoulders. "Wake up!" But Archer, trapped in his nightmare, only fought harder. Worse, he started shouting. Marshall had to clap a hand over his mouth and roll on top of him to stop his thrashing. Damn these nightmares! He didn't want Archer whipped for creating a disturbance, and his own back would not welcome another beating. "David!" he hissed.
The struggling body stilled under his hand. "Wha--William?"
"Yes. Davy, please, you must be quiet--"
His words were cut off as David's arms snaked round his bare shoulders, pulling him down. Not an embrace; it was like a drowning man clutching at a straw. Marshall turned his face to get Archer's hair out of his mouth, and his lips brushed against David's. They parted, and he was lost. A surge of wild pleasure engulfed him; he found himself holding David just as tightly, just as close. It wasn't exactly passion--more some strange mix of protectiveness and a need he'd never realized, a craving for something tangible in this fearful dark place where all the rules that shaped their world were suspended. For an instant he teetered between sensation and control, then the riptide of feeling yanked him under.
Some small part of his mind worried over the problem while his body hurled itself eagerly into the maelstrom. Wildfire blazed from his mouth all the way to his toes, kindling a flame in his groin as he felt himself harden. His lips tingled, the sweet hot touch of David's mouth drawing his tongue deep inside--like kissing a girl but nothing like it, no courtesy, no caution, just a blinding urgency, almost the bloodlust of battle.
But he didn't want to kill Davy or hurt him -- God, no, he just wanted to get closer, somehow. He could feel his own blood racing, could sense another pulse through the thin barrier of cloth between them. He had never in his whole lonely life felt so close to another human being, but there was a familiarity about this, as though he knew exactly what to do. It was incredible, glorious, and hovering just out of reach was the tantalizing promise of one tiny bit more, and he wanted it desperately.
Archer was writhing against him now, one hand tangled in his hair, the other arm locked around his waist. He abandoned himself to the rhythm, hands sliding down with a will of their own to catch Archer's hips. David whimpered, and suddenly they were fumbling with fly buttons--their own, each other's, it hardly mattered. Trousers slid away and they were twined together in the straw, rolling around like a couple of young animals, slippery with the sweat of their furious struggle, frantic but silent.
It was like being on deck in a hurricane: no control, no chance of mastery, just holding on for dear life and hoping to survive the cataclysm. David's shirt was an obstacle, bunching up between them, and they wrestled that off, lips separating only long enough to get the thing over his head and out of their way.
The wave broke almost immediately as their naked bodies touched full length, small cries drowning in each others' throats. The tidal surge seemed to go on forever, then slowly ebbed until they were two separate beings again, two gasping, spent bodies, two very shocked and bewildered young men. But David held his face for a moment longer, time enough for a gentle, piercingly tender kiss. "Thank you," he breathed.
Released, Marshall rolled away, dazed, his body still humming like rigging in a gale. As the feelings calmed and his brain cleared, he realized that what had felt like an age could have lasted barely a minute or two. Had they been overheard? The only sounds he could detect were Archer's ragged breathing, the rustle of the straw, the creaking of the ship. No alarm outside.
Hardly necessary. Alarm was shrieking within him, and he tried to still it with mundanity. "We—we had better wash up." He groped for the water bucket, shivering as the cold wetness splashed against his belly, rinsing himself, passing the refilled cup to Archer.
His breeches had wrapped themselves around one ankle, and the small problem of untangling them and pulling them back on gave him a moment to try to think. It was like swimming in glue. The enormity of what he had just done nearly paralyzed him. What in the world had possessed him? And David had thanked him. For stopping, of course. If he could voluntarily drop dead, this very moment, he would. But of course it couldn't be that easy.
He couldn't see David in the darkness, didn't have to look him in the face; that was a small comfort, since it meant David couldn't see him, either. He couldn't hear David's breathing anymore, but sensed that he was waiting. Speechless with fury, most likely.
Oh, God, now what? He sagged against the bulkhead, face in his hands, and struggled for words. Finally, he took refuge in formality, pushing the phrases out through a throat almost too tight to breathe. "Mr Archer, I--I most humbly beg your pardon. That was inexcusable, I don't know what came over me-"
Archer had curled into a tight ball, choking on pain, cursing his own stupidity. He could have just released Will, apologized, pretended to be asleep, something. If only he hadn't said anything! Well, he wouldn't have to worry anymore about being a pawn in the hostage game; now Will could simply find the Captain and leave. Or I can just attack Adrian, if I can't kill him I'll just go on fighting until he has to kill me. He heard William say something about washing, took the cup that was thrust into his hand, used it to rinse away the stickiness on his belly. For all the good it would do. This won't wash off.
Then he heard Will's voice, and his mind finally made sense of the words. Except that the words didn't make sense. Why in God's name should William be apologizing to him? But he sounded terribly upset, as why shouldn't he, and he seemed to be standing there waiting for an answer. What came over him? That was too absurd. Archer swallowed. "I seem to recall having something to do with it." His voice sounded almost calm, strange in his own ears. Well, he had just destroyed the last bit of anything that made his life worth living. What was there left to fear? Poor William was breathing heavily, as though he’d run a mile. "Will, for God's sake, please sit down before you fall over."
Marshall slid to the deck with a thud, knotting his hands together to keep them from shaking. "If you wish," he said woodenly, "When we return to Calypso I shall place myself under arrest for--for indecently assaulting an officer under my command, I shall resign my commission--"
"Are you mad?" Panic flooded out any other feeling, though Archer had just enough control to keep his voice low. "Will, that's a hanging offense. Have you ever seen a hanging? I have." Terror made him babble. "I was eight. My father thought it would be an eye-opening experience. He was right. I didn't sleep for three days." He took a deep breath and continued, trying to sound more reasonable. "Even if you had... done anything to harm me, do you think I would say one word to send you to the gallows?"
The other books in the series follow their adventures in His Majesty`s Navy, culminating in Home is the Sailor, when David Archer is called home after a family tragedy, and once again he and Will face a major shift in their lives.
Blurb - Winds of Change/Eye of the Storm
Lt. William Marshall of His Majesty’s Navy carries a secret close to his heart, one that is more important than either his loyalty to England or his devotion to duty. Not only are he and his shipmate, Lt. David Archer, the best of friends, they’ve been lovers for over a year. Should this be discovered, the penalty is death and disgrace.
Both men control their passions and exercise discretion
aboard ship as best they can, but the ship’s quarters are close,
shore leave is infrequent, and in the military…nothing is
A transfer to a new ship leads to danger as Will and David are caught in a web of intrigue. Ordered to masquerade as lovers in order to flush out and help capture a saboteur who is known to use blackmail to achieve his ends, they face possible discovery of the truth. Will and David have always known the risks, known that death might take either of them at any time. Their chances of staying together were never high...could it be that their luck has finally run out?
Three days of freedom. Three day…and nights. It was not as though they could afford to relax their vigilance or discretion; sodomy was as much a capital offense in all of England as it was in the Navy, and of any town, Portsmouth could almost be considered the Navy ashore. But they could buy a little privacy, and there was nothing remarkable about two young lieutenants economizing by sharing a room in an inn less respectable than the Keppel’s Head, where the Drinkwater family was lodged.
Luck was with them. The tavern was nearly empty—a lull between dinner and supper—and none of the few faces in the Anchor’s taproom belonged to anyone they knew. They ordered a simple meal, sausage and mash with the house ale, and Davy proceeded to consume his sausage in a manner that had Will blushing scarlet and kicking him under the table. He wouldn’t have been so unkind if he hadn’t been ready to burst his breeches at the sensations his lover’s performance evoked.
“For God’s sake, Davy, hurry up and finish the damned thing!” he finally growled.
“But, Will, it’s our first meal ashore!” Davy said, running his tongue over his lips with a look of unbelievable innocence. “You wouldn’t want me to ruin my digestion, would you?”
They were sitting in a corner, out of sight of most of the other patrons, and the bored-looking codger behind the bar was paying no attention. David’s back was to the room; Marshall sat across from him. Astonished at his own boldness, Will slipped one foot out of its shoe and planted his toes squarely in David’s crotch, not enough pressure to hurt, but enough that he could feel his lover’s excitement at the game he was playing. “You can eat on the ship,” he said, as Davy choked on his mouthful. Will left his foot where it was for just a moment, enjoying the effect, then went back to behaving himself.
“You’re absolutely right!” Davy said when he was able to compose himself. He finished the food and drained his cup. “It’s amazing, Will. I never realized the barnacles in Portsmouth were so fierce—I could swear one of them was just trying to get a foothold on my bowsprit.”
“It’s the shipworm you must watch out for,” Marshall said. “They’ll bore right into your bottom if you aren’t careful.”
“Only if my luck’s in,” Davy said under his breath.
Marshall just shook his head. At least he had worn his cloak for protection against the sharp autumn wind; he could fold it over his arm and prevent embarrassing himself when he stood up.
After what seemed like forever, they were upstairs with the door bolted and the keyhole blocked. Since the idyllic week they’d spent traveling together after they’d first become lovers, this was only the second time they’d had such privacy.
Davy came into his arms like Calypso sailing into port. The feel of his body pressed full-length against Will’s own, the warmth, the scent of him, was simply overwhelming. What a wonderful thing it was to be able to hold him close like this!
“I don’t know what I’d have done if they’d separated us,” Davy said, sliding his hands up under Will’s jacket. “It isn’t just this…”
“This is good, though, you must admit.” Will pulled back far enough to start unbuttoning Davy’s waistcoat. “Never expected we’d have three whole days.”
“And nights.” Davy pulled his face down for a kiss.
Their conversation trailed off as holding, kissing, and undressing occupied their attention. Before long Will was sitting on the edge of the bed with Davy in his lap. For some reason Davy was greedy for kisses, and Will had no objection to obliging him. But eventually he slid back onto the pillow and Davy followed along, widening the scope of his attention down Will’s throat, down his chest…
“Barnacles on the hull,” Davy said, and his mouth fastened onto one nipple as he pinched the other.
“If you keep on with that,” Will warned raggedly, “the shipworm will get you.”
Available in ebook or print at
About the Author
Lee Rowan has been writing since childhood, but professionally only since spring of 2006, with the publication of her Eppie-winning novel, Ransom. She is a lady of a certain age, old enough to know better but still young enough to do it anyway. A confirmed bookaholic with a wife of many years, she is kept in line by a cadre of cats and two dogs who get her away from the computer and out of the house at least once a day. At this time of year, she's more likely to be found out in the garden, coping with the interesting variations spawned by climate change. So far, so good…
lee.rowan [at] yahoo [dot] com