Thursday, March 30, 2017

Poppies in Paris by Jules Radcliffe

World War One. The Western Front. Winter. 

Duke Lindsay is going to die. He knows it’s only a matter of time. The war that was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime has turned into a terrifying nightmare that has crushed his once carefree spirit. With no family to care what becomes of him, and all his friends dead, he has nothing to live for.

Until Corporal Driscoll comes along.

Driscoll forces Duke to obey him, to be a man, to stay alive. As they undergo hardship and fight bitter battles side by side, Duke comes to realise Driscoll cares for him in a way noone ever has before. With Driscoll’s help, Duke finds in himself the man he was always supposed to be.

From the ashes of war, an enduring friendship begins to blossom.

What a lovely little novella of war, survival, and above all friendship.  Driscoll and Duke have a bond that is born of battle but the friendship and connection will not only endure but it allows both to survive and grow.  What a lovely addition to the WW1 section of my historical shelf.


Chapter One
As full-blown poppies, overcharged with rain,
Decline the head, and drooping kiss the plain;
So sinks the youth: his beauteous head, depress’d
Beneath his helmet, drops upon his breast.
Homer, Iliad

Curled around the flickering lamp, Duke inhaled deeply, waiting for the pain to melt away. But this time it did not. The knot behind his ribs still ached, shortening his breath, robbing him of speech. He tried to move, but his body refused to obey him.

Others were in the room with him, dim shapes curled around little lights of their own. A large shadow moved closer to him, and resolved into Jack Newland.

“G’day, Dukie boy,” said Jack, his lips turning up into his brilliant, never forgotten smile.

Duke tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. His heart began to pound.

“Heard you’d had some troubles. Nothing like our troubles, but.”

“I’m s-sorry Jack,” Duke managed to gasp.

“Yeah, we’re all bloody sorry, mate. I can’t go home now, and it’s your fault.”

As Duke watched, bits of flesh began to decay, falling from Jack’s face.

“No, don’t,” Duke whimpered. He tried to lift his hands, to stop his friend’s face from crumbling, or perhaps to cover his eyes so he would not see it. His hands were stuck fast, glued in place.

“You’re a coward, Duke. A bloody coward. I come here because of you, and you left me. You didn’t even have the guts to see it through with me. You can try to hide in here, dreaming your life away, but you know it won’t work. You’ll never forget what you done, Duke. Never.”

By now, Jack was skeletal, hair and tendrils of putrefying flesh hanging from the bony skull. His mouth was all teeth and jawbone, but his voice was still as clear as his accusations were just.

Tears were running down Duke’s face. “I never wanted to leave you, Jack. I wish I was dead.”

“Don’t worry, mate, you will be. Bloody Fritz’ll do for you soon enough, like Johnny Turk done for me. Hope you’re enjoying this piece of hell the Huns’ve made for you, you bloody deserve it.”

Jack reached out and grabbed his arm.

Duke woke with a yell.

“’S’all right, Lindsay, ’s’just a dream,” came a mumble in his ear.

Corporal Driscoll’s hand was gripping his arm, shaking him awake. Duke realised he was trembling, whimpering sounds escaping his lips. He pulled himself together and choked back the noise, although he knew the man curled around him could feel every tremor that ran through his frame. He hoped Driscoll would think it was from the cold. The corporal’s breath was warm on the back of his neck. It was reassuring to have that contact, that evidence of life; to feel it and know he was not the only one left.

As the Australian Imperial Force was not generous enough to issue more than one thin blanket apiece to its lowly ranks, the two men lay spooned together for warmth. In the harsh French winter, with no fires and few comforts, soldiers had quickly discovered that, in addition to sleeping fully clothed, the best way to not freeze to death in the trenches was for two men to lie close and pile their blankets and greatcoats on top.

Unlike the others, Duke never had a choice about who his sleeping mate was going to be—duties permitting, his corporal never let him out of his sight. Although some slept back to back, most men spooned as it was warmer, turnabout so each had his share of being warmed by the other. But Driscoll always curled around Duke, his arm over Duke’s ribs holding him against his own chest. Duke could never get up in the night without waking him.

Feeling suffocated by his nightmare, Duke pulled the blanket from his sweaty face, sucking the frozen night air down into his lungs. The cold made him gasp, and he quickly twitched the blanket back into place. He desperately wanted a cigarette, but even if he could manage to smoke it while mostly tucked under the blankets, it was too cold to even think about crawling out of their makeshift bed to roll one. Besides, Driscoll would be furious with him if Duke disturbed him for something unimportant.

Duke was exhausted, but afraid to close his eyes lest the vision of Jack’s rotting face appeared again. Not that he deserved to sleep. The newspapers had called it the adventure of a lifetime; the army recruiters who came to Murphy’s Flat had said it would make them men. Don’t miss out, join up now! It would be over in a few weeks, in six months, in a year.

There was still no end in sight, and Jack, and Frank, and Norman, and all the others Duke had persuaded to come along to this fiasco had been lost. He had left them behind to rot in the stony ground of Lone Pine. A dry sob shook him, and Driscoll pulled him closer.

“I can’t sleep either,” Driscoll said in his ear, his tone prosaic, as if Duke were not silently crying in his arms. “Guess you’re looking forward to rest camp as much as me. Can’t wait to get a beer and some proper food, been thinking about it all bloody day.”

Duke swallowed. “Yeah,” he said hoarsely. “Can’t wait.”

“You know the rules though. No going off on your own.”

“I know, Corp.”

“Good, ’cause you’ll get FP number one again, and you know how much fun you had last time.”

Remembering the three days he had endured of being tied immobile to a post for two or three hours, Duke shrugged. The humiliation and discomfort of field punishment meant nothing to him. He could hardly sink much lower.

Driscoll snorted quietly, the huff of it gusting through Duke’s hair. “Dunno why I bother with you sometimes, Sapper,” he growled in an undertone.

Duke felt this required an answer, and mumbled sullenly, “Dunno either, Corp.”

“I’ll tell you why, then. Noone in my section has ever been disgraced or court-martialled, and it sure as shit isn’t starting with you. It’s a point of honour with me; I look after my own.”

Duke gave a tight little laugh. “Your own? You reckon I belong to you?”

“You eat with me, you sleep with me, you go to the bloody latrine with me. The lieutenant put you under my command, so yeah, you’re mine, Sapper, until he says otherwise. Don’t bloody forget it.”

Sighing, Duke surrendered the argument. If Driscoll was really worried about honour, he would have asked Lieutenant Ryan to move his most troublesome subordinate to another section months ago.

“I’ll try not to let you down, Corp.”

The arm around Duke tightened again, and he relaxed into the embrace.

“Don’t try, Sapper. You make good or I’ll personally make sure you come a gutzer.”

“Yes sir!”

There was silence for a little while.

“And I bother with you, Sapper, ’cause you’re the most talented bloody bomb maker I ever worked with, even if you are a fuckup.”

Even in the dark, with Driscoll behind him, Duke was sure that the other man smiled. He settled against Driscoll’s chest.

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir,” he said, and his own mouth twitched into something that was almost a smile.
“Go back to sleep. Big day tomorrow. You’ll be digging until you drop, and then I’ll find more work for you. You’re going to be so tired if Theda Bara herself dropped into this trench and showed you her tits you won’t get it up.”

Duke could not help giving a little laugh at that. He was so tired right now, thinking about his favourite movie star stark naked would not get him hard. Not that he wanted that, not with Driscoll pressed close to his body. His corporal would feel every movement if Duke dared to touch himself. With Driscoll on his case, that kind of relief was getting to be impossible.

Almost since Duke had been put under Driscoll’s command, he had kept Duke close, rarely letting him out of his sight, keeping Duke too busy to think about anything else. His corporal demanded absolute obedience and drove Duke relentlessly, but the uncompromising requirements and strict rules always calmed him. The rules were something of substance to focus on in this life that made no sense.

Every day, he and his fellow field engineers risked their lives to repair the wire barriers, strengthen the hurdles, fix communications, under shelling, or gunfire, or gas attack. The thunderous noise of shells exploding and the deafening chatter of machine guns would swamp Duke’s senses until sometimes he believed the world was and always would be this.

There were days when the guns were silent. Then there was the strain of jittering nerves, and Duke would be desperate to keep himself busy amidst the constant threat of death. Sometimes Duke would hear the soft pop of a sniper’s rifle and somewhere a man would fall, half his head gone. Their numbers would shrink, and then grow back as men were transferred in to fill the dead soldiers’ boots.

Duke wondered how long it would be before someone was called to fill in his boots. He hoped to God it was him before anything happened to Driscoll. He had no idea how he would endure his fate if his corporal fell first. Dying was one thing, but dying without what sanity he had left was a terrible fate, and only Driscoll could save him from that. His corporal was the stability in Duke’s surreal existence; with Driscoll at his back the world had some kind of order to it.

Finally, too exhausted to keep his eyes open any longer, he closed them, and sleep, uneasy and unhealing, took him down.

Author Bio:
I love to write. I’ve been writing fiction and telling stories–in a good way!–since I was a child.

I tried to write standard romances, but it wasn’t until I discovered MMF and MM erotic romance that I really found my voice. As an aficionado of all thing retro, it made sense to use historical settings. I have no particular favourite era or culture–I often choose my setting and era based on my inspiration for the story.

People often ask me how I think up a story. That’s actually quite a hard question. Sometimes I think of a situation, sometimes it’s a scene, sometimes it’s a character. Whatever it is, I usually plot out some basics, do a bit of research to make sure I’ve picked the right time and place for my story, and start writing!

I’m a bit pedantic about researching my settings and the historical minutiae, such as the brand of margarine available in Berlin in 1920–but I’m the first to admit I sometimes get it wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but no one is perfect after all…

My main focus is on writing believable and unique characters. My central characters always live happily ever after. No exceptions.



Altercation by Mignon Mykel

Title: Altercation
Author: Mignon Mykel
Series: Playmaker Duet #1
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Sometimes it’s the fight that proves your worth.

Porter Prescott spent years fighting to be his own person.
His goal of playing for a hockey club not associated with the Prescott name finally comes true.
But just as he’s leaving for the next chapter in his life, he meets her.

Asher Spence spent a lifetime learning she was worthless and unwanted.
She learned that sometimes the only person you can count on is youself, and even then, you can fail.

What starts out as picture perfect can only come crumbling down.
No one listened to her pleas before,
Why should they listen to them now that she’s found a place to finally call home?

But sometimes, it’s the fight that takes you out of the game.

Note: This is book 1 of 2 in the Porter and Asher story. This does end with a cliffhanger that will be resolved in book 2, Holding.

I moved to stand where she’d be able to see me, not really caring if I was blocking the view for some other person waiting. I widened my stance and with my arms crossed over my chest, I kept my eyes trained as far back as I could see. My gaze shifted over the different travelers coming in; the only person I wanted to see was a brunette with crazy colored eyes.

And then I saw her.

The feeling that overtook me was like a drowning man getting his first breath of air. A starving man getting a fucking full-course meal.

She didn’t see me yet, but she would in time. There were maybe eighty people between us and she was nearing.

Her hair was braided over her shoulder, wisps of hair falling out and framing her face. She was wearing leggings and those damned boots of hers, but I was surprised to see her shirt was the girly type, long with cuts up the sides, nearly to her waist, and lacy sleeves that played peek-a-boo with the colors adorning her arm. She didn’t carry a bag, just her phone in one hand.

I licked my bottom lip before biting it gently, trying to stop the smile from spreading on my face. Didn’t want to look like a complete moron.

Forty feet.

Her gaze was down at the floor, no doubt watching where she was walking. It didn’t surprise me she was careful like that.

Thirty feet.

Look up, Asher…Look up.

Twenty feet.

Her face lifted and, like a magnet, her eyes locked on mine instantly.

And the smile on her face?

God damn.

There was no sense stopping my full-ass smile now, not with the one she just shot my way.

If you would have told me, four months ago, I would be the most celibate man in the history of earth, all for the glimpses of smiles from that girl there with more secrets behind her eyes than I could ever hope to uncover, I probably would have laughed in your face.

Four months ago, I was gearing up for my rookie season in South Carolina.

Four months ago, I was a kid with a big name, going to a team that had nothing to do with said big name.

Four months ago, it was rumored I would be the new hot shot in town. Nico certainly didn’t fail to show me the gossip sites, seemingly run by a bunch of puck bunnies.

But four months ago, I walked into Starbucks for a goodbye coffee with my sister, and met the girl with secrets.

And four months ago, I became addicted without so much as a taste.

Now that I’ve had that taste? Shit, I couldn’t wait for more.

The Playmaker Duet by Mignon Mykel from Bibliophile Productions on Vimeo.

Author Bio:
Mignon Mykel is the author of the Prescott Family series, as well as the short-novella erotic romance series, O'Gallagher Nights. When not sitting at Starbucks writing whatever her characters tell her to, you can find her hiking in the mountains of her new home in Arizona.



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