Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Adrian's Library by Hollis Shiloh

One night at a masquerade party, rakish Adrian Knowles kisses the wrong man by mistake and meets Oliver Windham. Feisty yet wary and broken, Ollie desperately needs a friend. Almost against his will, Adrian finds himself playing the hero… and falling in love.

Adrian hires Ollie to set his library to rights—after having his servants put all the books out of order. He promises himself he’ll treat Ollie only as a friend, but Ollie quickly becomes the only man he wants.

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Hollis Shiloh once again brings us a lovely historical tale of friendship and romance.  I should mention that as part of Dreamspinner Press' Timeless Dreams line that may not strictly adhere to the feelings of the era.  Personally, I prefer a historical to be more true to the time but I will say that with Adrian's Library, not too much has been altered or glossed over.

You can't help but love and feel for Oliver, Adrian too has a way of worming his way in to your heart.  I think that for me Adrian's Library could have been better had it been longer but I still enjoyed the journey.  It's pretty obvious that Oliver has found his way into Adrian's heart early on but Adrian determination to keep their connection as close to friendship as possible, at least for the time being, is heartwarming.

Adrian's Library is a lovely read that warmed my heart, put a smile on my face, and though it could have been a bit better had it been longer it made my afternoon brighter.


Chapter 1
THE dark, domino-masked figure crept from the ballroom with a secret smile. He passed loverly and gigglish trysts, teasing and playful shouts, women smacking men with fans, and a great deal of kissing. He paid them barely any mind, intent on his destination, his own appointment. Down a quieter path he went and drew nigh the gazebo at its end.

There. Ahead, the unmistakable figure of a man, also in a domino, waiting. He stood looking out over the railing, his back to the path. To all appearances, he was waiting for someone, at his ease and casual. Not at all as if he were about to engage in something clandestine, and quite illegal, in a near-public place.

Adrian’s steps lengthened, and his smile spread broadly across his face. He spread his arms, took the steps in a single leap, and wrapped the other man in his embrace, muffled and close.

The figure stiffened and twisted around in his arms—just as if they really were strangers—his mouth opening to protest. Adrian bent and kissed him, a very encompassing kiss that left both men without breath for a moment. Soft curls brushed against his face. The slender body was firm and so very alive in his arms.

But the kiss was a strange one: tingling with pleasure, and at the same time, tasting of a mouth completely foreign, an inexperienced and utterly surprised mouth. After a moment, Adrian drew back, his body singing with pleasure but his mind overruling it for the moment.

“I’m afraid I don’t perfectly understand. Who are you?”

“I might ask, ‘Who are you?’” croaked an affronted, scared-sounding young man, pushing against Adrian. “I’ve never seen so much nerve!” He sounded perilously close to tears, his voice cracking.

Realizing he was definitely not the intended man, and was in fact quite younger than Adrian had expected, he released the young man immediately. “I was supposed to meet—” He stopped, realizing the inadvisability of naming names in such a situation. “—a friend,” he finished awkwardly.

“Well, you haven’t!” This was followed by a loud sniff, and Adrian realized even in the dim moonlight that the young man’s hand trembled as he reached for his pocket.

“Here,” said Adrian, never at a loss, kindly extending his own handkerchief. “I am very sorry. You needn’t be upset. I can’t imagine what happened to—”

“Your ‘friend’, yes,” said the young man bitterly. He yanked off his mask irritably, stuffed it in his pocket, and blew his nose vehemently. Adrian blinked at the noise. Even without the mask, it was too dark to see the young man very clearly. “If one must engage in such k-kisses, I cannot think your friends are particularly blessed.”

“Ah, but that’s not all they engage in!” said Adrian, giving in to a burst of wickedness. “Indeed not!”

The young man had stiffened, and now he straightened to his full, slim height—about the same as Adrian’s. “I shall take my leave of you, sir. I shan’t wish you good day or g-good evening.” And in a rush, he started past him and from the gazebo.

“Wait.” Adrian caught his arm and swung him round, then released him immediately. The iron tension in that slim arm warned him of danger and the young man’s fear. “I shan’t hurt you. May I have my handkerchief back?” he asked meekly.

This was handed over with a pugnacious reluctance. The young man maintained a dignified, offended silence.

“I am sorry,” said Adrian. “What a mix-up! Some men… that is to say, it was not at all your fault.”

“Oh no, indeed!” he said bitterly. He gave a hoarse, angry-sounding laugh. “Never my fault, is it? And yet somehow I keep—” He cut off with a bitter, hopeless laugh.

Adrian blinked, attuned to something in that voice: hopelessness, despair, something that transcended the awkwardness of the moment and the young man’s offended dignity. “Are you in trouble?”

He peered closer. In the moonlight, it was difficult to see features. The young man was slim and straight of build, with a narrow waist and broad shoulders. His limbs were slender but well muscled. His curly hair, slightly longer than the usual, looked soft in the moonlight. Adrian stood very still, not moving toward him. “You can tell me, if you wish. I have been on the town long enough—I might give you some good advice.”

“If only someone could.” The young man plopped to one of the gazebo’s seats with every sign of dejected lethargy.

“Come, that’s doing it too brown!” Adrian sat beside him, not too close. He was aware of long, slender legs and that fascinating soft hair. In this light, he could not see his companion’s face well, but the shadows that made up the face were fascinating. “How can you know I can’t help if you don’t give me the chance to try? I certainly owe you the attempt—to make up for my abominable kiss.” He said this last with a teasing, rather flirting laugh beneath his words, but the young man did not appear to notice.

“Yes, that’s true,” he said thoughtfully, still sunk in gloom.

“I thank you.”

“What? Oh no. You see, m-my guardian—”

This was as far as he got. Up the stairs trotted another domino-clad figure saying “Oh, hello! Have I kept you waiting lo—” He stopped, abruptly, and looked down at them both, stiffening. “I see I have not,” he said in quite another voice. “Excuse me!” So saying, he whirled and strode back down the path, anger and offended dignity in his every step.

“Wait! It’s not—!” called Adrian after him. “Oh damn,” he said beneath his breath.

He heard a hoarse gurgle of laughter beside him and turned in astonishment to see a bright, shining white grin, easily reflecting what little moonlight there was. “Your ‘friend’?” asked the young man.

“Well, he was,” said Adrian ruefully. “I suppose I had better go after him?”

“I suppose you had.”

There was silence. They both remained seated. Nearby, they heard the sound of insects; voices raised in teasing; a rather drunken laugh; horse’s hooves on a street somewhere not far away, and in the distance, laughter, tinkling glasses, and the faint strains of music.

“I don’t suppose you’d care to dance?” asked Adrian. An inelegant snort greeted him. “No, I thought not,” he said ruefully. “Very well. Tell me your problem, and I shall be a learned uncle to you, all sympathy and good advice.” He stretched one elegant leg over the other and turned toward his companion with a patient air. “I shall be terribly well behaved!”

“And not kiss anyone else while I tell you, you mean?”

“Yes, that too.” He could not quite help it: he reached out and tweaked one of the curls. They were so very soft. The boy twitched away from his touch, hand rising to fend him off. Adrian sank back, an unstoppable grin plastered on his face and a warm feeling beating in his chest.

“You said you would behave,” said a reproachful voice.

“And I shall—if you start telling me what you wished to. Otherwise I can’t promise my mind won’t… wander.”

“In that case I can’t promise my feet won’t wander—to the nearest constable!” snapped the young man.

Adrian blinked. “You have such teeth, little one?” he inquired mildly.

“Who are you calling—?” With an angry expulsion of breath, he subsided back to his seat. “No, I wouldn’t do that. I know it w-was a mistake. You wouldn’t have kissed me on purpose.”

“On the contrary, I am quite beginning to think I would.”

“Oh, shut up,” said the boy with weary patience. “And just listen for a change, would you?”

“I am all agog. Speak on.” Crossing his arms, he stared at the young man, studying his profile while he listened.

The young man took a quick breath. “You’ve no notion what it is t-to grow up far too handsome for your own good.”

“Oh, I believe I have. A sore trial to you, is it?”

The boy grimaced, his face twisting, visible even in the darkness. “Oh, it can’t be a problem for you, because you no doubt have money and can do as you wish! I-I haven’t. My parents died when I was ten, and I was thrust on the good graces of my uncle. Only he hasn’t any. If I had been an ugly, dull lad he might have liked me the better for it, for I wouldn’t have shown up h-his sons. But I wasn’t, and I’m also quick-tempered—”

“I’d never have guessed,” said Adrian blandly.

“Bastard,” said the young man, torn between outrage and half a laugh.

“If you wish. Do, pray, continue.” He waved one elegant hand condescendingly.

“You are a bastard, I know you are, and I shall regret telling you.” He took a quick breath. “But I haven’t anyone else to tell, and I’ll likely never see you again anyway!” His words were nearly a sob, full of desperation and despair.

“I collect you are not entirely happy under your uncle’s roof.”

“No! No, indeed! Only I’m not under his roof anymore, am I? He caught the… that is to say, I… there was a—a disgrace, and he sent me away. I am t-to be trained as a singer now, because that’s all I’m worth, you see. He said my morals are fit for no better.”

“A singer. That should be a fascinating career. Have you a voice?”

“No, but that doesn’t matter,” said the young man with astounding bitterness. “Because it’s not really singing they’re after, is it? I may as well be sold to the highest bidder.”

Adrian blinked. “You—”

“You’re a dunderhead,” said the young man bitterly. “I may as well be auctioned off as a molly-boy.”

“Ah. The situation distresses you, does it? Then why do you not run away? Surely you are young enough to find some other career, with all that quick wit and sharp intelligence you hinted at.”

The teasing did not rally the young man to another show of spirit. Instead, he lowered his head to rest in his hands. “Because it doesn’t matter, does it?” he asked hopelessly, a little catch in his voice. “I am ruined. There is something wrong with me, so it doesn’t bloody matter.”

“Ruined? I find that difficult to believe,” said Adrian gently. He hesitated and then touched the young man’s shoulder. “Won’t you tell me your name?”

“O-Ollie. That is, Oliver,” he said, sniffing and swiping at his nose again.

“Would you like my handkerchief back?”


“Well, use it anyway. There. More comfortable?” Seated by now quite close to Oliver, he put an arm around him and patted his side. “Relax and tell me all about it. I collect from this ‘disgrace’ and talk about morals from your uncle that something happened. Was it very bad?”

“W-well, it was bad enough, sir,” said Oliver, seeming a bit daunted, both by the kind, avuncular air and the closeness.

Adrian removed his arm. “Shall I release you? There. That’s better. You mustn’t feel constrained. Nor talk about it, if you don’t wish.” Oliver seemed such a charming innocent; surely no one had forced him? Adrian was not adept at guessing ages; but he would never have attempted to seduce someone seemingly so young. The despair and talk of “ruin” made him feel unaccountably concerned for the boy. Being forced would be a dreadful way to experience sex for the first time, to be sure.

“No, I do wish to talk about it. There’s no one else I can tell, is there?” He sniffed again and blew his nose quite loudly. “I was in the schoolroom. I’m too old for the schoolroom, of course, but my uncle was unwilling to send me to any school, so I was obliged to take my learning where I could, to be guided in my reading by the tutor a-and stay with the children till such time as suitable employment could be found for me.”

You are practically a child yourself, thought Adrian. He said nothing, hoping his silence was sympathetic and encouraging.

“Only he’s terribly lazy, and he never even really bothered to look for a position for me, and I’ve no money or connections of my own. I think… well, he wanted me there to look after his younger children. My oldest cousin is off at school, but the younger ones are quite rowdy and can’t keep from chasing off governesses. So I looked after them. Then my uncle didn’t have to keep hiring anyone, and the children still stayed out of his hair. He said it was because I hadn’t learned enough from the tutor, Morley, to be ready for a job, though.

“Well, I did learn, but sometimes I argued with Augustus Morley—because he wasn’t half so learned as he p-pretended to be, a-and besides, he was dreadfully inflexible. Surely a thinking man cannot believe something just because he is told to? But if you questioned any of his theories, or c-countered with something else you had read, he had nothing for it but you w-were disrespectful and didn’t know your place. Well, I never have,” he added, “so I didn’t mind him saying that, but I did, very much, mind him deciding to ‘tame’ me.” He hiccupped and twisted Adrian’s handkerchief on his lap.

“I don’t need tamed,” he said at last. “I sh-shouldn’t like it. At any rate, the things he m-meant were—were hurting one, not a proper taming. If you tamed someone, you w-would be kind to them, wouldn’t you? You would be gentle, the way you must be with a cat, or it won’t trust you. A person is m-more like a cat than a horse like that. Only I d-don’t think it’s right with horses either. To beat them until they accept the saddle. They’ll never trust you again, and why should they?” There was more than half a sob in his voice.

Adrian drew him against his shoulder, making comforting sounds, and patted his head awkwardly. A lover’s gentleness he could manage; but this, to comfort an awkward, grieving half man, half boy, was nearly beyond him. “Shh,” he said again, smoothing back the luxuriant curls, and at length, the lad did. His tears ceased, his shoulders stopped their trembling, and he leaned against Adrian as if he’d spent the last of his energy and didn’t care if he ever moved again.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Adrian stroked his head again, thinking of Oliver’s cat metaphor and how singularly apt it actually was. “You’re right, you know. No one deserves that.”

It was no good asking for details; they weren’t the most important thing, and Oliver didn’t seem to wish to share them. Whether he’d been harassed, threatened, forced sexually, or something in between, it had left him humiliated and broken inside. And then his uncle had looked on him in disgust and thrown him away like so much refuse.

Adrian soothed the lad’s hair back again, enjoying the feel of the warm, trusting body tucked against his own, even if he could never now think of trying to seduce this young man into offering him more. He was very glad he had met him, nonetheless, and his sympathies were engaged: perhaps, after all, life would be less utterly dull if he had a protégé to help out of trouble. Oliver certainly could qualify, and Oliver needed someone.

“And now, I gather, you have no wish to be on the, er, less-than-marriage mart,” he said into the silence when Oliver showed no inclination to move, or indeed, to speak.

“Hm? Oh yes. Well put.” The young man moved away from him, straightening and rubbing his eyes surreptitiously. He did not quite yawn and stretch, but Adrian was under the distinct impression he had been nearly asleep on Adrian’s shoulder. He was sorry to have recalled him.

“Yes, that is to say, I’m—I’m under someone’s ‘protection’, and he is seeking a—a… ‘protector’ for me.”

“I see.” Adrian wished with all his might for that warmth against his side again, but he had to be content without it. “And if you could do something else, without the risk to your… virtue—” He managed to say the word seriously, not mockingly, for once. “—what would it be?” He could not resist reaching out to lightly touch the young man’s hair again, finding it a marvel of springy softness, something that made him feel quite tender and awed inside—a rare feeling indeed for Adrian.

“Oh, I—I suppose I’d like to do something with books, sir.” He had gone dreadfully shy again.

“Please don’t worry about calling me ‘sir’. My name is Adrian.”

“Pleased to meet you, Adrian,” said Oliver, still with that shy sound to his voice. “I—I am sorry to have imposed.”

You are the sweetest thing, thought Adrian, trying to ignore the stirring in his loins and to be what he had promised to the lad, without other motives.

“Well, from all I have seen and heard of you, I suspect you would be eminently suited to such a job,” said Adrian in hearty, rallying tones. “I suspect a job as a bookkeeper or some such will no doubt make itself known to you. Don’t give up, nor settle for what they wish for you, if you don’t wish it for yourself.”

“But….” Oliver’s voice held a great deal of doubt. “I don’t see how I am to find such a post. I’ve no references, no place in society. My uncle has disowned me, and… I’ve no one.”

The things Adrian could say went through his mind. Don’t you know who I am? I am not without connections. No, scratch that. I will hire you myself.

He took a deep breath. “I find, when I am in a scrape, that it’s important not to lose hope. If you do, when the opportunity comes to get out of it, you might well miss it. Stay ready and jump at your chance.” So saying, he gave Oliver a brisk pat on the knee. “Now, will you tell me why you were alone tonight, just here? I am all agog to know.”

“Well, I—I was here with him, you know,” said Oliver. “My keeper. To—to meet some… possible… you know.” He nearly choked on the words, his repugnance for the clientele obvious in his delicacy of speech. The handkerchief was twisted again. “But I couldn’t bear to! I couldn’t bear to pretend, or to—to be rushed along as if I had no feelings of my own in the matter. So I gave them the dodge. I—I slipped away and came out here for—for some air, so I could think. Only I didn’t get very far because you interrupted,” he added, nudging Adrian with his shoulder. His quick, engaging grin shone again in the moonlight, and Adrian thought how wicked it had been for anyone to hurt or frighten this sweet and trusting young man.

He reached up and ruffled Oliver’s hair, smiling in return. He wanted to ask for more details, but he had no wish to see the young man bristle up like a porcupine again, after they had been getting along so well. He also dearly wished to kiss him again, but that pleasure was to be denied him, both by his own decision and by the new arrival.

Footsteps stumped into the gazebo. “Oliver, I declare I have never seen such a disobliging boy—” The haranguing voice stopped, as did the footsteps, at the sight of Oliver and Adrian in a tête-à-tête. The tone became immediately silky and buttery, with a nauseating touch of wheedling. “Ah, sir, and have you met my young cousin?” The heavy, stooped man had a false, high-pitched laugh and a distinctive, waddling walk. “I declare, he’s the naughtiest young thing! Getting acquainted, were you, Oliver? Well, we must be about our night. He gets dreadful fatigued, does Oliver. He’s quite a young lad, so much to learn…!”

So saying, he reached forward and plucked at Oliver’s sleeve, not very gently. The young man had stiffened at his first arrival. Thereafter, Adrian had felt, as if it were his own, his companion’s mix of disgust and humiliation. For himself, he was struggling not to laugh at the guardian’s manners, at the same time feeling angry on his young friend’s behalf.

He rose as Oliver did, and the three faced one another at equidistance in the darkness under the gazebo roof. Adrian said, “Yes, a charming lad. We have just had the most interesting conversation.” He spoke in his laziest tones.

“Have you?” The gaze behind the oversized domino was sharp indeed. Adrian was absolutely certain the man recognized him, as he indeed recognized the procurer; certain personages were difficult to entirely conceal, even at a masquerade. As for such a figure as Mr. Felton Wilburn! For his part, Adrian was far from a nobody; and the two had met before.

“Yes, indeed we have,” said Adrian firmly. “This and that. I am sure he’s a credit to you.” So saying, he gently steered his new friend back toward Wilburn. Oliver went rather unwillingly, but he went.

“Goodnight, Mr.—Adrian,” said Oliver, with an awkwardness and wistfulness combined. He could not have sounded sweeter if he’d tried; and if he had tried, it would have taken away from it.

“Goodnight, Mr.—Ollie,” said Adrian, with a teasing laugh in his voice. He longed again to kiss that sweet, full mouth. The desire doubled when that smile flashed, glad and chagrined.

“Oh very well,” said Oliver, and for a moment, Adrian wondered if he meant to give in to Adrian’s secret wish. But he simply seemed to be giving up the battle to the victor, for he turned and walked from the gazebo with steps quick enough to almost count as a dash.

Adrian and Mr. Wilburn spoke for perhaps thirty seconds; then Wilburn followed his young charge, calling after him, his voice a mix of wheedling and annoyance.

Adrian leaned in the doorway to the gazebo and grinned, completely satisfied with his masquerade experience.

Author Bio:
Hollis Shiloh writes love stories about men, also called gay romance or m/m romance, with the preferred genres of contemporary, historical, and fantasy. Hollis's stories tend towards the sweet rather than the spicy. When not writing, the author enjoys reading, retro music, and being around animals.



Well-Tailored by Silvia Violet

Title: Well-Tailored
Author: Silvia Violet
Series: Companion to Thorne & Dash
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Cover Design: LC Chase
Marc longs for a grand romance, but he doubts he’ll ever be that lucky. Then he meets Darius, an arrogant tailor who pushes all his buttons. When Darius offers him a job, Marc hesitates—he needs a direction for the future, not another man who doesn’t believe in relationships.

Darius lives by a few unbreakable rules: never sleep with employees, fashion should be simple, and romance is for fools. Marc, with his shimmery-sweaters collection, makes him want to break every single one.

They quickly give in to desire, but Darius wants to protect himself and Marc refuses to repeat past mistakes. It’s only when they let go of assumptions, that love has a chance to take hold.

Well-Tailored is a companion novel to the Thorne and Dash series. It can be read as a standalone.

Author Bio:
Silvia Violet writes fun, sexy stories that will leave you smiling and satisfied. She has a thing for characters who are in need of comfort and enjoys helping them surrender to love even when they doubt it exists. Silvia's stories include sizzling contemporaries, paranormals, and historicals. When she needs a break from listening to the voices in her head, she spends time baking, taking long walks, and curling up with her favorite books. Keep up with her latest ventures by signing up for her newsletter.



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Debutante by Marie Silk

Title: Debutante
Author: Marie Silk
Series: Davenport House Prequel
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Release Date: April 21, 2017

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💲📘💲Each book in series on sale for 99¢ April 22-27💲📘💲

The family saga begins in Debutante, a prequel to the best-selling Davenport House series. A life of luxury for the Davenports means drudgery for the servants on the grand country estate. This is their story in 1909 America, six years prior to the events of book one.

While her father is away on business, sixteen-year-old Mary Davenport feels confined and alone, despite her privileged life at the family’s mansion. As the day of Mary’s debutante ball draws near, the servants are conflicted by instructions from Mary’s mother to starve her until she fits into a gown that was made too small. Mary is also under pressure to act the part of society while being forbidden from seeing her only friend, the servant boy who works in the stable.

In a shantytown hours away, a young girl called Abigail is hired to sew a gown for a dressmaker’s wealthy patron. Abigail gives up her education in order to provide for her impoverished family. Neither she nor Mary is aware of how connected their futures are destined to become.

Author Bio:
Marie Silk has enjoyed writing stories and plays since childhood. She lives with her family in the United States and travels the globe as often as life permits. She is an admirer of history, antiques, and architecture. Marie is the author of the best selling Davenport House family saga.


Debutante - Prequel
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