Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday's Memorial Moment: The Door Behind Us by John C Houser

It’s 1919, and Frank Huddleston has survived the battlefields of the Great War. A serious head injury has left him with amnesia so profound he must re-learn his name every morning from a note posted on the privy door.

Gerald “Jersey" Rohn, joined the Army because he wanted to feel like a man, but he returned from the trenches minus a leg and with no goal for his life. He’s plagued by the nightmare of his best friend’s death and has nervous fits, but refuses to associate those things with battle fatigue. He can't work his father's farm, so he takes a job supervising Frank, who is working his grandparents’ farm despite his head injury.

When Frank recovers enough to ask about his past, he discovers his grandparents know almost nothing about him, and they’re lying about what they do know. The men set out to discover Frank's past and get Jersey a prosthesis. They soon begin to care for each other, but they'll need to trust their hearts and put their pasts to rest if they are to turn attraction into a loving future.

Original Review May 2015:
This is an amazing story of love, friendship, and overcoming both physical and emotional difficulties.  Added on top of all that, it was a time when a gay relationship was not only shunned but illegal.  Jersey and Frank both have their own issues to overcome that linger after returning from the war, alone they just manage to "get by" but together they find strength to not only get by but also grow and overcome.  I loved the way the author dealt with their individual issues and meshed them together at the same time.  Not all the characters are likeable but they aren't suppose to be and the author writes them in a way that is understandable, at times leaves the reader wanting to shake them till they realize what they are saying and doing could do with some rethinking.  A definite must for those who love historicals and for those that enjoy a good romance and character study, because you just might find something that makes today a little brighter, I know I did.


Chapter 1
THE YOUNG man still had a dressing over one ear and a crust of blood inside one nostril. The doctor paged through the chart. Notations recorded progress as good as could be expected for such a recent amputee. “Mind if I look?” He pulled back the sheet and noted the wound drained normally. “How’d he rest last night?”

The resident pulled at his narrow tie. “Poorly. He was yelling and thrashing around. That’s why I asked for you to look in.”

“Hmm. Has he been given anything to help him sleep?”

“No, he even tried to refuse the morphine.”

“That’s interesting.” He watched the steady rise and fall of the muscular chest. “He’s a sergeant. Was he a squad leader? Do you know what happened to him?”

The resident shook his head, yawning. “Nope. He hasn’t said much.”

“Does he know about the leg?”

“We told him there was too much nerve damage.”

“The nightmares started before the surgery?”

“Before.” The resident yawned again. “From the first night he was here.”

“There’s not much I can do for him until he wakes up. You’ll have me paged?”

Chapter 2
FRANK CAME into the barn sniffing the air like the scent might tell him whether the place was dangerous.

“About time you got here. Saw the note, I take it? Any questions?” Charlie watched the boy take in the stone barn, from hayloft to the three-legged stool where he sat. “Questions?” he prompted the boy a second time.

Cocking his head as if sorting through a stack of mental index cards, the boy eventually picked a pair of questions. “What happened to me? Why can’t I remember?”

“You received a head injury, maybe from a shell explosion. That’s what the quacks at the hospital told us. But that doesn’t answer your question, does it? Why don’t you remember anything? I don’t know. Here, grab a bucket. I expect your hands remember how to milk a cow, even if your head don’t.” Charlie watched the boy’s hand creep upward to touch his head. “Queenie knows you, even if you don’t know her.”

Frank picked up a bucket hesitantly.

Charlie nodded at a Jersey cow that stamped impatiently at her stanchion. “She’s waiting.”

What was it like for the boy to discover who he was every morning from a note tacked to the door of the privy? If the boy had any feelings about it, he never told Charlie.

THE BOY discovered the note after waking in an unfamiliar room. Pale light filtered through a dusty window at the end of a tunnellike dormer. Feeling exposed even under a woolen blanket, he slid to the floor and rolled part way underneath the bed. More comfortable with the solid frame looming over him, he stayed for a time, staring upward. As the light strengthened, he let his gaze follow the lines of wood grain in the window frame. The builder of this house had cut matching pieces for the verticals, their patterns mirrored on either side of the window.

Eventually he rose and struggled out of the tangled bedclothes. A small writing desk, cluttered with loose sheets of writing paper, a fountain pen, and an inkpot, was tucked into the dormer. A stack of unopened envelopes lay next to the writing supplies. The first was postmarked in July of 1918, and the last in October of the same year. Why didn’t this fellow, Francis Huddleston, open his mail?

Gut fluttering like an anxious bird, he peered under the bed for a chamber pot. Finding none, he rushed down to the second floor looking for a toilet or the way to the privy. Steps led down toward either end of the house. The set in the back were coarse and painted rather than finished, a servant’s stair. He knew the term, even if he didn’t know where he’d learned it. Down again, he found a large kitchen and heavy door framed in pantry shelves. He ran out into the yard. A well-worn path led to a small, clapboard structure with high windows. A minute later, as he tried not to breathe the acrid stink, he noticed a ruled sheet of writing paper tacked to the door in front of him. GOOD MORNING was blocked out in square letters.

Your name is Francis “Frank” Huddleston. You are a soldier, returned from the war in Europe. The white-haired man milking the cows in the barn is your grandfather, Charlie Clark. He will welcome your help with the chores. When you return from the barn, the gray-haired woman in the kitchen will give you breakfast. She is your grandmother, Edith “Eddy” Clark.

Charlie continued to milk his own cow and watched as Frank began to squeeze a stream of milk from Queenie’s teats, the familiar act calming the boy. Soon the milk squirted steadily, and Frank fell into a kind of trance, his movements automatic, until a diminishing stream and restless stamp from Queenie signaled time to change to a new pair of teats. Shifting to a new set, he rested his head against Queenie’s side and continued mechanically.

Charlie finished first and went to stand behind the boy. When Frank was done, he placed his hands on his knees and looked around. Charlie held his breath and watched Frank’s face. But there was only a tightening around Frank’s mouth and a narrowed gaze. Charlie sighed and placed a hand on Frank’s shoulder. “It’s all right, boy. I’m your grandfather, Charlie Clark. You’re Frank Huddleston, come home from the war with a head injury. That’s why you don’t know me. Let’s go in and meet your grandmother. She’ll give us something to eat. Are you hungry? Don’t forget your bucket.”

EDDY’S SPOTTED hands twisted in her lap as she spoke. “Charlie isn’t a young man anymore. You’re a great worker, Frank, but it’s the forgetting. With one of us staying with you all the time to answer your questions, we can’t….”

Frank fidgeted in his chair and let his gaze wander over the worn fixtures and scarred wood of the kitchen. He wondered if they would ask him to leave, the strangers who had fed him for months, judging from the thick wad of notes in his hand. Would their faces ever be familiar?

“… so Charlie and I, we’ve posted a notice at the Grange Hall. We hope to have someone here by the harvest.”

Frank became aware the room had fallen silent—except for the tap dripping in the sink and the birds calling outside. Eddy and Charlie. They watched him closely as if they expected something, as if they were unsure of his response. He didn’t know why. Eddy’s careful announcement seemed to have little to do with him.

“Will you hire someone I knew… before?”

“No, Frank. You were with your parents in Philadelphia before the war. Nobody around here knows you.” Charlie looked away. His voice took on a rote quality. “They thought you might be more comfortable here with us while you recovered.”

“Will the new person stay with me or work with you?”

Charlie rubbed fingers across his forehead like he was trying to erase the wrinkles there, but Eddy answered in firm tones. “We have to be careful with our money, Frank. It may be cheaper to hire somebody to keep an eye on you and to help you remember when you have one of your spells. Charlie will work around the house.”

Frank fingered his notes again. “So… you want me to keep feeding the horses and milking the cows?”

“Yes, you’ll do that and other work as well.”

“Now, Eddy.” Charlie’s voice was gentle. “The boy’s still recovering. I’m not dead yet.”

“He’s strong as a bull, Charlie.”

“I don’t mind doing more, if that’s what you want.” Frank shifted from face to face until he focused on the sharp furrows at the side of Eddy’s mouth. “Just tell me what you want.”

“That’s what the new man will do,” Eddy said, looking at Charlie.

Charlie’s gaze dropped to his callused hands.

John C. Houser Author Bio:
John C. Houser’s father, step-mother, and mother were all psychotherapists. When old enough, he escaped to Grinnell College, which was exactly halfway between his mother’s and father’s homes—and half a continent away from each. After graduation, he taught English for a year in Greece, attended graduate school, and eventually began a career of creating computer systems for libraries. Now he works in a strange old building that boasts a historic collection of mantelpieces–but no fireplaces.



Release Blitz: Murder in New York by CJ Baty

Title: Murder in New York
Author: CJ Baty
Series: Pinkerton Man #3
Genre: M/M Romance, Historical, Mystery
Release Date: May 27, 2018
Cover Design: Select-O-Grafix, LLC
Coming back to New York to see her ailing father, Lizzie Ferguson did not expect to find him healthy and newly married to a much younger woman. She, also, didn’t expect to connect with an old lover and childhood friend or be accused of killing her father. But, life has a way of knocking you to your knees when you least expect it.

Stiles Long had always regretted that the killer, from his first case as a Pinkerton Agent, had got away. Now, in New York it was happening again. The Hotel Astor Bar was a meeting place for men who enjoyed the company of men. And, some of them were being brutally murdered. When one of the suspects from the original case appears at the hotel, Stiles is torn between his desire to stop a killer and kiss the man senseless.

Two different cases, but some of the faces overlap from one to the other. Stiles and Lizzie are in a race to discover who the killers are before another body gets added to the count.

Michael O’Leary’s presence at the bar brought Stiles back to the present. He was dressed in a charcoal suit. His slim body moved with strong determination. As he approached the left end of the bar, he glanced across the room until his eyes saw Stiles. The sweet smile that spread across Michael’s face did funny things to Stiles insides. He quivered for a moment then smiled back, the reaction impossible to stop.

There were several younger men at the bar. One with dark curls framing an oval face. He wore a velvet evening coat the color of the night sky. Stiles had noticed him earlier but Gershon had distracted him with his departure.

“Michael,” the young man called out. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages. Why did you run out of here the other night?” He entwined his arm through Michael’s and led him to an empty space at the bar. He ordered them drinks and leaned in close to Michael to speak to him.

Stiles watched as the night wore on. Several men came and met with another man and left together. One young man stood out to Stiles. He appeared to be very nervous. His movements were stiff and not at all comfortable. Whenever someone would speak to him, he would jump and look around watching for something or possibly someone. A man several years older than Stiles approached the jumpy man and spoke to him. He noticeably relaxed as he accepted the drink he was offered, and a smile finally appeared on his face. He was very handsome and very young. Stiles estimated he was in his early twenties if that old. His face was angular and trim, not a hint of an evening beard appeared on his chin even at this late time of the day. The two were standing next to Michael and the man with the dark curls who wouldn’t let Michael out of his sight.

“Davis, I’m sorry but I am meeting someone tonight,” Stiles heard Michael say.

“What? I’m hurt Michael,” Davis answered. “How can you throw me aside like that?” He wiped at his eyes, though Stiles could see no tears.

“You’ll be just fine,” Michael said as he turned away from Davis. “Look, isn’t that Mr. Rupert over there.”

Davis looked across the room in the direction of a gray-haired man in a black suit with an emerald green tie. The pout disappeared from his face and he left Michael to join the man.

Michael approached Stiles table and bowed slightly.

“Is this seat taken?”

“No. Please sit.” Stiles motioned to the empty chair beside him.

A steward appeared asking for their drink orders and left as quickly as he had appeared.

“Davis seems quite a catch,” Stiles teased.

Michael looked down at his folded hands. There was a flush to his cheeks when he faced Stiles.

“We’ve met a few times. He’s not really interested in anything but having fun.”

The statement was leading but the steward arrived with their drinks and Stiles waited until he departed again to continue.

“What are you interested in?”

Michael circled his glass on the table with his index finger, making the ice clink. He lifted the glass and drank. Stiles watched as his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. His cock stiffened while he watched. Suddenly the room felt very warm.

“I know men like us aren’t supposed to want more than a dalliance to keep our urges at bay,” Michael sighed. “But what is wrong with wanting more.”


“Why is it that only men who marry women have the right to a life time of companionship? Someone to celebrate with when things are good or someone to cling to when the day has been awful, is it really too much to want that?”

Stiles wasn’t sure what Michael was getting at and he really didn’t understand the idea. Was he talking about men being together as in marriage? That was impossible. Society would never accept an arrangement such as that. There were laws, even in America that would forbid it.

“I know what you are thinking, it’s against the law. But why? Why is it so wrong to want a permanent relationship? I know what I want—what I need— is against nature and God, but why is it wrong to want to be loved? Just because it’s a man’s body that I crave, a man’s touch to start my blood boiling, a man’s look of desire…” He quieted as he looked at Stiles.

Stiles could see it in Michael’s eyes. Desire burned there. Need so strong, his pupils had darkened to a forest green. He’d never seen another man look at him that way. It was more than lust and Stiles had no name for it.

He’d been half hard since the man had walked into the room, now his painfully erect cock was straining to break free from his trousers. Stiles didn’t know what Michael was talking about, but he did know that his own lust was going to overpower him soon.

This evening had not gone as planned. Now, all he could think of was getting Michael into bed and taking what he needed and what the other man clearly wanted.

“My room?” Michael choked out quietly.

They rose without taking their eyes off each other. Neither said a word as they walked from the lounge through the lobby to the elevator.  Only their shoulders touched as they walked. Michael told the operator his floor and they rose slowly.

On the third floor, they walked side by side to a room half way down the right side of the hall. Michael withdrew a key from his trouser pocket and Stiles saw the bulge protruding at the front placket when Michael pushed his jacket aside. Lust raced through Stiles, hot and needy.

Series Summary:
The Pinkerton Man #1
Stiles Langberry leaves England under the dark cloud of blackmail. He resettles in America with a new name, becoming a Pinkerton Agent. His new employer sends him undercover to a brothel that serves homosexual men, where prostitutes are being murdered.

In the course of his investigation, he becomes involved with Paul, one of the prostitutes. Complicating matters, one of the suspects draws Stiles like no man before him. Stiles knows he must stop the killer before he strikes again.

Home on the Range #2
Pinkerton Agent Stiles Long is sent to the Circle W Ranch to uncover who is killing the ranch’s cattle. In order to discover the truth about the goings on at the ranch, Stiles has to prove to the ranchers he’s more than a good-looking city slicker.

Savage Beare, the head ranch foreman, is far from happy that Stiles is there to check things out. He has secrets of his own. Stiles finds Savage incredibly good-looking, but cold and aloof. He’s also a suspect. One of many.

When Stiles’ best friend and partner, Lizzie Ferguson, is kidnapped things begin to shake apart. Stiles doesn't trust anyone and he needs to find Lizzie before it's too late.

Author Bio:
CJ Baty lives in southwest Ohio with her very patient husband and two encouraging children. Her heart however, lives in the mountains of Tennessee where she hopes to retire some day. The mountains have always provided her with inspiration and a soothing balm to the stresses of everyday life.

The dream of writing her own stories started in high school but was left on the back burner of life until her son introduced her to Fan Fiction and encouraged her to give it a try. She found that her passion for telling a story was still there and writing them down to share with others was much more thrilling than she had ever expected.

One thing she has learned from life and she is often heard to say is, “You are never too old to follow your dream!”

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Murder in New York #3

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