Heart’s Home, by H.B. Pattskyn, is a steamy erotic romance set in Victorian London. Here’s the official blurb from the publisher, Dreamspinner Press:
“Outcast werewolf Alun Blayney is jaded, fearful of what could happen if even one human were to discover monsters are real. Police Constable James Heron is an idealistic young man convinced that love can overcome any differences. When they meet over the body of a woman murdered in the streets of 19th century London, they form an uneasy friendship.
As the murder investigation progresses, the attraction between them grows, but before they can see the case or their relationship through, there are obstacles to overcome. A sadistic pack leader is out to get Alun, a daemon has fallen in love with James, and James’s immediate supervisor is determined to pin the recent murders—and last year’s rash of Whitechapel homicides—on Alun.”
Hi! This is officially my second time doing a guest blog spot and I’m happy to be here! My first guest appearance was back in July for Shifter Month and I had a blast writing it. For those who didn’t catch me then, let me go ahead and introduce myself and my book:
My name is H.B. Pattskyn—or just Helen to my friends. And yes, that’s my real name. My website is helenpattskyn.com, and I’m a writer and an artist. Oh and I read tarot and runes, too. Although I write in other genres, I have become completely enamored of m/m romance, probably because I spent the last five years writing Torchwood fanfiction (Torchwood is a British Science Fiction series with an in-cannon m/m relationship).
My debut novel is called Heart’s Home and as the cover suggests, it’s pretty steamy. I got the idea it from a painting I saw in the art show at Dragon*Con, in 2010. The picture was of woman in Victorian garb standing with a werewolf companion on the streets of London. The image sparked a series of “what ifs” in my head—but more than anything, I was instantly drawn to the idea of writing something in the Victorian era. I love the Victorian aesthetic and had already done a fair amount of research on the clothing of both that and the Edwardian era for my wedding, back in 2004 (I’ll put some pictures of my wedding on my website, so you can see what I mean). The short version of the story is that when my Scotsman husband (then boyfriend, of course) proposed to me (sort of, but that’s another story), I started constructing ideas in my head of what the wedding would look like, and it definitely included him in a kilt. Yumm.
That, however, never happened. Instead, my beau came to me and said “you remember that coat that the guy who played Dracula wore in the movie with Wynonna Ryder? I’d like to wear a coat like that to walk down the aisle.” I thought a moment, nodded dumbly and scurried off to the computer to look it up, because while I remembered the movie, I didn’t remember a coat. I mean, I knew they’d worn them, but nothing stood out as particularly spectacular. But then again, my hubby wasn’t the only on ogling Ms. Ryder! (Yes, I like girls. Gasp. ;-)
I found some pictures of the coat in question, and began doing some research on the period to get some feel for what the rest of the wedding party would be wearing. Before I knew what had happened, I’d acquired more knowledge of Victorian and Edwardian tailoring than any woman living in the 21st century ought to have at her mental fingertips. So when it came time to write Heart’s Home, I had a pretty good idea of how miserable the women were and little had changed in men’s fashion in the last hundred years. (Although I would like to thank Fritz from The Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron for helping me sort out ties vs. cravats).
Since I knew what my characters would be wearing, the next task was to figure out where they would be wearing it and who would see them. Almost at once, I knew I wanted to set my story in the shadow of Jack the Ripper. Jack never makes an appearance, but using the Whitechapel Murders as a backdrop set the tone I was looking for.
I read both factual and fictional accounts of the era; one of the best novels I came across was Street Lavender by Chris Hunt. I have to admit there are things about it I didn’t like—but they were the kinds of things no one should like and they weren’t written for titillation. It was simply an accurate accounting of the way things might have happened.
I also discovered the writing of Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929), an extraordinary man who lived almost openly with his male lover for many years—at least as openly as two men could be in their time. Neither had a wife, but rather they shared a home together in the country. Carpenter wrote books about social reform which included works about homosexuality (a term I discovered that had only recently been coined in Carpenter’s time. Up the late 1800’s, the most flattering word to describe men who loved other men was “contrasexual”). I also discovered the work of Carpenter’s “predecessor”, John Addington Symonds, who, in addition to addressing the issue of homosexuality from a philosophical point of view, translated a book of poetry by Michelangelo (yes, that Michelangelo) restoring the original male pronouns in the artist’s romantic poems—pronouns which had been made female by conservative translators previously.
Ironically, homosexuality, while publically frowned upon, wasn’t that big of a secret, especially amongst the lower classes. It seems to me that the biggest edict was “don’t get caught, be discreet”—you’ll see that attitude reflected in Heart’s Home, along with the very real fear Alun has of will happen to him, if he and James ever are caught.
During the writing of Heart’s Home, I learned some more mundane facts about life in Victorian London, too. There was an enormous class divide—we might think it funny in My Fair Lady, but the truth of it was that the poor lived in abysmal conditions. Frankly, none of us would want to live in the upper class’s shoes, either. Indoor plumbing was fairly common by then, but rather than a bathroom, there was a “water close” added to the back of the house. There were a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which was that before the invention of the S pipe, rats could easily crawl up from the sewer… There was no escape for the stench of the Thames or the smoke pouring from the chimney pots, however, and let’s not talk about what you get when you have a city full of horse drawn carriages and busses… And did you know that gloves weren’t routinely worn by medical examiners when they performed autopsies until the 1900’s.
Yuck is right.
And this seems like a really good place to publically thank Lynn, at Dreamspinner, for catching a couple of factual errors (and a few bloopers, but that’s a story for another time, too).
So without further ado, how about an excerpt—that has nothing to do with history! It is, however, one of my favorite scenes. This picks up a few pages after where the last one left off (back from July’s blog); Percival left Alun a bloody mess and, of course, it was James who found him, and took him home. Mrs. Dunberry is James’s housekeeper. She didn’t exactly make Alun feel welcome the first time James invited him over…
Alun barely remembered their arrival: Mrs. Dunberry’s unexpected concern, James telling his housekeeper that no, she didn’t need to send for Dr. Stodderley, he could care for Alun himself, he just needed her to bring hot water and clean towels, some bandages. Then James took Alun upstairs, stripped him down, and washed him so very carefully, telling him over and over how he didn’t want to hurt him. Apologizing every time Alun winced.
After James got him into bed, things went blank for a while. The first time he woke up, he hadn’t known where he was. He’d panicked, aching muscles straining, ready to fight. To flee. But then James was there, telling him he was safe… home. When Alun looked into those mossy-green eyes he almost felt like it was true. Only no human could be his home, even one who plied him with tea and broth and laid fresh compresses on his bruises and cuts. Even one who sat with him until he slept again.
The second time he woke, Alun found James sitting in the bed next to him, reading aloud from a book. It wasn’t one Alun knew—not that he knew many—but it wasn’t the words that mattered, it was the sound of James’s voice that told him he was safe. He was where he wanted to be.
He’d lain still for many long moments, not wanting James to know he was awake, not wanting him to stop reading. He didn’t know that James had already been reading to him for almost an hour, occasionally reaching down to stroke his hair or his cheek, relieved that the swelling finally seemed to be going down.
When James finally noticed he was awake, he smiled and coaxed Alun into drinking more tea, eating a bit of bread and some cold beef—the leftovers of his own, barely touched, supper. Then James picked the book back up and started reading again. Alun shifted as close as he dared and closed his eyes.
Waking for the third time, Alun saw through an opening in the heavy brown drapes that night had fallen over the city. Next to him, James was asleep. He was still in his day clothes, and lay, most propitiously, on top of the blankets. Alun smiled; their noses were so close together that if he’d dared, he could have leaned in and stolen a kiss. He imagined the constable’s pink lips would feel as soft as they looked, that his mouth would taste savory and earthy. He ached to find out, to touch him… to make you mine… but instead, he only reached out and brushed a strand of hair off James’s forehead.
“Why’d you bring me back home?” The word stuck in Alun’s throat.
“If you were….”
Lycan. If James were a lycan, Alun would bury his nose in his hair, inhale his scent, tell him what he wanted. A mate. Or at least someone he could curl up with at night, wake up with in the morning. Someone to face the day with. Maybe a pair of male lycans could never form a proper mating bond, but at least a lycan would have understood what he wanted. Needed. Another lycan would want the same things from him. A human never would. Never could. Humans didn’t mate. They married. Divorced. Hurt one another.
As if in response to his thoughts, James shifted closer, bringing his head to rest on Alun’s shoulder, and Alun gave in to temptation. He wrapped his arms around the younger man; James was the perfect fit against him. If you were mine….
In his sleep, James let out a soft, contented-sounding sigh. Alun closed his eyes. Even if James was different, if he didn’t lie and wouldn’t cheat, he was still human. Humans feared what they didn’t understand and hated what they feared. He didn’t know why James had brought him home, why he’d risked so much to help him. He only knew that if James ever discovered what he was, he would turn on him the way men always turned on wolves. It was, as his taid, his grandfather, would say, a fact of life.
“I should be going,” Alun whispered, not wanting to wake the sleeping man—not wanting to leave, but knowing he had to. It would be better for both of them if he wasn’t there when James woke up. But first, he leaned in and rubbed his cheek gently against James’s soft hair, covering his face in the younger man’s scent. It would only last a few hours, but he wanted—
He froze, panic fluttering in his chest. “I….” How could he explain what he was doing?
The last time I did a guest blog on Guys like Romance Too!, I gave away of a copy of Heart’s Home. But that was back in July and it’s September now—and I have a new release coming out… or maybe already out (as of this writing, I don’t have a solid date, just that it’s due in September). So here’s the skivvy: if you want to win a copy of Heart’s Home, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and say so.
If you want a shot at a kinky BDSM novel (that has absolutely nothing to do with history), drop me an email (same as above) and say you’d like a chance to win Bound: Forget Me Knot.
If you need a little more information on either title, go to my website, helenpattskyn.com, and click on the appropriate tab.
I will be selecting TWO winners, one for each title.
And yes, you can enter to win both ;-) I’ll select a winner at random on Oct. 1st.
As always, international entrants are welcome.
Thanks again to Carson for having me!