Josh Lanyon said of the book,
“Smart, original and engaging... This is not your mother's historical romance!”
This is a classic case of me being in the right place in the right time. I'd known Lee Rowan since before she was Lee Rowan, so when she said she was looking for a third story to go in an anthology - with Erastes! - and was I interested, there was only one answer, wasn't there?
I thought it might be fun, days when there's nothing else happening here, to work through the back list chronologically. So, here's my story Aftermath
The time: 1920. The place: Oxford University. Since arriving at the college in the autumn, Edward Easterby has admired, and desired, popular and dashing Hugo Lamont from afar, never believing he had a chance for friendship—or more—with the man. Edward uses a chance, unfortunate encounter as a moment for an apology and a tentative conversation. Hugo, wary and guarded from a previous, unsatisfying liaison, slowly lets his defences down and opens his heart to the budding relationship between them. Poetic and beautifully written, Aftermath will stay with you long after Edward and Hugo’s picnic basket has been packed away.
The morning after Easterby had ended up so slaughtered, the whole college was woken by great crashes of thunder and forks of lightning slashing through the sky. The noise drummed into Lamont’s head and he found he couldn’t return to his slumbers. He contented himself with a pot of tea, a novel and trying to forget about the day before. When the rain had subsided enough to let him venture out, he sauntered to the porters’ lodge to look for his post. Marsh nodded to him, passing the time of day and regretting that the inclement weather had done the unforgivable thing of delaying the mail delivery. Despite that, a single letter was nestled in Lamont’s pigeon hole. He took it back to his set, alight with curiosity.
the correspondence carefully—recognising neither the hand nor the style of paper. He lifted the envelope to his face and tried to detect if there was any faint hint of perfume or other odour. Defeated, he drew out the sheets and began to read. The immediate anger he felt when, as he always did, he looked at the signature first, dissolved as he read the words. They were stiff, proper, laden with regret and formality. He could imagine the younger man sitting and drawing every word out as if it were a recalcitrant tooth.
He guessed right. Easterby had indeed drafted and redrafted this letter to so many times that his wastepaper basket had overflowed, his pen needed refilling time and again and his fingers had ended up a mass of black ink.
Lamont was greatly touched by the strong emotion that seemed to pour out of the carefully chosen words. The letter began with profuse apologies—I should have known better, not fit behaviour for a gentleman—followed by gallantry—I’d be pleased to pay for a replacement pair. He smiled at this, well aware that Easterby couldn’t have the foggiest idea of how much those brogues had cost. Then there was contrition—I hope for forgiveness but I’d understand if this could not be found—finally, hopelessness—I’d understand if you wished to have no further communication. The matter of the new shoes can be negotiated by a go-between.
Lamont put down the letter with a sigh. If it had been just about anyone else in the college, then he could have forgiven him easily enough, with a laugh and a drink. With Easterby, this seemed impossible. To approach the man, even in reply to this painful letter, would be inviting danger. Were they to be alone together, Lamont might find he couldn’t control his emotions. He’d managed to do so before, in some fairly strained circumstances, with other people he’d found attractive, but the intense desire he felt for this young man, desire that was strangely ignited again by this letter, might be beyond his ability to keep in check.