Please join me in welcoming fellow author Ellie Thomas to Stories That Make You Smile! Ellie’s got a brand new historical short story out and is here to tell us all about it!
Thank you so much for having me as your guest today! I’m Ellie Thomas and I write Historical Gay Romance. In this blog, I’ll be chatting about my latest story with JMS Books, released on July 10th. It’s a Hot Flash entitled A Roll of the Dice.
It can be uncanny how inspiration comes out of the blue from an unexpected source. The idea for this tale started when watching an excellent three-part tv documentary on the story of Welsh art – of all things!
I love all things eighteenth century and especially writing about that period of history. So, when the programme focused on artists of that particular time, I was completely rapt. I heard for the first time about the landscape artist Richard Wilson (1713-82), who was one of the first of his peers to popularise the landscape genre. I was not only fascinated by his story and his artwork, but it also got my imagination whirring.
In the same way, my main character Joshua has Jones as a surname in honour of the Welsh artist Thomas Jones (1742-1803). Like his namesake, Joshua studies in London under the great Richard Wilson. While writing about Joshua’s experiences, I couldn’t resist including a real-life humorous anecdote about students misbehaving in class which Thomas Jones had recorded in his diaries.
So, as I had sketched in the artistic backdrop for my story, my next task was to devise my characters. When the story started unfolding in my mind, I happened to come across an article on influential black composers and musicians in Europe in the eighteenth century, including the Chevalier de St. Georges (1745-1799) who was dubbed ‘The Black Mozart’. This inspired me to make Joshua both an aspiring artist and a man of colour.
Many artists at that time, including Richard Wilson and Thomas Jones, were drawn to London to study, exhibit and establish their names in artistic circles, so that city seemed the ideal setting. In my story, Joshua leaves his home city of Bristol in the West of England to stay with relatives in London to try to make his mark on the art world.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, although a major city and growing fast, London was not endless urban sprawl familiar to us now, but could still be crossed on foot. This relatively short distance made me consider in which specific districts to place my characters and how to arrange their first meeting.
Since the Royal Academy of Art in London was based in Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane in those very early days, that got me thinking about nearby Whitehall and the St. James’ Palace area, lined with exclusive masculine gambling and drinking clubs which were a core of political power and influence at the time.
These qualities embody the character of Frank, Joshua’s love interest, who moves easily amongst influential diplomatic circles. As Joshua funds his daytime art studies by working as a waiter in a gambling club by night, this seemed an ideal meeting point for my couple. In such an intensely male, hot-house situation, I could easily imagine how a spark of mutual attraction could flare into romance.
Joshua Jones is in London to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. As a young black man from a modest background, he works hard to pay for his painting classes, both as a fencing master’s assistant, then as a waiter in an exclusive gaming club, which his uncle manages.
During the London Season when the club as at its busiest, the last thing Joshua expects is to find romance. But when mesmerising older man, Frank Bartlett, is determined to seduce him, how can he resist? Joshua now finds he has another problem. How can he stop himself falling for the object of his desire?
As they sat by the fireplace, Joshua looked around him with interest, noting the shelves of books and the writing desk piled high with correspondence. Pouring them both a glass of wine, Frank sat back and smiled at Joshua’s observation.
“Does my home meet with your approval?” Frank asked.
Joshua grinned. “I was expecting more of a palace,” he replied, which make Frank laugh, revealing that strong column of his throat that made Joshua catch his breath.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” Frank said, smiling.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed,” Joshua said with a tinge of flirtation, knowing he was playing with fire. Frank glanced at him with a knowing flickering glimmer that set Joshua’s pulses racing. He was achingly aware that the consideration and snatched conversations of previous evenings would escalate in this intimate setting.
“If you are in the mood,” Frank said silkily, reaching for a pack of cards and moving a nearby side table between them, “I thought we might play a game.”
Joshua almost blurted out that he did not gamble, when he suddenly realised that the stakes were far riskier, or rather risqué, than money. “Pick a card,” Frank invited him. Breathlessly, Joshua did so and putting it down on the table, he saw he had selected the Ten of Hearts. Frank followed suit, placing down the Two of Spades. “I lose,” he said, smiling as he shrugged off his coat.
Joshua’s eyes widened. “I think I like this game,” he said, picking the next card. As it was his turn to select a lower card, he chose to remove his neckcloth as slowly as possible, his adversary glued to his every movement. Then Frank lost his waistcoat, his large body visible under his linen shirt which made Joshua’s mouth go dry. He gulped his wine before picking the next card. They chose an equal number and in accord, both removed their shirts. Joshua could not take his eyes from that massive chest and brawny torso and Frank seemed equally breathless at the sight of Joshua’s lithe and sinewy brown body.
“Perhaps we should take this into the bedroom?” Frank suggested, rising and holding out his hand. Joshua followed willingly and as soon as the bedroom door was shut behind them, they were in each other’s arms.
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Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.
Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.