Thank you so much, lovely Addison, for having me as your guest again. I’m Ellie Thomas, I write MM Historical Romance, and I’m here today to chat about Coming of Age, my November release for JMS Books.
Although this story can be read as a standalone, it’s the third story in my Regency romp Twelve Letters series, which started as a one-off story for JMS Books’ Twelfth Anniversary before my characters had other ideas!
The first story, set in London in the spring Season of 1814, is introduced by my ensemble cast led by easy-going Jolyon Everett and his quick-tempered best friend Captain Ben Harding. The story relates how they both find love through the Twelve Letters of the title.
Queer Relations, the second story, set in the autumn of the same year, concentrates on spoiled golden boy Percy Havilland and how an unexpected family scandal brings him closer to his older lover Nathaniel Brooks, and to our group of friends who support him throughout the crisis.
Despite the example of his appalling parents, Percy realises he has a conscience and manages to care for someone other than himself and by the end of the story in the spring of 1815, he is about to guide his younger sister Eustacia through her first Season, despite the ramifications of the family scandal.
In Coming of Age, which starts a few months after Queer Relations, the Season is over, Eustacia has returned home to Sussex, and Percy is faced with his permanently diminished social status. This feels especially irksome since he has a birthday approaching which won’t be celebrated in spectacular style, with him being feted by the ton.
Percy developed as a much more rounded character in Queer Relations than the spoiled brat we met in Twelve Letters, and in this third story, both by design and accident he becomes a much more caring and mature individual to those around him.
His template relationship is with Nathan, a practical and sensible man in his mid-thirties, who has been his rock throughout the Season and tolerates Percy’s petulant mood swings with true forbearance. For the first time, rather than a superficial and short-lived fling based on Percy’s good looks and desirability, Percy is involved in a relationship with someone he genuinely respects and cares for. As Percy is still a bit of a brat, this emotional development is not altogether an easy or comfortable experience. He is shaken by this new sensation of vulnerability and confusion around opening his heart to the utterly trustworthy Nathan, which proves to be the catalyst for his coming of age.
After the London Season of 1815, having guided his younger sister Eustacia through her come out despite the social impact of a disastrous family scandal, Percy Havilland is at a loose end. Accustomed to being spoiled and generally admired, although still wealthy, he is shunned by most of the ton. Also, he discovers that he misses looking after his sister now she’s returned to the family estate in Sussex. Taking his frustrations out on Nathaniel Brooks, his long-suffering lover, only makes Percy more uncertain about his future.
Also, Percy’s good friend Jo Everett is having his own problems, thwarted in his dearest wish to share a home with the love of his life, Daniel Walters, a hardworking Bond Street tailor. And the final couple in the ensemble, Captain Ben Harding and Dr Edward Stephens realises the course of true love doesn’t always run smoothly.
Can this society of gentlemen solve their romantic dilemmas to their satisfaction? And might Percy, with a birthday looming, surprise himself by opening up to love?
In between dances with his hostess’ daughters, Jo could not help but witness a complementary series of moves around the edge of the ballroom as the night progressed.
He had arranged to arrive with Percy, well aware that despite Percy’s formal invitation and the good graces of a favoured guest in Mrs. Dalrymple, walking into a crowded salon alone could be an isolating experience where those who wished to be disparaging would take full advantage. Jo’s presence was a welcome buffer, and it was no hardship for him to ensure a cordial start to the evening.
Naturally, the two men separated as the music commenced, with both of them engaged on the dance floor. Mrs. Southerby was not only financially generous towards the soldiers’ charity that Jo oversaw, but also showed great interest in helping in several practical ways, so Jo felt duty bound to demonstrate his gratitude by squiring her numerous female relatives for the remainder of the soirée.
Without such pressing obligations, Percy could afford to pause from dancing and bow out for a set or two. Halfway through the evening, from his position in the centre of the ballroom, Jo noticed Nathan’s entrance during one such refreshment break. Uh-oh, he thought as Nathan perceived Percy immediately, his rough-hewn features hardening into a scowl.
Percy, with his back to the door where Nathan had entered, was engaged in a lengthy conversation with the amiable Mrs. Dalrymple, his great supporter, who enjoyed nothing so much as an extensive and harmless flirtation with a gorgeous young man in a public setting. Jo was too occupied with guiding a somewhat wayward and chatty dance partner through her steps to gather the precise moment when Percy became aware that his disgruntled lover was present.
To an unpractised eye, it would seem as though Percy was entirely oblivious of Nathan for a full quarter-hour, but Jo had been at the receiving end of Percy’s games sufficiently to recognise some small but telling signs. In the old days, before Percy became involved with Nathan, Jo surmised as he twirled yet another young lady, Percy would have openly played the coquet with several of his most avid admirers to arouse jealousy or ardour in the breast of his current paramour.
Although Percy’s coterie had diminished somewhat with his family’s fall from grace, he would still be able to gather a circle of potential suitors had he so wished, but genuine attachment had modified his strategies. So Percy alternated between squiring ladies onto the dance floor before returning to exchange a few more words with his hostess or Mrs. Dalrymple. Nathan, who was not disposed to dance, and was much vaunted for his financial and business prowess, was talking in a quiet corner with other serious-minded gentlemen.
Jo could not help but notice how, apparently artlessly, Percy orbited closer, casually selecting dance partners in ever-decreasing circles to Nathan’s proximity. Once they were within touching distance, instead of confrontation or apology, there was a teasing glance, just a flash of those glorious blue eyes directed at Nathan. The next occasion warranted a delicate half-smile revealing a hint of a dimple.
Depending on the prowess of his current dance partner, Jo watched this progress with fascination as Nathan’s forbidding expression subtly softened at each circuit until Percy’s careful choreography drew them together. By the time Jo consumed a well-deserved glass of punch and discreetly mopped his brow with his handkerchief, the previously warring duo was standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Percy tilted his golden head winningly as he uttered a bon mot that made Nathan smile in genuine amusement, all annoyance forgotten.
Jo was unsure whether to be impressed or appalled at Percy’s scheming ways and his ability to manipulate the most clear-thinking and hard-headed fellow from a state of severe exasperation to pliable putty.
He wasn’t remotely surprised when shortly afterwards, Percy prettily made his excuses to his hostess, with Nathan taking his leave after a decent interval of a full five minutes. So neither of them will suffer a lonely night, Jo thought with a grin. All’s well that ends well. That is, until the next spat.
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.