✨ Guest Post ✨
Thanks, lovely Addison, for having me as your guest again! I’m Ellie, I write MM Historical Romance novellas, and I’m here today to chat about my new story, The Monk’s Lair, currently in the 20% new release sale at JMS Book until November 3rd.
I thoroughly enjoy writing seasonal stories, but there is a slight complication with Halloween tales since I write historical romance. And Halloween is a comparatively recent festival to celebrate!
For my first Halloween story, A Tricky Situation, rather than modern associations, I used the idea of Halloween as a moral pivot point. In 18th century Bristol, my MC Kit is faced with choosing his life path between love and happiness or superficial greed and false friends. My next Halloween story, A Trick of the Light, loosely followed on from that theme, set not only in the same city and district but even the same house! However, it’s now the 1950s, and Kenneth is trying to follow his ambitions and the man of his dreams, encouraged by Kit appearing in ghostly form.
I thought I’d do something completely different this year and go full-on Gothic! In some ways, although there’s nothing particularly seasonal about the Gothic novel, it certainly does follow lots of Halloween themes and allows for extra spookiness.
So in The Monk’s Lair, I could chuck in a haunted abbey, the spectre of an evil ghost and his monkish henchmen with abandon! During my research, I read and thoroughly enjoyed some chapters from The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, a celebrated Georgian writer of the classic Gothic novel. In Mrs Radcliffe’s story, the heroine faints a great deal, and the hero is suitably noble and gallant. So I thought it would be fun to incorporate some of those qualities into my main characters, Christian and Sam. Christian, a shy and introspective young man, has a specific psychic gift that allows him to tap into his surroundings and access the distant past. This ability attracts the evil intentions of the ghostly monk. It’s hardly surprising that poor Christian is subject to fainting fits while experiencing such alarming visions. I enjoyed pairing ethereal, unworldly Christian with outgoing and enthusiastic Sam as they combine to foil the monk’s dastardly plans. And meanwhile, they embark on the greatest adventure of all by falling in love.
The Monk’s Lair
by Ellie Thomas
Release Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023
Genre: Gay Historical Paranormal Erotic Romance
Length: Novelette / 15,364 Words / 66 Pages
Heat Rating: 3 Flames
Christian Maxwell is used to being alone. A delicate and over-imaginative young man, he is abandoned to his own devices and company in his family’s Wiltshire country home. When his aunt, concerned for his well-being, insists on him accompanying her to the Welsh Borders for a country house party in the autumn of 1816, Christian is resigned to being surrounded by people for the duration.
One particular guest, Sam Gillespie, a handsome amateur scientist of a similar age to Christian, is determined to befriend him. When Sam persuades Christian to join him on an expedition to the scenic ruins of Tintern Abbey, they stumble across an isolated valley that contains a long-dead and sinister monastic force.
Their dreams are haunted by the spirit of the place, and so the pair band together to find out the valley’s dark history, kindling their romance along the way. But their ghostly foe is more tenacious than they could imagine. Can Christian and Sam manage to defeat the black monk and find lasting happiness?
“I was informed that there are visible remains of the Elizabethan wireworks and marks of quarrying around these hills,” Sam said with zeal.
Christian was entertained by Sam’s constant thirst for knowledge. Rather than feeling diminished or drained by Sam’s more forceful character, he fancied his endless energy was a positive influence.
“Are you up to carrying on a while further?” The hope in Sam’s voice was irresistible. Christian was only glad of his regular rambles on his family’s land, although the South Wiltshire countryside was not as dramatic or steeply inclined as the Welsh borders.
They carried on until the road dwindled into a lane. Eventually, it forked, the upper reach climbing towards a collection of scattered cottages, while the other branch skirted the hill on a more even gradient. They decided on the more level option, walking until Sam espied a rough path leading downhill.
“I’m sure we’ll find something interesting around here,” he said, thrashing ahead through the undergrowth. “Harris informed me that there are several abbey granges hereabouts. But I reckon that by now, I can distinguish monastic medieval from industrial Tudor.”
Rambling with such purpose might not be Christian’s first choice of spending a clement afternoon. But it would be churlish to complain since Sam had shown him every consideration. He also found Sam’s brand of enthusiasm hard to resist, even when dampened with temporary frustration that his goal proved elusive.
Then there was Sam’s unfailing civility. Instead of forging ahead, he constantly paused to hold a branch to stop it from springing back into Christian’s face or warned him of an approaching patch of slippery ground.
As a result, Christian was disposed to enjoy their interlude. Venturing on a quest with a gallant young man was an activity he usually pursued between the pages of a book.
He was unable to pinpoint exactly when his optimism started to wane. They headed downhill on the increasingly overgrown path into a small cleft that Sam was convinced held buried treasure or at least the remains of past industry. At first, Christian enjoyed his surroundings. The dappled sunshine through the sheltering trees, their leaves still green and plentiful, was a welcome accompaniment to the faint breeze that cooled their progress.
Similar to a headache or nausea, the unease came gradually as they descended the slope, unremarkable until it became a definable presence. The equivalent of a whiff of something foul, a forewarning of a nearby corpse of a recently dead animal. Christian hesitated, wondering if his imagination was playing tricks. Then he became conscious of the unearthly silence around him. An ominous heaviness now filled the air, unalleviated by birdsong or a breath of wind.
Christian’s senses were on high alert, telling him to stop, to turn back, to leave this place at once. Not wanting to lose sight of Sam through the scarcely visible track, clogged by the summer’s growth of grass, nettles and brambles, he continued reluctantly until his premonition reached screaming pitch. Every instinct forbade him to trespass further.
“Sam, stop. I think we’re heading the wrong way,” he called urgently, hoping his voice didn’t betray the extent of his desperation.
Obediently, Sam came tramping back towards him, wiping his brow with his shirt sleeve. Christian was so occupied with his searing panic that he barely noted how dashing his companion appeared, his coat removed and tied by its arms around his slim waist, his sleeves rolled up to reveal strong forearms, lightly dusted with dark hair.
“You’re probably right,” Sam said. “I reckon we’ve come too far downhill. If there is anything to be discovered, it’s probably an outpost of the old abbey rather than anything worthwhile.”
Christian’s trepidation started to abate at Sam’s willingness to concede. Seizing the initiative, Christian led the way uphill. At least their advance was eased by the path they had already trampled.
Sam’s words lingered in his mind. They had instantly summoned an image of the disused grange in the depths of the small valley. Unlike Tintern, which had filled Christian with peace, this emanation held disquiet, even menace.
About the Author
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.