Monday, May 18, 2015

Rite of Summer VBT

There are terrors worse than stage fright. Like falling in love.

Violinist Stephen Ashbrook is passionate about three things—his music, the excitement of life in London, and his lover, Evander Cade. It’s too bad that Evander only loves himself. A house party at their patron’s beautiful country estate seems like a chance for Stephen to remember who he is, when he’s not trying to live up to someone else’s harsh expectations.

Joshua Beaufort, a painter whose works are very much in demand among the right sort of people, has no expectations about this party at all. Until, that is, he finds out who else is on the guest list. Joshua swore off love long ago, but has been infatuated with Stephen since seeing his brilliant performance at Vauxhall. Now he has the chance to meet the object of his lust face to face—and more.

But changing an open relationship to a triad is a lot more complicated than it seems, and while Evander’s trying to climb the social ladder, Stephen’s trying to climb Joshua. When the dust settles, only two will remain standing...

The man in the portrait was not classically handsome. His mouth was too full and his hair too red for that, his jawline perhaps a little too soft. But his eyes crinkled at the corners with secret mirth, as though sharing a very private joke with the viewer, and those lush and generous lips curled up at one corner. He sat in a smock and his shirtsleeves, a palette on the table behind him. His head tilted very slightly to the side, like he was listening to some secret, lively song. His eyes caught and held Stephen, grey as stormclouds over the cliffs, a hint of blue that was the clear sky breaking through, and a knowing look that struck some chord deep within that Stephen could not immediately name.

He wanted-

Well, he wanted a great many things. But never before had a portrait been responsible for a curl of longing or desire twisting its way up from the center of his being, some vague and wistful sense of thwarted desire focused on that arresting stare.

I wonder if he would look at me that way in life.

I wonder who he is.

A faint scuff of feet behind was all that gave Stephen warning before someone spoke, and he managed neither to whip around in surprise, nor jump like a child caught where he shouldn’t be. “He’s not a particularly good-looking fellow, to deserve such lengthy scrutiny.”

The voice was an unfamiliar one, a warm rich tenor that verged on a deeper range, a faint northern accent coloring the tone.

“I suppose not,” Stephen replied, pausing to allow his heart to slow before he introduced himself. “If you value men solely based on looks. But there is more life in his expression than in all the other portraits put together. Either the sitter was a man of uncommon vivacity, or the painter was exceptionally fond of him.”

He turned and looked at the man standing behind him.

His hair was shorter now, and he was dressed for dinner, his cravat impeccably tied and tucked into a cream waistcoat. The man from the portrait stepped in to the gallery, framed by a shaft of light that fell across the floor from the hall. His eyes had not been exaggerated. They had been perhaps underplayed, and that grey-blue gaze regarded Stephen with a peculiar intensity. He was a little taller than Stephen, his frame of very pleasing proportions, and had a controlled energy to his walk that suggested strength lying beneath the layers of wool and linen.

“Or he was his own painter,” the newcomer said, his lip quirking up in that selfsame knowing smile, “and both irredeemably prone to vanity and in desperate need of an honest friend to check him in his fancy.”

Tess, thanks so much for stopping by. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me! This is my first book blog tour and my debut novel, so every aspect of this is thrilling.

I’ve always been in love with history, and I especially adore transitional periods like the Regency, or the Tudor era. There’s always so much going on in the background! I have a Masters degree in history, a day job that has odd and unpredictable hours and involves a lot of running about, and a wonderful 15-year relationship that’s singlehandedly responsible for my honest joy in stories that end with ‘happily ever after.’  (And two cats, which I understand came with my ‘introductory romance author kit,’ along with the caffeine IV and bottle of white-out.)

I live in a mid-sized town on the Atlantic coast and love it to bits, though the winter was brutal this year. For a while I was considering packing it all in and moving somewhere warm, and more importantly, dry.

One really nice thing about living where I do is that there are tons of outdoor activities for the summer. I geocache quite a bit, and there’s not much that’s as satisfying as finally tracking down a hidden cache that’s been eluding you for days. I want to write something with letterboxing as a main plot thread someday – letterboxing was the Victorian equivalent of geocaching and is just the perfect setup for some kind of romantic mystery – but it wasn’t a hobby yet in the Regency, which is the time frame for my current series. I’ll have to save that one for later!

What else? I grew up reading mountains of science fiction and fantasy, and always assumed that if I ever wrote something, it would be in one of those genres – but that’s another question!

How did you get started writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, primarily fanfic and original short stories, but I hadn’t seriously considered publishing at first. A friend of mine read a couple of pieces and strongly recommended that I look into writing something that would be publishable. I poo-pooed it at first, for that age old reason of self-confidence. There are so many amazing authors writing in Romance right now; how could I ever hope to sneak in? (Honestly I’m still not convinced, but it’s wonderful to have amazing writers like Tessa Dare and Katherine Cross to look up to for inspiration.)

It’s not the done thing to talk about fanfic as a stepping stone for writing professionally, I know! I do have some writing credits under another name from before I really got into romance fiction, but I do have to credit the fanfic community for a good part of my growth as a writer. There’s something intoxicating about the instant feedback you receive on stories, and the kinds of critiques on offer can vary from purely emotional reactions (which are so satisfying!) to fascinating structural analyses that you’d have to pay a professional editor big bucks to receive elsewhere.

I didn’t start out thinking about publishing professionally, and fanfic itself is a different beast, with different goals and internal tropes. I would never consider ‘filing the serial numbers off’ one of my fics and trying to get that in print; those stories are so intrinsically bound up in the communities they were written for that it wouldn’t work well. But for me, at least, starting off writing for fandom gave me the kind of writing workshop incubation that I needed in order to get off the ground as a pro. I love my guys and their amazing passion for storytelling, and I wouldn’t be here without them.

What was the inspiration for your book?
A book I stumbled on while doing research for my Masters. Called Mother Clap’s Molly House, it’s a collection of articles by Dr. Rictor Norton about the vibrant gay community in London, primarily in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I had no idea at the time that the social life back then was so similar to what I’d perceived as a late 20th century phenomenon – they had gay bars (‘molly houses’), their own slang, standard cruising areas, long-term relationships and (non-legally binding) marriages.

Since then I’ve been doing more research and digging on my own, but I always come back to Dr. Norton’s books and essays for the groundwork. Some of the love letters he’s found are unbearably heartbreaking – and just as many are ribald, goofy, gleeful and erotic. Once I had this window into that era, there was no turning back!

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I’d love to try my hand at a proper mystery one day. Or maybe mystery with a touch of horror. I’ve dabbled a little bit in police procedurals, but it’s never been anything publishable, and I think I’d like to go the other direction and do something more supernatural, not in the romance genre. I absolutely adore Tanya Huff’s ‘Blood’ series of vampire-crime-fighter novels, and the balance she struck between supernatural mystery and police work was just fantastic. But then, I’m also a big, big fan of classic suspenseful horror, and I’ve had an idea for a proper ghost story sitting on my list of ‘to-do-somedays’ for a long time.

Let’s say ‘horror-suspense,’ and we’ll see if I get there!

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I can’t see myself writing hard SF any time soon. I love science fiction and read it all the time, but I don’t have the math and science background necessary to be able to write a clean, physics-consistent, science fiction story without stopping every paragraph to check all my data. I’m all for space opera, though, and anything that will let me get away with liberal applications of handwavium to smooth over the science bits.

As far as reading goes, the only fiction categories I don’t read are religiously-based sweet romances, and the other end of the spectrum, weapon-heavy military or political thrillers – the sort where every gun’s caliber and ammo count are listed off like a centerfold’s measurements. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those genres, they’re just not to my taste, and generally so far out of the realm of my experience that I don’t have a hook on which to hang sympathetic engagement with the characters. My favorite romances always include some kind of physical connection, and I tend to get a little foamy at the mouth when female virginity is held up as some kind of pure and enviable state.

Oh! On that note, I should add – rape fantasy in romance or erotica.  Unless the characters themselves are explicitly playing out a scene and have safewords involved, I have a very visceral reaction to forced sex narratives. I won’t ever write rape, and I seriously dislike reading it. Your Kink Mileage May Vary.

So, what are you working on right now? Got any releases planned, or still writing?
I’m always still writing! I have a manuscript out to my beta-readers now that I’ll be submitting to Samhain soon, and that’s a follow-on to Rite of Summer. The working title is She Whom I Love, and it follows Sophie – a secondary character from RoS – and her romantic (mis)adventures.

It’s a bit of a departure from RoS in that the main relationship is a triad with two women and one man, but the setting is still among the artists of London. Sophie is a struggling amateur playwright, Meg is the ingénue who dreams of serious roles, and James is a staymaker and patron of the arts. The romance is very much queer rather than love triangle or man-with-two-partners, and the heat level is about the same explicitly sensual level as RoS.

(If Rite of Summer is a look at the troubles that can come with triads and open relationships, She Whom I Love is the reverse of that, very much a love letter to healthy polyamory and ménage.)

I haven’t sold it yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my editor will love it as much as I do.

And along with that, I’ve started working another book for Treading the Boards, with the working title That Potent Alchemy. There’s a single hero and heroine in this one, and she is a secondary character who I absolutely fell in love with while writing She Whom I Love. Grace is a dancer and actress approaching her thirties, aging out of the ingénue roles, flexible in her gender identity, and unsure where to go from there. Isaac is a stage hand, and amateur pyrotechnician with a knack for finding himself in the wrong place at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to writing this one since I introduced Grace in She Whom I Love, and I hope I’ll be able to craft a story that readers will enjoy just as much as I’ve enjoyed the planning. 

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
Green! Though for a long time, I insisted it was blue. There was a quiz that went around my junior high, about ‘what your favorite color says about you.’ All I remember was that having green for your favorite meant you were naïve and innocent, and I desperately wanted to be anything but that! Blue meant elegance, I seem to recall (though as anyone who knows me well will tell you, that doesn’t exactly fit either).

It took me something like 15 years to stop automatically saying ‘green and blue’ to answer this question. It’s amazing how little things can stick with you for so long.

Favorite movie?
What day of the week is it? I have so many, depending on my mood; I can’t choose! I’m going to do it by genre.

Favourite horror: The Woman in Black (Dan Radcliffe’s version).
Favourite sci-fi: Pacific Rim!
Favourite animated: Big Hero 6.
Best comfort movie of all time: Center Stage.

You have one superpower. What is it?
The ability to reach things on a high shelf! I’m only 5’2, and this world isn’t built for short people. I’ll take ‘flight’ if ‘leg stretching’ isn’t on offer.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Dinner party questions always tie me up in overthinking. I turn into a Regency hostess, trying to balance out conversational styles and choose people who would be interesting to see all together and who wouldn’t try to murder each other on sight, or have nothing to talk about…

Right. Okay. My ideal dinner party, with three guests. Amye Robsart (first wife of Lord Robert Dudley), Dana Scully, and Joan Watson.

Not much is known about the first Lady Dudley as a person, except in a handful of letters that she wrote to her property manager and to her husband, but her story has always fascinated me. The most current theory about her death is that she was afflicted with breast cancer which had metastasized and made her bones brittle, making it possible for her to break her neck just from falling down a short flight of stairs. The rumors about Queen Elizabeth I’s or Cecil’s hand in her death are hard to shake. I’d like to hear her story from her own lips.

Dana Scully and Joan Watson are there to be awesome and help us solve the mystery and win justice for the abandoned (and possibly murdered) wife of the Queen’s favorite, obviously. That’s a teamup I’d kill to see happen. Someone needs to write that fic, stat.

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
There’s a little bit of me in each of them, I think; at least just enough for me to empathize with their choices. I wish I had Stephen’s exuberance or Evander’s easy charm, but that’s not happening any time soon.

If I had to choose, I’d say it would be Joshua. He’s not a glib charmer, and he’s happiest without the trappings of nobility – just a room of his own, his art, and someone to love him until the end of his days. (Not that a wealthy patron wouldn’t be lovely!)

At the same time, though, he’s struggling between his urges to save and help, and his need to protect himself from being hurt again. He and I both have that same unfortunate tendency towards being ‘fixers’ in our private lives, which can turn into co-dependence so easily. I do think Joshua’s a lot stronger and more stubborn than I am, however, and more self-defeatist. Not to mention I couldn’t draw a straight line without a ruler!

Come by on June 2nd, 7 pm Eastern Time, to join me in the chatroom for the release party! I’ll have giveaways and prizes as well as interviews and a social hour. I look forward to seeing everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio and Links:
Tess has been a fan of historical fiction since learning the Greek and Roman myths at her mother's knee. Now let loose on a computer, she's spinning her own tales of romance and passion in a slightly more modern setting. Her work in the performing arts has led to a passion for the theatre and dance in all its forms, and been the inspiration for her current books. Tess lives on the east coast, with her partner of fifteen years and two cats who should have been named 'Writer's Block' and 'Get Off the Keyboard, Dammit.'

Tess can be found reblogging over on, twittering at @TessBowery, and talking about writing in general and her books specifically over at

Riteof Summer on GoodReads

Buy Links:
Amazon     |     Nook     |     Publisher


  1. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

    1. Oh gosh -- the waiting. I love the writing, and I even enjoy the refining that comes with the first few editing passes. But the moment I hit that 'send' button and fire off a manuscript to an editor, I go into turtle or full-panic mode. It's an ugly scene.

      In under 24 hours, I can usually convince myself of at least six different dire fates or responses to a submission, ranging from 'no thank you' to 'go die in a fire.' XD

      (It's never as bad as all that, naturally. But I *hate* waiting.)

  2. I'm so freaking proud of you, Tess! This is truly amazing.

  3. Thanks for the giveaway! I like the excerpt and interview. :)

    1. Good luck on the draw!:) I'll be doing some more giveaways live at the launch party, including two signed copies of the book, so try to swing by!

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you so much! It was so much harder than I thought it would be to choose. There are different excerpts going up in my other interviews and a few up in my blog if you want more of a sneak peek!

      (my site has the one with some dirty bits. ;) )

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks very much! I promise I'm not as much of a nerd as I sound. *cough*lies*cough*.

  6. You're a new author for me. Thank you for the interview!

    1. Thank you for reading! My next two stops on the tour are up now, so come follow along -- you can watch me embarrass myself publicly all over the net. ;)

  7. Great to hear that Sophie/Sarah is getting her own story, she seemed like a fascinating character.

    1. Yay, I'm so glad you think so! I had some ideas in mind for her while I was writing Rite, and I loved getting the chance to flesh them out. She's one of my favourites. "She whom I Love" is slated for a December release right now.

      I also have plans for Pembrey and Wren (Stephen's obnoxious roommates), but I've got one more to write before I can get back to them.

  8. Another great excerpt and interview - thanks! Green is my favorite color, too. Has been since I was old enough to pick one. :-) And "Mother Clap’s Molly House" sounds like a very interesting book.

    1. (Tried to reply to this last night but my iPad ate it. Sigh!)

      Thanks so much! And you should definitely check out 'Mother Clap's' -- it's a great book, and a really fascinating read! If your library can't get a hold of it, Dr. Norton's uploaded most of the chapters to his website -- (Which is well worth checking out anyway; I come back to his essay on love letters all the time!)

  9. Loved the interview and excerpt! Thanks for the chance!

    1. You're very welcome! Good luck on the draw!

  10. sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.