Monday, July 6, 2015

Played! – #2 in The Shamwell Tales - excerpt by JL Merrow

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.  
In Played, by JL Merrow, though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.
Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.
Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave
Samhain Publishing (June 30, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1619229722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619229723


Chapter One

 A Plague on Both Your Houses

There was a frog in the kitchen.


Tristan crouched down to glare at it, quite certain that such incursions would not have been tolerated had Nanna Geary still been alive. And while she had now, at the ridiculously young age of eighty-two, passed on to her reward, he was damned if he’d let her house be invaded on his watch.

The frog stared back at him with an inscrutable amphibian gaze.

“This,” he told it firmly, “has got to stop. Do I hop into your pond and frolic among the lily pads? I do not. So why you feel you can make free of my living area, I really cannot imagine.”

The frog blinked once. Then, in a series of spring-loaded manoeuvres almost too quick for Tristan’s startled eyes to follow, it hopped behind the fridge.

Damn it. This called for desperate measures.

Tristan picked up Nanna Geary’s phone and dialled a number he’d had the foresight to memorise.

“Yeah?” The voice was deep in timbre, yet clearly young. Excellent.

“Hello. I perused your advertisement in our local emporium. All—

“You what?”

“I read your card in Tesco,” Tristan clarified with a sigh. Some people had no appreciation for the beauties of the English language. “All household job’s—I assume the apostrophe was ironic?—done, resonible rates.”

“Er, yeah.” The man on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat nonplussed, possibly due to the way Tristan had stressed the “ibble” at the end of resonible. “What’s the problem?”



“I have a plague of frogs.”

Pause. “Is this a joke?”

“If it is, it’s on me. I keep coming down in the morning to find a frog in my kitchen. Not something one wants to see before one’s first cup of coffee. And let me tell you, I’m something of a connoisseur of unwelcome morning sights.” At least, Tristan comforted himself, this one hadn’t been in bed with him.


He wouldn’t put anything past the vile green creature. It was probably hoping for a kiss, and far be it from Tristan to brag, but he had an impressively wide experience of where kisses tended to lead.

Over his dead body, in this particular instance.

A frog,” the handyman was saying. There was another pause. “So technically, yeah, that’s a plague of frog. One of ’em.”

“Semantics. The plural, in this case, may be taken to include the singular.”

“Right… Look, I think you want pest control, anyhow.”

Finally we reach agreement. So how soon can you be here?”

“No, I mean you want someone who works in pest control. Um. You’re in the village, right?”

Tristan rolled his eyes. “I’m certainly in a village. However, there appears to be an elegant sufficiency of villages in this vicinity. Perhaps one might essay a tad more specificity, hmm?”

There was a silence, then the voice on the other end was back. “Well, go on, then. Essay me specific.”

Tristan frowned. Unless he was very much mistaken, there had been a soupçon of sarcasm in the handyman’s tone. “Shamwell,” he said shortly.

“Thought so. Right. I’ve got this mate. Where are you? I’ll send him round.”

“Excuse me? I’m sorry, I believe I must have had some kind of cataleptic fit and missed the part of the conversation where I told you to feel free to invite all your friends to my house. Perhaps you’d like to create a Facebook event, make it a free-for-all—”

“Look, do you want rid of this frog or not?”


“Then lemme give Sean a call. He’s a professional. What’s your address?”

Tristan sighed. “Twenty-two, Valley Crescent.”

There was a pause. “That’s Mrs. Geary’s house.”
“Was.” Tristan’s voice came out perhaps a little on the sharp side. He missed Nanna Geary. She’d always loved to hear about Tristan’s latest triumph on the stage, and she’d certainly never told him to go and get a proper job. “Now it’s mine.”

“Right.” The handyman’s tone was equally abrupt. “I’ll send Sean over.”


“Well, he’s probably on a job right now, but soon as he can make it, yeah.”

“Make it soon. This is an emergency.” Tristan hung up. It was often best not to give these people a chance to make excuses.

Then he went back to sorting through Nanna Geary’s belongings. It was, Tristan had to admit, not proceeding as quickly as it might. He kept getting distracted by memories from his childhood. He’d been set back half an hour already this morning by coming across her old boiled wool jacket, a stiff heavy thing in the vilest shade of green imaginable—really, next to it, this morning’s uninvited visitor would be a thing of beauty. The smell of wet dogs and camphor emanating from it had taken Tristan right back to rainy afternoons playing games of rummy in a dripping gazebo, because Nanna Geary thought boys needed fresh air even when the weather was dreadful… He sighed and folded it reverently before adding it to the charity shop pile.

Tristan was knee-deep in women’s underwear when the doorbell rang. Most of it was of the sturdy thermal variety, but he’d been shocked and delighted to find some black lace nestling at the back of the drawer of, well, drawers. “Nanna Geary, you saucy little minx,” he murmured as he got to his feet, detached a wayward suspender belt from his sleeve and made his way downstairs.

There was no hall, as such, in Nanna Geary’s house. The front door opened directly from what she had liked to call the living room, comprising as it did both lounge area and dining room. Tristan strode along its length and flung the door wide.

The man looming awkwardly on the doormat was delicious. Tall, muscular and delightfully rough around the edges, with dark stubble on his chin and unruly jet-black hair. He was casually dressed in jeans and a singlet, perfectly accessorised with a touch of the grime of honest toil. Things were definitely looking up. And up, and up. Actually, the man’s height was bordering on the offensive, but Tristan was a forgiving sort. He beamed at the stranger and barely restrained himself from a hel-looo gorgeous. “You must be Sean.”

The man’s face twisted, and he rubbed the back of his neck, displaying some nicely honed triceps and a tuft of armpit hair. Tristan’s inner princess swooned dramatically. “Yeah, about that. Sorry. Sean says he don’t do frogs, ’cos they’re not classed as pests. Says they’re good for slugs and all. I’m Con.”

Twitter - @jlmerrow


Victor J. Banis said...

I'd say delicious, and not just Con - delightfully witty

Eric Spector said...

Post a Comment On: Gay/Lesbian Fiction Excerpts

"Played! – #2 in The Shamwell Tales - excerpt by JL Merrow"
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Anonymous Victor J. Banis said...
I'd say delicious, and not just Con - delightfully witty

July 6, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Etienne's Stories said...

The excerpt is witty, though poorly written. I happen to be a stickler for proper dialogue tags, and when I read words such as "clarified," "conceded," "purred," and "ground out," as substitutes for the verb "said," I get very irritated at the laziness of the writer.