by Jane Elliot
It’s out of the frying-pan and into the fire on the day Henry first meets Red. He’s happy enough at first to be having sex with a man – Heaven knows, it’s better than what he’s running away from! – but it isn’t too long before Red’s sexual extravagances are driving the two of them apart. It’s only when Henry’s trying to manage on his own again that he at last begins to achieve a little perspective – on inversion in general, on himself in particular, and even on his relationship with Red. That’s when he starts to wonder if maybe there isn’t a way back for them after all, but this time it will definitely have to be on his terms …
60,000 words/228 pages
Publication 1 August 2013
RAINBOW AWARDS 2013
3rd in BEST GAY HISTORICAL ROMANCE
” … believable and very much in line with the time.”
Review by Elisa Rolle at Reviews and Ramblings 27 December 2013
“I found it fabulous. I couldn’t put it down once I started.”
Review by Cat at MM Good Book Reviews 12 August 2013
” … an original and memorable read.”
Review by Raine at Jessewave 9 August 2013
Perhaps he was being melodramatic, but Henry Longfellow honestly hadn’t been sure that he’d get out of California alive. Escaping San Francisco was a miracle all by itself, even with the precautions he took to cover his tracks as he sold his possessions, a few articles at a time, at shops on the very fringes of the city. They had all been grimy, disreputable stores, the kind that a Hamlin would never dream of patronizing, which was the very reason that Henry chose them.
Buying supplies for the road was too risky to contemplate while still in San Francisco, so Henry boarded a night train with nothing more than the money in his pocket and the clothes on his back. He stayed on board all the way to Lake’s Crossing, Nevada, where a small army of men were painting over every sign in town, replacing ‘Lake’s Crossing’ with the word ‘Reno’.
Henry was immediately distracted; many of the painters were handsome men and a handful of them had stripped off their shirts to protect them from the paint. He caught himself before his staring could be too obvious; he didn’t even want to imagine how a man like him would be treated in the wilds of the territories.
Once Henry had equipped himself with a horse and gear, he considered his options. California lay to both the west and the south, and Henry had spent far too much time and money escaping the state to risk going back over its borders. Directly north was the relatively new state of Oregon, which was too tamed and civilized for Henry’s needs. He briefly considered going east, but that would put him into the notorious Mormon colony in the Utah Territory and Henry couldn’t imagine finding a home among a highly religious people.
In the end he opted to go north-east, towards Canada, with the vague intention of finding a quiet little spot where he could build a cabin and live in isolation.
Every mile he went, every step he put between himself and the Hamlin family, drained away a little more of Henry’s fear. By the time he reached the Montana Territory, he was finally starting to feel like he might be safe.
As he made his way to the booming mining town of Butte, Henry sat up straighter in his saddle and heaved in a deep breath of pure, sweet mountain air, untainted by even the slightest hint of smoke or sea or human waste. It had panged him to leave his birthplace, but on days like these he barely missed San Francisco at all.
Evangeline tossed her head and Henry allowed himself a smile at her name as he leaned forward and patted her pretty white neck. She might not be as faithful and loyal as the poetic character she was named after, but she was reliable and hadn’t given him too much trouble. Her easy-going nature had been vital when they’d first started out from Reno and Henry had learned that Mr. Hamlin’s riding lessons weren’t much use outside of short city jaunts.
Those first few weeks had been difficult, as he’d developed sores from sitting in the unfamiliar saddle all day and he could hardly sleep at night on the thin bit of padding that served as his bedroll. Cooking over a fire had been a challenge as well; he’d never had to cook a day in his life before, but he could only imagine it was easier if done over a stove. Even learning to take care of a horse every night was harder than he’d imagined; what was a pleasure and a delight when he was fully rested was a misery when he was so exhausted that he could barely raise the curry brush.
Fortunately, Evangeline didn’t seem to hold a grudge, though at the moment she was being unusually difficult. For the tenth time in less than that number of minutes, she tossed her head and pranced a few steps to the right. Henry frowned and yanked her reins a bit before he guiltily remembered Mr. Hamlin telling him that that was something he should never do to a horse.
It didn’t seem to do much good, anyway, as Evangeline kept fighting him right up to the moment that a man stepped out from the trees.
Henry froze for a moment before offering a tentative smile. “Um, hello.”
“Good day,” the man said genially and Henry relaxed in the saddle. The stranger looked a bit rough with his homespun clothes and his wild hair, but his manner seemed pleasant and, truth be told, everyone in the territorial wilds looked rough to Henry’s city-trained eyes.
“Can you tell me how far I am from Butte?” Henry asked hopefully. “I thought I’d have hit it by now.”
The man chortled. “You’re a fair ways west off Butte. Closest civilization around here is Copper Creek, and that’s a good ten miles off.”
“Oh,” Henry said, taken aback. “I hadn’t realized how far off I was. Ten miles isn’t so bad, though. I can be in Copper Creek by tomorrow.”
The man laughed again, and this time there was a mean edge to the sound. “I hate to tell you this, son, but you ain’t ever going to be seeing Copper Creek.”
Suddenly the trees around them erupted in movement and a half dozen men on horses burst through. Evangeline, who had just started to calm down, bounced a couple of times on straight legs and abruptly reared, throwing Henry clean off the saddle. Lying on the tiny dirt trail, stunned and in pain, Henry began to realize that maybe his flight from San Francisco wouldn’t have a happy ending after all.
“Now,” the stranger – the bandit, apparently – said, coming forward to stand over Henry’s prone body. “What are we going to do with you?”