Are you like me, unabashedly in love with the broken hero? You know, those guys that the world has mistreated, and yet, they stoically carry on, sometimes just barely, beneath a thin veneer of bravado.
Such is the case with the heroes of my Regency historical, For Men Like Us. Benedict Wilmot and Preston Meacham survived the Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Salamaca in particular, though just barely, and came away with deep scars, inside and out.
Their injuries weren’t only physical, but emotional as well. For me, those are the most difficult to weather. We’ve all had them—caused by our dysfunctional childhoods, bullying, failed relationships. Those voices and experiences live one, well past their welcome shelf-life.
Though scars cover Ben’s body, their causes affect him much more profoundly than their existence. The weight of a deeply held secret and the devastating death of a man he deeply loved, makes Ben’s life almost unbearable. Circumstances make Ben feel responsible for Pres, and that sentiment brings the men face to face in a dingy alley outside a London mollie house. As the rain pours down around them, Ben attempts to summon the courage to speak to Pres—not for purposes related to Pres’s job, but because of Ben’s concern for Pres’s welfare. This is the scene I’ve included below and the one that is depicted on the book’s brilliant cover by Anne Cain.
While writing For Men Like Us, I reflected on the men I’ve known, who’ve fought a war and came home somehow different, foreign in their responses, their maturity, their overall look at life. War kills more than bodies. It also kills a person’s spirit, their self-view, their abilities to cope with the very things that make them who they are—or once were. Their souls are scarred, changed, inured to the fear so inherent under the circumstances.
Through the surreptitious act of spying, an unscrupulous sergeant discovers Benedict Wilmot’s sexuality. The sergeant could have fully destroyed Ben’s life by turning him over to their commanding officer, but instead, he chose to use Ben’s fear of further discovery against him, and used torture and shame to manipulate Ben into doing his bidding.
The integrity with which Ben conducts himself makes him a favored employer of men like him. I suppose one might think Ben had gaydar, but he sought out gay men and housed them in the safety of his estate, to help him run the part of home he used.
Given the period in history, when being gay was a hanging offense, I created a world for these men to exist in relative comfort. For Ben and Preston, nothing comes easy, but then nothing in life comes easy, does it?
If you love broken heroes, you might enjoy For Men Like Us. You can find it on the Dreamspinner site
THE mist off the Thames cloaked Ben while the heavily shadowed alley protected him as he watched the male whores go into the molly house. Droplets of rain fell off the brim of his tall beaver and soaked through the fabric of his greatcoat. The dampness had long since settled deeply into his bones, weakening him. He depended more than usual on his walking stick to support his weight.
His driver and all-round man, Briggs, waited a short distance away while Ben watched for the man he’d come to find. Many times, Ben had observed the comings and goings at Mama Lil’s, after having learned the man he sought worked there. From the same vantage point, he’d caught only passing glimpses of the well-groomed, dark-haired man who seemed so out of place amongst the other down and outers. From a distance, Ben thought him to be handsome and quite personable, judging by his interactions with the other men. There also seemed to be a sadness about him, and for that, Ben was aggrieved.
At the sound of two distinctly masculine voices, Ben moved deeper into the alley. He pressed his body closer to the ramshackle building, out of the dim light cast by the nearby streetlamp.
The men passed him by, neither apparently wise to his presence. Unable to resist, he stepped closer to the mouth of the shadowed alley, fairly dragging his useless leg, and looked out after them. The scuffing he’d caused must have alerted them, because one of the men turned, the moon illuminating his face. It was him; the man he sought.
Their eyes met and locked for the briefest of moments. Ben cursed inwardly. He hadn’t intended them to meet this way—him lurking about like a thief, or worse, a desperate man.
The young man clapped his companion on the back. “Go on ahead, Tom, I’ll be along. Gotta take a piss.”
Tom waved a casual hand. “Yeah, yeah, sure. Don’t be too long. There mightn’t be no cock left for ya.”
“Never a fear of that, now is there?”
“S’pose you’re right. See you inside.”
The door slammed, but no louder than Ben’s own heart.
The young man approached, cautious, yet somehow sure. The watery click of his boot heels against the wet cobbles echoed the pounding in Ben’s ears.
He filled the entrance to the alley, a slim-waisted figure clad in a frock coat and breeches, someone who would have been supposed a gentleman in any other setting.
“Can I help you, sir?” The voice was more refined than a moment before.
Ben opened his mouth, but his words were stunted. This was the closest he’d ever been to Preston Meacham. The light from the streetlamp illuminated his handsome face. Ben stared, forgetting himself completely.
“Sir, are you all right?”
Ben resisted a continued stare. “Yes, yes, I’m fine, th-thank you.”
“Is there something you need? You really shouldn’t be out on this street alone. It isn’t safe.
Unscrupulous characters are known to lurk about these parts.”
A slight feeling of indignation overset him. “I believe I am capable of taking care of myself.”
Preston’s gaze dropped to the walking stick, then back to Ben’s eyes. “Then I’ll leave you to it.”
The man took three steps before Ben found the words to continue the conversation. “A-are you available?” he asked on impulse.
A slight chuckle made him feel foolish. “I’m available, sir, if you have the blunt.”
Damn and blast, why must this be so difficult? “Can we go somewhere, alone?”
The younger man pointed toward the house. “Of course, I can get a room.”
“No! Away from here.”
“I’m scheduled to work. I don’t get paid if I’m not on the premises.”
“I don’t expect something for nothing. I’ll pay you for your time, however much you want.”
The younger man came flirtatiously close.
How could I have not noticed the extent of his physical beauty?
“Well then, if money is no object, sir, I’ll go wherever you wish.”
Ben swallowed hard and pointed toward the street. “My carriage is waiting. I live but a short distance from here.”
“You certainly are mysterious. How do I know you won’t slit my throat the moment we’re alone?”
“You don’t, but then, how do I know you won’t slit mine?”
A hint of a smile. “Fair enough. Be warned, I don’t sell myself cheap.”
“I don’t expect you to, and I assure you, you are entirely safe in my company.” Ben handed him a gold sovereign, which he took with alacrity.
Preston flipped the coin into the air. “Where is this carriage of yours?”
“This way.” Ben led him down the street and around the corner, where Briggs waited.
In the light of the carriage lamps, Preston appeared to be upwards of five-and-twenty. Ben’s hands itched to touch his full head of brown hair, to assess whether it was as soft as it appeared.
Preston sat back against the squabs in casual repose, one arm draped languidly over the back of the seat. Under other circumstances, they might appear to be old friends, out for an evening at White’s.
With the need to confirm what he already knew, Ben asked, “What is your name?”
“Preston Meacham. Pres, if you prefer, and what’s yours?”
Ben’s heart thudded. The confirmation made this moment all too real. He turned toward the window. “You may call me Ben.”
“Ben it is, but no last name?”
“For what I want, no last name is necessary.”
Jesus, how pompous. A quick glance ascertained that Preston’s expression hadn’t changed, save for a slight pinched look about his mouth.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“Quite all right. I rarely get even that much respect.”
Ben’s heart dropped. He’d gone about this the wrong way.
“Whoa.” The carriage slowed, then stopped at Briggs’s shout.
“We’ve arrived.” When Briggs opened the door, Ben got out, then turned to see that Preston had followed him.
They’d gone around to the back of his townhouse. After they entered the kitchen door, Ben dropped his hat on a table beside the door, removed his soggy greatcoat, and left it on a peg outside the kitchen. With as much haste as his war-ravaged leg allowed, Ben led Preston up the servant’s stairs to the second floor.
And now, how about a little contest information? Brita would love to give TWO lucky readers the chance to win E-copies of For Men Like Us, as well as some great swag, including bookmarks, cover flats, pens, and more!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Born in a small town in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—Clint, her husband of 33 years, and fifteen year old fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.
Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals, as well as a few contemporaries, have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.
Tarnished Gold, the first in her Tarnished series for Dreamspinner, received honorable mention, and is a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, historical romance category.
Brita and her husband love to travel. They’ve taken no less than twenty-five cruises and countless long car trips, as well as completed a Civil War battlefield tour, and visits to many sites involved in the American Revolutionary War. Their 2013 wedding anniversary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales gave Brita fodder for many new tales.
On a trip to Hollywood, California, Brita stood in the footprints of some of her favorite actors—Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and many others, at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and she has even kissed Mickey Rooney.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter.
Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.
Readers can find Brita Addams at any of the following places:
Monthly column at The Novel Approach