Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Stephanie is giving away 5 eBook copies of “His Second Chance,” book one in the Second Chances Series, with this post. For a chance to win, comment below.
Today, Stephanie Lake – Stephanie Lake is the pen name for a husband/wife team who enjoy writing historical M/M (gay) romance with happy endings and steamy middles.
Thanks so much, Stephanie, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Steph: Hot, hot, hot Historical Gay Romance. Sexy men in lace. Tight plots (no boring parts). Tight prose (no unnecessary wordiness). With excellent and professional editing. Yay Keren Reed!
Lake: OCD technical. I follow a detailed outline, my characters do not run amok. I’d say they are, for the most part, well-behaved. Genre: Historical Romance MF MM with Steph. Otherwise high-concept contemporary mainstream fiction.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
Steph: His Second Chance. A very sexy Regency gay romance. BTW, the cover rocks! Yay, April Martinez.
Here’s a teaser:
Viscount Randall Blair wants a second chance at love with his long-lost Lieutenant David Wedgewood. Only one problem: he’s engaged to David’s sister.
Lake: Ditto. His Second Chance, co-authored with Steph.
JSC: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Steph: Rawhide, New Orleans. Titter.
Lake: J Rawhide, but I’m not telling what went on in the back room. What happens to New Orleans, stays in New Orleans.
JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
Steph: Yes, but almost always people I don’t know. If I find a stranger interesting, then they usually end up in a story. I find the mystery of spinning a stranger’s story irresistible.
Lake: Yes. One person who read the first draft of my novel recognized one of the characters (a crusty old attorney).
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Steph: I read every one. This is a great way to get feedback from readers. I like the reviews that are well written even if they are negative. I ignore the reviews where the reader obviously did not read the book.
Lake: I growl at negative reviews. Stick pins in my voodoo doll for the people who write them.
Steph: Lake, I thought you got rid of that thing.
Lake: Sigh. It wouldn’t let me.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Steph: I love historical gay romance and historical romance, so that’s where my passion lies. I’ve written contemporary, but my voice is historical. Lake has the contemporary voice.
Lake: My preferred genre is contemporary high concept mainstream fiction. I co-author historical MM and MF romance with Steph, and I like doing research for the historical novels. Romance is difficult for me because I’m very bad at writing sex scenes, but not from lack of trying. Now, Steph on the other hand! Whew.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Steph: Plotter… Well, until I get an idea that drives a story and I can’t stop writing long enough to plot. Sadly, the plethora of ideas are much more abundant than the day job time constraints will abide. Sigh…
Lake: big time plotter. I outline my novels scene by scene / which results in some long (up to 75 page) outlines
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
Steph: Always a character. I see someone interesting, and boom, I wonder why they are where they are, doing what they are doing and a story starts bubbling up.
Lake: Idea. However, I take a notebook with me, in which I describe people I see. This gives me ideas for short stories, and some people turn into characters for my works in progress.
JSC: If you had a grant to write any book you wanted as a freebie without worrying about sales, what kind of story would you like to tell?
Steph: Hot, hot, hot Historical Gay Romance. Sexy men in lace. Tight plots (no boring parts). Tight prose (no unnecessary wordiness). With excellent and professional editing. LOL. Living the dream.
Lake: I’d like to write a sci-fi work like the Foundation Trilogy, but my brain doesn’t work that way. So, secondarily, I’d like to write novels like Hemingway.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
Rhain: Steph and Lake would be great mates. I’d hire them for any Atlantic crossing. I think Steph would keep everyone in line, and Lake would entertain the entire crew.
Alastair: I don’t think there’s enough room on board for Lake’s wine supply. Maybe he can bring Cognac instead. I’ll share.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
Steph: Whirlwind. I prefer nouns! 😊
Lake: flying! “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Flying!” Well, let me think about this…
JSC: What food(s) fuel your writing?
Lake: Pasta. Mac cheese, spaghetti with meatballs. And of course, snacks: crackers with hummus or blue cheese, and M&M’s.
JSC: What are you working on now?
Steph: His Captain. The first book in a new series. It is almost ready to send for beta reading. This is a Regency M/M romance set in Scotland, and features an injured army captain and his caretaker, who helps him heal mentally and physically, while they both deal with family, a trial, unethical clergy, and possible imprisonment.
Lake: Ditto. Also my contemporary high concept mainstream novel One Nation and its sequel Takeover.
And now for Stephanie’s latest book: His Pirate:
Rhain Morgan is desperate to leave London and move his ailing sister to a climate that will save her life, so he books passage to their Caribbean plantation on the only available ship, captained by Alastair Breckenridge. Rhain fights his attraction to the alluring captain who looks and acts like a pirate, but the man’s fairness wins Rhain over. The trip that once seemed endless is now too short.
For years, Alastair held people away from his heart, until Rhain. Finally admitting his feelings to himself, he tries to convince Rhain to stay on board, but it’s all in vain.
Despite his own burgeoning feelings for Alastair, Rhain wants to prove himself and refuses to let go of his dream of making a home for his sister and himself on their plantation. But as Alastair’s ship sails away, Rhain is left alone to make the best of disastrous circumstances and overwhelmed by regret, nurses his broken heart.
When all seems lost, could they dare hope for a second chance to set things right and love again?
Excerpt: London, August 1809
The man was the ideal male specimen, except for the frown. Well, the frown and the nose. The nose a bit too prominent, a bit too hooked to be considered perfect, but it was a fully male-manly nose, which saved the face from a lack of character. Sleek brown brows over eyes the color of…of what? Damn the lighting in the Red Pig’s taproom; he couldn’t tell what color they were, but they were dark.
And those lips. They were full but smooth, not puffy like some. Puffy lips always looked like an over-yeasted pastry. But these lips were perfect for sliding a kiss onto.
Rubbing the engraved gold clasp securing the thin braid that fell over his ear, Captain Alastair Breckenridge leaned against the taproom’s door frame and let the door close. The sound of sea birds immediately turned to muffled cries. He allowed his eyes to adjust after the murky sunlight and took a moment to fully admire the man. Conservative but expensive clothing. Brown on brown over tan. He might be the boring type, dressing so drably. But really, who would care so long as they were grasping shoulders so broad as to eclipse the moon?
God. He obviously needed a good fuck in order to concentrate on finding cargo and stop envisioning acts that would not happen in this seedy tavern, in this seedy part of town, and certainly not with a man who glowers.
The room was only half-full. Midafternoon was not a popular drinking hour. Even so, two drunks in the corner made more noise than a squabbling family of ten laborers. The warm, humid air reeked of sour ale and cabbage, which was preferable to the stench of unwashed bodies that would permeate the tavern in a few hours when it filled.
Alastair closed his eyes and imagined what the man with the scowl would smell like. Fresh and sweet, that was obvious from his clean appearance. But what would be under the starch and soap? Would he smell like the forest, fresh earth, the air right before a storm? Hopefully he would not smell like the sea. Everyone he’d taken to bed the past few months smelled like brine, a scent that got tiresome very quickly.
Unable to ignore the glowering man who sat at a table alone, looking out of place, he finished his assessment: A mostly full tankard of ale close by his elbow. Must not be used to such unrefined fare. The man’s chin was strong but not overly so. Clean-shaven, pale skin. In total, a handsome package. He would have approached the man, introduced himself, tried to improve the young man’s mood—if not for creased skin between brows and across his forehead that tattled about this man’s temperament. Not a jovial youth to be certain. And Alastair did not associate with troubled people.
Better to look elsewhere for companionship tonight.
He would ask the barkeeper if anyone inquired about a ship heading west. They lost their contracted cargo because of the damn two-month delay returning to London and would likely lose the regular loads along the way as well. Damn the Moroccan government’s impound laws. Two months his ship sat waiting for him to grease the correct palms with an ungodly amount of money. He must pick up more cargo to make the sail profitable.
The barkeeper had worked at this seedy establishment for at least a decade, about as long as Alastair captained the Hurricane. The man was straight-dealing, with a good memory. That’s why Alastair kept coming here for tips on who needed what cargo shipped around the world.
Pushing away from the doorjamb, he caught the barkeeper’s attention and strode to the bar. “Hear of any cargo, One Eye?” No one had ever been brave enough to ask how the hulking brute lost his right eye. Not that he’d heard, anyway.
The man nodded and pointed.
Alastair turned in time to catch the handsome, sulking youth stare right at his arse before that gaze snapped to his face.
Well, well, well. His afternoon had just gotten exponentially more complicated and muchmore interesting.
BY GOD, HE was beautiful—in a strange sort of way.
At first Rhain Morgan thought the graceful person lounging in the door frame was a very athletic woman in costume. Perhaps the entertainment for the afternoon, dressed in a billowy shirt and tall boots. But as soon as the pirate crossed the room, he knew that lethal stalking, the firm bunch and release of muscles, could only belong to a man. A man in his prime and in prime condition. Fighting condition.
A true to life swashbuckler, then. A pirate in the blood and flesh, here in London of all places. Rhain had never seen one before, so he was surprised a pirate could be so…well, unmarred and attractive. The satires always portrayed men of the sea as ragged, dirty, with most of their fingers missing, or worse.
Months had passed since he’d desired a man. He thought those unnatural desires were mostly conquered, but this man with his swagger and confidence sent a tingle of interest to his groin. Damn, and he’d been thinking it was time to put his youthful follies behind him, marry, beget an heir.
Good God, this man and the way he moved. Graceful and sinewy.
One thing for certain, the pirate was not here for anyone’s entertainment. More like some mayhem was afoot.
Time to leave.
Coming here and spending half a day with bad food and even worse ale had been a mistake. Not only did he notfind a ship to take him and his precious cargo to Dominica, now he would have erotic dreams for months, if not longer, about this stunning man.
The pirate leaned over to speak to someone at the bar. Slim hips and a firm backside with a tempting narrowing of the waist, the flawless form so few men possessed. Since that backside was covered by tight tan breeches and accentuated with a wide burgundy leather belt, he knew he would see very little sleep this night. But that wasn’t the worst part. At that moment, the barkeeper pointed to him, and the pirate turned, snapping obsidian-black eyes his direction.
Bloody hell! Too late to make an escape.
He forced his shoulders to relax and tried to look unconcerned as he slipped the dagger from his boot.
“I heard you want to hire a ship. I happen to have one.” The pirate sat down with a slow, deliberate slide across the table from him without an invitation. “Captain Breckenridge of the Hurricane.” He spoke properly and nodded politely, the pleasantry so out of character with the picture the captain presented, Rhain thought the man perhaps mocked his upper-class bearing and attire.
“The cost is eight hundred pounds for a direct route and immediate departure to Dominica, which includes wages for the crew. We can leave as soon as the crew is rounded up.” His voice was a smooth, silky tenor. The type of voice that could lull you to sleep even as your throat was cut. A voice so soothing, he almost agreed with the price before registering it was open-seas robbery.
“Eight hundred pounds? You must be mad. I assure you my sister and I do not require champagne and caviar each night.”
“It is late for a westerly crossing. You are not likely to find another ship at this date.”
Yes, Rhain had been told that by many captains going the opposite direction. And he couldn’t wait. Lydia’s condition worsened with each passing day. If she improved away from the cold, wet weather and smog, then his conviction that she did not have tuberculosis would be proven. This boat was his last chance to save his little sister. A tight band squeezed around his chest, and he fought to relax and take a deep breath.
“Why, then, are you going westward?”
“We were held up in customs for two months on my last leg. Cost me a small bag of silver to bribe all the people involved in releasing my ship with its cargo. So we are late for our regular route. I’ve been contemplating missing a year of our Atlantic crossing, but if I can obtain the right load, we will make the journey.”
Rhain argued, and for a half hour they negotiated a lower price and, unfortunately, a delayed departure so the captain had time to find cargo. Drawn to the pirate’s curly, jet-black hair, Rhain’s attention floundered, making it impossible to concentrate on how each additional stop would decrease the price but increase the time it took to arrive at his plantation in Dominica. The pirate wore his hair pulled back by a band at his nape, except for one flirty thin braid by his right ear, which slipped back and forth over his shoulder as he moved. Even more distracting was the way he would occasionally move one long, ropy-muscled arm to twist a gold ring in one perfect ear, the blousy sleeve slipping to his elbow. Then he was just as likely to run an elegant finger across a groove in the scarred table.
Despite everything, they finally agreed on a price, although it would nearly wipe out his savings and delay their arrival by an extra two or more weeks, depending on how quickly the pirate obtained the requisite cargo and how many stops were needed to deliver the cargo.
Having come to an agreement, Rhain’s worry grew. Would it be safe to sail with this man and his crew?
“Just how old are you? You don’t look old enough to captain a ship.”
The pirate pulled himself up from a half sprawl on the table, his movements slow and predatory. “I am one and thirty, sir, and a damn fine captain. My father wanted me to learn to sail properly, so he stuffed me on a government ship. The HBMS Dragoncaptained by Lord Wentworth. A bloody viscount of all things, but he is one of the damn finest captains I have ever seen. I learned as much as I could in those four years, then worked on one of my father’s ships. I started as acting captain on the Hurricaneat one and twenty and gained ownership of her at five and twenty.” One could tell he was proud of his accomplishments by the rapid speech and lift in his voice.
Rhain found he believed this man to be a good captain. A man capable of sailing to Dominica.
His pulse pounded at his temples. Lydia would survive after all. Once he got her out of this hellhole and to a hot, smogless locale, she would be fine. This pirate, or captain as he called himself, would do that for them.
He’d sold everything but a few crates of possessions to pay for their travel, then sold their small home to pay for what they would need in Dominica, so he and Lydia were ready to leave. He was not happy over the delay to ship out, but he could not afford to rent the entire damn vessel.
He examined the man across the table. Really looked at him—at the hungry ebony eyes and his do-what-is-needed-to-earn-a-bag-of-gold stare—and his doubts came tumbling back. They would not make it in time for Lydia. Or worse, this man would take them to the deepest part of the ocean, dump them overboard, and then sell their goods and keep all profits without a blink of those thick-lashed eyes. For God’s sake, it looked as though he had applied kohl around his eyes to enhance the intensity of that stare.
He took a deep breath to calm his fears. Perhaps the worst that would come of their crossing was this rekindling of his need to visit molly houses. He sighed and stood to leave.
The pirate grabbed him with a strong, work-roughened but elegant hand.
The feel of those long fingers on his wrist froze him to the spot and sent longing through his arm to his whole body.
“When our holds are full, we will leave with the retreating tide. Depending on the day, this could be early morning. I will send you notice the evening before departure. Is that enough time for you to prepare and have all your cargo at the dock before six of the clock?”
Rhain nodded, scrawled his address with some apprehension, and left the dark, noisy tavern with his damn rod at half-mast and his dagger up a sleeve at the ready.
Stephanie Lake is the pen name for a husband/wife team who enjoy writing historical M/M (gay) romance with happy endings and steamy middles. We hope you enjoyed His Pirate, the second book in the Second Chance series. If you liked His Pirate, please leave a review on the site where you purchased the book or on Goodreads. Thanks! 🙂
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