I’ve just got back from a couple of weeks in North Devon, one of my favourite places in the world. Spectacular clifftop paths, wide sandy beaches, excellent surf, piping hot pasties—you just can’t beat it for an English summer holiday. It’s also the inspiration for the setting of Perfect Day.
Which got me thinking about some of the many m/m romances set around the coast of South West England.
Here are five of my favourites…
This is a beautiful book. I couldn’t it put down. The wonderful cast of characters don’t let you go, and the sense of place is deftly drawn and intense.
The story takes place over seven nights in an idyllic English summer, shortly after the end of WW2. The sense of place and season are vivid, and I loved the hints of mysticism and the power of the feminine. The unfolding mystery around the women in the village, and around the heroes’ pasts, is full of magical realism but most of all I loved the deeply romantic story and the ending that’s full of hope and love.
Highly recommended at any time of year, but this makes a perfect summer read.
It’s 1946, and the dust of World War Two has just begun to settle. When famous archaeologist Rufus Denby returns to London, his life and reputation are as devastated as the city around him.
He’s used to the most glamorous of excavations, but can’t turn down the offer of a job in rural Sussex. It’s a refuge, and the only means left to him of scraping a living. With nothing but his satchel and a mongrel dog he’s rescued from a bomb site, he sets out to investigate an ancient church in the sleepy village of Droyton Parva.
It’s an ordinary task, but Droyton is in the hands of a most extraordinary vicar. The Reverend Archie Thorne has tasted action too, as a motorcycle-riding army chaplain, and is struggling to readjust to the little world around him. He’s a lonely man, and Rufus’s arrival soon sparks off in him a lifetime of repressed desires.
Rufus is a combat case, amnesiac and shellshocked. As he and Archie begin to unfold the archaeological mystery of Droyton, their growing friendship makes Rufus believe he might one day recapture his lost memories of the war, and find his way back from the edge of insanity to love.
It’s summer on the South Downs, the air full of sunshine and enchantment. And Rufus and Archie’s seven summer nights have just begun...
A contemporary romance set in Cornwall, this gorgeous book captures the sense of escape we all feel when we head to the coast for the summer.
The two leads are each escaping something—Darren’s difficult past, Alec’s oppressive family and his own sexual confusion. But in finding each other will they find the courage to make their escape for real?
This is an emotional story, full of romantic angst, with Beecroft’s beautiful prose and lush descriptions adding the kind of detail to places and people that will be familiar to readers of her historical novels. In fact, Cornwall itself is very real character in the story—from the traffic jams to the coves, from the cliffs to the seaside towns. They’re brought to life so well you can hear the seagulls and feel the sand between your toes.
A deliciously romantic read, this is absolutely perfect for enjoying on the beach with a Cornish pasty or an ice cream.
Heir to a business empire worth millions, handsome and wealthy Alec Goodchilde has everything a man could want except the freedom to tell the truth about himself to someone who will love him for it. Once a year, he motors down to an exclusive yacht club on the Cornish coast and allows himself to take the summer off from his demanding father, his stifling mother, his unwanted fiancée and a life he thinks of as a trap.
Once a year, poverty stricken surfer Darren Stokes allows himself to take the summer off from his life of grinding overwork and appalling needy family, financing his holiday by picking up the first rich man to show an interest.
When Alec's car breaks down, leaving him stranded on the beach where Darren is surfing, he is struck as if by lightning by the thought that Darren is the summer made flesh--freedom, wrapped up in one lithe package, dripping wet from the sea.
But Alec is so deeply in the closet that he hasn't even admitted to himself that he's gay. And Darren is recovering from last year's disastrous fling with a rich guy who turned out to be more than he could handle. Even if love is possible in the holidays, can it survive when the boys of summer come home?
A delightful historical romance, set against beautiful Cornish scenery. I loved the exploration of mesmerism, and the uniquely Victorian overlap between science and the mystical.
The two central characters were well drawn, as was the whole village of Porthkennack, and their relationship felt real and tugged at the heartstrings in all the right ways. I enjoyed the contrast between the uptight, yet more experienced, Ward with the down to earth yet inexperienced Nick, and the development of their relationship had enough sweetness and angst to keep this romance addict very happy.
When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother.
In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick — who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men — is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.
Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.
A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.
This is a warm and delightful historical romance for a lazy summer day.
Georgie Turner, clever, conflicted and gorgeous, was the highlight of the novel for me. He’s a swindler escaping trouble in London, who finds himself posing as a secretary for the ‘mad’ Earl Radnor. Georgie ends up helping the anxious, brilliant earl to venture back into the world and to reconnect with his son—and along the way finds himself in love and uncertain how to extricate himself from the criminal life that threatens to destroy the domestic bliss he’s accidentally stumbled into.
This is a page-turning read, with a pace that fairly clips along. The external plot is firmly subordinate to the romance, and the characters are all warm, interesting and beautifully realised. Perfect for your summer, wherever you’re spending it!
An earl hiding from his future . . .
Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.
A swindler haunted by his past . . .
Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.
Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?
Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.
Another Harper Fox story, this one contemporary. I read it on holiday this year and loved it. The Cornish setting is vividly drawn, recognisable to anyone who’s been there, and really forms a central part of the story.
It’s difficult to know how to categorize this book—it’s kind of romantic suspense, but not in the usual way. The two protagonists, Tom and Flynn, are both damaged and their romance isn’t easy. Neither does it ‘heal’ them. But it had me rooting for them from the start and turning the pages until the end. For me, it was a perfect holiday read.
As Tom and Flynn begin their high-risk, high-reward romance, will the tides of the past sweep in to destroy their new love?
Thomas Penrose is a village doctor in rural Cornwall. Popular with patients and friends alike, and handsome into the bargain, he lives in a romantic clifftop tower by the sea. It’s a wonderful life – if only Dr Tom could enjoy it. He’s a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan, fighting a lonely battle against alcoholism and PTSD.
Determined not to inflict his troubles on anyone else, Tom keeps himself to himself. But fate has other ideas, and brings a handsome surfer crashing to his feet after a dreadful wipe-out on Porth Beach. Just another crazy surf bunny? Not a bit of it – Flynn Summers is one of Cornwall’s heroes, a fearless search-and-rescue helicopter man. Why is he risking his beautiful neck in the stormy off-season waves?
Despite the rocky beginning, Tom and Flynn become friends. Both are concealing sorrows behind a tough facade, and for once in his life Tom thinks he’s met someone who can handle him, shadow-side and all. But Flynn isn’t a free man. He’s unhappily locked into a bond of obligations and bad memories with formidable pilot Rob Tremaine – and Rob has no intention of letting Flynn go.
If you've got any suggestions for a great summer read, I've love to hear them!
Perfect Day, my contemporary male/male retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is out now!
Perfect Day, my contemporary male/male retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is out now!
Love doesn’t burn out just because the timing’s wrong. It grows. It never leaves.
When Joshua Newton, prodigal son of one of New Milton’s elite, fell in love with ambitious young actor Finn Callaghan, his world finally made sense. With every stolen moment, soft touch and breathless kiss, they fell deeper in love.
Finn was his future…until he wasn’t.
Love stays. Even when you don’t want it to, even when you try to deny it, it stays.
Eight years later, Finn has returned to the seaside town where it all began. He’s on the brink of stardom, a far cry from the poor mechanic who spent one gorgeous summer falling in love on the beach.
The last thing he wants is a second chance with the man who broke his heart. Finn has spent a long time forgetting Joshua Newton—he certainly doesn’t plan to forgive him.
Love grows. It never leaves.
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