Great characters, great cover. Definitely a worthy read.
Carillon’s Curse by Sionnach Wintergreen releases today in the M/M romance, paranormal, Western, historical, thriller genre.
In 1888 Austin, Texas, a shy medium with clubfoot is visited by the grisly spirits of murdered children and enlists the help of a rugged Texas Ranger to pursue their killer. As the two men hunt the murderer, they find themselves not only in the grip of a taboo love that could—at best—send them to prison, but also in danger of becoming the killer’s next prey.
In the twenty-three years of his life, Thomas Carillon has known nothing but unrequited love. People don’t notice him; they only notice his clubfoot. He has given himself up to a solitary existence with only the companionship of his cat and the ghosts who visit him. When a rare child ghost, her massive injuries evident, asks Thomas for help, the only law man that will listen is a hard-bitten Texas Ranger who reawakens Thomas’s secret desires. The two grow closer as they chase the killer, but can they hold onto their fragile, budding love in such hard times?
Hadrian Burton thinks Thomas looks like an angel, except for whatever horror he’s hiding in that strange boot. Temporarily leaving life on the range and his complicated past to track down a killer with Thomas, Hadrian finds himself doing something he vowed never to do again—falling in love. Their “congress,” as Thomas calls it, is more intense than he has ever experienced. After a lifetime of virginity, the clubfooted man is going wild, and he doesn’t balk at Hadrian’s unconventional appetites. But Hadrian fears he will only hurt Thomas in the end. And yet, he has never fallen so hard for another man. How can he keep both his and Thomas’s hearts from being broken? And how can he bring the elusive Child Slayer to justice with only the help of a medium and ghosts?
Friday, January 27, 1888
Thomas Carillon set down his teacup as he watched his cat, Gracie, lift up from his lap in a black and white ruffle of fur, her ghost puff. She had sensed a presence. He sighed. Ghosts never respected his privacy. He enjoyed helping them, but sometimes they demanded attention—usually when he wanted to be alone in his drawing room. “Is it more Confederates? I’m so tired of goddamned Confederates. It’s always ‘what did I die for’ and telling them, ‘not a damn thing’ doesn’t send them off to the Great Beyond.”
Thomas smoothed Gracie’s rumpled coat. It was thick and wispy at the same time, too short to call long and too long to call short. Consequently, the only time it laid flat was when Thomas sleeked it back with his hand, and then it only stayed down for a few seconds. This excited burst of hair, of course, was different. Gracie’s ghost puff. He was the medium, true enough, but Gracie always saw ghosts first, and it was this distinctive puff of hair and body that announced every spectral visitor to Carillon House.
“Show yourself, spirit. I sense your presence and will endeavor to listen to your tale.” He left out that Gracie was truly the one who sensed the specter’s presence. Gracie, for all her intuitiveness, couldn’t speak to ghosts. That was his talent.
This spirit didn’t have the distrust or sudden coyness displayed by most of the ghosts who called on him. This one appeared right beside the arm of his wingback chair. She flickered, wan and bloodless. His breath caught in his throat, and his chest tightened. Seeing a spirit rarely triggered one of his asthma attacks anymore, but the ones who had suffered terrible injuries still affected him.
“You are Mister Carillon?” asked the girl. He didn’t usually see child ghosts. Something about them, perhaps their innocence, allowed them to cross over without all of the problems that burdened adults and kept them bond to the realm of the living.
She looked about five years old with duckling blonde hair done up in curls atop her head and crowned with a large red bow. Dirt and blood-stained white lace gloves were the only article of clothing she wore. She held her bowels in her arms as if cradling a large bouquet.
“Yes. Yes, I’m Mr. Carillon. Please, call me Thomas.” He tried to right himself. Whatever had happened to this child, he knew she meant him no harm. People were scared of ghosts, but the most fearful beings wore flesh and skin flushed with blood. “What is your name, my child?”
“Rebecca. The pretty painted ladies told me to come here.”
The whores. All of the whores liked him. They knew he wasn’t like the men who plagued them in life. Homosexuals spent as little time as possible with naked females—and they certainly didn’t pay to do so. He had helped some cross over and entertained with the others. A number of them didn’t want to cross over, content to haunt men and make them impotent or help him impress rich old women at séances.
“Rebecca. That’s a lovely name.” He could have used a sip of tea, but Rebecca’s condition made his stomach shiver. “What brings you to seek me out?”
“I like your cat.”
“Do you? Thank you. Yes, she is a rather nice cat.”
“What’s her name?”
He was thankful most children crossed over. He wasn’t accustomed to dealing with them. He hadn’t understood them even when he was one. At twenty-three, he should have been starting his own family, but he didn’t call on women. He knew they wouldn’t have wanted to marry him even if he had courted one. The two his mother had tried to collect for him had practically run away. “Her name is Gracie.”
Rebecca giggled, holding twists of guts as easily as she might lift a skirt. “That’s a funny name for a cat!”
“She’s a funny cat. Tell me, dear, what happened to you?”
She sobered. “He hurt me. He hurt my private places, then he cut me with his knife.”
A burst of anger flared bright and hot in Thomas’s face.
Rebecca cringed. “Please, don’t be angry, Mister.”
His grief at her condition and her fear fanned the flames of his asthma. He fought for a breath. A small wheeze escaped him. “I’m not angry at you. Not even a trifle. Tell me, Rebecca, tell me who he is.”
I’m Sionnach (pronounced SHUHN ukh) and I’m a trans male author (he/him) of romance and fantasy. Most of my books are gay romances because they’re so much fun to write. Opposites attract is my favorite trope with hurt/comfort right behind it. Few things are as fun to me as bringing men to life and pushing them into each other’s arms. I love happily ever afters and believe true love is absolutely real.
Before I started writing full time, I volunteered as a grant writer for animal rescue nonprofits. I love animals, and they inevitably find their way into my stories. I share my life with my husband and seven spoiled cats. I’m also the emotional support human to a husky.
I did a lot of research for Carillon’s Curse. I needed to immerse myself in the time period and place—Austin, Texas, in 1888. There are still a couple of anachronisms, but I’m hoping they’re obscure enough that people won’t recognize them. It’s fiction, and even if it’s historical fiction, I think the paranormal aspect gives me some latitude.
First, because I knew right away this was going to be some sort of mystery/thriller type thing (it’s more of a thriller), I researched how murder cases were solved in Austin in the 1880’s. The short answer is pretty pathetically. It’s amazing they ever caught anyone, and it’s highly likely many of the people they did catch were innocent.
I had to look up clubfoot because Thomas has one. On the internet, I found some really good photographs of what uncorrected clubfoot in adults, as well as information about a 19th century contraption to “correct” the foot called the Thomas Wrench. (I had already named Thomas before finding the horrid thing.)
The spookiest thing I looked up were bible verses about women and gay men. The killer uses these snippets from his imaginary friend to justify murdering children. (No, really, it’s a fun book… The sex is hot, I promise!)
For Hadrian, I had to look up things about Texas Rangers, the state police of Texas. I also looked up firearms and what sort of things he might carry with him. For Thomas, I looked up scents that a gentlemen might wear in the 1800s. Violet water was the one I found most interesting. It’s also the same scent Paul liked in Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case.” I ordered violet water from two different stores to try to get a sense of what it smelled like. Both scents were slightly different, but I liked both of them and wore them while writing this book. They’re slightly floral, but gender neutral. Very nice.
At one point, Hadrian tries to get Thomas to eat bread pudding because he’s not eating anything. I craved bread pudding and had to make some the following day. I also bought corn nuts because Rangers often carried parched corn with them. (My husband is now addicted to corn nuts.)
Fashion is always important, so, of course, I had to research clothing. Thomas dresses like a proper Victorian gentlemen. (It’s actually called the Gilded Age in the United States.) I had some idea, from television and movies, what that looked like. Hadrian’s main outfit totally surprised me. Rangers dressed more like the Peaky Blinders than cowboys. They certainly didn’t wear fringe, denim suits, or masks. They did, however, wear a new kind of hat called a Stetson, and neckerchiefs.
I looked up who had electricity in Austin back then, what downtown was like, what the roads were like, etc. A book I found extremely interesting was “The Midnight Assassin” by Skip Hollandsworth. When I was looking up serial killers in the US in the 1800s, I came across an exciting fact—the first recorded serial killer in the US was in Austin, TX, in 1885. Wow! I was already committed to my serial killer and knee deep in my story by that point, but I found a presentation by Skip on YouTube and bought his book. It was truly amazing. The amount of racism, although not surprising, was gut wrenching and sad. The book is well worth a read if you love true crime like I do.
Ghosts were something I didn’t know much about. (Unless you consider watching Supernatural research.) Again, I turned to YouTube and the web to find out about them. I ended up making up some of my own stuff, but added some of the bits I liked from my sources.
I had to look up and try out some sexual positions that would take it easy on Thomas’s clubfoot. At one point, I bound up my foot to see what it would be like. Just doing something like walking, even with a cane (yeah, I bought a cane) took a lot of energy. That was something I hadn’t expected. When I started writing, I thought Thomas would be a delicate waif boy. Sort of, but not exactly. Limping around like that involves the stronger leg and core more than one would think. So, while Thomas has one leg that doesn’t see a lot of action, his stronger leg is pretty muscular. And he has some nice abs.
I also looked up old timey idioms. I love idioms. A number of the idioms my Depression Era grandparents used are in this book. I had to look up everything to make sure it was in use before 1888. I did that with as many words and things as I could—objects, ideas, books, medicines, etc. Although it’s fiction, I wanted to be true to the era.
A sad duty was looking up period homophobia and period racism. I know some people really hate that sort of thing, but I don’t see the point of writing a period piece if you’re not going to actually write about it. Set your book in space or a fantasy setting. I’ve done that and it’s great because you get to create your own history and rules. An historical is, by definition, historical. Otherwise, why bother?
Also, I firmly believe we owe it to the people who came before us—the victims, the activists, the leaders—to get their sacrifices straight. If we don’t know who we were, how can we know who we are? I’ve always preferred authenticity to some whitewashed version of history. If we’re going to do away with period homophobia in books, we might as well go back to telling children about the happy pilgrims feasting with the equally happy Native Americans. Oh, and don’t forget how noble Christoper Columbus was. Pu-Leez. We either tell the truth, or we tell lies. I prefer the truth, or at least some massaged version of it. (I mean, this is a paranormal love story, so there are fantasy bits scattered throughout.)
Author Website: https://www.SionnachWintergreen.com
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