Silas and Fecker, two renters from the East End, have been brought to Clearwater House to discuss their plight with The Viscount Clearwater. Thomas, the handsome redheaded footman, prepares them for the meeting.
They were led into a short passage of closed doors, past a hatstand and into a cavern. At least, that’s what it felt like. The ceiling was arched and high, and the walls tiled. The far wall was taken up by a recess that housed a fireplace and ovens, a row of barred windows lined the top of another and beneath these stood huge dressers displaying pans that glinted the colour of Thomas’ hair. It was all set around a massive table with a central avenue of jars lined regimentally from one end to the other. It was hard not to swear in awe, and it suddenly occurred to Silas that he was warm. It was the first time in weeks.
He was made to wash his hands in a sink and do what he could to tidy his face and hair while Thomas stood over him and Fecks waited for his turn. It took Silas a full five minutes to scrape the crud from beneath his fingernails. Luckily for him, the kitchen smelt of pie and herbs, and it masked the smell of his clothes. He was grateful that he’d not been made to take his shoes off.
Thomas gave Fecks instructions to wash and wait at the table before he beckoned Silas to follow him through to another room.
‘You pissed off with me, Tommy?’ Silas asked, when they were alone in the servants’ hall.
‘Do not speak until you are…’
‘Yeah, I heard you.’
Silas helped himself to a chair at another long, worn table, but Thomas told him to stay standing facing a passageway and a staircase.
‘I thought we got along fine last night,’ Silas said, doing as he was told, but choosing to stand directly beside Thomas and close.
‘Be quiet.’ Thomas took a step forward and away.
‘Your dick was happy to say hello.’
‘I said, be quiet.’ It was more of a hiss than a sentence.
‘Why you being mean to me, Tommy?’ Silas inched closer.
‘Please, shut up.’ Thomas took another step.
Silas caught up. ‘At this rate we’ll be in the front garden by the time you tell me what’s pissing you off. Is it ‘cos you fancy me?’
‘Or is it ‘cos you find my kind… What was the word? Disgusting.’
‘Stop it,’ Thomas insisted. ‘Now kindly…’ He was interrupted by a sensation completely new to him and gasped. ‘Get your hand off my backside.’
‘Want it on your cock instead?’
Silas slid his hand towards the front of Thomas’ trousers, but the footman turned on him, grabbed him by the throat and held him against the sideboard, rattling crockery.
‘What are you playing at?’ Thomas whispered through gritted teeth.
Unconcerned by the hold Thomas had, Silas grinned. A swift kneeing and the man would be in agony, but instead of raising his leg, he raised his hand and cupped Thomas’ crotch.
The footman’s green eyes bored into him, and their anger intensified.
‘Why are you doing this?’ Thomas pleaded. His cock was hardening, his cheeks flaming, and his grip tightened.
‘What do you want?’ Silas leered.
He searched Thomas’ face, but found no answer. He didn’t want to hurt the man, he just wanted to know where he stood, but there was only one way out. Silas pulled Thomas to him by his cock and pressed their mouths together with a clash of teeth.
‘Oh.’ Fecker appeared in the doorway. ‘I hear noise, but it is only you fucking.’
Thomas immediately released Silas and pushed himself away. He straightened his hair and wrestled with the front of his trousers.
‘You safe, Banyak?’ the Ukrainian asked.
‘Go on with you, I’m fine,’ Silas said, gasping for air as he stared hard at Thomas.
‘I wait in here.’ Fecker returned to the kitchen and Thomas returned to being a footman.
‘You are His Lordship’s guest,’ he said with great restraint. ‘You will not behave like that again.’
‘Thought you’d like it, Tommy.’
‘And stop calling me that, you guttersnipe.’
Whatever Silas had been trying to achieve, he forgot about it when footsteps overhead suggested Fecks had intervened just in time. Sexually charged though he was, Silas stood behind Thomas and left him alone. It was only fair.
Whoever was coming was taking their time, and the footsteps stopped at the top of the stairs where a muffled discussion took place. It gave Silas time to clear his thoughts, but it was in vain. He couldn’t move them on from Thomas, what had just happened and how it left him trembling. Where had the need to kiss him come from? He thought that he had picked up from Thomas a possibility of something new, perhaps something physical that was outside his normal boundary of sex for money. Thomas had potential for… for what?
Silas was confused. Maybe he wanted more than sex, but he had Fecks for companionship, he didn’t need anything else. Thomas was someone new, an unknown quantity and gave an impression of being amenable to Silas’ advances, but what did that all mean? What was this incomprehensible longing gnawing his insides? It wasn’t just physical attraction to other men, it went deeper and was disturbing. The conundrum occupied him until the mumbling upstairs stopped, and Thomas stood to attention as the viscount entered.
The click of the footman’s heels broke Silas’ thoughts and he looked up into the eyes of the most striking man he had ever seen. At that moment, knew his life would never be the same.
The Clearwater Mysteries is a new series from author Jackson Marsh. Set in an imaginary London of 1888, the series is a mashup of themes. Gay romance, mystery, action, adventure, some comedy and plenty of realism, with known historical facts twisted to suit the Clearwater world. With viscounts and butlers, rent boys, messenger boys and footmen, the principal characters are gay living in a world where homosexuality is illegal. Falling in love, dodging death, preventing catastrophes, solving clues and, from time to time, getting down to some erotic sex, each book in the series gives the cast a new challenge set against the background of Victoriana and the classic on-going battle between good and evil.
‘Deviant Desire,’ is the first book in the series. A mystery/romance, it sets up two main characters, the tone of the books to come, and the period in which the imagined world exists.
Recently elevated to the title of Viscount Clearwater following the unexpected death of his father, the 29-year-old Honourable Archer Riddington finds himself with the city house, a country house and more wealth than he needs. For many, this would be an opportunity to kick back and enjoy your fortune, but Archer is a philanthropist and has set his mind on helping the destitute men of the East End where, as the story starts, the Ripper has been killing ‘renters.’
Through his work, Archer meets Silas Hawkins, a street-wise 19-year-old son of an Irish immigrant who came to the city four years ago to find work. Gay, Silas is canny, careful, and has high standards when it comes to ethics, despite his occupation as an East End renter. Along with his straight best friend, a 19-year-old, straight Ukrainian, Fecker, he is called to assist Lord Clearwater, and the two instantly fall in love.
‘Deviant Desire‘ has been described as ‘Downton Abbey meets Jack The Ripper’, but the ‘Ripper’ of Jackson’s story, although influenced by the author’s interest in the real crimes, is also imaginary. The story unfolds through a series of clues and twists to reach an action finale, typical of Jackson’s work. In fact, the series develops from insta-love between Archer and Silas to expand their on-going love story and mingle it with that of some of the servants and others. While the background is homosexuality in Victorian London and future books will draw on the 1889 Cleveland Street Scandal and other aspects of Victorian homosexual life, historical facts are used only as inspiration.
‘Twisted Tracks,’ book two in the series, follows on directly from ‘Deviant Desire,’ and is due out in May 2019. ‘Twisted Tracks’ brings together the series’ main core of actors, the viscount, Silas, and three servants, all male and in their 20s. We can’t give too much away here, as one thing that’s clear about The Clearwater Mysteries is that twists are aplenty, there’s always a mystery for the characters and readers to get their teeth into, it’s as historically accurate as possible, with clue solving, romance, some erotica, feel-good, drama, action and adventure.
‘Unspeakable Acts‘, book three, due out later in 2019, takes our characters to the opera house with a blackmail mystery set against the background of theatre and The Cleveland Street scandal, expect it’s not. In this series, it’s ‘Cleaver Street’ as, again, Jackson mixes what was real with what’s created especially for the Clearwater world.
The Clearwater Mysteries is an on-going series which should be read in order of publication.