Guest Author: L.J. LaBarthe – The Body on The Beach

My latest release is called “The Body on The Beach” and is set in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1920. It is a m/m romance murder mystery, and is part of the Australian anthology I put together for Dreamspinner Press. The authors involved in this project are Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, myself and newcomer Robyn Walker.

My story covers not only the murder mystery, but the subjects of immigration, the need for absolute discretion by the gay community, fan-tan games run illegally and opium dens. In 1920, Adelaide was as diverse a city as anywhere in Australia. My research has shown that people came from all over the world to start a new life here in this country, and Australia is a huge multicultural nation.

In “The Body on The Beach,” the main protagonist is Billy Liang, son of Chinese immigrants. He was born and raised in Australia, went to university and was elected by his countrymen to be their liaison and spokesperson for the police and local government. This role was traditional in Adelaide at the time; in 1888 until the early 1900s, the spokesman was Chinese businessman Mr. Way Lee.

Billy’s love interest is an Australian man named Tom, who is also Billy’s family lawyer. The two of them live in Billy’s house, and hide their relationship from the outside world. The only people who know about it are Jian, Billy’s butler and assistant, Bessie, the maid and Hui Zhong, Billy’s wife. Many Chinese men married women in order to continue the family line while having lovers of both sexes, this was a tradition, which is shown in China’s history.

The murder itself is based loosely on an unsolved murder from the 1950s in Adelaide, one that has fascinated me for ages. It’s called the Taman Shud case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man. (More information for those interested is here:

The history of Adelaide in the twenties fascinates me, particularly as I’m the child of immigrants myself. It was not all doom and gloom—a newspaper article from 24th February, 1912 talks about a celebration for Chinese Day, when the Chinese businesses closed and there would be fireworks and in the evening, a banquet dinner with toasts being celebrated.

Chinese immigrants—and those from Italy, Greece, Romania, Russia, and all over the world—worked hard and contributed to society. The Adelaide Markets, once situated in the east part of the city center, are now on the south side, and still run as they did when they were established by market gardeners who sold their produce there. Those market gardeners were Chinese, Greek and Italian immigrants and the legacy of their market gardens continues today.

Despite the illegal fan-tan games, which ran for years, despite numerous arrests, and the sale of opium, which was illegal and also resulted in numerous arrests, the Chinese community prospered and became as vital a part of the Australian multicultural landscape as any citizen of the country. This is something I touch on in my story as well, the games and the opium were a constant thorn in the side of the police and the businessmen and the spokesperson for the Chinese.

Finally, I want to share some of the amazing photographs from the era, all are public domain and from the State Library of South Australia.


Brighton beach in 1920. This is how the beach where the murder and part of the investigations in “The Body on The Beach” looked during the story.


From 1907, a display of goods from Chinese market gardeners in the East End Markets.


 Group photograph of the members of the Kuo Min Tang in Adelaide, 1920.



L. J. LaBarthe can be found in the following places:

Twitter: @brbsiberia





“The Body on The Beach” is the latest release from L. J. LaBarthe. It’s a m/m romance and murder mystery, set in Adelaide in 1920. It is part of the “Under the Southern Cross” anthology put together by L. J., which features work from Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, L. J. LaBarthe and newcomer Robyn Walker. The anthology is five Australian m/m stories by five Australian authors and is out with Dreamspinner Press in March/April. Stay tuned to for more information.




AF Henley – On Writing Romance

It will be no surprise to anyone that I start this journal off with the following disclaimer – I am a romantic. Yet in the past several days I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of anxiety as to what that says about a person. What does romance mean? What is the basis of romanticism and how does it affect my writing and my characters? Is romantic synonymous with weak? Foolish?

I start my musing research, as I always do, with Google.

Merriam-Webster classifies romance as a variety of concepts that ranges from a type of literature, to something that lacks basis in fact, an emotional attraction, to a love affair. It’s a language, an instrumental, a literary form, and an action – inclusive of noun, verb and adjective.

That’s a huge scope of categorization and pondering that span I think I understand why. Every one of us, every single person, sees romance differently from the next. (And wouldn’t the world be mundane if we didn’t?) What is believable for one will be laughable for the next. What is idealistic over here could be viewed as repulsive over there.

It’s that diversity that suggests to me the need for a broad character approach. Not every romantic narrative is accomplished through the depiction of wide-eyed, soul-gazing, insta-love or with charming, perfect characters. Realistic portrayals of confusion, bad choices, and questionable judgement lead to two very powerful aspects of fiction:  credibility and relevance.

While every writer seeks to write an adored character, not every character needs to be adorable. Enter the imperfect protagonist—the conceited or the arrogant, the spoiled and the petulant, with the sarcasm that’s a touch too sharp and the brooding that’s a bit too dark—for these are traits that offer far more character development and realisation than the standard model. It’s a rugged journey that begins with regret – but it is a rewarding one to write. For regret leads to guilt, guilt points towards a need for pardon, and pardon is the first trembling step towards recuperation.

Flawed is real; we’re all flawed. We are not, however, all weak. This is the difference, be it in life or fiction, that defines how successful one will be in overcoming said faults.

In writing, triumphing against trauma is conceptual. The use of retaliation is an easy and familiar one. Human beings respond no differently than animals when presented with trouble. There is a natural instinct; the “flight or fight” shove. If that difficulty is further complicated by the removal of choice (i.e. flight option is not available), then the feral reaction of aggression tends to rush forefront, lifting both fists or, for the sake of fictional reference, the brandishing of one’s sword. “I’d kill him,” is not an uncommon sentiment to suffering, be it physically, mentally or emotionally.

So the act of stepping past that outlook is a writing tactic that can prove taxing, even unsettling. Vengeance, however, is a primitive instinct that fans the flames of war, results in rash and irreversible decisions, and turns good people into beasts. Therein lies the difference between humanity and creature – conscience. We have the ability to act better, do better, to be better. So why stop at giving your character mere reprisal when you can shove that angst-ridden bugger into purgatory, force his or her heart to concede and offer up a broken soul some forgiveness?

That’s romance for me. The completion of a union that’s not just physical but heartfelt. The “not only did you fulfill my need but you made me a better person” moment. That kind of love is what transforms a simple character into a hero. And that is a concept that is neither weak nor foolish.

Peace, love and honour,

AF Henley <3


Honour CoverHonour

by A.F. Henley

M/M Historical Romance

Recently docked after a voyage abroad, Emmett wants only to find a warm bed and good food, for himself and the cabin boy he’s taken into his care. Those plans are impeded, however, by an altercation in the streets—with a man he realizes too late is England’s heir to the throne, Prince Andrewe.

When the encounter unexpectedly leads to a position in the royal household attending the prince, Emmett is not certain what to think. On one hand, it’s a reliable income and ensures the safety of his charge. On the other, it’s neither the life Emmett knows, nor an environment that he’s comfortable in. Left to learn his lessons the hard way, Emmett spends his days contending with a spoiled, infuriating prince who leaves him in a constant tangle of emotions.

Then he begins to hear whispers of treason and must make a choice: defend Prince Andrewe, or betray him.

Word count: 45,500

Purchase your copy at Less Than Three Press, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble

Excerpt, bio, and cover artist information available here

Cate Ashwood – My Coming Out Story & Contest

Charlie, I want to thank you so much for having me on your (beautifully redesigned) blog today. Before we dive right into it, though, I wanted to mention that I’ll be doing a giveaway at the end of the tour. Every comment that is made on each of the posts will be put into a hat and two winners will be drawn at random to win e-copies of the book. I’ll announce the winners on my website on April 10th.

Today I wanted to tell you my coming out story. I sincerely hope that I don’t offend anyone by calling it my coming out, because I know many have had to struggle for love and acceptance from the people they chose to be honest with. My coming out story wasn’t nearly as tumultuous or risky. Mine was telling my parents that I write gay romance novels.

Until I received my contract from Dreamspinner, my novel was a secret. There were only two people who knew I was writing—my husband and my sister, and honestly if I could have kept it from my husband I would have, but he thought I was having some sort of cyber-affair. Every time he walked by, I would hide the laptop screen or quickly change windows.  (Nothing sketchy about that at all, right?) But I was embarrassed. I had no idea if I would be any good at it. You know how every parent thinks their kid is a genius? Writers (or at least me) walk a fine line between being the parent of their manuscript and hating everything about it. We must think it has some merit, or we would never send it in, but the second it’s too late to turn back, you reflect back on it and realize it is probably the absolute worst thing ever written.

Anyway, to say I was shocked to receive my acceptance letter is the understatement of the century, but then I was then faced with a choice. Should I tell people what I was writing? What would they say? What would my mother think?

I couldn’t keep it from her, though. My family is close. Very close. Closer than a family probably should be, so I told my mom first and she was thrilled. Initially a little confused why I was writing gay romance, but she was so very happy for me. She broke the news to my dad, who was, if possible, more excited than my mom was. I asked them to keep it quiet in the beginning. I wasn’t sure I wanted my grandmother knowing I was writing sexy books, but my mom practically took out billboard space on the highway. She told everyone—and I do mean everyone. Friends, family, acquaintances, the waitress at the restaurant where they go for breakfast (who is an aspiring writer, so my mom gave her my email address)—everyone.

So, I have to say that I am happy they know. They love me and would be proud of me no matter what, but having them celebrate my successes with me makes them that much sweeter.


KeepingSweetsORIG(2)Here is the official blurb for Keeping Sweets:

Days away from high school graduation, with hardly a penny to his name, Evan Lowry needs to earn money for college. When he comes across an ad for modeling, he thinks his luck has changed—until he learns he’s interviewing for an adult film and will be expected to have sex. On camera. With other men.

For gay porn star Brandon Court, the shine has worn off of regular shoots. He and his producer, Les, decide to try something new: a reality-show porno set at a beach house. When he meets wide-eyed and naïve Evan for the first time, Brandon isn’t sure if he wants the kid to get lost or get naked. Naked wins.

On set, Brandon takes Evan under his wing, and over the next month, they are thrown together in every intimate way conceivable—except emotionally. Both Brandon and Evan are terrified of trying for anything deeper, and insecurities and doubts wear on their hopes, but the chemistry between them won’t let them slow things down.

And here is an excerpt from the book. Evan is this kid who has been waiting eighteen years for his life to begin. He doesn’t know a lot about the world, or even himself, but once he leaves home he begins to understand where he fits into the bigger picture. This is from a little ways into the story when Evan starts to understand where he belongs.
He was beginning to realize that his desire to be normal, to fit in with a loving family and friends who cared about him had fueled a sort of denial about what would really make him happy. He had been searching for all these years for a magic trick to instantly make everything better, but there was no magic.

The forest opened to the cliffs that outlined the beach. A set of well-worn wooden steps carved a path through the low brush toward the water. He walked toward the ocean, listening to the sounds around him. He crossed the dry sand and sat down, then pulled off his shoes and socks before dipping his feet in the water. He wiggled his toes, burrowing into the loose sand, letting the waves splash against his shins.

The water was cold, and felt a bit like needles piercing his skin, but the calm that overcame him with being this connected to the sea overrode any discomfort from the temperature.

Slowly, his skin numbing slightly, he became accustomed to the cold. He stared out past the slowly rolling waves toward the calmer water at the horizon. He closed his eyes and thought of how peaceful it was here. He would be happy to stay like this forever. Quiet, serene, and tranquil, it was such a change from the quiet that had permeated his life until now. What had once been loneliness, separation, and isolation had become a quiet strength and acceptance of himself.



Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband and two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.

Cate loves to hear from readers. You can find her here: