Exclusive Excerpt 2: By the Currawong’s Call

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A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

‘You kissed her.’ Matthew was surprised to let the words out. They’d been searing little troughs of ugliness into his mind for at least the past hour, as time ticked longer into the evening, but he hadn’t planned on giving actual voice to them.

Jonah looked up at him as he removed his shirt and flung it on top of his jacket. ‘Well, technically,’ he said, ‘she kissed me.’ For a moment, it looked like he was about to grin, but the expression died before any of his features could commit to it.

Matthew swallowed and tried to keep his breathing calm. His memory flashed back to the kerfuffle in the main road that afternoon, how firmly Jonah took control of the situation, soothing the giant horse and catching Miss McMillan in his arms as she swooned. How obviously and understandably impressed she must have been with the gallant policeman who’d come to her aid. Of course she kissed him.

Jonah swore softly at his boots as he fumbled with them. He unbuckled his holster and laid the gun and baton on the table. Onto his trousers next, he swiftly unbuttoned them and slid them down his legs and off, letting them fall over the back of the chair with the rest of his uniform. He steadied himself against the table and lifted first one foot and then the other, removing his thick woollen socks and haphazardly stuffing them into the tops of his empty boots.

‘You were her dashing hero today,’ Matthew said softly, his words coming out on a shallow sigh. ‘Just like you were my dashing hero during the fire.’ He looked at Jonah standing before him in nothing but his union suit. ‘I of course understand her compulsion in wanting to kiss you for it.’ He tried to say it as dispassionately as he could muster.

Jonah squared his shoulders, standing his ground there beside the table as he took in Matthew’s words. ‘I hope you remember,’ he said, ‘when you kissed me in yer sacristy that day, how when you went to pull away, I grabbed at ya and dragged ya back in for more?’ Matthew stayed silent, so Jonah went on. ‘Just want you to know, alright? When she pulled away? I let her.’ And with that, Jonah turned his back and walked over to the washstand.

Beneath his crossed arms, Matthew’s heart banged a tremulous staccato, letting Jonah’s quietly defiant statement sink in. He watched, in the dim light, as Jonah bent at his washstand, brushing his teeth. Such a mundane act, yet it was an action Matthew had never before seen him perform. The casual intimacy of the moment, of the fact Matthew was sitting here in Jonah’s cottage, on Jonah’s bed, the knowledge that the two of them were actually about to sleep in the same room together for the entire night, even wake up in one another’s company – it all suddenly felt momentous.

‘I thought you might’ve slept with her,’ he said toward the fire.

‘I might’ve done,’ came the gruff response. ‘Hell, six months ago, I would’ve done. But with the way things are now…’

Marsland’s pen is playful but there are some serious questions asked. What is a hero? What does courage really look like? What are the shapes of true love? It’s refreshing, too, to read an erotically charged romance that’s not all about the sex.”
– Kim Kelly, Historical Fiction Author

 

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Exclusive Excerpt: By the Currawong’s Call

32275

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

‘Who would you say my friends are in Dinbratten?’

Matthew was momentarily stumped by the apparent change of subject and it took him a second or two to dredge up a name. ‘Um. George, I suppose? Or Albie at the pub?’

‘I’m a trooper,’ Parks said, as though that fact had been somehow forgotten. ‘My presence tends to make people uncomfortable. Like they’re immediately looking for what the trouble or the danger is as soon as I walk in a room. I think I make them feel a bit guilty, even if they’ve never done a bad thing in their whole life. And I can’t help thinking,’ his voice dropped slightly, ‘that men in your line of work must have it something similar.’

For a moment, Matthew couldn’t think what to say in response. He’d never before encountered such an attempt at solidarity. ‘I think I understand you, Sergeant,’ he said evenly. He glanced down at the bottle in his hand and smiled. ‘Though I must say, I’ve never had anyone offer me a gift of, well, sex before.’

‘Eh.’ Parks took the bottle back. ‘People see the cassock and the collar and they forget there’s a man underneath ’em, I s’pose.’

‘But not you?’

At the question, Parks paused with the bottle partway to his mouth and gave Matthew a penetrating look. ‘I see ya.’

On the receiving end of that look, Matthew felt a little hot under the aforementioned collar and realised belatedly that he had managed to get slightly tipsy. He cleared his throat. ‘It’s Sunday tomorrow…’

‘Don’t be offended if half the town are too hungover to turn up.’

Matthew smiled at that. His face was still feeling warm. ‘I think I’ll be bidding you goodnight now, Sergeant.’

Parks crossed his arms over his chest, liquor bottle nestled in the crook of his left elbow. ‘You called me Jonah earlier.’

Had he? Yes, Matthew remembered, he had. ‘You still call me Father,’ he pointed out.

‘So I do.’ One side of Parks’ mouth pulled up in his quirky grin. When it didn’t seem likely that he was going to say anything else, Matthew took a shuffling step back toward the door.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘goodnight, then.’

‘Goodnight,’ Parks returned. ‘Matthew.’

Matthew fumbled the doorknob and took his leave.

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Bi-Visibility: Highlighting Some Favourite Bi-Characters

by Welton B Marsland

(Editor’s Note: September 23, Bi-visibility Day, has been marked each year since 1999 to highlight biphobia and to help people find the bisexual community)

Writing my novel, By the Currawong’s Call, it was important to me that I show the character of Jonah Parks as quite obviously bisexual. Even after falling in love with a man, he continues to admire women and female sexuality – I was determined to avoid the bi-erasure that’s all too prevalent in popular culture. Often, the fluidity of human sexuality is ignored in favour of absolutes (television, in particular, seems most fearful of the simple little word “bi” and rarely brings itself to acknowledge it).

As September is Bi Visibility Month (with September 23rd Bi Visibility Day), I’d like to celebrate four unabashed bisexual characters from screens large and small.

Alec Scudder

Appears in: Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novel Maurice

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Played by: Rupert Graves

In both book and movie, Alec Scudder, a working class gamekeeper, is there long before we or Maurice notice him. He emerges from the narrative slowly and naturally, making us blink and wonder how we could possibly have missed him – Maurice must have felt the same way. Scudder is truly one of my favourite characters in all of literature, so brave and determined and self-accepting. The sacrifice he makes for love, for the possibility of “a happier year” is awe inspiring. D.H. Lawrence may have created a more famous gamekeeper over a decade later, but Forster’s is the one that makes my breath catch.

“First time I see’d you, I thought, I wish I had that one. And it is so.”


Saxa

Appears in: Spartacus TV series

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Played by: Ellen Hollman

Many TV shows over the years have used a bisexual female character to quickly and cleanly tick a diversity box. They just seem so much more palatable and non-threatening, don’t they? Wonderfully, there is nothing in the least bit “non-threatening” about Saxa, a slave from Germania freed by Spartacus’ growing army to become one of its most formidable warriors. Saxa approaches her love life with the same fearlessness she approaches a battlefield, and yet still retains her capacity for tender moments. She lives large, like most of the Germanic characters in Spartacus, never shrinking from anything.

“I rival any fucking man.”


the Earl of Rochester

Appears in: the movie Plunkett & Macleane

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Played by: Alan Cumming

The real Earl of Rochester wrote bawdy verse and outraged Georgian society with his hedonistic lifestyle. This Rochester doesn’t pen any poetry, but quips and puns his way through this rollicking romp, holding his own amongst highwaymen and villains, and wishing he was holding someone else’s. With an eloquent smirk and an eye as sharp as his dress sense, this Rochester believes in justice and friendship and is prepared to draw his sword on a bad guy in order to save the day.

“I swing EVERY way.”


Crowley

Appears in: long-running TV series Supernatural

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Played by: Mark A. Sheppard

King of the crossroads, the Demon King of Hell, Crowley is a slippery character. What his true sexuality is might be anyone’s guess (do demons truly even have one?), but he’s certainly an equal-opportunity flirt and takes great delight in procuring those seal-the-deal kisses from desperate souls. One of the few Supernatural characters who seems to see everything that’s going on, even the unspoken and unacknowledged, and isn’t afraid to make a pointed remark about it. Friend? Foe? Fuckbuddy? Only Crowley himself could ever know for sure.

“Your choice. You can cling to six decades of deep-seated homophobia or, just give it up.”


32275A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

“Told with an old-fashioned, authentically Australian wink and a smile – including even a couple of laugh-out-loud japes – By the Currawong’s Call is also a tale with a very timely message: people in love will marry whether it’s legal or not.” – Kim Kelly

“By the Currawong’s Call is warm and sweet and sympathetic and respectful, with skilled and lovingly descriptive prose. A really satisfying read for a rainy day when you want to feel like there is love and hope even through trying times.” – Plain B, NetGalley

“Stars: five, Its a story to savour, a book to re-read later and had an epilogue I loved.” – Jeannie Z, Reviewer

“This was beautifully written and full of love and hope.” – Ashley B, NetGalley

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now.

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