In 1920s Scotland, even ghosts wear plaid.
Welcome to a sexy, spooky new paranormal historical series from debut author Ella Stainton.
Dr. Ainsley Graham is cultivating a reputation as an eccentric.
Two years ago, he catastrophically ended his academic career by publicly claiming to talk to ghosts. When Joachim Cockburn, a WWI veteran studying the power of delusional thinking, arrives at his door, Ainsley quickly catalogues him as yet another tiresome Englishman determined to mock his life’s work.
But Joachim is tenacious and openhearted, and Ainsley’s intrigued despite himself. He agrees to motor his handsome new friend around to Scotland’s most unmistakable hauntings. If he can convince Joachim, Ainsley might be able to win back his good name and then some. He knows he’s not crazy—he just needs someone else to know it, too.
Joachim is one thesis away from realizing his dream of becoming a psychology professor, and he’s not going to let anyone stop him, not even an enchanting ginger with a penchant for tartan and lewd jokes. But as the two travel across Scotland’s lovely—and definitely, definitely haunted—landscape, Joachim’s resolve starts to melt. And he’s beginning to think that an empty teaching post without the charming Dr. Graham would make a very poor consolation prize indeed…
Dr. Ainsley Graham carries a load of guilt about his brother Charlie who died in WWI, and the combination of his anxiety and ADHD means it’s sometimes difficult for him to quit obsessing. Luckily for him, Joachim Cockburn is a student of psychology nearly finished with his PhD, and he’s just the man to help Ainsley recognize that he isn’t strange as much as he is unique. In this scene, Joachim has recently “met” the ghost of Charlie Graham—and had to admit for the first time that there might be something to Ainsley’s stories of spirits!
Ainsley didn’t wish to think about his brother because he always ended up with a painful twist in his belly that settled like undigested hardtack.
He’d never tried hardtack—did they even sell it at the shops?—but he’d read his share of adventure books as a boy and they always seemed to be eating it on voyages. And jerky, which he had tried and found revolting.
“Is pemmican a sort of jerky?” he asked, stopping to tie his shoe, and enjoyed the shape of Joachim’s arse, which was a few steps ahead and in his line of vision. He’d like to bite it, truth be told. Though it might break his teeth—all that hardness in the muscles.
“Pemmican? Hmm.” Joachim didn’t even twitch like most people did when he asked what Trixie called his oddball questions. He narrowed that handsome gaze while he thought. “Something similar, though I believe they add things like dried berries. Why?” There was a hint of a smile buried in that lovely, lovely beard.
“I was thinking about Charlie.” It was startlingly pleasant to not be treated as a continual oddity. Ainsley gave him a kinder look than he gave most people. But only because he was so nice to look at. “Thanks for…all that, by the way.”
Joachim swallowed hard like he had pemmican stuck in his throat. Or hardtack. Squeezed his shoulder in a way that Ainsley was sure he meant he’d squeeze something else if they weren’t on a street walking back from parking the car.
“He was very clear that you weren’t to blame yourself—”
Ainsley held up his hand unable to digest any more of that line of conversation and Joachim was prescient enough to snap his mouth shut. It made him easier to be around than most people who wouldn’t let up on needing to know why Ainsley thought the way he did about things. It was almost a joy to spend time with the deuced man.
“You knew more songs than I’d have imagined.” Ainsley unlocked the front door. Lights had been left on in a path to both the kitchen and his bedroom. The staff knew him very well. Did enough to get him by and no more to aggravate him.
“I enjoy singing.”
Ainsley took off his jacket and slung it on the back of a chair. “You’ve a lovely voice.”
And he was good at injecting the comedic bits, too.
“I was a choirboy.” Joachim’s whole voice wrinkled into a smile and they shared a laugh even though it wasn’t truly funny. Loads of boys were, presumably. But something about great big Joachim as a child in short pants and a bow tie was absurd.
Though if he wore short pants now…not so silly. Those heavenly thighs.
“It helps me focus when someone is singing or playing music.” Ainsley went to the wet bar and poured them each a nightcap. Toed off the shoes he’d tied moments before. What a waste of time. He ought to have removed them in the street. But blech. People spit and other foul things happened on the street and the pavements, which is why Barley would allow no shoes in his flat.
“Take off your shoes, won’t you?” he asked Joachim, a bit dizzy at the thought of all those germs all of a sudden.
Joachim complied exactly where he stood instead of walking over the carpet and tracking the filth, and then carried his shoes to the door. He came back barefoot and crossed the floor, unbuttoning Ainsley’s shirt, mouth on the younger man’s ear, humming.
Ella Stainton teaches history’s scandals to teenagers near Richmond, Virginia. She’s lived in most Mid-Atlantic states where you can catch blue crabs, as well as four years in Sweden, and a year in Scotland (where she visited lots of haunted castles with her scientist father). She doesn’t mind eating Ramen all year if it means she can hop on a plane during summer break, and has visited around 30 countries. Which equals a lot of Ramen. Ella has four fur babies and four without fur (or children, as she likes to call them). She particularly likes ’80’s Eurotrash synth music, glitter eyeshadow, and men in kilts. Even better if they are all three together.
Genre: Historical Genre: Paranormal Genre: Romance Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Carina Press Tag: Age-Gap Tag: Forced Proximity Tag: Guest Post Tag: Only One Bed Tag: Part of a series Best Laid Plaids Ella Stainton