A big thank you to Morticia for being a guest again! Today she’ll be telling us about the fourth book in her Gin & Jazz series, Starring Role.
Please join me in welcoming her and feel free to leave a comment or two.
Gin & Jazz – Jack’s Journey
Thank you for having me here again Jennifer. I’m sharing an excerpt from the fourth book of the Gin & Jazz series, as well as some background about what went into writing an M/M romance set in the 1920’s. Loving someone of the same gender has never been easy in terms of societal persecution. But historically? Much worse.
So in writing the Gin & Jazz series, not only did I have to research the era to maintain accuracy, I had to stay true to what a gay couple might encounter during that time period. And it was a mixed bag. In some ways, it was the beginnings of freedom for those who loved the same sex – especially amongst entertainers and in the big cities. There were such things as pansy clubs and the term ‘gay’ was first coined by jazz musicians.
However, in other ways, it was just as bad. You could still get arrested or sent to an asylum to be ‘cured’ if you were discovered. Actors and actresses had to sign a morals clause due to the Willie Hays code that was enacted to help protect Middle America from the debaucheries of Hollywood. That included any disreputable behavior, such as pre-marital sex. To be caught was to be ruined. Jack’s story began in Hollywood Bound when he was beaten and kicked out of a boy’s home and orphanage when he was sixteen for messing around with another boy. In Starring Role, which completes Jack’s part of the series, he has traversed the wicked ways of Hollywood and finally reaches his Happily-Ever-After. The excerpt is between Jack and his director, André Chenard, a big proponent of method acting. Jack is finalizing his last film so he can escape Hollywood’s clutches forever.
Alone once again, Jack believes that he will never have lasting love. But a tragedy unexpectedly paves the way to more happiness than he would ever have thought possible.
No longer held prisoner by Roman Pasquale’s obsessive love, Jack struggles with being truly alone for the first time in his life. The only thing he is certain of is his desire to get away from Hollywood as soon as possible. But first, he has to make sure that his loyal driver Juan is provided for, and understands that the two of them can never be together. Then, once he finishes his latest film he will finally be free of the town of broken dreams.
Right as Jack feels that his future is looking brighter, a terrible tragedy occurs. But out of his despair a new hope is born. Jack is given a second chance—one he never would have thought possible. As Jack’s blissful new life unfolds with his lover by his side, an unexpected visitor from the past threatens his new-found peace.
It’s time for Jack to make his final choice.
“How did you feel about the scene today? Did it bring anything up for you?”
André talked to him like that all the time. Jack didn’t mind because he knew it made André happy, and Jack believed that it might somehow be good for him too. He knew so much more about life and people than Jack did. So he took his time to put into words what had gone through him when they’d filmed with the panther.
Jack wriggled in his chair. “It made me really scared.”
André nodded as if Jack had said the most amazing thing in the world. “Yes. I could see that, the film could see it. It was perfect. Your character’s journey from believing he has everything and can do no wrong, to desolation and loneliness embodies true fear. When you looked at the panther staring you down in the shot, there was actual terror in your eyes. But I wanted to make sure that you’re okay now.”
Jack shrugged. “I’m fine.”
André leant back a little and crossed his legs. Jack could see he wasn’t done with whatever it was he’d come to say.
“What is your earliest memory of being scared, Jack?”
“Think back. When you were very small, what made you afraid?”
Almost immediately, with barely a thought or picture of anything in his mind, tears welled up in his eyes. He swiped at his face as they spilled onto his cheeks. André’s expression never changed. It was one of the things that Jack appreciated about the director. He didn’t try to stop Jack’s emotions. He wasn’t embarrassed, annoyed or overly concerned by them.
“I…” Jack choked on his words. His mouth wanted to say something, but it was as though the words had become stuck and he couldn’t push them out.
“Nothing you say right now will be wrong. It just is. I believe in you, Jack.”
He’d said it out loud. He was terrified of being alone. It was the one thing that had loomed over him from as far back as he could remember. He had dreaded going to New York by himself. The orphanage hadn’t been the best place to be, but he’d never had to worry about having people around him. Even though he wasn’t very social, there was comfort in numbers. As long as he hadn’t felt too crowded, or things never became too noisy, he had been fine there.
Then there was Nick. The memory was more present to him in that instant than any of the incredible events of the past year. Four years ago Jack had clutched his small sack of one change of clothes and stepped from a train. He had looked around, frightened, on the verge of panic. There had been people hustling and bustling everywhere, some bumping into him, some staring at him. None had been friendly.
Father O’Malley had warned him to be careful around strangers who might want to hurt or rob him. Jack had gone inside the station on the other side of New York City from the great big one he and Nick had left from three years later. He had looked around, lost, confused. His nerves had started acting up, and he’d had to sit on one of the benches. There was a young man sitting there, too, but he didn’t have on fancy clothes, so Jack thought he might not mind that some poor orphan was sitting so close to him. That had been a problem on the train ride over.
“Hey, kid. You okay? You need some help or somethin’?”
Jack had gazed into the beautiful hazel eyes of Nick for the first time. The most important person Jack had, or would ever know. Nick had literally saved him. And Jack had repaid him by seeking out fame and riches, disregarding Nick’s genuine love until it was too late. Jack let his head fall into his hands and cried openly. André allowed him to get it all out the way he always did. He didn’t offer soothing words or gentle caresses. He merely waited patiently until Jack was finished.
Jack pulled a handkerchief from his pocket then wiped his face and blew his nose. He considered André who was sitting relaxed, no judgement or mocking in his expression.
“I’ve made some bad mistakes, Mr Chenard.” Jack lowered his head, shame filling him.
“Oh? Are you referring to Roman or something else?”
“Everything. I did some bad things when I first got to Hollywood and I hurt someone very close to me and lost him. Then there was Roman…”
The tears began to fall again.
“Jack, what I see before me is a very kind young man who is doing the best that he can. Mistakes are a part of the journey of living. You couldn’t have known that becoming involved with Roman would turn out so bad, now could you?”
Jack shook his head. “No, but I think I let him get to me because I was so scared of being alone. I think I understand now. Oh God…”
Jack buried his face behind his hands again. André leaned over and gently prised Jack’s hands loose.
“What just came up for you, Jack?”
He looked into André’s compassionate eyes. “You said that I’m kind, but I wasn’t kind to Roman. I hurt him real bad.”
“Did you do it intentionally?”
“No. But I left him, and he loved me. He begged me to stay. I wouldn’t have left, but he wanted me to be something that was nothing like me, something I never wanted to be.”
“Then you had no choice but to leave him because that wasn’t part of the agreement.”
Jack frowned, puzzled. “We didn’t have any agreement.”
“That’s right. So you never agreed to be what it was he wanted you to be, correct? You didn’t hurt him. He hurt himself.”
Jack sat up straight and pondered André’s words. “Geez, Mr Chenard. You’re real smart.”
André laughed. “You are too, Jack. You just don’t realise it yet.”
M/M Erotic Romance author Morticia Knight enjoys a good saucy tale – after all, who doesn’t? Since she loves several genres, you may find your heroes in a contemporary, historical, paranormal or sci-fi setting. One of her passions is bringing people’s fantasies to life on the page, because life is too short for even one boring moment. Her stories are volcanic in heat, deep in emotion, and sprinkled with doses of humor.
When not indulging in her obsession for books, she loves the outdoors, film and music. The Pacific Northwest is the ideal spot to enjoy both hiking and beachcombing. Once upon a time she was the singer in an indie rock band that toured the West Coast and charted on U.S. college radio. She now resides on the northern coast of Oregon, where the constant rain and fog remind her of visits to family in England and Scotland when she was a child.
She is currently working on the Gin & Jazz series about the glitz and glamour of 1920’s Hollywood and additional installments of the Uniform Encounters series.