One Under by J.L. Merrow Blog Tour, Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have J.L. Merrow popping in today with her new release One Under, we have a brilliant guest post from J.L., a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway where you can win one of J.L.’s back titles, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~

One Under


J.L. Merrow

London Underground worker Mal Thomas is staying in Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. Getting more bad news from home is the last straw—until big, blond museum curator Jory Roscarrock steps up to offer some comfort.

As a doctor of English literature, Jory should be in a prestigious post at a top university. But a youthful indiscretion led him to abandon academia to come back to his hometown, Porthkennack, and the controlling family he’s never really felt a part of. He’s delighted to find a kindred spirit in Mal.

But Jory’s family hurt Mal’s best friend deeply, and while Jory is desperate to repair the damage, his own mistakes threaten to keep him and Mal apart. Meanwhile, Mal is torn between his feelings for Jory and his duty to his friend—and his fears that a failed relationship could be more than his shattered confidence can take. Jory must convince Mal it’s worth risking everything for their love.

J.L. Merrow!

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of One Under, the second of my contemporary MM romances in the multi-author Porthkennack series. One Under features a romance between two characters readers of my first Porthkennack book, Wake Up Call will have already met: Mal Thomas and Jory Roscarrock—although you’d be forgiven for not recalling Jory’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Wake Up Call!


Today I’d like to talk about a subject dear to my heart: the mermaid. Or, as she is sometimes known, the merrow. 😉

J.L. Merrow - Siren CallIn One Under, Jory is working temporarily at a Porthkennack museum when he meets Mal. Jory gets excited about bringing in a new exhibit about mermaids—and in particular, a “genuine Fiji mermaid”. (If you haven’t seen one of these distressingly common 19th Century sideshow exhibits, be thankful: they’re mummified horrors comprised of the front half of a monkey sewn to the back half of a fish, and they look even worse than they sound.)

Tales (tails?) of mythical creatures, half woman, half fish, have been around for thousands of years. One of the first stories, in classical antiquity, concerned the Syrian goddess Atargatis who apparently turned into a mermaid out of sheer embarrassment, having killed her human lover by excessively vigorous lovemaking. (As a side note, her male worshippers used to castrate themselves in her honour, possibly to ensure they would never share her hapless swain’s fate.)

Mermaids are well known for luring love-starved sailors to a watery grave, emulating the original Sirens of Greek mythology, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey—although those ladies were feathery rather than fishy. But mermaids can also be benign: Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid saves her prince from drowning when his ship is wrecked. Sadly, her love for him is unrequited, and (unlike the Disney version) it all ends in tears.

All over the world, there are legends of watery women (and they are usually women; mermen are presumed to exist but apparently don’t get out much). In Russia, they are known as Rusalkas, and are the spirits of unhappy maidens who died before their time. In China, they weep pearls, and in Africa, Mami Wata prizes snakes, trinkets and sexual fidelity.

The Cornish village of Zennor has its own mermaid legend, alluded to in One Under, and this one has a happier ending. In a twist, it’s the mermaid who is enticed by the man’s beautiful voice, and this time, he loves her too. On summer nights, it’s said, you can hear them singing together in the waters of Pendour Cove. A 16th Century carving of the mermaid in the local church commemorates the affair.

These days, mermaids are bigger than ever. 2018’s “most anticipated book” is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gower, and next month London will host the Merfolk UK Convention (although rather further from the sea than one might have expected).

Question: I’ve always had a soft spot for mermaids—I love the way their beauty can hide a fierce, not to mention downright vicious, nature. What’s your favourite mythical creature, and why?


The phone rang, shockingly loud in the hush of the almost-deserted naval museum. Especially seeing as the lone young man who’d been mooching around the exhibits had set his ringtone to . . . well, Jory couldn’t have named the song or the artist, but it was something modern and rappy, and seemed to be largely about Yo Momma.

It cut off as the young man answered the call. “’Sup?”

He listened for a minute, then spoke again. “Aw, Mum, no. Not Hermione. You’re sure?” The tone was completely different from the one he’d used only minutes ago when speaking to Jory—“Two pounds? You serious? How do they even pay your wages? I mean, no offence, mate, but it ain’t like you got punters queuing up down the street”—and not in a good way.

Then, it had been light. Carefree. Gently mocking. It had seemed to imply a cheeky grin and a wink might not be out of the question. Not that Jory was in any position to judge how accurate that was, given he’d slipped into his usual habit of blushing and staring at his feet when confronted with anything vaguely resembling flirtation. He’d probably only imagined the flirtation. And now . . . Now the tone promised only troubled frowns, with a small but not insignificant possibility of tears. Jory glanced up from his desk, and a sympathetic pang shot through his chest. The man looked devastated.

There was a pause. Jory tried not to stare too overtly while still appearing alert and available should any assistance be required. It wasn’t just because the visitor was so good-looking, although if he was entirely honest with himself, Jory might have shifted his chair around earlier to ensure a better view of those cut-off jeans and, more to the point, what was in them.

Now he felt guilt stricken for ogling the poor man in the face of his obvious distress.

“Why didn’t you tell me she was ill? I could’ve come back. You should’ve told me. I could’ve been there for her when . . .when it happened. Ah, shit.” The young man sagged against the wall, his free hand raking through his light-brown hair, narrowly missing The Wreck of the Troilus. Not that the painting would be any great loss had he knocked it clean off the wall and let the artwork go the way of its subject.

“Yeah. No. Yeah, I’m fine. Mum, I’m fine. It’s just . . . it’s Hermione, you know? We’ve been through a lot together, me and her, and now she’s . . . No, I’m good. I’m fine. You’ll do right by her, yeah? Proper burial? Yeah, yeah, I know. Yeah, love you too.”

He hung up, shoved his phone back in his pocket, and scrubbed his face with both hands. There was a loud sniff.

Unable to carry on as a passive witness—it wasn’t like there was anyone else around to offer comfort—Jory scrambled to his feet. “Are you okay? Sorry. Stupid question. I mean, is there anything I can do? I’m so sorry about . . . I couldn’t help overhearing . . .Tea. I could make you some tea?” He stepped out from behind the desk, hoping to appear more approachable, and came within a whisker of bumping into the bust of Admiral Quick whose twice-broken nose jutted out a bit too far for comfort in the narrow space.

“Nah, I’m good, I . . .” The young man cast his gaze around the room. Whatever he was looking for, he didn’t seem to find it in the cases of nautical antiques on display. His shoulders sagged once again. “Shit. Yeah. Cheers, mate. That’d be magic.”

“Right. Come this way. Mind the admiral, he’s a bit unsteady on his plinth.” Jory gestured for his companion to precede him into the small office behind the reception desk, which was mostly used for writing funding applications. As Jory followed him through, he caught a whiff of the young man’s aftershave, a surprisingly subtle, woodsy scent with a hint of spiced orange.

Tea. He needed to focus on the tea.

There was just enough water in the antique jug kettle for two mugs, and while it looked a bit brackish, the tea bags were cheap enough that the taste would be overpowered. Jory set it on to boil.

“Please sit down,” he said, indicating the one chair in the room, and perched on the edge of the office desk so as not to loom too oppressively. A stack of papers threatened to dive, lemming-like, to the floor. Jory shoved them hastily to safety and tried not to wince at the unmistakeable sound of something falling off the other side of the desk. He coughed. “I’m Jory, by the way.” People, even tourists, tended to have preconceptions attached to his surname, so he’d fallen into the habit of not giving it when he didn’t have to.


At least, Jory was pretty sure that was what he heard, although in that South London accent it sounded more like Mao. He blinked. “Right. Milk?”

Mal—probably—nodded. “Two sugars if you’ve got ’em.”

“Ah. Sorry. No.”

“’S okay. Trying to give it up anyhow.”

The kettle had turned itself off. Jory drowned the tea bags he’d hastily chucked into the mugs. Thank God he’d had a second one clean. Then he picked up the carton of milk, decided it would be too awkward to give it a sniff to check it hadn’t turned during the day, and settled for giving it a quick slosh around. It still seemed to be liquid, so Jory glugged a reckless amount into each mug and handed one of them over to Mal, wincing inside as he realised it was the one emblazoned with Keep Calm and Hug a Curator. Then again, the one he’d kept for himself would be even lessappropriate, seeing as it had a dodo on it, and dodos were notoriously dead, which might seem a bit insensitive, and, oh God, he was going to have to say something, wasn’t he?

Jory cleared his throat and forced himself to look at Mal, who had both hands wrapped around his mug. “I, er, I gather you had some bad news. A . . . bereavement?”

Mal nodded. Then he sniffed. “Ah, sod it. I dunno why it’s hit me so hard.” He seemed to flinch. “I just wish I could’ve been there, you know? But she had a good life.”

“She was quite old?” Jory asked hopefully.

“Nearly four.”

Oh God. That was awful. Far worse than Jory had thought. Whatever the relationship, to lose a child so early— Common sense, which had been banging on the windows for a while now, finally broke through to settle, panting, in the hallway of his mind. “Hermione, yes? She was your . . .?”

“Pet rat. Had her since she was a baby.”

“Oh, thank God for that.” Heat rose in Jory’s treacherous cheeks as he took in Mal’s hurt look. “I’m so sorry. I don’t mean to belittle your loss. Pets can be very . . . Would you like a biscuit?”

Mal ignored the question. “People have the wrong idea about rats. They’re really intelligent. And affectionate. Clean, too.”

His tone had changed from devastated to defensive, which Jory supposed could be seen as an improvement. “I’m sure they are,” he lied. “I just meant . . . I thought you were talking about a person. A child.”

“Oh. No. Yeah, I guess . . . Right. Nah, she’d lived out her time and then some, Hermione had. A lot of rats only make it to two.” Mal stared at the wall for a moment. Jory wondered what he saw. The Sailors’ Knots calendar wasn’t thatfascinating, at least not this month. Clove hitches didn’t have a lot in the way of creative flare.

Mal gave himself a little shake, and pasted on a clearly fake smile. “You gotta be thinking I got you to make me this tea under false pretences, yeah?”

“No, of course not.” Jory grabbed the plastic tub of biscuits and thrust it at Mal. “Please have one. They’re good. I baked them.”

Predictably, Mal’s eyes widened. “Yeah? No offence, mate, but you don’t look the sort to put on a pinny and do the old British Bake Off bit.”

And that, right there, was why Jory never mentioned his surname. He got quite enough of people making assumptions about him based on his appearance. “What do I look the sort for?”

“Dunno. Lumberjack?”

“Cornwall isn’t particularly noted for its forests. Not logging ones, anyway.”

“Uh . . . fisherman, then? Hauling in nets and stuff? Yeah, I could see that. Fits with the theme, dunnit?” Mal waved a hand around vaguely.

“This is a naval museum. Not a fishing one.”

“Same difference, innit? It’s all sea stuff.” Mal grinned suddenly, this one seeming genuine. “You know, you’re like if Tintin and Captain Haddock had a kid together.”

Jory stared. “That’s possibly the most horrifying thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

It wasn’t, actually, even close, but it got him a laugh. “You wanna get out more, mate. So are you a local, then? Cos you don’t sound like it.”

“Public school from the age of seven tends to do that to you.” Jory said it lightly. It was an old wound now.

“Yeah? How come you ain’t in Westminster running the country with all the other Old Etonians, then?”

“There are other public schools. And . . . it’s complicated. Family issues.”

Mal nodded, like that made perfect sense to him.

“You’re here on holiday?” Jory rushed on.

“Kind of.” Mal’s smile was twisted. “Work issues. I’m staying at the Sea Bell—me mate’s little sister is the barmaid there. Tasha, you know her?”

“I . . . don’t tend to drink in pubs.” Jory had seen her around, though. A pretty girl with pale tan skin and extravagantly bushy brown afro hair. Mrs. Quick, who volunteered at the museum in the off season and liked to keep abreast of things all year round, had pointed Tasha out to him as one of her previous guests at the B&B. She’d given a strong hint that her hospitality had been instrumental in getting the girl to relocate to Porthkennack.

“You really need to get out more.” Mal finally took a biscuit and bit into it. “Hey, these are great,” he said with his mouth full. “Cinnamon, right?”

Jory nodded, distracted by waiting for a shower of crumbs that never came.

Mal looked pleased and swallowed. “So I was thinking, you ought to come down the pub tonight. Let me buy you a drink to say cheers and all.” Again, there was a vague hand wave. Presumably this one was referring to the tea, biscuits, and sympathy, rather than the naval museum as a whole.

“I— There’s no need.”

“Yeah, there is.” Mal gazed at him sorrowfully. “You wouldn’t leave a bloke to drink alone the day his rat died, would you?”

It wasn’t a dilemma Jory had ever been faced with before. “I . . . No. Of course not.”

“Brill. See you at the Sea Bell at seven, then?” Without waiting for an answer, Mal stood up and grabbed a couple more biscuits from the tub, flashing a smile in Jory’s direction. “Couple for the road.”

He winked. Then he was gone.

He hadn’t drunk his tea. Jory took a cautious sip from his own mug and realised why. The milk had, in fact, turned.

Ye gods, that was awful.

Porthkennack Contemporary LogoPorthkennack Historical Logo

About Porthkennack!

Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex BeecroftJoanna ChambersCharlie CochraneGarrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.

Check out Porthkennack Universe!

About J.L.!

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through is a 2013 EPIC ebook Award finalist. She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Connect with JL:

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To celebrate this release, one lucky winner will receive their choice of a book from JL’s backlist!

(Just leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest.)

Question: I’ve always had a soft spot for mermaids—I love the way their beauty can hide a fierce, not to mention downright vicious, nature. What’s your favourite mythical creature, and why?

(Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 24, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.)
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15 thoughts on “One Under by J.L. Merrow Blog Tour, Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!

  1. Lately, I kinda have a thing for male selkies (I get that vibe when I see a hot surfer boy in a wetsuit), though it would sure be nice to find a related story that ended happily…


    1. Oh, I love selkies! And yes, I get that association when I see a guy with his wetsuit hanging half off. I’ve done m/m and f/f selkie stories, and the m/m one is in the Boys Who Go Bump in the Night anthology, but it’s, uh, not the happiest of ever afters!

      A few months ago I read a book which had an interesting – and totally believable – explanation for the rise of the selkie legend – Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford.

  2. Thank you for the interesting post. I don’t really have a favorite mystical creature. They all appeal to me in their own ways.
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  3. I also have a love of mermaids (or, more accurately, mermen). I also like selkies, and dragons! I definitely went through a dragon phase as a child. 🙂

    1. Dragons are fabulous. When I was a child, I had the record “Puff the Magic Dragon” and must have played it to death. Then I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon books and read them to death. 🙂

  4. Elves… Because they are beautiful and fierce, and somehow sad as well. But the real reason is that I was obsessed with The Lord of The Rings for ten years, I read it for the first time when I was thirteen and re-read it at least twice a year during all my teen years till my early twenties… I fell in love with that world, and of course, with Tolkien’s beautiful elves

    1. Elves are creatures I always feel I don’t know as much about as I should. Tolkien’s elves are wonderful – so otherworldly – but I’d have to confess one of my favourite takes on elves is Terry Pratchett’s:
      “Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
      Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
      Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
      Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
      Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
      Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
      The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
      No one ever said elves are nice.” – Lords & Ladies

  5. I like all sorts of mythical creatures – shifters, vampires, dragons, fairies. As long as they aren’t evil, I like them!
    jlshannon74 at

    1. Heh, my teenage daughter would beg to differ with you there! She’s firmly of the opinion that the evil ones are the best! 😉

      (And curiously, I’ve noticed the evil ones do tend to have better hair *g*)

  6. I like mythical creatures that for reasons that baffle me, aren’t popular. I adore gargoyles, but I’ve only found a few where they are the main character. They’re generally misunderstood, because people assume their cold hard appearance indicates the inner being.
    j dot stonewright at gmail dot com

    1. Yes, it’s funny how some creatures are more popular than others. I always imagine gargoyles as being contemplative, philosophical types.

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