Hi guys, we have Vanessa Mulberry popping in today with her upcoming release The First Act, we have a short guest post from Vanessa and an exclusive excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
The First Act
April 1594. William Moodie thinks he’s in love with celebrated actor, Richard Brasyer. When Brasyer’s playing company, Goldfox’s Men, comes to town, William is only too willing to leave his country life for the opportunities of the theater and a life in London. Determined to become Richard’s apprentice, William seeks to impress his mentor with his acting—and please him in bed.
Meanwhile, Richard struggles to escape his past as a spy and disentangle himself from the manipulations of his former master and ex-lover, Bennett Goldfox. Swearing off a relationship with his new apprentice proves difficult for Richard, as William uses all his youthful charms to seduce him. When Bennett’s life is threatened, Richard is lured back into the game for one final mission, and he and William travel to Cambridge to hunt down a list of traitors to the Crown.
In the midst of danger and deception, Richard and William come to truly see each other, faults and all, and realize their feelings run deeper than either expected.
My new novel, The First Act, is partly set in the world of the Elizabethan theatre—a pretty homoerotic place.
Shakespeare is, of course, the first thing everyone things of when talking about English Renaissance theatre. Most people with even a casual knowledge of him and his work will have seen him cited as one of literature and history’s great queer writers. The subject of his bisexuality has been debated for years, the Fair Youth” sonnets pored over whilst we try to answer a question that is validating for some, titillating for many, and in truth, probably none of anyone’s business. But I can’t help thinking that addressing a poem to a young man and calling him “the master-mistress of my passion” is pretty cut and dry.
There are also plenty of queer happenings in Shakespeare’s plays. Antonio’s love for Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice is an oft quoted example. But the queerest of all were the plays focused on male and female romance. The playing companies were masculine environments and the boys would have to take on the women’s roles in full drag. The scripts may present a heterosexual union, but on stage, Elizabethan audiences were watching men fall in love with men. It was with that in mind that I set my novel in that world.
I’d like to share an excerpt now from The First Act. Eager young apprentice William Moodie is trying on his costume for the first time.
It took a while to get into the costume. The unfamiliar clothes were heavy, and William needed Richard’s help. His new master was all business, averting his eyes as William slipped into a smock but helping him with the many undergarments he would have to wear on the stage.
Richard laced the bodice tightly, without compassion, and would not listen to complaints. “Women manage this daily,” he said. “You’ll live.”
Despite longing for it in the past, it felt unnatural to dress as a woman, and William took no pleasure in it until Richard looked him up and down approvingly.
“I take it back. You are quite attractive in costume. You’ll be the envy of every Puritan, no matter what they pretend.”
William looked down at the dress. The gown hid the hard lines of his body, but his shoulders were no less broad and his large feet peeked out from the bottom of the skirt, which was a touch too short.
“I don’t feel girlish.”
“You don’t look it yet.”
Richard rested his arms on William’s shoulders and pulled the ribbon from his hair. The dark locks fell free, and Richard tousled them before arranging them about William’s face. His fingers lightly brushed William’s neck, and William couldn’t help but shiver.
Meeting his eye, Richard acknowledged the response to his touch with nothing more than a disapproving look. “Ideally you’d wear a wig, but you won’t be playing nobility tomorrow and can make do with your own hair, even if it is a little short.”
Next Richard inspected William’s face, stroking his fingers across William’s smooth cheeks and chin.
William had no hair there yet, which had been a source of displeasure for him in the past, but now he was grateful for it. Richard’s fingers were gentle compared to his own rough, work-worn hands, and he fought the urge to lean into the caress. All his attention must be on his performance tomorrow if he wanted to make Richard his permanent lover.
“We will not need to shave you yet, but once we do, you will not have long in skirts.”
Richard disappeared back to the trunk and returned with a small box that contained three little pots. He removed two—one rouge, one kohl—and lightly painted William’s face before standing back and inspecting his work.
“You could not pass for a real woman. Here.” He handed William a mirror. “Your thoughts?”
“I’m not beautiful.”
“Most girls aren’t, and men struggle even more.”
William inspected himself again. He might not have fancied women, but he knew what a handsome one looked like, and it was not him. Nick made a pretty girl; even Francis said so.
“I’m not good enough, am I?” he lamented, handing back the mirror.
Richard looked at him gravely for a moment and then chuckled at his misery. “You’ll do for the stage. The crowd will not be so close, and your paint will be thicker. Besides, they like to see you’re a man. Everyone knows what they’re dealing with then.”
Vanessa Mulberry has been reading and writing since she learnt to read and write. She has been an MM romance reader for a decade now and took up writing the genre because she loves happy endings and, ahem, happy endings. Her hobbies include Gin and Tonic.
She lives in Buckinghamshire (which is significantly less posh than it sounds) with her long-suffering husband and their adorable daughter.