My name is JL Merrow and I—this will be no surprise to anyone who’s ever read one of my books—am British. Painfully so, and nowhere was this brought home to me more fully than on a recent trip to southern Italy. The sun didn’t so much smile upon us as leer down with an evil glint in its metaphorical eye. It was hot.
The Italian women strolled around in the 36 degree heat (that’s high nineties in old money) looking cool and expertly made-up in elegant shift dresses; their menfolk swaggered easily in shorts and open-necked linen shirts; all displayed sunkissed limbs and perfect hair.
I, on the other hand, was a pink-faced, frizzy-haired fashion disaster, not so much tanning in the Mediterranean sun as turning into one giant ambulatory freckle.
Noel Coward sang, famously, that “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” This, I can assure you, is because in this green and pleasant land, we don’t actually have any midday sun, as a rule. Oh, we get the occasional short spell of warmer temperatures, giving the tabloids an excuse to dust off the Cor, What a Scorcher! headlines and print pictures of amply endowed young ladies sunning themselves. But sustained hot and sunny weather, like really heavy snow, is something that happens in other countries, not here—and when we do get it, we’re hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with it.
Perhaps that’s why our national drink is a nice hot cup of tea: we need it to warm us up. But this is where I differ from my countrymen and women. My official bio starts with the words, “JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.” I can’t stand the stuff. Hate it with a passion. The only thing worse than tea is milky tea. And everyone in Britain drinks tea with milk.
This has caused a few problems in my life. Particularly among older people, there’s an assumption that of course everyone drinks tea. I’ve been to places where it was literally the only beverage on offer at certain times. I’ve been expected to drink tea at work, at family get-togethers, and even down a pothole in Yorkshire, for goodness sake!
The Germans quaff beer; the Spanish sip sangria. In Italy you can grapple with a grappa, and in France, take flight with la fée verte. In England, we get brackish boiled water with a bagful of dried-up old leaves chucked in. Yum.
I loved southern Italy. The fabulous coastline; the lemon trees; the roman ruins. But one thing about my recent trip endeared me to the area forever, and no, it’s not the gelato, which is to die for, or the tiramisu, which is divine.
It’s that on the island of Ischia, they’ve found what is, in my view, the perfect use for teapots: as nesting boxes for chaffinches:
Milk and sugar, anyone?
About J.L. Merrow
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 mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Death is what happens while you’re making other plans.
The last thing newly engaged plumber Tom Paretski needs is to stumble over another dead body. He’s got enough on his mind already as the reality of his impending marriage sinks in. Not only is his family situation complicated, his heroism at a pub fire made him a local celebrity. Now everyone and their uncle wants a piece of his psychic talents.
Hired to find a missing necklace, Tom and his fiancé, private investigator Phil Morrison, wind up trying to unmask a killer—and there’s no shortage of suspects, up to and including the local bishop himself.
As Tom and Phil try to uncover the truth, they find themselves pulled in all directions by the conflicting pressures of their families and their own desires. But the murderer they’re up against is a ruthless schemer who won’t hesitate to kill again. If Tom and Phil aren’t careful, their love—and all their plans for the future—could be blown down like a house of straw.
Warning: Contains a bishop of questionable Christian charity, a necklace of questionable taste, and a plumber of questionable nationality who may be running out of time.
Mystery [Samhain, On Sale: July 12, 2016, e-Book, ISBN: 9781619234611 / eISBN: 9781619234611]