As a fan of the m/m genre I consider Mickie B. Ashling an author I can count on for compelling stories and engaging characters and I'm honored to be hosting her today as she talks about one of her favorite books from her backlist. Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of Mayon and then leave a comment about why you love reading m/m books for the chance to win a digital copy of it.
Thank you for letting me share your blog to talk about my novel, Mayon, a historical romance set in the Philippines. Readers have asked why I chose this country as the background for my first historical novel. The reason is because I wanted it to be authentic, and as much as I love historicals set in Europe, to me, they are still foreign locales, whereas the Philippines was my home for twenty-nine years. Most of my formative years were spent in this same setting, and I could easily translate my memories to paper with a little bit of research to make it ring true.
My Spanish Basque grandparents migrated to the Philippines in the early 1920's. They owned a coconut plantation in the Albay region, like the Saenz family in my novel, and were members of the large Spanish community that continued to thrive in the islands, long after colonization ended in 1898. The characters that populate my novel are figments of my imagination, based on real people I’ve met or heard about thoughout the years.
Like the American south, and India, under the British, prejudice abounded during 400 years of Spanish rule. The line was firmly drawn between the Caucasian community and the “natives” who populated the country long before Magellan ever set foot on Phillipine soil. This attitude of entitlement carried over to society, business, courts of law, and especially, affairs of the heart. It’ll explain, but not justify, some of the irrational behavior of my MCs.
I’d like to offer an electronic copy of Mayon to one lucky commenter. Jody will set the rules, I’ll provide the prize. I’d also like to thank my publicist, Joleen, from Parenthetical Author Services for setting up my blog tour. I’m one of those authors who’d rather spend time in the writing cave than self-promote. If you suffer from this affliction, I highly recommend Joleen who has made this process quite seamless. You can contact her at joleen@
The Philippines, 1946
After being discharged from the Marines, John Buchanan takes a position as overseer for plantation owner Ignacio Saenz. The work is good, but the real draw for John is Mount Mayon, the active volcano looming in the island’s horizon. Finally he has a chance to put his interrupted studies in vulcanology into practice.
Gregorio Delgado, the current overseer, isn’t thrilled at being replaced. However, he can’t ignore his attraction to John, who appears to be a kindred spirit. But John throws mixed signals—and more importantly, he pays too much attention to Margarita, one of Ignacio’s marriageable daughters.
As John and Gregorio begin a tour of the haciendas, John discovers he has far more in common with his new acquaintance than he thought possible. Torn between honor and desire, John struggles to define who he is and what Gregorio could mean to him. Like the unpredictable volcano, equal parts beauty and danger, Gregorio becomes an obsession that could erupt at any minute and destroy them both.
Gregorio waved at a group of women washing clothes by a riverbed. John asked him to pause for a minute so he could watch them beat the cloth with flat boards against the river rocks. It looked like backbreaking work, and they were soaked with soap and water, but appeared to be enjoying themselves by laughing their chores away.
“Haven’t you ever seen this before?”
“Not really,” John admitted. “Back home we use washing machines.”
“How can a machine do as good a job as a human being?”
John shrugged. “I never really thought about it; my mother does the laundry.”
“I can’t imagine the clothes would get any cleaner that way.”
“You’re probably right,” John said. “Shall we move on?”
“We should stop and eat soon. Aren’t you hungry?”
“You don’t need to persuade me to eat,” John said, smiling. “What do you have?”
“They packed us a picnic lunch,” Gregorio said, kicking his horse forward. He headed toward a large mango tree in full bloom, more than able to provide the shade they would need. After he hopped off the mare, he began to unload some of the items he’d managed to stuff into the saddlebags without weighing them down. He pulled a folded mat from one bag and spread it out on a flat surface. It was large enough to sit or sleep two adults comfortably.
“That’s convenient,” John said. “What’s it made of?”
“Yeah,” John said, pointing at the multicolored spread.
“Some kind of grass the women weave together. People sleep on them all the time.”
“On a mattress?” John asked.
“No.” Gregorio laughed. “On the floor.”
“Bet it would be uncomfortable without any kind of cushion.”
“It’s better than sleeping on dirt.”
“I suppose so. Do you sleep on one every day?”
“No, I have a bed.”
“Lucky for you.”
“More than you know,” Gregorio explained. “I had grandparents who took care of my mother and me. A lot of tisoys have to fend for themselves.”
“Short for mestizo. That’s what they call half-breeds around here.”
“Was a Spaniard. He died before I was born.”
“That explains it.”
“Your height and the pine-colored eyes.”
“What’s a pine?”
“Haven’t you ever seen a Christmas tree?”
“Only in pictures.”
“What do you people use to decorate during the holidays?”
“Paper lanterns and nativity scenes.”
“Oh. Pine trees are tall and willowy, much like you, in varying shades of green.”
“I’m not that tall, and I’m certainly not green,” the Filipino stated bluntly. “Get your eyes checked.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes,” John said gruffly, “I see you clearly. You’re at least five inches taller than most of the men around here.”
Gregorio blinked several times, trying to figure out if there was any meaning to this conversation. His brain said no, but his body didn’t agree. The redhead’s piercing gaze was doing funny things to his stomach. Moving before John realized how he was affecting him, Gregorio reached for more bundles from another bag and began to spread out their impromptu feast. There were several pieces of cold chicken, slices of breakfast ham, and wedges of hard cheese. John watched as Gregorio grabbed a pandesal, the soft roll they’d had earlier, and break it in half. He stuffed it with ham and cheese and then handed it to his guest. “Eat,” he said.
“Thanks.” John took the proffered sandwich and shoved half of it in his mouth. “This is good,” he garbled.
“You want something to drink?”
“What do you have?”
“Nothing yet.” Gregorio stood and pulled a large knife out of another saddlebag, kicked off his sandals, and headed toward one of the coconut trees.
John watched him scramble up the tree like a monkey, reaching the top in no time. He hacked at a few branches and the nuts dropped like bombs. The man was barely winded when he came back down. He lopped off the top of one coconut and then pierced a hole in the hard shell. Putting it up to his lips, he began to drink the liquid while John stared, captivated by Gregorio’s bobbing Adam’s apple and the juices overflowing down his chin. He stopped drinking and licked his full lips.
“What’s the matter?” Gregorio asked.
“Aren’t you planning to share?”
“Sorry,” he replied, seemingly embarrassed by his lack of good manners. “I got thirsty climbing.” He replicated his movements with the second coconut and handed it over to John. “Here, drink up.”
“This is fucking convenient, isn’t it?”
“If you can climb.” Gregorio replied with a slight grin. “You would probably die of thirst.”
He loped away before John’s open hand connected on his arm. Laughing, he began to climb up the much easier mango tree.
“Now what are you doing?”
“Getting our dessert!” He grabbed a plump yellow mango and twisted it off the branch, sending it whistling through the air like a torpedo. “Catch,” he screamed at John, who moved reflexively and caught it without a problem. Gregorio twisted off another and hurled it toward John’s waiting hand. When he was back, sitting cross-legged in front of John, he stuck his knife into one end of the mango and began peeling back the skin as if it were a banana. After it was completely denuded, the plump yellow flesh exposed, he pushed it toward John and said, “Take a bite.”
John reached for Gregorio’s hand, overlaying his stout fingers over the slender ones holding up the mango. He bit into the meaty fruit, all the while staring into the green eyes that watched intently. The juices erupted, flooding his mouth with sweet nectar. Gregorio turned the mango slowly so John could bite into another side, ignoring the liquid running down his fingers in sticky rivulets. He was hypnotized by the hunger flaring in John’s striking blue eyes, not quite sure what to make of it, but unable to look away. After John got his fill, Gregorio put the seed down and began licking the juice off his fingers.
He took his time and sucked on each digit, pulling them in and out of his mouth, deliberately employing his tongue in a provocative way, making the American fidget. Gregorio was empowered by his effect on the redhead and felt his own body reacting to the moment. He wanted this to go on forever; on the other hand, he was disturbed by the physical attraction between them. What in God’s name was happening? The Marine had been handpicked by Ignacio for one of the girls. He was a man’s man and had the right medals to prove it. Still, the yearning in John’s eyes belied everything Gregorio believed to be true about him. The consequences of making the wrong assumption could be the biggest mistake of his life.
Finally, John choked out, “Are you done?”
Gregorio licked up the juice, catching a drop of sweat beading on his upper lip. His gaze shifted, traveling over John’s body until he saw the unmistakable signs of interest pressing against the khaki. He shuddered involuntarily but continued to lick up each drop as he nodded slowly, answering John with a whispered, “Yes.”
“Holy crap,” John exclaimed, jumping up and then walking off to the stream.
Gregorio blinked, jarred out of his playacting by John’s abrupt departure. Ignacio would be outraged if John mentioned this incident, as would everyone else he knew. He’d be ostracized and sent away, back to Manila, most likely, so the Jesuits could “fix” him. They’d tried and failed before, but nobody knew. “Man shall not lie with man,” Father Narciso had admonished loudly when Gregorio had tried to explain his feelings for the same sex. The priest’s loud voice had echoed throughout the church, heedless of the long line of people who could hear every word. Gregorio had slithered away from the confessional, filled with self-loathing, and headed for the darkest corner to recite his penance, which usually involved several decades of the rosary. Each admission was worse than the last. Finally, he gave up. He couldn’t deal with threats of excommunication, hellfire, and eternal damnation. It was simpler to push his unhealthy feelings away then to look for answers. The religious order running his school had never said anything he wanted to hear, so why bother? It was better to stifle the sinful craving then to hear the raised voices accusing him of being flawed and impure.
Yet, he’d just succumbed to temptation by flirting with a man he’d been antagonizing for the last two hours. What in heaven’s name was he thinking? He was lucky John hadn’t thrown a punch.
Looking up, he saw the American walking back purposefully. His face betrayed nothing, and Gregorio wasn’t sure if he should say anything or not. He decided to ignore the incident for now, and when he realized that his companion had no desire to analyze their behavior either, he stood and slowly began to gather their belongings.
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Mickie B. Ashling is the alter-ego of a multifaceted woman raised by a single mother who preferred reading over other forms of entertainment. She found a kindred spirit in her oldest child and encouraged her with a steady supply of dog-eared paperbacks. Romance was the preferred genre, and historical romances topped her favorites list.
By the time Mickie discovered her own talent for writing, real life had intruded, and the business of earning a living and raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing and the inevitable emptying nest, dreams were resurrected, and the storyteller was reborn.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called "gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking." She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie loves to travel and has lived in the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East but currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
PRIZE IS A DIGITAL COPY OF MAYON
-To be entered, LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT M/M-THEMED BOOKS, along with your email addy. (NO EMAIL=NO ENTRY).
-Winners will be chosen randomly from all comments.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 8/22!