The third book in the Fireside Romance saga sees Simon Peters and Mark Smith return from their summer holiday in Menorca, Spain, where they exchanged wedding rings.
As a committed couple, Simon and Mark widen their social circle. However, a near tragedy reminds them that togetherness needs to be celebrated because it can all too easily be snatched away.
Much to his surprise, the serious and conservative librarian Simon discovers he has a kinky side, one which he and Mark take every opportunity to explore, even in unlikely places such as inside their new garden shed.
Then Christmas arrives, which heralds their first anniversary, and along with it comes a new addition to their household.
Join Simon and Mark as they navigate through the highs and lows of life in late 1980's northern England.
“You found us okay?” Tom asked, wrapping me in a huge bear hug. “It’s great to see you both again.” He let go of me and enveloped Mark.
“The directions you gave us were spot on,” Mark mumbled into Tom’s wide shoulder.
“Come in, come in,” Cliff told us when Tom had released Mark.
We were ushered into a beautifully decorated hallway. The walls were a delicate green with darker green coving above. I wasn’t much of an interior designer, but even I could tell this room was stunning.
“Let me take your coats, and then we’ll give you the grand tour,” Tom said.
The décor and furniture in the rest of the house was just as amazing, but still had a masculine feel to it.
“Your house is wonderful,” Mark said once we were situated in the kitchen with cups of coffee.
“It’s all his doing,” Tom said as he wrapped an arm around his mate. “I wouldn’t know my duck egg blue from my dusky pink.”
“We don’t have any pink paint,” Cliff protested.
“Thank God.” Tom laughed at him. “It’s a pity you couldn’t bring young Sam with you,” he continued.
“As you know, the school year is well under way now, it’s his O-level year, and his parents said he had to ‘knuckle down’ for the weekend,” I told them.
“I bet that went down like a dose of clap in a nunnery.” Tom chuckled.
Cliff grimaced at his partner’s choice of words, causing Mark and me to laugh.
“No, he wasn’t best pleased.” Mark sighed. “But he has to spend time with his mum, dad and baby sister.”
“And his textbooks,” I added, realising too late I was sounding like an old fuddy-duddy.
Tom laughed. “Poor lad.”
The conversation moved on to other topics. Cliff spent a few minutes discussing the new intake of students, the rest of us recalling how we felt on our first day in high school.
“I love the view from the guest bedroom window,” I said. “All those rolling hills and the church on that little rise at the edge of the village. Just like a picture postcard.”
“Yes. We’re very lucky,” Cliff nodded. “But apart from the local shop and post office, a pub, and the church, there isn’t much else in the way of facilities. A car is pretty much an essential.”
“It’s a bloody pain when it snows though. The snowplough doesn’t get out this far.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Mark said. “I guess there are a few advantages to living in a town.”
“Are the villagers gay-friendly?” I asked.
“Not sure,” Tom said. “We’re not out to many ... and if anymore have guessed, they haven’t made an issue out of it.”
We all grew quiet then, but it was a comfortable quietness. My mind travelled back a couple of months to when we’d first met up on holiday. I remembered my first rather terrifying encounter with Tom. He’d overheard a conversation in the hotel reception area which had pretty much outed Mark and me. I feared he’d be a homophobe. I knew we’d come off second best in any show of strength, because the man is, well, huge. But my fears had soon proved groundless, and we had quickly begun to forge a strong friendship.
I also remembered -- how could I forget -- the night my awesome Mark proposed to me on that beach.