World Naked Gardening Day with gay romance!
Warning! Deep Water is one of five gay romance novellas published by JMS books around the theme of World Naked Gardening Day on 7th May. The other authors are K. L. Noone, Amy Spector, Nell Iris and Holly Day.
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Editor: Lourenza Adlem
Release date: 7th May 2022
Word Count: 16, 300 words
It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.
It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.
What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?
A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.
“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard.
“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”
There was clearly a story there.
“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”
“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”
George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato.
Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”
George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”
Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”
He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life.
What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment.
Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.
George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room.
Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot.
5 out of 5 (exceptional)
WARNING! DEEP WATER is a gorgeous, gentle, slow-burn of a romance that takes place after WWII has finished -- when rationing was still a thing, and same-sex relationships were illegal.
George served, as did Peter. George, unlike Peter, had a home and job to return to. Whether or not it was everything it should be is another story. Peter became a vagrant, sleeping rough and taking odd jobs. George finds Peter living in one of the greenhouses and takes him in. Wary at first, he gives him the space and time Peter needs to return to the land of the living.
The atmosphere of this book is perfect. You can visualise easily enough just how it must have been -- not only with recovering from the war but trying to have enough food, trying to find love, trying to live a 'normal' life.
I've given this novella a 5-star rating, which is exceedingly rare for me. I love a story I can get my teeth into and pass away the hours BUT I couldn't honestly give this book any less. It has everything I look for in a story, with enough detail and world-building to make it clear. Yes, I wanted more. Of course, I did! It's a brilliant story and over far too soon for my liking. Is that enough to knock off a star? Not for me.
This story gave me everything I wanted and left me wanting more. Highly recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes. Likes gardening but doesn't really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn't much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.