Lovelier than a thousand kisses…
You know, you can hardly take three steps out of doors these days without falling over a coffee shop. Coffee’s everywhere. In the last fifteen or twenty years, coffeehouses have (metaphorically!) exploded across our world. Coffee isn’t just a fashion, it’s part of the warp and weft of daily life. A world-wide coffee shortage would probably herald Armageddon.
Not surprising then, that we set so many books in coffee shops. They’re friendly places where the rich scent greets you the second you open the door. Perfect for meeting people and maybe, just maybe, falling in love. Perhaps not every coffeehouse is powered by luminiferous aether or the coffee machines run on cold fusion, but in The Gilded Scarab, a coffeehouse offers an ex-airfighter pilot the chance of a new life.
Rafe Lancaster finds his true vocation in making coffee and owns the most welcoming coffeehouse in Londinium. Rafe’s passionate about his coffee and so, in his honour, here are a few facts about coffee to lighten up your day:
- Until they’re roasted, green coffee beans smell of hay or grass.
- Though we English have tea running in our veins rather than blood, we were the first European nation to really get the idea of coffee and coffeehouses. And being, as Napoleon said, a nation of shopkeepers, our reaction was to open coffeehouses to sell the stuff. Lots and lots of coffeehouses.
- The first was in Oxford, in 1650, opened by a man called Jacob. He started something big, because…
- In the 18th century, there were more coffeehouses in London than there are today. You think Starbucks is a global phenomenon? Pfft. They’re johnny-come-lately amateurs.
- Coffeehouses helped shape the western world. Stockbrokers and traders met at Jonathan’s Coffee House in Change Alley in the City of London. It eventually became the London Stock Exchange. Ship owners and marine insurance brokers preferred Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House in Lombard Street, the origin of Lloyds of London and marine insurance.
- Bach so loved coffee he wrote a cantata to it in 1732. “Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses…”
- The first steam coffee machine was invented in 1822. Espresso had arrived.
- Until filters were invented in 1908, coffee used to be clarified—that is, the grounds were separated out—by the addition of isinglass, which comes from the swim bladders of sturgeon and cod. It would seem flavoured coffee isn’t that recent a trend, although personally I’d prefer hazelnut to fish.
- Rafe Lancaster makes the best coffee in Londinium. He says so. He’s my hero, so I have to believe him.
And on that note, I think I’ll head out for a latte…
When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
(Cover by Reese Dante)
WHENEVER SOMEONE asks how my life came to take such a sharp and unexpected turn—and they do ask, because people are insatiably nosy—they get my most charming smile. I know it’s charming because I practice it every morning in my shaving mirror. It’s devastating.
It’s even better without the shaving soap.
The short answer is “I crashed one of the old Queen’s aerofighters into the African veldt, fighting the Boers.
The timing is the most important thing. Wait a heartbeat, savor a mouthful of the best coffee in Londinium while they absorb that, and as their mouths open to ask more questions, drop in the next line.
I put a little gap between the syllables so they can’t miss it. Koffie—pause—fontein.
Some of them laugh. The clever ones, the ones who see the delicious irony when they think about how my life changed. How I changed. Not all of them do. Most people are… how shall I put this? Not the brightest lucifer in the box. It takes them a few minutes to understand before they snigger and nudge their companion with a “Koffie! Like coffee, see. One of them Boer places, likely. Coffee fountain or some such. That’s rich!”
No. Definitely not the brightest.
I saw the irony at once, though. Given my life since then, it had to be some sort of divine joke, a little prod to the ribs from the Almighty. “Wake up, Rafe Lancaster, and pay attention! Change is coming.”
It was a sign, of sorts. The first step into a new life when the old one was taken from me, sending me in the right direction—the crash at Koffiefontein, selling my mother’s jewels, reopening relations with my House, and yes, even the scarab. All of those things came into play.
Mostly it was luck. The famous Lancaster luck. They should name things after it. Ships, or aerofighters.
Or perhaps a racehorse.
WHERE TO BUY THE GILDED SCARAB
All Romance as an ebook
Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
In addition, one commentator chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get a little pack of Gilded Scarab loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.