People keep asking me what the deal is with Spires and the answer is … well … I’m still figuring it out. I know wanted to write a quintessentially English series and I wanted it to thematically rather than chronologically linked, if that makes sense. The basic Spires concept is that it’s about the connections between people and how those are mediated through places. It’s called Spires because Oxford lies at the centre of these connections.
Each of the Spires stories can be read as a standalone. But I would probably recommend publication order (Glitterland, Waiting for the Flood, For Real, Pansies) just for convenience, though For Real happens chronologically before Waiting for the Flood and Pansies happens at the same time as Glitterland.
If you’re interested in the connections betweeen the various books, there’s a slightly spoilery page where I outline some of the main ones. Oh, and there’s also a Spires Pinterest board which I have no memory of making but apparently exists. Yay.
The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Now includes Glitterland: Aftermath
Twelve years ago, Edwin Tully came to Oxford and fell in love with a boy named Marius. He was brilliant. An artist. It was going to be forever.
Two years ago, it ended.
Now Edwin lives alone in the house they used to share. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to build a future from the fragments of the past.
Then the weather turns, and the river spills into Edwin’s quiet world, bringing with it Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight, this stranger with roughened hands and worn wellingtons, but he offers Edwin the hope of something he thought he would never have again.
As the two men grow closer in their struggle against the rising waters, Edwin learns he can’t protect himself from everything—and sometimes he doesn’t need to try.
Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission.
Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being.
Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.
The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.
It can’t be real.
Whoever claimed there was veritas in vino was a rank amateur.
Set during in Oxford and taking place during the events of For Real, this is a short story from the perspective of Dr Jasper Leigh.
In Vino is a Spires Universe extra and is entirely free to folks who sign up for my newsletter–an intermittent, hopefully not too irritating bulletin you can unsubscribe from at any point.
Like Glitterland: Aftermath it isn’t designed to stand alone and won’t make much sense if you haven’t read For Real. But you absolutely don’t need to read it to understand either For Real or the rest of the series.
Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.
It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.
Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.
Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.