An 18,000-word m/m fantasy romance, THE BOTANIST’S APPRENTICE is out now in ebook! Set in a lush greenhouse full of magical (and often deadly) plants, eager college graduate Eli Katz must convince his mentor, the esteemed botanist Robert Lord-Harding, of his worth as an apprentice. Eli has his budding attraction to the man under control—until the greenhouse’s carnivorous sex-pollen plant grows impatient watching them dance around each other, and decides to take matters into its own hands.

This is the first in a series of standalone queer romances set in a 1920s alternate-universe awash in casual magic.

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THE BOTANIST’S APPRENTICE originally appeared in a NineStar Press student/teacher anthology in 2018. This release is a revised and extended version. Read on for an excerpt from the opening pages:

Eli Katz stood on the front step of Mr. Robert Lord-Harding’s house, his hands clasped before him after having rung the bell, waiting to see if the door would be answered. It was a beautiful house, all stately white brick with ivy and wild roses crawling up the front, situated on a sprawling estate outside the city. Eli couldn’t see the greenhouse from the front of the place, but he imagined it tucked away around the back with its great glass panels catching the sun, and he hoped Lord-Harding would let him see it that very day.

Footsteps sounded from the other side of the door and Eli straightened his posture, adjusting the strap of the satchel he wore over his shoulder. When the handle turned, the door swung open to reveal a man younger than Eli had expected: mid-forties, perhaps, with a sophisticated bearing and his hair shot through with silver at the temples, a pair of black-framed rectangular glasses giving him a stern expression.

“Can I help you?” asked Lord-Harding.

This was not a man nearing his retirement. Eli rallied and held out his hand.

“Mr. Lord-Harding, my name is Eli Katz. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Lord-Harding took his hand with a faintly dubious expression, looking him up and down until Eli shifted uncomfortably. Perhaps the man had forgotten such details as his name.

“I’m here for the apprenticeship?”

“I’ve not taken an apprentice in over five years,” said Lord-Harding slowly. “And I do not accept unsolicited offers, Mr. Katz.”

Eli blinked. “No, sir— We were put in connection by Miss Clarkson. Miss Grace Clarkson? She said you were expecting me . . .”

Lord-Harding watched him with an air of cautious bemusement.

“But I see that is not the case,” Eli finished, his heart dropping into his shoes.

“No, it is not.”

“I’m so sorry for wasting your time,” Eli said, at a loss for any better words. “I’ll just . . .” He looked around. His cab was long gone; the road stretched on empty in either direction for as far as he could see. “Ah,” he said, a little helplessly. “I hate to impose, but might I use your telephone to call for a drive back to the city? I’ll wait out here on the steps; I won’t bother you any further.”

Lord-Harding heaved a long-suffering sigh and held the door open wider. “Come inside, boy. I’ll get you an iced tea.”

The house was as magnificent inside as it appeared from without, with glossy dark floors and high ceilings and art hanging in heavy frames on the walls. Eli did his best not to look around too obviously as Lord-Harding led him through to the kitchen, though he felt a little pang at not being allowed to stay longer. The kitchen was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, from the stove to the bright lights fixed to the ceiling, and Eli stared admiringly as Lord-Harding poured him a drink from the refrigerator, topping it with ice and fresh lemon. Eli accepted it with a murmur of thanks, his fingers slippery against the glass’ condensation.

“So what else did Grace Clarkson tell you?” Lord-Harding asked, leaning one hip against the marble counter, arms folded impassively across his chest.

“Only that you agreed to take me on.” The iced tea was sweet and cold, a welcome relief from the oppressive Georgia heat that still clung to his skin. “She spoke very highly of you when I first mentioned your name.”

Lord-Harding lifted his brow ever so slightly. “Indeed?”

“I’ve been cultivating an interest in botany, sir. I have no natural aptitude for complicated spellwork, though I’m quite proficient, I think, in potions. But it’s botany where my passion lies, and every contemporary source agrees that you have the most extensive collection of magically-inclined plants in the country. Miss Clarkson promised to arrange something with you on my behalf.” Eli dropped his gaze to study the water droplets beading around his fingers. “She said you were quite amenable to an apprenticeship, sir. And that there was no need for me to contact you directly, as she assured me that she would settle everything herself.”

“Miss Clarkson,” said Lord-Harding, “has a long and colourful history of meddling in my affairs. Despite all my protests to the contrary she’s gotten it into her head that I should reopen my doors to the magical youth of America and see what I can make of them. I told her in no uncertain terms that I’m not in the slightest bit interested, but naturally, she took things into her own hands. Again. And here you are.”

“I won’t keep you. Let me just—” Eli set his drink down on the counter, locating the telephone on the other side of the refrigerator.

“Actually, I should rather like to speak to Miss Clarkson while I have you here, seeing as it’s her mess.”

“Shall I call her?” Eli asked, going over and hesitantly lifting the receiver from its cradle.

“Please. For all the good it’ll do,” Lord-Harding added under his breath.

Grace Clarkson picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”

“Hello, Miss Clarkson.”

“Eli, darling, is that you?”

“Yes. Um. About that meeting with Mr. Lord-Harding . . .”


Eli could hear the purr of amusement in her sweet Southern drawl.

“Well, he says he’d like a word, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t care whether she minds,” Lord-Harding said, holding out his hand. Eli passed him the receiver. “Grace? Yes, the boy is here. Yes, at my house, where you told him to go. Well, I don’t particularly care what you think would be good for me. I explicitly told you I’m not interested.”

Eli winced.

“Considering how your last round of interference went, I don’t see why I should ever listen to anything you advise ever again,” Lord-Harding said frankly. “You’re an absolute menace to my peace and well-being and I’d thank you to keep your nose far out of my future affairs.” He ended the call with a scowl, dropping the receiver back into its cradle with a heavy clunk.

“I hope that resolved things,” Eli said meekly, taking up his glass again just to hide behind it. “She never indicated any troublesome past, and I never suspected—”

“No,” Lord-Harding said shortly, “of course you wouldn’t have suspected.”

Eli set his glass aside for the last time and prepared to beat a hasty retreat. Perhaps he could flag down a passer-by and hitch a ride back to town rather than call for a cab and prolong this discomfort.

But before he could flee, Lord-Harding cleared his throat, resuming his earlier position against the counter. “Botany, you say. What did you study in school? I take it you attended college.”

Eli eased back from the kitchen doorway. “I tried a bit of everything, sir. My parents wanted a well-rounded education for me; I didn’t begin to specialize until my junior year. I wrote my senior thesis on the use of magical plants in traditional medicine.” He fumbled the clasp of his bag open and pulled out a thick steel-ring binder. “I have a copy of it here, in fact, if you’d like to read it.”

“That’s not the most original thesis,” Lord-Harding said, but he accepted the binder all the same. “Your advisor didn’t push for anything more ground-breaking?”

“He said competence was more important than ground-breaking at an undergraduate level. But I’m more interested in reintroducing dangerous plants back into medical practices. It used to be quite common among aboriginal cultures; it was only after the Europeans began establishing colonies that the practice went into decline before being abolished outright.”

Lord-Harding raised his brows behind his glasses and leafed through the pages. “That is somewhat more original, yes. You’re arguing that these plants should be studied for uses beyond those of poisonous substances or curiosities?”

“Yes, sir, that’s it exactly. I’m convinced a record of their old uses must be preserved somewhere, even orally amongst more isolated indigenous cultures.”

“So why not continue on to your graduate studies? You’re clearly champing at the bit for it.”

“I thought taking a year in an apprenticeship would make my application more appealing to the board when I do apply, sir. There’s not much interest in dangerous plants at the moment. I thought if I had your name attached to me, they might take me more seriously.” Eli cleared his throat and looked away. “Still. I don’t mean to waste your time.”

“I have,” said Lord-Harding slowly, not taking his gaze from Eli’s paper, “quite a respectable collection of dangerous plants.”

Thank you to all my ARC readers, everyone who preordered a copy, and everyone looking forward to reading! If you enjoy the book, please leave a review on Amazon! It’s one of the most important things you can do for an indie author. Happy June and happy Pride!

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