Cat’s Quill

Hidden Places - Book 1

by Anne Barwell

Cat's Quill - Anne Barwell
Part of the Hidden Places series:
Editions:ePub - First Edition: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-61581-895-2 – ebook
Pages: 350
Paperback - First Edition: $ 17.99
ISBN: 978-1-61581-894-5
Pages: 350

Tomas Kemp has two successful novels to his name and the true belief that a successful sequel is only a matter of a little inspiration. When Tomas meets a mysterious stranger under the branches of an old oak tree, he feels compelled to tell him about a book he holds dear and the sequel he wants to read. But Cathal doesn’t share that deep belief that the sequel Tomas seeks ends happily. Cathal has seen enough of a world where stories are real to know that happy ever after is sometimes the dream that won’t come true.

But stories have never let Tomas down, and as he follows Cathal across the reality shift between their worlds, he learns that Cathal is right: Happy ever after is never just given—but sometimes, it can be fought for and won.



Cathal wiped his palms on his trousers and then turned the page of the journal back and forth, his eyes scanning the words again. “Maybe I could help?” he suggested. “Can you tell me what the story is about so I can get more of an idea of what this kiss should, er… involve?”

“Involve?” Tomas’s voice sounded strained to his own ears. He coughed, clearing his throat before speaking again. “Umm, it’s about a writer who meets someone he thinks might be a muse.”

“I see.” Cathal nodded slowly. “Why does he think that?” He edged closer to Tomas, the book still balanced carefully on his lap.


“He’s drawn to this person he’s not long met.” The explanation sounded somewhat weak now that Tomas had to actually explain it to someone else. “It’s like they have a connection….”

“Like Alan and Roger in your other book?” Cathal frowned. “That doesn’t explain why—” He checked the name. “—Deimos might be a muse though, but then I haven’t read enough.”

Tomas opened his mouth to explain more, how Deimos seemed to appear and disappear out of thin air, how he seemed otherworldly, how Mark kept thinking about him all the time. Cathal placed one hand on Tomas’s knee, his breath warm against Tomas’s face. “Cat? What are you doing?”

“I’m getting into character.” Cathal reached over and brushed Tomas’s hair from his face. “You’re a writer, so you need to be Mark. That leaves me the role of the muse.” His voice was barely a whisper. “This scene is too good for it to be abandoned like the other one.” His eyes dropped to the page and back again. He licked his lips, his fingers tightening on Tomas’s knee. Tomas’s breath hitched.

“Yes, it is.” He swallowed again, reaching out his own hand to caress Cathal’s cheek, echoing Mark’s actions in his book. “I don’t want you to leave,” he whispered, his words following the script, his heart speeding up.

Cathal closed his eyes as he followed Tomas’s cue, slipping into a role that could have been written for him. “I think I’m in love with you,” he murmured.

Their lips brushed together, tentatively, awkwardly. Tomas pulled away, unsure, his breathing growing ragged, Cathal’s skin warm under his fingers, soft but for the slight stubble across his lower cheek, blond facial hair almost invisible. Tomas leaned in again, his lips parting this time in invitation as he pressed their mouths together. Cathal moaned softly, opening his own lips, leaning into it, his fingers threading through Tomas’s hair.

Wet skin, soft and inviting, tasting of coffee and something else Tomas could only describe as uniquely Cathal. It felt right, better than anything Tomas could have imagined. He whimpered, pulling Cathal to him, convincing himself for that moment they weren’t play acting, that this was real, that the man in his arms was someone who loved him.

The need to breathe drove them apart. Cathal’s eyes opened with a start, searching Tomas’s. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t be.” Tomas traced Cathal’s lips with his fingers, committing the scene to memory, allowing himself a photograph he realized he wanted frozen in his mind forever. “I’m not.”


Reviews:Kate on Top2Bottom Reviews wrote:

Tomas is a writer experiencing writer’s block who decides to take the advice of his sister and take a holiday in the countryside outside of London for a few months seeking peace and quiet, hoping to rediscover his elusive inner muse which he believes has deserted him. Preferring to keep his own company he presents a peevish and petulant attitude, equivalent to those of an ill-tempered teenager to anyone whom he meets upon arriving. The first being Donovan who escorts Tomas to the inn he will call home for the next few months. Donovan and Heidi are the proprietors of the inn with Heidi being an avid fan of Tomas’ work including naming her cat, Blackthorn, after one of his main characters and the fact they both refuse to accept Tomas’ bad-temper. Blackthorn on the other hand, can always be found underfoot causing trouble as well as continuously following the irritable writer.

Noticing upon his arrival at the inn, a large oak tree located on the grounds. Drawn to the tree, Tomas believes it will be a wonderful place to sit, write and finally find some peace. It is here that Tomas meets Cathal for the first time instantly noticing a connection between the two. Cathal is elusive in details of his present life, never giving a direct answer and the answers he does give are spoken in riddles. As irritating as Cathal’s refusal of personal information, Tomas finds he looks forward to continuing his meetings with Cathal, either in the early morning hours or at twilight never knowing where he disappears to when he leaves. Including once such afternoon Cathal seemed to disappear into nothing but air. The common thread they both share is a love of reading. At Cathal’s request Tomas loans him one of his most prized books, In Hidden Places, in which Tomas has spent years trying to find the sequel he refuses to believe was never written or any information regarding the author. When Cathal returns the book, he and Tomas have a heated discussion regarding the sequel and its author. During this discussion and the several that follow, Thomas begins to believe Cathal knows more regarding the story. Cathal talks about relatives and friends which amazingly share the same names as the characters in the book. Another strange coincidence is one of the original owners of the inn shares the name of one of the main characters in the book, not to mention Cathal speaks of her as if he had known her in person. But how can this be, when she owned the inn over 90 years ago.

Obsessed with solving the mystery of the original author, Tomas begins to investigate the small village and her inhabitants meeting several colorful characters along the way. Including a young man, Mikey, with the same temperament as Tomas, skilled in the art of blackmail and loves to instruct Tomas in matters of manners, quickly becoming a thorn in Tomas’ side.

As the story continues, Tomas searches for the pieces to make sense of the mysterious puzzle, desperately clinging to the line between reality and fantasy. Through his new found friends and the beginnings of a chance at real love he finds his grumpy exterior beginning to melt. Can he allow himself to embrace what he has found before it is taken away forever?

Transported to a quaint village on the outskirts of London, Anne vividly takes the reader on a fantastical and mysterious adventure through her imagination with an array of colorful, rich characters. I to believe in dragons and anxiously await its sequel, there is going to be a sequel?

About the Author

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Authors Speak and Love Bytes.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.


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