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Stroke Rate

by L M Somerton

Book Cover: Stroke Rate

Lucien Thorne likes to be in control, but the boy he wants to own may take some convincing.

Gorgeous but shy, Benedict Astor does his best to keep a low profile at the rowing club where he works. However, unbeknown to Benedict, he has attracted the attention of Lucien Thorne, rowing aristocracy, an Olympic medalist and a lord.

Whilst looking for a new rowing partner, Lucien believes he has found what he needs in Ben. He pushes him to his limits on the water and it becomes clear that rowing with the pretty young man is not his only interest. Ben is attracted to Lucien but confused about his feelings. Lucien is demanding, arrogant and dominant—which Benedict responds to even though he feels he should resist.

Fighting emotions he doesn’t understand, Ben has to contend with the bullying rowing club president and a humiliating auction of promises.

Lucien recognizes Ben’s hidden submissive streak and makes his own need for control very clear. He bids for Ben’s time, then forces Ben to admit to his own desire to test the ground between them.

When the deeds to the boat club are gambled away, Lucien and Ben must work together to save it. Will their growing love survive the pressure, Ben’s uncertainty and Lucien’s desire to own him completely?

Publisher's Note: This book has been previously published by Pride Publishing. It has been revised and re-edited for release in 2016.


The October sun had dipped below the horizon some time since, and the distinct nip of autumn pervaded the air. The river was a black silk ribbon twisting sinuously toward the distant lights of the town—not really that far away but it could have been another world. The silence of the riverbank was broken only by the whisper of long grass and the occasional splash of a coot diving for cover amid the reeds.

It was the commotion of a startled bird that broke the reverie of the young man standing in the darkness. He gently flipped the small, smooth pebble that he had been turning over and over in his hand into the water. The resulting ripples caught the light reflected from the window of the building behind him. A slight smile flickered across his soft lips as he mused on the consequences that one small action could invoke. He sighed and turned away from the water. It had been a while since anything—or anyone—had created ripples in the monotony of his life.


A few steps took him to a low door that was slightly ajar, with warm light spilling around the edges as if trying to illuminate the night. At six feet tall, he had to duck his head as he slipped inside and pulled the door closed behind him. The small door he had used was cut into a much larger set that took up the whole wall. He breathed in the familiar smell of the boathouse. The wooden Edwardian structure had a smell all its own—oils and varnish mixed with the more modern scents of neoprene and acrylic paint, overlaid by the light fragrance of cedar and oak.

Okeanos Rowing Club owned an impressive set of immaculate boats that were racked along the walls. One full side stored the ‘sweep’ boats, where each rower has one oar. There were three eight-seaters and a range of single, double and quad boats all cradled by sturdy metal frames that could be cranked up the walls to provide more storage capacity. On the other side were the ‘sculling’ boats, which were all single and double seat arrangements. At the far end of the shed there was a trailer, pre-loaded with racing kayaks. They always had to be transported to other venues, so they stayed on their trailer, ready to go. The general equipment store could be reached through another door, and there were also two changing rooms with basic shower facilities at the back of the building.

Benedict Astor contemplated the view. Everything was in place, as it should be. Of course it was—after all, he was the one who had heaved and  shoved every sodding boat into position, just as he had done virtually every night for the last six months. He rolled his shoulders and rubbed his aching arms before wandering over to the notice board to read the roughly scrawled note pinned there.


Extra jobs for tonight—clean the drain in the men’s locker room, sand the front step (it’s splintering again) and refill the water coolers.


“Just wonderful,” Ben muttered quietly.

That was another hour’s work at least, and it was already late. Ben used his long, slim fingers to tease at the knots in his collar-length hair before kneading away the tension in his tight neck muscles. He had an idea why Sebastian Cooke, the rowing club’s president, had it in for him—but he wasn’t sure, and it certainly wasn’t something he was prepared to discuss with the man. It was easier just to put up with the never-ending list of menial tasks and hard labor that Seb took great delight in sending his way.

He tackled the worst job first, donning rubber gloves to remove the locker room drain cover and pull out the accumulated muck. He managed not to gag too much at the smell, then dumped half a bottle of bleach down the hole. The locker room now smelled like the inside of a hospital but even that was a distinct improvement. After replacing the plastic grating over the drain he peeled off the gloves and dumped them in the mop bucket. Next, he heaved three water bottles for the coolers out of the storage cupboard and replaced the half-empty ones, even though they didn’t really need changing. Finally, he got down on his hands and knees and applied a piece of coarse sandpaper to the front step. Rowers, including him, often carried the boats back up from the river with bare feet, so this was one job he didn’t mind doing. He’d gotten a splinter in his heel once and it had been not only uncomfortable, but also difficult to get out.

The sanding was strangely therapeutic, if hard on his fingers, and it gave him time to wonder—for the thousandth time—if the job was really worth it. He came to the same conclusion he always did. It was temporary. It wouldn’t be forever, and three hours of labor a day wasn’t a big price to pay for free accommodation and club membership. The tiny flat above the boat room wasn’t much, but it was quiet and private, plus he could cycle along the riverside path to get to the university each day. Even at student rates there was no way he would have been able to afford the fees at Okeanos otherwise and he needed to row. The river kept him grounded and at peace.

A lapse in concentration cost him three grazed knuckles as the sandpaper slipped across his hand instead of the wood beneath it. He swore softly and sucked specks of blood off his skin before shaking away the pain.


The rough edge of the step was sanded smooth. Tiredly, he packed up everything he had been using, brushed an errant strand of hair from his eyes, then locked up. It was after ten and he had to be out of bed to open up at five-thirty. Even at this time of year, the early rowers would be arriving by six and Seb would have his hide if everything wasn’t ready for them. The upside of the unsociable hours was that he could take a single scull out and have the river to himself for a while before anyone else got onto the water.

The boathouse flat was really little more than a bedsit, but Ben had made it as cozy as he could. His bed was covered with a warm patchwork quilt that was a little twee, but he felt that style could be sacrificed for comfort and warmth. Bright throws in autumnal colors covered the battered sofa and single armchair positioned in front of the wood burner. There was a small galley kitchen, and a desk and bookcase tucked into a corner. A tiny bathroom that didn’t actually house a bath, just a temperamental shower, took up the only remaining space. He could always use the club facilities when it played up, though, so it didn’t bother him too much.

Ben made a hot, milky cup of cocoa and spent a couple of hours working on an essay that was due in a few days. He was reading literature, and though the course didn’t require many contact hours with his lecturers, the schedule of reading and written work was demanding. His tutor also had a reputation as an utter bastard who never gave extensions and was overly fond of his red pen—handing the essay in late just wouldn’t be worth the aggravation. Ben didn’t enjoy confrontation of any kind. His inherent need to please made him an effective peacekeeper and he had no wish to develop the kind of wild boy reputation that some of his peers seemed to delight in.

Reviews:Will Parkinson on Will Reads wrote:

I love stories by LM Somerton...The characters of Ben and Lucien were so easy to fall in love with...It’s a joy to watch them explore their blooming relationship...LM Somerton pulled me into this world, making me feel like a part of it...Prepare to fall in love with these men, because as Ben finds out, once Lucien has you, he’s got no intention of letting you go.

on Wicked Reads:

This is definitely a very hot and steamy erotic read. The chemistry between the two men is wonderful, and the M/s dynamic is very enticing. There is a fine balance between what most of us can see as acceptable and going too far, and although this skirts right on the edge at times, it just manages to keep its balance (for me at least). There was a good fleshing out of the main characters, and some interesting points about class, status and money thrown in for good measure...I was sad when the story ended as I wanted to live longer in their company, which to me is always the sign of a good story with engaging protagonists. Thank you!

About the Author

LM lives in a small village in the English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, cows and sheep. She started writing to fill time between jobs and is now firmly and unashamedly addicted.

She loves the English weather, especially the rain, and adores a thunderstorm. She loves good food, warm company and a crackling fire. She's fascinated by the psychology of relationships, especially between men, and her stories contain some subtle (and some not so subtle) leanings towards BDSM.

LM is winner of the National Leather Association’s Pauline Reage Award for best novel and the 2016 Golden Flogger Award for best BDSM novel in the LGBT category. She has received multiple Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards and won the Action and Adventure category of Divine Magazine’s Book Awards in 2015.

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