Counter Culture by J.L. Merrow


Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today to celebrate the release of my new rom-com, Counter Culture, and talk about Fun And Games – Steampunk Style!


Steampunks love having fun. Part of the attraction of steampunk convivials and other events is the chance they offer to indulge in some splendid silliness with like-minded company. Often, this silliness will take the form of revived Victorian parlour games.

Contrary to the popular image of them as po-faced individuals with stiff upper lips, straight backs and a horror of the word “trousers”, Victorians also liked to have fun.

What could be more entertaining than a game of charades, or a quick round of Are You There, Moriarty? In the latter game, two competitors would hold hands across a small round table while blindfolded and attempting to brain each other with rolled-up newspapers. And they say first-person-shooter games encourage violence…

Blind Man’s Buff was also popular, as were word games such as The Minister’s Cat, where players take it in turns to describe the eponymous feline with adjectives in alphabetical order. Reverend Crawley’s Game, where the players stand in a circle, hold hands with two different people who are not adjacent to them, and then attempt to untangle the resulting human knot without letting go, could be seen as a more genteel precursor to Twister.

But the Victorians didn’t invent everything. There are also games specific to steampunks, such as the following;

Familiar Flinging – this is a controversial sport, although aficionados insist the familiars involved (usually a small plush animal of some kind) not only consent to being flung, they positively enjoy it. The flinging itself is achieved by some form of mechanical contraption, such as an elastic bazooka or a small trebuchet. The winner is, of course, the familiar flung the farthest. Medals are available for the stalwart contestants.

Teapot Racing – motorised teapots are raced around a short, often indoor, track. No actual tea is spilled, or indeed involved, in the process.

Bumbershoot Baritsu – this is basically fencing with furled umbrellas, while hampered by protective (for which read suffocating) headgear and attempting not to drop one’s balls.

Parasol Duelling – surprisingly, this is not fencing with furled parasols, but rather akin to Rock, Paper, Scissors; however, these are replaced with Twirl, Plant, and Snub. Competitors may also be judged on Compulsory Figures and Flirtation (the latter only if of age; clearly, the proprieties must be observed.

Tea duelling – this fearsome sport is not for the faint-hearted. Outlawed since 1873, it has been known to lead to serious injury and in a few cases, death… No, I’m lying. It’s competitive biscuit dunking. 😉


Question: Games have been part of my life since childhood, but they’re not everyone’s cup of brown joy. Do you have a favourite game, parlour or otherwise? Or does the mere thought of being asked to partake in organised silliness fill you with horror?


About Counter Culture


Customer service has never been this personal.

Robin Christopher, beleaguered retail worker, isn’t having an easy November. His boss is raising stress levels planning a Black Friday to end all Black Fridays, his family doesn’t understand him, and his best friend thinks his new crush is a hallucination brought on by watching too many episodes of Doctor Who.

Archie Levine dresses in Victorian style and divides his time between caring for his young son and creating weird and wacky steampunk gadgets from bits of old junk—when he’s not looking after his mum and trying to keep on good terms with his ex. The last thing he’s got time for is a relationship, but the flustered young man he met while disembowelling a fridge is proving very tempting.

When his mum’s social conscience is roused by a local store with a cavalier attitude to the homeless, former rough sleeper Archie shares her anger. Little does he know that Robin works for that same store. When Archie finds out he’s sleeping with the enemy, things could cut up very rough indeed.

Available now from Riptide Publishing!

About JL Merrow

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.

She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers Association, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at:, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at


To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $10 gift card to Riptide. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 9, 2019.

Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info! 


10 Thoughts to “Counter Culture by J.L. Merrow”

  1. Jennifer S

    Thanks for the post. I hadn’t heard of many of these games.
    jlshannon74 at

  2. H.B.

    Thank you for the post. These sounds like some interesting games.
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  3. Allison

    We love board games! Our current favorite is probably Ticket to Ride, but I think the “parlor game” we played the most was Pictionary. aahickman at hotmail dot com

    1. Ooh, I’d never come across Ticket to Ride. I love how they have lots of different versions internationally. 😀
      And yes, you can’t beat a classic like Pictionary.

  4. Kareni

    I read your post on Joyfully Jay, JL, and followed your link here. Thanks for an entertaining post. I love games duo enjoyed reading about those you listed above. Some games I enjoy are Bananagrams, Fluxx, Wise and Otherwise, and Love Letter.

    1. Ooh, all those you’ve mentioned are new to me – I’ll have to get googling! And thank you. 🙂

  5. Trix

    I’ll participate in board games sometimes, but I never suggest them first. Familiar flinging sounds fun, as I do enjoy catapults…

    Vitajex at aol dot com

    1. There’s just something about socially-approved harmless violence, isn’t there? 😉

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