Harlequin Airs

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Title: Harlequin Airs
Publisher: Uzi Press, agented by The Hut Hatch ("under licence from the publisher's we can supply" as per a statement in Cross My Heart #9)
Author(s): Ellis Ward
Cover Artist(s): Suzan Lovett
Date(s): 1993
Medium: print
Fandom: The Professionals
Language: English
External Links: Harlequin Airs online
online at AO3
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover of the zine Harlequin Airs, story by Ellis Ward and art by Suzan Lovett, (full-size image here
back cover

Harlequin Airs is a slash AU Professionals novel by Ellis Ward.

The art is by Suzan Lovett. The zine is dedicated to Rowen.

Scanned images of the art have been archived on the Pros Circuit Archive, and are also embedded in the story itself.

This zine sometimes appears on fans' Desert Island lists.[1]

The Zine as a Transformative Work

The author's notes mention several inspirations:

GENERAL NOTE: For those circus aficionados among you, I know I've tested your credulity in more ways than is feasible to list here. If you're looking for the "real" thing, I can recommend "The Catch Trap" by Marion Zimmer Bradley and "Airs Above the Ground" by Mary Stewart. There are, of course, many other sources both fictional and non-, quite a few of which are to be found in the juvenile section of the library.

To give full credit where it is due, Bodie and Doyle's "dramatic" flying sequence is based on The Flying Cranes, a Russian aerial ballet troupe. A tv clip featuring their magnificent routine fired Suzi's interest in the first place. They are unqualifiedly fantastic.

Some of the art was inspired by modern media. For example, the illustration that shows Doyle standing in front of a rearing white horse was inspired by a "Rolling Stone" cover, featuring Jon Bon Jovi, dressed in black jeans and black sleeveless shirt, barefoot, one foot crooked over the other with the leg bent, standing in front of a rearing white horse.

No, Not a Songfic, But...

From 1993 in Be Gentle With Us Interview: Ellis Ward:

Are you inspired by external factors, such as music?

Only as a mood heightener. Sometimes I hear a lyric that seems perfectly suited to a scene or characterization. While writing "Harlequin Airs," I was particularly taken with Rush's 'Bravado', a cynically named paean to high romance.

And if the music stops
There's only the sound of the rain
All the hope and glory
All the sacrifice in vain
And if love remains
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
That song - tune and lyrics - epitomized the B&D in "Harlequin Airs."

Sample Gallery

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

I read this first as a zine, and couldn't put it down, and it can still suck me right in if I open it up. It's a circus AU - Doyle is in CI5 and goes undercover as a flyer at a circus, where Bodie is a catcher on the trapeze. It's a long novel with a plotty throughline about gun-smuggling to keep things moving as the two of them develop a relationship, with plenty of action, romance, angst, warmth, you name it. Okay, it's not the most plausible story ever -- but boy, do I have fun with it!

It's also lavishly, gorgeously, illustrated by Suzan Lovett, and all of the illustrations are included in the archived version. They're small thumbnails in the text, matching their zine locations, all clickable to the larger versions (and all worth it). There's also a set of pages with just the artwork, with larger thumbnails that again click through to full-size versions.

Note: The story is about 750kb on the archive as one file. If that's too much for your connection, go here to read it in four parts for faster/easier loading. If that's still too much, or you'd rather read a file with no images at all, you can read it on The Hatstand in six parts plus notes. [3]

Highly recommended zine from the defunct UZI Press. Can we have a moment of silence for that tragedy, please? This is what I consider a masterwork zine, this is a barely AU how-they-met story from Ellis Ward. The art by Suzan Lovett and Marty Siegerst is amazing. Somebody show this zine to the baby publishers and writers out there, they need to know what they should be striving for. [4]

An unbelievably beautiful zine, chock-full of gorgeous pictures by Suzan — many of them in full cover — and lovely sequential page borders. This is an AU in which CI5 agent Doyle goes undercover at a circus, where he is a trapeze artist paired with William Bodie. (No, really — stop laughing! Oh, all right, go ahead and laugh. I sure did when I heard this premise.) It's a ridiculous plot, but a lot of fun, and the OCs are pretty well done. Definitely a guilty pleasure of a zine, and one of the true classics of the fandom. [5]

This is excellently detailed, with living, breathing characters. I hated for it to be over. If you like Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Catch-Trap, you'll love this story; it's also perfectly readable as original fic if you don't know the series. So, no excuses. Go read![6]

interior artwork by Suzan Lovett showing a bound and gagged Doyle being kissed by Bodie. One fan describes this image as ""The best slash artwork...that can be possibly construed as h/c.."
Okay - this is a bit unfair, I know. Harlequin Airs is out of print. A friend of the original publisher is reprinting the spiral bound zine and offering it and 'Zax's theatre of Glamour and Magic' at some Cons. I found my copies at Media West and - once again - bought them because of the most beautiful fold-out artwork. But: The story, set in "the only gay circus ever known" unfolds quickly and makes for a really fascinating read. The hesitancy between Bodie and Doyle - who hadn't known each other before, but are partnered on the trapeze - and their attraction for each other - that is both forced upon each other and yet grabbing a hold of them almost against their own will - have the reader mesmerized. Will they be able to have a future after the case is closed? Will love really conquer all or will the differences of their goals tear them apart? [7]

Those of you who know me and my tastes should be very impressed that I was able to wait until #4 to talk about Harlequin Airs. Any newbie to Pros should probably be made aware that the fandom is spoiled for choice when it comes to AUs. I actively stayed away from such stories for the longest time. Why would I want to read about Bodie and Doyle in space or as Regency gentlemen? Isn't CI5 and London in the 70's and 80's what they're all about? For me, the answer is both yes and no. Any reader would be really cheating themselves by not at least sampling some of the excellent AUs out there. This happens to be my favorite. It may sound ridiculous, but I swear it works. Doyle is an agent with CI5 (see, not so AU). He goes undercover as a trapeze artist, whose partner is in enigmatic man named Bodie (wait! come back!!). I LOVE this story. It has suspense and humor and original characters I actually like. I defy you not to want a Basil of your very own. And Sanjay made me cry. But most importantly, the way the relationship develops between our two lads is hot as hell, tender, and just a little bit dangerous. I've reread this story more than any other since discovering Pros. And to top it off--it's illustrated! Give it a whirl.[8]

CI5 agent Ray Doyle is sent undercover as a flyer in a small circus near Newcastle. As a disguise, Doyle's hair is straightened and he grows a beard. The catcher is an enigmatic man called Bodie. Doyle bonds with a tiger and an errant circus dog named Basil (because she's "fawlty" at her routines). Bodie and Doyle fly and ride horses (with a nod to Larton). Doyle falls in love with Bodie and gets fucked for the first time. Much angst when it appears Bodie is a bad guy and locks Doyle in the cage with the tiger. Yummy pictures! [9]


Of course I thumbed through looking at all the pictures first (informal survey--has anyone who's seen the zine NOT looked at all the pictures first?), and was as always totally amazed by Suzi's brilliance. This impression was only increased as I actually read the thing, and realized the way she'd caught nuances and shown us something behind/beyond the text--she's so good at that! I liked the story as well, and once again Ellis Ward has produced hot, passionate sex scenes without getting overly gastrointestinal--I like that...she doesn't just fade into a romantic blur, but she also avoids the mechanical details that make some slash start to sound like a maintenance manual for some obscure kitchen appliance. I got the distinct impression it was an interactive collaboration between writer and artist, and I occasionally wondered from which direction a particular aspect might have come. There were occasional details I didn't find plausible or wondered at, which escape me at the moment (I read it through very quickly--now I need to go back and read a bit more critically if I want to produce a credible review--but I figured I might as well toss this in here and now...), but overall I enjoyed it greatly and don't feel it was at all overpriced at $30. I haven't gone through and actually counted the illos, but there are a LOT of them--not to mention color covers and two inside color illos, one the "fold-out", and a title page to die for! [10]

Having read HARLEQUIN AIRS, which was a very good read and quite a romantic high, I thought Bodie's motivations at the end of Ray's stay were much too pat because I knew step by step what would happen between them. I would have preferred something a little different than that. But overall it was enjoyable.

Now the art by Suzah Lovett was simply scrumptious. Those GORGEOUS illos of Doyle with a beard and long hair were a dream come true to drool over. I want to zerox them and hang them up on my bedroom walls to drool over nightly! [11]

I was bored by the story, thought it was only adequately written. I agree that Bodie being undercover was a cheap shot, too. [12]


I've heard that often enough in fandom, too--"Suzie Lovett covers sell zines", regardless of zine content. I remember buying "Harlequin Airs" because I'd enjoyed some of Ellis Ward's stories, but I was also willing to pay $30 for it because it had Lovett artwork. But then, I was still fairly new to Pros fandom at the time, and wouldn't make a similar purchase today. It turned out, in that particular case, that I did not like 95% of the artwork, and couldn't get past page 60 of the story (with its contrived plot). $30 wasted, IMO. [13]

The best slash artwork I can think of that can be possibly construed as h/c, was the one illo from Harlequin Airs where Doyle is seen tied to a chair and gagged while Bodie is shown kissing him passionately on the neck. (B&D in B/D, I love it!) Unfortunately, the scene wasn't in the story like that. Rats![14]

I've heard that often enough in fandom, too--"Suzie Lovett covers sell zines", regardless of zine content. I remember buying "Harlequin Airs" because I'd enjoyed some of Ellis Ward's stories, but I was also willing to pay $30 for it because it had Lovett artwork. But then, I was still fairly new to Pros fandom at the time, and wouldn't make a similar purchase today. It turned out, in that particular case, that I did not like 95% of the artwork, and couldn't get past page 60 of the story. $30 wasted, IMO. [15]

I was unable to get past page 60 due to contrived plot problems. [16]


(I lasted all the way to page 50 or so.) [17]

Harlequin Airs has to be THE most over rated piece of Pros fanfic ever written. It was just plain stupid.[18]

Stories I hate:

No. 1, and has been for years, the Purple Pros(e) Zine. Loathed that one with a passion. Harlequin Aires: that whole horrible bit with the dog jumping in and interrupting them--what, these guys don't have balls? These guys can go from sexual arousal to pause to sexual arousal to stop to sexual arousal to wait a half-hour to sexual arousal (okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit--didn't feel like it when I was reading it) etc etc, but without one of them saying 'ouch'? Without either one of them having any reaction whatsoever to all those bouts of coitus interruptus?

And then there was the opening. Gag. He hasn't been on the trapeze in years (and gosh, isn't trapeze work something *everyone* learns in their youth?), he's been riding *on a motorbike* through miserable weather, for absolutely ages, and then he *immediately* goes into a trapeze routine--and Bodie *lets* him? Give me a break! (one of their necks, had reality intruded for a second)

And the lion. Yeuch.[19]

I have a confession, to make. I love HARLEQUIN AIRS. I'm a sucker for circus stories, especially ones about trapeze artists.

I like the fact that while she made Bodie and Doyle a combo that worked together well, she _didn't_ have them doing any particularly spectacular tricks. They weren't stretching the envelope of trapeze ability -- they were doing perfectly routine stuff well.

I like the way she manages to maintain sexual tension over three-fourths of the book without making me want to through the book across the room. The _emotional_ plot is fully believable to me.

I like the writing style -- it's consistent, readable, and a bit lush, without descending into purple prose.

And yeah, I liked the lion. I'm a cat wimp. (Could have done without the damned dog, though.)

So shoot me. [20]


We then come to "Harlequin Airs", which I read sixty pages of before I was frozen by utter inertia and was unable to lift another page. The idiot plot did me in, as did the recycling of the Don DiMarco Look. Please. Can't we leave the actors and their other roles out of Pros? I'm here for Bodie and Doyle, and do not wish to be reminded that they were mere characters portrayed by mere actors who then casually discarded those roles to go on to sell their wares elsewhere. Shame on them. [21]


I would like to recommend Harlequin Airs by Ellis Ward. The story starts with Doyle joining a circus as a trapeze artist His catcher (the chap who hangs upside down and catches the man flying from the opposite trapeze) is Bodie. Doyle used to be a circus performer before joining CI5. Bodie is suspected of being involved with IRA arms dealings, using the circus as a cover. Doyle has been told to 'get friendly' with the - supposedly gay - Bodie and get information. What I love is the circus atmosphere, the characters and, especially, the animals. Bodie and Doyle ride dressage horses in addition to their spectacular high-flying act, and the descriptions of these magnificent creatures are brilliant Then there is a dear old tiger who, along with a little dog and a gorgeous Bodie, falls hook, line and sinker for Doyle. Another great plus are the illos by Suzan Lovett, which are beautiful and very erotic. Doyle starts out resembling MS in Ladder of Swords, with beard and long, straight-ish hair, then transforms to the Doyle we know and love. Bodie just looks like Bodie, tall, dark and incredibly handsome! The story is exciting, particularly in the flying sequences, romantic, and full of suspense - a 'must-read' for all fans. [22]


I'd say yes [as a must-read], for folks that like AUs. It's a lovely example of the genre, both as an in-CI5 type thing (Doyle, anyhoo) and as a completely Other story (when they're in the circus). Plus, the original characters are very nicely drawn and interesting. And Suzan's artwork is lovely. Her Ladder-of-Swords-type Martin is the best I've seen her draw him. [23]


This is another example of A/U fiction, which is so prevalent in Pros fandom.

Ellis builds her world - a twenty-degree turn from Pros reality - with loving care, investing a lot in research and in thinking through the slightly altered characterizations of Bodie and Doyle. I particularly love the slow build-up of emotions between them, the falling in love that happens despite their own best intentions.

The supporting characters are interesting and fully realized, as well. [24]

Just as an alternate opinion... I fell into a boredom coma... I think this one is far more to the taste of the 'romance' fans. I am most definitely not a 'romance' fan. The artwork in the 'zine is mind numbingly beautiful, though. [24]

Thank you so much for recommending this outstanding story! I couldn't put it down, as we used to say. Guess I'm a circus buff...loved the characters, human and animal, was totally seduced by the sparkling dialogue between B and D, was convinced by their burgeoning relationship, and found the circus atmosphere magic. If I have one sorrow it is that the pair returned to CI5 rather than remaining to grace the Big Tent with their superb skills. [24]


This is, quite simply, one of my favorite pieces of fanfiction ever. I was ecstatic to find it archived somewhere available to the public (not always likely with Pros fic) because I've been longing to rec it for months. I was utterly entranced by this story. The worldbuilding is strong and enthralling, the writing skillful, the romance slow but intense. Perhaps I was just taken in by the romance of the circus atmosphere, the wonderful supporting cast of original characters, the really cute dog, but this story will always have a special place in my heart. [25]


There are so many fabulous Pros AU fics to choose from that this was a particularly hard prompt to try and match, but in the end it had to be Harlequin Airs. As soon as I flicked on the link and re-read the first sentence I was sucked right back into the universe. Doyle works for CI5, having had a previous career as a trapeze artist, and so when Cowley needs someone to go undercover at Circus Sergei he is the obvious choice. He meets Bodie, who also works the trapeze, and has to decide exactly where the man fits into the IRA operation he has been sent to investigate. The author writes beautifully, the plot is brilliantly conceived, the characterisation spot on, and the whole thing reeks of sawdust and magic… [26]

I re-read it a while back and it really is a story that draws you in. Because it's AU you really don't have much of a clue to begin with about the sides people are on and it adds layers of suspense. The other characters are very well drawn. The art is a perfect complement to the writing: Doyle looking very 'Ladder of Swords'-ish, Bodie all dark sleek lines & arrogance. [27]

I also love the first "section" where we see Doyle at the cemetery and there's a sort of wondering for me of where and who and what he's going to turn out to be - and then with a lovely kind of rush we're back in CI5 and it's partly familiar again, there's just a sense of wondering what will happen next, and where we'll be taken. And the motorbike ride north too has for me that feeling of oooh, what's gonna happen?! As you say, it completely draws you in this one! [28]

...a real favorite, as are all Ellis Ward stories. And I love the accompanying artwork [29]

I love so many things about Harlequin Airs: the sexual chemistry sizzling between them throughout the story; the very believable other characters; the relationship between Doyle and a lion? (I think, can't remember). When I think of classic Pros stories this is the sort of story which comes to mind. [30]

It's a funny thing because I happen to really like AUs and crossovers, but Harlequin Airs just didn't work for me. There's just enough changed that it doesn't ping as Pros to me anymore. I read it once and enjoyed it as, say, one of Martin's and Lew's other roles paired up. It is well-written, nicely plotted, and the sexual chemistry is there but...

And it's not that I don't like Ellis Ward's work. Her Trial Run and The Return are at the top of my re-read list.

Suzan Lovett's artwork is superb and half the fun of Harlequin Airs. [31]

I'm eternally interested in how everyone has their own line of where Bodie and Doyle stop being themselves and become someone else, to the point of being hard to read about.

I sometimes wonder about some of Helen Raven's fic like that for example - I adore Heat Trace, but I can see that the lads aren't themselves, as such. And yet they're not so far out, or perhaps they're different in a way that I can still relate to on some other level. Hmmn - not sure what sense that makes! And yet in... um... oh, perhaps some of Jane's fic they might still be in the CI5-verse even and yet not be close enough for me to deal with... And then again in Harlequin Airs, even though they've the different backgrounds and so on, I get them as them. [28]

A beautiful collection of art and a story that induced boredom coma.

This was more 'the movie starring' than an episode of Pros, and I didn't buy what bits of the characterisation I did read. (No I did not read all of this. Just about the first 10 pages.)

Not my speed. Except to drool at the art. [32]

I was the other way around - I thought the story was more "them" than the art was. And Lovett has a bit of a tendency to feminize Doyle, I think, in her work, which is something I rail against in fic as well. Beautiful art, but not quite "them". [28]

I don't think the art was particularly them either, I just like Suzann's work on its own (except for the prominent penis thing ;) ) I can enjoy semi-lads art much the same as many readers can enjoy semi-lads stories.

It's not so much a tendency to feminise Doyle as it is to morph him into Starsky... But that's a Suzann thing. [33]

Suzann morphs lots of people into Starsky (especially their bottoms). I know it now and my brain seems to fix for me. [34]

I enjoyed Harlequin Airs a lot, but as original fic with familiar faces rather than a Pros story. For me there wasn't enough of the lads as I see them to make them believably my Bodie and Doyle. I find the same thing with C&W and several other AU's as well. Doesn't detract from my enjoyment of them as stories, though. If they're well plotted and consistently characterised then I'm happy to give them a whirl. [35]

Sigh:: I love Harlequin Airs. I haven't been in the fandom long, but it's one of those fics I've already reread (parts of it more than once). The characters may not exactly be canon B & D, but they're close for me to see a strong resemblance. Ellis probably takes the most liberties with Doyle. Her version is a bit more battered and unsure of himself than on the show. But I feel as if she motivates that by what came before (the deaths of Chandra and Doyle's former flying partner). I thought she really captured the setting and her original characters--people and humans--were memorable. People have already mentioned Sanjay (he's a tiger, though, right?). But I was awfully fond of little Basil too. All in all, this is one I would recommend as well. [36]

Thank you for the excellent recommendation - it was a very engrossing and enjoyable piece of writing. I don't really have anything to add, just a few nods to some of the other comments. DDM? Absolutely! That's who and somehow where I pictured while reading the story. The artwork? I chose not to include it as I read, and didn't look at it until I was finished. I think that it's brilliant and seductive on its own, and I love the myriad of details and surprises she includes, but I somehow wanted the story by itself, and then the treat at the end of seeing the drawings, of seeing how someone else pictured it. Canon? I think that the B and D of this universe were presented so successfully that in the end I didn't want them to be in the CI5 universe - I wanted them to go back to the circus world... [37]

Harlequin Airs is worth a hefty price for the many lavish and beautiful Suzan Lovett illos (it also has some gorgeous chapter-page borders by Marty Siegrist). The story is decent, not fantastic. [38]


I rave every chance I get about this story, so I don't know that I have anything new to say at this point. This just hits so many of my kinks. I love a vulnerable Doyle and a protective Bodie, which is how Ellis portrays them here. The sex is hot and the emotion is wonderfully rich. Plus, with this story, I get pictures (that are so freakin' gorgeous)! Talk about getting your money's worth… [39]


This story grabbed me from the beginning, first, the deaths of two of Doyle’s partners – with just a tiny bit of information about each – and then the discussion about his new disguise, which matches MS’s appearance in Ladder of Swords. We learn about the op, and that Bodie’s a trapeze artist, that Ray used to be, and we’re pairing them up. Tight costumes and lots of muscles? Oh, we’re going to a happy place.

Several things made this a really good read for me:

  • Buckets of research obviously went into this fic.
  • The Lads are very much in character. Doyle’s stroppy and cocksure by turns; Bodie helps out old friends to the detriment of his new relationship; the Lads know exactly where each other is on the trapeze just like they do in canon on an op.
  • The secondary and tertiary characters are so beautifully fleshed-out. Even the animals have personalities.
  • The pacing is wonderful. I never felt any part was dragging or superfluous. There’s a lot of world-building in this fic – there has to be, how many readers are circus people? – but it’s necessary to the plot and never takes too much time in any one spot.

• The one chapter per day format gives you a feel for how busy the characters’ days are. The whole op takes only two weeks, but you get both the crazy rush of trying to put together an act in just a couple-three days when the whole circus is sharing the same rehearsal space, the thrill of an opening, and the dread that accompanies days where the attendance seems too slow to keep the circus going. And oh yeah, there’s that CI-5 undercover op thingumy of Ray’s, too.

  • Oh, did I mention the great sexual tension? Ray and I both thought maybe he was never gonna get laid. But when he did… yeah, it was good. Our Lads are hot together.

A couple of things I didn’t care for:

  • I thought Sergei / Alfred was a bit of a caricature. Absolutely no redeeming qualities other than that he loves the circus? And we only get a couple of instances of that.
  • I also felt Sanjay (the tiger) was a bit over-romanticized. Yeah, that’s necessary for the climax, but still, after the recent ugliness in Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Zealand, Dublin, etc. we all pretty much know different. At least everyone in the fic was always on guard around Sanjay. Doyle’s fear of being locked in the cage while bleeding was appropriate, even if Sanjay’s reaction probably wasn’t. (Yes, yes, I know – willing suspension of disbelief, Gritsy.)
In all, a long read but a really satisfying one, where I was concerned. [40]

It's one of my favorite comfort reads, you see. I just really like this world she's created, and the fact that I can disappear into it, along with the lads. It's...comfort for me. I am well aware of flaws; they don't matter to me in this particular instance. *g*

This last time through it, I noticed two things. One is that there's a rather nifty parallel between two scenes that really show Bodie's character here. When he drops Doyle into the net, that first day they meet, he knows he's taking a risk. If Doyle isn't as good as he is, he might well have been injured or killed. But, Bodie has assessed the situation--*knows* how good Doyle is as a flyer--and acts with that knowledge to achieve his objective. In the same way, when he lives Doyle in Sanjay's cage at the end--he knows it's a risk, but he's assessed the situation--*knows* Sanjay's condition and the rapport between the two--and acts with that knowledge to achieve his objective. I just really like that consistency in characterization. There's more of that consistency in the way that Bodie has to immediately establish the "ground rules". He does it that first day with Doyle at the circus, and he does it when they're deciding that they will stay together as partners and lovers in CI5. Again, kudos for true consistency in characterization![41]

I really was sucked into the story considering the fact that I heartily dislike the circus in all its forms. (I believe clowns and mimes are evil. LOL!) I love the story with all its good and weaker points. I never felt like I had to rush through the read, and when I had to put the zine down, I immediately wanted to go back and read more. That's a sign that I'm really liking it.

And yeah, I have the zine. I never read it online, so let me say that I love reading the story and there on the page with me is the illustration portraying exactly what I'm reading. It just makes the whole experience such a treat. It's a beautiful zine and a fun, interesting story. [41]

I'd read it at the Hatstand originally, so when I saw those illustrations on the Circuit Archive's version I was entranced. They're gorgeous. [41]

This is one of my must read again stories. Its definitely a comfort read, well written and although it has flaws, they are minor and don't distract you. Definitely one of my favourite AU stories with the boys. [41]

I like how it's AU but it's not -- there's still bits about Ray (and Bodie, tho we don't know it until the end) doing dangerous cop/spy work. And they go for morning runs, and mess about in each other's flats trailers, and just general canon stuff. Bodie's MI-6 instead of CI-5; and both of them have the circus background that they don't in canon, but otherwise it's just an undercover op, albeit one in a brilliant, fun setting. [41]

Am imagining Doyle's look as MS from LoS (which I've loved since I saw the movie not too long ago) and the circus atmosphere and lovingly described details really work for me. Every once in a while I'm thinking maybe Bodie and Doyle are just a touch too perfect on the trapeze together, with not a single glitch so far, but it's not a serious quibble.

Lot's of interesting and engaging original characters, including the animals!

I do wish we could have a POV giving us Bodie's thoughts every once in a while, but I assume it would reveal things we aren't supposed to know until later in the story.[41]

I love love love this story. This is the story that got me into Pros fandom (um, last year). I had read "The Cook and the Warehouseman" before, but that's so SF it doesn't really count, and didn't make me want to read the entire rest of the fandom like this did. (Am still trying to find a copy of the zine; had no luck contacting the distributor.)

It helps that I really, really enjoy Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Catch Trap (and clearly so did Ellis Ward!), and "Harlequin Airs" is a lot like "The Catch Trap" minus a lot of the homophobia and angst (and I love that book, but man does it have a lot of both). So really, from the summary of this, I was in. It probably also helps that I'm a huge fan of AUs anyway, and you don't actually need to know much about Pros to appreciate this. (But if you do, y'know, it's even better.) Besides, you get to see them falling in love, and I really adore the UST between them. It smolders. There were a few bits that really hit me hard and just made me stop and stare in wonder.

I think the plot is a little weird -- Cowley wants Doyle to seduce Bodie, whom he already knows is MI6, and blah blah guns -- and so for me it's good that a lot of the story isn't really about the gunrunning plot, but, hey, I really like undercover!gay stories, and this is a good example. And I mean, sure, it's the Everyone Is Gay Circus, but whatever! It's awesome!

One thing I really adore that no one ever mentions is that this is the only story I've seen take the "anal sex is painful" trope and turn it on its head. I figured the author was just going for the usual "sex hurts" description during the sex scene, and then it turned out that it hurt because Bodie was secretly undercover!gay and didn't actually have a clue what he was doing. That wins my respect. :) [41]

I also love this story. It was one of the 1st I read after discovering Pros fiction earlier this year. I re-read it for the reading room this week and enjoyed it as much as the 1st time and know it is one I'll return to like all good things that comfort. I do always think that the ending with Cowley's justifications of wanting to get B/D together (in terms of seeing how they work together) appears a bit odd. But am prepared to overlook this as the rest of the story is lovely. I love the circus animals and the opportunities it provides for Doyle's softer emotional side to come out while Bodie pretends to be the hard guy but is hooked as well.[41]

I have to agree with constant_muse in thoroughly disapproving of animals in circuses; right down to it being mother-influenced. Sanjay I can justify because he's old and it's not something the circus can help and he's not performing (okay and because I adore tigers and big cats so much, I love to see them anywhere in stories), but the elephant at the end. If this had been a paper zine I would have flung it. A story I've enjoyed and loved so much and at the end I have that jarring note. I skip over those paragraphs.

Short of that, I love this fic. I'm right there with Doyle, from his everyday minutes to the magic of the trapeze, sometimes even painfully there. He's hurt, I'm hurt, not just empathetic; that's impressive writing. The characters are vivid and the setting lives. [41]

...I love this zine, and in fact I'd forgotten it was up this week but had just re-read it anyway, so... *g*

I think, as many people have said above, that for me it's the fact the lads are so beautifully in character, right down to the little things that they do. And they're not perfect - they're both dealing with conflicts, and not sure they're doing it right (I like seeing into their heads like that, which we can't always in the eps!). I love that Doyle gets involved with people, not just as a job, which I think he does in the eps too, and that Bodie has his "secret past" as he does in the eps... And that they're beautifully hot together, and they know it - we can see the click between them, just as we do on screen...

Aaaaand... oh, just what most people have said, actually! Basil the dog irritated me a big (author's a dog-fan, by any chance?) but that was the only thing that felt a bit extraneous - and even that was justified by the escape attempt at the end - or the failed rescue attempt by Bodie, really. But I really can't think of anything much that didn't work for me in this story! *g* [41]

I didn’t have to force me to read the story! No, I think it’s a quite good plot and Bodie and Doyle are ‘in character’! But that’s it, I won’t read it again - because for me there isn’t that ‘magic’ circus feeling, and that is supposed to be a main part of the story.

But I was very enchanted by the artwork of Suzan Lovett! She must have spent hours and hours for the research work for those special postures during the trapeze acts! As much as I can tell they are very well done! Not to forget the richness of details! ;-)

And I’m very grateful that both, story and artwork, found their way to the CA! [41]

Not every rec is going to work for every reader, and if nothing about a circus appeals to you then yeah, this one won't do much for you. But that artwork is truly brilliant -- the detailing is what takes my breath away, personally. [41]


Harlequin Airs by Ellis Ward is on the net now. I still think it's worth getting the zine because the illustrations by Suzan Lovett are a feast for the eyes. However, this is a fun read with a pretty implausible plot.[42]

PROFESSIONALS: Another fandom I probably wouldn't have read without Suzan Lovett. All her artwork unless other wise stated. Harlequin Airs - See Perestroika. Even if you do not read Pros, read this book. It's an AU that involves circus flyers, SL makes motion happen. It's amazing and if you cannot buy this zine, borrow it from someone who has the full color version. The color inserts are framing quality. Everything just moves. [43]



It´s all a bit fast and the Lads are almost too good to be true, but I can see The Lads from the series in them, and it´s all about trust and love and there´s AMAZING Artwork by Suzanne Lovett.

And I really LOVE it!! [45]

It is the complete package with the art, isn't it? Do you have a zine version? It's well worth the money to get one of those, if you can!

I've always really enjoyed this story. I do consider it AU, but it's close to canon. I also really enjoy the original characters. Sure, it's all probably a bit "too good" to be true, but...I thoroughly enjoy it. *g* [46]

In the Circuit Archive is the complete package, yes, and there´s even the Art seperate, if you only wanna look at the wonderful pictures! No I don´t have a zine version, I really have to think about getting it! *g*

I did enjoy the story immensely!! And I will read it again!! [46]

I only recognised the hair and stuff from Ladder of swords, I´ve never seen it, but then I´m a fan of BODIE/DOYLE, not Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw....

You probably don´t remember because it´s right at the beginning, I just thought it introduced everything very nicely and far better than I could!

Have fun reading!! And take a look at the Art!! It´s SO worth! [46]

Oh, Harlequin Airs is one of my favourite Pros stories - even before I saw the artwork! There's something magic about it, and it could almost be canon... pre-canon... it's AU, but there's plenty of scope for our lads to be working together for Cowley afterwards, isn't there... *g* Another one that I must re-read soon! *g* [46]

Harlequin Airs is my favourite too! I love it! There is some background information on the version I have (I think from Circuit Archive) where the author mentions a number of sources, one of which is a Mary Stewart novel called "Airs Above the Ground". I had read this book years ago and so had a good understanding of the equestrian element. I did not find the boys too good to be true - circus is magic and Bodie and Doyle's ability to communication so easily simply fitted into that magical atmosphere and although trapeze work must include incredibly precise timing, there must also be an element of natural empathy between the flying partners?

Ellis Ward is such an accomplished author and all of her stories are worth more than one read. She manages to draw the most beautiful images with her words - but the artwork is also lush!

It is a long story, which needs to be read for enjoyment rather than a quick B&D fix, but one I've read more than once in my very short acquaintance with Pros Fiction. Thank you for the reminder. When I'm finished beta-ing for this week and finished reading all the other stories reviewed in this challenge, (arrggh ... stop ... please ... this is the most wonderful torture ...!!! *vbg*) I'm going to the circus! [46]

I am a huge fan of AU stories in all the fandoms I read in and Harlequin Airs is one of my favourite Pros stories and a very enjoyable read.

Ellis Ward is a consistently good author and this story does not disappoint. [46]

Oh, yessssss .... this is a lovely, long, strongly written story, and I'm quite prepared to stretch just a tiny bit over the too-good-to-be-true aspects! I love it when I get the rare chance to take time over an engaging story like this one. Of course there are a few things I might niggle at in the cold hard light of day (I do have trouble with that poor, permanently caged tiger barely seeing daylight - and replacing it with an elephant at the end too), but the story as a whole is such a luscious ride! [46]

It was either the second or third Pros fic I ever read, and I was still in my hating-everything-Pros-oh-wait phase then, so in some ways it drew me in and won me over because it wasn't canon (for me), if you see what I mean *g*

It's a beautiful ride of a story, and such a comfort read too - and oh, the artwork! Somehow or other I managed to read it without seeing the artwork the first time, so when I found that later on I was blown over by it. [46]

I think I am less enchanted by the romance of the circus than I need to be to really get into this as much as some of you do. It's well-written, and it races along, and the other characters are a fun cast to surround them with. And I am happy to imagine a Doyle aged to look like Don de Marco. Her descriptions of both guys are lovely.

And it is happy escapism. I just don't believe a word of any of it, if you see what I mean. So for example, the description of the tiger and the weight of his head (and his stinky breath!) is beautiful every time, but - a secret tiger? And the geography is just close enough to real geography in the area for me to notice that it's not right. (There are no moors and dales half an hour's bike ride from Newcastle - although there is a moor in the middle of the place, funnily enough.) And when is it set? I see why it makes sense to be pre-canon, but the comments about abseiling in parliament put it in the late eighties. Bbut wasn't there a real backlash against animal circuses by then? So I skate quickly over all of these questions and just remind myself "AU".

So mostly I enjoy the scenes of them together, whether practising, or Bodie explaining facts of circus life, or realising they are falling for each other. The interactions between people rather than the performances.

Oh, and Doyle with the dog. If Doyle had a dog, I am sure that's exactly how he'd treat her, with an exasperated affection, and thoroughly enjoying it if she eats anything of Bodie's. [46]

I have a number of favourite slash reads and they are all pretty much AU, and this is right up there with them, it's actually one of the first slash stories I ever read on recommendation.

What I love about this story is the way it is written. It's entirely from Doyle's POV (which I don't usually like, preferring Bodie's) and we really only know what Bodie is thinking by Ray's assumptions and thought processes. It's detailed and descriptive and rich and it gradually builds, that slow awareness they have of each other, the fit and gorgeous physicality of both men lovingly detailed. The back drop of the circus adds something magical, creating a cosy, warm, enviable hideaway for them, protected by like minded people and it all glitters, despite it's dubious criminal connections. Unrealistic? Maybe, I can't see anyone suddenly swinging from a trapeze after a 10 year absence, but who cares... it's the circus. [46]

It's been a while since I've read this but I remember it was very well written, and gave an interesting insight into circus life. I totally see it as AU, can't imagine this as a pre-canon story but it was quite enjoyable to read, although a bit unrealistic at times maybe (agree with what Jaicen said here, I think for that kind of artistic stunt you need to keep in practice), and I think I recall that there were a few passages I didn't really care about that much.

The artwork ist absolutely stunning. Also, so interesting to see an 80s touch to it now that we look at it years later. I'm always amazed at the love and effort Suzan put into her artwork, the details and composition of it. Gorgeous. [47]

I'm currently re-reading Harlequin Airs. It is the story that convinced me to give AUs another try. I used to detest the genre, but HA pulled me in, with its colorful characters and the circus atmosphere, and somehow still making me see Bodie and Doyle. Lots of original characters, and they are all interesting in their own way, but don't take over the story, leaving Bodie and Doyle as minor characters. Even though I've read the story several times by now, it's still enjoyable, in spite of everything just being a little too perfect, sometimes. Doyle, having lost none of his skills, and Bodie a perfect catcher, flyer, rider etc.

I don't care, and fall for it again every time, and it has opened the door to liking quite a few AUs for me. [47]

I've tried the story two years ago, I guess, and I remember that it was quite nice and all – but the circus background really isn't my cup of tea.

I only wished to have such a skillful art for some other stories! *sigh* [47]

...the Art is just unbelievable, that´s right. There´s so much skill and thought and work and time involved, it´s .....gorgeous![47]

I reckon that when I'm in the old fangirls' home for the bewildered but still feisty, Harlequin Airs will be one of those stories I still remember - it really stands out, and I can't really put my finger on why - maybe it's a combination of good writing, colourful characters and gorgeous artwork... and there's something about the tiger that always sticks in my mind. Whatever it is, I'm incredibly fond of it. [47]


[Excerpts from a longer review. Read the entire review here [1]]: "....Several things make this story work really well. It's told from the limited perspective of Doyle, so the reader stays just as unsure as Doyle does about Bodie's motivations and trustworthiness. There's a tension about what Bodie is holding back that helps keep the relationship on edge, taut, in a way that new relationships almost always are. Will he or won't he? Does he feel what I feel? Am I just imagining the attraction in his eyes? This adds to the verisimilitude.....

.... completely separate issue about why this story is great has to do with the artwork that accompanies it....If you own this zine, the artwork alone would mean you'd keep it, even if the story were only second-rate. Which it is not....

....Pros is celebrated as a fandom with a large number of AUs, and this is one of the ones that routinely comes to mind. I think that a circus setting works for Pros for several reasons: there is an inherent quality of danger in the circus that gives stories set there an edgier quality. Whether it is wild animals, the high wire, fire eating, or simply playing to a live audience, the notional danger that we think of with Bodie and Doyle chasing bad guys translates well to this setting and keeps its edge. If you put the two of them in a veterinarian's office, there's the possibility for thrills, but it doesn't seem as constant or as potentially life-threatening.....

..... But on the whole? I'm happy with the balance of the story and how fast it progresses. The pacing is just right, giving the mystery, and Bodie and Doyle's relationship, time to develop and ripen."[48]


The story (AU again) is readable enough (and many fans have liked it much better than I do), but I consider it a keeper because of the suitable-for-framing, unreservedly gorgeous artwork. (Again, I have two copies of this zine, because of the art.) [49]

Harlequin Airs by Ellis Ward Bodie and Doyle run away to join the circus... well, not quite, but as the blurb at Palelyloitering says, this is an alternate universe novel in which Doyle is undercover for CI5, working at a circus where Bodie is one of the trapeze artists. For his role, Doyle must return to his first profession, and join Bodie on the highwire." This story was originally an illustrated zine, published in 1993 (here's a question - what were you doing in 1993? I was still teaching, of all things, living with Chap, and hadn't thought about Pros for years. Hmmn, unless that was the year I got to cruise Manchester in the back of a police car, looking for a villain. *g*) Anyway - you can see the illustrations (by Suzan Lovett) on the Circuit Archive online version via the link above too.

I've read this zine before of course, many times, and I do like it. Doyle is pretty much Doyle - albeit a rather hurting Doyle - and Bodie is pretty much Bodie, and together they're quite them, albeit in leotards. *g* The story works nicely - it goes from one end to the other, with enough pace in between to keep you reading - and it's all pretty believable to me. Well, you know, in a running-off-to-join-the-circus kind of way. *g*

If I had to niggle, I could wish the beta-reader had caught a few of the not-quite correct Britisms (being beaten up is being done over, not done up, which is what you are when you put on your best gear and make-up!) But they were little enough that they made me blink rather than wince. And perhaps the characters were all a bit too understanding of each other, and some difficulties a little too easily overcome (Doyle beats up someone for calling him a poof, and the someone just says "oh okay then" and they're friends after? Hmmn!) but maybe that's just being being more cynical about the world than the author.

In general - a good fun read, about the lads and CI5, and with the magic of the circus thrown in, and definitely worth it! If you can get hold of a paper zine copy, it's even more worth it to turn the pages and see Lovett's drawings of our lads throughout.

I love this story. Well, I pretty much love all her stories. *g* It's one zine I'll never give up.

The Britisms didn't bother me, probably because I didn't catch them, though I understand why they would you since the reverse is true. The stories written for US shows by British writers often don't ring true to me. Even the difference in the spelling of certain words can throw me right out of the story. That's not every British writer. Some get it spot on. But it's hard, so those that do get it right are to be congratulated. I know I couldn't do it!

I love this story! And I very nearly didn't read it, only that sunray45 insisted, and I'm so very glad she did. I enjoyed it so much that I printed it out, then printed out a lot of the illustrations so that I'd have them with the fic. I was put off initially by the "AU" appellation, but it didn't really seem like it was AU; it was more of a backstory, like a way they possibly could have met, and who's to say they didn't meet as circus performers anyway? *g*
This was one of the first Pros zines I read. I got a xerox copy at a con for about three bucks (if I recall) and Krisser (I had just met her, as well) cautioned me that it might not have all the illios, being xeroxed. It did have pictures! So many simply gorgeous pictures--but oddly, not the cover. Anyway, at that point, I had literally only read AUs of Bodie and Doyle, but I loved them at the circus. I wanted it to go on forever--although was pleased that they were going to work together at the end. I don't recall many specifics about the story--except possibly the tiger, but it's my favourite zine.
How lucky to have got one with the pictures! I first read it from Circuit Archive, so although I could see the pictures, I didn't have them printed out to gaze at. Now I have one of the Snow versions, inherited from someone, and I feel so very lucky! I'm still a bit hung-over from it days later, I want it to keep going too! I don't want them to be in CI5 together - I want them to be in the circus! *g*
Ah, I remember devouring this first time out - and isn't it wonderful to have such a lovely long solid story! There are things that niggle at me a lot more on subsequent readings, but I still enjoy getting my teeth into it at periodic intervals. One of the biggest problems I have with it now is actually the animal cruelty, even though it's sadly absolutely typical of the period as far as I am aware (I'm far from knowledgeable!). I find it really hard now - really horrible - to read about the way Sanjay is kept permanently in a small cage inside a tent, and yet I know that there isn't much option in practice in the world of the story. It makes me very unhappy that he's replaced with a young elephant at the end - that long, isolated, stir-crazy life is a very painful thought, but in the story it's meant to strike a happy note! I love a lot of things about this story, though, and I agree that the B&D we see here are very recognisably them. There's a bit of an everybody's-gay-and/or-everbody-fancies-Ray thing going on, but OTOH I am so happy with the way we get to see Doyle's process of recovery over time, it isn't rushed or skimmed over, and to see Bodie through his eyes. Yum :-)))))) And so many things ring true! The feeling of place is wonderful, the cold mornings feel cold and the landscape feels real. Dog behaviour isn't nearly as far-fetched as fictional dogs often are *bg* Thank you for a reminder of a smashing read :-) [50]


  1. ^ Close Quarters Desert Island Episode/Zine/Fic dated July 18, 2009
  2. ^ a link to a larger version here, The Circuit Archive, accessed September 5.2012
  3. ^ Fic Recs, The Professionals, by Arduinna
  4. ^ [members.aol.com/lynnwfic/pros/pindex.html The Professionals Fanzines], Archived version
  5. ^ from This is Katya
  6. ^ Cairdean's Slash Recommendations, accessed 2.20.2012.
  7. ^ Fanzine Review by Serena, accessed 12.9.2010
  8. ^ from Ten Pros Stories I'd Suggest Any Newbie Begin With
  9. ^ by istia at The Hatstand, written in the form of a drabble
  10. ^ comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (May 18, 1993)
  11. ^ from Short Circuit #13 (1993)
  12. ^ from Strange Bedfellows #3 (November 1993)
  13. ^ Alexfandra commenting on the story on the Virgule-L mailing list September 3, 1994, quoted with permission.
  14. ^ Michelle Christian, posting to the Virgule-L mailing list July 27, 1994, quoted with permission.
  15. ^ September 9, 1994, comment by Alexfandra, Virgule-l, quoted with permission
  16. ^ comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (September 27, 1994)
  17. ^ comments by Alexfandra on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (November 21, 1996)
  18. ^ comments at on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (November 22, 1996)
  19. ^ from Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (November 23, 1996)
  20. ^ from Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (November 23, 1996)
  21. ^ comment at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (9 Jun 1997)
  22. ^ from DIAL #8
  23. ^ comment at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (January 30, 1999)
  24. ^ a b c from a 2003 comment at Crack Van
  25. ^ Harlequin Airs Rec by ooopretty, dated April 24, 2004.
  26. ^ by byslantedlight at rec50, posted June 11, 2006
  27. ^ by kiwisue in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  28. ^ a b c by byslantedlight in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  29. ^ by gilda elise in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  30. ^ by shooting2kill in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  31. ^ by carodee in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  32. ^ by blktauna in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  33. ^ by blktuana in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  34. ^ by anonymous in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  35. ^ by empty mirrors in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  36. ^ by ancastar in July 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  37. ^ by paris7am in August 2006 at at CI5hq, Archived version
  38. ^ from a private mailing list, quoted anonymously (September 27, 2006)
  39. ^ from Ancasta's Corner posted April 2, 2007, accessed March 24, 2012
  40. ^ 2009 comments at CI5hq, Archived version
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 2009 comments at CI5hq
  42. ^ alicambs Professional Recs, Archived version, dated March 19, 2010.
  43. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (November 2010)
  44. ^ a March 24, 2011 comment on a mailing list, quoted anonymously
  45. ^ 2012 comments at CI5hq, Archived version
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 2012 comments at CI5hq
  47. ^ a b c d e 2012 comments at CI5hq
  48. ^ prosrecs, Archived version dated Sept 13, 2014.
  49. ^ comments by kslangley at What was your first fandom?, August 28, 2016
  50. ^ Reading Pros fic - Harlequin Airs by Ellis Ward, by byslantedlight and commenters