Seducing Stephen is, I believe, the first published collaborative work by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon. And I was fortunate enough to receive an e-ARC, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
What does a jaded earl see in a studious young man? Everything he never knew he was missing.
The dark, alluring Peter, Lord Northrup, is Stephen’s every nighttime fantasy made flesh and he’s in Stephen’s bed, ready for passion. When Peter discovers the bedroom mix-up, he’s ready to leave until Stephen begs him to teach him all the things he’s only imagined.
The two men, visitors at a country house, begin a delirious, passionate affair with Northrup as teacher and Stephen his eager student. Peter knows their liaison is about hot sessions of sexual exploration, not love–and backs away when he sees shy Stephen’s heart is involved. Passion and commitment can’t coexist for men like them.
But Peter is haunted by memories of the summer fling and the quiet young man he spurned. But he may have taught him Stephen too well the lessons of a cynical roué.
Let me begin with a caveat: In my reading of m/m romance, the majority of my reading has been of contemporaries, with the occasional paranormal thrown in. I’ve read a few historicals, usually because they were highly recommended by reviewers I trust (False Colors by Alex Beecroft and the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries by Charlie Cochrane) or because an auto-buy author was trying something different (An Improper Holiday by K.A. Mitchell). As a general rule, gay historical romance is a hard sell for me, because while an HEA may be possible, it seems inherently more difficult in an era when lovers could be executed for engaging in homosexual behavior.
Having shared that…I was impressed by Seducing Stephen. It’s being added to my short list of favorite m/m historicals.
The book is set in Victorian England, which is such a promising time period. Huge changes were taking place socially, politically, technologically, and those changes serve as part of the background of the book. The authors did an excellent job creating characters who felt accurate (as far as I could tell) for their era — they weren’t 21st century men plopped down in the 19th century, but were products of their time and social classes. They cared about what their contemporaries and peers thought of them; their reputations were important; their obligations to their families and others had to be considered when making significant decisions. Peter was very much the jaded lord; he wasn’t jaded so much by experience (though he had that) but by the emptiness of his life. Enter Stephen, a young man of the expanding middle class who was just figuring out his own sexuality and his own place in the world. Their first meeting and entanglement left them both a bit worse for wear: Peter because he was surprised by how he still thought of Stephen after leaving him behind, and Stephen because he was abandoned by his first lover and love.
The conflict within this novel was not just "does he love me" but "how can we (can we?) be together while meeting our obligations?" The two struggled with their own obligations (family, financial, social) to others, and their situation at the end of the novel (together, trying to balance the different burdens) was clearly going to be a work in progress going forward. That ending, while perhaps not the HEA that many romance readers would like to see with an epilogue and 2.3 children, was utterly satisfactory to me: the lovers were together and they were committed to each other and their future.
ETA: Forgot to mention — look at that gorgeous cover art! Dee/Devon lucked out with the beautiful job by Anne Cain.
ETA #2: To be perfectly honest, as much as I enjoyed this book (it was a B/B+ read for me), the next book to be released by Dee & Devon, Wounded Heart, a Regency, utterly wowed me and is absolutely a keeper. It is much more a fantasy-type romance, requiring a bit more suspension of disbelief, while Seducing Stephen felt more grounded in reality. I’m not entirely sure why, although it may be a function of POV and narration. My point being, I look forwarded to reading more (much more!) from these two authors.
Earlier this week, I mentioned that I would like to share this book with other readers, readers who perhaps are new to m/m romance or who are regular readers but haven’t tried either of these authors yet. Summer Devon graciously offered to provide a copy of the e-book for a giveaway.
If you are interested in checking out this new collaborative duo, please leave a comment. If you feel like sharing, tell whether you’ve read any m/m romance before or if this will be your toe dipped into the waters, so to speak. Or just comment saying you’d like to be included in the "drawing". The winner will be selected randomly on
Monday, February 15th. Wednesday, Feb 17th.