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Summer Devon

REVIEW:  The Gentleman’s Madness by Bonnie Dee,Summer Devon

REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Madness by Bonnie Dee,Summer Devon

madnessDear Ms. Dee and Ms. Devon:

An m/m romance between an attendant and an inmate in a Victorian insane asylum… I think I know why this was published after Christmas. It was actually less dark and considerably less dense than I feared it would be, which made it a more accessible read, but also let me down a bit in the end.

He’s been through electric shock therapy, water dunks, an attempted rape for which he was blamed, and the loss of his clothes and writing implements, but fate still holds something worse in store for former professor John Gilliam. When an old friend turns up as part of a visiting group to observe the deviant “Mr. G,” and refuses to acknowledge him, John loses his last remaining shreds of personal dignity. “If he hadn’t been mad before, he had become so; he had nothing left. They had taken his pens, and now they stripped him of his past.” The distraught John is carefully subdued by a hugely strong yet gentle attendant, who promises to try and get his clothes and writing materials back.

Sam Tully is generally kind and sympathetic to the inmates he cares for, but he’s especially sorry for John. “A single glance could tell you the man had tumbled a great distance, down, down, down. All that learning, all that money, and yet here he lay on the floor of of the asylum in one of the padded rooms where they put the most dangerous and damaged patients.” Although he’s wary of being around the homosexual patients — “too close to home” — pity leads Tully to offer to supervise John on his own time, while he uses the oh so dangerous paper and pencil, and John’s gratitude touches him deeply. He knows that getting close to a patient is wrong and dangerous, but he can’t bear to let John down.

As John and Tully become friends, and a powerful attraction grows between them, Tully begins to lose faith in the asylum’s treatment methods. And when their burgeoning sexual relationships puts them in peril, he may be John’s only chance for freedom.

The asylum setting is central to this romance. Gay men in most historical contexts have a huge strike against them to begin with, and John and Sam are also separated by vast class differences. The asylum weirdly equalizes them in a sense, giving them a chance to get to know one another and explore the special gifts each can offer their relationship. The fact that the working class Tully has a lot of power over John in this situation is turned around very neatly, because he’s so worried about taking advantage that he actually helps John recover: “I am not often able to say yes or no in this place and you have given me back that ability. You have given me choice again, Sam Tully.” Their shared experiences also contribute to an unexpectedly strong and believable happy ending.

The setting is also disturbing as hell. What happens to John demonstrates how difficult it is to prove your sanity in a place designed to completely disrupt your sense of self; John can’t even masturbate in peace, because the attendants will check. And this isn’t even one of the worst of the asylums — its head doctor is more misguided and greedy than outright evil. Initially I appreciated that narrative restraint, but I wound up feeling that the book might have been stronger if it had just gone straight for the Gothic jugular. The suspenseful elements in the later part of the story, which should have been utterly terrifying considering John’s captivity, never built up as much tension as I wanted.

I think this will have the most appeal for readers who enjoy seeing opposites attract; the distinct character voices are well drawn, and of course there are strong contrasts between the slender, intellectual John and the huge, calloused laborer Sam. The sex scenes are on the milder side, which feels very appropriate for a shorter novel — the focus stays on the characters and the setting — and the romance comes to full bloom very gently and sweetly at the end. B

Sincerely,

Willaful

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REVIEW:  The Gentleman’s Keeper by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Keeper by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

Confronting the darkness of his past, he finds the light of his future.

After years gadding about Europe, Everett Gerard can no longer avoid his responsibilities. Word has come that a child bearing the unmistakable Gerard stamp has shown up at the family estate—and he realizes it’s time to face his demons.

As his carriage nears the gates of home, he fights the urge to flee the memory of the horrible crime he witnessed as a child. Yet the Abbey delivers surprises and delights he never expected.

Miles Kenway was content with his quiet life as the Abbey’s bailiff, until the wild child, clearly a bastard son of some Gerard, upends his peace with constant pranks and mischief. And when the master of the house arrives, an unsettling attraction heats Miles’s blood.

As they clash over the fate of the ancestral land, they battle a powerful desire to grapple in ways that could disrupt the delicate balance between master and servant. But when the boy’s real sire appears, they must unite as only true fathers can to protect the boy whose mischievous charm has captured their hearts.

Warning: Gothic murder, hot man loving, and emotional family drama

Review:
Dear Ms. Dee and Ms. Devon,

I always enjoy your historical romances and this book was no exception. The settings seemed believable for the time, and it always feels to me that you do your research, but what I loved the most was the burning tension between the characters from the moment they meet.

The Gentleman's Keeper by Bonnie Dee and Summer DevonEverett Gerard is determined to never return to his ancestral home. He takes care of the people who live on the lands as best as he can from a distance, but if it were up to him, he would never see the Abbey again. Unfortunately (or fortunately) as the blurb tells you, it is not completely up to him. A boy claiming to be his son shows up at his estate, and while Miles Kenway, the Abbey’s bailiff tries to take care of Ipsial as best as he can, it is clear that Everett’s personal attention is required. After several letters back and forth, Everett decides that he has no choice but to visit the family estate in person. When returns, he comes back he immediately begins to clash with Miles over Miles’ insistence that the Abbey needs to be repaired and Everett has no desire to do so. Very soon, however, both realize that they want each other.

I have to admit that the fast attraction between Miles and Everett puzzled me a little. It is not just the fact that it was so fast, because I thought that the authors showed clearly that initially it was lust, which changed to love later in the story. As much as I dislike Insta!Love, I am okay with Insta!Lust even in contemporaries, and in historicals I am often willing to cut the characters even more slack, because I often think that it was much harder and much more dangerous to look for somebody with whom you form a strong connection rather than just a hook up. No, my doubts were more about the attraction between these two people from different social classes. The story definitely deals with the issue, but I suppose I expected more doubts from both sides. But when I told myself that I want to suspend disbelief, it really was not that hard to do, so I guess it was believable enough.

Then there is matter of Ipsial, the nine year old who looks exactly like Everett and supposedly could be his bastard son. I was very impressed with how his character and his storyline were handled. Portraying a child in romance can be a tricky thing, but I think in this story it was done extremely well. Caring for Ipsial brought Miles and Everett closer together and allowed Everett to demonstrate how much of his childhood trauma he actually overcame. I liked that Ipsial was not cute in the conventional sense but more wild and untamed in the beginning of the story and that at the end of the story he did not become a perfect child either. Is there such a thing like perfect child in the first place?

Here is how Miles describes him to Everett in the beginning of the story:

“Gerard narrowed his eyes at this but didn’t speak, so Miles continued, “He steals food on a regular basis and gets into anything he can possibly get into. He’s uncivilized, probably unlettered, and some days I doubt whether he’ even human.” Remembering who he was talking to, Miles dipped his head. “Sorry, sir. The little hellion is improving, I believe. I had been treating him as I would a horse that’s been abused, and I think he’s slowly coming to trust that no one here means him any harm”

I really loved how much patience these guys showed to the boy and how small changes and not so small changes in him felt believable to me by the end of the story. In fact I thought that Everett’s dealings with Ipsial showed that he overcame a lot more of the trauma that he encountered as a child than he would be willing to admit. In spite of what happened between him and his father (no, it is not necessarily what you would think happened), he treated the child as he would have wanted to be treated and I really loved the strength of the character Everett showed. The blurb tells you that at some point of the story the Ipsial’s real father show up, but I actually thought that it was a little anticlimactic. Opinions may differ on this one, but I never doubted that Everett would behave any differently than he did long before that point in the story came. I was happy and satisfied at the end of the book.

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