Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Merchant and the Clergyman by Summer Devon & Bonnie Dee

A village clergyman...
Curate James Fletcher is content shepherding his parishioners through the good and bad times of their lives. If he sometimes dreams of making a deeper connection with a man who truly knows everything about him, it is an impulse he ignores.

A devoted businessman...
Declan Shaw solves problems at his family’s many business enterprises. Recently, he’s considered ceasing his travels to pursue a few desires of his own. He’d love to explore his secret love of cooking and perhaps have a relationship with a man that lasts longer than a night.

The event that brings them together...
In town for his cousin’s wedding, Declan meets James just as he’s bested the annoying groom. Intrigued by the mild-mannered cleric’s surprising spirit, Declan asks James to help him discover if his aging aunt is being mistreated by her spouse.

As their paths repeatedly cross, the men reach an intersection of attraction they can’t ignore. Will they dare purse forbidden passion and continue to journey together into the future, or will their differences tear them apart?

Once again, Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon have brought to us a great story set in the past where the laws are more strict.  I think what I love most about their stories and this one is a perfect example, is that yes the relationship that is building between the main characters is illegal with dangerous ramifications if found out and yet that aspect is not the center of the story, it's touched on but not based on which I find to be very refreshing.

With The Merchant and the Clergyman, Declan and James have an instant connection but that does not mean it comes easy to them. As for the secondary characters, Kip and Emily, well I didn't think I would care for either but I have to admit Emily surprises me and in a good way.  I think the mystery lover in me would have preferred a little more concrete conclusion to the aunt's story but as I write this and look back at the story as a whole, I think it was written the best way possible to fit the characters, the setting, and the time frame.

I still have a few from the author's backlist yet to read but I am looking forward to whatever is coming next from Dee & Devon.


James hadn’t heard the door open. He’d been too focused on escaping Kip’s power over him. It had been so long, and he was dismayed to learn he still desired one of the least amiable men he knew.

A deep voice startled him. “Good God, what happened here?”

“Perhaps Mr. Darnley is having a fit,” James said, too disgusted with Kip and himself to care what this stranger thought.

The large man wore dusty clothes, a driver’s coat, and worn boots. After giving James a scowling frown, he dropped to a crouch by Kip’s side. “What’s going on?”

“He hit me,” Kip gasped.

The man looked at James. “Aren’t you some sort of priest?” His deeply tanned face made his eyes—as blue as Kip’s—brilliant. They regarded James with interest.

“I’m James Fletcher, the curate. And I didn’t hit Kip, I, ah, struck him with my knee.”

The man suddenly showed a gorgeous smile. So familiar—Kip’s smile. “That’s some muscular Christianity you have there, Mr. Fletcher.”

James didn’t smile back and turned his attention to his victim. “Are you able to stand, Mr. Darnley? I’m certain your fiancΓ©e is wondering where you are. You said you’d join her.”

The big man, who could only be some sort of relative, clapped a hand on Kip’s shoulder, then rose to his feet. He crossed his arms and studied James. “Why on earth did you knee Darnley in the balls?”

“He can tell you if he wishes.”

Kip had more color in his face but still took deep breaths between words. “Fletcher is a sodomite, and when he tried to pressure me to do horrible things, we got into a fight.”

“Hmm.” The man didn’t seem particularly shocked, which should have relieved James, but he still felt the haze of disinterest. None of this felt real.

What would he do now that he’d ruined his future here? Perhaps go to London. He’d have to talk to his bishop, of course, give an accounting of why he’d struck the son of the richest man for miles around, and now there was this tiresome added accusation of sodomy. Would it get back to his parents? Could he explain it away without lying right to their faces? He couldn’t bear that. Avoidance of the subject was one thing, but outright lying wasn’t in his nature.

Kip could sit up now, though he still hunched over his lap. He seemed to be fighting tears. “Curse you, James Fletcher. I’m going to talk to Vicar Hollister. I’m going to summon the constable.”

The stranger bent and offered a hand to Kip, who refused his help with a shake of his head. “It’s your own business, Kip. But with your wedding so soon, you’d probably be better off not raising a stink about the crooked curate. Stick to looking after Emma.”

“Emily,” James corrected.

From the floor, Kip protested. “Christ almighty, Declan! The sodomite attacked me.”

The stranger absently tapped his chin with two fingers, drumming a face so similar to one James had once longed to kiss but never had. He looked at James and then back at Kip, who had gotten to his feet but still wobbled. “That’s a strong accusation and a serious one. But I believe people will wonder—he’s about four inches and three stone smaller than you. Do you really want to stir up a scandal that might bring your own proclivities into question?”

Kip straightened and growled. “Never mind, then. Goddamn you, Jimmy.”

“Perhaps He will,” James agreed. “Go find your fiancΓ©e.”

Kip rubbed his face and apparently decided to ignore James’s existence. Still pale, he cleared his throat. “It’s about time you got here, cousin. I’ve told Miss Parker all about you, and she’s longing to meet you. Of course, the mater and pater will be delighted you’re here.” Kip was starting to regain his usual aplomb, that easy, pleasant manner with a touch of amused dominance. Soon his sharp wit would reappear. Once upon a time, James had regarded him as the epitome of sophisticated charm, even when he’d been sliced by Kip’s rapier tongue in front of the other youths.

Declan shifted from foot to foot. “Yes, I’ll be along soon.” He sounded impatient.

“How have you arrived? By train? You may ride back to the house in my carriage, if you like. We’ll send someone to fetch your luggage.”

A slight frown suggested the visiting cousin was in no hurry to reach his destination. “I’ve been sitting all day and would appreciate the chance to stretch my legs on a long walk. No need to give me a ride. Go to your Emily, and I’ll follow after,” he ordered.

Kip shot a worried look at Declan and a threatening one at James. Perhaps he feared leaving them alone lest James reveal Kip’s part in what had transpired. “Don’t waste your time on Fletcher,” he said and stalked off, limping a little.

Declan put his fists on his hips and turned toward James. “All right, man of the cloth, what was that about?”

James’s pulse raced, and the high-pitched ringing in his ears suggested he was on the verge of fainting. The magnitude of what had transpired and the accusations this stranger had heard suddenly hit him. The thing he’d feared his entire life appeared to finally be coming true—his secret had been exposed. James gripped the back of his office chair to steady himself and forced his voice not to quaver. “It’s best that you talk to him yourself.”

Declan sighed and moved to a table where a dusty decanter of wine sat. A parishioner had given the bottle to James, and he kept it for visitors and as a temptation for himself. Drink had been a part of his problem at university. The stranger poured himself a glass without asking for permission—most definitely one of Kip’s relations.
“I was outside this house and heard some of what Kip was shouting. Luckily, no one else was around to hear.” He observed James shrewdly over the rim of his glass. “You needn’t fear my spreading tales. Whatever you may have gotten up to with my boor of a cousin is your concern.”

James blinked, too shocked to form words. This tall, rugged stranger who’d strode into the room with the confident manner of a man who knew his place in the world—master of it—seemed the sort most likely to be utterly repelled by even the suggestion of a dalliance between men. Yet Declan dismissed the possibility with a mere shrug, as if it were of little consequence.

“Whatever happened, no doubt my cousin deserved a sharp kick in the balls,” the man drawled before taking a long swallow of wine.

Author Bios:
Bonnie Dee
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.

I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.

Summer Devon
Summer Devon is the pen name writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, her books are always romance.

You can visit her facebook page, where there's a sign up form for a newsletter (she'll only send out newsletters when there's a new Summer Devon or Kate Rothwell release and she will never ever sell your name to anyone).

Bonnie Dee

Summer Devon

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