Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce

It is 1899, and young Andrew Wyndham has accepted a position tutoring the unruly son of wealthy industrialist Duncan Stewart in the hopes that the work will be brief yet provide an avenue to pay for his passage to France to study art. But Seacliff is a dark mansion enshrouded in near-eternal fog, dark mystery and suspicion—perhaps a reflection of the house’s brooding master. An imposing Blackbeard of a man, Duncan Stewart is both feared and admired by his business associates as well as the people he calls friends, for Stewart may have murdered his own father to gain control of his business.And his home, in which Andrew Wyndham must now reside, holds terrible secrets—secrets that could destroy everyone within its walls. For pure gothic escapism with a decidedly masculine point of view, The Master of Seacliff is an enthralling and satisfying read.

Such a great read and a new author for me.  Very Jane Eyre-ish, not better after all Jane Eyre is a classic, but similar and in my opinion nearly as good.  Duncan definitely has Mr. Rochester's brooding down and Andrew certainly shares Jane's curiosity.  Did Duncan really kill his father & Albert then make it look like murder/suicide?  For that you'll have to read and you really won't know until near the end, I will say that my suspicions changed a few times.  Very rarely does a story come together where every single character has a true purpose and effect on both the tale and the reader.  There is a little something for everyone and just because I have made comparisons to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, don't think this is just a M/M genre retelling of the gothic classic, aspects are remnant but not a copy.  The Master of Seacliff is a story all its own and I am so glad that luck or fate brought it to my eye.


“Why do you hate Duncan so much, Leo?”

Leo gave a loud laugh and turned to view himself in the mirror. “It’s not hatred, Andrew. Pure jealousy.” He lowered his voice. “You see, for all our pretense, my sister and I are not in the best of financial situations. I fear in another generation, the Van Hornes will be back on a boat to the Netherlands, rowing the entire way. Duncan would jump at the opportunity to purchase Glendower Hall and send me packing.”

I wasn’t sure if Leo was honest or if this was another of his inventive tales. “Why?”

He fingered the cuff of my nightshirt, rose from the bed and walked to the door. “I feel the need for a drink. Would you like one?”
I shook my head.

To my surprise, Leo did not leave, but knelt down by the green clock and ran his left hand along the side of the base. In a second, a door popped open at the bottom.

“Steven discovered this. Seems Janina didn’t want to trundle downstairs to get her liquor.” Leo removed a bottle of brandy and two glasses. “Join me? Makes the pain go away.”

“Duncan went overseas looking for Steven. If he didn’t want him back—”

Leo filled his glass, replaced the decanter and closed the secret door.

“As far as that grand display of combing the corners of the earth for his lost love, I’ve come to doubt those motives. My guess is that he actually tracked Steven down.”


“Andrew, Duncan Stewart has contacts all over the world, from heads of state and religious leaders to some of the most dangerous thieves and blackguards since Ali Baba. I suspect he paid Steven to leave, but as a trump, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steven was dispensed with by an assassin shortly after. That would explain why his clothes remain here after so many months. And don’t forget our visitor during the séance.”

Except for the séance, his theory made sense.

“What does that matter, my heir apparent? I see you’ve acquired not only Steven’s wardrobe, but his bedroom as well.” He looked to the door behind the screen and his lips curled at the corners. “And room to spread out. How do you find—”

I was in no mood to be linked to Duncan, especially by Leo Van Horne’s cruel innuendos.

“I’ll be returning to my own room as soon as possible.”

“I most certainly hope so. I’d like to see more of you—” He started lifting the sheet that covered me. When I put my hands down to keep it secure he took my hands in his and kissed them.

“— when you are up and around and free of Duncan.”

“I have no romantic feelings for Duncan, or anyone, Leo.”

Leo’s face lost its color and for the first time, his expression scared me. “Don’t reject me Andrew. You may regret needing a true friend in this house. Steven located some documents. They stated Gordon’s intent to disinherit Duncan. I have them now. If you find anything else, you must come to me at once. I—”

“And what if I believe Duncan innocent?”

“He is fond of you, Andrew. I don’t deny that. Perhaps if you get him to confess…in a moment of weakness…using your charms.”

“Duncan is not guilty of killing Steven,” I said. I wished I could be as confident about the deaths of Gordon and Albert.

“Then prove it to me.” Leo gave a light laugh. “But now, I must fly; until later. Think about what I have told you, and perhaps you’ll be ready for some liquor at tea time. Or, if you get thirsty, remember our hiding place.” He swirled out, all green velvet and gold silk, leaving on the nightstand a small box tied with a bright yellow ribbon.

I clasped my hands together and shook my head. The thought of these two men trying to win my favor put Steven Charles’ fate right out of my mind. Plain Andrew Wyndham, heretofore resigned to a lonely life as a tutor and artist, now attracted two powerful men, in a grand mansion above the ocean.

One a possible murderer; and the other determined to prove it. Seacliff brought me an escape from my old life, but I debated the price of that escape. If Duncan were found guilty, my plans of going to France would be just a dream. As for Leo’s thoughts on Steven Charles, I suspected that was a blatant attempt to discredit Duncan, and cast himself in a better light. I couldn’t believe Duncan would have the man he loved killed. The man he loved—would I ever experience that?

Author Bio:
Max Pierce enjoyed a successful career as a Senior Executive in the apparel industry while he developed his writing skills.

As a journalist, he began writing on Hollywood history in 1999 for CLASSIC IMAGES magazine. He has contributed to numerous anthologies and is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-nominated gothic suspense, THE MASTER OF SEACLIFF and the romantic comedy AT THE CROSSROADS, both published by Lethe Press.

He has called Los Angeles home since 1988.



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