Monday, June 27, 2016

The Gentleman & the Lamplighter by Summer Devon

You Can’t Walk Away from Love.

Destroyed by the death of his former schoolmate yet unable to show it publicly, Giles Fullerton has taken to walking the streets of London in the middle of the night, the only time he can safely mourn the only person he’s ever loved—until one chance meeting with a lamplighter changes everything….

But You Can Walk Toward It...

Widower John Banks knows a thing or two about grief, and immediately recognizes a kindred spirit when he finally meets the handsome, haunted gentleman he’s admired from afar. And in fact, the two men discover shared passions and the possibility of a forever love—if they can overcome social taboos, and their own fears….

This is shorter than I would have liked it to be but it is so amazing with so much detail shown to the history that I can't give it anything less than a full 5 bookmarks.  Two souls mourning past loves come together in friendship but will it turn into something more?  For that answer, you will have to read this sweet, charming, well written historical romantic novella.  Trust me, it's the worth the time, Giles and John burrowed their way into my heart in just a few pages.


London, 1880
After Woolver's death, Giles took to the streets at night. A gentleman could stay awake through the long night and stare at nothing through longer days—and hear no complaints about his strange habits.

He had nothing important to do with himself except sort through his dead friend's affairs and offer comfort to the young widow left behind. The widow, only six months married, seemed almost indifferent to her husband's death, so Giles usually avoided that task laid upon him by Wool. The rest he did methodically and with care.

He had to go through those papers and accounts, in honor of Woolver, dead too young. Wool, the only person Giles had ever loved. Wool, who'd abandoned Giles to fulfill his duty and marry a girl his parents had picked years ago. Wool, who'd killed himself exactly one year after he said good-bye to Giles.


The loss plagued Giles during the day and woke him up at night. Each time the truth of Wool's stupid death hit, it opened him as if he'd been slashed by a knife, and he had to move to avoid the pain.

Thankfully no one, not even the men he saw each day at one of his two clubs, appeared to suspect his deep sorrow. He blamed his paleness and lack of appetite on illness. Conversation carried on as usual—no dropped voices when he passed—so he assumed he had them all convinced.

With time, the stabbing pain turned into a heavy ache, but he'd lost the habit of sleep and he still had no interest in pretending to be jolly. And on occasion he still felt too restless to remain still.

He promised himself he would abandon the indulgence of secret mourning on the second anniversary marking Woolver's farewell, the first anniversary of his death.

That day in April, Giles started awake at four in the morning—as usual.

The soft light of a streetlamp across the lane filtered through the curtains so he could see the dim shapes of his bedroom. Giles stared at the ceiling, at the humps formed by the overstuffed chairs in the corner, then turned to stare at the reflection in the mirror—and he knew sleep had abandoned him again. Tears threatened and he was heartily sick of them; he got out of the bed, determined to outrun his internal storm.

Giles yanked on his clothes and bounded down the stairs. He didn't have to sneak about for the servants' sakes. The butler, housekeeper, cook, three maids, and valet who slept under his roof had learned to sleep through his restlessness.

Still, he closed the front door softly behind him. No need to wake the innocent. He paused at the doorstep and drew in a long breath. Concentrate on this moment alone. If he could not think of the past without sorrow or the future without dreary dismay, then he must exist in the moment.

He'd grabbed an overcoat only to hide his lack of tie and collar, for he'd been too impatient to arrange the details of his dress, but he was glad for its warmth. The night air was frosty but almost refreshing and held a hint of early spring. This time of night, the air smelled of damp earth, horse manure with a trace of the ubiquitous dirty coal and dustbins. The only light came from the three lamps burning along his street and the very faint gray distant lights from the rest of the city.

Instead of his usual frantic walk about the empty streets, he decided to concentrate. He would distinguish every sense open to him—although, perhaps not taste. He balked at licking the columns at either side of his door.

That faint bit of humor made him smile.

He lowered himself to the cold granite step and leaned against the elaborate wrought- iron handrail. Closing his eyes, he listened so hard his ears seemed to pick up the faint swish of his own heartbeat.

I am alive. It has been two years without Wool, but I am still alive. The thought gave him no particular joy, but it was a nice change from misery.

He listened. The city slept, and not even early morning servants or milkmen stirred. A far away clop of hooves, the call of some night bird—Wool would know what sort ... do not think of Wool.

Not far off he heard the tap of someone's footsteps and something wooden clunking against something metal. Someone came down his quiet street.

He had at last relaxed and thus resented this intrusion. He must not be caught sitting on the steps like a vagrant or drunken carouser. Giles glared in the direction he thought the steps came from. They stopped. Something tapped. More thumping.

Perhaps he would blend into the darkness of the steps and the person, a policeman he supposed, would pass him by.

He couldn't see the pavement around the curve of the road, but several houses away, sudden darkness filled the street.

Of course. The sound he heard was the lamplighter going about his early morning duties.

The clunk and thump and footsteps made a steady rhythm.

The lamplighter strolled into view. On one shoulder rested the usual long pole, but the man had a ladder slung over his other shoulder, which he put down with a grunt. He paused, then twisted and stared straight at Giles.

The lamplighter rested the pole against the wrought-iron fence and walked quietly toward Giles. "Here, now. Time to wake. You'll get in trouble around these parts, friend." He sounded almost apologetic, certainly not bullying.

Giles sighed and rose to his feet. "No. The worst would be I'll be embarrassed, caught skulking in front of my own house."

The lamplighter pulled off his cap. He wasn't tall, perhaps an inch or two shorter than Giles. His clothes, dark-colored jacket and trousers, a uniform of a sort, had been made for a fatter man, and they hung on him, but as he moved, Giles could see hints of his form beneath.

"Been having a long night of it, sir?" In the lamplight that still glowed, the man's knowing smile was wide.

Giles shouldn't have been annoyed, but he straightened and yanked the bottom of his waistcoat. "I am not drunk, if that's what you're implying."

The lamplighter stepped back and Giles supposed he was going to scramble back to his duty.

Instead he said, "Oh, hey now. I know you! You're the ghostly walker."


"I see you all sorts of nights striding about town, in snow, in rain, at dusk, and before dawn."

"I don't see you."

"No, you wouldn't," he said without resentment. "I heard once that children watch for the man who lights the lamp, but no one else sees him. Strikes me as about right."

A lamplighter who'd stepped from some sort of children's book. Giles remembered his own time in the nursery, looking out the window and waiting for the moment that the darkness was vanquished by the man with the long stick.

The lamplighter grabbed his pole and sauntered over to the lamp. Giles expected that was the end of the conversation as the man reached up with the hook end and deftly doused the light.

But then the man came back and stood near him, hands loose and easy, his wrists holding the long slender pole in place, balanced across both shoulders. Wide shoulders.

Giles stared at him and felt something loosen and open inside his chest. A whisper of change almost as silent as the fog, except he'd been still enough to listen. He grew aware of the man's body and his own.

That would not do ... for all it proved he was alive.

"Are you all right, sir?" The lamplighter peered at him again.

"Yes." And then to turn the attention away from himself, Giles asked. "What's your name?"

"Banks, sir. John Banks." He shifted so his rear rested on the edge of the large planter in front of Giles's house. He'd come quite close, and if that informality wasn't enough, he asked, "What's yours?"

Giles supposed he should be offended by the cheek of the man but in that moment of awareness, the strange hour removed from existence—he couldn't be bothered.

"Mr. Giles Fullerton."

"Nice to make your acquaintance. I just about feel as if we are old friends since I've seen you often enough."

Giles only said, "Ah." He'd been buried deep in misery for so long he hadn't remembered the world outside himself existed. He had never noticed this man before.

"You like the exercise?"

Giles snorted.

"I asked myself why you were out in all sorts of weather."

Giles almost said And why is it any of your business?, but amended it to the less offended "Why would you care?"

"That's my sin, curiosity." Banks sounded remarkably unconcerned. "I go about five miles twice, night and day, and see puzzling things. You're one of them. So why do you walk?"

It was none of the man's affair and he was rude to even be falling into conversation with a man so far above his station. But Giles didn't speak because he couldn't think of an answer that wasn't stupid or, worse, saccharine.

The lamplighter didn't sigh or shift position; he might have turned to a statue as he simply waited. Banks was close enough that Giles could hear his breathing and smell him, too. Wool, tobacco, sweat, and night air was a rather pleasant mix.

Apparently Giles would have to say something, or shoo the man off—or walk away. "Restlessness," he said at last.

"Ah, I should not have asked."

A bit late to recall proprieties, Giles thought, but then Banks continued, "I'd hoped you were some sort of gentleman spy racing from one secret location to another, carrying out some nefarious deeds."

That startled a laugh from Giles. "Nothing so interesting."

Banks shifted from boot to boot. "Real life is never so interesting as the penny dreadfuls or plays. Still, a man can hope for some adventure—as long as it is someone else encountering the horrible pirate cannibal."

"Horrible pirate cannibal?" Giles grinned. "You read this nonsense?"

"Whenever I can. Something to think about when walking. A man I know declares it rubbish for the mind and says a person's brain won't thrive—like bad food and drink won't nourish the body."

"Who's that?"

"A bookseller, Abrams near the Strand." Banks made a soft disparaging sound. "But you look at some of those Shakespeare plays that are just as silly. Fairies, twins, and such."

"You read Shakespeare?"

"Naw. I've watched some now and again."

"That seems rather ..." He was going to say it seemed rather outside of what a working man might enjoy, but what did he know of a lamplighter's preferences? "Is that your favorite sort of entertainment?"

"If I'm in funds, I'd rather go over to Wych Street and the Opera Comique. They have a bang-up show just now, The Pirates of Penzance."

Arms up, resting on the pole, the lamplighter twisted his body from side to side and Giles wished he could see the details of John Banks better.

"What do you do for your entertainment, Mr. Fullerton, besides walk? Read?"

"I read for pleasure a few years ago, but now I don't have the inclination." What did he do for pleasure? Nothing came to mind.

Banks dropped to his heels in a crouch and straightened again. He did it a few times. "Are you engaged in some sort of exercise program?" Giles asked.

"A bit of moving around helps a man stay limber, as you know." Banks heaved a sigh and leaned against the large pot. "Truth is, I fell off m'ladder a couple streets back. I was halfway up and a cat startled me with a yowl. I turned too fast, hadn't steadied the ladder on the cross bars well enough, and bang. There I was, sprawled on the cobblestones. Moving seems to help keep the stiffness away."

"Are you all right?"

"I am, though I'd best come up with a more interesting story for the scrapes on my side or get laughed at. I'm a clock-lighter, you see, and the fish-tail men look down on our sort as it is."

Giles wondered what he was talking about but ventured, "You might blame those blood-thirsty cannibals of yours. You could claim a tribe of them ran after you."

Banks's bark of laughter was loud, too raucous for this quiet place and time. "Whoops," he said. "Beg your pardon for the noise."

They both waited in the darkness, but no one else stirred or spoke out.

The lamplighter tilted his head back. "Sun's on its way. I got another 'leven, no, twelve, to put out. I'd invite you to come along walking since I know it's your hobby, but I suppose that wouldn't do." He walked back to his ladder and hoisted it with a grunt.

"Why do you carry that?"

"A few of the lamps need repair." Banks yawned. "I best be on my way, and you can probably sleep now, I think."

"Why do you say that?"

"You don't have that restless air now. Some nights I've seen you, you're a caged animal, as though London's a big prison and you're looking for an escape."

"First I was a spy and then a prisoner. You have thought about me that often?"

"Often enough." Banks carefully drew his cap from the jacket where he'd stuffed it and jammed it back onto his head. Giles wondered if the care was due to his injuries or the ladder balanced on his shoulder.

Banks loomed, a dark silhouette. "Some people fire the imagination. Ha, fire, like a lamp burning in my brain." His voice was amused and so quiet, Giles wondered if he heard right.

A little louder Banks said, "Good night or good morning, sir, whichever you prefer. I'll watch for you, now I know where you live."

He walked away without looking behind him.

Giles stayed on the step watching him melt into the darkness, wondering at the very strange encounter. Shakespeare, penny dreadfuls, a slender man with broad shoulders and a cheerful intrusive manner. Within a few minutes it felt as if the whole event had been a dream Giles had had whilst sitting on the stairs outside his home in the middle of the night.

He rose feeling as stiff as a lamplighter who'd tumbled from halfway up a ladder.

* * * * *

John walked away smiling. Giles. Giles Fullerton. Before this morning, he had called the ghost-walker Adam because on those nights the dark-haired man paced the streets of the city, he'd seemed as alone as the man in Eden before the arrival of the rest of humankind.

Oh, how lowering to know the man who'd kept John's brain busy through long hours hadn't so much as noticed him.

He knew from the start the man ran from some sort of devils inside. The first time John set eyes on the gentleman, he'd felt a stab of resentment. How could a man with such good looks and so much money—those fine clothes—have the gall to be eaten up with sorrow?

But the next time he saw him, up near Pall Mall one cold slippery night, John softened. The haunted look on that handsome face made John long to stop him, perhaps buy him a mug of hot grog and coax out the reason for the misery. Never mind the fact that a man wearing a fine calf-length coat probably would never touch the stuff any lamplighter drank to keep off the chill.

Giles Fullerton.

Maybe the bookseller would recognize the name. Abrams actually read the Debretts he kept at the back of the shop, and if Fullerton wasn't a peer or a muckety-muck, he had to be related to such as earls, dukes, or lords. John had pegged that fact of him right off.

But then he decided, no, he wouldn't share the details of the gentleman with Abrams. He liked holding the truth of Fullerton as a secret.

He hadn't figured the man out yet. Perhaps the gent had a disordered mind and was mad. That would be a pity, though a reasonable explanation. Yet surely even madmen needed friendly conversation now and again.

And wasn't that thought as full of lies as any tale with pirate vampires. The simple fact of the matter was John wanted Giles Fullerton. Friendly conversation didn't involve naked skin and moaning bodies. He burned to touch the man and had for months.

He'd never be fool enough to say those words aloud to Fullerton or anyone else, but he enjoyed the fact in his own world and used his experience of desire to help him work with Abrams.

Last autumn, Fullerton had once passed so close to him on the pavement, John had seen the setting sun light the reddish gleam of the man's glossy dark hair. Such clean and well-ordered locks, and that evening Adam/Giles wore no hat to bar the view of his face. On the nearly deserted street of this neighborhood, John had watched him striding along and had memorized the fine nose, clean-shaven cheeks, and those blue or green eyes fixed on a distant sight, a gaze so far away he might have been a brainless fool or a storyteller lost in another world.

That had to be the night John's vague curiosity about the well-dressed gentleman turned into a more intriguing interest. And now they'd spoken at last.

Author Bio:
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).


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