Monday, September 3, 2018

Monday's Memorial Moment: The Artist by Bonnie Dee

Creating love from darkness is the greatest art…

Living a bohemian lifestyle in Paris is wonderful for Teddy Dandridge, but disastrous for his finances. His unconventional artistic creations find few buyers. After a year of failure, he returns to England to fulfill a portrait commission for a wealthy family, but he finds a different, source of inspiration secreted away in their sprawling house.

Isolated and rejected by his family, Phineas Abernathy haunts the west wing like a ghost. A physical deformity has locked him away from society for all his life. Filling his days with reading and drawing, he dreams of a life that seems unachievable…until irreverent, opinionated Teddy explodes into his quiet world

Intrigued by the kind and creative man beneath the ungainly exterior, Teddy gives Phin nightly drawing lessons. A private friendship is born as the men share life stories, future hopes and a growing attraction. Phin agrees to pose for a portrait in which Teddy tries to illustrate the depth and beauty he sees in him. He also guides the eager virgin in the ways of love between men.

When persecutors from Phin’s past arrive at the house, the slights and hurts he has suffered his entire life boil over. He must at last be brave enough to emerge from his cocoon and venture into an often cruel and judgmental world. And Teddy must decide what matters most to him.

When finanacial disasters force Teddy Dandridge to leave Paris and return to England, he is commissioned by a wealthy family to paint a portrait of their daughter who is about to be presented to society.  Phineas Abernathy has spent his entire life isolated and secreted away by the family for his physical deformities.  When Phineas comes across Teddy painting, their worlds will never be the same but will society or more importantly the Abernathy family let Teddy and Phineas find happiness?

Once again Bonnie Dee has brought history to life with her respect of the times with wonderful attention to detail all while bringing a lovely story to life in The Artist.  You want to feel bad for Teddy because he had to come home from Paris and in one regard his dreams were dashed but he doesn't let that stop him because he is still able to do his painting and you just know that he still has so much to offer the artistic world.  As for Phin, I found myself so angry at his family especially his mother.  Even taking into consideration the times and how women did not have the say they do today I still found myself wanting to just slap her silly for not standing up for her boy.  Watching Phin find his voice is heartbreaking at times but its also very heartwarming.

I feel like I am on the verge of giving away too much of Teddy and Phin's story so I think I'll end the review but I do want to say I love how everyone in this tale has a place in both the couple's journey and the book as a whole.  There really is no "throwaway" characters in The Artist and that is not always easy to do for an author but Bonnie Dee has done it wonderfully.  As I mentioned above, as you read her work you can understand and almost see her respect for the past and yet this is a lovely work of fiction that entertains from beginning to end.  If you've never read Bonnie Dee before than The Artist is an awesome place to start and if you are like me and devour nearly all her work than you don't want to miss this one.


Part of what kept me in France long after my illusions were dashed and my pockets frighteningly empty was my desire not to give my family the satisfaction of being proven right. I’d learned one could not simply survive on a dream, and even artists must sometimes accept less than desirable commissions. But I was not giving up on my own creative vision, merely taking a temporary side step.

I wished I’d brought my sketchbook to the wild garden so I could capture the ancient crab apple tree clinging to the last leaves of faded summer. It made a poignant statement about human nature, for didn’t we all clutch at life until our very last breath? A movement behind a nearby bush accompanied by a rattle of branches drew my attention from musing on life and death.

“Who’s there?” I called, heartbeats ramping up at the unexpected intrusion. I calmed myself with the thought it was probably a gardener. God knew the place could use some pruning.

The hider behind the bush went utterly still. I moved cautiously as if tracking a deer as I edged around the shrubbery. When I glimpsed a gray jacket through red leaves, I had a fairly good idea who was spying on me.

“Mr. Phineas Abernathy, I presume.” I misquoted explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

The figure behind the bush did not reply, but a burst of laughter escaped him. He understood my quote, so he was not weak brained as his sister suggested, but he was clearly shy. I would make it my mission to entice him out into the open.

“My name is Theodore Dandridge. I’ve been hired to paint your sister Rose’s portrait. I believe you already know that.” I paused, and when Abernathy didn’t respond, I added, “Won’t you show me around your garden, and we can have a chat?”

“Not… No!” The mutter was followed by the clearing of a throat and stronger negation. “I’d rather not. But I will talk with you from here.”

“All right. I noticed you watching me paint earlier. Are you interested in art?”

“Yes. Very much. I wish I could see your work.”

“I could bring my sample portfolio to your quarters later,” I offered. “Or, if you don’t wish to invite me up, I could send it along with your servant whom I met earlier. What’s his name?”

“Ledbetter. Perhaps I’ll send him to you later in the day.”

“Do you draw or paint?” I asked.

“Oh no. I scribble a bit, but nothing worth looking at.” He shifted farther behind the bush, withdrawing his shoulder so all I could see was a bit of sleeve.

“Nevertheless, I’d like to see your work as well,” I said. “I’m interested in every type of art, from the great masters to children’s drawings. Art is an expression of the soul. Nothing is unworthy of interest and admiration.”

“I’m not an artist.”

“Of course you are. Everyone who puts so much as a mark on paper or molds a snowman out of his mashed potatoes is an artist.”

My bit of whimsy prompted another laugh from the lurker. He eased into his former position, and now I could see a bit of his face3. Maybe, in time, I could cajole him all the way out of the bushes.

“The desire to create is universal. Many people suppress the artistic side of their nature because they don’t believe it is ‘good enough’ for others to see—or hear, if they are musically inclined. Perhaps they’ve been told the arts are frivolous, a waste of time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Without creative expression, be it music, literature, art, acting, or what have you, we are less than our full selves.” I only half paid attention to my words, though I truly believed them. My companion was visibly relaxing, taking a less rigid stance as he listened.

“Sharing even primitive talent is a beautiful thing,” I assured him.

“I could never be so bold,” Phineas replied. “I don’t want anyone to see my doodlings.”

“Begin by sharing your drawings with me. I will give you honest suggestions for improvement, but not a harsh critique. I can teach you some technique, although personal expression is about so much more than that.”

“I would like to know how to draw a face that looks like a face and not a lumpy squash.”

“Shall I give you lessons while I’m here? In the evenings, after I’m finished working on Miss Rose’s portrait.”

“Oh! I don’t know…” Again he withdrew into the scarlet leaves.

I held my breath and waited. I’d made the offer and could do no more.

“Yes. I would like that.” He spoke with sudden determination. “I would like it very much. Might you come to my rooms after supper tonight?”

“Absolutely. Now that’s decided, perhaps we ought to meet face-to-face.” I took a step toward him.

“No. I’m not ready,” he said breathlessly. “Tonight will be soon enough. When it’s a bit…darker.”

“As you wish,” I replied mildly. “Still, you can’t hide away in the shadows forever, my friend.”

“You might not say so after you’ve seen me, Mr. Dandridge. I am more akin to a gargoyle than Michelangelo’s David.”

An arrow pierced my heart at his matter-of-fact tone. Someone had convinced the poor man he was hideous so he identified himself in no other way. As an unusual child, I’d certainly experienced my share of slurs, so I understood the powerful effect words held. I felt an immediate kinship and desire to help Abernathy realize his difference was only one part of his being.

Author Bio:
Dear Readers, I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre tales. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

As an adult, I enjoy reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When I couldn’t find enough such books, I began to write them. Whether you’re a fan of contemporary historical or fantasy romance, you’ll find something to enjoy among my books.

To stay informed about new releases, please sign up for my newsletter. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @Bonnie_Dee.



Release Blitz: Summit by Louise Lyons

Title: Summit
Author: Louise Lyons
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
When out of condition divorced lorry driver, Ash Tomlinson, makes the spur of the moment decision to climb Kilimanjaro, he doesn’t consider how much it will change his life. There’s the training, the equipment to buy, the fear of altitude sickness, and of failure. And there’s Sean, a man who makes Ash question what he really wants for his future.

Sean Briggs is a school sports teacher and wishful mountain leader, longing for the chance to lead people on mountain hikes, but never having taken the plunge to do the training course. While he thinks about it, he decides to undertake the trip of a lifetime on Kilimanjaro.

The two men meet on a training weekend in Wales, and afterwards Ash goes home and tries to forget about Sean, but finds it impossible.

When the pair strike out for the summit of the highest mountain in Africa, their physical and mental strength is tested, and their growing feelings for each other help them push through the toughest moments of the trek.


We applied extra sun cream and insect repellent, put on wide-brimmed hats, shouldered our backpacks, and prepared our hiking poles. This was it. The first leg of the very long trek to the top of the mountain. My heart thrummed with excitement and a glance at Sean's beaming smile and bright eyes told me he felt as I did.

The lead Tanzanian guide set off slowly along a dusty path through the jungle and we followed in single file, with more guides and Phil and Mark mingling with us. Cameras and phones made repeated appearances during the four-hour trek to the camp, as we marvelled at the huge trees, mosses, and plants, and the monkeys and birds high up in the branches over our heads. Phil reminded us several times to drink regularly and I got into the habit of sucking water from the tube connected to the water bladder in my backpack every few minutes.

There were a couple of short breaks along the trail, during which we ate snacks, drank additional water, and peed again and again. Ladies' and men's "toilets" were clumps of bushes on opposite sides of the trail, which resulted in much giggling and squealing from the ladies as they came upon unsavoury deposits from the previous trekkers.

The path wound its way upwards, not too steeply, through humid shade provided by the tangle of trees. Their roots burst through the dirt underfoot and we constantly alternated between staring at the ground to avoid tripping and gazing around in wonder at the surroundings. The afternoon raced by and I barely realised three hours had passed, when the trail opened out into a vast clearing.

A cluster of green tents awaited us, with two tall narrow toilet tents off to one side and a large orange mess tent for our meals.

"Your bags will be in your tents waiting for you," Phil reminded us.

"How do we find which is ours?" Sally asked.

"They'll have tags on that match the tags we put on our bags last night," Sean told her. "Ours is twin something."

"They're all twin something, except Gerald's because he's on his own." I laughed. "Ours is four."

"Oh, yeah." Sean rolled his eyes and went looking for a tent with a plastic tag on it that read "twin four." A moment later he unzipped the flap of a tent and disappeared inside. I followed, slipping my backpack from my shoulders as I reached it.

Sean sat in the entrance, unlacing his boots. Our two holdalls sat in the middle of the tent and a sleeping mat lay on each side. Sean placed his boots in one corner and shuffled backwards out of the way. "Which side do you want?"

"I don't mind." I took his place and removed my boots. Sean moved to the far side of the tent and placed his backpack in the middle between the two holdalls. We took a few minutes to organise things, unpacking our additional sleeping mats to put on top of the thin ones provided, spread sleeping bags on top of them, and found comfortable running shoes to wear for dinner. We changed out of our hiking trousers into warm jogging bottoms and pulled on fleeces over our base layers. Phil had warned that the temperature would plummet as soon as the sun set, and the sun dropped like a stone at exactly twenty past six.

"I knew I'd get you in a tent one day." Sean grinned.

"Better than Wales. At least it's dry."

"For now. We might get rain or snow higher up. And it'll be freezing."

I lowered my voice to a whisper. "We can shift these bags over to one side and keep each other warm."

Author Bio:
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the Church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered Fan Fiction in her late twenties.

Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.



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