June 24, 2016 by kitmoss
REVIEW: THE PRIVATE SECRETARY by Summer Devon
Publisher: Kate Rothwell (June 13, 2016)
Down on his luck and desperate for employment, Ezra Seton is offered only one job: to work in the house of a heartless bully, the very man who drove Ezra’s lover away. Gritting his teeth, Ezra takes the position. But neither the new job nor the master of house are close to what he expected. Still, he vows to keep his distance, no matter how difficult maintaining his composure in the face of relentless drollery becomes.
Robert Demme’s pleasure-seeking days are over. Having rescued his cousin Ambrose from a lunatic asylum, he expends much of his energy pacifying the fragile eccentric. Hiring an assistant offers some relief—and also intriguing temptation. Unfortunately, the fascinating Seton apparently loathes him. Determined to discover the reason, Robert uses his considerable wit to get under the man’s skin, stunned when his plan backfires. Instead of unraveling the stalwart secretary, Robert has undone himself. All he’s accomplished is a deepening his own interest. Perhaps he senses Robert’s not-so-innocent attraction.
When the two spend the night together in an inn, their mutual desire proves too strong. The secretary and the gentleman succumb to lust. But when Ezra’s old flame reappears and the cousin’s experiments go awry, it’s a battle to discover which will win the day: love or lunacy.
This edition includes a selection from Simon and the Christmas Spirit, a title by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee.
REVIEW by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
It can be surprising how much one’s tastes and reading can change. I remember first noticing books by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee and thinking, “Oh, just those silly little English countryside romances.” Since that time I have discovered I absolutely adore books by Devon and/or Dee. And this is because the books are so well written. When I first read one or two of them, I did not care for the general animosity of the characters, but it has come to the point that I treasure them. The fact that the Uranians, including Oscar Wilde, said that the way to true democracy was through gay male lovers made my respect for these books grow, and the fact that each one is more complex in its characters’ psychology than the last ensures my love for them.
In this book the class distinction exists between several characters, most prominently Robert, a madcap man about town, and Ezra, a bookish man of the middle class, whose family has had a terrible financial setback. In addition you discover that Robert’s cousin Ambrose is one of those scholars and eccentrics for whom class is secondary to intellect. Robert’s disdain fades away as he gets to know his cousin and comes to respect him. On top of that and other distinctions, Robert even starts to think about his servants and how they might feel about changes in his household when at first Ambrose joins it, then a small cadre of odd little people, and of course Ezra himself who gets elevated not only to living in the household but living in the master’s bed.
It is fascinating to watch how Devon has Robert evolve. The first time you see him and Ezra together, Ezra is up a ladder in a library and Robert is on the floor giving him puzzled and slightly disdainful looks. They have a sort of history together. You soon find out that Ezra’s friend Francis was once hurt by Robert’s lack of respect for him. Robert remembers the friend, Francis, putting down Ezra as to infatuated into intense. Both Robert and Ezra learn quickly to rethink their former judgment. Ezra, constantly confronted by Robert’s quizzing, finally admits to why he doesn’t like Robert, or why he might not seem to. Between Robert’s disdainful behavior toward Ezra’s friend Francis and Ezra’s own sexual attraction to Robert, the wealthier man soon comes to realize just how complex Ezra’s reaction his ban. Between observing the man and his treatment of his cousin and the servants, Ezra comes to understand that Robert is not a self-satisfied, superior type, but actually quite concerned with others’ feelings. Ezra comes to understand that Robert quite cares for his cousin Ambrose, and through the many encounters they have with others just how readily Robert begins to care for them. One unexpected character in the story is Emile, a beggar child who starts out being discovered to be a boy, not a girl, who steals food at every opportunity, and who turns out to be a charming fresh air for everyone.
One characteristic of gay romances is that at some point at least once or twice there will be a sex scene, some authors going on for pages and pages and others offering something short and sweet. In Devon’s case the sex scenes are always distinct and unique, explicit but at the same time terribly sweet. I definitely like where they get to.
I am going to have to contact Devon and Dee, though I must quickly point out that this book was only by Devon, to learn how they write together and how they manage this incredible volume of work between them and individually. I so admire their understanding of human nature, their skillful writing, and the freshness and latter understanding of both the individuals and pairings in their novels. Maybe someday I’ll have the good fortune to get to write something along with one or the other or both of them.