Bonnie Dee
The Copper – April 4th

No April Fool’s joke, The Copper is finally going live on Monday after probably the longest pre-order period I’ve ever had for a novel.  Read on for a blurb and a first-chapter excerpt:

Lord Avery Wickersham wakes from a night’s debauchery at a bordello to police officers pounding on the bedroom door. During the vice raid, Constable Connor Tate is ready to arrest the lord and his two male sex partners when Avery’s glib tongue earns a reprieve for his friends if not for himself.

From this grim beginning, men as opposite as summer and winter slowly work their way to an unexpected spring. Avery is ripe for a change in his aimless life, while Connor struggles between duty and desire. Overwhelming passion takes them by storm, but can a rush of lust evolve into love when their lives are so different?

While Avery attempts altruism by volunteering at a charity mission, Connor uncovers government corruption and an evil man who brings torture and death to his victims. The duo join forces to try to stop the killer, but when one of the lovers faces peril, their time may run out.

London, 1898

Avery woke with a foot in his face, one toe nearly probing his nose. He opened his heavy lids to regard the foot—well-formed, not smelly, toenails painted a deep magenta. He pushed the foot away and stretched, then winced as his head throbbed.

Not a bright and cheery morning this, despite pale sunlight sneaking between the drapes. He’d had too much last night; too much to drink, too much to smoke, too many flirtations and kisses to remember any of them. The lovers he’d ended the evening with lay in the large bed with him now, a tall Viking of a man with long blond hair and a full beard, and an effeminate brunet, he of the magenta toenails.

Ah yes, Avery remembered. The young man sang onstage before joining the party at Avery’s table in Madame Renault’s club. There’d been dancing, betting on a wrestling match and on… Avery cringed as he recalled measuring cock lengths at full staff. Of course the sex had been memorable with the strong, muscular Swede, or whatever he was, and the pretty singing lad with the talented mouth. Very memorable, except somehow the details were so foggy, it might as well have been a dream.

Too much, that pestering voice he didn’t care to hear whispered in his head. Too much of everything all the time. When are you going to learn?

Avery pushed locks of the Viking’s blond hair off his face and sat up to take stock. The Norseman snored contentedly with his head on the pillow and his flowing beard resting on a chiseled chest. The singer’s rouged lips were parted, a small damp spot of spittle darkening the satin sheet near the foot of the bed. How the man had ended sleeping the wrong way, Avery didn’t remember… Oh wait, yes he did, and his cock tensed at the delicious memory.

He smiled at lovely Bertrand—he recalled the singer’s name—and considered waking him by returning the favor. But, alas, Avery had an appointment with his solicitor this morning and no time to linger with last night’s companions.

He climbed out from under entangled limbs and twisted bedding, relieved himself in the chamber pot, and washed with fresh rose-scented water in the basin. The amenities in Madame Renault’s sleeping chambers above the club were worth every penny. Avery couldn’t think of a better use for his fortune than to keep Madame in business with his frequent visits. This was a second home to him, private, secure, comfortable, and catering to all his desires.

He retrieved his evening clothes from the wardrobe, where a discreet maid had placed them sometime during the night. He sniffed the linen of his shirtfront—washed and pressed, even. Such excellent service.

Avery drew on his drawers and had one foot in his trousers when raised voices and clattering footsteps on the stairs alerted him to disaster.

“Come out now, you blighters! You’re all under arrest.” A booming voice preceded pounding at a door down the corridor. More shouts followed as the police swept through the rooms where Madame’s select clientele lay sleeping off the night’s dissolution.

Avery froze like a fox flushed by hounds from its den. His haven had been breached. His heart pounded as he envisioned the ramifications of an arrest. Even more than fear, anger surged through him at this invasion of privacy. What he and his companions chose to do here should be no one’s business but their own, and he defied any man who said otherwise.

Defying was easier dreamed of than carried out when the bedroom door crashed open and a man in a uniform rushed in. The pair on the bed jumped up in alarm, the possible Norwegian cursing in his native tongue and the singer bursting into tears and begging, both of them pulling up bedcovers to shield their nudity.

The front of his trousers still open, Avery planted his feet and stared into the constable’s eyes, which were a vivid blue below the brim of his blue helmet. “What’s the trouble, Officer?”

The strong jaw beneath a day’s worth of stubble clenched so hard, Avery thought it might cut through the man’s flesh. “You’re under arrest. Hold out your hands.”

“What’s the charge, sir?” Avery asked blandly.

“You know very well.” The man began to quote the law by rote as he produced a pair of handcuffs. “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, procures or attempts to procure any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Do you see any one of us engaged in any sort of promiscuous act? We were merely sharing a bedchamber…” Avery glanced at his nude companions. “And all of us happen prefer to sleep without a nightshirt. Or drawers.”

The policeman beckoned the Viking to him. “You first.”

Avery wondered if the bearded giant planned on giving the policeman trouble. But he shuffled forward docilely and offered his wrists, still rumbling curses. The blue-eyed bobby snapped on a pair of cuffs.

Poor Bertrand cried so loudly, the noise was deafening. Another officer entered the room and approached the sobbing singer. “You shut yer gob, you flamin’ pouf.”

Bertrand shrieked and flailed his hands, raking the man’s cheek with his painted nails. “I won’t go back there. I won’t!”

The balding copper, who’d lost his helmet somewhere along the way, pulled back a fist and drove it into Bertrand’s face. Blood spurted from Bertrand’s nose, and he howled.

“Here now. That’s enough. Leave him alone.” Avery started toward the pair to stop the smaller man from being beaten to a pulp. But he couldn’t intercept before the constable punched Bertrand again, in the stomach this time, effectively stopping his screaming as Bertrand gasped for air.

Avery put himself between the officer and his victim, intercepting a blow, which clipped the side of his head. He hadn’t felt a punch like that since his boxing days at university. The knuckles against his ear made his head ring. He blinked away white stars and formed a fist of his own, but before he could punch the bald cop, the other officer grabbed both his arms and pulled him away. The man’s grip was like a pair of iron manacles. His body against Avery’s back was granite.

“Go on, Turnbull. I have these men under control. See if any of the others need help.” The constable’s voice rumbled near Avery’s ear. He was nearly Avery’s height, and not many men were—excluding the giant Swede, who stood a head taller than either of them.

When his angry partner appeared ready to keep punching, the one snapping cuffs on Avery’s wrists repeated, “I don’t need your help here. Go!”

The other constable glared but left to join the mayhem beyond the room. Avery glimpsed men in uniform and others in various states of undress passing by the partially open door. Chaos had entered Renaud’s, and not of the fun sort they’d all experienced last night.

After his partner left, the officer moved toward Bertrand, who’d crumpled into a naked heap on the floor. He removed his helmet and rubbed a hand through closely shorn but very thick black hair, then squatted beside Bertrand without touching him. “Calm yourself. I won’t handcuff you, but you must promise to behave while I escort you to the wagon.”

Bertrand gazed up at him over the hand covering his injured nose. “I can’t do it. I can’t go back there. Please don’t…” The rest of his words were muffled by blood and mucus.

“For God’s sake, let the man put on some clothes.” Avery felt fairly exposed himself, wearing only his unfastened trousers. He began to button him with his cuffed hands. “Allow the lad some dignity.”

He half expected the policeman to make a retort about nancies getting what they deserved. But the officer covered Bertrand’s parts with a sheet from the bed, offered him a handkerchief for his nose, then rose and searched for the singer’s and the Swede’s clothing

“They’ll be in the wardrobe. The staff here is meticulous about clothing.” Avery considered that poor Madame Renaud would likely be arrested as well. She’d be charged with pandering. And the servants? Likely they’d scattered like pigeons the moment the bulls charged inside the building.

As Bertrand sniffled and drew on the frock he’d worn for his performance last night, the Norwegian awkwardly pulled on his trousers with his cuffed hands.

Avery drew a breath and considered his dire situation. He could probably buy his way out of a jail sentence, but he couldn’t afford the scandal. Not that his name would ever be pure. Most of high society guessed his inclinations but continued to invite him to galas because Avery added sparkle and life to any gathering. Wealth and a title went a long way toward making people overlook things they didn’t want to acknowledge.

But with this arrest, Avery’s secret life would be on full display. No more hiding in the shadows. An end of invitations and shunning all around, except for among his own kind. Likely those who hadn’t missed being caught up in the raid would go to ground for a while until the scandal blew over. They’d scatter to villas in Tuscany, islands in Greece, perhaps steam across to New York for a visit. London would be void of all life, color, and companionship for a time.

Avery shook off his gloom. Here he was selfishly thinking about a dearth in his social life when some of the men arrested today, the ones without resources, could be facing long prison sentences. And poor Bertrand’s beautiful face!

Avery went to help him fasten the buttons on his gown. “Is your nose all right? Does it hurt too badly?”

“Damn my nose! I can’t go to jail again. I can’t. You don’t know how it was for me last time.” Bertrand’s eyes darted right and left. He was terrified nearly out of his mind, and that simply wouldn’t do.

Avery turned to the constable, who was helping the Viking fasten his trousers over the man’s considerable cock. The officer’s face flushed deeply as he completed his task.

“Officer… May I know your name?” Avery asked.

The man glanced up. “Tate.”

“Officer Tate, please hear me out. If you’d let the three of us slip through the cracks, as it were, I’d show you deep gratitude commensurate with such a generous act.”

“Are you offering me a bribe, sir?” Cool eyes drilled into him like diamond points. “The reputation of the force is shadowed by corruption, but I assure you, I do not accept bribes.”

“Not a bribe. Think of it as a reward for kindness. As you can see, Bertrand here will not last a night nor even an hour in jail. Please, at least let the boy go with a warning. He could hide under the bed until everyone is gone, with none of your colleagues the wiser. I’ll accompany you without complaint.”

Those eyes continued to skewer him, but Avery pressed on. “After my solicitor secures my release, I shall pay you an equal amount for helping this poor youth.”

“A bribe,” the policeman repeated.

“A gratuity,” Avery insisted and realized how often he used his hands to gesture for emphasis. He felt quite at a loss with them cuffed.

The noise in the hallway continued, but the quiet in the room grew thick and heavy as the copper seemed to be mulling over the offer.

Avery held his breath, the Swede ceased his muttering, and even Bertrand stopped whimpering.

The square-jawed officer pressed his lips tight and stared at each of them in turn, his gaze resting longest on Bertrand’s tear-streaked face and swelling nose. He pointed at the singer. “Hide until you hear everyone clear the house. The other pair must come with me. I can’t come away without arrests.”

“God bless you, sir. You’ve saved me!” Bertrand started to throw his arms impulsively around the uniform, but the copper pushed him off. The singer took the hint and quickly scrambled under the bed.

The Swede or Norwegian bobbed his shaggy head in approval. “Ja. Utmerket.

Avery exchanged a steady look with the officer and nodded, sealing his deal with the devil.

But as he passed the man to precede him from the room, the copper grasped his arm. “You may keep your money. I told you, I don’t accept bribes.”

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Downton Ends

All right, it was saccharine and everyone’s stories wrapped up with a neat little bow, but I  still enjoyed it and the entire flawed series. Even more than the stories, which often bordered on the ridiculous, I loved the setting and the costumes. That dinner party in this final episode was just gorgeous. I wanted to be there, but without having to make small talk with anyone.
In other news…today is the release day for Mike and the Spring Awakening, the third in the Victorian Holiday Hearts series. Available at all the usual booksellers.
BDEE&sDevon-MIKEandtheSA-300x450Young Micah “Mike” Cordett’s privileged life explodes when he is caught naked with a schoolmate. Running away from disgrace, he blunders into a trap in a seamy part of London and endures months of abuse before escaping. But with the help of the Andrews family, he’s begun to climb out of his fear. Yet, when a reminder of his happier past erupts into his life in the form of Lucas Spring, Mike’s not certain he’s ready to face the remnants of the charmed life he’d once enjoyed. He’s certainly not ready for love.

Lucas Spring pined for Mike from afar when they were in school. This shadow of the confident boy he once knew shocks him, and Lucas vows to do anything he can to help restore the person he’d so admired. With patience and determination, he hopes to ease Mike’s fears and perhaps even win his love.

But when a violent figure from Mike’s past looms into his present, will the tender shoots of a new beginning be crushed?

 

 

 

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Valentine Romance available now

Summer Devon and my second installment in the Victorian Holiday Hearts series is now live. If you read Simon and the Christmas Spirit, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it. Will and the Valentine Saint tells the tale of Christopher’s brother and his attempt to reinvent himself a little. It’s full of plenty of Valentine-y sweetness, including exchanged love notes and mention of, if not ingestion of, chocolates.
BDEE&sDevon-WillandtheVS-750x1125

Will Andrews wishes to escape the crazy world of his bohemian family and create some order in his life. Hiding his eccentric theater background and presenting false letters of recommendation, he interviews for a position at a legal aid society. The last thing he expects is to fall hard for his genteel employer, Hugh St. John.

When Hugh needs a secretary, one magnetic candidate draws him. Will Andrews shares his vision for the Society and is also the most attractive man he’s ever met. But Hugh has never even kissed a man and would never throw himself at an employee.

As the pair plans a Valentine charity dinner, they grow ever closer to surrendering to Cupid’s arrow. But when Will’s false credentials and true background are revealed, can Hugh forgive his lies and omissions? Can fragile romance blossom into true love after trust is broken?

Will and the Valentine Saint may be purchased at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, ITunes, All Romance or Smashwords.

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The Professor and the Smuggler is live today

BD&SD-theProfessorandtheSmuggler-432x648Summer Devon and my latest historical, The Professor and the Smuggler rings in the new year. Set at the gorgeous Cornish coast (due to my mainlining Poldark last summer), the story involves smugglers and treasure and opposites attracting. A cheerful, bumbling professor runs into more than he bargained for when he explores a remote area and meets a taciturn, scowling local.

For a village that depends on smuggling to survive, an outsider is unwelcome. Carne acts as Phillip’s local guide and keeps him away from any sensitive areas–except his heart. Carne is helpless before new and powerful emotions for a man which sweep him off his feet like an incoming wave.

Here are a couple of early reviews:

The Blogger Girls, Ami, 4 stars
First thing that came to my mind when I finished this was … “this is so charming and romantic”. The romance and the action blends nicely; with two lovable main characters, The Professor and the Smuggler is another winner from Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon for me.

Gay Book Reviews, Ele, 4 stars
One one hand, this book felt familiar and heart warming, just like what I’m used to from this writing duo; the characters are diametrically opposed, the story is not overridden with angst, although the era provides plenty, and the ending is true to the time period. But what made this one exciting, was the setting.

Places to buy: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, ITunes, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks

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Like Pirates? Arrrgh.

BD&SD-theProfessorandtheSmuggler-432x648Actually the hero in Summer Devon and my latest collaboration is a smuggler and not a pirate, importing illegal goods as opposed to boarding a ship at sea. The Cornish coast of England was legendary for being a landing spot for tax-free booty from overseas, particularly during Napoleonic times but well beyond too. I wouldn’t be surprised if even today shipments were offloaded in private coves along that shoreline.

Whether a smuggler or simple fisherman, Carne is a romantic figure in former Professor Singleton’s eyes when he arrives in a small village. The professor wants to write about the history of the area and produce what would amount to an early coffee table travel book–with photographs! a marvelous new possibility in 1902.

Read on for the blurb and opening excerpt from The Professor and the Smuggler.

 An explorer at heart, former university professor Phillip Singleton’s adventures have only taken place in his imagination—until recently. Exploring the Cornish coast to research a travel book, he encounters a living example of a pirate archetype. Dark-haired, black-bearded Carne Treleaven might have been hewn from the very rock his name describes, and Phillip is eager to discover more.

Carne has little patience for the awkward, dreamy professor, an outsider who must be steered away from local secrets. He agrees to serve as a guide to seaside caves where smugglers once operated only to keep Phillip away from more recent activity.

 As personalities clash, secrets unfold, and riches are revealed, the two polar opposites find the point where their similarities lay. Carne’s old beliefs are shattered by his attraction to a man and he must decide if he’s willing to take a huge step outside his familiar life and into a brand new world.

Excerpt:

Cornwall, England, 1905

Phillip Bartholomew Singleton tripped over a rock hidden in the tall grass and careened into the ring of standing stones. He threw out an arm to catch his balance and bashed it into one of the erect boulders that had been raised by men thousands of years earlier. His elbow hit quartzite, and the shock reverberated up his arm. He yelped and grabbed at the point of pain, pivoted on his left foot, and fell into another tall pale stone. More than fell. He drove his shoulder into it, and the menhir, no taller than his own gangly six-foot-four frame, rocked on its base. It began to lean.

“No. Oh no, no, no,” Phillip chanted as he grabbed at the slab with both hands, hoping to steady it, the sharp crack on his elbow forgotten. These stones were practically rooted in the earth. They’d stood for thousands of years, maybe more, set in place by an ancient people. It was impossible that a little bump could—

The standing stone slumped to the ground like a gray old man whose legs had finally failed him. There was no powerful whump when boulder hit ground, more of a soft sigh of surrender as stone reclined into grass.

Phillip stared at the felled slab, pushing a hand through his unruly mop of hair.

“No, no, no, no.” If repetition of a mantra could pray the stone back into its proper position, he’d spend the night reciting his incantation. “Dear God in Heaven, NO!”

The stone remained where it lay—where it would continue to lie for the next few thousand years until the Earth slowly covered it over and cradled it again in her bosom of soil.

Phillip plastered his palms over his mouth, holding back his horror as he too slowly sank to the ground. He’d come down from London to Cornwall to research and write about the corner of Britain he most admired, a land of crashing surf, shipwrecks, and smugglers, of dark, dangerous mines riddling the earth, and folk as hard as the very rock they hewed. This was his first day exploring the countryside steeped in sumptuous layers of history and he’d managed to destroy a small archeological marvel.

Small was the operative word, he consoled himself as he gazed around the ring of weather-worn menhir that encircled him and back to their fallen comrade. It wasn’t as if he’d knocked down Stonehenge or anything. There were many modest rings of stone like this all over the British Isles. If he viewed this incident in another light, he had simply become a part of history, leaving his own mark on the stones in the great march of time. That was rather exciting to ponder.

As he continued to sit and sneeze away pollen from the many weeds growing rampant in the clearing, Phillip removed his glasses to wipe his eyes, then rubbed his sore elbow. He should unload the photographic equipment from his vehicle parked on the road and document this moment. If he chose to use the photograph in a travelogue, he never need mention his part in reshaping the standing stones of Par Gwynear.

The sound of some large animal pushing through the trees surrounding this open space seized Phillip’s attention. Just as he’d scrambled to his feet, prepared to run from whatever predator patrolled the countryside, a black-bearded man pushed aside branches and emerged from the woods. He was nearly as tall as Phillip but much bulkier across the shoulders, with the solid build of his mining heritage. His sleeves were rolled to the elbow, baring muscular forearms covered with dark hair, and he wore no cap to hide the sheen of sunlight on his raven hair.

Piercing brown eyes skewered Phillip as the stranger demanded, “What the devil are you doin’ here?”

Phillip had begun this adventure prepared to be given the cold shoulder by the locals. This area was not known for its hospitality, and he’d expected to have to work at gaining the historical stories he craved. He’d come forearmed with excuses.

“Oh, am I trespassing? I had no idea this was private property. I thought this land was unclaimed and free for tourists to wander. I heard about Par Gwynear Circle and came to see the stones for myself and to make a photograph. I was about to head back to my vehicle to get the camera.” He gestured in the general direction of the road.

The surly man continued to glare at him, and Phillip’s skin felt more sunburned than it already was from having left his broad-brimmed hat in the auto. One thick chambray-clad arm lifted, displaying an intriguing flex of muscles in the forearm as the Cornishman pointed in quite a different direction.

“The road’s that way, and while this ain’t private property, it’s not open for anyone to go bumblin’ about. These are wild lands, Mr…?”

“Phillip Singleton, recently a professor at Cambridge, now pursuing my own research project.” Phillip walked toward the stranger through a tangle of thorny undergrowth that snagged his trousers. He reached to pull the fabric free and stabbed his fingers for his efforts. After sucking away blood, he extended his hand.

The man stared for just long enough to be rude before taking it. He gave a firm clasp and hard pump before letting go. “I’m Carne. As I said, these are rough lands, Professor Singleton, full of snakes and other teasy creatures. A fellow might get hurt and no one would find him till it was too late.”

Why did the cautioning sound rather like a threat? Phillip swallowed a flutter of fear that tickled his throat and gave Mr. Carne his most affable smile. “Yes, I can see the sense in what you say. In future, I will find myself a local guide to accompany me on my expeditions.”

One thick, dark eyebrow rose. “In future?”

“I shall be in the area for several weeks at least, but maybe as much as a month, gathering materials for a book I plan to write about your delightful area of the country. In fact,” he lowered his voice confidentially, “I hope to have it published as an illustrated volume with photographs!”

The large man, who’d loomed near enough that Phillip could smell the sweat glistening on his skin, did not appear impressed, so Phillip continued.

“Did you know the average British citizen is unlikely to travel more than a few miles from his home in an entire lifetime? There is so much of our nation that remains unexplored and unknown by the masses. Now that it is possible to include photographic reproductions in a book, I believe this will be a device by which people too poor to take holidays to far-flung places may be able to experience travel vicariously.”

The man’s dark brown eyes continued to sear Phillip like a Sunday roast. “Folks too poor for holidays ain’t likely to buy a costly book. With photographs,” he echoed mockingly.

Phillip might have been hurt if he weren’t so used to others being unable to see his vision. He’d spent most of his academic life dreaming of things his fellow university professors had no interest in, but now he’d freed himself to pursue the project most dear to his heart. A little scoffing wouldn’t deter him.

“Perhaps you’d be willing to escort me to my motorcar and help me carry my equipment here?” Phillip shaded his eyes to check the angle of the sun. “At the moment, the shadows cast by the stones will be stunning, but if I don’t make a picture soon, the light will be gone. If you don’t mind.”

Carne pressed his lips together, and his jaw flexed. The sight of that tiny ripple and the protruding bone under rough beard sent a corresponding ripple through Phillip. He suppressed the slight surge of attraction to the ruggedly handsome Cornishman. He wasn’t here for that, and even if he were, this man would likely beat him senseless if Phillip were to make any indication of interest.

At last, Carne clicked his tongue and nodded curtly. “Aye, I’ll help you get your photograph, but after this, keep away from the wilder lands.” He gazed from under knit brows at Phillip. “’Specially the coves along the seashore. The tide comes in fast, and you might get trapped. Some have drowned that way. ’Tis said their spirits still echo in the rocky chambers.”

With this dire warning and rather eerily romantic image, Carne headed back into the woods. Phillip followed close behind him—too close, as a branch snapped back to deliver a lashing blow across his face.

Phillip wiped away the sting and trudged on, quite satisfied with the initial day of his exploration. By sunset, he’d have the first photographs for his proposed book, and he’d been berated and cautioned by a local man in a quaint accent slathered like thick honey on bread, which made the experience feel even more like an adventure. He grinned in satisfaction. The real world was dirty, sweaty, painful, a little scary, and far away from the safe, quiet rooms where he’d spent far too many hours of his life tinkering with machines and daydreaming.

Now he was on location and actually following his dream. He intended to revel in every minute of this working vacation.

 

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