The Novel Approach, Lisa
The writing duo of Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon are a sure bet when in the mood for a historical romance. A “good comfort read” defines their body of work, but is especially true of the Victorian Holiday Hearts series. This series covers the familiar challenges of what it meant to be gay in the Victorian Era while offering the warmth of a family made of unconditional love and acceptance.
Rainbow Reviews, Serena Yates, 4 stars
I really enjoyed the writing duo of Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon. The characters are well written, the storyline is solid, and the romance is strong.
Padme’s Library, 5 stars
As with all their collaborations, their detail to history is amazing and makes the story that much more heartwarming and believable. As for Bartholomew, not even Delaney’s light-hearted and vibrant attitude toward life can bring him to step up and speak from the heart until he’s faced with losing it.
“Sir Death?” The conjurer’s voice behind him made him stop but not turn around. “You wish for a private performance? I’d be delighted.” The insinuation in his voice sent a shiver down Bartholomew’s back. Was the magician a mind reader as well?
The sounds of the ball down the long corridor had an eerie quality in this empty corner of the townhouse. Music, a woman’s shriek of laughter, and the babble of conversation washed over the two of them, standing in the dark corridor. Bartholomew moved to the wall and leaned against it, trying to recover his equilibrium. He’d had only two glasses of punch. Perhaps the drink was stronger than he’d supposed. His head felt strange and his body disconnected as if it belonged to someone other than himself.
“Death?” The man stepped into the shadows to join him. He pulled out a deck of cards and shuffled them. He held them up in a mute gesture for Bartholomew to take one.
Bartholomew pulled off his black glove and plucked a card from the spread fanned in the magician’s hand. A knave of hearts. His heart thumped harder. He’d watched this rogue entertain the ladies long enough to know what that meant. He had nothing to say, no reason to deny or confirm that the card fit him too well. But then he saw the gleam of the magician’s teeth, and eyes that glittered behind the velvet mask.
Keeping his gaze focused on those blazing eyes and the sensual mouth beneath the half-mask, which were all he could see of the trickster’s face, Bartholomew took the card and slowly, deliberately tucked it into the cuff of his other glove. An invitation.
“Heavens.” Billbo the Magnificent gave a nervous laugh and stepped closer. “What is a man to think when you do something like that?”
The teasing was obvious. Because of the mask and the dark, Bartholomew couldn’t see Billbo’s face, but the performer obviously knew how to express emotion to a crowd. The message he gave now couldn’t have been more obvious. Lust and availability and… He took another step closer.
Bartholomew’s careful and detail-loving gentlemanly manners sank away, replaced by something reckless, dark, and full of almost-forgotten yearning. The Grim Reaper didn’t make polite requests or play silly games. He boldly took the things he wanted.
A breeze skittered down the hall, from some unseen open window. The scent of autumn might have been the first whiff of a storm coming, and that storm was inside Bartholomew as he reached out to grasp the masked magician’s upper arms and draw him close. The smile on those full lips vanished, but he didn’t pull away. A heartbeat later, Billbo the Magnificent and the Grim Reaper stood pressed together from knees to chest, and the Reaper was seizing the kiss he desired.
This was not at all how Delaney had expected his evening to play out, clasped in the strong arms of Death and kissed to within an inch of his life. He could well believe this truly was some supernatural entity rather than a mere man in a costume. But he supposed the actual Reaper’s kiss would be cold and deadly, while this man’s was flaming with passion. Good Christ, the man was fierce and somewhat desperate. His lips pressed hard against Delaney’s, and his tongue swept inside to dominate. Delaney happily ceded control, clung to the broad shoulders, and let the Reaper carry him away. Almost literally. For the party guest pulled Delaney along with him out of the exposed corridor into the secrecy of a sitting room.
Death pushed the door closed behind him with one foot and reached down to lock it. Except there was no lock. He was forced to let go of Delaney long enough to grab the nearest chair and slip it under the knob so no one could enter.
This gave Delaney time to draw a breath and put away the deck of knaves still clutched in one hand. It also gave him time to consider the wisdom of what they were about to do in the house of a woman for whom he was working. If caught, the Reaper would disappear. He was, after all, some lord or baronet who would not be held accountable for enjoying a little party game of his own. But Delaney might well be kicked out without pay, and Lady Margaret might complain of his behavior to Simon. Good old Simon wouldn’t fault Delaney for the sex but for the choice of time and place, since he’d gotten this job for him.
These thoughts raced through Delaney’s mind in moments, just long enough for him to discard them all with easy nonchalance. What the hell. He was standing in a vacant room with a handsome—from what he could tell—sexually potent man who desired him. He would bloody well take advantage of it. After all, he’d never been known for his foresight and caution. Delaney operated on impulse. The only aspect in which he was careful and calculating was his magic tricks.
He rushed at the dark-robed figure and flung his arms around him, demanding more kisses. The Reaper obliged, pressing lips and swirling tongue, while his hands moved restlessly up and down Delaney’s back.
Delaney pushed back the huge cowl to uncover tawny hair. One would expect Death to have coal-black locks. But the pale strands were lovely, shining in the faint glimmer of a gaslight, which had been turned far down in this unused room. Delaney grasped the back of the man’s head. The short hair slid between his fingers, and underneath, he encountered the uncompromising hardness of his skull. Every inch of the man was hard like stone, but not as cold as death. He was warmly alive and clutching Delaney as if he couldn’t get enough of him. When was the last time this poor sod had been satisfied?
Pale eyes gleamed behind the skeleton mask. Hard to tell if they were light blue or hazel in this poor lighting. Delaney reached for the mask, eager to see the rest of his romance du jour, but Death gripped his wrist, stopping him.
“No. Leave the masks on. It’s better.” His voice was rough and dark and dangerous, thrilling Delaney to his very marrow. Yes, sir! he wanted to squeak like an obedient slave, but he nodded instead.
His hands had felt every bit of the Reaper’s body he could reach, but there was far too much robe in the way. What he wanted was naked flesh, but in this precarious, forbidden situation, it was probably best not to strip down to skin. They might need to scramble back to decency at a moment’s notice. So Delaney gathered up the yards of black cotton robe that stretched all the way to the floor, only to reveal shoes and trousers. So mundane. He’d hoped and half expected to find this extraordinary creature naked under the robe. Instead, there were more layers to be breached.