Authors: Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon
Length: 75 Pages
Category: Historical Romance
At a Glance: The writing duo of Dee and Devon deliver another sweet historical romance in the Victorian Holiday Hearts series.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Delaney, former pickpocket and now a member of the Andrews theater clan, performs magic tricks as Billbo the Magnificent. Hired to entertain at a fancy dress ball, the magician is struck by the lurking, dramatic figure of the Grim Reaper. He follows Death to a quiet room for a glorious, lustful encounter.
With his identity hidden, impoverished gentleman Bartholomew Bancroft dares to indulge in an out-of-character moment to quench his forbidden yearning for another man’s touch. But in the light of day, he can’t dismiss his memories of the mysterious magician or a craving to see him again.
Bartholomew enlists the dexterous conjurer to teach him to pick pockets. His plan: to retrieve his hand-crafted jewelry taken by a vengeful ex-lover. During the lessons, Bartholomew and Delaney yield to desire, certain their affair will last only until they retrieve Bartholomew’s stolen work.
At another costume ball, the gentleman and the magician work together to foil the thief, but when all masks are abandoned at last, can lasting love remain?
Review: 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. The Andrews clan may be comprised of an eclectic group of theater folk, Delaney’s childhood an unconventional one, but the heartwarming acceptance of the lost, the outcasts, and those who might be just a little bit broken is what makes these novellas so endearing.
Delaney and Bartholomew’s clandestine tryst while at the masque that begins this novella provided them with not only the security of anonymity but highlights the discretion that most, if not all, gay and bisexual men were forced into by the laws of the time. Dee and Devon know how to write that first spark of lust and attraction when like-minded men recognize each other across a crowded room, which Delaney and Bartholomew experience. It’s made all the more acute and electrifying because they can see little more than eyes and lips visible around the half masks they wore; I loved the air of mystery it lent to the story when their eyes locked, giving them that momentary frisson of heated, wordless exchange.
A theme that’s present in so many gay historical books—and, of course, was a reality of the time period—is the disbelief that love is an achievable goal for men like Delaney and Bartholomew; that the best they might hope for is to appreciate the now and not plan for the future. It’s also exacerbated more than a bit by Delaney’s insistence that he’s not the relationship kind. Dee and Devon weave this theme into the storyline, which then does exactly what it’s supposed to do—tug at the heartstrings and make us want for nothing more than Delaney and Bartholomew to find a way to be together for their happily ever after.
Delaney and the Autumn Masque can be read as a standalone, though I have to say I think it stands stronger if read as part of the series. Knowing the backstories of the various Andrews clan, while not critical to understanding this story, strengthens what otherwise might seem like another garden-variety story of two men meeting and falling in love in spite of the odds against them; not a bad premise, to be sure, but the support of this family of characters adds just a little something more.
You can buy Delaney and the Autumn Masque here: