Title: The Masterpiece
Author: Bonnie Dee
Length: 202 Pages
Category: Historical Romance
At a Glance: The Masterpiece is the book I needed right now—sweet, simple, and so romantic.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Built from the bottom up: one perfect gentleman.
Man about town Arthur Lawton spends his days pursuing entertainment while shoeshine Joe Sprat labors to better his family’s lives. When an argument about nature versus nurture sparks a wager, Arthur swears to a friend he can turn this working man into a gentleman who will pass at a society function.
Joe is happy to participate in the experiment for a fee but receives more than he bargained for after moving into Lawton’s house. Arthur is determined Joe won’t merely wear a veneer of sophistication but educates him in every way. As he creates his new and improved man, Arthur grows more deeply infatuated with him, while Joe falls equally hard for his charismatic mentor.
Underneath a growing friendship, desire simmers and one day explodes. After their relationship escalates, the pair exists in a dream bubble until the threat of exposure sharply reminds them they belong in different worlds. When the ball is over, each must resume his own life, changed by their encounter but destined for different courses.
Find out if love is strong enough to bridge the gap between peer and pauper in this twist on the tale of My Fair Lady.
Review: Ever the sucker for a good Pygmalion retelling, and a good Age Gap romance, and being a fan of Bonnie Dee’s, there was little to no chance I wasn’t going to find something to love about this book, and yes, I found plenty. From My Fair Lady to Pretty Woman, I adore the trope, but the author gives it a bit of her own spin in The Masterpiece when Freddie Granville challenges his friend Arthur Lawton to turn the proverbial sows ear into a silk purse in the form of Joe Sprat, a simple shoeshine with a dream.
I’m not sure if Dee had as much fun writing this book as I did reading it, but it certainly seemed like it, all the way down to a wink and a nudge to Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, and adding in a Cinderfella vibe. Of course, there were touching moments aplenty too, and while the underlying storyline is familiar, there were several factors that drew me in and held my interest; the first being the inherent complications of two men falling in love in Edwardian England; the other being that I fell head over heels for Joe. His hopes and aspirations of earning the twenty pounds to open his own shoe shop, so long as he can pass muster and learn “to talk like a toff”, was such a seemingly simple desire with consequences he couldn’t have imagined when he took Arthur up on the offer. Finally, there was Arthur himself, who proves that all the money in the world can’t make a person feel fulfilled the way respecting oneself can. Unless, it’s earning the respect of the person you love.
Watching Arthur and Joe fall for each other reaffirmed that I do still have a soft heart somewhere underneath all this cynicism and world-weariness, and The Masterpiece is the book I needed right now—sweet, simple, and so romantic. And who doesn’t love a story about a man who’s rescued from the loneliness of a life he didn’t even realize he needed to be saved from?
Dee’s ability to keep readers grounded in the time and place her stories are set remains strong here: the clothes, the transportation, the traditions and day-in-the-life activities and entertainments are typical of the time for the upper crust—or, at least it feels utterly authentic—and this all carries over to the characters’ mannerisms as well. I appreciated the contrast of the seemingly vacuous lives of the ton when compared to Joe’s wish for nothing more than to put in an honest day’s work doing something he loves with a passion.
So much of the fun of The Masterpiece was anticipating how Bonnie Dee was going to write Arthur and Joe over the hurdle in the path to their happy ending. It’s what kept me turning pages, and the payoff was worth it for all the feels.
You can buy The Masterpiece here: