The Private Secretary by Summer Devon (review)

Tagline: Struggling middle-class man must work for the upper-crust Victorian gentleman who bullied his lover out of the country

Private Secretary Book Cover

Title: The Private Secretary
Author: Summer Devon

Genre:  Historical M/M Romance
Format:  Novel (141 pages)

Sites: AuthorGoodreads

Publisher: Self-Published (June 2016)

Bonus: Kindle Unlimited

Retail: $2.99

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star  (I liked it alot.)

Synopsis:  After his middle-class father inherits wealth and squanders it away, Ezra Seton is left to care for his younger brother.  Unable to compete with his lover’s memory of a previous beau who swept Francis off his feat as well as bullied him mercilessly, Ezra is devastated when his love leaves him behind.  Desperate to support his brother, the young man seeks employment in the very house of this memorable bully, the wealthy Victorian gentleman Robert Deeme.  Accepting a position as secretary to Deeme’s off-kilter cousin means Ezra will be spending a great deal of time with the man he despises.  His position exposes him to continued interactions with the man who bullied his love, an erratic and eccentric cousin, the pitfalls of lunatic asylums in Victorian England, and, of course, a growing physical attraction to the pretentious gentlemen.  When Francis returns and eyes the “rude” gentleman just as relatives released from the asylum arrive, the secretary’s world is laced with passion, jealousy, and potential lunacy.

Review: This is a sweet (if a tad brief and sometimes simplistic) historical male/male romance set in Victorian London. Robert, the wealthy man of society, and Ezra, the struggling but educated man of middle class origins trying to take care of his siblings, were a nice combination.  There was a fair amount of disdain to accompany plenty of attraction and character growth as well as a little between the sheets sizzle.

I found some elements of the work to be strong and interesting, including a (sometimes abbreviated but) believable enemies-to-lovers plot and “cross-class” themes. There was also a particularly interesting glimpses at 19th century/Victorian Britain (including sanatoriums, upper class researcher scientists, a touch of upstairs / downstairs flavor, and a bit of “Society” mores).

As with other works by this author, the setting is a nice draw for fans of male lovers set in 19th century British society. The characters are sympathetic without being perfectly wonderful or awful, including the protagonists, the surrounding family/household, and the foils. The weakness is in the sometimes quick-moving and/or overly pat plot and relationship developments, conflicts, and/or resolutions. In other words, it’s great for a diverting, relatively quick, and entertaining read (rather than a deep or really angst/passion-filled or breathtaking/enveloping romance).

Recommended for fans of:  Historical romance; Victorian England; sweet stories.

Explicit Heat: fire fire fire – Some sizzle with explicit content.
Genre:  Adult Romance

Other Comments:
Overall, I find Summon Devon stories to be entertaining and diverting, providing a pleasant trip into Victorian England with generally pleasant and sweet portrayals of male/male relations in a sometimes very repressive society.

Hellmaw: Of the Essence by G. Harbowy (review)

Hellmaw: Of the Essence Book Cover

Title: Hellmaw: Of the Essence
Author: Gabrielle Harbowy
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Format:  Novel (179 pages)
Sites: PublisherGoodreads | Amazon
Series: Hellmaw #7
Publisher: Ed Greenwood Group (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781772700305

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Tagline:  A threatened daemon treads a treacherous path of blackmail and murder 

Another departure from my usual male-male romance reviews, this novel is an interesting,  intriguing and LGBT-friendly urban fantasy story, so it may be of interest to paranormal LGBT romance fans.

In the dangerous and sometimes bloodthirsty world of intrigue for those daemons exiled on Earth, the artist Quills attempts to stand apart. The story of her attempt to remain safe in a swirling sea of danger is inventive and compelling. The novel was a wonderful weave of political intrigue, cloak-and-dagger scheming, and the strength of individual conviction, yielding a highly personal tale of struggle within a broader, brutal setting.

The protagonist had a nice mix of daemonic hunger, the detachment of an exiled expatriate, and a clarity of personal will that made Quills a compelling character. Her story is a rewarding journey to the Hellmaw, and I’m looking forward to see other stories in this potentially horrific yet strangely enticing setting.

The story does lead to a couple of  intimate encounters (very appropriate to the plot), including some LGBT-friendly passion.  The writing draws the reader nicely into the intimacy with some nice bits of sizzle before a satisfying “fade to black.”  (The daemons at the center of this setting seem to be able to shift all parts of their forms, which leads to gender-fluidity and hints at varied and interesting intimate if not always romantic couplings.)