Seducing Stephen
by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon, historical (2010)
Loose Id, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-60737-519-7


Meet Stephen Peregrine. As you can tell from the title of this book, he's going to be seduced very shortly. He's visiting his friend for the holidays and is sound asleep when our naughty hero, Peter, Lord Northrup, mistakenly enters his bedroom. Peter is delighted to find a cute guy waiting for him and can't pounce fast enough. Stephen, despite being a second year university student, is a bookish innocent who gets tongue-tied in Peter's presence. Unable to tell Peter who he is until things have become way too interesting to stop, he gets rewarded with his first hands-on second base experience with another man.

The whole thing is a mix-up. Silly Peter, who was drunk, showed up for a party at one month too early. He knows the parents of Peter's friend Brian - in fact, he is a regular guest at Edward and Euphemia Pratt's exclusive adults-only parties. While the Pratts try to keep their son oblivious to their randy extracurricular activities, it looks like Stephen is going to get an up close and personal education in those activities. After all, Peter is determined to finish what he has started with Stephen.

That's pretty much the story. There are no external conflicts here, because the focus is on the emotions of our two guys. In a way, these men are familiar sorts in gay romances. Stephen is the creative, artistic, and sensitive type who is naturally innocent until he learns to bottom for Peter. Peter is the dissolute woobie - underneath his polished cynical charming exterior is an insecure fellow afraid to fall in love. Both characters have melodramatic reactions when it comes to love. Stephen feels and looks ill when his heart is breaking. Peter believes that he will be utterly consumed by his love for another man if he opens his heart to that emotion.

And yet, the whole thing works splendidly. The melodrama, I find, is compelling rather than overblown and ridiculous. The characters' larger than life reactions to their emotions only enhance the illicit thrill of their taboo relationship. I am prepared to dislike Stephen when he shows up in the story behaving like a stammering half-wit, but to my pleasant surprise, the authors allow Stephen to mellow and even occasionally become Peter's voice of reason. The poor kid is corrupted by Peter completely, but it's a beautiful kind of corruption as it allows him to become a more intriguing character who manages to understand Peter more than they both initially expected. As for Peter, I like him. He's a charming woobie who doesn't wallow in self-pity or behave like a twit. Sometimes he can be an asshole, but then again, he's just being himself. He's not a fake bad guy - he's exactly what is written on the box, so to speak.

I didn't know what to expect when I begin reading Seducing Stephen because my track record when it comes to gay historical romances is not good. But while this one is as often as melodramatic as those historical romances I've read in the past, it offers an enjoyable kind of melodrama, done exactly right so as to engage my emotions and keep me reading instead of making me to wonder whether I've stumbled upon a Wagnerian opera by mistake. Normally I would say that fans of rather melodramatic historical romances like those by Erastes and MJ Pearson may want to take a look at this one, but then again, I'm not exactly sold on those two authors and I still like this one, heh. Oh what the heck, maybe you should give this one a look if you like gay historical romances in general.

Rating: 85


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