Author: Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee
Pages/Word Count: 186 Pages
At a Glance: If you’re looking for well written historical romance, you can’t go wrong with these two authors.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A village clergyman
Curate James Fletcher is content shepherding his parishioners through the good and bad times of their lives. If he sometimes dreams of making a deeper connection with a man who truly knows everything about him, it is an impulse he ignores.
A devoted businessman
Declan Shaw solves problems at his family’s many business enterprises. Recently, he’s considered ceasing his travels to pursue a few desires of his own. He’d love to explore his secret love of cooking and perhaps have a relationship with a man that lasts longer than a night.
The event that brings them together
In town for his cousin’s wedding, Declan meets James just as he’s bested the annoying groom. Intrigued by the mild-mannered cleric’s surprising spirit, Declan asks James to help him discover if his aging aunt is being mistreated by her spouse.
As their paths repeatedly cross, the men reach an intersection of attraction they can’t ignore. Will they dare purse forbidden passion and continue to journey together into the future, or will their differences tear them apart?
Review: One of the reasons I love historical romance is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t. Gay men and women had to settle for a very different sort of happy ending throughout history, often marrying for the sake of propriety while keeping their true natures a secret to all but those with whom they carried on their secret affairs. One of the reasons this book endeared itself to me is because Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee not only captured that romantic element but then, rather than allowing this story to rest on that tried and true trope alone, they added a bit of mystery and danger to the plot. That, as well as two charming characters in Declan Shaw and James Fletcher—our merchant and clergyman—drove this story along to an ending that was perfectly fitting for its historical setting, a resolution that fit the time and the characters, and allowed James to carry on in a calling he loved and was so obviously meant to do. To reiterate what Jennifer once summarized in another review of this writing duo’s work not long ago—if you’re looking for well written historical romance, you can’t go wrong with these two authors.
James’s rather limited, not to mention unfortunate, experience with men begins and ends with Kip Darnley. Kip is the prototype of the closeted bully, using James for sex then treating him horribly the remainder of the time. While James had tolerated Kip’s callous behavior in school for several reasons—not the least of which is that he’s a sexual submissive, and the way Kip commanded him turned him on more than a little—it’s clear when they come face to face again that Kip’s free pass to sex with James has long expired. When they meet again all these years later, Kip’s demands have nothing to do with scratching an itch (though he does try, which results in us seeing exactly the stuff James is made of) and everything to do with James officiating Kip’s marriage to a sweet and naïve young woman.
The authors thicken the plot when Declan Shaw is introduced…looking rather a lot like Kip, and pushing quite a few of James’s buttons. As it turns out, Declan is Kip’s handsome and far more interesting cousin, which sets the stage for their romance. But of course, as a relationship between two men was anathema in this story’s setting, especially when one of them is a man of the cloth, the getting together wasn’t easy. That doesn’t mean, however, that James isn’t wildly attracted to Declan while at the same time being a little turned off by him because of his familial connections.
As Devon and Dee move the plot forward, we’re treated to a story that endears James to us as we witness him questioning his beliefs while exhibiting an uncompromising devotion to his flock. We watch a subtle (then a not so subtle) flirtation unfold between him and Declan, all while James struggles with his sexual needs and how to confess them to the man. In short, James is human and, therefore, relatable on every level. As conflict is introduced alongside this romance, revealing that Kip’s impending marriage is a disaster waiting to happen, as well as an intrigue involving Declan’s aunt, Declan not only becomes James’s lover but also becomes this story’s hero.
The Merchant and the Clergyman is a tender romance that doesn’t struggle to give readers a happy ending unbefitting the time in which the story is set. Rather, the ending gives both James and Declan exactly what the time and setting demanded, allowing us to believe they loved long into the future, with none the wiser.
You can buy The Merchant and the Clergyman here: