Buy Link: Seducing Stephen
Authors: Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.5

Stephen Peregrine is visiting the home of a school friend when he is suddenly awakened by a handsome man standing at his bed.  Lord Peter Northrup, Earl of Stafford, has drunkenly stumbled into his room after arriving the wrong weekend for a house party.  Peter mistakenly assumes Stephen has been led to his bed by thoughtful hosts, not realizing he is the innocent friend of their son. Upon realizing his mistake, Peter quickly tries to leave, but Stephen stops him.  This gorgeous man is the stuff of all his secret fantasies and he can’t bear to give up this chance to live out his desires, if only this once.

The men share a brief sexual encounter and then must pretend all is normal in the light of day. Yet neither man is ready for the experience to end and they manage to meet up a few times over the weekend.  However, Stephen can not hide his wide-eyed infatuation with Peter and their host soon starts suspect there may be more going on between them.  Peter realizes he must leave to protect the young man’s reputation.  Peter is surprised by how drawn he is to Stephen, but he feels he must make a clean break as he sees no future for them.  He cuts things off cleanly, leading Stephen to believe his feelings for Stephen have passed.

Months later both men still struggle with the memories of their time together.  Stephen has learned to protect his heart, engaging in some anonymous encounters, but nothing serious with other men.  Peter has continued his life of frivolity, moving from man to man in hopes of forgetting Stephen and what he came to mean to him.  Yet he can not get the young man out of his mind, and after a chance encounter between them, Peter becomes increasingly attached to Stephen and unable to let him go.  However Stephen is afraid to open himself up again after being rejected by Peter before and is afraid to take a chance with him again.

The situation is complicated by Stephen’s family responsibilities.  The young man dreams of building bridges and is passionate about his studies.  In fact, his enthusiasm and zeal are part of what draws Peter to him.  Yet he has obligations to his family who want him to continue his father’s architecture and home building business.  They are a dour, conservative family and their expectations for Stephen’s future leave him feeling like he has no other options.  This is compounded when his father becomes ill, forcing Stephen to leave school and assume his responsibilities for the business earlier than planned.

This book is one that I have read before and picked up again this week because it includes a virgin hero.  I will say that I enjoyed it even more the second time. The story focuses a lot, especially in the early parts, on the gaps in experience between the men.  Stephen is youthful and naive, exuberant with the chance to finally live out fantasies he never thought would come true.  And Peter is a gentle, patient teacher.  He is thoughtful and kind and drawn to Stephen by more than sexual attraction.  In this early part of the story we see the more expected roles — Stephen is younger, working class, inexperienced, and Peter is the older, more jaded lord.

As the story continues however, the dynamic changes in ways that are surprising and refreshing.  Stephen has learned to control his emotions and becomes the more disciplined of the pair.  While he misses Peter and still cares deeply for him, he is focused on responsibility and protecting his heart.  And Peter is the one who longs for Stephen, wandering around town hoping to run into the man, trying to convince him that he wants more than a casual tryst, and rethinking his life and what he really wants.  Peter finally goes seeking advice from two men he knows, confirmed “bachelors” living together for years.

Peter cringed inside. He’d never been one to spend much time exploring his emotions until Stephen, and he still wasn’t comfortable admitting to having them, especially to Stephen. But what else had he really expected to hear from this old pair of nancy boys? They offered the same advice a long-lived couple of any gender would give—honesty, sharing, commitment—an obvious but extremely difficult directive.

The resolution doesn’t come easily for the men, but I liked how both are forced to re-examine their expectations for their own lives and push themselves in unexpected directions in order to be together in the way they really want.  I really enjoyed this story and loved how it gave a bit of a twist on the traditional tropes of youthful inexperience versus jaded sophistication.  I would highly recommend it.