Review: The Nobleman and the Spy by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

They once faced each other on a battlefield. Now soldier-turned-spy Jonathan Reese must keep watch over the man he’s never forgotten. A close encounter reveals Karl von Binder, the count’s son, also recalls the day he spared Jonathan’s life.

Sparks fly between the former enemies and Jonathan begins to lose perspective on his mission. He knows he must maintain distance because the heat he encounters in Karl’s touch stirs him far too deeply for his own good. He can’t keep away — especially when he suspects someone is trying to kill the nobleman.

The spy becomes a protector as Jonathan guards the man he’s begun to care for. Together the men try to puzzle out who would benefit from Karl’s death — and how much they’re willing to trust each other when a torrid sexual fling threatens to become an affair of the heart.

Review by Erastes Click here for the PODCAST

Having enjoyed hugely Dee and Devon’s Gentleman and the Rogue I was eager to read this one—although a little trepidatious about the title and it seemed a bit similar, and I wondered if they weren’t just resting on their laurels and writing the same book twice.

However I shouldn’t have doubted them, because this is a very different book in time, flavour and feel.

The eponymous spy, Reese is introduced to us from the start and he sets the scene quite wonderfully, following on from an excellent first line:

“We aren’t asking you to kill the man”

we learn a lot about Reese, and nothing, because that’s the kind of shadowy spy he is. He gives nothing away, not in speech or in body language. He understands how to fake interest, how to fake non-aggression and he’s damned good at his job. We learn early on that he will no longer kill anyone—so he’s been an assassin at some point, and that he had a liaison with his former handler, and that something went terribly wrong there, and after that Reese changed. But not a lot else, and that’s how it should be. However as the story went on, I have to say that I would have liked to have seen more of how good Reese was at his job; he broke his cover pretty soon and wasn’t much of a spy during the story itself, although we had a hint of his excellence from his backstory.

His target couldn’t be more different on the surface. He’s assigned to follow Karl Johann Peter, Erb-Pfalzgraf von und zu Neuschlosswold-Binder (try saying that with a mouthful of chips) who seemingly everyone knows about. A famous aristocrat, diplomat with a huge retinue and a famous family—but with his own secrets to hide.

I loved the way the relationship started early, and the way that Binder was the experienced one, when I’d half expected it to be the other way around. Binder has good gaydar and his seduction of the man he’d already spotted as following him was quite delicious. There’s a lovely sense of paranoia from both men as they size each other up: what is he up to, who is working for, all these questions go through both men’s minds and it works well and is very believable, even for men who have just had an intimate encounter.

Both characters, Binder and Reese are excellently portrayed, each with a distinct personality and voice; they rub each other up the wrong way (and the right way in more intimate moments) and the cat and mouse and cat game that they play is great to read.

This nicely sums up the differences between them:

Maybe it was this somber aspect that drew Karl, since his own nature was more flamboyant. Jonathan seemed to have a stillness about him, an ability to sit quietly and take things in. He reminded Karl of a pool with a smooth surface and all sorts of dark, hidden depths. And every time Karl saw the pool, he was compelled to drag his hand through it and ruffle the waters. He just had to splash around, and he wanted to dive deep and see what secrets lay at the bottom.

Although I had to laugh at the last of that, but I’m twelve.

There’s many characters in this story, too, which is tightly plotted and multi-layered, and each character has a definite place and no one feels like “filler.”

Set in 1866 (and I think) just before the Austro-Prussian-Italian war I have to say that having been researching this period myself for the last six months I was impressed by the research done here in respect to the political situation in England and Germany at the time, touching lightly on unrest in Russia and other hotspots in Europe–(Europe being a veritable powder keg about to explode at any time.)

If you are looking for a sexy book, you won’t be disappointed, but the sex here is decadently sensual, full of round ripeness and a languid time-wasting hedonism that had my toes curling with delight. I’ve said it before that a sex scene needs to be part of the plot, and although (for the size of the book) the sex is a large proportion, it never once feels gratuitous and for once I was looking forward to the next one, rather than rolling my eyes with “oh God, they are at it again.” I appreciated the masculinity of the scenes, too—sometimes gay erotic can get a little too feminine for my taste. There’s little of the sighing over a pair of eyes or lips; at a party Karl imagines flipping up the tails of Reese’s evening jacket, yanking down his trousers and rogering him hard. Quite right, sir. Quite right.

When I’m writing these reviews I generally tap out quibbles as I find them, and it amused me vastly that the first major quibble I had, regarding Reese’s identity and the persona he’d booked in at the hotel were debunked thoroughly by Karl’s staff, which made me laugh that I’d thought that Dee and Devon would make such a simple error. Other than Claridge’s having unaired sheets (heavens, no!) nothing much other than the word “cum” making an appearance which I always dislike. That’s probably Loose ID’s style guide, not the authors’ choice though. And a few Americanisms which crept in here and there, like “wash-up” for washing. So well done, ladies.

If I have any complaint it’s to Loose I-D – PLEASE can you vary your covers a bit? These are all getting a bit samey.

It’s an exciting and robust tale with mouth-watering intrigue, political machinations, witty banter and some fizzlingly sensuous sex scenes and like The Gentleman and the Rogue (which if you haven’t read why the hell not?) I can’t recommend it highly enough. I want to take away these ladies’ pens until they promise they write nothing else but gay historicals. I just wish I could get a set of theirs in print.

Buy from Loose I-D

4 Responses

  1. Review: The Nobleman and the Spy by Summer Dee and Bonnie Devon

    There’s a name switch-up in the title.

    If I have any complaint it’s to Loose I-D – PLEASE can you vary your covers a bit? These are all getting a bit samey.

    I think that was the point.

    Loose Id was trying to market it like a series so that’s why you see the same flower-like swirls, with characters at the top, and the setting at the bottom. It was deliberate. If you look at other Loose Id historical covers (and other Anne Cain historical covers), you’ll see that outside of series, they’re pretty varied:

    But I do agree with the rest of the review, though. I loved this book so much I hunted down Summer Devon’s other works–I was already familiar with Bonnie Dee and her wonderful books. 😀

    • It’s not the swirls and things that annoyed me – never even noticed those, it was the lack of originality in the set up – just one character staring at the “camera” while another is in the distance, with fog and stuff. I like the “brand” they are setting up there with Dee and Devon’s books – in fact I’d like to see more uniformity over their covers overrall, as there’s no “brand” when you look at all their covers on the link. But i think staring man and other person is just a bit samey. I’d personally hate it if all my covers looked the same. But yes – excellent book and more please! And thank you for commenting!

      • So you would like more originality in the setup but also more uniformity (like “branding”)? Similar to the historical M/M line by Running Press where the set-up for all four books is two men staring somewhere to the center of the book (not at each other), followed by a colored bar, followed by a historical scene?

        it was the lack of originality in the set up – just one character staring at the “camera” while another is in the distance, with fog and stuff. … I’d personally hate it if all my covers looked the same.

        I think all of Bonnie and Summer’s covers are true to the books. I don’t see anything wrong with a character staring at the camera any more than one that’s staring off-camera. I assume the person who’s prominent on the cover is Karl, and the other person in the distance with the fog and stuff is Jonathan (who in the story trails Karl from the shadows). I think this painted cover by Anne Cain is beautiful to look at and she obviously put a lot of thought into how the characters are portrayed. This cover and the one for The Gentleman and the Rogue are my favorites. And while I don’t really like so much flesh on covers, I think Seducing Stephen has a cover that’s true to the story as well, since sex is central to the plot in that book.

        There’s really no way you can be unique or get original with how characters are displayed on a cover. Every sort of set-up has been done by every single publisher already. I think all of the covers Anne did for Bonnie and Summer are varied enough, while still looking like a series, and they’re obviously beautiful and represent the story inside very well. :/

  2. First off. Thanks so much for the glowing review. Kate, er, I mean Summer started the ball rolling on this one. Basically all of the plot was her idea and I was along for the ride. That historical period would’ve been a complete mystery to me but she knew what we were doing so I followed her lead.

    As for the cover design, I’ve been requesting the same look so there’d be a kind of a “series” feel to these unrelated books. I love faces, particularly eyes and am not fond of headless naked torsos so this is exactly the kind of cover I wanted. She even included a mysterious figure in the background and swirling fog like I wanted. Yay Anne!

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