Author: Bonnie Dee
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Genre: Historical, BDSM (Light), Exhibitionism
Length: Novel (54k words / 160 paperback pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: A fun adult adaptation of a childhood classic.
Blurb: All children except one grow up.
—Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie
Peter Woods is a young man who’s content to live a gadfly life, darting from one experience to the next with no thought of the future. But his father has cut the purse strings and soon Peter may have to make a drastic change.
Wendell Rhodes is a stable, sober banker who has only recently discovered the underground gay nightlife in turn-of-the-century London. At a secret club, Ever Lads, Wendell meets Peter and flint meets tinder.
But the journey from lust to love is never easy. Peter’s father is determined to make a man of his son at last. When Wendell is threatened, will Peter sacrifice his freedom to save the man for whom he’s grown to care deeply, or is there another way clever Peter can save the day?
Review: I loved this story while reading it, got deeply engaged with the characters and felt like the setting was painted so vividly I was almost there. It stayed with me, so even when I had to set it aside for a while to do other things, I’d find myself thinking about it and wondering what Wendell and Peter were up to. And yet, despite all that, I never felt a compulsion to pick it back up to find out. I don’t know whether that was due to something about the book that others might also experience, or if my mood or the alignment of the planets at the time was responsible. Usually a book that pulls me in and stays with me when I set it down is a book I eagerly pick back up again at the first opportunity.
Despite my perplexity about that one factor, it was an excellent book and a fun adaptation of the childhood classic. Peter starts out every bit the flighty, careless boy intent only on the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. Wendell is staid and conservative, though obviously wanting to break free of that to some extent or he wouldn’t have gone to the club in the first place. But even at the beginning there are hints of who they are to become later. Wendell’s hint is obvious: his presence at Ever Lads. With Peter it’s more subtle, but we’re given enough information about his formative years to understand why he is the way he is, and why he might not find that a satisfactory way to be forever. There’s an implied yearning for more that he buries deep and tries to ignore.
The development of their relationship and stronger feelings for each other is done very believably. It starts out as casual sex. At least, it’s casual for Peter, with Wendell acknowledging that’s what it is even if he might wish otherwise. Wendell’s initial desire for more is an obvious result of his basic personality rather than anything about Peter; Wendell is not a man who does anything casually. And even at the beginning, we see Peter surprised by how drawn he feels to Wendell. This was insta-lust between complementary people at its finest, with falling in love an almost inevitable outcome given how well they mesh and how great the sex is.
All the sex was hot and furthered the plot and character development, but there was one scene I found unusually realistic in its depiction of thoughts during sex. As Wendell ejaculated onto the carpet, he thought:
“The carpet will be stained. The thought flitted through his mind like a bit of twig caught in a whirlwind of feelings. Peter. Peter is with me now, at last! That thought seemed much more pertinent and he allowed it to rush through him along with his orgasm.”
The blurb intimates that Peter sacrifices his freedom to save Wendell, so I’m not giving away any spoilers to say that’s when we first begin to see Peter really grow up. His maturation perhaps started earlier, and certainly continued after, but that was the moment it was first apparent. I found myself thinking “roots and wings” as I read this; Wendell provided Peter with roots (a feeling of home, a place to belong), and Peter gave Wendell wings (the freedom to explore and play). As Peter says at one point:
“We balance each other like two sides of a coin. I tend toward the rash. You’re as solid as a rock. What could fit together better?”
There was one very convenient coincidence near the end that I thought unnecessary; the same result could have been achieved more naturally, and I’d have found it more believable. There were also a few places the wrong name was obviously used, but they were minimal and didn’t detract from the story much at all. These were minor niggles in an overall fun and satisfying story, with a few secondary characters I’d love to see get their own stories and HEAs.