AUTHOR: Jez Morrow
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Gay historical shapeshifter erotic romance
Young aristocrat David Blackleigh falls in with a group of outlaws when his attempt to kill the man who stole his home from him fails. The commanding Connor is the most beautiful thing David has ever seen before, but in spite of his acceptance into the group, Connor seems determined to avoid David. The man harbors secrets, more than David expects, but love and desire have a way of making even the truth come out…
Sometimes, stories bite off more than they can chew, which ends up being the problem with this one. There is a lot crammed into this 30k novella, and the only way it’s able to get it all out there is to be very skimpy on the prose and details. A lot of stuff is simply glossed over, with very simple, direct sentences, and with the exception of the sharp first chapter, the entire thing reads like an outline for a book, rather than the book itself. It lacks any real depth to either the characters or their situations, and without those deeper forays, I can't really connect with what's going on except in the most superficial of ways.
The primary POV in this is David’s, though that line gets blurred more than once. It doesn’t really headhop, but there are definite sentences that slide out of David’s and into someone else’s, though only in the most superficial manner. It’s indicative of the rather loose effect the entire story has, like the lack of sharp focus on much of the detail. We get to see from the start just what David sees in Connor – there is never any angsting in this over his homosexuality at all – but Connor’s motivations suffer. Eventually, we learn more of his backstory, but the reasons why he ends up choosing David are murky at best. The most we really get is David’s the most beautiful man Connor’s ever seen. In addition to this, I end up feeling like Connor is much of an enigma because of the lack of insight into his personality. Except for the fact that he’s very nearly perfect, of course.
Is the prose bad? For the most part, no, though this exchange certainly doesn’t help matters:
Then Davy’s felt the heat of liquid fire release inside him, felt the magnificent animal shudder against him.
It was all Davy could do to contain his ardor.
Connor’s weight lifted from him. The air felt cool on Davy’s damp back. He was panting hard through clenched teeth, frustrated and longing, still holding back.
Connor turned him over. The light shimmered through Davy’s wet eyelashes. Connor smoothed tears from his face with his thumbs. “You’re crying?”
“No,” Davy bleated. “I think I came through my eyes. Connor, I’m so hot I could die.”
It's probably meant to be amusing, but I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness and inappropriate imagery it evoked, rather than what I think is the real intent of the line. It completely threw me from the rest of the scene, and in fact, from much of the rest of the story.
That’s not to say the story was bad. It wasn’t. I zipped through reading it, but when I was done, I was left feeling incredibly unfulfilled. It’s like eating cotton candy. It’s pretty and looks good, but the second it hits your tongue, it dissolves into nothing, and in the end, you’re left wondering why you even bothered.
6/10 – Overly simplistic, like the outline of a book rather than the whole story
6/10 – A tad too fervent for my tastes
4/10 – Know what I know about him? He’s…good looking.
5/10 – Bland and ultimately unfulfilling
6/10 – Once the strong beginning was past, details felt sketchy