Friday, May 28, 2010

Valuable Cargo by Paige Tyler

TITLE: Valuable Cargo
AUTHOR: Paige Tyler
PUBLISHER: Liquid Silver Books
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 66k)
GENRE: Futuristic sci-fi erotic romance
COST: $5.95

Tanna Aldrick captains a salvage ship in the year 2850, with an all-female crew. Men are a scarcity in the future, and rarely go into space due to fears of infertility, so when they find one in hypersleep, especially a tall, gorgeous one, they treat him very carefully. Garrick has no idea how his ship ended up so far away from where it was supposed to be, but he does know that losing seven hundred years is the hardest thing he’s ever had to deal with. The crew is fascinated by him, but the one who captures Garrick’s attention the most is the beautiful captain. If he can stay out of the hands of slavers, he just might have a chance with her…

Sometimes, good solid entertainment is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tanna is a beautiful, competent, talented captain, though she’s spent too much time alone. When they discover Garrick floating around in his derelict ship, she’s taken aback by how attracted she is to him, but she treats him professionally while they get to know each other, all the way until their attraction explodes. Garrick is a rare commodity in the future – gorgeous, exotic, healthy – which means all the slavers want him. The last thing Tanna wants is to put anyone in slavery, let alone the man she’s sleeping with, but the pirates are relentless.

You know, it’s hard for me to think of anything bad to say about this story. I really can’t. I read it almost straight through, never got hung up on characters, never got hung up on writing stuff, and ended it with a smile on my face. Tanna and Garrick are well-written, comfortable leads, both strong without being impossibly strong, both with weaknesses that never cripple them or the story. They have terrific chemistry, and most of the sex scenes sizzle. A couple do feel slightly gratuitous, but this is erotic romance, and honestly, the scenes are written well enough for me not to be too bothered by them. Their romantic arc actually makes sense from a realistic perspective as well. They don’t fall into bed right away, and they don’t do stupid things just to have sex when the rest of their world is in chaos. I appreciate that. It makes it incredibly easy to get swept along with them. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from action scenes when they were called for, too. It flowed from one page to the next, affording one of the most seamless reads I’ve had in a while. There’s nothing earth-shattering about it, but it was fun, romantic, and hot. You can’t go wrong with that.


8/10 – Well-balanced between action and romance and very clean


8/10 – Strong without being overpowering, and yet still has a vulnerability due to his circumstances


8/10 – Oddly enough, I like her for a lot of the same reasons I like Garrick

Entertainment value

8/10 – Solid escapism that delivers exactly what it promises

World building

9/10 – Incredibly solid without straying too far into techno-speak



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Gasp by assorted authors

TITLE: Last Gasp
AUTHORS: Charlie Cochrane, Erastes, Chris Smith, Jordan Taylor
PUBLISHER: Noble Romance
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 82k)
GENRE: Historical gay romance
COST: $5.95

A collection of four historical novellas, each about a gay romance in an era on the cusp of change…

NOTE: In the matter of full disclosure, I was offered a copy of this book for the purpose of a review.

The common thread binding together the stories in this anthology is an intriguing one. All are written in a time and place that is about to undergo some monumental change, hence the appropriate title. It gives the authors a lot of leeway to be creative, though ultimately, some are more successful than others.

The anthology starts out with “Tributary” by Erastes (who also selected the stories for inclusion), the story of Englishman Guy Mason and his retreat to a reclusive hotel in the mountains of Italy. Guy is wandering, in life as well as in locations, flitting from one place to another in search of a nameless something he feels is missing, until he settles at the Hotel Vista, along with a number of other people trying to hide away from the world. There, he meets James, a scientist studying local crayfish who seems exactly the sort of person who might be interesting enough to get to know. His attraction to James’ secretary, Louis, however, is an even bigger draw, especially when he is forced to spend time alone with Louis after James falls ill. Like the rest of the stories in the anthology, its single greatest strength rests in its attention to detail, the careful construction of 1936 Europe and the people struggling to find a place in it. It’s also one of the most readable of the collection, paced well and flowing smoothly. That being said, I found myself distanced from it emotionally. Both Guy and Louis left me cold, Guy especially. For me, his insouciance, the lack of focus that personifies both the time period and how he’s drifting along, translated into a sense of stagnation that sucked away any kinesis he might have had as a character. It kept feeling like, “Well, if he doesn’t care about anything, why should I?” It kept me from investing in his relationships, as well as caring too much about their outcome, though from an outside perspective, it’s certainly a fair read.

Following that is “The White Empire” by Chris Smith. Missionary Edgar Vaughan escapes his life to travel to 1838 Hong Kong, where he works amongst opium addicts, though his motivations are never completely altruistic. He’s also very much a snob, never willing to consider dalliances with men of lesser station than him. While in Hong Kong, he decides it’s his specific mission to break the people from their opium addiction, only to learn that the British government has other plans for both the region and the opium. Through this, he meets Archie Runfold, a Lord who fascinates him from the start. From the very first words, I found myself sucked into this novella, far more than any of the rest in the anthology. The prologue starts out with Vaughan in a Chinese brothel, about to engage with an older boy, when another client catches his eye, one who interests him far more than the whore. It’s titillating, intriguing, and sets an almost breathless tone that holds throughout the entire story. Almost all of the characters in this, though superficially superior, are so morally ambiguous that it’s a delight to get lost in their world for the duration. It’s both dingy and decadent, and if the prose veers into the purple more often than not, I certainly didn’t mind since I enjoyed the ride so very, very much. It’s the longest and easily most complex of the anthology, providing more layers than the historical premise upon which most are based.

Coming after this is Charlie Cochrane’s “Sand.” Writer Charles Cusiter has been tasked by his benefactress to get her son out of England and away from all the women he keeps pursuing. They end up in Syria, playing archaeologists on a dig that entertains people as a fundraising effort. Charles meets the leader Andrew, Charles likes Andrew, and so on. By far the shortest and most romantic story of the bunch, I found myself very underwhelmed by it after having been engaged on so many levels by the previous story. It’s a good change of pace, but the story itself is so simplistic and short that it never really has a chance to work for me. Just as I was starting to get into the romance and characters, the humor shifted me out of it (I’m sure the line, “I’ll resist saying it’s ironic you should hate camels when you’re built like one.” is meant to be playful, but honestly, it stopped me dead in my tracks as being very unfunny and with thoughts like, Is she [the author] really calling him humpbacked?.), and then it was all over. They went from friends to sex to let’s have a future together in the space of six pages. It was way too fast for me, and highly unbelievable, even within the context of this particular setting.

Rounding out the anthology, and straying from the British heroes, is “The Ninth Language” by Jordan Taylor. Set in Canada of 1898, it tells the story of two unlikely comrades, Mitsrii, a member of the dying Hän, and Troy, a linguist who’s been sent to study the natives. Troy saved Mitsrii from execution, and Mitsrii returns the favor by saving his life when two other natives rob and leave him to save himself in the wilderness. They slowly build a friendship that leads to more. While the setting and characters were a welcome change, this was the story that slowed me down the most. I read the first three in one sitting apiece, but I kept putting this one down, time and time again, because it failed almost from the start to pull me into the story. Description is evocative, but Mitsrii never felt like an individual for the first half, instead an extension of the world surrounding him. I know this is intentional. That’s who he is. But I couldn’t connect emotionally with him, and until he started interacting with Troy, I couldn’t connect to the story, either. Because of this inability, I never understood why Mitsrii would fall for Troy. The converse was easy. But Troy couldn’t compensate enough for the other shortcomings the story had for me, and I finished this – eventually – relieved to finally be done with it.

Does this mean I wouldn’t recommend this anthology? Absolutely not. It’s consistently well-written, and there’s more than a measure of base entertainment to be taken from each. I also think that readers who are devoted to this particular genre will be more satisfied with it than I was. The greatest strength of the collection is the loving detail that is bestowed upon the settings. Historical lovers are likely to fall in love with the authors’ attention to detail, where that is not the first – nor really the second – aspect I look at. I tend to view settings in historicals as vehicles to allow the characters to flourish and shine, while it often feels in this, it’s the other way around. For the stories I didn’t fall in love with, it was usually because of a character. And just because I didn’t connect with a story, doesn’t mean other readers won’t.


8/10 – Mostly clean, heavily detailed, the first two stories were much easier for me to read than the latter two


7/10 – Not the strong point of any of the stories


8/10 – Even when I might not like the characters, most of them are well-rounded and written

Entertainment value

7/10 – On a purely engaging level, the second story surpassed the other three by a large margin

World building

9/10 – Considering the genre and authors involved, it’s unsurprising that the eras and places were so richly developed



Friday, May 14, 2010

Table for Two Hearts by Christine DePetrillo

TITLE: Table for Two Hearts
AUTHOR: Christine DePetrillo
PUBLISHER: Whispers Publishing
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 12k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $2.95

When he’s not flying cargo around the country, Eric buys property and flips them. His current project is a restaurant, but when the architect recommended to him shows up, Sam Falcon is not what he was expecting…

There’s not much to this short story, but what started out promising quickly degenerated. The hero Eric is showing off the restaurant he’s just bought to his best friend Dave, and their banter back and forth is fun and realistic. Eric, especially, has an easy charm that makes it easy to like him. His friendship with Dave sparkles with realism, and sets the tone all the throughout the first chapter. It holds through his first introduction to Sam, who, on first appearances, seems to be the perfect woman for him.

It actually held me all the way until Sam shows up for their second meeting. She arrives at the restaurant first, drops something, then hits her head and gets knocked out. Nothing wrong with that. No, my problem started with Sam’s dog taking off at that point to run down the road to Eric’s house – a man the dog has never seen, nor visited – getting the man’s attention, and being responsible for Eric returning to the restaurant to find Sam. Instead of calling 911, he ends up kissing her, and while he recognizes he should be calling emergency services, the kissing continues – until he stops it. Sam gets pissed and takes off, and there’s the sole conflict in the entire story. It’s incredibly pointless and orchestrated, and never feels real nor organic. Everything goes downhill even more after that.

Stories like this are simple, short escapes, and with so few words, they can’t afford to lose a reader with dumb choices. This one did, and I’m particularly disappointed considering how much I liked Eric at the start.


7/10 – Appealing banter carried it a long way


7/10 – Felt very genuine until the romance actually hit


4/10 – Not as well developed as the hero, though there’s a hint of what she could be

Entertainment value

4/10 – I was enjoying it until the dog turned the story around

World building

6/10 –The details regarding the restaurant set a fantastic setting, but it’s not enough to carry the story



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Final Words by Teri Thackston

TITLE: Final Words
AUTHOR: Teri Thackston
PUBLISHER: Cerridwen Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 92k)
GENRE: Paranormal romantic suspense
COST: $6.99

A hit and run sends Dr. Emma St. Clair to the hospital, where she dies not once, but twice. Nine weeks later, she returns to work at the mortuary, only to discover that now she can talk to the people on her table. It’s unnerving to say the least. She already thinks she’s losing her mind. But when information she learns helps solve a case, she wonders if there’s more to it. Detective Jason MacKenzie has been trying to solve her hit and run to no avail. Getting more information from the pretty doctor seems to be the key. But she’s put off by his playboy reputation, and the fact that she seems to know things about his cases that she shouldn’t? Doesn’t make it easy to act on his attraction…

Though seeing dead people has been done repeatedly, I was interested enough in the blurb and excerpt to give this a try. I’m glad I did. Though there’s nothing that screams, “Ohmigod, best book ever!” it’s a solid romantic suspense, with very little that’s actually wrong with it.

The story starts in the ER, with Emma dying, and then being brought back to life, after a hit and run. Her emotions are right there on the surface, and the tension thick from the start. Jason is assigned to the case, because the other person in the crash was a very good friend of his. He’s got an affinity for hit and runs, actually. His sister was killed in one, and the fact that her killer has never been found haunts him to this day. Emma is revived, and the story cuts to nine weeks later, when she’s about to return to work as a coroner. She is going out of her mind with so little to do, and though she’s still a little traumatized by the entire accident, feels like throwing herself back into her old life is the best way to go. She’s entirely unprepared, both physically and emotionally, for having the very first body she works on appear as a ghost in front of her, telling her how she died. It throws Emma into a tailspin, one Jason witnesses, but his attraction to her, and his need to get at what she knows, is too high for him to look the other way.

This starts a long, steadily if not spectacularly paced tale about coming to grips with loss, accepting self identities, and learning to see what’s actually there as opposed to what is only assumed to be, both in the living and the dead. Emma is the strong core to this. Her reactions are realistic, fragile and fearful when she doesn’t know what’s going on, with growing power as the story progresses. She doubts her sanity more than once, and it’s palpable. But it’s helped because at heart, Emma is a decent, strong-willed person, dedicated to doing the right thing. She has a jerk of an ex-husband she’s trying to deal with, she’s got this new ability, and she’s got Jason to juggle. Except for a couple moments of, “Seriously? You don’t see how dumb that is?” (which is almost inevitable with heroines in any kind of romantic suspense), I liked and respected her a lot.

Jason is just as strong. He has the same moral code, the same dedication. His is a little more driven, however, because of his haunted past. His sister’s death changed him, and though his playboy reputation lingers, he’s not actually like that anymore. He’s foregone most relationships except professional ones for two years. Emma has every right to be nervous about his interest, but through careful, deliberate plotting and pacing, they both discover they are not who the other thinks they are.

The romance takes a back seat for much of the story in favor of the emotional journeys both characters go on, and the suspense aspects, though when it does finally happen, it’s rich and vibrant. The only thing is, it takes a while to get there. For a suspense novel, it’s not swiftly paced at all. There’s a methodical feel to the first half of it, as all the pieces are being put in place and the characters’ psyches are explored. It accelerates quite a bit once Emma starts getting a firmer grip on her abilities, but this would never be considered fast-paced. I didn’t mind so much, though I think it might prove troublesome for suspense readers who are more accustomed to swifter rides. To me, it felt like a fantastic mirror to the growth the characters showed, characters I considered well worth spending the time with.


8/10 – A slower pace might prove difficult for some, but I thought the more deliberate tempo an excellent reflection on the characters


8/10 – An appealing mix of driven and wounded


8/10 – Her tenuous grasp on reality is grounded with a real sense of decency and sheer will

Entertainment value

8/10 – Solid and just a little spooky, though more suspense than romance

World building

8/10 – For having the paranormal elements in such a normal world, it felt remarkably genuine



Monday, May 10, 2010

Necessary Madness by Lisabet Sarai

TITLE: Necessary Madness
AUTHOR: Lisabet Sarai
PUBLISHER: Total-e-bound
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 47k)
GENRE: Paranormal gay erotic romance
COST: ₤2.99

Kyle has been plagued by the violence of his precognitive visions since puberty, driving him in and out of psych wards, on and off the streets. When Sergeant Rob Murphy finds him, he’s moved both by how fragile the young man is and by how attractive he is. He offers his help, but when he learns the nature of Kyle’s abilities, he attempts to put some distance between them. Lucky for Kyle, it doesn’t work, especially since Rob is probably the one man in the world who could understand…

I bought this book both because the premise intrigued me and because I wondered if I was too harsh with the first story I read by this author. I had a rather negative reaction to it, so I hoped that it was a one-off. Unfortunately, the issues I had with this short novel, though different, proved that this author is likely not for me.

It starts out well enough. Kyle is young, highly tormented, and seeking any kind of relief. He’s very sympathetic, and Rob’s dedication to help him admirable. However, as we learn to more about Rob, my misgivings grew. His position of power, as well as his age, cast him into a caretaker, and it feels a little creepy seeing him lust so fervently for Kyle, especially since Kyle is the last person to effectively gauge his own well-being. That falls completely on its face when it comes to the first sex scene. Kyle woke up from a nightmare, Rob walked in to see what was wrong wearing only his underwear, then, when Rob asks if there’s anything he can do to help, Kyle asks him to climb under the covers and hold him. And of course, he’s been sleeping naked. It’s such an obvious porn set-up that I rolled my eyes. It's unsubtle, and a little insulting in how blatant it is. This is the point the story lost me, and the writing in the sex scenes kept me from ever getting back in.

The problem is prose like this: Rob’s cock throbbed in his hand like a juicy heart. and At the same time, he squeezed a line of lube down the length of his cock, like mustard onto a hotdog… The author also has a propensity to use the word bowels during anal sex scenes, like …Rob exploded in Kyle’s bowels. It’s not sexy, and when there are so many sex scenes, it’s a killer for the mood. It's not just limited to obvious erotic text, but I won't complain about Kyle asking Rob to let him ease his pain. I've probably seen Field of Dreams more times than a lot of people.

The paranormal aspects help to maintain interest until the end, but it’s just not enough to counter the uncomfortable characterizations and the unsexy erotic scenes.


6/10 – Too many things pulled me out of a good flow, including homonym misusage, bad imagery, and erotic terminology that turned me off

Hero #1

6/10 – Though sweet, he seemed so badly damaged that it was hard to buy the “sex will fix everything” switch

Hero #2

5/10 – Considering how damaged Kyle was, and the age difference/power differential, I found it incredibly difficult to support his decision to pursue a relationship

Entertainment value

4/10 – Between my problems with the relationship and the sex scenes, I’m almost surprised I finished it.

World building

7/10 – Interesting elements, but none of it was explored to any measure of satisfaction



Friday, May 7, 2010

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Brenna Lyons

TITLE: All I Want for Christmas Is You
AUTHOR: Brenna Lyons
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 31k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Robin has been grieving her fiance’s death for almost two years. She’s finally decided to follow through on one of the dreams they’d shared for a child, but she’s not really interested in artificial insemination. No, she wants David, his brother, to be the baby’s father, and she wants to conceive the old-fashioned way…

My blurb above doesn’t do this story justice. The one on the publisher’s website is far more enticing, so don’t use mine as a guideline. This story might not be much on the surface, but it was more than worth it.

Robin works for the construction company owned by her dead fiancé's family. Though she’s gone on without him, she’s never replaced him in her life. In the nearly two years since his death, his brother David has become her best friend and confidante, and when she decides she wants to have the baby she and Zach had always planned on, the only person she really considers is David. For his part, David has been in love with her since before her engagement. He’s kept his feelings to himself only because his brother got to her first. In all this time, he’s been waiting for her to see him, so when she makes the offer, he considers it briefly before jumping at it. Thus starts their affair, kept secret from everybody they know because a) it’s just supposed to be about sex and getting pregnant, and b) they both think the family will react badly if they find out the truth.

If this sounds like it’s just an excuse to have a lot of sex, well, you’d be right. But here’s the thing. There’s a sweet vulnerability underlying all of those really hot scenes that transcends the simplicity of the plot. Robin and David are both so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of wanting too much, of hurting the other, that a whole new layer to their sex comes through. It’s more than enough to make me forget how basic the scenario is, or that there is just so much sex in it. Robin and David are good people. They deserve a couple of weeks of genuine happiness.

Not a lot of time is spent with secondary characters, though those that are there are developed well enough for me not to be jarred out of the story. I didn’t care for the epilogue, as it felt very anticlimactic, but I understand why it was there. Otherwise, the entire effect is utterly smooth. The author’s voice isn’t all that earth-shattering, but that’s not the point in this. This is all about Robin and David’s coming together, in every possible way. It succeeds, sweet, hot, and heartwarming.


8/10 – Solid and sweet


8/10 – Hot and wonderful


7/10 – Her grief felt uneven, but otherwise, I really liked her

Entertainment value

8/10 – Oddly sweet and vulnerable in spite of the constant sex

World building

7/10 – Enough to make it realistic, but nothing overwhelming or remarkable



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crossroads by Moira Rogers

TITLE: Crossroads
AUTHOR: Moira Rogers
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 82k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
COST: $5.50

As the heir to the Alpha, Nicole Peyton has never been happy with her lot in life, running away to New Orleans to run a bar instead of facing responsibilities back in New York. Her smoldering attraction to fellow wolf Derek Gabriel – turned only two years earlier rather than born a wolf – is yet another complication in her already difficult life. When her twin sister shows up on her doorstep, pregnant and with the Conclave after her and her lover, everything Nick had been running from suddenly is determined to come to her…

This is the second book in the Southern Arcana series, one I picked up after enjoying the first. I had certain issues in the first, but not enough to hold me back. However, after reading this one, I’m not certain I’ll continue.

To explain this isn’t easy, and new readers to the series are likely to be lost without reading the first book. Nick owns a bar in New Orleans, but she’s the daughter of the Alpha and is meant to inherit someday. She’s had the hots for Derek for years, but neither has ever acted on it. Derek is held back by the fact that as a turned wolf, he’s considered a mutt, and after he was turned, he didn’t trust himself around her. Nick’s twin sister Michelle is a Seer, both feared and respected, but there’s a problem. Seers aren’t supposed to have sex, because it’s supposed to screw with their magic. They especially aren’t supposed to have babies, so Michelle falling in love with – and then getting impregnated by – her bodyguard Aaron is a big problem. She runs straight to her sister for protection, and thus starts the dizzying action.

And there is a lot of action. A lot. It rarely stops. Yet, for as nonstop as it is, I found it hard to really care. Why? Because most of the danger doesn’t actually involve Nick and Derek. It’s aimed at the people around them. Nick and Derek simply react to the danger, and I spent a good part of the story watching them either race back and forth between the people who are in danger, or waiting for more danger to happen…to everybody else. Nick makes it clear very early that she doesn’t really have to worry too much: Then the first thing you should know is that I'm not in danger. It sounds ridiculous, since we're having to hide my twin sister away, but it's true. I'm the Alpha's heir. No one is going to touch me. Which raises the question…why should I care, then? Because Derek isn’t in danger for most of the story, either. All the interesting stuff is happening to everybody around them. Since the two come together early in the story, that leaves nothing else to really hook me into the story.

The writing is incredibly solid, the world building far more intricate in this than its predecessor. It gets slowed down by an overwhelming cast of secondary characters, but it treats readers with intelligence, expecting them to keep up. These strengths help the story, but not enough for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to get wrapped up in the plot, knowing – or being told repeatedly for the first half – there was no real danger to the two primary leads. Nick makes noises that maybe she and Derek aren’t going to be able to be together, but it’s very half-hearted and never inspired me to believe it. At least Derek had a modicum of conflict, with his attempts to come to grips with being thrust into a brave new world.

But again, it’s just not enough.


8/10 – An overabundance of characters and pack politics slows this drastically down


7/10 – Likeable in his anxiety, and a lot more interesting than the hero


6/10 – I liked her in the first book, but it was hard to really get invested in her in this one

Entertainment value

6/10 – Action happening all around the two leads kept me at a distance

World building

9/10 – Very intricate, sometimes too intricate



Monday, May 3, 2010

Muse by Clare London

AUTHOR: Clare London
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 13k)
GENRE: Paranormal gay erotic romance
COST: $4.00

Painter Gavin McGrath has been on a decline for years. Growing ennui with his work has meant a waning interest in his paintings, and now, his wife has finally decided to leave him. She’s tired of all his affairs with pretty young men, and tired of losing him to his art. Frankly, Gavin’s tired, too. So when a pretty young guy named Matteo shows up mysteriously in his studio one day, his first instinct is to send him away. Only Matteo’s continued persistence, and his appreciation for Gavin’s talent, allows Gavin to let him stay…

There’s something about finding characters that go against the norm in m/m romance that always makes me happy. Perhaps I’m responding to that craving for something different, but when I find one – and even better, it works – I feel like shouting from the rooftops. Muse is a story like that, and if I had a few problems in the last third of the story, it certainly didn’t detract from my joy at discovering a hero to stand out from the crowd.

Gavin McGrath is around forty (I assume, the closest mention to an age we get is that at the top of the story he says he’d left college almost twenty years earlier), and feeling the brunt of years of only half living. His art is suffering, he’s sleeping around with his models – really, his art is turning into an excuse to get the young men into his studio and bed – and he’s simply bored. When his wife leaves him, it’s kind of a wake up call, but only because she ruins the canvas he’s working on and he kicks his current model out. It’s at that point Matteo starts showing up, his enigmatic muse who jumpstarts his creativity again.

Gavin isn’t very likeable at the beginning, but then again, I’m sure he isn’t meant to be. He’s brusque to the point of rudeness, he’s seemingly shallow, and his self-involvement is borderline annoying. Matteo’s innocent and enthusiastic presence softens his edges, and as he gradually rediscovers his art, he also rediscovers his humanity. The desolate tone throughout his portions of the story create a yearning in the reader, that need to see him understand where it’s gone wrong and to fix it. As he does, it’s glorious.

The point where it starts to fall apart for me a little bit occurs about two-thirds of the way through the story. There’s a time jump, though it’s not immediately obvious, and it’s that skip that makes the story stutter. The questions it raised stopped my reading. Because I suddenly had doubts about the timeline, I went back and re-read sections – and for me, re-reading is often a kiss of death. It disrupts my flow and jerks me out of the emotional moment. For this short story, losing the grip of that emotional tug meant ending the story from an outside point rather than the center of all the tumultuous feelings.

There is an HEA in this, though this is hardly a traditional romance, and I can still recommend it as a solidly written, evocative, different short story. The lack of real flow in the last third is the only reason this doesn’t rate higher for me.


8/10 – The lack of mention of concrete time spans in the last third of the story slowed me down enough to make me go back and re-read

Hero #1

8/10 – I liked his gruff, realistic nature, a welcome contrast to usual heroes of this genre

Hero #2

5/10 – An ideal more than a personality

Entertainment value

7/10 – I loved the desolate atmosphere and potential, but the disjointed nature of the ending yanked me out too much

World building

7/10 – His studio world – the art, Matteo – was incredibly well done, it was just the intrusion and time jumps of the last third that fell far short of the standard set in the beginning