Monday, January 23, 2012

And Hell Itself Breathes Out by A.R. Moler

TITLE: And Hell Itself Breathes Out
AUTHOR: A.R. Moler
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 74k)
GENRE: Gay paranormal erotic romance
COST: $6.99

In a bid to gain more power, two young men in an exclusive fraternity begin performing blood rituals, leading to deaths that remain unsolved by DC police and the SIS. Two authority figures, Agent John Benchley and Detective Evan Garrett, are working the cases independently until they realize they can get further working together. Then, their working relationship turns into something more…

I’m always excited about finding books that try to do more than the usual romance, but sometimes, they end up biting off more than they can chew.

In a series of short scenes, we’re introduced to a wide range of characters – the power-hungry, greedy fraternity brothers; agents in the SIS, a special branch of the federal government that deals with the odd and the occult; detectives in the DCPD. It gradually narrows down to the primary players, Agent John Benchley and Detective Evan Garrett. When they start sharing notes, things start coming together, but bodies are still stacking up.

The problem with this novel is that it can’t decide what it wants to be, and as a result, never really succeeds at any of them. There’s the paranormal angle, with the ritualistic murders; the police procedural angle, with the careful deconstruction of the cases; the romance, with the slow, steady relationship between John and Evan. It tries, it really does, but the prose isn’t nearly sophisticated enough to pull it off. The scenes are too short and static to build any sort emotional connection, and the constant headhopping and frequent editorial errors (missing prepositions, missing articles, etc.) only added to that disconnect.

Each does have strengths, though. Careful detail is given to the procedural aspect, sometimes too much. The romance sets itself apart from the norm with the gradual build-up. It was refreshing to have two strong leads not immediately jump into bed together if it wasn’t appropriate. The bloody paranormal angle is effectively gruesome (though more sensitive readers might want to be wary). I just wish it had been put together more smoothly, with a better balance so that I could genuinely care. I’ve had better luck with other stories by this author, so I know it can work. Just not in this one.


5/10 – Headhopping, proofing errors, and short jerky scenes did nothing to create any kind of flow

Hero #1

5/10 – Nice and intelligent, but it took too long for him to form any kind of personality

Hero #2

6/10 – More interesting than John, but suffers from the same lack of focus for too long

Entertainment value

3/10 – The story’s lack of focus prevented any one angle from succeeding satisfactorily

World building

7/10 – The procedural aspects were well thought if a tad boring



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