Thursday, October 30, 2014

ARC Review: Bones (Gothica 2), Anthology by Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden, and BG Thomas


Vodou. Obeah. Santeria. These religions seem mysterious and dark to the uninitiated, but the truth is often very different. Still, while they hold the potential for great power, they can be dangerous to those who don’t take appropriate precautions. Interfering with the spirits is best left to those who know what they’re doing, for when the proper respect isn’t shown, trouble can follow. In these four novellas, steamy nights of possession and exotic ritual will trigger forbidden passion and love. You cannot hide your desires from the loa, or from the maddening spell of the drums. Four acclaimed m/m authors imagine homoerotic love under the spell of Voodoo.

Dani's rating:

This is a sinful, sensual treat for Halloween; like dark, bitter chocolate, it will melt on your tongue, making you crave more.

3.6 stars rounded up to 4; see the much more accurate individual story ratings/reviews below.

The Dance
Kim Fielding

#contemporary; grief/comfort; possession; sensual, nongraphic sex; spirits; mystery; tentative HEA

Kim Fielding never fails me. The Dance is a tightly woven tale of grief, lost souls, and the gray on this side of life.

Since his partner’s death, Bram has been going through the motions. It would be so much easier to disappear if someone would just stop trying to kill him. When the mysterious, hauntingly beautiful Daniel offers to help, Bram slams the door. But he doesn’t lose the key.

It turns out ritual and possession make for amazingly steamy play. Bram and Daniel create a tapestry of authentic emotions: desire, love, fear, HOPE. Bram comes to understand what he lost and what he wants.

Vudou practices are spun into the story; there is no telling, only showing, every detail measured and nuanced. The magic becomes a breathing thing.

Fileding's prose is perfection. I think I would have liked a longer resolution, but the promise of the lwa (spirits) was enough.
Life. Death. It’s all one thing, mon cher, all part of the dance.

The Bird
Eli Easton

#historical; friends to lovers; ceremony/ritual; spirits; sweet, lovely sex; brilliant imagery; HEA

Set in the middle of the Victorian period, The Bird crafts a tale of forbidden desires. I was so looking forward to Easton’s story, and it didn’t disappoint.

When Colin visits his father’s Jamaican plantation, he’s determined to make it profitable and return to England a favored son. After he earns an unexpected favor from a lwa, which culminates in writhing, naked bodies and a wild dance in the woods, Colin lets go of something buried deeply within him.

This story could have fallen the way of cheap metaphor, but it was too finely crafted, with a Jamaican setting rich in culture and complex secondary characters woven into the plot. The atmosphere was charged, the plot deceptively loose.

Colin’s inner turmoil was a live thing, beating, waiting. His repressed love for his best friend Richard was eating him alive.

When Colin gives in to the lwa, he finally sees:
I wanted love, and lust, and passion, tangled bodies and sweaty sheets, at least once in my lifetime. Sometimes my very clothes seemed to choke me, as if the binding threads of civilization strangled the man in me, the flesh-and-blood man…I wanted to let myself feel it all, to touch and be touched. I wanted to breathe.

Lyrical, unsettling, provocative, passionate, with a brilliant, slightly ambiguous epilogue, The Bird is about the guilt and shame we bury within us, and about the letting go.

This was my favorite story of the four.

The Book of St. Cyprian
Jame Fessenden

#contemporary; new/young adult; no sex/steam on page; friends-to-lovers; scary pets; black magic; HFN

When Alejandro finds The Great Book of St. Cyprian, a tome of black magic spells, he understands its power. When his best friend Matthew’s dog accidentally releases the magic and becomes possessed by an evil spirit, Alejandro and Matthew have to work together to stop the “dark thing.”

The writing was fine, and there was nothing particularly wrong with the story, but but it lacked tension and atmosphere and didn’t hold my interest.

The chemistry between Alejandro and Matthew was missing, and the complete lack of steam (there was one kiss, interrupted) made for wilted reading.

B.G. Thomas

#contemporary; serial killer; mystery; no sex/steam on page; possession; tentative HFN

When a gruesome serial killer strikes Kansas City, reporter Tyler, the first-person narrator of this story, thinks it’s his chance to get the coveted scoop and finally move beyond reporting feel-good fluff. Tyler’s research leads him to a vodou shop owned by gorgeous Myles, who teaches Tyler about his religion.

The beginning held promise, but the story sagged a bit as it progressed. There was much talk of how beautiful Myles was. Granted, Tyler is beautiful too; he just doesn’t know it. There is no real murder investigation, just an “asshole” cop jumping to conclusions about Myles.

Myles is rather preachy, and Tyler seems incapable of saying anything intelligent. He repeats words as questions, in his head and aloud: Your house? Really? Good? My what?

While the murder details were appropriately grisly, nothing much was done with the mystery, and the who-done-it came out of nowhere. I did find some of the information about vodou fascinating, and the writing was quite engaging.

But I wanted more steam, damn it. Surely, there are better ways of doing off-page sex than: And the loving was good. This was SO flimsy. I would have loved to see some spark between Tyler and Myles.

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