Walk Among Us by Vivien Dean
I appreciated in the past Vivien Dean's originality, when she gave a twist on an unusual vampire romance. Now she creates another terrific (or horrific...) novel about an former priest who sees demons...
Calvin is back on his hometown near Chicago for his father's funeral. But Calvin is not mourning the loss of his father, since the man was an homophobic who kicked him out when he found his son was gay. But Calvin managed to build a good life in New York as an appreciated artist. Actually he doesn't know why he bothers to come back, since no one in the small town seems to understand his detached behavior. And then during the funeral a sniper killed a man and Calvin sees him perfectly. Matthew is a very handsome man with a brooding behavior and tormented eyes. The artist in Calvin is immediately attracted by this perfect image, and the man in Calvin is attracted by the handsome man.
In an usual romance, you would expected that Calvin is horrified by Matthew's action, but like Calvin is detached by his father's death, he seems to be detached by all the little world around the man. Calvin doesn't know the man Matthew killed, and he is more interesting in Matthew, than in the act he did. Probably Calvin closed something in his soul when his father kicked him out, he hid in the safe of his heart all the emotions, and now he has like a shield around him. A shield that protects him from the demons.
The demons prey on the mourning souls, and this is the reason why Matthew was at the funeral of Calvin's father. Matthew is only a man, not an hero. He is not thrilled by the idea to have the skill to see demons, and if possible, he avoids the crowd, so he has less chance to see demons. But here and there, Matthew's conscience nags him and he needs to do something to stop the demons. So he goes to funeral, the likely place to find mourning soul. But this time is not a relative of the dead who is mourning: Calvin doesn't regret his father's death, and so he is not the target for the demon.
The book is not very long, less than 90 pages, but it's very well plotted. It mixes very well the demon's matter with the erotic part, and the two erotic scenes in the book are really good and arousing. Calvin's character is a bit more developed than Matthew, even if probably Matthew is the most intriguing. All in all another very good book by Vivien Dean.
If All the Sand Were Pearl by Pepper Espinoza
First of all the setting: I would say a fantasy world... there are not high-tech elements to make it a futurist novel, and the only "modern" intrusion, is the presence of some plastic dildos... in the past there were dildos but they are made of wood, I believe. So yes, I will go for the fantasy.
Anyway, in this fantasy world, same sex marriage is not forbidden, even if it is not common for the simplest reason: wealthy families needs heirs and in a same sex marriage a natural heir is not possible. Jag is the last son of a once wealthy family; since he was born when all his other siblings were just betrothed or married, he was left with a decision: become a scholar or a priest. He set for priest and he was happy with the decision at 12 years old, but later one thing of priesthood left him "unsatisfied": chastity. Anyway he has never had a chance to be sexually active and so he really doesn't know what he is losing. He only knows that he dreams of the hard body of a man rather than that of a woman. So when financial problems push his family to negotiate an arranged marriage also for him, the only choice he is left is the gender of the betrothed... and he chooses a man.
Jag has never seen before his betrothed and he fears the wedding night. He is not sure of what expecting, and since he is rather young, also the physical appearance of the man is a huge problem for him. And then, is he enough attractive for the other man? Jag is lithe and small, he has the body of a scholar and he only knows that his betrothed is a big man used to work outside. The more innocent problems swirl in his mind, the same questions a virgin maid would have in the same situation.
Brace lost the hope to find a suitable partner long ago. He prefers man and no noble family would allow him to marry one of its son. And now he has a last chance. But he doesn't want to marry a man compelled to take a decision he doesn't like. And so he sends to Jag a gift, a very rare pearl, worthy enough to buy back his freedom and allow to him and his family a comfortable future. With that pearl in his possession, if Jag will decide to marry him, he will do that only according to his real desire.
Brace is a good man; he has no problem to find a willing partner for a one night tryst, but he wants a long term relationship. He doesn't want an husband to fill his nights, he wants a man to fill his days. Brace is true and simple like the life he likes: his horses, his travels... More than a lover he needs a companion.
In the end, you would expected for Jag to be the brooding one, the scholar type, and instead Jag unveils to be a young man waiting to be freed, and Brace could be the key to his freedom.
The story is pretty classic, and in this case "classic" is the right term, since this novel has an old fashioned style, but it's also erotic, the sex scenes are good and explicit, but always in line with the mood of the novel, even if that plastic dildos make them a bit kinky.
No Fear in Love by Jamie Craig
This is the second story I read in the A Calling of Souls anthology by Samhain Publishing, and like the other one is a story about a night which changes forever the life of two men.
Weston and Mark were buddy friends since they were teenagers; from a small English village, they share everything since they both feel stranger among other people. Probably Weston realized before his friend what that strangeness was, he loves his friend Mark, and it's not a friendly love. But Weston probably is more cautious and probably he fears to leave the comfort of his small village life and so he searched shelter in the church and in the chastity: he became an Anglican pastor. He removed passionate love from his life and most of the time he is content with it. Not when he is with Mark.
Mark chose to leave the small village for the big city, for London. He still returns back sometime, mostly to spend time with his best friend Weston. Also Mark is gay, but he has not chosen chastity... instead he tried to search his love in a lot of men, only to realize that he has just found it, and he is Weston. So now Mark is determined to spend a night with Weston, to prove him how it could be between them, and to have at least that night for them.
And so Mark consciously seduces Weston, he destabilizes his friend beliefs, and he puts the seed of doubt in his mind; is the church only a substitute of what Weston really wants? can he risk his comfort life for the uncertainty of a life with Mark?
I like both Weston than Mark, but in both of them I found something to blame: why Weston didn't dare to fight for his love and instead chose the easy way of becoming a priest? if he knew that his friend was gay (and he knew it since he said that Mark went to him the first time he was with a man), why he lied to himself?
On the other hand Mark... perhaps he didn't realize to be in love with Weston before moving to London and realizing that he was searching the man in other partners. I could think so, and thinking in that way, I find him nicer than Weston, since he decides to do something, he decides to risk their friendship in the hope to obtain love.
The story is not very long, 60 pages, and since it's mostly a one night story, there is not much space to develop the characters. They haven't the chance to interact with other people, the issue of Weston being a priest is not so much a problem, if not for him, there is not judgment from outside. There is also no space to develop Mark and Weston's relationship as friends, to let us know how they were as young gay teens in a small village. The story is appealing and I'd like to read something more both before than after the central night.