Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Angel Requiem by Jaime Samms

Summary Review:
Not your usual m/m romance, but a delicious, almost lyrical allegory on the power of love.

The Blurb:
In a world without hope that kills what it can’t understand, a solitary priest who has lost all he ever loved may be the last man to still believe in Angels. In the end, his belief may be all that can safeguard the fate of two Angel lovers—and restore his own faith in the power of love.

The Review:
In a not-so-distant future, humanity has lapsed from faith, which rendered the angels pointless.  Now they’re wandering aimlessly among the humans who have turned to hunt and kill those they have once worshipped. In an unnamed wintery city, a lone priest guards his old church and its cemetery in which his brother was buried ten years ago . The priest has lost everything – his brother to the drugs, his lover to a murder, his purpose in life to the lack of faith. The only thing that’s left to him is a hidden power of healing which he doesn’t dare to make use of; and yet he can barely restrain it: whenever he touches the ground, it breaks into greenery and flowers. The voices of the dead sing to him in his mind and lead him to the murder of yet another angel, but he just watches him die and adds the bullet which killed the angel to his growing pile of mementos, as he has done for years.
One day the priest meets a pair of angels who are lovers – Michael, a warrior angel, and beautiful, delicate Gabriel. Watching them, witnessing their tender affection, stirs something in the priest’s frozen soul.  He finds himself longing desperately for what those two have.  They even seem to be offering something, but the priest is too far gone in his hopelessness and sends them away. A while later, though, Gabriel returns to him, beaten bloody an dying. When Gabriel tells him about the attack which might have cost Michael’s life, too, the priest realizes he can’t hide any longer.  He has to finally let loose his power, not for himself, but for the sake of those two, in order to save them and their love – even if this may cost his own life.
Over most of the story the lone priest remains nameless. We look at the world through his eyes and thoughts. Since he’s mostly living inside his head, we don’t learn much about the world in itself, but more about the way the priest sees it, which makes for an emotional, if at times disconcerting experience.  There is almost no worldbuilding; with a few dry words the author depicts a world that is disturbingly familiar and yet just distant enough from our own to be fictional.  Also, there is almost no backstory (which is partly due to the format, of course); for example, we never learn why the priest is so afraid of using his power in the first place, or how he came to hear the voices of the dead all the time.  Many things are not explained, they just happen. The reader follows their course together with the priest, reacting rather than willingly influencing them until the need to decide forges ahead and becomes unavoidable.  The overall effect is not confusing, as one might think it would be, but very intense, bordering on poetic. The motive of love, faith and hope pervades the entire story, embodied beautifully by a little girl in a red coat who, to the nameless priest, eventually turns into a promise for a possible better future.
The “purists”  among us may want to give this a pass, though, since there is no sex at all, it is barely hinted at by the end, almost as an afterthought. Even the actual romance takes a backseat to the allegory.  But those who are willing to veer outside the familiar tracks are in for a treat with this fine, spirited little piece of prose. I enjoyed it greatly and hope to get to read more by this author in the future.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: Death of a Blues Angel

Death of a Blues Angel  Death of a Blues Angel by Sarah Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's 1966 and although people of all races live quite peacefully together in Washington DC, it's an entirely different story in the South. Three famous old black masters of blues, James Hurt, Blue Otis and Blind Pete, come to perform in the Blues Angel Bar, Washington DC. With them is a young white man, Rafael Hurt, who plays the blues just like they do.
Deacon, half black and half comanche, a reporter with the Washington Post, is sent to the Blues Angel by his boss, Brian, who is also his good friend. Deke is reluctant to go, since he doesn't see the point in interviewing three old me just to write a Christmastime feelgood story like Brian insists he do. Besides, the Post already has a music reporter. But when Deke gets to know Rafe and his three old men better, he is lost. Rafe and Deke fall into mutual attraction almost immediately, and it turns to love for both of them faster than they ara aware.
During Rafe's first gig at the Blues Angel, a young girl is murdered. This murder, and its painful solution almost tears Deke and Rafe apart. Set in their mutual ways, they have to follow their respective fates, even though this might mean losing each other. Then again, their love is strong and true; it might even be strong enough to overcome everything that separates them.

This story was so unbelievably wonderful I didn't want it to end.
The fast, laconic writing style created a film-noir feeling which formed the perfect backdrop to a story so old, sad and sweet like the blues itself. Rafe, depicted as an angelically beautiful boyish man, is deeply rooted in his homeland's ways, tangled up in a net of familial ties he can't escape, even at the price of losing his newfound love. Deke, self-contained lone wolf, never had a family to speak of and has always suspected he'd end up alone. When he meets and falls in love with Rafe, the hope of having found a companion and the pain of losing him again almost break him. These two men are so different and yet so perfect for each other, both so intense and absolut in their determination that their love shimmersand dances from the pages.
This story is as simple, clear and multi-layered as the music which it is all about, the kind of music that needs to be sung when you just can't keep it in any longer.
Don't miss this story, it's worth it beyond words.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: 'Til Darkness Falls

'Til Darkness Falls'Til Darkness Falls by Pearl Love

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3,5 Stars

Ancient Egypt, about 1000 years before our time. Prince Rahotep and his slave Tiye love each other deeply, their union favored by Fate itself. But Rahotep's intended bride Hebeny feels cheated of her rightful position of power by Rahotep's side and in his bed. Out of jealousy and hurt pride, she magics up Set, the wicked ruler of the Egyptian underworld. With his help, she manages to turn Rahotep and Tiye against each other. But Set's curse dooms Hebeny to repeat her scheme again and again as she follows the lovers through centuries of reincarnation, for if she fails to turn their love to hate, Hebeny's own soul is forfeit.

Three thousand years later in an unnamed contemporary North American city. Brian Macon, burnt-out, shy, introverted homicide detective is having a drink at a gay bar when a beautiful blond man with an enticingly exotic accent hits on him. Brian is immediately drawn to the stranger who he later learns is a German writer, and the attraction is mutual. The men land in bed together before they even get to exchange names. Soon their passionate affair turns into much more. But Alrick Ritter isn't only a man who loves Beethoven and used to play the cello until a tragic accident robbed him of this pleasure. He's also a hitman and the very sniper Brian is currently hunting. Hebeny, following her ancient curse, has once again set the fated lovers onto the high road to perdition. But as she leans back to gleefully watch the show, something starts to go wrong. It seems that in this incarnation, Brian's and Alrick's love will finally overcome Hebeny's eternal hate.

This book was awfully hard to rate for me.

On the one hand, the plot idea was fascinating. Fated lovers, meeting and falling in love again and again in every reincarnation, doomed to have their love turned into murderous hate every single time...what a wonderful, tragical drama! Both the contemporary and the historical plot line were well done, with sizzling eroticism and true, heartbreaking emotions. Brian Macon was a well rounded, haunted character, his partner Angela a motherly enforcer everybody would love to know, and his captain a wonderfully malicious bitch. The bad boys were your old-school mafia stereotypes, so exaggerated I think they were intentional, and the supportive cast were just as colorful.
Rahotep and Tiye were less well elaborated, but nevertheless likeable characters, Hebeny was acting just the spoiled, ambitious, arrogant teenage girl she was supposed to be, and Set was deliciously mischievous, just like the ancient legends picture the evil god.

The writing had its flaws, though. Both Alrick's and Brian's back stories are told several times, first by the author during the narrative. Later Brian tells his story to Angela in his own words, and Aldrick's story is revealed to Brian by Alrick's sister, and once again when Brian tells Angela about Aldrick. It's the same spiel with Tiye's and Rahotep's story which is repeated at least three times, at wearisome length and with barely any variations. A little more concise would have the story flow a lot of good.
Yet, when it comes to action, either fights or emotions or sex, there's nothing to bitch about. Those scenes are fast-paced and powerfully written. Even though some sex scenes come across as gratuitous, they are particularly beautiful and nothing to complain about.
Considering the multitude of complicated plot lines, they were surprisingly smoothly woven together with just the tiniest inconsistencies regarding former and present incarnations by the end.

The main reason why I found this hard to rate was the fact that I'm German. I was enticed when I saw one of the main characters was my nationality, and it amused me greatly that Brian thought Alrick's German accent erotic. The story is peppered with background info about East/ West Germany and untranslated German words and phrases. And this is where my but comes in. With a capital B.
Alrick's German is awful, plain and simple. Most of the time he uses outdated or completely inappropriate words and has no command of grammar. This makes him sound uneducated, even stupid although he clearly is anything but. His sister is just as bad. I won't harp on about Alrick's backstory, there are some facts which aren't quite right, but forgiveable since this is fiction, after all. But why, if Alrick being a German is so very important, not have the book proofread by a German native speaker? Those mistakes thoroughly marred Alrick's character for me, to a point I found him annoying and couldn't enjoy the story anymore. Yet, someone who doesn't speak German probably wouldn't notice anything at all, thus I couldn't let this influence my rating.

I'd recommend this book for fantasy - fans and romantics who don't mind a bit of repetitive telling. It's got a fascinating plot and a good story.

'Till Darkness Falls is part of DSP's Bittersweet Dreams Series which features m/m romance stories with untraditional endings.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: On Days Like These

On Days Like TheseOn Days Like These by Christiane France

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Merk, a writer searching a cure for his writer's block by means of traveling from Paris to his ancestor's house near Genoa, Italy. After the trip from hell, he arrives at the house in the middle of the night, only to find it broken into, ransacked, and occupied by a flock of chickens. To crown it all, there's a naked man sleeping in the only remaining usable bed.
Yet that sleeping man turns out to be sexy, funny, enticing and generally a good person which might be just what Mark needed.

A sweet, funny story about how something good can come out of even the worst that can happen. Set in Italy, it doesn't feel overly Italian, could just as well take place in the San Francisco Bay area, for example. Yet it was fun to read, very entertaining and I recommend it for a lazy, rainy fall afternoon - heartwarming like a good cup of tea.

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