Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Based on the blurb, this book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, so I struggled to rate it and review it without spoilers. This is billed as a paranormal erotic romance, and while that is true, it is so much more. Tags are spoilers, so as per usual, I will only give them when I think stories could be triggering to people. This book contains multigenerational family trauma, sexual abuse, incest, attempted suicide in first person, suicide, bipolar and OCD mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and ghosts thrown in with kinky sex. Since this is told in a single first person point of view, I got very attached to this character, but talking about him is a spoiler. This story is not told in linear time, so it might be difficult to get into the first two or three times it goes from the present to the past, but then it seems very natural as he shares his life through memories. The characters become complex and multifaceted the more the book goes on–one minute I might hate a character and the next I felt sorry for them even though that doesn’t absolve them of their awful choices.
Let’s start with the erotic romance, which I think worked very well. He meets a Dom named Devon in a club and everything goes sideways. Luckily another Dom named Mike helps him when he needs it, allowing the reader to get to know more about the main characters before any sex actually happens. The trust comes when the paranormal aspects are believed by everyone involved, which helps the romance move forward. I think this was effective. All the characters here are likeable and believable. The sex scenes are hot. With an 11 year age gap, the huge disparity in circumstances, and the added D/s aspect, there is plenty of the hurt/comfort trope in play. Devon ends up being compelling as a Dom and very endearing as a person.
There are so many great secondary characters in this book: Officer McBride, Devon’s sister-in-law Maya, Dom Mike, and the medium Maxine are the obvious favorites. There are also well written characters that evoked very negative emotions for me like Uncle Barry, Mom Dana, and Vern. Barry seemed confused about right and wrong without ever trying to figure it out. Dana deserves credit for doing the best she could at the time, she made an effort…but not enough of one to actually heal, so that saddened and frustrated me. She had plenty of opportunities to get help from mental health professionals, but just didn’t. That may seem like victim blaming to some, but she had children to raise and could have done better by them. As for Vern, I hate him. At its heart, this is the story of two brothers and their tragedy, as well as how everything got to this point–it’s a story of an American family tragedy.
As for the paranormal aspects, occultism is treated with respect here, not as a party trick. I believe in energy work, in cleansing, in the benefits of ceremony and feel like this is a really good idea for anyone who wants to find closure for grief and trauma…we have funerals for a reason. Often, the difference is at a funeral people focus on the good, forgetting the bad…and that might not help people find any sort of resolution, especially with the ridiculous notion of not “speaking ill of the dead,” which is just a whole layer of guilt people get wrapped up in. I don’t agree that intention matters most. For many, this will be a lot of woo but this is based in what some people actually practice, so either the author does believe or has done excellent research on the topic. It does walk a fine line…and then gets preachy at the end. I would have rated this higher, but I don’t like being prostalitized to. Also, evoking Robert Monroe and the Matrix Control System is strange in an LGBTQIA book because he believed one reason for his theory is because all mobiles are split into two genders, ever seeking reunion with each other. Ugh.
This book is a rare gem–entertaining and packs an emotional wallop without wallowing in emotional pornography. I like how the ideas of Platonic solids, sacred geometry, and reincarnation are synthesized together, yet the New Age ideas used to explain the phenomena were a bit offputting for me. There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m not going to get into spiritual arguments about an erotic fictional book. Finally, there is an epilogue about 4 years later than the main events of the book. I liked the range of reactions to what happened because in the end, people still choose how to process things. Having or creating an opportunity for closure doesn’t mean everyone will let go and move forward in a positive way. I’m glad theirs is psychological work with a therapist, rather than only relying on New Age ideas.
The cover design was made by Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com. At first I thought the images combined with the title were a bit misleading, but the more I think about it, I really like them for the metaphorical imagery. The main character is trapped until he gets to see the bigger picture and find his asylum, his safe place where he is free.
Cover Art:= is dark and works for the story.
Published January 2nd 2020 by JMS Books LLC