Review: The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars

The Curtis Reincarnation ebookJordan Braxton leads a quiet life as a website designer and shares his house with his sister, Becca. His sister has one main obsession, the rock star Tyler Curtis and when she wins two tickets to one of his concerts and backstage passes to his after concert party, Jordan has no idea his life is about to change.  Becca is sure that Tyler Curtis will sleep with her that night and doesn’t want to take along any of her friends, just in case they might divert attention away from her.  So the only logical person to take would be her gay older brother, someone the notoriously straight rocker would never look at.

Tyler Curtis is not what the public sees.  Tyler Curtis is a rock star image his manager has carefully crafted and promoted, nothing at all like the young man behind the eyeliner and bad behavior.  In fact, the real Curtis is crumbling under the pressure of stardom and the abusive manager who controls his life.  But Tyler Curtis’ life is about to change when Becca brings Jordan with her instead of her best friend.  But will there be enough of Tyler left to put back together once the real Curtis comes out for love?

I love a story with a rock star at it’s center and The Curtis Reincarnation is no exception.  But Zathyn Priest puts a lovely, and angst filled twist to the normal rock star persona with the creation of Tyler Curtis. Rock star Tyler is a carefully constructed front, whose bad boy image is maintained by Frank, Tyler Curtis’ manager. The young man beneath the facade, whose real name is Alec Tyler, is an abused, lonely, and physically ill artist.  He is as far from a rock star as you can get and Priest delivers him to the reader so realistically that his painful vulnerability scrapes against the reader’s heart as we learn more about him and his past.  But the road to Alec Tyler starts with two very different characters, that of Jordan Braxton and his outrageous sister, Bec.  This is our first meeting with the two of them and the beginning of Chapter 1:

A vision of pure horror scrambled down the stairs wearing a heavy clay face mask, a midriff T-shirt, and a pink lacy thong. Long red hair frizzed on one side of her head while lying sleek and straightened on the other. Shrieking like a banshee, she tripped over the last stair, fell forward, bounced off the wall, regained her balance, and lunged for the phone in Jordan’s lap. The laptop was hit next, saved by Jordan’s challenged reflexes while he attempted to ease the pain of his sister’s merciless dive. “Jesus Christ, Rebecca! What the hell are you doing?”

She ignored his high-pitched inquiry and frantically began to dial numbers. Faced with a rear end view, and seeing more of Bec than he ever needed to, Jordan looked down at the laptop screen and attempted to blank out the sight of his barely dressed sister from his mind before it etched forever into his memory banks. Pacing the lounge room in scanty knickers, Bec dialled, hung up, and dialled again. Her frenzy partnered with cursing, stamping feet, and frustrated screams. After a few minutes of this behaviour, Jordan lifted his gaze from the screen and took a chance at needing extensive therapy.

From within the tortured howls and cussing, Bec squealed like a piglet. “Shh! Oh my God, it’s ringing!”

“Did I say anything?”

She waved a hand. “Stop typing! Shh!” Somebody answered her call and the squealing escalated into a shrill scream. Her hand clamped to her forehead, she trembled and tried to give her name between moments of excited yelling and foot stomping. The call ended with Bec in a teary, quivering mess. She disappeared up the stairs without another word. Jordan peered into the furry orange face of an abnormally large cat beside him.

“And that, Furball, is why I’m gay”.

That scene not only had me laughing but also beautifully defines each character and their relationship with each other.  Of course, you know too that Bec has won her tickets to the show and from then on everyones lives start to change.  I know people like Bec and the author must as well because that characterization is darn near perfect.  Jordan is her opposite, all responsibility and patient older brother, personality traits needed for what lies ahead.  I think all the characters created for this story are marvelous, from the despicable Frank the manager to Taylor Mason, the reporter who turns into a friend.  They bring the reader immediately into the story, throwing out connecting lines left and right for us to grab onto.

Another component of the book is Alec’s epilepsy.  While not getting too much into details, the author treats Alec’s condition with sensitivity while letting the reader see what it takes to live as an epileptic from Alec’s viewpoint, that of  an isolated young man whose disease has gone  virtually untreated for years. I thought this was an interesting aspect to Alec’s story and an unexpected one. It highlights the need for a strict schedule for medication and physician monitoring, a necessary detail when using illness in a story. I think Zathyn Priest did a great job with both Alec and the effect that epilepsy has on his life.

A little curious is the switch in pov from time to time in the book’s narrative. Told mostly in third person, it occasionally switches to Frank’s pov and then back again.  I understand why the author did it, and while it helps to achieve a tone of suspense, the switch also throws a small wrench in the flow of the story.  A very small quibble in an overall terrific narrative.

I do have a larger issue with the insta love between Alex and Jordan.  Jordan is older looking for commitment and his HEA but Alec is almost a child in comparison. Definitely, childlike in behavior, Alec’s 18, shy, constantly blushing, a virgin and an abused soul.  Jordan is 27, older, and experienced, and by the end of the first evening, they are boyfriends, from funny evening into serious relationship in a blink of an eye.  I just wish the author had given them more time to get to know each other before settling into a serious and committed relationship.  For me, it would have made their love more believable than the love at first sight that occurred.

Those issues aside, this story and these characters will pull you in and hold you fast.  Once the characters meet and fall in love, events that will change all of their lives start to come fast and furious.  By the end of the story, the reader will feel totally happy with all aspects of The Curtis Reincarnation, and of course, the HEA that Jordan and Alec achieve together.  This is a heartwarming story, more on the love than rocker side, but it’s sweetness and terrific characters will make this a comfort read for the readers who find their way to this book.  If you are a fan of Zathyn Priest, you are probably on your way to get this book now.  If you are new to this author, put both the author and The Curtis Reincarnation immediately on your “must read, must have” list.  I absolutely recommend them both to you.

Cover Art by Scarlet Tie Designs.  It works well with the story inside.

Book Details:

eBook, Paperback, 300 pages
Published February 1st 2013 by MLR Press (first published May 1st 2008)
ISBN 160820779X (ISBN13: 9781608207794)
edition languageEnglish
original titleThe Curtis Reincarnation
urlhttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=ZPCTREIN
charactersJordan Braxton, Alec Tyler (Tyler Curtis)
settingLondon, England (United Kingdom)

literary awardsGoodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards Nominee

ebook, 1st Edition, 220 pages
Published November 2008 by Torquere Press (first published May 1st 2008)
original titleThe Curtis Reincarnation
urlhttp://www.zathynpriest.com

Seizing It by Chris T. Kat

Standard

Rating: 3 stars

Kit Hall, veterinary assistant, leads a life of strict routine that his epilepsy and physician requires of him. Kit has also isolated himself by choice from others with the exception of his sister and the veterinarian he works for.  A victim of domestic abuse from his ex, Kit finds himself unwilling to trust others to the extent that he has walled himself off from most personal interactions.  When Kit is attacked outside his home by a crazed admirer, his sister and a good looking stranger come to his aid. The attack puts him off balance. When he learns that Alan, his friend/boss, is moving and someone else is taking over the clinic, Kit becomes even more unsettled.  The next day at the clinic Kit is horrified to find out that his new boss is none other than his rescuer from the day before.

Dale Miller is on his way to his new veterinary clinic when he chances upon a young man being attacked.  He intervenes, restraining the attacker until the police arrive. He is not the only one surprised when he meets the young man again at the clinic he is taking over.  It turns out his  assistant, Kit Hall, and the victim, are one and the same.  A fact that Kit is not happy about and makes very clear to him.  But he finds Kit  attractive and becomes determined to be the one to make Kit lower his defenses and take one more chance at love.

Several days later and this book still has me confused about my feelings towards it.  Mostly they are of the “not so good” type.  Add to that column, “flashes of talent”, “great idea”,”kind of creepy” and “downright annoying”, and I think you all will begin to get my drift.  The author had a great idea for a protagonist here but never brought the main character up to snuff.  I was really looking forward to a thoughtful exploration of a life lived with epilepsy, the proscribed limits and how a full life could still be achieved within them. That is not what I got in any way, starting with that title. Seizing It? Really?  Should I say it had me fit to be tied? *that was sarcastic, people – shakes head*

In addition to epilepsy, Chris T. Kat has burdened Kit Hall with being a victim of a shattering domestic abuse attack from his controlling and mentally ill ex, a temper that should see him in anger management classes and a family that treats him as though he is twelve (and sometimes rightfully so). I think we are supposed to find him one of those endearing prickly main characters, slight in stature, with a shock of red hair and green eyes.  I generally like those characters.  I didn’t like Kit Hall.  Mostly I wanted to send him off to intensive therapy sessions which he clearly needed, not to be seen again.  The author endowed Kit with a temper which as victimized as he is I could understand but apparently he has always had a temper that he directs at all close to him while acknowledging that he may be a brat.  This got very old as it would in real life and Kit comes across as a bit of an abuser and bully himself.

Further complicating the story is the other main character, Dale Miller.  He is older, finds Kit incredibly attractive, and wants to rescue Kit from himself.  In one section when Kit is freaking out over Dale restraining him (???) during an argument, I started to get that squicked out feeling.  I remember seeing adult handlers forcibly restraining out of control children (mentally and physically challenged) in the same manner until they calmed down.  To see it used here between “potential” lovers hit quite a few wrong notes. Especially when Dale then picks up Kit and put him in his lap.  Am I the only one thinking child abuser not lover here?  And then Kit falls in love with him immediately in a couple of days? Never has a case of “instant love” seemed so wrong.

What I did find realistic is that Kit is ashamed he is epileptic and doesn’t tell Dale about his condition until a Grand Mal seizure forces him to. I had a childhood friend who felt the same way.  He moved away in elementary school so I never knew how the adult Tim dealt with it.  The author does a good job talking about stress being a trigger as well as using medication and a regulated life style to control his epilepsy. I wish she had done as well with the issue of domestic abuse which loomed as a larger subject here.  Male victims of domestic abuse represent a huge sector of people who go unreported and unaccounted for.  Kit’s issues that stemmed from his years of living with a domestic abuser are never really dealt with in the same manner his epilepsy is.  A missed opportunity the book never recovers from in my opinion.

I won’t even get into his father issues and a family determined not to let a 28 year old grow up and make his own decisions.  Let’s leave that one alone.  It’s overshadowed anyway by all the problems I have already remarked on.  Seizing It is the only book I have read by Chris T. Kat so I don’t know if this story is typical of her work or not.  I hope not.  She does have some good ideas here but in the end raises far more questions about her protagonists and their relationship then is resolved in the book.

Cover:  The artist is Anne Cain who I love  but where are the dogs? Another missed opportunity as one main character is a vet, and the other is his assistant with a dog who is also a main character within the story. It remains a beautiful cover of two men in a fall setting.