Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Journey back into the Roaring 20’s, the days of Prohibition, where illicit gaming, illicit alcohol, and illicit sex can be had for the right price. And the right price gets you into the Pantheon, a heavenly operation full of scantily clad young men who are yours if you have the cash. The sweetest prize of all is Eros, a blond angel, complete with wings, who will take your breath away. Usually seen in the company of his best friends and fellow angels, Himerus and Pothos, one look at Eros destroys all of Edwards’s brain cells.
Edward Joseph Clarence Junior is celebrating his 30th birthday. His cousins, Maxfield and Albert, have brought him to this slice of heaven, and Maxfield has arranged some very interesting private entertainment for him. He submits, despite his better judgment, but what he wants most of all is to meet Eros. Unfortunately, Eros has been booked for the night by Ares, an evil-looking, powerful and influential man who will use brute force if necessary to get his way.
Eros is Julius, the young male prostitute we met in Roses in the Devil’s Garden. It was Julius, along with his best friends, Lawry and Terry, who escaped the raid the night he met Harlan. Lawry and Terry have come with him to the Pantheon and now play the roles of Himerus and Pothos.
We learn that Ares wants all of Eros, not just for sex, but to own him heart and soul, but Julius won’t succumb to him. In fact, Julius has rules in place that normally keep him protected from allowing men to think they have his heart when they pay for his body. He never sees a man for more than three days in a row, and he never kisses, under any circumstances. Ares intends to break those rules and break Eros’s stubbornness with them.
Edward returns again and again, hoping to gain an audience with Eros, and when he finally does, Eros/Julius is less than impressed with him. But Edward is nothing if not persistent, and he bombards Julius with kindness, buying his time for a three week period in which he doesn’t make one sexual overture, even though he’d like nothing better. The result of getting to know each other during this time is that Julius does start to care for Edward, and Edward falls head-over-heels in love with Julius. The kissing rule goes out the window, and the two make plans to go away together for a while so that they can avoid Ares’s hold on Julius.
But Ares learns of their plans and destroys the little happiness they’ve gained when he arranges for Edward to be committed to Bellevue Hospital, arranging a bogus diagnosis with Edward’s psychologist. Edward had suffered from anxiety disorder after his time serving in the ambulance corps in Europe, and though he’s been free of issues recently, Ares convinces Edward’s father that he needs to be committed then he moves in to grab Julius and keep him in the Pantheon until he’s finally willing to beg for all Ares can give him.
And this is just the beginning! There’s so much more to this story. There’s romance on multiple fronts as Julius’s friends find love and affection with Edward’s cousins, some more easily than others. Harlan and Nathan become involved when Maxfield and Lawry find evidence supporting Ares’s true identity as a crime syndicate boss. There’s adventure and intrigue and catastrophe when the entire mess comes to a head, and it looks like Edward and Julius may never get to be together. But, of course, Charlie Cochet does not let us down, giving us a HEA for the guys—all of the guys, in fact.
So what did I love in this story? I loved the characters. Julius, Lawry, Terry, Albert, Maxfield, Edward, Nathan and Harlan. Each one of them now has a place in my heart, and I’m so glad the author gave us the side stories of the secondary characters’ romances. I enjoyed the big screen production feel of the Pantheon stage settings—I swear I could hear the music playing in the background. Oh, and one more thing—the author gave us a little peek into a time when Edward met a fella named Jacky, before Jacky joined the French Foreign Legion (The Auspicious Troubles of Chance). Such a nice surprise! Thanks, Charlie!
What didn’t I like? There were a few places where I was lost in the dialogue, places where I couldn’t tell who was speaking. There were also a few segments in which one character referenced something as if it had just happened, and I couldn’t follow what they were talking about. And last, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the way the final catastrophic event unfolded. Without giving away any spoilers, I can only say that the setting where Edward and Julius met up shouldn’t have still been standing at that point in time. I know that sounds odd, but I really don’t want to give away the concluding drama.
So all that being said, I’ve given this story 4.5 stars. It’s so lovely, complex, intriguing and fun, with wonderful, handsome, warm-hearted characters that I can’t possibly give it any less. If you love historical fiction, then by all mean buy this, and if you simply love an adventure with romance and intrigue, then don’t hesitate—you can’t go wrong.
Cover art by Aaron Anderson— captures the feel of the time period and depicts the MCs perfectly.
ebook, 270 pages
Published September 12th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632160307 (ISBN13: 9781632160300)