Review: The Dreamer by M. King

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

TheDreamer_100dpi_cvr-210x330Horacio Valdez has been haunted by his dreams his entire life.  Brought up in a small town in California, his shy nature and determination not to disappoint his parents led him into a life of isolation and loneliness.  Every step he made out of his box of isolation was met by small social catastrophes, ones gotten over by other children but not by him.  By the age of 21, Horacio found himself consumed by his studies.  They were predictable and reassuring.  There was no magic, no upsetting surprises but neither contentment or joy was to be found.  Soon Horacio’s life was one of mundane routine and a few nice friends.  His days were full and his nights were dreamless.

Horacio’s childhood and adolescence were full of dreams, the only place growing up he felt alive and happy. Horacio left them behind as he got older until an accident suddenly brings them back.  Soon his dreams and the man inside them feel more real than life.  But is there something more to his dreams then Horacio realizes?

What a nifty little horror story M. King has created in The Dreamer.  In this short story King manages to capture all the loneliness and fragility of childhood along with the disappointments of adulthood in the personable young man, Horacio Valdez.  Unlike other stories, I appreciated the fact that King had Horacio surrounded by loving parents and sister.  The hollow spaces inside Horacio were created by his own nature.  Upset by the reality of the world outside his bedroom, child Horacio retreats to his bedroom, into his books and his dreams at night.  How many children find comfort in books and their bedrooms?  Quite a few I imagine, so King’s storyline has a realistic feel.

Inside Horacio’s dreams, he was happy, especially when his dream companion appeared to fulfill every emotional need and request child Horacio could make.  It’s only as those dreams turn erotic that the first inkling of something supernatural appears. As Horacio reaches the beginnings of his sexuality and realizes he prefers men, his companion starts to take a very masculine form.  Is it an answer to Horacio’s  burgeoning sexuality or it is something more? The answer to that all important question won’t come until close to the end of the story.

King’s narrative carries the reader slowly into Horacio’s thoughts and daily life.  Like Horacio we are not sure about what is happening to him once the dreams return.  That slow measure of awareness that starts to creep into Horacio’s consciousness is a delight, leaving the reader with just a touch of goose bumps along with a full measure of questions.

There is a certain amount of sexuality here, none of it explicit.  Nor is this a romance or a love story.  Those looking for either, should look elsewhere for a story.  But for lovers of the supernatural or short story fiction, The Dreamer just might be the story you are looking for.  Pick it up, for a truly delightful short journey into the supernatural and dreams.

Cover:  Artist not credited.  I found this cover to be misleading.  Nothing about it speaks to the story within,  It makes you think of love and romance.  Definitely not this story.

Book Details:

Release date: 20 November 2013
ISBN: 978-1-925031-66-9
Category: Gay Mainstream/Horror
Sub-Genre: Erotic, Fantasy/Paranormal, Short Story/Novella
Length: 11,000 words, approx. 24 pages
Formats available: e-book only

Review of Horse of Bells by Pelaam

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Rating: 3 stars

Horse of BellsPrince Donal and his younger brother, Caolan, are hunting in the royal woods when a mysterious stranger saves Caolan from a wild boar.  A case of love at first sight, the two make a pact saying that they will meet back in the woods as soon as possible, saving themselves only for each other.  But royal politics interfere with that promise as their evil stepmother is plotting to kill them and have her nephew seated on the throne. To interfere with her plans, the princes are sent away for their safety and Caolan never returns to the woods.

The princes plan to stay in exile until Donal comes of age but a trick by their stepmother, Queen Doireann, sends the brothers on a quest to obtain the Horse of Bells from the Dark Prince, a mission destined to fail as all the others who have tried have been put to death after entering the Dark Prince’s lands. On their journey, the stranger from the woods joins them in their travels.  But the kindness is gone and in its place a bitterness towards Caolan that threatens to derail their mission before they get started.  In this fairy tale, two brothers must fight for their honor and for love if a happily ever after is to be theirs for the taking.

This story has all the basics of a fairy tale.  It has the princes in danger, the evil stepmother, the clueless  King, the dark strangers to the rescue, and even a magical horse.  What is missing from this tale is the charm to go with the Prince Charmings, the warmth and glow of a childhood tale reworked for adults.   I love a good adult fairy tale but unfortunately this one felt a bit flat.

I will skip over the two instances of instant love as that is certainly permissible in a fairy tale, but give me characters that make it even a little bit believable.  All of the characters that Pelaam delivers are pretty one dimensional people, from the princes to the Dark Prince to the King. Even fairytale characters must be fleshed out enough that we identify with them to some degree. How can we feel any angst at all that the prince will be torn away form his true love if we don’t care about the characters?  All have so little depth that it flattens out the story, wiping it of any gaiety and joy  associated with stories of this genre. It  did have one little bit of darkness in it but it felt out of place considering all that had gone on before.

I did like the magical Horse of Bells, a nice creation and the stepmother was suitably “evil” in her mechanisms but I keep waiting for the literary magic to begin, to be swept away into a enchantedl kingdom, where everyone is gay, and all good Princes wait for their Prince to appear.  That would have made a great fairytale.  But I can tell you after reading this, I am still waiting for that Kingdom to appear.

Review of Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Ethan Roberts is waiting in the outside office for his interview for TA when he spots Aaron Marcus, Sociology PhD candidate sitting nearby, obviously there for the same reason.  On first look, Aaron’s quiet, reserved behavior makes Ethan give him no more than a casual glance.  But as his waiting time extends, Ethan’s attention is drawn back to Aaron and he starts noticing things that he had missed the first time around. In fact after he makes introductions, Ethan starts to think that perhaps the answer to the endless parade of bed partners might just be a monogamous relationship with the adorable Aaron.  Now only if he can get Aaron to take his courtship seriously.

Aaron is shy and nerdy, hiding behind his glasses.  His prickly, insecure nature comes from past hurts and humiliations so the last person he would trust to have his best interests at heart would be the resident gay Don Juan himself, Ethan Roberts. He doesn’t understand why Ethan keeps giving him things, from a gorgeous and outrageously expensive bouquet of flowers to a box of chocolates the lactose intolerant Aaron can’t eat. But the more Ethan pursues him, the closer the two men become.  Little by little, Ethan helps Aaron understand that he is reliable enough for Aaron to lean on and Aaron gets Ethan to believe that a real grown up relationship is the key to happiness.

The Theory of Attraction is the first story I have read by Cleon Lee and I loved it.  I found the characters endearing and complex enough to keep my interest.  I thought also that the way Lee allowed their relationship to build in small realistic steps instead of huge leaps of “instant love” emotionally rewarding and satisfying.  I admit that nerd love is always a big hit for me and Aaron definitely fits in that category.  But Aaron is far more complicated than the typical stereotype.  I love that he mentors troubled gay youths in a realistic manner, and that past hurts have caused him to be very wary of future relationships.  Cleon Lee makes it easy to understand that Aaron’s cold demeanor is really just a preemptive strike aimed at shielding himself from more pain and disillusionment. Ethan is also more than his “golden boy” exterior.  Good looks equaled frequent casual sexual partners for Ethan. And the author has Ethan deciding that his lifestyle had gotten stale and unrewarding prior to meeting Aaron  and that was a nice change to the stories that have people changing for someone else.  Again a nicely authentic touch and a terrific job in crafting  main characters you will trust with your affections.

The author delivers a delightful romance between two endearing characters in Theory of Attraction and in the end isn’t that what makes us smile? I loved reading this.  A sweet, endearing love story that went down as easily as Hot Toddy on a cold autumn day.  Don’t hesitate to pick this one up.

Cover:  This is another Reese Dante cover that is just perfection.  It fits the characters and the setting.