Before we go on, this is a title that requires a warning:
WARNING: This is an LGBT adult title, and it is a horror title. It is a very explicit in some passages, including some themes of non-consent, explicit violence, and some tentacles.
For this review, I will also say upfront that there are some details that may be spoilers (which I tried to minimize, but I do need to mention some things to review) when I discuss the individual stories. If you wish, just read the top part of the review and skip the individual story discussion.
The stories revolve around themes of ghosts, the dead coming back, monsters, and people who make deals with the devil. Sometimes you should beware what you wish for. I did enjoy reading and savoring it. This is not really a collection to rush through, although I am sure some readers could zip right through it. For me, these are stories to savor and be frightened, perhaps aroused as well. It's a thrilling feeling to experience horror and arousal, and this collection delivers in that front.
If you ask me, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it, but I liked some stories better than others. The collection definitely makes a good Halloween season reader, but fans of horror who also enjoy heavy erotic elements in their fiction will like it no matter the time of the year.
As in many anthologies, the stories do vary in terms of quality, so I will take a moment to comment on each one. I liked some better than others, but as the old saying goes, "your mileage may vary."
- Layla Hunter's "Resurrection Man" is a romantic story. A man, some mage or wizard it seems (some of the details on this are pretty minimal), wishes to resurrect his lover using a spell. After bribing the mortician, he brings the body home and gets to work. The spell works, but there is a price to pay. The story is more romance than horror, and it does have some sweet moments.
- Kari Gregg's "Mating Season" is the one for tentacle fetishists. In addition, if you like stories with mad scientists and camping by the lake where there may or not be a monster, this may be the tale for you. Our protagonist is a man out of luck and out of love (recently divorced). About the only good thing he may have going for himself is his pal, the veterinarian. They have been friends since childhood. When the good doctor suggests that his friend take a camping trip to the lake to clear his head, the man says sure and goes, even with the rumors of the lake monster that comes out during the late season. The sex in this one is very explicit and detailed. It combines horror and the erotic seamlessly, frightening and arousing at the same time. My only peeve was the ending, and I do not mean that negatively. I think the story could have ended a bit sooner, a case of leaving more to our imagination. However, the story does work as it stands. I think readers should read it and decide. It is a tale rich in detail with build up to the true horror.
- Ally Blue's "Flesh and Song" will leave us wondering what was the "god" that Noah encountered on that lost island? Whatever it was, it was the alluring male lover many find in dreams, and it waits in that lost island. Noah is a man trying to find himself, so he sets sail coming across an uncharted isle. On the island, he meets the man of his dreams, and time seems to slow down. The sex scenes are details, hot, sensual like a hot day on a tropical island; you might feel the sand in your toes at times. The author draws us in the mystery and stirs our sense of longing as well. I did feel the story had a bit of an abrupt ending, especially after Noah escapes, but maybe that was part of the author's plan to leave us wanting more. This is a haunting and sensuous story in the first part of it. Noah's time after the island seemed a bit lengthy, but the story overall is pretty good.
- Brien Michaels' "Out From Under" had an interesting touch of humor. Our protagonist has a deal with a demon, a deal that includes a lot of sex. At one point, the demon took the protagonist's lover, Jason, away. But if our man makes just one more deal, our demon will let him have Jason back. The deal? He has to seduce and kill a man of the demon's choosing. The interesting element is that the other man is a demon as well, and the two demons are quarreling lovers. I found that totally amusing. The story is a good romance, but it is still a horror tale. Overall, it is a good story with some good steamy sex, and a good Halloween season reading.
- Peter Hansen's "Sleeping with Ghosts" is not a terribly erotic piece, but it is a good solid suspense piece. A cleric of the Church of She Who Turns the Page is sent to kill a man. This is business as usual for him for this church kills those whose time has come, thus "turning the page" on them. This is so the souls can reincarnate in new children. He finds the target, does the job, but something is not right, and there start the suspense and the intrigue. I am not giving away anymore. For me, it was a nice story of suspense.
- The last story in the collection is "Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint" by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler. Tobias runs a home for boys in Dickensian London. David was his childhood friend, who is now a "fairy" afflicted by the "French disease" (what we call today syphilis). David returns after many years being away asking Tobias for help. Tobias, upstanding Christian philanthropist that he is refuses initially to help. There is that upstanding image to maintain. Yet Tobias still feels for David, and as he struggles with his conscience, he meets Mr. Ashmedai, who offers Tobias a deal too good to pass up: David will be cured, but there is a price that Tobias will not find out about until the deal is agreed upon. Let's just say the devil always gets his man. On a side note, and this was a small peeve in an otherwise excellent story: there is a Biblical reference to Paul denying Jesus three times. Actually, the apostle who did that was Peter, not Paul. It is a small detail I hope they fixed after the galley, and for readers who pay attention to detail, they may notice that. I liked the story because in it Tobias has to confront the fact that, for being a "pious" Christian, he was as bad an extortionist as the other thugs in Whitechapel. In addition, it brings the setting to life well, and there is some very heavy, aggressive sex in this one.
Disclosure note: I received this volume as an electronic review copy via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.