The Keeper


Title: The Keeper
Author: S.L. Armstrong & K. Piet
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: Novella (68 PDF pages, 35k words)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Tj

Summary Review: A slow building romance featuring two interesting characters, some unusual, but clever paranormal angles and religious undertones.

The Blurb: Generation after generation, an unattached male is plucked from the same family line and sent to the home of the man they only know as Dhakir. It is a duty all men in the line are brought up knowing, but none can know which male will be called or when.

Twenty-six-year-old Hadi Rahal is plucked from his fast-paced life among the brilliant lights and shallow vanity of Milan’s fashion world when he is told his uncle has passed on and he is the next Keeper. Knowing only vague legend, Hadi travels to Sétif, Algeria where his heritage waits in the form of an ancient name and sorrowful eyes he cannot turn from, even as he prays to God for the fortitude to resist.

The Review: I have to warn you upfront that there are religious undertones running throughout this book that some may find troubling, as Jesus’ words are reinterpreted and the church’s stance on gays and sin are questioned. Personally, I was not troubled at all, having been raised a Christian, but I felt this was worth noting for those more sensitive to these issues.

The book opens during a chaotic fashion show back stage scene, introducing Hadi, who is living the fast paced life in the fashion world of Milan. In the midst of this, Hadi receives an urgent call from home that his uncle has died and he is to return home immediately. Upon arriving in France, Hadi learns that the old family tale of the Keeper is true and due to his uncle’s passing, Hadi is the next in line. Not surprisingly Hadi struggles with this new course for his life:

“Hadi clenched his jaw tightly. His father had newborn twins to care for. He could not, in good conscience, deprive his brothers of the love and upbringing he knew they would enjoy with his parents. But his life in Milan, his work, his friends… Was his life not worth equal consideration? He felt his anger seep from him, replaced with a sense of dread and sorrowful resignation. ‘Please, Father… do not ask this of me…’ ”

Family honor and obligation compel Hadi to do as is expected and he is quickly off to Setif to care for the protected one known as Sayyid Dhakir. The beginning is quite mysterious and drew me into the story right away; starting with Hadi’s dilemma, the mysterious kept one, and the long line of Keepers that preceded Hadi. What was waiting for him in Algeria?

When Hadi meets his charge, he is taken aback by the man’s seeming health and vitality, as he appears to be only 10 years Hadi’s senior, and rather hale and hardy. At first Hadi is understandably unhappy with his circumstances, and struggles to keep his displeasure and anger under control. But his charge proves himself a very compassionate, caring and loving man and slowly earns Hadi’s friendship and more.

I found myself really caring about this sweet, but hurt and lonely man that Hadi now finds himself living with. But Hadi’s charge, who he is growing to care about, also has a surprising secret (actually a few surprising secrets) – that I would never have imagined. I must give kudos to both authors, for I found this whole aspect of the story to be very compelling and I was fascinated by the fresh take on an old storyline for a protagonist. I couldn’t read fast enough to learn more about this man. But that’s all I’m saying about that dear friends.

The relationship between the two men is a slooooow burning ember that flickers to life suddenly when you least expect it, even as they both fight it. There is one very erotic finger sucking, come in your pants scene (the character people, not me!) that was as hot as a frot! The guys are both interesting and well drawn and the path of their relationship seemed realistic, no insta-love, not even insta-lust. The exploration and reinterpretation of religious themes, and the examination of biblical inhabitants was fascinating to me, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. If these ideas sound appealing, then I highly recommend The Keeper.

31 comments

  • Oh yeah, I’ve got to read this. I’ve never heard of this publisher before, but the back list looks great. And the covers look awesome!

    Just one question. I saw that the story is not long enough to be printed. Will a printed volume be possible with The Keeper and The Keeper’s Heart together?

    • Kim,

      Yes, there will be a print volume that houses both The Keeper and The Keeper’s Heart. The Keeper’s Heart will actually be novel length, and so it will fit nicely in a print edition with The Keeper. 🙂

      We’re a new press, formed at the beginning of this year, but we have two more releases for this year and seven or eight releases planned for next year. We plan on sticking around. 😉

      S.L. Armstrong

      • Yay! *does the print book dance, which involves a lot of shoulder lifting* This is so going on my buy list.

        I look forward to future releases from Storm Moon Press. ^_^

        • Thanks, Kim!

          We hope you enjoy whichever titles you purchase from us, be it The Keeper & The Keeper’s Heart or any of our other titles!

          ~K. Piet

        • Kim,

          Just wanted to send you another quick message to let you know that The Keeper has just been released as a limited edition print run (500 copies). You can now purchase the book in print format on the Storm Moon Press website.

          Just scroll down a little on that page. There is a drop-down menu on the left side of the main page content, and all you have to do is select the ‘paperback’ option there. ^_^

          The copies will be signed and numbered as well!

          I hope you enjoy it!
          ~K. Piet

    • LOL Funny Lacey! Please realize that there is not a lot of sex in this book. It’s a character study, a slow building romance and an examination of some religious figures and the nature of sin – that is, what is a sin. But I felt it was very well done.

  • Loved the mood of the Keeper, kind of reminded me a bit of the Prophet or a fairytale from thousand and one night. I was a bit dissappointed in the end, where I felt Dhakir fell a bit out of character. He struck me as a man of few words and of weighing them carefully when he did say something… the almost Barbara Cartland chatter when they finally ended up in bed took me out of that lovely slow fairytale mood.

    • Hi Sunshine,
      Oh yes, I agree about the mood. That’s a great way to describe it. I see what you’re thinking about the ending, and I agree that it was a change in his character’s normal behavior. For me, when I read it, I was thinking that he was finally opening up to Hadi. He had been keeping himself under very tight control for a very long time – long before he met Hadi, so once they were finally together, he wouldn’t have to hold back anything. Although I’m sure Sayyid has more secrets to be told in the sequel and I look forward to it.

      • I think the author meant it that way as well Tj. I just didn’t think it was as powerful as the earlier scenes in the book that was more built on action and sparse words. You mentioned the finger-in-the-mouth scene and also when Hadi gets back from Milan their talk is very powerful imo. Not a lot of dialogue but very to the point.

        I guess it was an out of character jump that didn’t feel very “right” to me. The guy has lived a long time you know? Also I think the … irritated me.

        To end on a more positive note, I really liked how the religious theme and the question of sin was handled. I am not at all interested in religion and come from a very secular upbrining and all these issues can become tiring when you don’t really understand them (I prob wouldn’t have given a book like this a shot without this review) but the feeling in this book is more mystic than moral and that made it work for me.

        • Sunshine,

          Yes, there were a lot of ellipses. *chuckles* We do own up to that all the way. It was something we removed a lot of in the editing process, so I think to us–and our editor–it wound up looking like less, but when I reread it, I do sigh at how many there are.

          It’s a writing habit we’ve kicked, I promise! There will be far fewer of them in our subsequent releases. 🙂

          I’m glad you enjoyed it otherwise, and I’m sorry conversations at the end seemed excessive. We tried very hard to not be preachy with the religion (I’m actually not a Christian, but the Christian mythos fascinates me with its possibilities). I’m happy it didn’t come off as sermon-y.

          S.L. Armstrong

          • Hehe, I admit to overusing ellipses too! And I only really saw them in the end of the book, I promise!

            I used to read these romance novels (hence the Cartland comment) when I was a kid and the heroines always spoke with lots of trailing ellipsis and I now associated that with weak women who can’t make up their minds.

            I think you did a great job with the religious theme. It was interesting without becoming sermony. Thank you for a very interesting book, I think both Hadi and Dhakir are very interesting characters. Hadi is easy to love, like a mixture of cream and spice. Looking forward to get to know Dhakir a bit more, I got the impression he has developed an aloof approach to life, to protect himself from being hurt when his time continues and others around him leave.

  • Tj:

    Thank you so much for taking a chance on the novella and taking the time to read and review it. As S.L. said, I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed it and were able to pick out the intent behind the religious themes woven into the characters. It was never meant to become a full-out soapbox story, just one with the complexities of religious questioning made a reality for the characters. ^_^

    I literally laughed and clapped my hands in delight at your comment about the finger-sucking scene! It was definitely an unconventional approach to their intimacy, but much about the characters is unconventional at their cores. I’m happy to hear that you found it so erotic.

    I hope you and others who enjoy The Keeper will also enjoy the sequel when it is released. And, for those who wouldn’t enjoy the religious undertones, I hope they will find other stories from Storm Moon Press that they enjoy as we build up the press’ backlist.

    Thank you so much, Tj! What a lovely review to wake up to!

    ~K. Piet

    • Hi K,
      You’re very welcome. I really liked this book a lot, obviously. I wish that I could talk more fully about the story, since for me the best part is what I can’t reveal without spoiling it for everyone. I think the weaving of the religious and the relationship throughout the story worked very well. And I really liked the characters, especially Dhakir (the kept one), who’s story fascinated me.

      The finger sucking surprised me, but it fit well with where the characters were in their story arcs. I thought it was quite an inventive way to deal with getting them together. And the reaction of the guy on the receiving end was just HOT. I love when authors get creative in expressing the character’s sexuality, since in real life people do a wide variety of things in and out of bed. If I have to read one more sex scene with one finger, two fingers… I’ll lose what”s left of my mind! Great job of keeping it fresh. Thank you!

      I really look forward to the sequel. I think these guys have a lot more story in them.

  • Tj,

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time to read the novella, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s been one of those that we’ve sometimes wondered about, as we have had people 100% turned off by the religious backstory. 🙂

    I’d also worried about that finger sucking scene, but I’m so glad you liked it. It was fun to write.

    And you were right about the general message found in the bits of religion we presented. It was never meant to be preachy or heavy-handed, just woven into the story where it was necessary due to the characters.

    There is a sequel planned for release next year that’s novel-length, just so you (and people reading this) know called The Keeper’s Heart. I hope we don’t disappoint you with our future releases. 😉

    S.L. Armstrong

    • Hi SL,
      It was my pleasure to review The Keeper. I found the story very unusual and the slow build of the relationship to be very well done.
      You should not have worried about the finger sucking scene. There are many fun ways to explore sexuality. You should check out Wave’s recent post about frotting – it was very popular!

      I didn’t find the message heavy handed, but I felt that I needed to mention the religious undertones in the review for those who would not enjoy reading about that.

      Great news about a sequel. I look forward to it!

  • I almost requested this for review myself, but you got it first, ha, ha! It does sound very interesting — I mean, how often do we get a setting like Algeria? I’m definitely going to pick this up. Great review, TJ!

    • Oops! Sorry I stole your book Val. There unfortunately was not a lot of time spent on the locale, just enough for flavor. But it still was an really good experience for me. I’d love to get your impressions after you’ve read it, whether you agree with my review or not. Thanks Val.

  • Hey TJ

    There is one very erotic finger sucking, come in your pants scene (the character people, not me!) that was as hot as a frot!

    You knew that I would pick up on that sentence, didn’t you? 🙂

    I had started reading this book when you requested it for review and I was glad you did because I was concerned about the religious undertones, even though I was, for a lot of my misspent youth, practising the Catholic faith. I’m very glad you reviewed it because now I can continue reading The Keeper knowing that there’s a lot more to the story than religion.

    Great job on keeping all those secrets in the book BTW. 🙂

    • Hi Wave- I thought you’d like that one scene! It was very erotic.

      There are heavy religious themes running throughout the book, but I found that interesting mixed with the relationship development. I was raised a Catholic as well, and have read several non fiction books about the true meaning of faith and one especially inspiring book about Jesus’ true message as documented in the gospels. Not to get too preachy, but I do believe that God made us all and loves us just as we are. That is part if what is being said in this book.

      Regarding the secrets, that made this an incredibly hard review to write – probably my toughest one yet. I thought that giving any of the secrets away would ruin a major part of the story. Thanks Wave.

    • Hi Will,
      This is the first book that I’ve read by this pair, and it pleasantly surprised me. I really liked the characters and the whole plot line. I hope you like it

    • Will K,

      Thank you for the compliment on the cover art! We’re so lucky to work with a talent like Nathie. It’s people like her, our editors, and even the voice talent we found for the audiobook version that really make the end-product of our stories exactly how we envisioned.

      Writing with such a great team of artists is a thrill, and I’m happy to acknowledge Nathie and point you to her website. Her work with lighting and detail is just stunning!

      I hope you enjoy the book. Thank you for your comment and interest!

      ~K. Piet

      • I did forget to mention the cover in my review. I agree that it’s a real keeper too. I found myself going back to look at it again and again. It just fits the story so well. Great job!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: