Author: Rick R. Reed
Cover artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: Gay/ Contemporary/ Suspense/ Thriller/ Series
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: Not much of a mystery, but an entertaining read in the style of a horror movie.
The Blurb: How a guy meets his man can happen in a dozen different ways: online, at a bar, through friends, at a masquerade party…or even at the scene of a murder…
The road to love is seldom straight, and for Stephen Embert, that road couldn’t possibly be more crooked. First, he arrives home to find an anonymous card in his mailbox that says, “I’ve been inside your house,” then comes the midnight home invasion. But Stephen forgets these disturbing occurrences a month later when he attends a masquerade party and hopes to finally meet Mr. Right.
But who is the stranger in black with the disturbing emotionless mask following him? And why does the stranger always get in the way of Stephen hooking up with Jeffrey, the angelic and nearly naked leather hunk, who wants nothing more than to get Stephen alone for some romance?
Appearances are not always what they seem, and discovering true love can sometimes be a matter of life and death.
*** Reviewer’s note: The Amber Allure “Masquerade” Series contains a number of stand-alone novellas which are all build on the premise of two gay men finding love with each other at a masque ball. The mask depicted on the respective cover will make an appearance in the story. ***
I have to make a confession: I’m one of those who occasionally cheat themselves by flipping to the last page and reading the end first. What can I say? I’m nosy that way. So the fact that the eventual outcome was pretty clear from the beginning didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story for me. I don’t mind knowing how a book ends since I love to watch the heroes get there. Those of you who don’t want to know beforehand should skip the intro, though.
That said, this book was actually a pretty good suspense story, laced with a trace of creepiness which was mostly created through the characterizations. None of the cast is what they seem to be. At first appearance Stephen is an average gay Joe with a normal job and a boringly normal life, but his close acquaintance with extravagant Tabby already hints at something hidden, and his choice of costume even more so. Stephen’s neighbor, Tom, appears to be a nice enough, if somewhat bland guy, but the one time Stephen and Tom go out together, Tom hints at having psychic abilities. The host of the masque, Tabby, seems to be nothing but an exaggerated, flamboyant old drag queen, but the last glimpse we get of him reveals that he is something else entirely, something that isn’t pleasant at all. Not to mention Jeffrey, the gorgeous leather hunk who wears small black wings and very little else and seems so eager to get Stephen alone, or the man with the faceless white mask who always pops up right in time to get into Stephen’s and Jeffrey’s way.
I wouldn’t call this a mystery novel, though, for there wasn’t much of a mystery; the villain is pretty obvious early on. This was more like one of those horror movies where you can’t help calling out to the clueless hero, “Look closer, idiot! He’s got a KNIFE!” Apparently Rick R Reed can’t help writing horror even though it’s supposed to be “just” suspense – don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. It was one of the things that kept me on the edge of my seat while reading this.
This book had some seriously nightmarish moments, at least for me — among them the last picture of the drag queen, stripped of his glamour. The business with the black plumes wasn’t really unveiled, the resolve only hinted at. Who was the one who wrote the cards? Who was the intruder, now? The insecurity adds another, slightly disturbing tone to the picture, and thus the sweet domesticity of the ending felt a bit askew for me. What I dreaded didn’t happen, but I couldn’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop.
All in all, this was a solid, skillfully written piece of entertainment of the darker, eerier sort which I really enjoyed.