Petit Morts #2 – Slings and Arrows

Title: Bittersweet Candy Kisses (All Petit Morts Stories)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Buy link: (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M suspense
Length: short story (14K words)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


Carey Gardner receives an enormous box of chocolates from a secret admirer for Valentine’s Day. Being a pretty straightforward kind of guy, Carey’s not really comfortable with expensive presents from persons unknown, and he’s less comfortable when his friends Ben and Heath tell him the story about a serial killer who once stalked the Hartsburg College campus.

Not that Carey really believes his secret admirer is up to anything very sinister—besides, he’s already got enough problems falling for Walter Sterne, a brilliant but socially awkward grad student. Carey’s friends are warning him against Walter, and even Walter isn’t very encouraging.

Sometimes life really is like a box of chocolates.


Twenty three year old Carey Gardner was studying hard for his degree in anthropology unlike his dorm mate Sty whose middle name should have been ‘party all the time’. Consequently it was difficult for Carey to study in his room so he spent most of his time either in the library or with Heath and Ben, his friends across the hall. One evening Sty gave him a box of very expensive chocolates that had been delivered for him. There was no card or any indication of the identity of his secret admirer, but a gift of chocolates is not a throwaway therefore Carey shared them with Heath and Ben.  This presented an opportunity for the guys to tell Carey about the Valentine’s Day Killer who supposedly sent chocolates to females on campus decades ago and in each case the next morning they would be found stabbed to death. Was it an urban legend or was there some truth to the story? Were the chocolates a prank or was there something sinister going on?

Later that evening Carey felt uneasy as he walked to the library because he remembered the story of the Valentine’s Day Killer and when he arrived he saw Walter Sterne who had been looking for him earlier. Carey had a crush on Walter, a brilliant grad student who was a Teaching Assistant in Advanced Ethnographic Field Methods. Walter had been helpful in getting Carey into the class but although he was grateful he was also attracted to Walt the person – perhaps because he was so different from anyone else. He was withdrawn, had no friends and definitely was not an easy person to know. When Carey pressed Walt for the reason he had been trying to find him it turned out to be pretty simple. Walt wanted to take him on a date. Being the pushy sort, Carey suggested that they go right away, but on the way to the car it didn’t seem like such a good idea since Walt appeared to regret his impulsive invitation, so Carey cancelled the date and they parted company. Going back to the residence there was no one else around because of the late hour and Carey felt even more on edge and was sure someone was following him. Because he was scared and not paying attention to where he was going he tripped and fell, or he might have been pushed, and broke his wrist. The next day when Carey saw Walt in class he was very concerned about the injury and his obvious distress led to them going back to Walt’s room for some comfort and R & R. 🙂

This book was pretty creepy and Walt didn’t help matters by appearing to be cold and unfeeling, but because I like complex people I found him to be the most intriguing character in the story. He definitely was not pleasant and I know that many readers will be put off by him, but if you dig deep there is that vulnerable kernel that I always look for in a character. Carey was very likable and seemed to be mostly on the surface although he was ambitious. He was also discerning enough to see beneath the layers and defense mechanisms that Walt erected like a “keep out” sign.

The mystery of the secret admirer was solved and the suspect who might or might not have pushed Carey was unmasked, so there were no loose ends and Carey and Walt realized that maybe they had something going for them as they walked off into the sunset, maybe. 🙂

I really liked Slings and Arrows because it was character driven like all of Josh Lanyon’s stories and it had a good mystery as well as a potential love story.



  • Walter was vaguely off-putting initially, but once Carey spent a bit more time with him, and we got to see more of him, I really warmed up to him. I got the idea that as he becomes more comfortable with Carey and their relationship develops, he’ll open up and be more personable.

    I really enjoyed this story quite a bit. Was surprised at one secret admirer’s reaction… but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

    • Merith, if you are thinking what I am thinking in terms of the secret admirer’s reaction, I agree and that’s what put me off this story a tiny bit and made me not like Carey so much. I did like Walter, as others have said.

      I liked Other People’s Weddings a little bit more. I told Wave that I would rate OPW at 5 stars and give this one 4.5. I am enjoying these “petite morts” and look forward to reading Jordan’s stories.


      • Leslie
        I liked this book and Other People’s Weddings about the same. 4.5 stars is pretty high for me. There is a lot to recommend both books. In Slings and Arrows I loved Walter and the general atmosphere of the book, but there were a couple of things I didn’t like as much. In Other People’s Weddings I couldn’t stand the former BF also the fact that there was a goodbye f**k with that undeserving creep …… I think I indicated in both reviews my pros and cons about each book. 🙂

        • I enjoyed this story more for the atmosphere, because it was spooky in that ‘Friday the 13’ way (I kept wanting to yell at Carey to “DON’T GO ALONE” or “STAY WITH WALTER!” …but of course, the one getting whacked never listens.

  • Hi Meraehl
    Isn’t amazing that Walter has fans despite the fact he is not typical “hero” material? Characters like this make me think and look behind the layers.
    I wish that this particular story was longer so that I could have spent more time with Walt.

  • I loved Walter too, I knew I would from the very first description. He’s the sort of protagonist I find fascinating and would prefer to explore through a longer story, but even this short was enough to intrigue. It’s usually Carey’s type I don’t relate to, but I have to give Carey props – I admired him for having the guts to stick up for Walt with his friends and seeing Walt’s good qualities when no one else bothered.

    • Hi Jordan
      Walter is an enigma. He won’t have many fans because most readers tend to like the handsome hero, but he’s the type of character I tend to gravitate toward. Too bad the book was so short and I didn’t get more of Walt. 🙂

  • Eve
    Walt is a really wonderful character who Josh captured in a way that didn’t detract from who is, a private person who never learned all the usual social skills. I think Walt’s demonstrated that he knew what was really important – be true to yourself but let the person you really care about know how they rate. Glad you and I agree. 🙂

  • Jen
    I have always loved characters who challenge me because they are not likable and I have to work really hard to find out what they are really about. Most readers would totally disregard and dislike Walt and move on to Carey but I went in the other direction. 🙂

  • (SPOILER alert) This story reminds of the period when I was listening to The Smiths and felt misunderstood. Feeling awkward and insecure and totally self-centred at the same time. I thought Josh captured that “universe” very well and like you, I was intrigued by Walt. And isn’t it lovely when he finally blurted out that Carey is above and before everyone and everything? 😛

  • This was my joint favourite story out of the collection. I loved the unsettling, slightly creepy tone of the book as well as the way I was never really sure about Walter’s intentions.
    Great review, Wave.


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I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball
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