A guest review by Jenre
A fabulous mix of humour and drama categorises this paranormal, where a visit from my favourite wizard changes the lives of three shallow men when they are struck down with a horrid skin disease and taught a lesson on looking below the surface to find love.
What happens to a young man’s self-image, and his sex life, when he wakes up one morning to see his good looks significantly altered for the worse? Three twenty-something gay friends—an embalmer, a movement coach, and a literary agent—find out the answer when they hit on the wrong patron of a club one night.
Todd, Fallon, and Jake, aka the Hunt Club, think they’re pretty damned hot. As a result, their standards for worthwhile hook-ups are appallingly superficial. The men aren’t total jerks; they just need an adjustment in perspective. And they get it, in spades, from a mysterious stranger who’s sick of seeing his beautiful partner pawed by dawgs.
There’s no medical explanation for the hideous rashes that erupt on the trio overnight. Doctors can’t even detect it, much less cure it. Still, the Hunt Club’s mirrors reflect ravaged faces, and the toned, handsome guys they normally pursue now shun them.
As the vulnerability that’s always lurked beneath their vanity begins to surface, Todd, Fallon, and Jake begin to see themselves and potential partners in a new light. Little did they know that in the eyes of three ordinary, overlooked men on the sidelines of their lives, it’s always been the heart that’s mattered far more than the hot.
I have to admit I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for ages, ever since KZ put up the cover and extract on her blog. It sounded just a great idea for a book and I couldn’t wait to see how it was all going to turn out. I wasn’t disappointed.
The book begins with 1st person narrator, David, meeting with his three friends at a club. Fallon, Jake and Todd are handsome men who are used to picking up, and competing for, the most gorgeous man in the room. When a beautiful man enters (named by David as ‘Mr Wow’) the three men go on the attack. What they haven’t noticed is the mysterious man sitting in the corner who was listening to their shallow conversation. The man obviously knows the beautiful stranger, and isn’t too pleased at the way that Fallon, Jake and Todd are pawing all over him. One month later, things are looking a bit grim for our three heroes, as they have all been struck down with identical skin diseases that only they, and other hot men, can see. The story switches to the third person narrative as we follow the three men, who are learning that looks are not everything when it comes to finding the perfect man.
One thing I love about K.Z. Snow’s writing is her ability to mix humour and drama. This book was a showcase for that as there are several humourous situations and phrases, but also underpinning that is a great serious message about looking beneath the surface, and not judging people by appearances. This meant that I spent much time laughing over scenes such as the terrible drag queen who was built like a bodybuilder, or David’s acerbic comments about his friends and his relationship with Jake in particular, or the vastly amusing dark humour which crops up throughout the book; only to find myself moved to tears over some of the scenes between Todd and Gabe, or feeling the tension between David and Jake, or cringing over some of the dreadful things that the men say to each other – out of ignorance to the other person’s feelings. It was all very well done, even masterful.
Another part which worked well was the way that each of the three men and their situations were so unique, as they ran concurrently. The most lighthearted of the the three strands was that of Fallon and Tyler, mainly because it contained the most laugh out loud moments of visual comedy, as Fallon tries to teach the bumbling Tyler how to dance in drag. The strand which followed Todd and Gabe was full of gallows humour and some quite intricate descriptions of the embalming process (those of you without strong stomachs may want to skip these bits), and yet it was also the most moving in terms of character development as Todd seemed to have the most to learn about humility, even with what we learn of his background. The third strand following David and Jake was full of yearning, self delusion and posturing, and was the least humourous of the three parts, focusing more on the drama of hurt feelings and unrequited love which led to me feeling a great deal of empathy for David. The three strands are connected to the character of David who tries to discover the source and reason for the skin rash. It was all rather cleverly done in terms of story structure.
There was one slight niggle in the story – other than the fact that the graphic embalming descriptions may be off-putting to some readers (although I didn’t mind them too much, mainly because I have a friend who is an embalmer and she loves to try and shock me by telling me all the gruesome details of her latest body) – and that was the final scene of the book where David visits two men who can offer him an explanation as to what had happened. It seemed an odd thing to do, to introduce new characters so late in the story, especially as we are given vague references to their relationship to one another. I wasn’t sure whether they were characters from a previous book – if they were I couldn’t place which book they were from – or perhaps characters who may be appearing in a future book. It made the ending the weakest part of the book, which is a shame since the structure of the story had been one of its strongest points. Other readers who haven’t read KZ Snow’s paranormal books before may also get this feeling about the mysterious man and his beautiful companion who are the cause of the heroes’ misery. In theory it isn’t necessary to have read the author’s other paranormals before this one, but I certainly got a kick about seeing some well loved characters have a little cameo.
Despite this niggle, this is a great little book with an amusing, thoughtful and unusual story. It’s full of contemplative moments mixed with humour, intelligent writing and empathetic characters and I would highly recommend it.