Title: Bittersweet Candy Kisses (All Petit Morts Stories)
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: Novelette (16K words, 53 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Summary Review: Dominic’s life in one day became a trip into The Twilight Zone. Would he find his heart’s desire or fool’s gold?
Just because Dominic Mann personally lacks beauty doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate it. His keen eye has made him one of the most celebrated and sought- after photographers in Nashville.
The grand re-opening of the Cypress Mansion is an event for Nashville’s truly elite, and Dominic is the official photographer of the evening. Not that he’d need that excuse to introduce himself to up-and-coming singer Johnny Palomino and grab a few shots…but it doesn’t hurt.
Dominic hopes to take his flirtation with Johnny to the next level at the Cypress Mansion tea, where they’ve arranged to meet. But what greets Dominic in the mirror the next morning is such a shock, he’s almost late for the party.
No one at Cypress Mansion is acting like they notice anything different. Or do they?
Pretty Ugly is the first book in the newest batch of Petit Morts and it’s just as bizarre as the earlier stories in the series.
Dominic is a professional photographer whose fame was due to a lucky break. Several years ago he took an iconic picture of a rockabilly legend that made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. After the magazine hit the stands Dominic was able to give up taking wedding photographs, as his pictures currently grace the pages of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar. He’s in his forties and not averse to parlaying his fame into a few dalliances with younger men that he fancied, but unfortunately there weren’t many return engagements since Dominic, to put it kindly, was not the best looking man in Nashville or anywhere else for that matter. In fact he’s downright ugly, and fame could only carry him so far in the romance department. One night stands were about all he could expect.
This particular evening Dominic was attending the social event of the season in Nashville, Tennessee as the official photographer, a far cry from his days in Hoboken, New Jersey. The Cypress Estate Preservation Society was holding a charity affair at Cypress Mansion, presided over by eighty year old Mimi Van Der Berg. Mimi was trying to set Dominic up with some fresh men but he was balking because first, he didn’t relish being someone’s ladder to fame and second, he wanted any introduction to seem natural, but Mimi’s view was that ‘natural’ was highly overrated. However there was one cowboy, Johnny Palomino, who warranted a second and third look from Dominic and he was determined to be close friends with Johnny and maybe something more. Cowboys always turned Dominic on and Johnny made his heart beat faster. Johnny seemed like the real deal, but was he really?
Dominic found himself strangely drawn to the star attraction of the buffet – the chocolates. His kept staring at them as if he were hypnotized, and many of the other guests were also looking at them like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Was everyone under a spell? Then he met Chance, the caterer, who told him some home truths about himself which of course he didn’t want to hear, but before he left the buffet Chance offered him a piece of chocolate. When he put it in his mouth he had the most peculiar experience – How could a piece of chocolate taste so awful and make him feel so bad? The next morning, as per his usual ritual when shaving he looked in the mirror, however the face that looked back at him was so different he was in shock. Was that really him?
Shortly after he arrived at the Cypress Mansion for tea he felt unwell and started sweating. Was he having a heart attack or was there something more sinister going on? A trip to the restroom didn’t help, so he asked the only person he thought might have an explanation – Chance – what was going on. However Chance was just as enigmatic as the night before. Since he still felt upset Dom decided to go to his car but when he got to where it had been parked it was gone. Butch Arlen, Johnny’s manager, came to his rescue and offered him a ride home and dinner. As he was feeling faint from hunger he accepted, however the evening continued on the same strange path as other events conspired to make him think he was losing his mind. Eventually he decided to take Butch home with him but would the rest of the evening be like everything else so far, a trip to The Twilight Zone? Or would Butch prove to be the only sane person in his insane world?
I had forgotten about the many twists and turns in these stories and how much they reminded me of a world gone mad. For Dominic nothing was the way it was supposed to be and everything he touched reacted in a wacky manner. His fears were palpable as his life continued on its haywire course and I could feel him losing control. His character was so well drawn I could see him with Mimi who was very much the grande dame of Nashville society as she held court at Cypress Mansion, dispensing favours and trying her best to find Dom a nice man even though she was aware that the blush was really off the rose, but she seemed to care about his welfare.
In Pretty Ugly Chance was not the occasionally smiling and easy going chocolatier of the previous books. His clothing and his manner seemed designed to strike fear in poor Dominic who was only trying to figure out why his life had gone funny (and not in a good way) all of a sudden. The other characters were just as realistic – from Johnny, who at thirty realized that he didn’t have too much time left to make it big in the entertainment field and he was willing to go to bed with Dominic even though he wasn’t attracted to him, so that his picture could appear in upscale magazines. Last, there was Butch who proved that sometimes someone initially overlooked might be unforgettable.
Pretty Ugly is a terrific story and I definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something that’s out of the ordinary.