Title: Bittersweet Candy Kisses (All Petit Morts Stories)
Author: Josj Lanyon
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, paranormal
Length: novelette (15,430 words 60 pages PDF)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Summary Review: Can a deep and abiding love survive betrayal? Cris has a tough decision to make about his ex Rey who is not known for being faithful.
If there’s one thing film critic Crispin Colley can say about his ex-boyfriend Rey, it’s that Rey likes to remain friends with all his former lovers. Rey’s a friendly guy. Maybe too friendly, judging by the incident that drove the first and last nail in the coffin of their relationship.
But now Rey’s been hired for a DVD commentary on a classic horror flick. In typical Rey-fashion, he’s used his clout as a lauded director to win Cris a spot on the commentary right beside the star of the film, his idol, Angelo Faust.
The recording of the commentary goes about as smoothly as a half-decayed film through a stuttering projector…but that’s nothing compared to the strange scene that unfolds once the tape’s done rolling.
Cris was still devastated by the betrayal of his ex and did not relish working with him on a new project involving an icon in the film industry. Apparently Rey, who liked to remain friends with all his exes, had recommended Cris for the prestigious job of commentator on the voiceover of the film The Alabaster Corpse, a cult favourite. In addition to Rey and Cris, movie legend and star of the film, Angelo Faust, was doing some of the commentary, and although Cris was grateful to be included as part of the project he was not looking forward to working with Rey even if it was only for one day. Rey was already there with Faust who at seventy-plus years still had the power to make Cris appreciate what a great film personality he was, even though Faust had ignored and refused to be interviewed for his book, Man in the Shadows, the only filmography of Faust’s work.
This book had lots of atmosphere from the very first page when Cris arrived at Faust’s estate:
There were no flowers, no fountains, no color or life at all. It all reminded him a bit of Forest Lawn. The estate was nearly large enough for a cemetary
The wind, one of those legendary Santa Anas that periodically scoured the Southland in the late summer and early fall, whispered through the maze of hedges. Unease rippled down his spine. He hated the wind. Would always hate the wind
Cris touched the doorbell and jumped at the sepulchral moaning sounds that bounced off the portico.
Prose like this sets the reader up for what followed after the completion of the job when Cris left the mansion that evening to return home. As he walked to his car –
……the wind was still gusting in warm tired sighs
…… Cris had nearly reached the bottom courtyard when he heard a whisper behind him. …..It was the wind making that unsettling sound, like a cloak dragging along the stones
…….The wind fluttered and scraped as though something invisible was scuttling behind him. Cris resisted the temptation to turn around and take another look.
I was suitably scared when I read this paragraph as I was alone at night, and the rest of the story was just as unsettling as Cris faced his biggest fear on the return trip when his headlights died, then the engine cut out. He still had his cellphone, but when he tried it, of course there was no signal. What else could go wrong? You will have to read the book to find out.
As always, Josh Lanyon has some excellent lines in the book, like these when Cris met Neat, Faust’s PA/butler, who was taking him to what he called the screaming room
“I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t throw it at you. I’m Neat.”
“I’m sure you are”
This author’s prose and dialogue never disappoint me and Critic’s Choice is no exception as he takes us into a journey of the mind and I experienced Cris’s personal battle as he tried to overcome his unreasonable fears and deal with his unruly emotions. Another reason I love Lanyon’s books is the characters, an area where he’s at his best. The protagonists in this case were quite different in outlook and lifestyle choices (another of his trademarks) which created a major problem in their relationship. Cris’s background of being abandoned (in his mind) by both parents had left him with a need for a secure and loving environment – he wanted the white picket fence and he demanded fidelity from Rey. Freedom-loving Rey hated the restrictions of being in a committed relationship because he felt stifled, so he had sex with someone else. Did he leave the evidence of his infidelity where Cris would find it so as to break up with him? Or maybe he wanted to have his cake and eat it by changing Cris’s outlook? If it was the latter he miscalculated because when Cris caught him out in his lies there was no way he would stay even though he loved Rey so much it frightened him at times. The relationship was definitely over.
This book is told from Cris’s third person POV so I was able to understand the extent of his emotional devastation and why he could not deal with being hurt by the person he trusted most in his world, and could not easily forgive his betrayal. However Rey was not the cold, heartless philanderer that he initially appeared to be, and he showed a loving and caring side when he helped Chris get over his fears by being there for him and giving him comfort at a time when he needed it, and helping him through his feelings of loss and loneliness. I also appreciated the repartee between them whenever they were alone and could say exactly what was on their minds – no holds barred – but it took an almost fatal accident to make them see that maybe life was too short to hold grudges.
As for Chance, his role in Critic’s Choice was again quite different than in the other books and it was enlightening to see each author’s take on his character. This time, because of the mood, I thought his role and that of Sweets to the Sweet were even scarier than in the other stories, and I wondered about his reaction to the classic line in horror movies “our car broke down – could we use your phone.” 🙂
And what of Faust and his assistant Neat who seemed to have a symbiotic relationship? You will have to read the book to find out about these two very strange characters.
Another gem in this series, Critic’s Choice should be your choice for a fantastic read.