Title: The Tourist
Author: Clare London
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M contemporary paranormal romance
Length: 28, 800 words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
An interesting and unusual paranormal story with a dose of high angst.
Visiting isn’t a science, at least not for me. It’s just what I do. Not that I mind, though. It’s not a bad thing, you understand, to find yourself in someone else’s body, stepping into a hot shower stark-naked and sporting a decent-sized morning wood.
Ace is a tourist. A spirit who spends his time visiting the lives of others for entertainment and sexual satisfaction. He can’t make anyone do anything they aren’t willing to do—but he is able to push them to their personal limits.
He’s currently visiting Dan and his lover, Ricky—a couple struggling with jealousy and words left unsaid. Emboldened by Ace, Dan becomes more sexually aggressive, a pleasant surprise for Ricky. But when an abusive ex threatens their newfound happiness, how far will Ace want to get involved? Will his fascination with the couple’s sexual games tempt him to protect them from a very real physical danger?
Clare London is an autobuy author for me so I was pretty excited to see that she’s got a new release out at Carina. The last Carina book of hers, Blinded by Our Eyes, was a five star read for me. The Tourist was a completely different book to that one, focusing more on a relationship in freefall rather than being a mystery, and whilst I had some issues with it, I still found it to be a very good read and would recommend it.
The story has an unusual premise. The main character is Ace, who calls himself a tourist. He’s a bit like a ghost, but also not because he has no form and spends his days flitting from one man to the next, residing in that man’s body and then moving on when the whim takes him. Ace’s goal is to latch onto a gay man, enjoy a time of hot sex and then move on once the sex is over but he also tries to manipulate things so the man has a better sexual experience as a result. As the book begins Ace has landed in Dan’s body and enjoys a nice bit of shower sex with Dan’s boyfriend Ricky. Once the sex is over Ace discovers that the couple’s relationship is at a turning point. Part of Ace wants to move on to the next sexy man, but he’s also curious to see whether he can make a positive difference in their lives.
I usually start with the positives and then move onto negatives but I’m switching it about today and starting with the main niggle I had with the story. The story is told in the first person from Ace’s point of view. However, as the story progresses, I found it a little difficult to decide whether the thoughts and feelings of the character are actually Ace’s thoughts or that of Dan or Ricky. Sometimes it’s very obvious that Ace is narrating because he talks to the reader and tells us things about his past, but sometimes the lines were blurred and I couldn’t work out whether I was really meant to be in the ‘possessed’ man’s head or whether Ace was so connected the other man it was Ace who was experiencing their feelings too. This, and also because Ace is essentially just an observer or hanger-on, had the effect that I was slightly distanced from the characters of Dan and Ricky. I didn’t feel their pain or be immersed in their situation, or be carried away by moments of emotional intensity, such as during the sex scenes, as much as I would have done had Ace not been there. This strange disconnectedness carried on for most of the book and I couldn’t shake the feeling that as the reader I was more an observer of the relationship, rather than being immersed in their story.
That was the only niggle I had with the book though, and the rest is a very well executed paranormal story. The initial premise is unusual, and I liked how Ace’s background and past is interwoven with the story, so that he becomes a real ‘person’ to the reader. I also liked that Dan and Ricky’s points of view are both shown and that the problems between them were realistic. Ace is shown at the beginning to be a ‘good time boy’, and I liked that his assumptions based on looks and body shape were thrown out the longer he spent time in the men’s bodies. Many of the problems in the relationship are caused by lack of self-esteem or even self hatred, showing how much the men are lying to each other and themselves. It was interesting to see this all unravel with a little prodding from Ace.
Most of the action in the story is internal as we follow the thoughts of the men and their awkward interactions with each other, but that then leads to a period of high drama and tension which worked well to lift the story from just internal angst. The plotting is swift and packed with emotion. Above all there is Clare London’s marvellous prose which is intelligent as well as expressive.
Overall, despite my odd disconnectedness with the characters at times, this was still a very good read, and I’d recommend it to those who are looking for a tightly written emotional drama with an unusual paranormal twist.