Author: Jessica Skye Davies
Cover artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Kindle
Length: Novella, 74 pages
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: A glimpse in the life of a couple who has been together for several years, when they have to deal with a paranormal complication of their life.
Confirmed skeptic Tyler Ward dismisses his horoscope when it warns against bringing home anything “impish.” Then he finds an antique cast-iron doorstop shaped like Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet show, buys it as a reminder of his youth in England, and mysterious misfortunes begin to befall Tyler the very next day. His longtime partner Kevin begins to believe an unseen force is out to hurt Tyler… does he believe enough to find the truth?
Kevin and Tyler have been together for five years, live in a cozy gay-friendly neighborhood, and are good friends with several gay couples living near by. One lovely Sunday morning Tyler decides to go shopping at his favorite local stores, one of which is owned by his friend Lucas. Lucas is into astrology and warns Tyler not to bring home anything “impish” due to bad horoscope reading. Unfortunately, Tyler sees an oddly-shaped door stop figurine in the antique store and decides that he likes it, buys it and brings it home, and scary things start to happen.
First and foremost I want to say that despite the story being very simplistic, I had a lot of problems trying to articulate why it did not work for me. Apologies in advance for what may seem to be a reflection of that.
I did like the way story was written, which had a nice, light touch and felt pretty smooth to me. Unfortunately, that is about all that worked for me.
What I did not like in this story?
I think my biggest problem was that I did not like that I could not figure out what the story wanted to be — a light romance or a horror story, or both, or maybe something else? Here we have Kevin and Tyler living pretty much the perfect life in a normal contemporary reality and all of a sudden crazy figurines come to life and attack people? I had trouble believing it. I am guessing that Punch (the doorstop that Tyler brings home and the paranormal element of the story) should have felt scary and dangerous to the reader, but it did not feel that way to me. There was a dissonance between what was happening on the page and what I was feeling when I was reading the story. I think that my suspension of disbelief around Punch did not spread that far, and I was there right along with Tyler rolling my eyes when Luke was seriously trying to warn him based on the horoscope reading. I kept expecting that the story would be a dream for Tyler, and Kevin would wake him up at the end.
Perhaps I should not have expected to see a romance in this story? Maybe this was the problem and what I was actually reading was a tale that was just poking fun at horror flicks and horror books. I suppose in that sense it may have worked for me, but I also went into story expecting to see some romance. Yes, I saw a couple in love, but I really did not see much romance. But again, this is related to how I could not figure out what the story was meant to be.
Also, there was absolutely no internal conflict between two protagonists in this story, Kevin and Tyler. In fact, when I was reading this novella, I had had a feeling that I was watching “Welcome to Pleasantville” with a gay twist. There is nothing wrong with a sweet and light story, but the life Kevin and Tyler lead, including where they live, was too perfect and had way too much sugar for my taste, which of course may be acceptable for other readers. The only conflict between the lovers was external — how to handle Punch — and when they realized that this is actually shaping up to be a conflict, it was resolved really fast.
Lastly, I had problems with the protags themselves. I think I expected for both Kevin and Tyler to grow and mature some by the end of the story, but for me that did not happen. I also did not think that I got to know them properly when I finished the story as I never felt that their characters were developed in enough depth for me to think of them as “people”. Yes, I learned that they realized that they were soulmates pretty much right away, I learned that all their friends thought that they were a couple who would be able to rationally discuss any conflict should one come up between them and I learned what they do for a living, but it just did not feel enough for me. It was as if both of the guys had the bones of the characters but did not have enough meat on them?
Despite the nice flow of the writing, overall I was disappointed with the story. I can see how, if you can suspend the disbelief around the paranormal element in it, for some readers it could be a pleasant way to pass time.