Follow Me Into Darkness: Five Tales of Carnivale Romance

follow me into darkness
Title: Follow Me Into Darkness: Five Tales of Carnivale Romance
Author: J.R. Gray, Santino Hassell, J.C. Lillis, Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper
Publisher: Open Ink Press
Release Date: February 4, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Page Count: 189
Reviewed by: Natalie
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Carnivale is a time for decadence, for revelry, and for mischief. A time when we shed the figurative masks we wear in everyday life in favor of new ones… ones that allow us to be a little bolder, a little more adventurous, and perhaps a little truer to ourselves. Follow Me Into Darkness is a compilation of original tales of queer romance by five of the premier authors of contemporary romance.

Hurricane by Santino Hassell
Interesting things never happened to Zay. He was the wallflower everyone forgot about as soon as the booze began to flow, and Mardi Gras had never been an exception. But after a chance encounter with a devil-may-care grifter, this year’s celebration brings adventure and whirlwind romance.

If We Be Friends by J.C. Lillis
Seventeen-year-old Ven should be flying high—he’s playing the title role in a new TV drama about Hamlet’s teen years, and tonight they’re having a Mardi Gras cast party in a possibly-haunted castle. But Ven’s lost all his mirth since his boyfriend suggested they “take a break,” so he plans to skip the bash and brood in his trailer all night. Then the exasperating guy who plays Horatio challenges him to a Shakespearean soliloquy-off, and Ven knows his actorly honor is at stake. He says yes to the duel, trudges off to the the party to meet his fate–and finds that more awaits him onstage than a battle of wits and words.

Masked by J.R. Gray
Blistering heat and half-naked masked men as far as the eye can see, but Heath runs into the one face it’s taken him fifteen years to forget. Javier is plagued with a life of regret, but when a second chance confronts him, can he let go of his hang-ups and seize the moment?

The Queen’s Reflection by Kris Ripper
Isah plays the role everyone expects: malleable and cautious, a true queen. But what others see as a queen’s appropriate modesty is really just a disguise for what Isah has never told anyone, the thing no one can ever know.

This body, dressed in the queen’s gowns, is a lie.

Once a year, at carnival, Isah dons someone else’s clothes and becomes them for a night. A young cook in stained whites, or a stableboy in worn breeches. As long as no one gets too close the pretense holds.

Until two strangers look past all the characters and Isah finally exposes the person behind the mask.

Touched by Roan Parrish
Sometimes when he touches people Philippe Rondeau sees their future. It’s erratic and inconvenient, but mostly he’s learned to deal with it. Sure he hasn’t found true love yet, but he has friends and lovers, and is kept busy running his family’s jazz club in Prohibition-era New Orleans. But now it’s Mardi Gras and all bets are off. In the space of one night, Philippe falls under the spell of jazz musician Claude and learns a terrible secret about his powers. If Philippe is certain of anything it’s that the future can be tricky, but the chance at love makes it all seem worthwhile.

First, I think this anthology was an interesting take on “masks” interwoven with the Carnivale theme. Throughout the collection, I found the writing to be superb. Super duper solid in two stories in particular, but each story was well-written. What didn’t capture me? The character development. Developing fully fleshed out characters is a tough thing to execute when you’re trying to meet a word count goal. Overall, my hat goes off to all the authors involved in this project. My reading time was well spent!

Hurricane by Santino Hassell

Not my first read by Santino Hassell but this was a pretty okay read for me. Not bad, not great but okay. Zay (Zavier) is a keep to himself type of guy. People seem to overlook him and view him as invisible, and he’s come to expect it. Out on the town with some friends, he meets Kee (Keegan), and he’s everything Zay would love to be. Appealing, dangerous, flirtatious, and whimsical. Kee opens up Zay’s eyes for a night, and it’s probably one of the best experiences for the young lad. Rating: 3 stars

If We Be Friends by J.C. Lillis

I LOVED THIS STORY! This was my first J.C. Lillis read, and it was wonderful. Charming, hilarious, and emotional. I’m not much into YA, but I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and reading more M/M YA stories. Kids usually have dance-offs to prove their street cred but not these dudes, they’re nerds, and I love it! I mean, who has a soliloquy-off? Too adorable. Ven is pretentious yet lovable. I did have an issue with the cheap shot at diversity mentioned in the story, but I understand why the author went there. If you’re like me and a fan of Shakespeare, then you’ll really enjoy this story. Rating: 4.5 stars

Masked by J.R. Gray

My first J.R. Gray read! There was loads of potential with Heath and Javier, but I loathe when short stories leave me with so many questions afterward. I WANTED MOAAARRRR! Unless this is the introduction to a full-length forthcoming novel, I am irate. Like mucho angry. There was a lot of back story between these characters, but the reader is left wondering what transpired before these two men reunited. Things are mentioned in passing, but it’s really a tease. Me no likey teasing. I guess that’s a good sign, lol I was so pissed when it ended! Rating: 3 stars

The Queen’s Reflection by Kris Ripper

My first Kris Ripper read. This story left me scratching my head. I wasn’t sure what was going on with Isah. I’m certain the main character was trans, but I don’t know, something was missing for me. Maybe I read the story too fast, maybe I missed important details but after reading I had lots of questions. I think if this story were longer I might’ve rated it a bit higher. I need immersion. I’m a greedy reader. Rating: 3 stars

Touched by Roan Parrish

I AM A ROAN PARRISH FANATIC! I’m sad I didn’t get my grubby little hands on an ARC copy of Out of Nowhere, but this will hold me over until February 29th. Roan has a way with words; I truly enjoy her storytelling. This story opens up with a little bit of M/M/M action so if you’re into menages, hello! Fair warning, it’s only a minute part of the story so don’t get too excited, lol. I loved this story so very much. I enjoyed all the characters, even the secondary ones! That’s not easy to do in a short but the story felt complete to me, and I was extremely satisfied with the ending. Rating: 5 stars

 Amazon Global GoodReads

Advanced Review Copy

ARC of Follow Me Into Darkness: Five Tales of Carnivale Romance provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

%d bloggers like this: