Val Kovalin is the M/M reviewer for ARe, an e-book retailer, and does a review column for their newsletter once a month. This month, she chose my story Hell Is in the Details as the Top Pick of the month (scroll a little more than halfway down) which is pretty darned awesome. “Hell” is my story about the Demon of Laziness, who has a very short deadline to corrupt a soul, which he didn’t know about because he never reads his memos.
Val said, in part:
This 8K-word story should delight fans of m/m romance who enjoy witty fantasy fiction, specifically stories centered upon demons. It had me chuckling throughout at the observations of the stressed-out demon Benioth. Meanwhile, its subtle literary allusions to Paradise Lost and historical references add an intriguing layer of depth to the satire.
The story’s suspense centers on its ending. A romance story needs a romantic and happy ending. At the same time, Benioth feels extreme pressure to corrupt his young lover’s soul, which would doom poor Andy to the eternal flames of Hell. All this would seem mutually incompatible, but the story makes it work with a clever resolution. Find out how in this comical gem that is my Top Pick for the month.
It’s always hard to know in advance whether humor is going to work for anyone but me, so I love hearing that someone else actually found a funny story I wrote to be funny.
In the same column, she named PD Singer’s story Storm on the Mountain as a Recommended Read, which it well deserves. Pam Singer has become one of my favorite m/m writers, and not just because she’s also become a friend. Her Mountain series, which includes both novels and short stories, is excellent, and only gets better as you read through. In “Storm,” a blizzard at a ski resort where the POV character works is the setting for some great character and relationship development. In many cases, a short story sequel to a novel is just an excuse for a sex scene. In “Storm,” we see Mark working on reining in his instinct to take care of his lover Allan, who doesn’t at all appreciate being fussed over, and made that clear in their novel, Fall Down the Mountain.
One of my common complaints about romances of all kinds is that too often one character will have a habit or view or tendency that aggravates the other character, often to the point of being a make/break issue in their relationship. In the end, the first character will say, “Okay, I won’t do that anymore,” and they kiss and that’s the end — we’re just supposed to assume that the first character will successfully do a one-eighty on some habit or opinion that’s been a major component of their personality for however many years or decades. I’ve never really bought that, and it makes it hard to believe in the HEA. In this case, though, Pam shows us that Mark really is working on his impulse to protect Allan in ways that are insulting or belittling, whether he means it that way or not. He knows it’s a fault, and we get to see him controlling it, and his relationship with Allan growing stronger in consequence. This short story is a significant addition to the series, not at all fluffy or trivial. Great stuff.
Val also reviews on Jessewave’s blog, where she posted a similar but not quite identical review of “Hell Is in the Details” there including:
This short story is flawlessly written and has a droll, mischievous tone that should delight fans of comic fantasy, specifically fiction centered upon demons, which plays with historical and literary references. Benioth is a good character, an appealing mix of stressed-out and resourceful. Andy is a sweet kid, a wide-eyed innocent eager to be corrupted, and their sex scenes are hot. The story had me turning pages in the sheer entertainment of wondering how the author would manage a classic HEA ending while not stepping outside the logic of the plot, and I found her resolution very clever. Highly recommended!
She gave it 4.75/5.0, which is pretty awesome. Thanks to Val for all her kind words in both venues; I’m glad she enjoyed the story.