Stopping to offer help one sultry summer night, Mason James is unprepared for the change that this simple act of kindness will bring. After giving an old man a ride home, Mason discovers a new, magical, and even dangerous world he cannot hope to understand. But he also finds Luc Toussaint and is intoxicated at first sight... and even the secret Luc protects won’t be enough to keep Mason away from the truth of his heritage and their love.
1st edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.
OF ALL the things I thought I would see on my drive home from the fire station, a naked old man stumbling down the middle of the road was the absolute last.
Normally my response would have been immediate: I would have been out of my truck and over to him without even turning off my ancient Dodge Ram pickup. But I was tired—I had just come off double shifts—and so was not thinking as clearly as usual. I veered slowly around him, and he was framed in my rearview mirror before I realized what I was doing.
I slammed on the brakes, jolting awake, having been half-asleep behind the wheel. What the hell was I doing? I couldn’t drive around a staggering grandfather and leave him all alone on the two-lane road. Firemen didn’t do that. We helped people, even ran into burning buildings to get them out. We didn’t leave people behind.
It was so late, or early depending on how you looked at it, but either way the old man should have been home in bed. Putting on the hazard lights, I grabbed one of the two thick wool blankets I kept stashed behind my seat for not-quite-this-sort of occasion and got out of my truck. Firemen carried all sorts of emergency items in their vehicles just to be on the safe side, and I was no exception. As I jogged back toward the old man, I grew more and more worried the closer I got. He looked really confused.
He was looking around like he was trying to get his bearings, and when my voice reached him, he turned fast and snarled, eyes wide, hands curled into claws, baring his teeth. It was strange, and I took a step back but raised my hands to try and soothe him. When he lunged forward, I took several more steps back as he growled, swiping toward my face, trying to reach me.
“Please, sir,” I said, lowering my voice, making it soothing. “Let me help you. I wanna help you.”
His eyes were huge, the pupils completely dilated, and he was panting with his mouth open. He looked feverish and he was trembling, even though in the warm, sticky summer air, he should not have been cold.
I held up the blanket. “Sir, please, lemme help you… I really wanna help you.”
He closed his eyes tight for a moment, and when he opened them, I was struck by the milky-blue eyes studying my face. I smiled at him with my brown ones, hoping that they conveyed the warmth everyone always said they did. After several long moments, he bowed his head as though accepting his fate. It was almost as if he thought I was going to hurt him instead of help him.
Slowly, gently, I put the blanket around his shoulders, stepped closer, and wrapped it around him so he was underneath it, covered up. I smiled wide and noticed his answering shiver. I gently rubbed his upper arms and stared into his face.
He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
“How ’bout some water?” I suggested, leaning close to him, easing my arm around his back, prodding him forward, back toward my truck.
As we walked slowly together back the way I had come, he withdrew his left arm from the blanket and curled it around my shoulders. Only then did I notice that he was bigger than me, taller, and when he leaned a little more heavily, I struggled for a moment before I found my stride again. I was used to carrying people, so I just had to find my balance.
After I got him tucked in on his side of the truck and ran around the front to the driver’s side, I explained that I was going to take him to the hospital.
He shook his head no.
“Sir,” I began, pulling a bottle of water from the small cooler I kept beside the blankets stashed behind the seat of my truck. “You need to be seen by a doctor to make sure—”
“No.” He shook his head. “Home.” He pointed down the road.
But I didn’t think he was in any shape to be making decisions. He looked so out of it. I made my voice soft, soothing, coaxing. “I think you—”
“No,” he cut me off the second time, again gesturing ahead of us at the pavement.
I pointed down the road and only then realized that I was nowhere near where I was supposed to be. I must have taken a wrong turn.
“Shit,” I groaned. I had to be on the other side of the mountain. Not that Wyndam, Kentucky, was a big place. I just had to double back and go down the road, and I would be close to Winchester, which was just half an hour or so out of Lexington, but still… it was late, I was exhausted, and now I was playing taxi for a clearly impaired old man. It was possible that he had dementia or Alzheimer’s and had no idea where in the world home was.
“Home.” He pointed again down the dark two-lane road.
“Okay,” I sighed heavily as I put the Ram into drive.
After a while, the old man started speaking softly in French, which I recognized from high school but couldn’t remember enough to answer him back. The words I did get were “friend” and “good.” When he reached out to pat my thigh, I smiled over at him.
I glanced back at him before turning again to the road. I didn’t want to hit any furry creatures skittering across the pavement. “Pardon me?”
“You… fear me?”
“Uh, no,” I said, grinning, “not so much.”
He banged the dashboard hard with his fist, and when I looked back at him, his pupils were dilated again, and he was growling.
“Calm down,” I soothed him, reaching out to pat his shoulder, wanting him relaxed, not flinging himself at me while I was driving. I did not need to end up in a ditch because I swerved off the side of the road. “Please, sir.”
After a moment, his shoulders slumped, and he closed his eyes.
“That’s it, just breathe,” I coaxed, rubbing circles on his shoulder.
When he opened his eyes, they were pale and milky once more.
“There you are.” I smiled, and he nodded slowly, reaching out for my hand.
Old people, dogs, kids, they all loved me. It would have been nice if hot men did, too, but you couldn’t have everything.
“Romanus,” he said softly.
“Is that your name?”
He shook his head, put a hand over his heart. “Fabron Chaloner.”
“I’m Mason James.” I smiled wider. “Mace, okay?”
He nodded, squeezed my hand. “Romanus.”
I must have reminded him of someone else, but that was okay. “How far down this road, Monsieur Chaloner?” I asked, my eyes on the road.
When he didn’t answer, I turned back to look at him.
“Sorry, Fabron,” I repeated his name.
He pointed at a turn in the road, and I saw what looked like runes carved into a sign before I took the left down a dirt road. It snaked deep through a heavily wooded area, the brush so deep that it scraped along the sides and roof of the truck. After a second I realized how stupid I was being and slowed down to a crawl. I was afraid that if someone was coming down the same road to the street while I was coming up that I would be in a head-on collision. I put the truck’s high-beams on, and I stopped every few minutes just to listen. When there was nothing but the buzz of insects, I went forward again. After what seemed like forever, I came to a clearing, and the first thing I saw under the moonlight was a huge bonfire. There were several cars parked in front of the huge Tidewater-style home, the kind with the porch that basically wrapped around the house both on the first and second floors. Seeing all the people milling about, it looked as though Fabron had wandered off from some kind of gathering.
After parking, I darted around to the passenger side of my truck and started to help him out. I immediately noticed that he was snarling again, his eyes jet black from the pupils being huge and his teeth were bared.
“Should I growl back?” I chuckled as I reached in to help him out.
He didn’t calm, but neither did he lunge at me as he’d done before. Instead he continued to softly snarl, almost like purring, as I moved his legs, easing him to a standing position before leaning him against the truck. As soon as I slammed the door behind me to guide the old man to the house, I noticed that we had drawn a few spectators.
“Hi,” I greeted the gathered crowd. “Can someone tell me if this gentleman belongs here?”
No one said a word; everyone was just staring at me with wide eyes. What the hell?
Book - Romanus
Author – Mary Calmes
Star rating - ?????
No. of Pages – approx 70 (14 pages of promo)
Movie Potential – Hmm...probably yes, but it would need to be something along the lines of I, Frankenstein.
Ease of reading – easy to read, with a few hiccups
Would I read it again – Maybe. If it's part of a series.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
reviewed for Divine Magazine
This was my first Mary Calmes story and the first time I've ever seen Gargoyles used in a romantic setting. I was pleasantly surprised by both.
This one was really hard to review. On one hand, there was a lot I liked about it. On the other, there was a lot I didn't like. For me, this story is a solid 3.5 rating. I've rounded up to 4, because a 3 seems unfair, considering the fact that I liked it. Let's divvy it up into Pros and Cons.
I always like to start with the worst things and build up the best, so that my review never ends on a sour note.
Length: the story wasn't long enough. The story needed a lot of guts and flesh to really work, but both of these were lacking somewhat. I think, although the 'romance' aspect of the story happened fast, it could have been elongated and more focus could have been put on the world that Calmes was trying to build. The story was just too short to do this plot justice. It needed to be two or even three times as long. I just think it needed more time to develop and flourish the way the characters and the plot deserved. To me, this read more like a Prequel to an upcoming series. Which would be fantastic.
1st Person POV: I'm not a fan. It tends to detract from the story. Instances like these, tend to put me off:
“Firemen carried all sorts of emergency items in their vehicles just to be on the safe side, and I was no exception.” This sounded like an excuse, from the author, as to why his character was fully prepared for the moment. In third, a statement like this would have made sense, but in first it sounds awkwardly like the character is trying to justify their actions and it jars my reading. But, this is just my personal preference. Once the story got going, these little snippets dropped out and more focus was put on the individual characters.
Slang, Accents Etc: I also don't like these: wanna, gotta, lemme. I get that accents make these words realistic, but it makes the character sound lazy. I'm not sure if this was the point or if it was to strengthen the thought that the character was drowsy at the time (though they use them later, as well) but it's just a little pet peeve of mine.
Unnatural Phrases: “like he was just so pleased” irks me. It's not a phrase I've ever heard in this order. It feels really unnatural, but maybe it's not for some people.
Confusing Descriptions: When things got hot and heavy, it also got really confusing. Actions took place that weren't described well enough (which direction the person was facing, what position they were in etc) so that it took me two or three reads of the paragraph to make sense of what was going on. I won't go into too much detail about it, as it's not all that important, but I don't like being jarred out of the moment to re-read something, because it didn't make sense. People also miraculously went from lying to walking immediately; literally from one position to another, which was entirely impossibly.
Mason and Luc: Mason's reluctance to admit what was happening between them didn't seem quite in line with his acceptance of what Luc is. He's fine with accepting that Luc is a gargoyle, but he doesn't sense that they're really soul mates, when he keeps insisting they're just “trying things out”. This doesn't work for me. Either Mason has gargoyle instincts that lead him to accept who and what Luc is, or he doesn't, which means he can't feel the same connection that Luc is convinced makes them soul mates. It can't go both ways.
Gargoyles: the general idea of the story really appealed to me. The gargoyle aspect was unique and the characters were strong enough to carry the storyline. The description of the creatures, their habits and their “chasse” (AKA clan type of gathering) were great. Not enough was said, in my opinion, about their world.
Friends: Mason has a group of friends, and maybe this was intended or not, but these people are NOT my definition of a friend. They're leeches and hangers on, that Mason lets away with murder. Honestly, other than Finn, I wouldn't be friends with a single one of them. I hate them (which is a sign that the author did something right). I don't like the way they talk about each other or Mason and I certainly don't like Eli, who tries to manhandle Luc right in front of Mason.
Mason and Luc: as a couple, these two are cute, hot and sweet all at once. Mason is more of a “settle down” type of guy, while Luc appears to be the hot dangerous boy (has a motorcyle, has horns and fans, flies and breathes fire and is constantly naked) but they're more similar than they first appear. This works well for them. Though, Mason's reluctance to admit what was happening between them didn't seem quite in line with his acceptance of what Luc was.
Characterization: It took me a while to warm up to Mason, but eventually he became this nice, wholesome guy, old enough to be a fireman, but with some childish/teenager tendencies. This worked, because he came across as a little naive and a whole lot shy. He's this typical twink; skinny, power/greedy bottom, who feels unattractive but is uncomfortable with the fact that he's irresistible to all men. Luc, on the other hand, is the opposite extreme. Strong, buff, hot, dangerous; he's the typical bad boy, with a softer side.
Mason's Acceptance: as I said above, Mason is extremely accepting of what happens, but I can buy this, because the gargoyles know him by sight. Knowing that Mason is one of them is really the key to making this part work. I accept that he accepts it, because it's his nature and completely normal. (though I still have doubts about the whole issue mentioned above)
In total, Romanus was a great short read, which could have been longer and needed a little more fleshing out. With a few shorts or a real novel to explore this world further, Calmes is onto a winner. I really do hope she continues it, as I'd like my questions answered and I'd love to see this taken to the next level, with these characters and the few minor ones mentioned.
I'll admit, I was disappointed with the ending. It was too abrupt and, as I said, my questions weren't answered. This made the story feel incomplete. It's enough that it peaked my interest, if there were more stories to read in the future (as I suspect there might be, considering the ending and Raoul) but I'd have liked this as a novel instead of a short. I'd be interested in reading more, but I'd probably wait until they were all available, so that I'm not sitting on a cliffhanger.
As the prequel or introduction to a series, with these characters, Romanus is a success. The plot has so much potential that wasn't reached in this short, which would make sense if it was just the start of a more extensive series.
However, if this is a stand alone short story, never to be revisited again, it reads as incomplete. There are so many questions unanswered and a very hasty, sudden ending that leaves me feeling unsatisfied.
I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more.
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