Carpathian Intrigue
by John Simpson, historical/paranormal (2008)
Dreamspinner Press, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-935192-33-6

As you can probably guess from the title, Carpathian Intrigue is all about big scary castles located high in the Carpathian mountains, handsome Counts with deep penetrating eyes, and ancient curses.

Christopher Landau, a young scholar in the late 1700s, makes a trip to Bran Castle to study the musty books in the library, said to contain the biggest and most complete collection of books on Balkan history and culture. Yet, he will soon realize that perhaps the generosity of Count Michael - yes, the descendant of Vlad Tepes is named Michael - comes with a price. You see, there is this room full of portraits of the Count's former toyboys and then there is this ancient curse... oh, just read the story if you want to know more. This is a very short story and if I reveal everything, you won't have a reason to read the thing yourself and then the author will strike my name off his Christmas guest list.

I have to say this, though - Count Michael's curse is a ridiculous one, given how easily it can be broken. If the Count is butt ugly, perhaps we may have a problem in breaking the said curse, but come on, he's described as a "hot stallion". I'd think the minion of Satan will be more creative in his cursing of Count Michael into an apparent life of misery and what not. At least make the Count impotent or something, hmmph.

But I should also point out that despite the very familiar premise of this story, there is enough twists to the formula to make this one an interesting read nonetheless. Christopher may seem to be a blushing inexperienced twink at first, but his actions and thought processes in this story make it clear that he is no screaming lachrymose little girl with a glued-on penis. I also like how the author brings up the theme of living for the present and not taking love for granted - the manner in which he does so is pretty romantic, despite the fact that I feel that the characters fall for each other way too soon for their so-called grand love to be convincing. The fact that John Simpson can make the idea of posing for a photo to be added to the boyfriend's gallery of conquests an actually erotic fantasy makes him pretty awesome in my book, heh.

I personally feel that $3.99 is too high a cover price for this short story, but if you are looking for a quick read and you have some extra money to spend, this one has enough good things about it to make it a reasonable gamble.

Rating: 82

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