Consort
by Nica Berry, historical/fantasy (2009)
Loose Id, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-614-9


We all know that most of those Greek gods and associated creatures are self-absorbed sex fiends, right? For poor Tenthus, a young shepherd in ancient Greek, that one evening when Euterpius, the muse of music, visits him and engages him in sexual congress soon becomes a month of indescribable pleasure. Euterpius teaches Tenthus how to play the aulos, and thus through Tenthus, Euterpius has introduced music into the world.

Alas, Zeus frowns on the affair between his son and the shepherd, so poor Euterpius has to cut short the affair. Poor Tenthus spends his time making and playing mournful music that makes even the gods weep, thus enraging Zeus even further. Tenthus would have been cut down by Zeus, since Zeus personally believes that no mortals should be able to make music like Tenthus does. Euterpius begs his father to spare Tenthus, however, so Zeus instead turns Tenthus into a cicada. Or, to be more accurate, half-man, half-cicada. Poor Tenthus will be immortal, but he will slumber in a cocoon until, for one month every seventeen years, he gets to awake.

We then cut to much later, when Tenthus has been elevated by the people of Greece to the status of demigod. When the story opens, these folks have not only created a temple to Tenthus, they are also training young men in pleasures of the flesh to serve Tenthus when he "reborns". As long as Tenthus gets to gorge on sex during that month of his rebirth, he will make exquisite music. Our hero, Phaedrus, is the guy chosen after a series of rigorous tests to be Tenthus' pincushion of the month. A young man trained so well that he barely has any personality apart from wanting to service his masters, poor Phaedrus is horrified to learn after being selected that Tenthus is actually viewed by his trainer as a monster. Worse, some of the young men who serviced Tenthus didn't survive the creature's violent lust. And now his trainer, the high priest himself, has charged Phaedrus to kill Tenthus.

This is a story by Nica Berry, so as to be expected, this one is different from many other erotic paranormal romances out there. Lush, sometimes lyrical, and so sensual to the point that sometimes I wonder whether these folks even have refraction periods, this one is definitely not for people who are squeamish about explicit gay sex scenes. I am talking about multiple partners and other whole nine yards, people, so this is not some lightweight stuff we are talking about here. This one isn't for everyone, so please proceed with caution. Then again, Nica Berry's entire backlist so far isn't for everyone!

The interesting premise and the author's prose both making Consort a memorable read. I always find it a joy to read something different - a well-written something at that - and therefore I enjoy Consort considerably. However, I have my doubts about the romance. Phaedrus has been trained - the word "brainwashed" crosses my mind more than once - so I have this uneasy feeling that he doesn't truly love Tenthus as much as he is conditioned to do so. Perhaps it is sweet blessing that this poor dear honestly doesn't know and doesn't contemplate an existence different from the one he has, to please and service Tenthus. Tenthus is supposed to find love with a mortal to break his curse, but I am also never sure that what he feels is love. The problem here is that the author focuses too much on her characters' sexual excesses and as a result neglects the characters' emotional bond that could have made their love believable.

A little more focus on emotions could have made Consort a more enjoyable read. Still, nobody out there writes stuff like Nica Berry, and Consort is just one more example of her stories that are worth giving a try if you are feeling adventurous.

Rating: 80


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