by Evey Brett, fantasy (2012)
Loose Id, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-61118-781-6
Capriole is, according to Merriam-Webster, a type of leap usually performed by trained horses. And this is one of those titles that make sense only after the story has been read. And I have better warn you guys before I go on: this one doesn't follow the standard rules of romance novels today at all: our hero, Lukas von Rainer, spends more time having sex with myriad other characters instead of his designated true love, Felipe Camarena. Lukas is an incubus, so he has a pretty good excuse - more than any other man, anyway - for doing this, but if you don't like this kind of antics in your stories, you may want to approach this one with caution.
Anyway, this one is set in the same setting as Demon's Dance, but it stands alone as a self-contained story in its own right. Okay, the story. We have Felipe, who left behind a troubled past in Portugal to become a college student in San Diego. When the story opens, his close friend and confessor Padre Rafael had died, and shortly after Felipe receives news of the man's death, he starts having hallucinations about demons and other disturbing things all over again. And then we have Lukas, a psychology professor who is also an incubus, who knows (ahem) Rafael from way back. Eventually, he will take Felipe under his wing (ahem), but they have issues to overcome, just as Lukas has his own issues to overcome. Heck, everyone has issues here.
This is a very superficial synopsis of this story. Capriole is a pretty ambitious work, It is a far different type of story compared to Demon's Dance, because this one is not only longer, it doesn't play by rules and it also attempts to delve into some complex character study of Lukas. But the end result is uneven, and the author's efforts are mixed at best.
Capriole is a very readable story, let me get that out first. This is one of the stories that I find to put down, as the setting is interesting and the story introduces plenty of plot developments, subplots, and twists that keep my attention engaged. The only jarring moments are the silly and unrealistic moments when Felipe break out into occasional Portuguese in a transparent effort to remind me that he's "exotic".
It is only when I sit down to write this review, and think about the story a bit, that I start to see the cracks on the wall, so to speak.
This story, for one, contains some very transparent and hackneyed use of clichéd plot developments. There is a secondary character here, for example, who is blatantly created as a temporary obstacle for our heroes' happy ending - this one gets removed in an eye-rolling manner later on just to make Lukas go even more emo while allowing him to be free to shack up with Felipe with no physical baggage attached to his rear end. The method of removal is so... blatantly transparent and overused, let's just say, it's up there with horror stories that end with the protagonist waking up and realizing that it's all a dream. This plot development is so played out already from overuse. And then we have Felipe's inexplicable stubbornness to believe in the woo-woo stuff when he's already neck deep in that stuff. This one feels like another contrived plot device to keep Felipe from falling into Lukas's bed a bit longer. Still, it's a testament to Ms Brett's narrative that I only realize the frequent usage of stale plot devices in this story after I sit down and think about things a bit. While I was reading the story, I was too engrossed to notice these things.
Felipe is a rather uninteresting character, as he's written to be the equivalent of the damsel in distress who often makes things difficult for everyone by being unnecessarily uncooperative. Lukas, however, is an attractive bag of issues, and his slutty behavior comes off as an intrinsic part of what makes this bag of issues tick instead of a facilitator of gratuitous sex scenes to keep the jollies coming. The poor man is not very competent, however, and he's far better at being a passive whiner than he is at being some proactive knight in shining armor. And yes, I can't believe that I actually like Lukas more when he's being a passive whiner, but this author can do funny things to me with her writing. I don't know whether this is a good or scary thing.
And I am also not sure whether I buy the romance. The happy ending here is a tentative one, but even then, I don't think that works too well for me. Lukas is what he is, so I can't picture him as this conventional protector and guardian type of boyfriend. He seems to be the guy that functions better in open-ended relationships. Felipe, however, is the kind of person who needs someone to be his emotional anchor. I'm not sure, therefore, whether these two men are right for each other. They may just end up doing more damage to each other in the long run. Heaven knows, Lukas didn't fare too well with the last person under his wing.
But still, I can't deny that Capriole is a fascinating different type of read. It's a nice hybrid of erotica and horror fantasy served with generously portioned angst on the side. There are also some secondary characters that seem to be deliberate subversion of common stereotypes, making this story an even more interesting read. I can't say that Capriole works completely for me, but it's definitely a refreshing change from the more conventional paranormal and fantasy gay romps available in the market at the moment.
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