by Ciar Cullen, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-192-0
In Unholy Vows, our heroine Jennifer has divorced an abusive and philandering man but she's now infatuated with his brother-in-law. Of course, the monster, as Jen calls her ex-husband, was adopted so Shawn is actually the monster's foster brother. Any reader out there who believes that abusive tendencies are genetic can therefore breathe easy. At any rate, Shawn has pretty much cut off ties with the monster so he's the good guy. The trouble is, Jen thinks that Shawn will never see her as anyone other than the sister-in-law.
This time around, when Shawn and his sister Dana drop by to visit Jen, Shawn discovers that Jen has a second secret career aside from running a New Age store. Jen writes erotic stories and a recent story, The Monk, has Dana planting the suggestion in Shawn's mind that the male character is based on him. Okay, I don't see how a monk playing with himself while spying on a woman has any resemblance to our biologist here, unless Ms Cullen is trying to tell me something about Shawn here. The eye color is the same, Dana says, and Shawn realizes that the heroine in the story has an abusive ex too. Oh yes, Shawn is the hot guy in the story!
Shawn has always had a crush on the older Jen, so after soiling the pages of the work in progress - to give him credit, at least he wipes the paper clean afterwards - he decides to make a move on Jen.
Unholy Vows has two stories running parallel at the same time, that of the love triangle between Shawn, a box of tissues, and Jen as well as that of Simon and Gwyneth from that The Monk story.
The second story has Simon, convinced that Gwyneth was responsible for the murder of his brother, banishing her from his family for a year even as he spies on her daily in hopes of catching her with some lover to justify his Catholic guilt while playing with himself. Simon comes off like a complete moron from the start, with his insistence on Gwyneth being a witch and treating her unkindly for a year while whacking off during his daily spy sessions. When he decides that he's wronged her, he naturally decides that she's too good for him. Which she is, of course, if you ask me. But for some reason Gwyneth decides that she has to seduce him, so there you go. This one doesn't work for me because Simon is so melodramatic to the point that he comes off like a creepy obsessed stalker.
Shawn and Jen could have been more interesting if the author has developed them better but given that they share the pages with creepy emo Simon and Gwyneth, their personalities and relationship never really develop beyond the superficial.
Unholy Vows is actually two very short stories interwoven together. However, both stories are too short and too underdeveloped for my liking, making it a readable but ultimately forgettable story at the end of the day.
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