by Nicole Kimberling, fantasy (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-638-9
Ghost Star Night is a steampunk gay romance, set in a world that has nightclubs and fancy lights as well as people calling themselves Lords and Ladies. Magic and technology co-exist, so it's not unusual to see a man armed with guns partying the night away next to a magician. Oh, and orangutans drive cabs in this world. Using magic, folks in this world have trained animal to serve as servants and such. They can trap souls of folks who have done things that warrant such treatment and place them in the bodies of animals. These animals, mostly primates from what I can see, then serve as, for example, nannies and cab drivers. Interesting. I'm liking this place already.
Adam Wexley, a gentry from the West Court, is what you can call a dilettante. He knows how to sing and make music, but that's about it. In his own words, he is only slightly more important than furniture in the Court although if you ask me, he's clearly understating the importance of furniture in the first place.
Zachary Drake, the magician-for-hire from the Dark Tower, is not fond of spoiled aristocrats in general. Adam's godmother wants him to get Drake's help in retrieving a magical medallion ASAP from a naughty possessed chimpanzee (don't ask). Drake finds Adam most delectable - I think it's the see-through shirt Adam is wearing - and decides to go along. He calls Adam's soul "pure". Is that what they call idle people with too much time and too little sense nowadays?
And then we have Thomas Myrdin of the South Court. Thomas spends his time composing poems and arranging flowers because the South Court gentry are apparently so genteel like that. He will lead a delegation to construct a protective barrier around Carolyn as she delivers the future son of Thomas' liege. Usually the medallion that Drake is tasked to recover will do the trick, but in its absence, Thomas has to help set up some magical protection for Carolyn.
The birth of a princess brings these three very different men together and no, I am not talking about a ménage à trois. Thomas starts having terrible nightmares of the princess being a harbinger of death and destruction. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows is a sinister magician hatching a plan that will cause trouble for everyone...
I personally find Ghost Star Night a far superior fantasy story than a romance. While Drake is an interesting character in his own right, he's paired with Adam, a pretty vapid pretty boy lacking common sense, and I have no idea what Drake sees in Adam beyond the fact that Adam is pretty and dumb. Thomas is easily the most interesting character in this story and he also has the most well-drawn personality. He starts out as this emo kid that I begin to worry that I may want to strangle him soon, but to my pleasant surprise, he turns out to be a memorable character that is more complex and likable than I expected. But sorry, folks, Thomas isn't getting any here. I personally would have liked seeing Drake paired with Thomas, since Adam is just sort of being there as a love interest with some moments of what seems like accidental heroism.
Nonetheless, the bland romance between Drake and Adam aside, I do like the story. The setting is intriguing, if still vague in some major areas (more details would have helped, especially when it comes to the animals). The pacing is good, the denouement is gripping, and Drake gets to show his manly macho side in the confrontation with the bad guy. I especially like how this is a story where the main characters happen to be gay - it's definitely a nice change from other gay romances which can be too much of a "Look! Gay boys having sex! Hot, eh, girls? Oh, and there's a story in here somewhere... anyway, look! Hot sodomy!" affair.
All in all, like previous works from this author that I have read, Ghost Star Night is a solid and entertaining read. I'm not sure how you will like this one if you want a romance first and foremost, but if you are looking for an interesting and entertaining steampunk fantasy with some romance, this one may fit the bill.
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