Tag Archives: acceptance

22Jun/20

Borderland by F E Feeley Jr and Jamie Fessenden

F. E. Feeley Jr will be on WROTE to talk about Borderland later in the summer, so don’t miss it!

Okay, so on first reading the blurb, this book doesn’t sound like a whole barrel of laughs. Borderland is the story of a young married couple, but of the MC’s has a one-way ticket to the next realm, via a terminal cancer diagnosis. Their final journey to George’s home town is hindered by their car breaking down in a ferocious storm, just outside the gates of an old hotel, the Borderland. This hotel has all the elements of “don’t go there or you won’t come out,” but George and Jason have no choice. George is sick and needs looking after.

In less accomplished hands, this premise could turn into a horrible, excruciating mess, but the authors are none other than F E Feeley Jr (author of the majestic When Heaven Strikes and Hallelujah) and Jamie Fessenden, whose genres include the searing (Violated) and the cheeky (Bigfoot Hunters In Love.) That mix of spirituality, horror, gut-wrenching emotion and dark humour is just what a story like this needs. Cancer is a serious subject, and it is treated with respect., but it is married with a good dose of black comedy and genuine creeps.

After a slightly muddled start of their stay, George and Jason begin to twig that All Is Not As It Seems. There are some great visuals, from the pristine hotel turning to a cold dusty wreck and back again, to the guests being alive one moment and very dead the next. There is a hall of mirrors feel about the place, and a garden maze that never seems to end. The genteel owner of the hotel, Rebecca Thibault, is part-Mrs. Danvers/part-Mary Poppins, and Harry, the gardener, is a deceptively simple man who misses nothing. There are tiny dramas occurring amongst the staff, from the young couple who want to be together to the torrid three-way affair of a travelling theatre troupe. The way this story plays out is hideously sinister, with the two MC’s running down endless corridors filled with unearthly screams, being pursued by a demon whose goal is endless misery for guests past and present.

And yet… just read this.

It had been months, and now he needed this man—his lover, his husband—more than ever. He needed him to suspend time. Here in this moment, he wasn’t dying. Here in this moment, as they made love touched by the silver moonlight from the window, he was immortal.

It’s a tiny taste of which tells you all you need to know about the beauty of this book. The prose is beautiful, elegant, poignant and heartbreaking at times.

There are nods to the Eagles’ classic, Hotel California, and the plot also weaves in the Spanish Flu epidemic from 1920, together with colourful characters from the Jazz Age. It’s a glorious technicolour chase for the truth through a haunted house where the walls come alive and yawning pits will swallow the unwary. George and Jason are the unwitting witnesses to a drama which has been going on behind the fetid walls for decades, but their presence, their love and their sexuality is unnerving the inhabitants of the hotel and encouraging them to let go of the narratives they have held onto for a century.

I’ve never read a ghost story quite like this one before, but I’m so glad I took a chance on it. Despite the unlikely premise, the ending is curiously uplifting. Fessenden and Feeley make a formidable writing team and I hope they collaborate on another novel soon.

BLURB

They were young.
In the prime of life and recently married.
And then the diagnosis came.
Cancer.

George and Jason make arrangements to travel back to George’s home state of Vermont so he may pass away in the town where he grew up, but a terrible storm diverts the couple into the gates of an out-of-the-way hotel called Borderland.

Sure, the employees are well dressed and polite. Sure, the food and entertainment are old-time fare. But it’s all a schtick, right?

Or is there something far more sinister at work here?

Welcome to the Borderland Hotel, where you may check in, but you’ll never, ever leave.

18Apr/19

Credence by Delphia Baisden

Delphia Baisden was a recent guest on WROTE! To listen to her interview and find out more about her work, check out Episode 208 – A New Jewel In My Crown!

I approached this book with some wariness, and I recently read another book dealing with a rock band, mental health issues, and non-con sex, which I found unbelievably upsetting. However, there ARE trigger warnings in this book, so anyone choosing to read Credence will be warned right from the start.

So I tiptoed in, and yes, the first chapters are hard to read, but they are extremely well-written, and 100% necessary to the plot of the book. The author has trodden lightly, not shying away from the pain of sexual abuse but dealing with it in a sensitive way. I knew I would be able to read the rest of it within a few pages. Trust had been gained, and Credence was a really good read, even enjoyable, given the gruelling premise. 

The blurb sums up the plot pretty well, so I won’t rehash it, but I loved James’s best friend Phil, and the supportiveness of the other members of the band (Eden) once they realise what has happened to their friend. This is a book about fighting back from a traumatic past, about letting go and finding love, both with another person and for oneself, about healing, and the struggles of mental illness. It’s all dealt with deftly and not too reverently, and I applaud the author wholeheartedly for that.

I loved Keiran, the love interest and femme lead vocalist for a less successful band, Lost and Found, who initially resents James for walking away from the the tour they were heading, thus denying Lost and Found crucial exposure to potential new fans. But as James’ band picks up the pieces and forms a new outfit, and Keiran is given the chance to show them how good he is, love begins to blossom undercover, as James is not out and is nervous about his bandmates finding out.

James is sweet, talented and modest, a lovely guy who adores his music. All the members of Eden have their demons, but are basically decent people who just want the best for each other. What a refreshing change to the endless drug and alcohol-fuelled sex parties which usually go hand in hand with “rock star” genre.

This is a hugely satisfying read, dealing with issues so relevant in today’s #metoo climate, and a really strong debut novel by this author. I will definitely be looking out to see what else she does.

BLURB

James Morgan, lead guitarist for the rock band Eden, seems to have it all. That is, until Theo, Eden’s lead singer and James’s secret lover, violently betrays him, sending James into a deep depression and cutting their current tour and the band’s life short.

Kieran Jackson, the lead vocalist for the less successful band Lost and Found, is at his wits’ end. At thirty-three, he never dreamed he’d still be opening for bands comprised of twentysomethings. When Eden pulls out of the last few shows of their summer tour, Kieran returns home burned out and heartbroken.

Over a year later, James, Phil, and David of Eden decide to reform under a different name with Kieran as their new vocalist. James, never having forgotten his single interaction with Kieran, nor the only time he ever listened to him perform, knows Kieran’s the best choice.

James is still closeted—and skittish after his last relationship—and one fumbling, drunken kiss threatens to undo everything he’s worked so hard to rebuild, as well as the cover he’s fought to maintain.

Can James overcome his past, confront his demons, and reclaim his former fame? Or will he and the newly formed True North remain in Eden’s shadow forever? Can he finally find comfort in who he is, accept his past, and reopen his heart? Or will the memories of Theo’s betrayal and the subsequent fallout dash any hope of finding—and trusting—love again?

Trigger warning: this book contains explicit rape, as well as one failed suicide attempt by a main character.