Guest Review by Sammy
Title: A Brush with Darkness
Author: Erastes
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: Novella

Buy Links: Amazon  ARe

Rating: 5 stars

“…I wanted the memory of his ivory flesh, that beautiful nest of bright golden curls—all of his light and shade—to take away with me so I could hoard it behind my eyes and in my memory forever like the greediest of misers.”

I should begin this review as honestly as possible and tell you that I don’t like historical novels. It is true, they are normally the last type of book I would grab down off a shelf. I love history but so often historical novels have a difficult time keeping modern day from creeping in to the text and that, quite frankly, irritates me. So, I did not like historicals…until Erastes. Erastes made a liar of me. For you see, I LOVED this historical—so very much!

A Brush with Darkness is set in Florence in 1875, and spins the tale of an impoverished young painter named Michel. Michel is indentured to his father’s former business partner Signor Bettano, an oafish, ignorant man who is both greedy and cruel. After his death, it was discovered that Michel’s father owed a great deal of money to his former partner. To settle the debt and continue the family’s standing in good society, Michel comes to live with Bettano who essentially pimps out his services to the highest bidder! He paints portraits for wealthy clients and Bettano pockets the money.

There is never a moment that does not see Bettano and family reminding Michel of his need, his dependence on their good graces. Constantly berated and threatened with financial and social ruin for he, his sister, and mother, Michel sullenly moves through his life, painting spoiled rich aristocrats and living in lonely despair.

Bettano leads Michel to a new client, the mysterious Signore and her protégé Yuri. In the quote above, Michel recounts his first portrait sitting with Yuri and the overwhelming desire he feels for the man. But Yuri and the Signore have a secret, a dark secret that belies the light he seems to create in Michel’s heart. Running counter to this romance is the mystery of a series of violent murders committed by an unseen assailant. The attacks are vicious and include decapitation of the victim. Interestingly, the victims are all found to be criminals in their own right who have somehow escaped the admittedly corrupt penal system of Florence.  Unfortunately dear reader, it is here that I must stop in the recitation of the story for to go any further would be to give away the delicious plot twist that Erastes inserts in this thrilling little novella!

A Brush with Darkness is that wonderful mating of sensual romance and thrilling mystery with just a hint of the paranormal. The writing style has amazingly descriptive passages and soul bearing confessions that sweep you up into the story and firmly lodge you into the center of the action. I cannot say enough about this little book! Erastes has such a thorough knowledge of the era in which she set her story that you feel as though you have stepped back into time and are there—standing shoulder to shoulder with the characters in her novel. My heart was moved by Michel’s plight and beat rapidly during his intensely erotic moments with Yuri.

I highly recommend this novella to you! A Brush With Darkness earned every one of its 5 stars quite handily!