asylumRating: 3.5 stars
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Johnny works helping to run his family’s traveling haunted house.  He and his staff are living in a shared rental house and getting ready to open for the season.  Johnny is stunned when he wakes up one night to Brennan climbing into his bed.  Brennan, the younger brother of his best friend, and someone to whom Johnny has been attracted for years.  Johnny knows it’s a bad idea but can’t resist the man, though he quickly sends him away when the encounter is over.  And so it repeats night after night.  Brennan sneaking into Johnny’s room, Johnny giving in to more and deeper sexual encounters, and then Johnny’s conviction that it all has to stop.  Johnny knows Brennan has feelings for him, and truth be told, Johnny has some feelings back.  But he knows Brennan should be going off to school and doesn’t want to hold him back. Not to mention that Brennan’s brother Eddie would be furious.  But just as Johnny finally manages to stand his ground and end things, a terrible accident puts Brennan at risk, and Johnny realizes that the scariest thing of all would be to lose Brennan for good.

I think the set up for this book is quite interesting. I liked the premise of this unusual business, a carnival family of sorts that tours around and lives a nomadic life.  Vaughn does a nice job of setting the scene of this traveling haunted house and some of the tricks and scares they manage to create.  And I liked the idea of the forbidden love and seeing how Johnny would manage to balance his lust and his attraction with his sense of obligation for doing what was right.

But the execution of this one fell a little flat for me.  First off, much of the book consists of scene after scene of Brennan sneaking into Johnny’s room, Johnny protesting then giving in, and then Johnny sending Brennan away. I am usually not one to complain about a lot of sex in a book, but for some reason there just wasn’t that heat and intensity here despite all the sex.  Maybe it is because the two have almost no interaction beyond that for the first 60% of the book and we barely even see them talk to one another during their encounters, let alone outside of them.  And even after we get some day time conversations, there is still so little time with them interacting together. And we don’t get to know them much separately either.   So I had a really hard time finding any kind of emotional connection between these guys.  We are told through a third party Brennan is in love with Johnny.  But with no chance to get to know either character individually or the two of them as a couple, I had a really hard time feeling invested in them.

I’m also not sure I totally got why this relationship is such a bad idea.  We only meet Brennan’s brother Eddie during a brief phone call.  We are told there is no way the men can get involved because Eddie would be furious.  But since we never really get to know Eddie, or understand his relationship with either Johnny or Brennan, it is hard to understand why this is such a big deal.  The issues about Brennan going to college seem like more significant hurdles and made more sense to me (though I do wish these concerns hadn’t been so easily dismissed at the end of the book).  But even if we accept there are real reasons why these guys shouldn’t be together, it is then frustrating to watch Johnny time and again get sexually involved with the younger Brennan and then push him away.  And to see Brennan come back for more over and over.  I get Johnny is trying to be noble, but basically he ends up getting off and kicking Brennan out night after night, which made it hard for me to support his attempts at doing what he thinks is best.

Overall there is some nice set up here and some interesting relationship dynamics.  But I just don’t think there was enough development of the characters or the relationship to get me invested in them or to be able to see past the faults in their behavior.  So a good foundation and some sweet moments, but it didn’t all come together for me.

Cover Review: Mmmm, lovely cover. It doesn’t really do much to illuminate the story, but the yumminess factor more than makes up for it. Very nice.


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