Rating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Jamie Roma and Derek Lee are invited guests to an exclusive party boasting awesome guest favors and a weekend away. Jamie and Derek have known each other since middle school, but they’ve only recently begun dating. This weekend house party at a remote estate northeast of San Diego might be the true test of their blossoming relationship. Neither Jamie nor Derek wants to ruin their friendship, and both are timid to admit their feelings are more than convenience in case they seem to want more than the other does.

The houseparty is a bit of a mystery, as the host’s name has never been given. But, the invitations were hand delivered, so it must be a friend, right? Jamie, who loves all things sleuth, takes it as some crazy lark he can’t wait to get to the bottom of. They both know the trip is going sideways when the roads get ever more ragged and the thunderstorms become ever more epic. Unfortunately, they’ve driven for hours to get to their destination and turning back seems ludicrous. Naturally, when the last bridge to the estate is washed out by torrential floods, Derek’s less than sanguine. Was it good luck the bridge washed out after they crossed it?

Having no recourse, Derek and Jamie doggedly press on. Upon arrival at a very plain home in some level of disrepair, they are frustrated to learn there is no host and no guest gifts. Just three other strangers and the homophobic couple hired as temporary staff. Derek and Jamie decide to make the most of this getaway—having some sexytimes straightaway—and then embracing their baffling situation. It seems no one in the house knows the host’s identity. They can’t seem to find any common thread tying their invitations together, either. While the storm rages, Derek and Jamie try to figure out how they will get home. The only outlet to civilization is beyond the raging river with no bridge.

Who is trying to keep these seven souls locked in to this mouldering home? Well, they started as seven, but soon their numbers begin to dwindle with the murder of one of their own. Jamie and Derek are trying to figure out their connection to the gothic horrorscape, but the clock is ticking and the bodies are mounting. Their connection is deepening, even as it seem it may all be moot—if the killer has anything to say about it.

This is a fun and interesting thrill ride of a romantic suspense. There was a true gothic horror vibe throughout with the story, from the unnatural weather to the creepy comrades and the growing mystery of “why are we here?” I really enjoyed the dual narratives of discovery regarding both the murderer and the burgeoning relationship between Derek and Jamie. The story is told through both of their viewpoints, so it’s easy to see how deeply they care for one another, even if they think it’s too new to be so serious. The mounting tension for the guests really had me turning the pages. I did have an early inkling about the killer, and I was satisfied to know I picked that winner, but the story had plenty of misdirection to keep me second-guessing.

In the end, Derek and Jamie are fighting, literally, for their lives, and they recognize that life is too short to not go full force for what they want. For each man, it’s more time to build their relationship, out and proud and full of love for one another. There are plenty of harrowing moments, and it’s likely that they might be snuffed before they can truly enjoy their new revelations. It’s a happy ending, of a sort. The same way you feel elated for folks making out of any slasher movie…and yet troubled for the dead.

Every time I read a book by John Inman, I’m just awed how he can take a simple trope and fill it out so masterfully. The romance feels very forward, but there isn’t a lot of sex on the page, and that was a good choice given the heavy suspense plot. I have lots of feels for both Derek and Jamie, and was glad they found love with one another.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.