Elias is a powerful medium who owns the Avalon Springs Spiritual Circle and Occult Shop. There he uses his talents to help people speak to their loved ones whose spirits who have not yet passed over. Being a medium isn’t easy, as Elias would be bombarded with spirits if he didn’t put up walls to hold them back most of the time. It has also affected his relationship with his family and various men he has tried to date, as most people don’t believe his ability to speak to the spirits is real.
Tristian, Viscount of Beaumont, died in 1854 as a young man on his country estate. Rather than pass over to the other side, Tristian was instead offered the rare chance become a reaper, someone who helps other souls to pass along after their deaths. He has now been at the job for 167 years and, while he spends most of his time in a realm that fits his own version of paradise, it is still a lonely life. He has some friendships among the other reapers, but being unable to interact with the human world keeps Tristian at a distance from almost everyone.
One day, Tristian is called to Elias’ shop as a soul is about to pass on. As it turns out, Elias is currently conducting a reading, so there is a spirit nearby that can talk to both Elias and Tristian. The men form a tentative connection, albeit one where they can’t really communicate much, as once the spirit leaves, they have no way to talk to one another. But eventually, the men are able to figure out that they can interact via Elias’ dreams, as he is in a limbo state that Tristian can access as well. It allows the men to get to know one another and begin to build a friendship and an attraction grows between them.
Unfortunately, Tristian can not safely manifest in the human world, which means the men can never have more than this relationship in Elias’ dreams. However, there is one chance for them. Reapers can bond with humans, giving them a piece of their soul and allowing the reaper to safely exist in the human world. But not only does that risk Tristian’s life if Elias eventually changes his mind, but humans who bond with reapers can not always handle the stress and may go mad. Now that Tristian and Elias have fallen hard for one another, they must figure out if there is a way for a human and a reaper to ever find their happily ever after.
Until His Last Goodbye is the first book in Kiki Clark and E.M. Lindsey’s new Scythe trilogy. The authors also each wrote a free novella set as a prequel to this series (which I reviewed here yesterday), and the couples from those stories appear here, though you can definitely start at this book with no problem. (That said, those stories are really good and available for free for all of 2022, so no reason not to grab them.) Also, that means I am not coming into this book cold, as I was familiar with the world building and the basics of the reaper lore from reading the novellas, so that is obviously impacting my perspective on this first book.
OK, so all that said, I think the world building in this series is a lot of fun. The book starts with Tristian at the end of his life and then his transition to becoming a reaper. So we get some foundation right away as to how it all works and what the reapers do. The authors tie the reaper world well into Elias’ life as a medium and how the spirits interact with both men. So things are nicely explained and I think there are some really interesting directions these stories can go. There is also magic in this world (we encounter a couple of witches throughout the books), so there is a nice mix of paranormal elements that all come together really well. I also am enjoying the camaraderie among the various men, particularly the reapers as they interact with each other and offer advice, guidance, and romantic aid to one another. We have met a couple of reapers who haven’t yet found their matches, so I am hopeful they will be the subject of future books, as they are both interesting characters.
The relationship between Elias and Tristian is sweet, as Tristian lived at a time when he couldn’t be open about his sexuality, so he has zero experience with men. Elias draws Tristian out and helps him be comfortable with his desires and adjust to a world where it is ok for him to be gay. The men are a perfect match in the sense that they can interact in ways Tristian couldn’t with anyone else, and there is almost a sense of wonder for both of them as they explore this seemingly impossible relationship.
I did feel like the story was a little slow for me at times. Perhaps it was because the first two books are much shorter, but things felt sort of repetitive for me here. After the men figure out that they can speak in Elias’ dreams, we get a lot of scenes where Tristian indicates he is around, Elias goes to sleep, and the two then interact in this dream world. Since it is not reality, they aren’t able to go anywhere or do anything real. On top of that, Tristian is aware of this potential way for them to bond, but he is too wary to consider it, nor does he tell Elias about it. So both men have this cycle of wanting to be together for real, but thinking it is impossible, and it doesn’t really go anywhere for most of the book. So I think there just wasn’t enough here on a plot perspective to fully carry the longer story.
Overall, however, I found this a good official start to this series. It sets up the world nicely and gives us a great introduction to the characters and the world. I enjoyed Elias and Tristian together and found them to have an interesting connection. I will definitely be looking forward to more for this series.