Publication Date: October 2, 2014
Synopsis:Damon Snow thinks he has the world figured out. As an incubus and male prostitute, it’s a cruel, dark, lonely place where men only want one thing. But when his long-time patron Byrne discovers he’s dying, Byrne offers to leave his entire fortune to him. There’s just one catch. Damon has to write about the reason why another patron procures his services. Caught up in his patron’s impossible love life, Damon suddenly isn’t so sure he knows the answer.
Byrne dropped his hand. “The physician came today.”
“What did he have to say?” I asked. I made a face. “More leeches?”
I didn’t know how such learned men expected leeches to fix dyspepsia, but I had heard enough from Byrne’s rants that physicians were desperate to use them. And the maggots. Physicians had a fetish for letting bugs eat their patients, apparently. Medical nonsense. It was why I never serviced physicians, however well they paid.
“No. No leeches,” he said. “It’s too late for that.”
“Too late?” I asked. “But you have money.” I had known many people to die young because they could not afford even a surgeon. A real one, who had studied in a university and not the cowherd recently arrived from the country.
“Money doesn’t buy everything,” Byrne said. “It didn’t buy me a family.”
“If you had been as ardent about chasing fillies as you are colts,” I said and shrugged. He’d probably have a whole stable of children by now.
“I don’t care much for fillies,” Byrne said.
“Who does?” I shrugged again. “But that’s how you beget children.”
“I always thought I would have time,” he said.
“You still have time,” I said.
Byrne laughed, which turned into a harsh coughing fit. I rubbed his back through the thin cotton of his night gown.
“Doctor Morson said I wouldn’t last a year. Maybe two,” Byrne said.
“From dyspepsia?” I asked.
Byrne shook his head no. “It’s not dyspepsia.”
Oh. If Byrne didn’t wish to share, then I wouldn’t enquire further. “Well, I knew a boy who got roughed up pretty bad — I mean, I knew a boy who had been gravely injured. His — his abbot was flush enough to summon a surgeon. The surgeon said he wouldn’t last the night.”
“But then the boy lived for fifty years and died a happy old man surrounded by grandchildren,” Byrne finished.
“How many years do you think I have?” I asked. “He did outlive the prognosis, though. He made it a whole week before they called the coffin-maker.”
Byrne laughed again, as if he couldn’t help but laugh instead of cry. Tears ran from the corner of his eyes. He pressed his hand into his side again. “Are you trying to make me feel better or worse?”
“Better,” I said. “If he can live seven times longer, it should be easy for you. You can do a lot in seven years.”
“Not like this,” Byrne said. His hands trembled in his lap.
“It’s a lot of books to read,” I said. I glanced at the god forsaken book on the ground. “Not that one.”
Byrne laughed again. When his coughing fit rescinded, he whispered, “You must endeavour not to make me laugh, or I won’t have a year. It would be worth it, though.”
“Well, then what do you want to do?” I asked. The few people I had known with wasting sicknesses had not been afforded the luxury for such a question, except for something really simple. Apologising to their mother for the life they had lived, for one.
“I want to read something… hopeful,” Byrne said.
“Then the newspaper is out,” I said. “Everyone’s saying the French wars will ruin us.”
“Oh, let the French have Perceval,” Byrne said. “I’ve had three ships go down off the coast of Africa, thanks to his moral idiocy.”
“Yes, terrible that,” I said. “Can you believe him? Actually thinking that men shouldn’t be owned by another? Where is the profit? Well, besides with the former slaves, who would then get a fair wage for their work instead of the whip.”
Byrne sniffed. He looked to the fireplace on the other side of his bedroom. Small flames licked the blackened logs. Perhaps he had realised just how silly it was to complain to a molly about the loss of slave ships. Or perhaps he was just imagining keeping me in a collar, chained to his bed to do whatever he desired. Without pay.
“May I ask you something?” Byrne asked. I shrugged. I hoped it had nothing to do with politics. I cared little for what happened at Westminster, unless it involved a gift of coin and me on my knees. “Are you happy?”
I mouth opened and I almost laughed. “Halfway to the grave,” I said, “and you still find time to mock me.”
“How does that question mock you?” Byrne asked. His forehead furrowed, as if he actually had to think hard on my response.
“No, I am not happy,” I said. “I expect no one really is, not at the bottom of the barrel. Although, I’m not actually at the bottom. That place is reserved for those poor halfwits stuck in St Giles.”
“Damon’s Circles of Hell,” Byrne muttered. “How clever.”
3.5 out of 5 stars
This is the first novella in a series that is set in Georgian Era England. Damon Snow is a molly or rent boy but he also has a secret. Damon is an incubus, a genetic 'gift' from his father who he never knew.
We meet Damon for the first time with his long time patron, Byrne. Byrne seems to be a lovely, but lonely man, who unfortunately is dying. He offers to leave his entire fortune to Damon, but only if Damon follows the lessons set before him. His first lesson is to get into the mind of whomever wants his services next. He's to learn why that gentleman is visiting a molly house, and the emotions involved by the patron. This of course throws Damon because he does not believe that patrons or mollys can have real emotions toward the other. In fact, Damon doesn't believe in love at all.
I quite liked the lessons that Byrne has set before Damon, and both Damon's reaction and his responses to the task at first. I'll admit that the first bit of the story is slow going. By about 40 pages in I wanted to see what Damon gets out of the lesson because he is so jaded in his inner dialogue. I liked the pacing of the story, and the characters were well written. Even if it was a short novella, the characterization and storyline weren't lacking. However the shortness of the novella doesn't lead to a full story development. Ultimately a full story would have made the romance more detailed and would have allowed more backstory.
That's not to say I won't read the rest of the stories that follow, as I do want to see where this takes Damon. Also, I want to see where the author takes the incubus part storyline. I really enjoyed the interaction between Damon and Byrne the most. There was a difference to their relationship by the end of this story, which makes me believe Damon actually did absorb something from his first lesson.
I look forward to the next book in the series. ~ Chris