“Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” — Bob Marley
Author: N.J. Nielsen
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages/Word Count: 132 Pages
Rating: 3 stars
Blurb: What doesn’t kill me – had better start running…Storm Gennaro
When the past calls Storm Gennaro for assistance, he willingly comes to help the man who walked away from him. Thirty years is a long time to be parted from the one person meant to stand at your side forever.
Heath Madden is sick, and his family calls Storm to help save him. All the hurt and betrayal suffered at the man’s hands resurfaces, but not everything is as it seems.
The past has come back to wreak havoc on their lives, and as they dig deeper, they realize they aren’t the only ones whose lives are being played with.
Review: I feel the need to begin this review by stating how I struggled with how many stars to give it. N.J. Nielsen is a very good writer. The basis of this story, the world building and the characters were interesting, cleverly written and compelling to read. However, I believe it was the sheer number of introduced players that finally overwhelmed the basic storyline and weighed it down to the point where it became tedious and difficult to follow. Most of these characters were introduced in the last third of the novel. Couple that with what was admittedly an abrupt cliffhanger of an ending, and you can see how rating this book became a challenge.
Let’s recap the story—the basic story, for to try to give you the full scope with all the players is just too much to do in this review. Essentially, Storm and Heath are mated lovers who are about to take the needed blood oath (exchange of blood) to seal them together forever. By accident, during a heated kiss, Heath nips at Storm’s lip and swallows a bit of his blood. Just a few seconds later their dance is broken by a stranger punching Heath, causing blood to spill down his face. Storm and Heath are both “experimentals”, which are essentially outcast fey who are looked down upon by the pure fey of their world. Additionally, they have certain powers and Storm’s is healing. When he reaches out to heal Heath, Storm comes away with blood on his hand and before he realizes it, brushes his hand across his lips, ingesting some. The blood oath is sealed.
However, before the two men can bask in the glow of being mated, Storm is unjustly accused of infidelity—a HUGE no-no in the fey world. Despite his protestations of innocence, Heath storms off, and determines to never see his mate again. Thirty years pass and Storm is summoned to meet with Heath and his two siblings. These three are actually triplets, which is a literal impossibility in the fey world, making Heath, Trace, and their sister, Callie, experimentals. As it turns out, Heath has been poisoned and is in a race against the clock to find the antidote or die. When Storm and Heath discover that the antidote is an exchange of bodily fluids resulting from sex, they realize they will need to summon whatever remains of their lost love for each other if Heath is to survive.
I have merely touched the tip of this “plot iceberg” in my cursory summary above. There is so much more to this story that to outline it would be to give away far too much of the intrigue and mystery that surrounds Heath and Storm’s future. Suffice it to say, theirs is a fascinating and twisted tale, and provides the basis for this novel’s strongest plot point. As this story progresses, author N.J. Nielsen adds layer after layer and multiple characters to broaden the scope and lay the foundation for the series to continue. To be honest, this story is very exciting. The premise of the experimentals being tracked and mysteriously disappearing kept me on the edge of my seat for over two thirds of this novel. Storm and Heath were fascinating and as each chapter unfolded, the author uncovered yet another reason for the way each of these men felt about the other. Piece by piece she built two dynamic characters who drew me into their rather tangled past.
So what happened to derail this story? I believe that, in the end, simply too many characters were introduced and left fallow—undeveloped and dangling. Not only that, but the end seemed to rush along, pulling out one more surprise after another, but never latching on to any of them and following them to completion. I understand that this was an attempt to set up subsequent installments but, for me, it was just too confusing. I wasn’t sure why these people were important—why they preempted the main story line. So instead, we never got real closure or clear direction on whether or not Heath and Storm were now fully committed, and we are left with an interesting ending that made my mouth drop open in shock.
I like this author’s writing style, but the rapid influx of additional characters truly diminished the effectiveness of this story for me. I actually think this was an editing problem that could have been avoided. While I understand that future novels were being set up, I think this first book would have benefited from focusing on the two main characters of Storm and Heath and tightening up their story overall. Other reviewers may disagree with my assessment, but overall this was a potentially great story that, in the end, became watered down to just a good series opener, and that was disappointing. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this novel, Blessed With a Curse, and decide for yourself. Drop by and leave me a note and tell me what you thought! In the meantime, I will look for more work by N.J. Nielsen—I think this author has incredible potential!