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REVIEW: The Saturnalia Effect by Heidi Belleau,Violetta Vane

Dear Ms. Belleau and Ms. Vane.

I found this story by clickingclickingclicking through the various posted responses to our post about M/M romance and Fan Fiction. Heidi gives good blog and then I was intrigued, as I always am with prison stories, by the short she wrote with Violetta Vane. This story is fabulous, I’m so thrilled I found it, and I can’t wait for more from this pair of authors.

The Saturnalia Effect by Heidi Belleau,Violetta Vane

Click for a larger NSFW image

Troy is very young (early 20s) and in prison for 40 years for following where his more dangerous twin led, which is into a jewelry store heist that ended with the death of his twin after the twin killed a cop. At the beginning of the story, Troy’s being threatened by a prison leader and his heavy into killing another inmate. The short story (56 ePub pages, 23K words) tells of Troy’s relationship with Daniel, the guy he’s supposed to kill. Daniel’s an ex-mobster who’s turned over a new leaf in prison, but is even more of a lifer than Troy. He takes Troy under his wing, both sexually and protection-wise. And despite the setting, it’s a sweet, poignant love story between two men with nothing left to lose.

This summary doesn’t do much to explain how GOOD this story is. The writing is brilliant, gripping. The characters are engrossing. The story’s told entirely from Troy’s deep third-person perspective, but Daniel’s still a great presence.

Two weirdnesses:

1. If you buy the book direct from Storm Moon Press, it’ll come with an outtake, a blowjob scene from the middle of the book. Reading this scene after reading the story, I can’t understand why it was taken out. It’s integral to the establishment of the characters of both Troy and Daniel and to their relationship dynamic. It makes the betrayal later in the book more devastating, it makes the ending more magical. This is a perfect example of how erotic scenes, when done right, can NOT just be cut out without damaging the rest of the story.

2. The ending is a HFN/HEA, but only through a measure of magical realism that is hinted at, but by no means an integral part of the rest of the book. This book is firmly contemporary-set, but the only way these men are getting their HEA is through paranormal mumbo-jumbo, so it’s necessary to the book, worked in well, but a little unusual. My literary self both loved the implications of the way the ending was done, but had also enjoyed the story and characters so much that I would have been content with a non-HEA ending. And I never ever ever say that.

Grade: B+

P.S. Cover is horrible, but I love that Troy is actually depicted as Middle Eastern, as he is in the book.

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Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

9 Comments

  1. Susan
    May 14, 2012 @ 15:39:01

    So, does this mean that if I buy the book from Amazon the critical scene will not be included in that version? :-(

  2. Sarah Frantz
    May 14, 2012 @ 15:41:03

    @Susan: I think so. :(

  3. Susan
    May 14, 2012 @ 17:44:05

    Well, that. . . stinks. Then maybe your review will make them rethink this and restore the scene. Because I don’t think I’d be interested in buying/reading an abridged version.

  4. S.L. Armstrong
    May 14, 2012 @ 23:14:03

    I just wanted to clear up a little confusion. :) The “Pretty Things” scene wasn’t actually in the original manuscript. It was an additional scene that Heidi and Violetta offered Storm Moon Press after acquisition and editing. We liked the scene and didn’t want to exclude it, but it was a mutual decision to only offer it to customers who bought directly from us. :) There wasn’t really anything to restore because it hadn’t been removed from the manuscript.

    I will say that we’re in talks with the authors to release a new, expanded edition of the short with additional material and the short scene added to the narrative and a new cover. :) Details will follow, I’m sure, as they’re hammered out. Thank you for the review, Sarah, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2012 @ 00:40:39

    Sold :)

  6. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2012 @ 00:51:03

    @SL Armstrong I just bought this from Storm Moon Press in ePub but the book isn’t loading for me. I looked on the website and under “contact us” there is an email contact link for submissions, for signing up to the newsletter, for a web problem and to the editor (for queries about questionable content). I don’t see a customer service address. I’ve gone with the webmaster email – I hope this is the right one.

  7. S.L. Armstrong
    May 15, 2012 @ 16:06:27

    @Kaetrin: Yes, the webmaster email is the one you want to contact. Our web monkey will fix you right up! I’ll even give him a heads up for you now.

  8. Susan
    May 15, 2012 @ 16:47:53

    @S.L. Armstrong: Thank you for clarifying this. I’ll keep my eye out for a new edition.

  9. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2012 @ 22:56:15

    @S.L. Armstrong: Fixed. Thx :)

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