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REVIEW: Sea Turtle Inn by H.B. Kurtzwilde

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Once a tavern historically popular amongst pirates, the Sea Turtle Inn is now an enchanting coastal Floridian hotel and bar that boasts stunning gothic architecture, scenic views, and a nightlife that can best be described as, well… unique. Accomplished paranormalist Andrew Wells has been hired by the current owner to investigate claims that the Sea Turtle Inn’s rooms are haunted by the unruly, restless, and randy spirits of Black Roger and Dirty Davy, two rival pirates rumored to have murdered one another over a woman. But the truth story behind the pirates’ tale and the degree to which the Sea Turtle Inn is actually haunted turns out to be more complicated than centuries’ old rumor and popular reputation would imply.

As he thoroughly investigates each room with reports of poltergeist activity and possession, Andrew finds himself more intrigued by the inn’s enigmatic proprietor, Davis. After inheriting the inn from family, maintaining the Sea Turtle Inn and keeping its staff and guests has been Davis’ sole focus, leaving little time for self-contemplation or a personal life. But it is precisely Davis’ personal secrets that Andrew is drawn to most. And it is resolving those secrets that may prove key to finally putting the tumultuous and potentially dangerous spirits to rest.

Gressive Press, an imprint of Circlet Press dedicated to sex-positive science fiction and fantasy outside the gender binary, is proud to present Sea Turtle Inn– a transgender, gay, paranormal romance by H.B. Kurtzwilde, the LAMBDA Literary Award nominated author of Chocolatiers of the High Winds

Dear H.B.Kurtzwilde,

I have to admit that if I were to pay for this book, I would never considered paying 6.99 for 68 pages of the story by an author I’d never heard of, no matter how good the story might turn out to be. No, I did not realize how short this story is when I requested this book – amazon finally provided the page count several days after I received and read it. The price of the story plays no part in my rating – but its length certainly does, because I think that the characterizations suffered a lot because of it.

As the blurb tells us, Andrew Wells arrives at Sea Turtle Inn to take care of a pair of unruly ghosts. They had been playing in the Inn for a long time – but started acting strangely only recently according to the Inn’s owner, Davis.
I like paranormal romance and the blurb also indicated that it was gay transgender story, so I was eager to read it. I finished the book feeling extremely frustrated. I did like the set-up of the story a lot – figuring out the ghosts’ past and helping them to get some peace (whatever that means for them in the context of the story) sounded like something I wanted to read about. I was also intrigued by the overall set up – ghosts playing sexual games on the guests (possessing them pretty much) and guests quite liking it. Weird, but somehow it worked for the place the story was set in.

Then something supposedly goes wrong – the Inn owner thinks the ghosts are acting strangely, but part of it is that Davis is keeping her own secrets. And here we come into strange territory where I had mental question marks on many pages. I want to put a huge qualifier – it is quite possible that it is my own ignorance talking.

Spoiler (Spoiler): Show

Davis is a transgender male, who is kind of aware of whom he really is, but is trying to suppress it as deeply as he can. He acknowledges his identity at the end – but supposedly everybody around Davis (when we still do not know that he is a transgender male) knows that this person who is presenting as a woman is really a man in terms of gender identity.
I was kind of offended on the character’s behalf here due to everybody else being portrayed as more aware of who he really was than the character himself. I do not know if I should have been, I just felt that way and maybe this is a completely ignorant reaction, I do not know. Davis’ realization and overcoming the doubts is connected to the ghosts’ behavior in some important way. When the secret comes out and the ghosts’ tragic past is dealt with by Andrew, all is well with Andrew, Davis, ghosts and the world.

Andrew is attracted to Davis almost from the beginning and he figures out Davis’ secret pretty fast, but I really did not feel much romantic connection between them, and more importantly at the end of the story I still do not feel like I know either Davis or Andrew well. I felt both of them had no foundation as characters and that it is a problem for main characters in love story, or any story.

I know a tiny bit of Davis’ backstory as it related to the “secret”, but nothing else – I do not know what makes him tick. I know *nothing * about Andrew except what is happening to him at this given moment and to me it still did not extrapolate in him being a well-rounded character, and the same is true for Davis. At most I would probably call them two dimensional and even that would be a stretch.

I was more interested in ghosts’ past and this is telling because really their past is not terribly detailed either – it is just that it was sketched as potentially interesting.
I definitely think that this story needed more character development, a lot more.

Grade: C-

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Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

5 Comments

  1. Maria
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 13:52:58

    I’m not sure if it’s my chrome browser, but your spoiler tags aren’t working right.

    Also nitpick (sorry!) You called it Sea Circle Inn instead of Sea Turtle Inn in the 2nd paragraph of the review portion.

  2. Sirius
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 16:01:58

    @Maria: Thanks for telling me. It is definitely not your browser. I messed up spoiler plug-in.

  3. Jayne
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 18:05:41

    Wow. That price … Just, wow. Too bad the story didn’t pan out as the premise sounded intriguing.

  4. Kaetrin
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 20:50:38

    $6.99 for 68 pages?? Yikes! I don’t think I’d pay that for a book by an author whose work I knew and loved. That’s just waaaay over-priced IMO.

  5. Sirius
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 22:13:35

    @Kaetrin: and Jayne, I think in all eight years of buying and reading m/m, this is the most expensive story for the length, ever.

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