Title ~ Call of the Night Singers
Author ~ Ari McKay
Genre ~ M/M Romance
Published ~ 19th March 2014
Rating ~ 5 Stars
When Garland Heatherford is named heir to his uncle’s vast fortune, he isn’t pleased by the honor, and with good reason. The last five heirs all met with most untimely deaths. – four of them from drowning. Although loathe to accept his inheritance, Garland nevertheless travels to the “cursed” town of Bath, North Carolina, to meet his aged uncle, hoping to avoid the fate of his predecessors. But Garland has something in his favor the other heirs didn’t: his lover, Geoffrey Wainwright.
The sight of the decaying hulk of Heatherford House dismays both men, yet they have little choice but to enter a world where a miasma of horror lies beneath a veneer of breeding, and madness and death seem to lurk in every corner. Ruling over all is the presence of sinister Roderick Heatherford, who has managed to outlive five young, healthy heirs despite his allegedly poor health. When an unexpected illness strikes Garland and he begins to sleepwalk, lured from bed by singing only he can hear, Geoffrey resolves to protect Garland from every danger – even if it costs him his own life.
So dear readers, let me set the scene for this delectable little morsel of mystery and spooky suspense...( see I'm getting into character already!) Imagine this. Its the late 1800's. You're in a Gentleman's club, in a large, candlelit room. Old books line the walls and a couple of large leather wingback chairs sit before a dying fire, whose low flames are flickering, causing shadows to dance on the walls... a heavy door creaks open and two well dressed gents in evening suits enter, smoking cigars and carrying large brandy glasses filled with expensive Cognac, talking quietly as one of them stokes the fire and they settle themselves into the well worn leather. They swirl and sip their brandy and silently contemplate their surroundings, watching the flames flicker hypnotically. Then, breaking the silence, the distinguished looking man sat in the winged chair to the right of the fireplace turns to his companion and utters the words: " So my friend, tonight I shall relate to you a tale that, to this very night, haunts me still." And so the story begins to unfold...
Oooh...tingling just thinking about it!!! I remember when a lot of the great ghost and horror stories would possibly start like that, back in the days when I used to devour these unearthly gothic stories. As soon as I started to read I was reminded of authors like MR James, HP Lovecraft, Henry James and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu...all awesome at their craft and spooky as hell! I read this in bed, lights off with just the backlight of my Kindle to read by and I tell you...this was delightfully creepy!
Told in first person and narrated by Geoffrey, we learn how they meet and fall in love, then a few years later, when their relationship is established, his lover Garland receives news that he has just become heir to his still living, 80 year old Uncle Roderick's mansion and fortune but the news isn't as welcome as you would think as there have already been five before him who should have inherited, but they've all died. Four under mysterious circumstances... one probably of natural causes! They discuss the ins and outs of the matter but on reflection decide to journey to Heatherford House, where Garland is supposed to sign the documents that will secure him the title of heir. When they arrive they're greeted by the sight of a very dilapidated mansion, a strange tentacled door knocker, and O'Brien, Roderick's creepy butler. Ari has said they based him on Riff Raff from Rocky Horror, so you can imagine how freaky he is!
Without getting spoilerish, their hopes to get things settled so that they can depart as soon as possible, are cut short when Garland falls mysteriously ill and from then on eerie forces conspire to keep them from leaving and its a fight not only to escape but to stay alive! Disturbingly good stuff!
So I really have to give the writing duo of Ari McKay credit where credit is due because they got the atmosphere and settings in this 19th century, spine-tingling tale of ghastly goings on, at a VERY eerie and sinister mansion, absolutely spot on!! Not only that, it came complete with cursed villages, mysterious drowning's, somnambulism ( okay I could have said sleepwalking but somnambulism sounds way cooler!), disembodied singing, creatures from beyond, a menacing Uncle and his bizarre butler.
What I must stress is that this isn't a typical m/m romance. Admittedly the two MC's are gay and in an established (if not open to the rest of their peers) loving relationship, but this is essentially what I've just described...a hair-raising, gothic chiller with a plot worthy of any of the above authors I've mentioned. Sex is implied and off page but that didn't phase me at all because there's no mistaking the love between these two men and it's that love that ultimately plays a huge part in saving them both from the threat of otherworldly forces!! If you love a good old fashioned uncanny yarn, can put to one side the fact that there's not copious amounts of sex and just sit back and drink in a bloody good plot, then I think, like me you'll be glued to your reader! This is a novella, but personally, I thought it was the perfect length for the subject matter and if Ari McKay decides to write more stories about Geoffrey Wainwright and Garland Heatherford (there's a possible hint at the end of the story that they might be) then I'll be very happy to read them! I love it when things feel refreshingly different to the norm so that's why its a frighteningly good five stars from yours truly. In the vein of the setting and style of the story I'll just say one thing...
This was splendid dear readers ...utterly splendid!
A Word from Ari McKay
First, we’d like to thank the great folks at Sinfully Sexy for having us today. For those who may not know, “Ari McKay” is the name used by two of us, Arionrhod and McKay, for our collaborative work. We’ve been writing together for almost a decade now, and we were very excited to take our efforts professional about two years ago. We have several different romances under our belt, in genres ranging from Contemporary to Paranormal, but today we’d like to discuss our latest work: “Call of the Night Singers”, a Gothic horror tale. This is a very different venture for us in many ways, and we’re eager to see what people think.
While the characters are, of course, fictitious, the setting of the story -- Bath, North Carolina -- is quite real, and so is its “curse”. Well, as real as a legendary curse can be, depending on how much stock you put in that kind of thing! It’s called the Whitefield Curse, and it was placed on Bath by a traveling evangelist in the mid-1700s. Apparently, he thought the residents of Bath were unrepentant sinners, and when he left town for the last time, he shook the dust of the town off his shoes and laid his curse on it.
We thought this gave us the perfect basis for a very Lovecraftian sort of tale. The ancient and decaying house, the sinister patriarch who inhabits it, and the creepy manservant are the kind of elements often present in the tales of the macabre we’ve both enjoyed over the years. The story is also written in first person, which was a new experience for us, but which we both considered to be an absolutely essential element of the sort of tale we wished to tell. Of course, the twist is that our heroes are also lovers. They’re ordinary men thrown into extraordinary circumstances, relying on their bond to get them safely through the horrors they are forced to confront.
We hope our readers enjoy our foray into the realm of the Gothic! Given our love of the supernatural and paranormal, it probably won’t be our last. Just not in first person. ;)
About Ari McKay
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who collaborate on original m/m fiction. They began writing together in 2004 and finished their first original full length novel in 2011. Recently, they’ve begun collaborating on designing and creating costumes to wear and compete in at Sci Fi conventions, and they share a love of yarn and cake.
Arionrhod is an avid costumer, knitter, and all-around craft fiend, as well as a professional systems engineer. Mother of two human children and two dachshunds who think they are human, she is a voracious reader with wildly eclectic tastes, devouring romance novels, military science fiction, horror stories and Shakespeare with equal glee. She is currently preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Ari McKay is gifting one lucky reader an ecopy of Call of the Night Singer… enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.