Author ~ Hollis Shiloh
Publisher ~ Spare Words Press
Published ~ 15th June 2015
Genre ~ Historical Fantasy M/M Romance
Magic, danger, and love in the Old West
A small yet powerful magician moves to Dustville. He's prickly about his height (or lack thereof) and extremely private about his past.
Magician meets sheriff, also private about his past and quite firmly in the closet. It is, after all, the only safe place to be in the little almost-town of Dustville.
Attraction blossoming between them promises pleasure, and possibly more. Can this become what they both truly want — a real relationship?
And can they survive cruel villains, dark pasts, and a grave magical danger that will test them both to their limits … or beyond?
I don't normally read or review short stories or novellas. There's not enough runway to develop the fully-fleshed out characters I love. But I desperately needed a Hollis Shiloh fix after reading a few very disappointing books, so I made an exception. I'm so happy I did.
Unlike some others readers, I adored this book. The magician (let's call him "John") arrives at the almost-town Dustville with great mystery. No one knows why he has chosen to land in the middle of nowhere. The kindly Sheriff, Henry, takes a shine to the mysterious (and tiny) magician. They do manage the minimum of casual conversation at which time, the magician (the one we're calling "John") invites himself to have sex with Henry. He's pretty damned forward for a reticent man who normally doesn't have more than a word for anyone else.
Over time, and with Sheriff Henry's tender ministrations, John begins to understand that this man really wants him. John is filled with self-loathing. Apparently his tiny stature and his tendency to look like a child, have made it difficult for anyone to take him seriously, except for the beautiful Henry, who is falling in love with him for whom he is, regardless of his stature and his often prickly nature. They fall in love. John does a few kindnesses for the town with his magic. He creates a barrier that the rustlers cannot cross to terrorize and vandalize Dustville, casts a spell to prevent any more children of dying of milk disease, finds strays, ensures, together with Henry, that the townspeople are kept safe.
Until the day that a dying magician and his gunslinger-lover kidnap both of them, and to use John's magic to steal a train laden with gold. Hell ensues, almost literally.
The sadistic, evil magician uses his powers to launch a black spell that will, literally, rent the earth asunder, kill tens of thousands of people, destroy every town, village and ranch within miles (perhaps the entire territory) and ensure that no one can live there for thousands of years, maybe forever.
Henry, recovering from his kidnapping and injuries, and almost devoid of magic, races out to protect his lover, Henry, when his magic recovers enough to deliver a message - that he has to go and save him.
Which he does, and so much more.
This is a beautiful little book about a beautiful little man and the big, tender-hearted man who loves him so. What I most loved about it is the incredible power that John is able to gather unto himself to stop the evil spell. He launched all the spells he brought with him, but they seem to have disappeared without effect, and yet the earth righted itself and magic went back into equilibrium. Although John never figured out why, Henry, though not a magician, did. At the time that the black spell was spinning out of control and threatening the two lovers, not to mention everyone else within miles, they held each other tightly, willing to die, but to die together, taking their love with them. It was the love that gave his spells the strength, their passionate commitment to each other with their hearts so good and true that provided the power to beat the spell back. I love the message: the antidote to evil is love.
What a beautiful resolution to a beautiful little story. Written as only Hollis Shiloh can, with her uncanny ability to place her readers in a time that never existed, but somewhere shortly after the civil war, and write it in a voice appropriate to the times, the cultural and the South, after it lost the war to the Union. Ms. Shiloh's touch never fails to lift my spirits. Her stories move me and her writing just reminds me, every time, of why I love to read.
Do yourself a favor and take a few hours to dwell in one more vivid and moving world Ms. Shiloh has so excellently created.