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Healing the Beast Within by Jaxx Steele

January 6, 2011 by pettyprose

Title: Healing the Beast Within
Author: Jaxx Steele
Length: 56 pages, 15k words
Publisher: Phaze Books
Genre: M/M, contemporary, romance, paranormal
Rating: B

Blurb: Cursed for a crime he did not commit, Keith Turner had given up on love. Even after making that decision, he still spent every night being tortured. His brother Kevin was confident that they could find a way to break the curse, but it wasn’t until Keith met Marcello that he ever took Kevin’s ideas to heart.

Review: This was a pleasant read that side-stepped several of the tropes I’d expected from the blurb and showcased some very sympathetic characters. This review may hint at some spoilers but I don’t consider they’d spoil a reader’s enjoyment.

The opening scene was tense and a good introduction. A familiar scene in ‘curse’ plots, maybe, but it wasn’t too melodramatic and didn’t overstay its welcome. From there, the progress of the story was linear and the pace fast, moving quickly on from scene to scene. Yet I found there was always adequate dialogue and description to give the reader time to acclimatize.

Descriptions of both the characters and the setting were clear and gave a strong sensual pull. I especially liked the description of Keith’s nightly change. For the length of story, the author was skilful in creating several settings, indoors and out, a passage of time, and a plausible romance that spent some time dating before sex.

The cast of characters was larger than I’d expected from the story’s length, but gave it a rewarding depth. I particularly liked the banter between the brothers, and the sympathetic female characters. Dialogue was appropriate to each character, and the cast had a good blend of age, gender and race. The men’s voices were differentiated well, and I felt that several – if not many – of the dialogue tags were unnecessary, though that’s my personal preference and was only a minor distraction. But I confess to struggling with two characters who had such similar names – Kevin and Keith. I know plenty of twins in real life who are named this way, so it’s very common. But in fiction, and especially m/m, I find it often trips up my reading flow, while I check I’m in the right person’s point of view.

The sex was well described, hot and aggressive, yet fully in context. Everything was consensual and greatly enjoyed! The bedroom scene between Keith and Marcello illustrated genuine passion, both exciting and poignant, and was well done as a pivotal scene.

The ending was rather fortuitous and might have made me roll my eyes in a longer work, but after all, this is fiction! And it worked well for all concerned without being totally implausible.

A few print issues re missing or mis-spelled words caught my eye, and I found some of the sentence construction awkward to read. And I did wince with some of the metaphors – eyes as ‘smooth chocolate pools’, a man being ‘smashed’ on to a bed – but otherwise the writing style was straightforward and easy to absorb.

Overall an enthusiastic, sexy and interesting story, written in a vivid style and with empathetic characters. I rate it a B grade.

by pettyprose…my opinion alone.

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