Winter Haven: The Fall – X. Aratare
Gay romance is forbidden in this 1930s gothic romantic suspense story, but a greater darkness than prejudice haunts our lovers’ steps.
When Carter Thomas discovers the elaborate clockwork door in the Dupre Mine, he seeks out Etienne Dupre, the sheltered son of the mine’s owner, for answers. Both young men have long secretly loved one another from afar.
But even as their summertime love affair flames hot and forbidden, they discover secrets about Etienne’s heritage and the dark plan Armand Dupre has in store for his son. If the door is opened then Etienne – and perhaps the world – will all be sacrificed to Armand’s lust for power.
Can Carter and Etienne stop Armand or has their fate already been written in stone?
An M/M gothic romantic suspense story for the darker months
The Fall tells of a mysterious door that was found inside a tunnel in a mine. Who made the door? What is behind it? Dare they open it?
The book is part of the extensive Winter Haven universe and contained what I have come to recognized as the author’s signature style. X. Aratare‘s stories are gothic, heavily atmospheric, and paranormal with internal dialogues that are ‘thought out loud’ rather than told to the reader. There are creepy father figures with questionable designs on their sons. The pure and innocent is juxtaposed against the worldly and dark. The delicious USTs unfold in their distinct electrifying prose. And of course, the cliffhangers are of hair-pulling intensity. These elements came together spectacularly in The Vampire’s Club, the only other series of theirs I have read.
The Fall had a more subdued effect a.k.a. I’m not as gaga over it as TVC. I wasn’t as strongly drawn to the characters. I wanted something more from the story and I was left hanging over Carter and Etienne’s future.
Etienne is the only son of the Dupre family with bloodlines that could be traced back to royal families from his late mother’s side. His circumstances, being an asthmatic, was limiting in many of ways. He was confined to the house, under the strict watch of his father, Armand. It did not leave much for him to do so character-wise it was hard not to see him as nothing more than sweet and pretty. He wasn’t totally helpless. He was always curious and eager to escape to the wider world but when he finally learned his true nature and was only starting to spread his wings, the story ended. Tsk!
Carter had more freedom so he was more-fleshed out. He was the head miner in the Dupre mine. He had a strong sense of responsibility. He cared for the welfare of his fellow miners. Even if he was poor, he was educated and dreamt of becoming an archaeologist. Armand trusted him and treated him with a measure of respect. Carter is a great seme. He’s gentle, caring and protective but he’s not the most memorable character in the Winter Haven line-up.
Armand Dupre is Etienne’s always impeccably dressed father. By most accounts, he’s a good boss who paid his miners well. By all appearances, he is a devoted father who made sure his sickly son is well-cared for. His real obsession is power. So much so that he studied the occult. And was willing to sacrifice his son.
Armand had the uncanny ability to tell what Carter and Etienne are thinking. I suspect he really can read minds. In terms of evilness, nurturing a progeny as a sacrifice to The Unnamed One is up there on the scale but then again, he gave subtle hints and tacit approval that the two young men should get on with it and I was close to liking the guy.
A huge chunk of the story is Cartier and Etienne’s courtship and forbidden romance with nothing to stop them except society’s disapproval. It was all very sweet and touching. It was nothing I haven’t seen before. Except that the author has a way with words and could ignite sparks out of a simple conversation on a porch swing like no one else. I liked that their writing is sensual rather than sexual, focusing on the eliciting squees rather than stirring up lust.
The door and what lies behind it ties the story to the greater universe. Carter is trapped inside. Etienne’s fate is much worse than dying young. Armand lays his soul bare or… does he?
A Faustian bargain is struck.
At what price?
What happens when He comes calling?
We’ll never know unless you pick up the other books which are not about them anymore.
They were told to go to Winter Haven to be with Etienne’s kind and we are told the general outline of their future. Then it ended with Carter and Etienne riding off towards the sunset. I was left in the dust gaping like a fool.
THAT’S IT?!!! (ﾉ`□´)ﾉ⌒┻━┻
The Vampire’s Club books here
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love