Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: The Bone Orchard

The Bone Orchard, by Abigail Roux
To fill the void left by no new Sidewinder or Cut & Run books, I decided to read Abigail Roux' newest short story, The Bone Orchard. It is available on it's own or as part of a set, called My Haunted Blender's Gay Love Affair, and Other Twisted Tales. I didn't know the other authors, so I purchased Abi's story on it's own. And, I am so, so glad I did! Now, like I said, it's a short story, so this will be a quick little review. But, read on if you want to find out more about what I thought about Abi's The Bone Orchard.


Now, at first glance, I wasn't terribly interested in The Bone Orchard. This is the summary of the story:
After leaving a trail of terror and death in his wake, the notorious “Missouri” Boone Jennings finally meets his match in San Francisco when US marshal Ambrose Shaw catches up to him. The story of his capture, and the marshal’s bravery, has already become legend back east by the time Pinkerton inspector Ezra Johns gets off the train from New York City to testify in the murderer’s trial.
When Ambrose is unable to give witness to the evils he’s seen, Ezra becomes their lone hope for putting Jennings in a noose. But if Ezra thinks that’s his biggest problem, he’s got plenty to learn about life—and the afterlife—in the spirited West.
Fortunately, Ambrose is there to assist, and more than happy to oblige Ezra—in the courtroom or the bedroom. He spent his life bringing justice to the Wild West, and if he has a say in it, that’s how he’ll be spending his death too. - See more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/bone-orchard#sthash.SBxcmksq.dpuf Source 
While I enjoy ghost stories, Westerns aren't really that big of an interest for me. But, I adore Abi. I've loved everything she's written. And, it was a cheap buy, since it was just a short story. Abi did not disappoint. The Bone Orchard has compelling characters, a truly evil villain, an outstanding romance, and a great story.  

Heroes and Villains  
Ambrose Shaw is your stereotypical Old West US Marshal. He's gruff, he's tough, he's a man of action. He is also single-mindedly pursuing the story's villain, Boone Jennings. He has followed him across the country, following the clues of his murder spree. Finally, he catches up to him in San Francisco. But, Boone has other ideas. Unfortunately, as it implies in the summary, Ambrose loses his life to his quest. But, that doesn't mean it's over for Ambrose. He's a stubborn bastard and he's not going to let a little thing like death stop him. Fortunately, he has some help in the form of the story's other lead, Ezra.
 
Ezra Johns, yes, like Owen Johns for you minions out there, is a private investigator from New York. He is sent to testify at Boone's trial in San Francisco. Where Ambrose is a rough and tumble man's man, Ezra is a more reserved, intellectual type. But, don't mistake Ezra's quieter personality for timidity. Ezra won't shy away from a confrontation. But, he won't look for one either. Ezra is the only one who is able to see Ambrose. And, even though he thinks this is completely crazy, he makes it his mission to help him put a stop to Boone's murderous rampage. 
imageBoone Jennings, our villain, is straight up crazy pants. He has moved across the country from New York to San Francisco, killing as he goes. He calls it adding to his Bone Orchard. Like any good serial killer, he takes trophies from his victims as well, like a pocket watch. He actually reminds me very much of the villain in the Michael J. Fox movie, The Frighteners. Much like Ambrose's determination to stop him, Boone is just as determined to continue adding to his Bone Orchard, no matter the cost. He is a really great villain, evil to the core. I would go so far as to say that he's the best villain in any of Abi's works. Ghostly or not, he is absotively posilutely horrible.  

A Western Ghost Story Romance?
I love a good ghost story and this one is a great one. It takes an unusual approach to a traditional ghost story, as well. Abi uses common ghost lore to give boundaries to her characters, not being able to touch anything, their skin and clothes are all washed out tones, a chill in the air, etc. But, the one piece of lore I hadn't heard before was ghosts returning to the scene of their death after sleeping or "dying" again. This made for some interesting aspects of the story. And, gave our heroes something to work with as far as capturing Boone. It's not easy to catch a ghost!
 
The Old West setting really was perfect for this as well. The most intriguing aspect, to me, was how homosexuality was dealt with in the Old West. There is so much prejudice still today. I can't imagine what they would have had to put up with then. Especially in the small, rough, old west towns. This is actually a topic I'd like to do some research into, or at least read more about. But, that will have to wait for another day!

As always, Abi delivers a top-notch romance​ with Ezra and Ambrose​. I was a little hesitant when I saw how short this story was that the romance would feel forced. That is not the case at all. While Ezra and Ambrose do fall into the instant deep connection trap of nearly all romance novels, it didn't feel as ridiculous as it normally does. Their connection felt very genuine. Maybe that's just my bias to M/M romance or Abi's writing, in particular. Who knows? But, I couldn't wait for each of them to realize how the other one felt. And, I was dying (sorry, pun penalty) to know how they were going to over come the hurdle of Ambrose being a ghost. That aspect definitely did not turn out how I thought it would, originally. But, I love the way it did turn out!​

As I mentioned above, not only does Boone remind me of the villain in the movie The Frighteners, this whole story reminds me of The Frighteners a little bit. That's a great movie, if you haven't seen it. It is about a ghostly serial killer who is determined to get the highest number of killings of any serial killer. He is chased by Michael J Fox, who can see ghosts, and his reluctant sidekick. Much like Boone, Ambrose, and Ezra. Ambrose and Ezra's quest also reminds me a bit of Elizabeth, the ghost, from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. They are hellbent on ridding the world of their own Heinrich Kramer. But, Abi brings her unique voice to life and blows all other similar characters and stories out of the water.
 
​Ok, there is a super awesome surprise towards the end of the story that I don't want to give away, in case you haven't heard about it already. So, SPOILER ALERT!!!



IT'S SIDEWINDER!!!!! ​Well, most of them anyway. Owen drags Digger, Nick, and Kelly off to San Fran to do some research on the mysterious death of his great-great uncle, Ezra. Almost immediately, Ambrose notices a resemblance between Ezra and Owen. Then, they see Owen with a journal that belonged to Ezra. From that point forward, Ambrose and Ezra make it a point to watch over Sidewinder while they are in town. They know Boone will go after them, once they realize who Owen is and what he's doing there. Ezra watches over Digger and Owen while Ambrose takes Nick and Kelly. In true Nickles fashion, Ambrose spends the majority of his time with them trying to keep them from screwing each other's brains out. As usual when Sidewinder is together, hi-jinks ensue. And, in an interesting turn of events, Owen and Ezra are able to see each other for a few minutes and communicate a little bit. The book ends with an ambiguous ending for Boone, he's still out prowling around. But, Ezra and Ambrose get their HEA, literally. So, should Abi choose to, we could have a sequel some day. An exciting prospect if you ask me!

So, Saucy Minions, did you enjoy The Bone Orchard as much as I did? Let me know below!

**All gifs come from Tumblr

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