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Double Review: You Can Do Magic – R.L. Merrill

You Can Do Magic - R.L. Merrill

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay

Reviewers: Linda, Ulysses – Paranrmal Romance Guild, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

From the author of Foreword Indies Finalist Summer of Hush and BookLife Prize Quarterfinalist Brains and Brawn comes a new installment in the series, a contemporary gay romance with a side of time travel and magic.

Musical prodigy Kallos Alexandrou has played his calliope for countless visitors at Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, but his one-year residency has come to an end. Scars from a terrible tragedy in his past are the only explanation he has for his loss of speech and memory, but it’s time to move on, so when a music festival sets up next to the carnival, Mr. Ame sends him off with identification, a bottomless billfold, and a set of new clothes. Outside the carnival’s perimeter, Kal finds himself in an unfamiliar world surrounded by strange instruments and vibrant people like nothing he’s ever seen.

Ryan Wells is the troubled and celebrated lead singer of the metal band Backdrop Silhouette. He’s brought more than his share of baggage on the last cross-country Warped Tour, including harsh restrictions placed on him by his parole officer and the band’s label, but it’s the treatment from his bandmates that have him feeling unsettled. After a tough morning, he spots a strange young man playing carnival music on a keyboard backstage, and the sound takes him back to a particularly vulnerable time in his youth. Intrigued, Ryan asks the young man’s name, but he flees only to appear later as a replacement stagehand for the tour.

An invitation from the band Hush to ride on their bus gives Ryan and Kal a welcome distraction. They find the camaraderie and support they’ve both been craving…as well as a little magic and a fresh new romance. But personal secrets and the music business make relationships difficult to maintain, and when the tour ends, Ryan and Kal will have to make a choice: move forward together on an uncertain path, or let fear keep them from trusting that sometimes you really can have everything you desire.

You Can Do Magic is part of the multi-author Carnival of Mysteries Series. Each book stands alone, but each one includes at least one visit to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, a magical, multiverse traveling show full of unusual acts, games, and rides. The Carnival changes to suit the world it’s on, so each visit is unique and special. This book contains a Depression-era calliaphone, a Ouija board with a purpose, and tour bus hijinks that will warm your heart and make you gigglesnort. Reading Summer of Hush and Brains and Brawn before this book will give you the full Warped Tour experience, but You Can Do Magic can be read as a standalone as well as the other books in the shared universe. Recommended 18+.

The Reviews


Kallos (Kal) Alexandrou has been with the Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries for a year, playing the Calliope for guests. Ame comes to tell him that it’s time for him to leave and find his purpose. He sends Kal on his way with identification documents and a billfold of money that automatically refills when empty.

When Kal came to the carnival, he had no memories and just played his music, never mingling with anyone and staying silent. He leaves with no idea what his purpose is or how to fulfill it. At a loss, he finds himself looking at an array of instruments belonging to the bands on the Warped Tour. His playing brings him to the attention of Ryan Wells, the lead singer of the Blackdrop Silhouette Band. Ryan is enthralled by the way Kal plays music, and sits in with him. When Ryan begins to ask questions Kal runs. He can’t communicate and is afraid of what people will think of him.

Ryan has troubles of his own. One night he drove while drunk, which led to an accident and left one of his friends crippled. Ryan paid the price in jail and is now out on parole, so touring comes with a whole entire set of do’s and don’ts, which makes his bandmates angry and resentful, something Ryan must deal with daily. He is seeing a therapist and talking weekly with his AA sponsor, both of which put a strain on the band, which has to work around his schedule.

Ryan can’t get the beautiful creature he met out of his mind, and when he discovers that Kal has been hired as a stagehand, he gets the chance at last to spend time with him.

Music has always been Kal’s first love, but when he gets confused by items that we all take for granted – cellphones, video games and strange musical instruments – it becomes evident that he is from another time.

Kal isn’t able to speak to anyone, but has found a way to communicate what is necessary. He’s most comfortable when he is with Ryan. Ryan is a troubled soul, much like Kal, each living with pasts that are painful. Kal slowly starts piecing together his painful past, and why he has scars he doesn’t recall getting. He’s scared that when his memory finally returns, the pain will be unbearable.

The Carnival of Mysteries plays a huge role in Ryan and Kal’s lives, but I don’t want to reveal too much. There are secrets, surprises, romance, betrayals and love in this tale, and the secrets and surprises often left me speechless, in a good way. “Enter Travelers,” the sign in front of the Carnival says. You should follow that advice and read this book.

Five stars.


Yet again, a fascinating take on the Carnival of Mysteries, whose magical history is deeply rooted in the plot in multiple ways.

The book starts with Kallos Alexandrou playing his calliaphone at Errante Ame’s carnival – for the last time. Kallos has been with the carnival for a year, although his own memory is almost completely foggy. What, after all, is a  year in the Carnival of Mysteries? As Kal prepares to leave, to step out into the world he has not seen since he was brought to the carnival, he is given clothes, a new ID card, and a wallet filled with cash. All he knows is that he has to solve the riddle of his own life – and to walk the path of least harm. He has no idea what awaits him.

What’s awaiting him is a massive traveling rock festival on the adjacent fairgrounds. The festival is comprises of a lot of bands, all traveling in tour coaches, which Kal sees as “enormous, shiny metal tubes on wheels.” At the center of all the hubbub is a tattooed rockstar named Ryan Wells. Although the crew of the festival takes Kal under their wings and gives him a job without hesitation, Ryan sees right away that Kal is not like other people.

We know immediately that Ryan is a complicated man, with a history of bad choices that haunts him. We also know that he’s a good man, burdened by his own past mistakes and convinced that he’s unworthy of the good things that come to him. His connection to Kal is instant, but he is as much puzzled by as attracted to the tall, mute blond. 

With a lot of carefully-managed background action, bringing in all the players in Ryan’s life, Merrill focuses on her two main characters, and on how they interact with each other. We get to know the people around them – as well as people in their pasts. The past matters a lot in this story, because the Carnival of Mysteries not only figures in Kal’s past, but in Ryan’s as well. 

The classic M/M scenario of two damaged men is carried out with great creativity and emotional power. The magical aspect of Kal’s own history is freighted with tragedy, only revealed bit by bit as Kal himself regains his memories. Ryan’s story is less violent, but just as traumatic, interwoven with broken relationships that may or may not be Ryan’s fault. As she alternates chapters between their two perspectives, the author draws us into their souls and makes us into believers. This is a story for romantics.

In some of the Carnival of Mysteries series, the main characters come away with only the vaguest sense of the magic that they’ve encountered. Here, however, facing the truth of Kal’s history becomes the main challenge, and that includes understanding the Carnival itself. Ryan, who has been working hard to get his life in order, to achieve normality, will have to face a reality more difficult to accept than any he has ever known. 

Five stars.

The Reviewers

Linda: I am an avid reader the mother of 3 sons and grandmother to seven grandchildren. Since retiring I have been doing more reading while volunteering as a CASA worker. CASA is an organization that works with the family court system to ensure that children are in the best living situation. There are way too many children that get overlooked in the foster care system and I visit homes and make visits to the parents. I was born and raised in New York and my husband of 50 years and I live in Upstate New York. 

Ulysses: Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

The Paranormal Romance Guild was established in 2009 by 8 Indie Authors and one Reviewer to be a constant help for authors. You can be a free author member, submitting your work for review OR become a Premium Author Member for a small yearly fee and enjoy many extra services including Free Beta Reads, Author Giveaways and many others. Your reviews are posted on our 3 FB Sites, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram. WE REVIEW ALL GENRES LGBTQ+ welcome.

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