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Review: Control – Tal Frost

Control - Tal Frost

Genre: Paranormal, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

Grappling with a terrible truth only he knows, Leo Crow is doing all he can to prove his loyalty to the shadowy, controlling Seminary whilst keeping his siblings safe.

Three things are working against him: his guilt about things he couldn’t stop, a brother who won’t stop researching things he shouldn’t and sexy, carefree Zeke, who seems to be bringing everything up that Leo wants to keep crushed down.

As Zeke tries to get closer and Leo tries to keep his distance, who will prevail? And what will the consequences be?

The Review

This is only four stars because it is a bonus novella for the Hammer Falls series, and feels exactly like what it is. With its abrupt ending and bleak outlook, it is not meant to satisfy, but to amplify—something it does admirably.

The title is apt and powerful—like a needle-sharp awl. Most interestingly, it all from the points of view of two characters only present secondarily in the first two books of the series: Leo Crow, Nate’s older brother; and Zeke Hafez, Nate’s roommate at the Seminary. 

This novella finally gives us the truth we’ve been sort of suspecting all along, from what we’ve learned about the demonstalker Seminary at which all three of the Crow children are enrolled. Imagine if you will a Hogwarts run by Severus Snape, at which Harry, Hermione, and Ron are all in permanent disgrace and treated with disdain (at best) and gross unfairness for the sins of their father. 

The Seminary, considered sacred by the community of demonstalkers, is more than just a dark place: there is something seriously wrong at the very core of its foundation. Nate had begun to discover things before his desperate flight to the mainland in “Sons of Heaven and Hell,” but in this book, it is Leo who begins to doubt the history he has been taught all his life, and Zeke who witnesses that doubt take hold. 

Once more, intense sexual activity and a not-entirely-candid disavowal of feelings related to it is central and important. Frost is good at writing sex scenes, but he also fully understands how to use this as a tool for emotional exploration. These are teenagers, after all, driven by hormones as much as by their sharp, determined minds. They are learning about lust and love and how difficult it is to pretend the two are not linked. There’s a third “L” in this episode, however: loyalty. 

Loyalty is a noble concept, unless it is twisted and misused and becomes something sinister. In fact, the Seminary is exactly comparable to a fundamentalist evangelical religious community. Outside ideas are seen as damaging to loyalty; indeed, thought itself is seen as potentially dangerous and corrupting. Nate’s research, Leo’s questions, Zeke’s involuntary feelings for Leo and Sadie Crow: all of these are potentially dangerous for these young people in the context of a controlling institution. 

And there you have it. Not entirely satisfying as a stand-alone, “Control” gives focused and painful insight into the challenges that face the Crow children and the people about whom they care.

Now we wait for book 3 in the Hammer Falls series.

The Reviewer

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. 

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