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REVIEW: Purgatory Playhouse – E.J. Russell

Purgatory Playhouse

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Comedy

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Reviewer: Tony

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About The Book

Staging a musical in Purgatory can be absolute hell.

Lonnie Coleridge last saw the sun in 1968. Since then, he’s been consigned to Limbo, still wearing the same tie-dyed T-shirt and bell-bottomed jeans he had on when he left his life behind. He and others like him have one chance each year at redemption: produce a show for the Greek pantheon. Whoever pleases this very specific—and temperamental—fan group could earn the right to move on.

But after a literal act of god (*cough* Hermes *cough*) destroys their sets, lights, and costumes, the company needs emergency help to rebuild. Without it, all of them could poof out of existence forever. 

Out-of-work theater technician TD Baylor has precisely three things on his cosmic wish list: a job, a place to stay, and a boyfriend who isn’t a total tool. He thinks he’s got the first two nailed when he gets a line on a two-week gig that includes room and board. So what if the job tip came from a guy who was leaning way too hard into the LOTR cosplay at a sketchy Halloween pop-up? At this point, TD doesn’t have anything more to lose, so he figures…what the hell.

He didn’t realize hell was the operative word.

When Lonnie greets him at the theater door, though…whoa. TD fantasizes that item number three could be within his reach. But then Lonnie gives him the bad news: This is Purgatory Playhouse, aka Theater of the Darned. In two weeks—if they’re lucky and can successfully mount a musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—the company will return to Limbo after the curtain falls. If they’re not lucky?

Remember that part about hell?

Purgatory Playhouse is part of the multi-author Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone’s in dire need. This book contains a theater techie who’s one couch surf away from homeless, a production assistant who’s sort of, um, not alive, Greek gods behaving very badly indeed, and a guaranteed HEA.

The Review

This is one the novellas in the multi-author series The Magic Emporium. There are two main characters, TD Baylor and Lonnie, and the point of view alternates between the two throughout the story.

TD is a down-on-his-luck theatre technician who is just about to become homeless as well having been let down in love. He gave up his job and home to follow his heart to Boston and, as he finds out, a fickle boyfriend. Lucky for him the Magic Emporium has him in its sights to provide a solution to someone’s dire need by way of some extra big dog biscuits and an advert for a theatre job. TD is about to discover there is more to Greek mythology and the afterlife than he imagined. He is also about to meet Alonzo Coleridge, his hero of the stage but long dead.

Alonzo, or Lonnie as he prefers to be called, is a spirit trapped in limbo with an annual reprieve / break in purgatory to put on a show for the gods. This year it’s the musical version of Midsummer’s Night Dream but it’s all going wrong after all the sets, lights and costumes have been lost during a drunken drug fuelled rampage carried out by Hermes and his fellow gods. Who is going to fix things seeming as the gods are next to useless for anything other than passing the buck?

Cue TD, the perfect person for the job and potentially Lonnie’s perfect man as well. TD is going to prove he is more than perfect for the job as he is an Everyman and supporter of his fellow workers. Those gods have no idea what they have let themselves in for by letting Marden’s Magic Emporium fill the job vacancy.

I had no idea just how much fun this read was going to be, considering the far out premise. If you’re not up on your Greek myths and characters, have no fear. All you need to do is turn to the back and check out the ‘Dramatis Personae (The Greeks)’. There’s one for Midsummer’s Night Dream as well. There are so many characters, but stick with it, as the ones you need to care about are well written and loveable.

The Reviewer

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on. 

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