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

You Can Do Magic - R.L. Merrill

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay

Reviewer: Tony

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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 Review

You Can Do Magic is set in 2018, and concerns a mysterious young guy named Kallos Alexandrou by the even more mysterious carnival owner, Mr Ames. Kallos, or Kal, is a man who has been taken to ‘fairyland’ and then ejected back into a world he no longer understands as it has moved on by decades from when he last inhabited it. This is a result of his uncle, who is based on Norman Baker, a real quack doctor who hawked a dangerously fake cancer cure in the early 1930’s. (Yep I researched him to quiet my confusion.)

Kal meets Ryan Wells, a recovering ex-con rock star who has an equally troubled past – and present, as it happens. Ryan is a throwback to the 1960’s or 70’s – a twenty-first century Jim Morrison, all about excess in terms of sex, drugs, booze and rock ’n roll, until he nearly kills himself and his passengers in a car crash. That’s what got him a prison sentence.

He is also a true artist and gives the audience what they want, which puts him at odds with the rest of his band. They are talented musicians, but they want to keep to schedule. This creates an explosive tension between them. Luckily, Ryan also has friends and Kal, who become his found family and give him the strength to continue – and to survive when the animosity explodes.

This is a very intense and emotional read that channels movies like ‘Easy Rider’. The initial wallowing in sadness and melancholy tried my patience a bit – me, whose middle name is Misery. And there are a few things that were left hanging. But bear with it – the rewards are great. There is love and support for those characters willing to trust others.

There’s magic running through this book too, but it isn’t easy to pin down – a willful Ouija board and the witches of Fortuna, who appear in the latter half of the book.

Despite some rough edges, it’s a good book, a love story between two guys brought together by the fates and other interferences, and some smiles and quite a few chortles.

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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