Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: All Places That Are Not Heaven

All Places That Are Not Heaven
Anne Fraser
By Light Unseen Media
© 2011

‘Lo Peoples,

Her Tangh-i-ness always enjoys reading Speculative Fiction that includes LGBTQ characters. Being a member of The Outer Alliance makes it easier to find noteworthy reading to share with others who delight in the same.

Long Before Sookie Stackhouse dallied with vampires and werefolk in Bon Temps, Louisiana; and just after Anita Blake started flirting with similar company in Saint Louis, Missouri; a Bi-sexual male vampire professor and former actor prowled Toronto and New York. At the same time in Europe, a hetero female vampire lived as a Prince. The stories in the anthology All Places That Are Not Heaven feature two of the dazzling undead: Adrian Talbot and Genevieve de Monet.

The Rosedale Vampires, Vampire Blues, Vampire Conventions, Acting’s in the Blood and Speak Easy are the stories about Adrian Talbot. These third-person stories progress chronologically by when they were written.

Watch and Ward and A Babe in Arms present Genevieve de Monet also in the third person. Fans of strong female protagonists may appreciate her as a literary digestif compared to the plat principal Adrian Talbot provides.

Honestly, it took a bit before this reviewer became entranced with Anne Fraser’s world. But once settled in, I no longer regretted the journey. I, too, snickered at the inclusion of some real-life personages such as the library technician from “Fort Book” and the law offices named for other vampire writers: Huff, Baker, Charnas, and O’Brien. Anne Fraser frequently inserts humorous dialogue exchanges between characters such as Sweat Sock à la Fowler with a request for a side of Grilled Jockstrap.

Adrian Talbot’s straight, unrequited love interest, Jake Fowler, inhabits the first four stories. Nothing titillating (in this reviewer’s opinion) happens between them although they develop a strong if unexpected friendship. Acting’s in the Blood the last of the Adrian Talbot-Jake Fowler tales is my second favorite story. The late Anne Fraser herself thought highly of her novella Speak Easy and Her Tangh-i-ness agrees. This story near outshone the whole collection. Jake Fowler doesn’t make an appearance. Speak Easy is tinged with explicit homoeroticism, tragic romance, but it also addresses the need to be loved unconditionally. and demonstrates what happens when one’s sexual preference and expression are judged more harshly than just being part of the Prohibition-Era underworld. Read it and try not to weep.

A Babe in Arms has to be my third favorite of the collection. Anne Fraser explores the difficulty of a relationship with a “traditional” male with a wandering eye and a resolute female who adores her scamp of a lover despite his frequent betrayals. These two just happen to be vampires rather than mortals. By the story’s end, Genevieve can finally abandon her Ice Queen image and entertain a polyamorous arrangement. Go Genevieve!

Note: This copy of All Places That Are Not Heaven was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.