This story is aptly named Behind Bars and its title and implication of imprisonment only to start the story from the bartender’s perspective. The bartender being the main character Pel who is raising his sole child, Bruant, in a strict Inquisition approved establishment. The style of writing is intriguing and the author’s use of words and turn of phrases entertains whilst at the same time drawing the reader into the thickening plot.
Pel was a guard protecting humans from the supernatural in a village that is not supernatural-friendly. Pel fell in love with an innkeeper’s daughter, married her, had son Bruant, and inherited inn and lost unprejudiced wife Phalene to a vicious demon. Pel, having worked as a city guard protecting against demons, becomes an Inquisition informant reporting anyone whom he thinks are acting suspiciously. He and his son are not seeing eye-to-eye on the Inquisition and attitude towards supernaturals. Imagine all suspects being treated to a Salem witch hunt on someone accusations. If you sink, you’re innocent… that’s okay, right? Regardless once accused you’re dead!
Enters into Pel’s bar/inn, traveler Tari in search of a room during her travels. Thinking this was an M/M book, I kept waiting to meet the protagonist’s love match. Again, I felt the author is quite talented in and made twists in the plot in just the right amount of time to keep the reader from feeling like the storyline was boring or not well-paced. In the meantime, Pel is observing his surroundings as usual on the scope of information or actions out of the ordinary. He is concerned about his relationship with his son, but brushes most anomalies off as growing child pains.
Pel observes Tari’s ability to get along with people and her and his son’s instances of conversation. In hopes of improving his and his son’s relationship, he starts talking with Tari more. At some point, they become attracted to each other!? During a heavy make out session, he finds out she is an intercubus – neither male nor female, but most comfortable in between. Pel, still trying to work over the death of his wife, his blind discrimination against all supernatural due to the nature of his wife’s death, his unwilling guilt over having reported so many suspecting individuals to the Inquisition, and now in bed with a he demon, overwhelmingly tells Tari if she leaves his inn and his family immediately, he will not report her to the Inquisition.
At this sad point, one wonders what else remains in this strict Inquisition village that will give our story the necessary impetus to move on to the happy ending we all look forward to. Well, well, what do you know – Bruant is witch, has found love with his newly bonded familiar Kip, and oh, has been captured by the Inquisition. This proved to be the necessary impetus to change Pel’s outlook. Pel works hard to get over his ingrained habit of hating supernaturals. He finds and begs Tari, the only other supernatural he knows, to help him with his plot to rescue his son.
The two journey to save Braunt and in the process may just find freedom and to learn to love each other openly despite their issues.
Behind Bars is certainly not all m/m or highly sexual novel, I almost hesitate to call it a romance novel. If you like twisty supernatural stories, with characters full of emotional angst and flirt with hermaphrodite as a sort of gender ambiguity, this story is for you.
An free copy was provided to me from Reading Alley in exchange for an honest and unbias review.