Review: Balustrade by Mark Henry

balustradeReviewed by Shelly

Although this is a good story, it’s not one that I would ever willingly read due to the dark subject matter. When the request to review this story was presented, this is the blurb I read.

A couple on the verge of divorce begrudgingly agree to attend a remote and oddly voyeuristic couples retreat where they find their most intimate relations under discomfiting scrutiny. The therapy is ritualistic, sensual, wearing away their inhibitions to lush, orgiastic ends. But when time begins to disintegrate in dream-like fugues, sexual awakening takes a turn for the sinister.

I was so excited to read a romance/erotica story by a man that I didn’t read the last word in that paragraph. That short blurb didn’t give me any indication of what this story would turn into, which is fine because like everyone else, I enjoy the unexpected. Curiosity killed the cat, and after reading the story, I just had to know and I went back and read the full blurb posted on the book sites – turns out that there’s more to the blurb.

It continues like this:

Clandestine cabals whisper behind closed doors. Robed figures congregate in the dark cavern at the apex of the strange building’s courtyard.

Nothing is quite as it seems. And a question looms…

Is it the intention of Chantal and Balustrade to help mend their failing marriage or are their minds and bodies being groomed for more sinister, carnal purposes? Hilary must strive to unlock the secrets behind Balustrade before it pushes her to the brink of insanity and ignites her darkest urges.

Hilary and Jack are a normal, everyday couple on the verge of separation, Hilary’s choice. The story starts out slowly with some character and world building as Hilary and Jack are on their way to Balustrade. That is where their marriage counselor has referred them to get their marriage back on track. Hilary is a woman whose duties at work include supervising others so she’s got a bit of a control issue. Jack appears to be her happy-go-lucky husband who for the last few years has changed from the man she married to a lean piece of man-meat, and while he can’t be bothered to either stay home or do things with Hilary, he can’t stay away from his ‘church’ i.e. the gym.

This novella was interesting in the way that it played out. Kudos to Mark Henry; I’m sure his fans will like this story. For me, I still had a lot of questions at the end because a lot of the story didn’t ring my bell. The sex scenes were good but they weren’t fun for me. I questioned and was suspicious of everything that happened so that took away some of the enjoyment I was anticipating. Oh, by the way there’s an m/f/f scene for those of us who like content warning.

There were a few funny moments, all through Hilary as the story is told from her POV only. She’s actually a good heroine. But I started questioning her smarts with her easy acceptance of everything that was going on. On the other side of funny, there’s always sad and I was sad in the end – this story did not leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling and it certainly didn’t have an HEA. I’m not even sure what that would be called, what happened at the end. The second book in the series is slated for October 2014 but I won’t be following.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon

by Mark Henry
Release Date: May 4, 2014

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