Book Reviews

Special Effect by Russell J. Sanders at Harmony Ink Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Young Adult / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller / Fiction
Reviewed by Jamie Deacon on 08-July-2014

Book Blurb

Graduating senior, theater lighting wunderkind, and closeted gay, Nick Fortunati volunteers with The Streetwise Players in the dark corners of The Laughton, a creepy old movie palace decorated in Grand Guignol style. But his father wishes Nick would use his intellect and his scholarship to become a biotech engineer and earn a prosperous living for his future family. Nick loves his dad and wants to please him, but he dreams of a career in theater. And he wants a male lover. Unfortunately, his homophobic father won’t approve of either.

When Nick’s at his loneliest, out of the corners of the theater and into his life comes trouble-laden Steve Stripling, a man with little memory of his past other than his name. Meanwhile, Nick’s introduced to the dashing Wash Vitek and is torn between the two men. His situation is further complicated because he doesn't know if Wash is gay.

Nick resolves to solve the mystery surrounding Steve and help the young man recover his memories, even though by doing so, he risks losing the first love he’s ever found.


Book Review

I’ve had a love of the stage for as long as I can remember, as well as a fascination with the supernatural. It’s little wonder then that the Gothic atmosphere running through this novel struck a chord with me. The Laughton, the eerie movie palace where much of the story takes place, immediately sets the tone with its shadowy corners and the gargoyles that seem to follow you with their eyes. It’s clear that Russell J. Sanders has a real affinity with the theater, his passion both for its magic and its inner workings evident in his every word.

High school senior Nick Fortunati is a loner, and the secrets he keeps locked inside only deepen his isolation. Embroiled in the private struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, he is also wrestling with the daunting prospect of going against his father’s wishes and pursuing his own dreams of a career in theater. The Laughton, where he volunteers doing stage lighting, is the one place where he feels at home. It’s while he’s alone in the theater one morning that Nick meets Steve, a beautiful but enigmatic young man with whom he falls instantly in love.

In all his fantasies, Nick never expected having a boyfriend would complicate his life still further. Yet Steve is harboring secrets of his own—dark secrets that will lead Nick on a detective mission to unravel the truth. When he is introduced to his lighting supervisor’s charming nephew, Wash, Nick is thrown into even greater confusion. All at once he finds himself torn between two very different boys, whilst trying to uncover the tragedy in Steve’s past, and gathering the courage to defy his father and follow his heart.

‘Special Effect’ is a quirky novel: part murder mystery, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance. If I do have a quibble, it’s that Nick falls in love with Steve too quickly to be entirely credible. That said, I found this book to be an easy read, and the absence of sex makes it as appropriate for early teens as it is for young adults.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by harmony Ink Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 180 pages/56908 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 08-May-2014
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $14.99 bundle
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