Monday, 21 December 2015

Nicolas by Dianne Hartsock

Betrayed by a lover, Jamie rents an isolated cabin on Lake Huron, wanting only to be left alone. Instead, he is pulled from his solitary existence as an artist and tumbles headlong into the legend of Saint Nicolas.
As a young man, Nicolas accidentally killed a man intent on murdering three children, only to have the man’s malicious spirit rise up against him. Fleeing through the centuries from the Krampus, the evil troll-like creature that dogs his steps, Nico finds refuge with the young artist who takes him into his home and bed. But Jamie has questions. Who is Nicolas, and why does the Krampus want to destroy him?

When the Krampus begins to torment and torture anyone Nico comes in contact with to punish him, Jamie’s life is put in danger. And Jamie isn’t sure whether he can help Nico defeat his nemesis or if he’s merely a pawn in the Krampus’s game.

Agonizing minutes crawled into an hour, Jamie starting a dangerous sweat under his layers of clothing from the added exertion of half carrying his suffering guest. But then Nico slumped to his knees, head bowed while a barking cough shook his body. Jamie knelt in the snow, lifting his goggles to look deep into Nico’s feverish eyes. The hazel gaze showed no recognition, only pain, and then the heavy lids closed, and Nico collapsed.

God, what was he to do? Sleet mixed with snow pattered against his back and fear jolted through him. He could never carry him. His gaze went to the surrounding trees. Maybe he could find two broken branches and drag Nico to the cabin. Pulling his pack from his shoulders, he dug in a side pocket for his knife, then lifted his head. What…? He blinked at a faint sound on the wind, the improbable tinkle of silver bells.

He waited as the chimes grew closer, and then a snowmobile emerged from the trees and swept toward them. Jamie shook his head, wondering why he hadn’t heard the roar of the engine before, then forgot the question as the vehicle came to a stop beside them. The driver lifted his goggles, and Jamie’s mouth fell open at the glitter of amazing green eyes.

“You!” He instinctively drew back, shielding Nico with his body. The stranger’s low chuckle made his stomach churn.

“You remember!” He sounded pleased as he dismounted and walked up to them. Jamie rose to his feet and the man crowded close, his warm breath brushing his cheeks. He licked his lips as his gaze seemed to strip Jamie naked. His voice dripped honey tinged with desire when he spoke. “I, for one, can’t stop thinking about you.” He peered behind Jamie. “What have you done with our lovely Nico?”

Jamie fought off the irrational fear whispering in his mind. This was the man he’d dreamed of the other morning. But how could he be here? Was he real? Jamie had never seen him before. He wouldn’t have forgotten those striking eyes and face.

Dread slithered along his nerves. Had the man been in his room after all? How had he gotten in? Jamie’s heart lurched. Had he somehow been drugged?

The man watched him, amused, and leaned forward, pressing his mouth to Jamie’s through his scarf. “Shall I show you just how real I am, baby?”

The sensual tones wound through Jamie, draining his strength and leaving him panting with want. Damn, the man was dangerous. Could he be using hypnosis? Jamie felt bewitched. But he also sensed the falseness behind his smile and clung to that despite his traitorous body’s reaction.

“Can you help me get Nico to the doctor’s? The cabin’s nearby but I don’t think he has the strength to walk any farther,” he asked, not trusting the man, but he had few options at the moment.

Brilliant green eyes looked into his and his scarf was tugged from his face. “I can, but you will owe me something in return.” The man gripped his chin and kissed him, a hard thrust of tongue and a nip on his lips. He pulled away and smiled at Jamie’s obvious confusion. “I’m Piter Rupert, by the way, an old friend of Nico’s.”

Jamie blinked at him, unwilling to make him any promises, even at the risk of Nico’s health. There was something about the man he found frightening.

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I’m not the sort to start off with a summary of the book. If you want that, read the blurb. I’m much more interested in getting right in to what I liked and didn’t like about this book.

I have to start by saying this is not my favourite of Dianne’s books. That’s not to imply it isn’t good, just that I personally prefer others. I was introduced to Dianne’s work through ‘Alex’ and ‘The Shed’, and I suspect they will always be my favourites. If you haven’t read them, drop everything and do so now. For me, they were perfect, with spine–chilling horror, deep love of many kinds and a plethora of complex characters (and of course the torture – wow).

Nicolas was an altogether gentler book. Although there were moments of suspense, horror, and a pretty nasty character, it never had the emotional brutality of the other books. They were like being punched, this is more like being tickled mercilessly. Not that I don’t like being tickled, or that I don’t like this book, because I do.

Jamie falls in love extremely quickly, as did Nico, although he fought it long and hard, and some of you might be put off by this. Some people believe insta love is impossible and get impatient with it. I, on the other hand, think insta love is perfectly possible, and perfectly understandable in the context of this story. Go with it.

Jamie was in a constant state of confusion throughout most of this book, and I don’t blame him. Although we had a pretty good idea of where was going to go from the start, we really didn’t – if that makes sense. There’s so much more to this book than the re–telling of a myth translated to modern 

True, the story was a little slow in places, and there were times when I thought it was building to a crescendo, but it didn’t. However, I was kept on the edge of my seat and Dianne did what she does so well – she throws in horrifying images to stir the pot and explanations come much later.

My favourite part of the book without doubt was the end, and no, that doesn’t mean I was glad to finish it. When the crescendo did build to a climax, it was an explosive one, and left no loose ends. I found myself with some sympathy for the bad guy, but still more than happy when he got what he deserved.

All in all this was a very satisfying read. There are moments of horror, moments of sweetness and, although it’s not quite an edge–of–the seat read, it pulls you along nicely.

Meet the Author

Dianne grew up in one of the older homes in the middle of Los Angeles, a place of hardwood floors and secret closets and back staircases. A house where ghosts lurk in the basement and the faces in the paintings watch you walk up the front stairs. Rooms where you keep the closet doors closed tight at night. It’s where her love of the mysterious and wonderful came from.
Dianne now lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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