Buy it now at our Amazon.com store – Poisoned Ivy (Vintage)
One of the joys of this book review business is coming across an interesting, well-executed concept worthy of attention. Bristlecone Pine’s e-book Vintage series is one of these. These short, romantic m/m novels are inspired by antique images—paintings or photographs—of men. Their first installment, Poisoned Ivy, comes from Scot D. Ryersson’s take on a 1916 painting by J.C. Leyendecker called “Football Hero.”
And what a hero he is. In Ryersson’s story, this blonde-haired, blue-eyed hunk of desheveled glory is personified by Clay Marrok, a bona-fide football hero of the 1916 class at Yale. Marrok is pursued and painted by an aspiring artist named Wynter who is, in turn, pursued by Crale—the son of a senator and Wynter’s sponsor into one of the Yalie secret societies. Crale considers Wynter be his alone, but Wynter wants to be a free-agent so he can win Marrok. As Marrok poses for an alumni magazine cover painted by Wynter (Leyendecker’s “Football Hero”), however, the artist finds something not quite right about Marrok. Something wolfish.
The story is less than a hundred pages but it packs an interesting punch despite its brevity. It’s romantic but doesn’t veer into explicitly erotic territory, challenging your expectations. To be entirely truthful, I expected a quasi-romantic slice of e-book pulp, fraught with the moony, frustrated longings of Ivy League closet cases. However, what I got was a cracking good, albeit short, read whose suspense held my interest and whose characters intrigued me.
Ryersson’s writing is evocative of the era, and his characters well-fleshed out. Crale’s ambition and possessiveness of Wynter is overpowering enough to motivate Wynter’s irritation at the shackles and drive him towards Marrok and the fate that awaits all three of them. Wynter’s initiation into Crale’s Pate and Longbones society is one of the more interesting scenes in the book, contrasting sophomoric rituals designed to inspire feigned terror with the real terror embodied by Marrok. Very classy.
The ending is also intriguing, following through on the supernatural element while bringing the story around to the thematic concept of the entire series in a very satisfying manner. I’ll be awaiting other entries in the Vintage line. So if you’re looking for something different to take to the pool on your Kindle, give Poisoned Ivy a try. But be sure not to read it too long after the sun goes down.
You can never tell what you’ll turn into.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler