Title: The Psychic’s Tale (The Fitzwarren Inheritance #1)
Author: Chris Quinton
Cover Art: Reese Dante
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Length: Novella (113 pdf pages, 22,5 k words)
Rating: 4 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A great opening to a fascinating trilogy!
***Since all three Fitzwarren books are closely linked, this review may contain spoilers for the other two books***
“I curse you and your children’s children, that you shall all live out your allotted years, and that those years shall be filled with grief and loss and betrayal, even as you have betrayed and bereaved me.”
Four hundred years ago in rural England, a mob burned two men to death, but not before one of them, Jonathan Curtess, hurled a dreadful curse at the mob’s leader, Sir Belvedere Fitzwarren. The curse has followed the family through the centuries, bringing grief and loss to each generation.
Mark Renfrew is a closeted psychic and openly gay. When his grandmother discovers a family link to a 17th century feud and a still-potent curse, she insists he investigates and do his best to end it. When he travels to the village of Steeple Westford, he meets and falls for Jack Faulkner, an archaeologist. He also meets the Fitzwarrens, who are facing yet another tragedy.
Then Mark learns that the man who cursed them had twisted the knife by leaving three cryptic conditions that would lift the curse, and he knows he has to try to break the curse his ancestor had set.
Mark Renfrew can see ghosts, he can even communicate with them to some extent. Depending on how you look at it, such a talent can be a gift or a curse; for the members of the Renfrew family, it has been either and both over the course of the centuries. As for Mark, it is a pressing urge he needs to give in to on a regular basis, but he learned to make the best of it. Using his abilities, Mark makes his living from sniffing out paranormal phenomena for a popular TV show, and he’s gotten really good at not giving away how he came to know about haunted houses or headless horsemen at crossroads.
Mark’s grandmother has a different kind of second sight. After finding out about a curse that one of the Renfrew family’s ancestors cast centuries ago, she sends Mark out to Steeple Westford where the adressées of said course, the Fitzwarren family, still reside.
At first, Mark thinks that nothing much can come of his grandmother’s moonstruck request that he help break the curse. In fact, he doesn’t believe in the curse at all. But the facts teach him better fast–the curse is real, and still in full swing; it has already taken the lives of two of the current generation of Fitzwarrens and is working hard on killing off the next. And it has brought the formerly wealthy Fitzwarren family to the brink of financial ruin. It’s high time that someone takes care of it, and who’d be better suited than a descendant of the original spell-caster, Jonathan Curtess? Even more so as one of the curse-lifting conditions, eerily enough, seems to apply to Mark himself and to Jack Faulkner, a young archaeologist who Mark meets and falls head over heels in love with in Steeple Westford.
But in order to lift the curse, three couples are required–gay couples, at that, and they have all to be together at the same time and place. In a small, remote town like Steeple Westford, really, what are the odds? With the Fitzwarren family’s misery in his sight, it’s hard for Mark to keep from helping fate along, even more so since he has already identified one half each of the other two couples. But they need to come together on their own account, and not only come together, but fulfill an unique task each. All Mark can do is working at solving the puzzle in silence, assisted by Jack’s love and faith and his grandmother’s wisdom.
The idea behind this story–a curse born of hate that can be lifted by fated lovers finding each other–isn’t really unheard of, but those three authors took it and gave it a delicious, gay twist. At the basis of the whole disaster is a gay love triangle: landowner Fitzwarren fell in love with warlock Curtess who then betrayed him with a peasant youth, which made Fitzwarren so angry that he had both the peasant and Curtess burned at the stake. Tangled into this is Curtess’ friend Joseph, a soldier, who threw a dagger through Curtess’ heart instead of letting him die from the flames, thus incurring both Fitzwarren’s and Curtess’s fury. From the three couples necessary to lift the curse, at least one part each needs to be related to at least one of the original key players.
In this book, Mark is a descendant of Jonathan Curtess. He and Jack are “the one who sees beyond” and “the one who reads the earth” from the curse-lifting prophecy. Their task is the easiest and the hardest at once; all they need to do as a couple is make a connection, but Mark also needs to work out the technicalities of how to break the curse, so to speak.
Historical facts and quirky bits of information were seamlessly woven into the narrative, as it is often the case in Chris Quinton’s books–one of the things I like so much with this author. As this book lays the groundwork for the other two, worldbuilding and the backstory of the curse take up much room. Due to the rather short format, this went to some extent at the expense of the romance. The relationship between Mark and Jack evolved fast, if not quite instantly; especially Jack showed a barely believable amount of acceptance for all the outlandish goings-on around Mark, a man who he’d come to care deeply for in a short amount of time but who he also barely knew.
However, Jack was such a pleasant and likable character that such little incredulities made barely a blip on my radar. He was careless and positive, affectionate and just a little bit dominating and just so exactly what Mark needed–the chemistry between the two of them, in and out of bed, was palpable and a joy to read. I’d just wished they’d been given more page space together. Luckily we get to meet them again in the next two books.
This was a delightful intro to a compelling story. Even though it brought the two main characters together in a committed and believably lasting relationship, it ended on a very open note, as the puzzle is far from solved and the course still in full, terrible force. On to the next in the series, R.J. Scott’s The Soldier’s Tale.