Title: Winter Oranges
Author: Marie Sexton
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 8 hours and 4 minutes
Category: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal, Contemporary
At a Glance: This is a thoroughly charming story made even better by expert and engaging narration.
Reviewed By: Sadonna
Blurb: Jason Walker is a child star turned teen heartthrob turned reluctant B-movie regular who’s sick of his failing career. So he gives up Hollywood for northern Idaho, far away from the press, the drama of LA, and the best friend he’s secretly been in love with for years.
There’s only one problem with his new life: a strange young man only he can see is haunting his guesthouse. Except Benjamin Ward isn’t a ghost. He’s a man caught out of time, trapped since the Civil War in a magical prison where he can only watch the lives of those around him. He’s also sweet, funny, and cute as hell, with an affinity for cheesy ’80s TV shows. And he’s thrilled to finally have someone to talk to.
But Jason quickly discovers that spending all his time with a man nobody else can see or hear isn’t without its problems—especially when the tabloids find him again and make him front-page news. The local sheriff thinks he’s on drugs, and his best friend thinks he’s crazy. But Jason knows he hasn’t lost his mind. Too bad he can’t say the same thing about his heart.
Review: Jason Walker has left Hollywood behind. After growing out of his child star and teen heartthrob years, he’s done a string of B-movies, and frankly, he’s just tired of the rat race. He was tired of being his parents’ meal ticket and has essentially no relationship with them, and his one true friend is also the object of his unrequited love.
When he moves to Idaho to a remote fully furnished house, he’s prepared to have some alone and down time. But what he gets is far different. It turns out he has also become the host of a guy who has been trapped for 150+ years. Benjamin Ward was put away for safe keeping during the Civil War, but through a lot of serendipitous events, he has landed at Jason’s house. The problem is only Jason can see him, and it’s even a trick for Jason to be able to hear him.
As Jason spends more time with Ben, he quickly becomes enamored of his sweetness and his genuine enthusiasm for so many things. They have fun watching movies together, and when Jason takes Ben along with him for a trip into town, he is accused of being on a drug-fueled binge. He does smarten up on ways to make it not seem like he’s talking to himself or, even worse, his invisible friend.
But his best friend, Dylan, is suspicious and shows up unexpectedly, so Jason has to figure out a way to get rid of him and also convince him that he’s not crazy. This is easier said than done, and it’s a good thing Jason is an actor. Ben and Jason continue to spend time together, and Jason realizes that, for once, he is truly in love. Not the kind of love he thought he felt for Dylan, but real, true love. Ben is obviously crazy about Jason as well, but he’s filled with doubts, given the very real constraints of their relationship.
Jason is worried about keeping his relationship with Ben a secret, but is also trying to figure out a way to move forward. Both are worried that their continued actions will have long-lasting, detrimental effects on Jason, but they just can’t stay away from each other. Again, Dylan shows up unannounced and things come to a critical climax that have far reaching consequences for both Jason and Ben.
I actually pre-ordered this story at GRL 2015, but never had the chance to read it, so when the audio was up for review, I jumped at it. I am a huge Marie Sexton fan, and I was certainly not disappointed in the story. This is a thoroughly charming tale that pulled me in from the beginning and is made that much better by an expert and engaging narrator. I loved both Ben and Jason, and watching their relationship build was very entertaining—especially Ben’s embracing the 21st century, and the fact that Jason really cared for him. Nick J. Russo is a consummate professional. I loved his narration of the Two Gentlemen of Altona series from JA Rock and Lisa Henry, and this performance continued my love affair with his narration. Highly recommend on the merits of both the story and performance.
You can buy Winter Oranges here: