Title: Pearls in the Darkness
Author: S.E. Connor
Pages/Word Count: 39 Pages
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Blurb: Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. When Tanner goes on vacation to get away from school and work, he learns this the hard way.
Though he hates water, Tanner agrees to join his older brother and friends away from home for two weeks at the beach. There he meets Chase, a gorgeous local who offers to show him the sights and introduce him to what he’s been missing. Against his better judgment, Tanner agrees. He’s given the gift of pearls, and his life is quickly turned upside-down as Tucker’s friend (and Tanner’s long-time crush) Jimmy starts acting strangely.
Tanner learns that there are things in the water that go beyond human understanding, and he’s left with two major questions: What is a siren? And why is it hunting Tanner?
Review: Pearls in the Darkness is one of those stories that has so much promise for a refreshingly unusual paranormal romance; unfortunately, the word count deprives the writer of a chance at giving her story the proper treatment it deserves. The story’s a novelette – around 13,000 words long if I remember correctly – and given the intricacies of the plot as well as the characterization, what we end up with is more like a summary of a longer work, which is too bad.
As a writer, S.E. Connor has what it takes to gift us with good, well-plotted stories with a strong voice. It’s just unfortunate that the story’s length is what ultimately diminishes its quality, and I’m wondering if it used to be a part of a collection and is now available for individual sale.
The paranormal elements are intriguing. I haven’t read any stories about sirens before, and I was looking forward to diving into this one for that reason. Chase and Tanner’s (dark) connection is the most fully developed part of the plot, starting out slowly and maintaining a good, steady pace till the last third of the book. Unfortunately, the remainder of it unravels in the sense that whatever’s left of the two men’s story together is just watered down to the fuzziest elements in order to fit the book’s length – an observation that made me wonder about whether or not the novelette used to be in an anthology before. In brief, the climactic scenes are rushed, and not much is left for us to think about once the end comes. The final scene, as a matter of fact, remains frustratingly foggy for me.
We don’t get to understand who Chase is, really, and what the solstice sacrifice is all about. For those of us who know nothing about sirens, all we have are clues that don’t go beyond being clues. There’s quite a bit of back story, apparently, about past sacrifices and the fact that locals are aware of them. But none of them are pursued in any detail. And the same can be said about the other characters, who’re there, presumably, to provide a contrast between the seduction of the unknown and the less exciting (and more problematic, in Tanner’s eyes) day-to-day reality. The contrasts actually pop up throughout the book: Tanner’s older brother, who’s supposed to be a homophobe, and Jimmy, who’s also supposed to be a homophobe, and how their true natures come out when the going gets tough. Then there’s Chase, who’s everything wonderful and beautiful and promising to Tanner. And there’s also Tanner and his past heartbreak and his hope for a happier future.
With so much material being offered us just in characterization, for instance, it’s a real disappointment, not seeing anything more done to it. I think this book would’ve been far better served if it were written as a novella or a category-length novel. That said, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more material from Connor. For all the problems in Pearls in the Darkness, there’s still much to look forward to from this author.
You can buy Pearls in the Darkness here: