by Amanda Meuwissen
Publisher: JMS Books
Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs
Release Date: June 19, 2021
Genres: Paranormal, High Fantasy, Horror, Dark M/M Romance
Tropes: Reincarnation, vampires, enemies to lovers, his first time, blood play
Themes: Self-acceptance, redemption, love means letting go
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 182 pages
It is a standalone story
Zen had only—literally only—ever dreamed that someone would want him this much…
Zen is a half dark elf in a world that hates him, protected by being raised by the Order of the Sun to become a priest. He longs for a different life with a mysterious, beautiful man he only glimpses in dreams. After encountering an adventuring party, Zen is drawn to accompany them to destroy a fabled vampire lord, but the pull he feels toward those lands might be more fated than he realizes.
That night, before falling into an exhausted sleep—in his tiny, wooden bed with minimal padding and coarse blankets—Zen gently touched the scar that ran full circle around his neck. He tried ignoring it during the day, hidden by the high collar of his vestments, but in bed, out of his robes, his fingers often strayed there.
He didn’t know what had caused the wire-thin line. He’d had it all his life and often wondered if it had been a failed attempt to kill him as an infant. Like Father Lewis had said, he’d been abandoned on the steps of the temple.
No one wanted a darkling child.
Zen’s existence, his life, was most people’s nightmare, which was why it amazed and yet soothed him that he never experienced nightmares himself. His dreams were sweet. There he had no scars. In his dreams, he was whole and wanted.
A warm, human hand trailed slowly across Zen’s unmarred neck and down his naked body. Here his bed was plush and opulent, or perhaps it belonged to the man he imagined himself with. Zen had never met anyone like him in waking life, yet every dream he’d had since he first knew he desired men starred the same mysterious figure.
Zen never saw his face clearly, but he was still a vision of noble beauty. Skin pale as cream with soft color in his cheeks, neatly trimmed black hair that occasionally fell into his eyes—and oh, his eyes. Some might think them haunting or eerie, being such a rich, ruddy brown that they almost looked red, but Zen adored them. He adored the smooth, flawless form laid out beside him, trim but well-muscled, and as naked as he was.
Still, all those features painted an incomplete picture that he could never quite bring into focus.
The man’s sex was impressive though, no doubt conjured from Zen’s most carnal fantasies, as ruddy as his eyes, swollen and leaking wetness onto the sheets. Zen had often longed to know the feel of it in his hands, his mouth, and deep inside him, but his dreams never allowed more than a tease.
Zen didn’t know the man’s name and had never made one up, but he thought of him as an angel, giving him pleasures where real life never could.
“You are a beautiful crystalline snowflake, my love, silver and blue and pure blinding white.” He kissed Zen’s cheek, his fingertips tracing mischievously down Zen’s stomach. His other hand ran blunt nails through Zen’s short white hair.
That wasn’t right. Zen kept his snowy-white locks tied back, but his hair fell well past his shoulders. Like the missing scar, he was different here in the dreamworld.
“I miss you,” his angel whispered and bent to kiss Zen’s lips.
Then touch me, Zen thought, pressing upward and opening his mouth to connect them more deeply, while instantly wanting more.
He didn’t know why his mind created a human man instead of someone more like him. Maybe because humans were all he’d ever known. The man was stunning regardless and saw Zen the way he’d always wished someone would.
“Come, my love.”
Zen wanted to—
“Come to me. Come for me, my beautiful darkling, but come to me as well.”
Zen didn’t understand. How much closer could they get? His angel was between his legs, warm hand curling around him and squeezing with promise. Still, for all the lust that stirred in Zen, it was the intimacy of another kiss to his cheek that filled him with the most want.
“Please, love, come to me. Come…” He stroked Zen firmly while licking up along one of his pointed darkling ears, inducing a deep shudder from low at the base of Zen’s spine. “Come… my Zenos.”
Zen’s eyes snapped open as if triggered by a spring, his sheets sticky and damp atop him from how he’d come before waking.
Damn it. He rarely did that, usually waking hard and unfulfilled, and then taking himself in hand. Today he’d made a mess, and it wasn’t even morning.
This was a solid fantasy/adventure story featuring an interesting cast of magical/paranormal creatures, and ranged from funny to dark to exciting…all while making me feel sorry for the supposed baddy.
It felt so good to see Zen break away from everything he knows to head out on an adventure. You know from his dreams that there’s more to everything than meets the eye, but even then the author gives it just that bit of an extra twist to keep you on your toes. It was enough to make me want to see everything work out, even when the vampire lord kept making it hard to justify.
The group of adventurers Zen joins make for great supporting characters, with their personalities and beliefs spread across a broad spectrum. There are some nice bits of action peppered throughout, and a constant battle of good/evil/but are they really evil going on. It makes you ask yourself over and over—can the vampire lord really be redeemed?
Courting Nightfall definitely kept me entertained, and overall was a 4-star read for me. I’d recommend this to any M/M paranormal/dark fantasy romance fan, and note that this book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.
About the Author
Amanda Meuwissen is a bisexual author, with a primary focus on M/M romance. As author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and several other titles with various publishers, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their cat, Helga.
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