Review Redux: Oleander House by Ally Blue

When Sam Raintree goes to work for Bay City Paranormal Investigations, he expects his quiet life to change-he doesn’t expect to put his life and sanity on the line, or to fall for a man he can never have. Book One in the Bay City Paranormal Investigation series. Sam Raintree has never been normal. All his life, he’s experienced things he can’t explain. Things that have colored his view of the world and of himself. So taking a job as a paranormal investigator seems like a perfect fit. His new co-workers, he figures, don’t have to know he’s gay. When Sam arrives at Oleander House, the site of his first assignment with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, nothing is what he expected. The repetitive yet exciting work, the unusual and violent history of the house, the intensely erotic and terrifying dreams which plague his sleep. But the most unexpected thing is Dr. Bo Broussard, the group’s leader. From the moment they meet, Sam is strongly attracted to his intelligent, alluring boss. It doesn’t take Sam long to figure out that although Bo has led a heterosexual life, he is very much in the closet, and wants Sam as badly as Sam wants him. As the investigation of Oleander House progresses and paranormal events in the house escalate, Sam and Bo circle warily around their mutual attraction, until a single night of bloodshed and revelation changes their lives forever.

It is very much a story of two guys in the closet because although Sam accepts that he is gay, he doesn’t really shout it loud and proud. Bo on the other hand is so far back in the closet, I think he might have a second job at Monsters Inc.

I really enjoyed the paranormal aspect of the storyline. It relied more on the creep factor, like old school horror than outright gore. I also liked how Ally showed the monotony and repetitiveness of the job. It’s not all running along darkened corridors with poltergeist at your heels. It’s reviewing hours and hours of video and audio punctuated by library research (Dork that I am I would love that aspect!). She portrays it like any other job. The only difference is it’s not nine to five.

Now, that sounds really boring, I hear you say and it is in real life but Ally manages to have this little thread of ‘not quite right’ running through the whole book, so you feel on edge the whole time you are reading. Plus all the boring work is interspersed with some really great characters. Getting to know the team was a delight.

I loved the main character of Sam. He was this really weird mix of confident and vulnerable. He was sure in his own sexuality, but he wasn’t comfortable with others knowing. When it came to his relationship with Bo, he was constantly saying to himself ‘No, not this time. I’m not getting involved with him,’ only to turn around and give in the minute Bo spoke to him. I do that all the time. With me it’s chocolate though, not swarthy male paranormal investigators. But he wasn’t a complete wuss. I was rooting for him when he called Bo on his behaviour and told him to stop sending mixed messages.

It took a little bit more time to get into Bo’s character. It was mostly the braid thing. Bo has a long braid of black hair. I’m not into long hair on a man and I have to say, it took me quite a while to find a happy place in my head for the braid. Bo was so mixed up. I would have liked some head time with him just to see where his thoughts were but it was not to be.

As they were just starting out in the romance department and Bo wouldn’t even admit he was gay, it wasn’t a scorcher. That wasn’t to say there wasn’t any relationship stuff, there was plenty, just not a lot of action. This doesn’t bother me, it’s nice to see characters taking it slow instead of jumping into the sack asap. The sexual tension is bubbling along nicely in this installment.

I have two gripes with this book. One was the ending. It just suddenly stopped with no real closure. I get that this is a series but it felt like someone went ‘OK, word count achieved, that’s me done.’ I was reading along merrily expecting a wrap up chapter but no. A short epilogue and that was it. It left me feeling kind of cheated but I can guess that Ally was trying to show that investigations whether paranormal or ordinary in nature, rarely get all neatly tied up with a bow in real life. Still, a little warning next time, dude.

My next and biggest gripe with this book was purely cosmetic. It was the cover. Damn but it was an ugly and cheap and home-made looking piece of shit. I can just guess Ally being really excited that she was getting published only to be handed that horrendous excuse for a cover. I would be gutted to link my work to that. It seriously sucked as you can see at the top of the post. It looked like someone just took a picture from ‘Town & Country’ and stuck some curly font on top. I could do better. See here’s one I made earlier….

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This was previously posted on the now defunct Book Pron. And over on Goodreads.

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