Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who was nice enough to take on some of my backlog when I went on semi-hiatus.
The general rule, used by book reviewers, literary agents and editors (and I’ve done all but be a literary agent) is that if the first chapter is good, the rest of the book will be, too. Conversely, if the first chapter stinks, it’s a fair bet there’s no point in reading further.
O’Riordan’s novel Beltane is an exception to this rule. The first chapter or so is rife with poor grammar, awkward sentences and more passive-voice. However, I was stuck in a personal situation with a lot of time and not a lot of reading material available, so I plowed through.
I’m glad I did. The story (and the writing) improves over the course of the book, and I found myself actually caring about the characters and what happened to them. The novel centers around twin sisters Allie and Zen, who have been raised Pagan. The book opens with Allie’s wedding, and hints that all may not be well between the bride and groom. Zen falls for Orlando, a married man. How this all plays out is revealed the next year at Beltane, when everyone lives happily ever after.
A book titled after the major Pagan sex holiday should have a lot of sex scenes in it. If this is what the reader is looking for, he or she will not be disappointed. As someone who has written erotica professionally and has reviewed a plethora of erotic fiction in the last two years, I say the sex scenes are well-written, realistic, and move the plot forward – basically all I can ask for in an erotic book.
I wish I could say the Pagan aspects of the story were as realistic and well-done. O’Riordan presents a Pagan path that requires High Priestesses to have multiple (and huge) tattoos, be vegetarian, and abstain from alcohol at all times. To paraphrase the familiar saying, some of my best friends are High Priestesses of varying traditions, and this describes exactly none of them. The story was good, the sex was great, but the Pagan aspects of the book – with the sole exception of the Beltane ritual, which was awesome – made me, a 25-year veteran of the Pagan community mutter “Where the hell did THAT come from?” on more than one occasion.
Three and a half paws out of five.