Sometimes a short novella can help you to scratch just the right itch when you are looking for something to read. That was my hope with Dark Secrets by Shona Husk, and in some ways, it succeeded. However, it was not without its flaws.
Haidyn Mast has the magic talent of being able to control the minds of others and make them happy. Since he was rejected from the magic union known as the Arcane for not being powerful enough and for having only a useless talent, he has had to use his considerable talent to become a pseudo-prostitute. Haidyn has only ever made love to one woman, one time. He and his fiancée Anisa made love before he left to seek employment with the Arcane, but he was too ashamed of the rejection and the fact that he could no longer offer her what she deserved to ever return to her. For six years, he has been a prostitute in name and deed, only what he peddles is fantasy, not sex. He gets into someone’s mind and makes them believe that he is performing.
The one customer Haidyn despises the most is Brixen. But as the Lawman, Haidyn can’t refuse him. Brixen is a twisted man who drove his first wife to suicide with his abuse and Haidyn knows that was only the tip of the iceberg of his depraved mind. But when Haidyn discovers that Anisa is Brixen’s new wife, he knows that the time is up on the life he has been living. He can’t let her suffer under Brixen’s rule. To save Anisa, and his own sanity, Haidyn has to break out of the mold and turn against the Arcane. They will have only one chance at freedom and death is the price of failure, but the alternative is unthinkable.
Because this short story is all in Haidyn’s perspective, his feelings and motivations are not only clear, they are captivating. He is a strong and lovable character. An innocent whore. From the beginning you see that fate stepped in and dealt him a bad hand when it comes to Anisa and his magical abilities, and I felt for him. I liked him. And it was a good thing. Because he was the story.
Out of the remaining characters – Brixen the bad guy, Anisa the lost love, Korene the business partner, plus a smattering of others – the only other character that is developed well is Brixen. And that includes Anisa. By being shut out of Anisa’s POV, it is virtually impossible to understand how she could trust a man who abandoned her for six years with her life – after no real explanation and one kiss. While I knew that Haidyn was sincere and innocent, she certainly didn’t. Yet she broke her marriage vows, risked her life, and ran off with Haidyn without a whole lot of thought. Truly Brixen was the other primary character in this story as we saw more intimacy between Brixen and Haidyn and Brixen had many more scenes than Anisa. That was the one thing that I struggled with the most. Even by the end of the novella, Anisa was almost a complete mystery to me.
That was a shame because as I said, Haidyn was a very engaging character and the story at first was a quick read that kept me interested. But when halfway through Haidyn and Anisa hadn’t even exchanged two words, I became disillusioned. Though the world building and Haidyn spoke of a lot of potential, unfortunately, the story fell through in the final analysis.