Review: A Face Without a Heart by Rick R. Reed

Note: This ARC was provided by the publisher via Signal Boost Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

People whine about how change never really lasts when it comes to others, how they always unfortunately revert to their old ways, the ways you don’t want them to be. Anyone who has ever tried to change another knows this to be true. Oh certainly, the change may last a week, a month, even a year. But soon the real person comes back, the one who has been waiting in the wings for just the right cue, the one that will allow him to say “Ah fuck it, I’ve had enough.”

I've read my fair share of modern re-tellings of classic stories. Some authors choose to only get the most basic of elements to carry over, dousing their own versions with more of their own ideas in what I'm assuming is their way to make whatever they come up with more theirs. Then there are those who simply take almost everything from the original and change whatever needs changing to a more modern day setting. In either case, it really boils to the ability of the author to write something that makes it easy enough for the reader to identify what the inspiration was and still bring their own unique touch and creative spin to allow it to stand out on its own merits. It's a delicate balancing act, and not everyone can really pull it off. But in the case of Rick R. Reed, he's done the near impossible and given readers a book that pays homage to its original inspiration while distinguishing itself rather impeccably.

If you've read or, at the very least, heard of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was written by the incomparable Oscar Wilde and was his one and only novel, you should be familiar with its synopsis. Dorian Gray was a young man whose physical beauty inspires an artist named Basil Hallward to paint a portrait of him, but Dorian is fearful that his beauty will fade over time and decides to make an extraordinary wish--he shall remain youthful in appearance while his portrait suffers the ravages of time, age, and excess. But as is the case with all deals, one should always look at the fine print and physical beauty cannot always mask the ugliness that lies beneath the exterior. Wilde's cautionary and philosophical tale hearkens back to the legend of Faust but with a homoerotic slant to it, something that was deemed too controversial and scandalous during its original 1890 publication as well as in its longer form.

In Rick R. Reed's A Face Without a Heart, the fourth edition of which is published by Dreamspinner Press's DSP Publications arm, we have Gary Adrion--clearly an anagram--in the place of Dorian Gray, Liam Howard is the modern-day Basil, and Lady Henrietta Wotton, a drag queen version of Lord Henry Wotton. Reed doesn't hold back with his re-telling, giving readers a front-row seat to the curious mix of beauty and brutality that Gary embodies. The author's storytelling is above reproach, refusing to shy away from Wilde's version and his own vision of what I feel could be a modern-day classic of its own. I was beyond gratified that Reed chose to stick with the direction Wilde's story went because giving this a happily-ever-alternative would have been literary sacrilege, at least in my own humble opinion. If there's one book I hope you'll read right away, it's A Face Without a Heart. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 02 February 2017

Learn more about Rick R. Reed.

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