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For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix

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For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix

Book Info

About the Author
Ana writes m/m romance and erotica. Her interest in hot guy-on-guy action was first sparked by reading scandalous Japanese mangas. A dirty secret she couldn’t resist. In a long bout of insanity – also known as her life — she decided to learn the language and escape to the land of sushi, sumo, and yaoi.

She’s since moved back to Europe to be with the love of her life – delicious European chocolate.

Now she resides in the sunny part of Germany where she fills her days chasing her dreams and writing about men in complicated relationships. Her family believes she’s writing “erotic manga stories.” She’s pleased they got the erotic part right, at least.

Publication Date
March 10, 2016
Seth finds himself alone at an abandoned train station, with no idea what happened, or how he got there. He boards a train, only to discover it’s a special express transporting the recently deceased to their final destination. The conductor tells him he’s having a near-death experience. Seth wonders if it has something to do with his violent boyfriend, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting the hell off the train before he actually dies. But when he spots his best friend and secret crush among the traveling dead, the urge to leave fades…

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Drum-tight five-star metaphysical suspense novel wrapped in a story of romantic love
(Updated: March 21, 2016)
Overall 
 
5.0

Adding a sly gay sensibility to the flesh crawling eeriness of Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling, at his haunting best, with For Never and Always, Ana J. Phoenix delivers a drum-tight five-star metaphysical suspense novel wrapped in a story of romantic love that survives physical death.

Simply lubricate your mind to accept the survival of consciousness after physical death, then sit back and enjoy this metaphysical train trip. 

Here’s how the chilling fun unfolds: Confused and disoriented, Seth suddenly finds himself at an abandoned train station, not knowing how he got there, or why he is there. Something is definitely askew. The situation in which he finds himself is enough to give him a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Seth senses that he is having some netherworld existence; his state of being is dreamlike, but then again, the spooky scene is also surreal – in its super real meaning. 

Uneasy and muddled after boarding a weird train, Seth learns from its smarmy conductor that he is the sole living passenger on a Death Train. But he doesn’t take comfort in his alive and breathing status. You see, Seth is alive but he is hardly well. In truth, he is in the midst of a near death experience – or so this conductor from hell tells him. The guy goes on to reveal that Seth may leave the train at an upcoming station, returning to his physical life, or, if he chooses, he can stay aboard, in which case he will die. 

In the moment, neither outcome thrills Seth. And it doesn’t help that amnesia prevents him from remembering the circumstances that led to his near death status. 

The setup is gripping, goose flesh inducing, and hauntingly reminiscent of some Hitchcock-like odyssey. 

The first wave of raised flesh has barely flattened when Seth makes a shocking discovery: Carter, his heterosexual best friend, and his secret love since school, is among the dead passengers on this Train of Ghouls. Thank you, Katherine Anne Porter.

How and why Carter has succumbed is one more mystery for Seth to tackle. Nothing makes sense, but here’s the rub: Seth is unable to remember anything before his dubious arrival at the defunct train station. 

The author uses words economically, shrewdly. But she splurges on vivid spectral imagery, and the willies just keep on coming as the mysterious Death Train barrels down the tracks.

When Seth’s amnesia lifts partially and temporarily, he recalls a telephone call from Carter’s sister, telling him that his best friend has passed. 

Good enough: That’s one mystery down, but so many more remain. 

Carter knows how and why he is dead. He is thrilled to be reunited with Seth; even more so when he learns that his bestie is still alive, with the option to exit the train and resume his life. Unlike misery, Death, at least not in Carter’s case, does not love company. He wants a long, happy life for his friend.

During an encounter with a new passenger, a young, freshly dead little girl, Carter reveals an attractive, soft, paternal side that heretofore he has hidden. Not understanding that she is dead, the child frantically searches for her mother even as Carter gently and comfortingly explain her status.  

Seth receives an unexpected, but most welcome, surprise when Carter confesses that he was bisexual in life. What’s more, Carter had been crushing on Seth for years. This revelation eventually leads to Carter and Seth answering that eternal question, “Is there sex after death, and during near death?” 

The longer Seth is on the train, the closer he and Carter become -and the less certain he is about leaving the train, and resuming his life.

In context, Seth’s apathy makes sense. For years, he has lusted for Carter. Finally his feelings are returned. The fact that Carter is dead seems less important than knowing that the love of his life, loves him. 

Seth’s indecision muscles up when his amnesia clears long enough for him to recall that he is in a chronically abusive relationship – one from which he believes there is no escape. 

Like sand in an hourglass, Seth’s opportunity to return to life is running out. If he is going to choose life, then he must finally decide, and soon. But a new wrinkle appears in the deceased form of Eli, the Death Train’s newest passenger, a young man, dead by his own hand. 

Eli is a suicide, and this revelation rattles Seth deeply, and for reasons he does not understand. Nonetheless, he is shaken to the core.  But why does Seth relate so strongly to Eli’s situation? Eventually, we will learn the answer, but not before the author builds even more suspense, posing new, challenging questions.

Can Seth, will Seth, leave the deceased love of his life behind? And if Seth chooses life, what awaits him? Let’s face it: In comparison to a life of emotional and physical abuse, resting in peace beside your endless love is sweet. 

I wouldn’t dare spoil the outcome of this spine-tingling, no one gets out alive, train ride.

To do so would be a crime, especially because few novelists succeed in weaving a tale as tautly told and deliciously eerie as Ana J. Phoenix’s For Never and Always.

As for this haunting gem of a novel, I can only enthusiastically shout out to one and all: “All aboard!”

CS
Top 10 Reviewer 19 reviews
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