by Kevin Klehr

Book Cover: Winter Masquerade
Editions:ePub
ISBN: 978-1-951880-26-2
KindleAudiobook

Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here and desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The Alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

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The Alchemist’s wife loved watching the sun rise. A fact everyone with whom I spent time with in the captain’s quarters knew well. They decided the Detective and Janus should talk to her, but that didn’t stop me and Cole tagging along.

She had small wrinkles, conveying kindness rather than worry. As Janus introduced her, she smiled. The stylish deep blue dressing gown, her outfit of choice for early mornings, had no hint of age or wear. The sea breeze unable to mess her snow-white hair.

Her name was Camilla. She wasn’t alone, though.

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Holding her hand and sharing the view was Molly, the Alchemist’s mistress. She wore a candy-pink dressing gown that shed fluff all over the deck. You could find her cabin from the trail of bright fuzz. Her damp hair left a wet patch on her shoulders. During this conversation, the sun turned up its slow heat, making her hair dry curly.

“Now, Janus, why would I kidnap my own husband?”

I showed her and Molly the ransom note.

“It does look like your handwriting,” Molly said. “You’ve always had those curly tails when you write the letter Q. And look, that tail is bursting with life.” She turned to me. “I can read handwriting, you know. Write your name, and I’ll tell you all about yourself.”

Camilla took the note and studied it closely. “Yes, that is a Q I’d be proud to call my own. But, Molly, you have lavish tails on your Q’s as well.”

Molly took the note. “I’d also be proud to call that Q my own. I think I picked up the curlicue habit from you.” Molly gazed at me. “Letters infiltrate us, you know. My life and Camilla’s have become so intertwined our handwriting appears to be the same.” She examined the note again. “And we’re both writing rounded O’s. Camilla, yours used to be oval but now yours are as rounded as mine.”

“This reminds me of the time I solved a case by examining a bowl of alphabet soup.” The Detective reached for the note, but Molly was unaware of his gesture. “The false eyelash sticking to the spoon was a major clue.”

“So, did you write the note?” Janus asked Molly.

“And look at your trademark squiggly S,” Molly continued, not answering. “That shows you’ve lived before.” She turned to Cole. “We’ve all lived before, you know. I was a fishmonger’s wife once. Don’t look so shocked. I was very happy once I got used to the smell.”

“Was the sea made of soft chocolate when you were a fishmonger’s wife?” the Detective asked.

“No. It was an odd period. The sea was water.”

“Didn’t you say the sea was made of water when you entered that other dimension, Ferris?” Janus jumped out of the Detective’s bag and landed on deck. We all looked down at him.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Does this mean Molly used to live in that other dimension?” Cole asked.

“Yes!” the Detective said, enthusiastically.

“There’s not enough evidence to tell,” Janus replied.

“But it matches Ferris’s description of the other dimension.”

“Where I come from, ocean is made of water.” I couldn’t help but sound glum. “I think Molly’s past life was in my dimension, not the dark one I experienced.”

“How do you know?” Camilla asked.

“Just a feeling.”

“Trust your feelings,” Molly said. “You’re empathic, you know. I can sense it.” She gave Camilla a curiously affectionate grin. “Ferris is very empathic like your cousin, Katherine.”

“Yes, Katherine knows everything about us.” Camilla slipped a hand under her robe and onto her heart. “She’s wise beyond her years. Even as a child she—”

“This conversation isn’t getting us anywhere,” Cole said. “Who wrote this ransom note?”

“It’s a long story,” Camilla said. “Perfect for telling during sunsets. But not the best topic of conversation for watching the sun rise.”

“If you don’t gaze at the sky too often, you can fool yourself it’s a sunset.” Janus’s reasoning made sense. Any reasoning would have made sense at this stage.

“Go on, Camilla,” Molly said. “Tell this story. I like this one.”

Molly and Camilla held hands again, swaying their arms like children displaying their playful affection for each other.

“This is a tale best suited for sunsets, red wine, and an array of cheese,” Camilla began.

“That’s true,” Molly confirmed. “I’ve heard her tale with those very accompaniments.”

“My husband was in a restless mood. He sensed more than our ship sailing on a chocolate ocean with an overly bright rainbow in the sky. He sensed more than just a population of women with a few men thrown in for good measure.”

“She meant no offence, guys.” Molly looked very concerned.

“None taken,” Janus replied.

“And he sensed music made with more instruments than just a harp, a guitar, and drums.”

Camilla paused. Once again, she slipped her hand inside her gown, but this time she pulled out a string of pearls which she clutched. She turned on her heel and looked back out to sea. We did the same. Janus sauntered up to the edge of the deck and peered from the gap under the barrier. The sun had crept up into the sky. The rainbow sheet flapped. A rainbow pair of shorts and overalls also hung in midair.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Books That Burn on Books That Burn wrote:

Winter Masquerade is a bizarre and wonderful fever dream of a story, a magical mystery tale running on dream logic, punctuated by nightmares; speaking slantwise of slowly coming out from gas-lighting, falling out of love, perhaps realising it was never love at all.

Read full review HERE

Camille on Joyfully Jay wrote:

Outwardly, Ferris seems to have a pretty put-together life. But one night, a strange visitor tells him he needs rest, relaxation, and a healthy dose of self-reflection. When Ferris next wakes up, he inexplicably finds himself aboard a fantastical ship named Sea Queen, sailing a sea of literal chocolate under a technicolor rainbow.

Read full review HERE

Amos Lassen on Amos Lassen Reviews wrote:

What I first thought was going to be a “fluff” read became something much more serious when I realised the message that Klehr was sending us. The writing is clear and fun with great puns and characters’ names and seeing the world from a different point of view kept me reading. I also enjoyed the metaphor of the “Sea Queen”, a world that is always there for those moments when we need to escape the way we live every day.

Read full review HERE


About the Author

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.

His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

His novel, The Midnight Man, won the Fantasy category in the 2021 Gay Scribe Awards and won in the LGBT category of the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer's Choice Award. It also was Runner Up at the Rainbow Awards in the same year his novella, Winter Masquerade, scored an Honourable Mention.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.



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