Title: Amor Prohibido
Author: Ellis Carrington
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Quill
Length: 127 pages
Jacob Freehan has no job, no man, and no motivation. In pain both from ending a long-term abusive relationship and a severe back injury, he escapes to the sunny seaside town of Puerto Morelos for a little yoga, a little R&R, and possibly a place to quietly end his own life.
Pakal is a centuries-old immortal Mayan spirit guide who has been charged with getting Jacob on the path toward healing. Romantic involvement with a spirit charge is strictly forbidden, and it has never been a problem...until now. Pakal sees something special in Jacob, but failure to keep a rapidly growing attraction at bay could result in Jacob losing his life and Pakal being condemned to the Underworld forever...
Ellis Carrington has given us a story with some fascinating and diverse characters, some serious problems, and a vivid setting. Woven into a page-turning whole, Amor Prohibido was a single sitting read for me.
Jacob has recently terminated a long-standing abusive relationship with Danny, who has been Jacob's one and only relationship throughout his adult life. It's left him hurting on many levels; Danny didn't hesitate to use violence or emotional manipulation. Jacob's head is clearing slowly; he's grieving the lost years and the wasted opportunities, and while he knows he's much better off without Danny, it hurts enough that the little bottle of pills looks like a very good friend to have around. Bringing them along when his best buddy Kelly drags him to the Mayan Riviera to a yoga resort, Jacob is anything but sure he wants to find out what life has in store next.
The spirit guide Pakal, charged with healing Jacob and other tattered souls, has managed a thousand years of duty without endangering his status by getting sexually involved. Like any good therapist, he's meant to help and guide, not entangle. However, the mystical connection he feels with Jacob convinces him that the relationship will be healing and thus part of his task. Big *GONG* for a modern therapeutic situation; anyone whose credentials come from getting ritually drowned in a cenote still can't--and the punishment is far more severe.
Even knowing, Pakal is willing to make this sacrifice- something in Jacob calls that strongly to him, and that's where things get really sticky. The gods are displeased, but not so much so that there isn't some kind of out, albeit with a really huge stinger.
The author has done a really good job of using the mystical elements; while I can't speak to the accuracy of the Mayan lore, it's consistent and vivid, good story-telling. Her sense of place is also vivid; the sun burns your neck, the cenote wraps cool fingers around your body, and the Underworld has to be experienced to be believed.
I had a little trouble with Jacob – he's been abused for many years. That he was willing to trust so rapidly might be waved away as the mystical connection he feels to Pakal, which is a lot deeper than him being the first good-looking man to treat Jacob decently, but it still seems to happen very fast. Still, Pakal's had a thousand years to get good at healing people... Details of Danny's temper and actions dribble out, building a real three dimensional history; what's happened to Jacob should not happen to anyone, and that he found the strength to get out is a cause to cheer. This is a man who deserves his HEA; every obstacle the gods threw at him and Pakal made me writhe in frustration of the very-involved-in-the-story sort.
The other source of frustration is that a major plot development falls on the page with no foreshadowing – Jacob produces the items he needs and some bizarre skills to use them just at the moment he needs them most, and that made the results seem unsupported. I did have to chuckle at the way he MacGyvered some lube, though.
The few stylistic glitches, such as multiple references to "the larger man" or "the thinner man" (okay, this is a pet peeve of mine, but people don't think of themselves and each other like that so it feels like a POV slip) and a few places where one person's actions fall in the same paragraph with another person's speech (which also feels like a POV slip) weren't enough to keep me from enjoying this story thoroughly. I delighted in a wonderful show of strength on Jacob's part towards the end, and in the resolution, which had a very joyous symmetry.
This is the first story I've read from Ellis Carrington, and I’m going to be on the lookout for more. 4.25 Marbles and now I need more graphics for Jessewave rankings.