Friday, August 27, 2010

Ethan Church

Ethan Church
When Bella accepts an offer to write the biography of a severely reclusive author, the old, dying man she's presented with and the young, too perfect man she meets while there convince her she's missing some very important parts of the story. E/B, AU.


I have a confession to make.

Prior to reading fan fiction, I didn’t really read romance. Look at the bookshelves in my house or the audio books on my iPod, you’ll see mystery, suspense, political thrillers (oh and a lot of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but I just tell everyone they belong to my son).

Needless to say, that makes me a weirdo in fic land, preferring mystery or suspense over angst. I love a story that twists me around and makes me wonder WTF is going to happen next. I’d compare it to the rush I used to get at the beginning of a new relationship – that early rush of curiosity and wonder that comes with falling in love.

Hey, just cause I don’t actively read romance doesn’t mean I’m not a sap.

Anyway, during the summer of 2009, when we were elbows deep validating the Indies, I tripped across a gorgeous little story called Ethan Church. It was only 4 chapters at the time, and the genre tags (mystery/romance) and the summary piqued my curiosity:

When Bella accepts an offer to write the biography of a severely reclusive author, the old, dying man she's presented with and the young, too perfect man she meets while there convince her she's missing some very important parts of the story.

Too excited to contain myself, I passed it off to someone else to validate, and set the link aside. This was the type of story I would want to read slowly and savor. I made promise to myself to come back to it when I could really sink my teeth in and enjoy the read.

Oh man, sink my teeth in indeed.

The premise sinks its hooks from Chapter 1. Bella Swan is book translator – one who pours her heart and soul into her work with one major stipulation.

I don't mind reading about death, but I don't like reading about dying. That's why I turned down the chance to translate his books when the publishing firm I work for released a new set of editions two years ago.

For me to properly translate a book I have to really read it, understand it completely. I have to be able to carry over all the nuances buried in the words. I've never read an Ethan Church novel, and I don't plan to.

It’s with that very important caveat in mind that we get thrown into the heart of the story, an offer from the elusive, almost agoraphobic Mr. Church, to write his biography. Not translate it, but write it, directly from his memories.

Bella resists, claiming she’s a translator, not a biographer, but the spell has been cast. Within a week, she has read five of his books, which she finds so unsettling; she swears never to read them again (even avoiding the bookstores where they are sold). When a subsequent offer arrives, assuring her that she is the one he wants to tell his story, she finds she can’t resist.
Curious? That’s all in the first chapter.

I could go on and on about the glory of Ethan Church and ply you with quote after quote that I adored. Dryler, the author, is lovely and witty, well known for her clever banter in Bright Like the Sun. Ethan Church is a totally different animal, lush and gothic and sensual, wrapping a mystery around the elusive old Ethan Church, his massive estate Ferndale, and the mystery man who appears at night around the periphery of Bella’s dreams and wanderings.

Two parts mystery, one part love story, Ethan Church builds the suspense and drama and romance (oh yes, there is romance in this, and sexual tension out the wazoo) like a classic Hitchcock movie, slowly upping the ante chapter after chapter until you literally find yourself leaning into the screen. Sexuality, seduction, obsession, they exist as much in the mind as they do in the heart, and Dryler uses them perfectly, slowly pulling her readers under until they are helpless to resist.

There are multiple layers to the mystery that is Ethan Church…and like a good novel, building up slowly to the climax; you’ll be perched on your seat until the end, wondering how everything will work it. There are very few stories that have engaged me like Ethan Church did, making me feel and connect with all of the people involved, even the original characters which Dryler infuses with wit and wisdom. As much as I adored the originality of the plot and the execution of the mystery, I adored the depth of her characters even more – they were not two dimensional to me at all. They lived and breathed, laughed and hurt, just like we all do. That’s what makes this story so absolutely compelling to me – I felt like these characters, as farfetched as it might sound, were real.

It’s starting to turn cool here as September approaches, the perfect weather to hang out in the hammock at dusk with a glass of red wine, a big comfy sweatshirt and a good read. I may have to make a date with the mysterious Mr. Church this weekend, followed by a viewing of Hitchcock’s classic movie, Rebecca. Ethan Church, Maxim DeWinter….Byronic, conflicted heroes who challenge my brain, scare me silly, and seduce me with one low slow burning look that goes straight to my heart.

Now that is sexy.

As a fellow bibliophilia, this is one of the first Bellas that I have felt an instant connection with. I love the smell of bookstores and libraries. I have been lost time and again in books and felt their continuing resonance long after I read the last word. I love the twist of this story where the lingering feeling is actually a manifestation of their destiny. that these two were meant to find each other, and be together. That it was their words that lit the fuse that led to their coming together.

This story is cleverly twisted around it’s players. You are constantly wondering who everyone really is. As the mystery reveals itself, it leaves me smiling at a gradual, yet intense courtship, and colorful supporting characters. You will not regret reading through this short story that will long stay with you.

4 out of 5 lemons in the garden

There is a ghost lurking around Ethan Church
There is a ghost haunting translator and potential biographer Isabella, Bella Swan
There is a ghost haunting the entire story that is Ethan Church
There is a ghost haunting me on reading this story.
It has gripped my heart. Consumed my mind. Its incredible.

The intensity of chapter 9? Wow. It just. Blows. Me. Away.

We had a chat about this in the shack earlier this week: Now, Ethan Church is NOT a smutty story. But it is sensual and the chemistry & the tension that builds through the first 9-10 chapters is incredible. Its a sexy story. Its focus is not on the smut, its on the blinding connection between these 2 souls. Drawn from paper to flesh to hearts, souls and minds. If you are reading this for a graphic lemon - you will be disappointed. But to me a sexy story is not all about descriptions and rude words - its about conveying the build up and the emotion. Dryler does this by the bucketload..

This story is gothic and absorbing. I reread it today in delight to refresh my mind for this review. I intended to skim, but no. It made me re-read EVERY RUDDY WORD! As I was hooked again from the first chapter. Dryler really really writes evocative and atmospheric prose. Like Bella from the beginning I was sucked into trying to decipher the world of Ethan Church and the strange pull she had towards him.

This is a succinct story, indeed it was a shock when I had it on alerts and it felt like it had been quite a while to update and then BAM it was complete. It is only 12 snappy chapters and a brief epilogue long. Part of me longs for an update from her with a surprise outtake featuring this ghost of an Edward and Bella, but the other part of me is content to be lost in the mysteries and magic left hanging in the air in the clever epilogue.

Read. This. Story.

Its a must read if you enjoy a beautifully crafted tale, that twists canon and provides richer characters in 13 chapters than we got in 4 books of the Saga and provides a haunting, gripping tension that won’t leave you once you have completed it. Its a beautiful novella.

5 out of 5 lemons in the garden.

This story is a little bit magical and I think that mostly has to do with the narrative and writing style and verbiage Dryler uses. There’s something hauntingly ethereal about it, almost spooky. It’s quite unique. All those combine to make an air of suspense and mystery that’s palpable. When Bella’s heart rate quickens, the readers does as well.

Well into chapter 9 I still didn’t know exactly what was going on. I had theories of course, but no real tangible evidence to support them. Even after the mystery surrounding Ethan Church is revealed, there is still this heightened sense of the unknown, of something missing. All the way to the end the sense of mystery pervades. Now don’t get me wrong, there is closure and the story does come to a satisfying end, but it’s not an easy end, the reader has to work for it.

Now, if you’re looking for a smut heavy story, Ethan Church is not it. But honestly, the story doesn’t need it and it would feel off or wrong if it was included. What little physical interaction there is between the pair is intense though. Every brush of the finger or simple chaste kiss carries meaning and weight and brings them closer together. It’s beautiful really and those touches keep the reader on the edge of their seats.

4 out of 5 lemons in the garden from moi.

The set up is simple enough, Bella is a translator that is contacted by a reclusive author, Ethan Church to write his autobiography. At first she is sure that there’s been some misunderstanding, but the mysterious Mr. Church will not be swayed. Bella is hesitant until she sits down to read one of his books, and then she is lost. She is entranced by his writing, and becomes obsessed with his novels.

Ethan Church isn’t like most Twilight fan fictions. It is written less like a romance and more like a mystery. The writing style is sophisticated, and spellbinding. Dryler weaves an intriguing, and seductive story that isn’t explicit or smuty, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be.

Edward is so canon, and yet even better. He is so hot, that from the first scene in which he speaks I was ready to drop to my knees and service him with my mouth. Seriously, Vamp Edward writers take note. This is how you write canon Edward. He is cynical, witty, and laconic (look it up). So much of his character is in his physical gestures and not in overblown dialog. Bella is so great, she makes me flail with excitement. It is a rare occasion when I identify with a Bella, but boy howdy do I in this story. She’s smart, thoughtful, and full aware that she has stumbled into an extremely bizarre the situation.

Bella is truly our eyes and ears in this original story, and for the first time in any Twilight fan fic, I wanted to trade places with her. I want to roll in this story, rub it into my skin so the scent stays with me for days. Hell, I'd give my right arm to spend just one week in Mr. Churches library. UNF!

This story will grab you, and confound you. The mystery keeps you guessing through most of the story, and when there is some sexy action, it is about so much more than sex. This story is about seduction, but not just of the body, but of the mind, and soul.

Take a chance, step out of your usual Twi fic rut, and spend an afternoon with Ethan Church. I guarantee you’ll never look at Twi fan fic the same.

PS My favorite character is Johnny. I wish there was more of him, and Edward interacting.

5 out of 5 lemons in the garden.

Why is it that the weekly recs always feel like a confessional for me? I’m always confessing to my deepest, darkest sins, and this week is no different. I confess that I don’t read much AU vampfic. When I first delved into the world of Twific, I read vamp stories exclusively. Perhaps it is simply because Lolashoes set the bar unusually high for me, but after reading ALE, I became less interested in AU unless it took place within the realm of ALE. Well, well, well... apparently, Dryler decided it was time to lure me away from my safe haven of AH stories, because I COULD NOT put this story down once I started it.

First and foremost, Ethan Church is a skillfully crafted mystery. I flove mysteries, always trying to analyze what is going on. Believe me, good mysteries are incredibly hard to write well, because most writers tend to give away too many clues, making it easy to guess what is going to take place. While Dryler did have me guessing, I am pleased to say that most of my guesses were incorrect. I wouldn’t dare give away the secrets held within EC; it’s far too much fun to discover them on your own. All I can say is that it is worth the wait once you finally determine exactly what’s going down at Mr. Church’s estate.

The foundation of this story is centered around books, so I felt right at home. Bella is a translator, and apparently a very good one. But she only translates the written word, and is committed to remaining as true as possible to the original writing. She has been asked to write the famous, reclusive author Ethan Church’s memoirs, by none other than Mr. Church himself. She turns him down, but he is insistent--it must be Bella who writes the memoir. One day, out of the blue, she picks up one of his novels, and she cannot put it down. She has eschewed reading them all her life, but once she starts, she’s hooked. She feels an ache in her chest, almost like a compulsion, requiring her to keep reading. Naturally, she ends up agreeing to write the memoirs, which means spending in depth time with Mr. Church on his estate.

Once there, the ache in her chest intensifies, and her life becomes surreal--days melt into one another, weeks pass, and she becomes further consumed by Ethan Church’s story and his world. Bella starts to have unusual experiences: Ghosts, strange dreams, a sense that someone is watching her. It all seemed very Henry James/The Turn of the Screw--Bella is isolated, so are some of the things that happen to her real, or are they imagined, in her head?

In terms of the smut rating, Ethan Church isn’t an all out smut-fest--although there is a perfectly satisfying lemon in the garden (hence this week’s rating system), most of the action here is in the form of UST. Don’t get me wrong, great UST is honestly almost as enticing as resolved sexual tension. The citrus fruits that do appear in this story are indeed satisfying, because they serve to further the plot in ways that the reader hadn’t yet imagined.

For fear of accidentally including spoilers within my commentary, I’m going to quit while I am ahead. All I can do is beg you to give this unique, special, and engaging story a try. Really, it’s some of the best writing I’ve run across in a long time; one of those great stories that would stand on its own as original fiction, it is that creative and well written. Treat yourself to something really different, go read Ethan Church. I assure you that you won’t be able to put it down. It is honestly that good.

5 out of 5 Lemons in the Garden
I love Dryler’s writing. “Bright Like the Sun” is another exceptional story but I can’t say enough about “Ethan Church”. It doesn’t read like a novella, not in the least. it’s a full story and a fantastic one at that. I used to exclusively read AU, then the world of AH crashed down and AU took a back seat. If you’re like me and read predominately AH, please still give this one a shot. It’s that good.

Bella is a translator for a company that also publishes the novels written by the mysterious Ethan Church. A man who happens to contact Bella to write his biography. Though intrigued, she declines but of course, he persists until she gives in. She’s met with an elderly man who claims to be Church who regales her with a massive amount of history and retelling of his ‘life and his experiences whether they’re involving the Wars or his family, his books or the home he shares with his friend/caretaker Adelaide. Bella, being well... Bella, believes something is peculiar.

Of course it’s confirmed when the house ‘ghost’ appears. Guess who.

Now. Obviously I gave some away but it’s not like you couldn’t figure it out for yourself. It’s the HOW Dryler tells it that makes me love this story so very much. The odd feelings deep within their chests that they can’t explain. The romantic strolls through the garden, her slowly figuring out that he’s not exactly who he seems but at the same time he’s everything that she believes.

There is a wee lemon but it’s so well done that it carries throughout the story even before it happens. It’s not necessarily UST but something more. Their connection is slowly unfurled through each chapter until they’re finally together... in the biblical sense.

I adore this story.

5/5 lemons in the garden

I have long been a fan of stories about reclusive authors. So, when I saw the summary for this story, I was immediately intrigued.

Bella, a translator, receives a somewhat mysterious and unexpected invitation to write the biography of Ethan Church. She initially refuses, but after reading his books, she is pulled into an environment that literally turns her world upside down.

Dryler’s writing is absolutely beautiful. The words flow in such a way that you can’t help but want more. I read this short fic in a single sitting and was so glad it was actually finished. The clues are there all along, but it’s the way they come out that kept me wanting me.

Take a couple of hours and read this story. You won’t be disappointed.

4/5 lemons in the garden.

This story starts out a little slow for me, but once Bella is in the air on her way to meet the title character, for whom she has been commissioned to write a biography, the tension is palpable. She gives rich, detailed descriptions of his home, and I am reminded of Manderley (from ‘Rebecca’). Her initial meeting with him sets the stage.

"Are you alright?"

"Well... I'm dying, but outside of that I'm very well, thank you."

"You're dying?"

"Yes, yes I am. That's why I need you to write this book for me."

"But why now? I don't mean to sound rude, but why didn't you start it earlier when you could've done it yourself?"

"It didn't have an end earlier. I can't stand a story without an end."

"And the end is...?"

"My death, of course. I can't very well finish a book when I'm dead, now can I?"

The overcast, almost haunted mood, reminiscent of 1940’s suspense films, carries on throughout as Bella explores the title character’s life and home. Dryler weaves her character’s world full of nods to canon, describing characters we know so well, without ever calling them by name. After several encounters with the mysterious garden ghost, things take an interesting turn.

He stands just out of reach, silent and impossibly still, until one side of his mouth quirks up into an awkward smile.

"Hello." His voice is quiet and smooth, while mine seems to have disappeared into the pulsing, swirling pressure in my chest.

"I'm sorry if I scared you before. That wasn't my intention."

I pull in a deep breath, carefully concentrating on forming each word so I can ask, "Did you leave me the books?"

He shifts slightly, as if nervous or uncomfortable, but something about the movement seems intentional.

"I did."

There is just enough intrigue to keep you turning virtual pages to discover the secret behind Ethan Church, and the story of the mysterious ghost.

4/5 lemons in the garden


Anonymous said...

This is mostly a comment on site design (I love the stories and discussions, btw) and how the yellow text is impossible to see on the white background.

Emmy said...

Hiya Nova, thanks for your feedback - we will be working on making the older posts easier to read as a matter of course. But all the new posts should be easy to read! hope you enjoy!