Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Review: "Dark Sojourns" by Beth H. Adams

Dark Sojourns by Beth H. Adams (Secret Pleasures, 2002)

This 2002 Dark Shadows gen novella published by Secret Pleasures Press “is intended for entertainment of the fans of Dark Shadows, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights and trademarks held by others.” I believe I ordered it from Agent with Style about a decade ago. Agent with Style—once a wonderful source for hard copies of fan fiction—seems to have stopped operating in 2015 (their domain name expired in 2020). Regardless, I finally got around to reading Adams’s 138-page novella, which is well written, well printed, and spiral bound with a couple of pieces of photo collage artwork. As fan fiction goes, it’s relatively clean reading—well edited—and I only remember a couple typographical errors.

Barnabas Collins and Willie Loomis have left Collinsport, Maine, moving down the east coast eventually to Augusta, Georgia, where they meet their neighbor, a friendly single mother who works as a plastic surgeon. The novella is largely a love story, perhaps presaging that of Twilight, with Collins and Loomis becoming fond of the mother and her 5-year-old daughter. (Collins finally expresses his appreciation for Loomis’s caretaking and service.) Collins and the mother eventually fall in love. But Collins is torn: between his need for human blood and love for a woman, and between Anjelique’s witch curse and the hope that if he commits “an act of selfless love,” Josette will be returned to him.

On one level, the premise of the novella seems to be that the only bad thing about Dark Shadows is that Collins is a vampire. What if he weren’t? I’m not sure he’d even be interesting were that the case. Moreso, however, it’s the story of a love reclaimed and reunited. The idea of a reincarnated Josette, of Collins finally being able to find love after 400 years are very human desires and tensions worth exploring, even if their resolution effectively ends what turned out to be the best part of the television program. After all, Dan Curtis’s creation admittedly plagues the writer still.

Adams populates the story with several other interesting characters, including a coworker named Ty and his grandmother, Mignon, who practices “a bit of voodoo.” There are also several notable scenes. In one, Collins saves his new love from an attacker in a parking lot. In another, she confronts him about slaking his thirst on young prostitutes even though he’d promised not to do so. Most husbands aren’t guilty of such a severe betrayal, but its parallel to spousal infidelity resonated. And the surgeon channels her inner Victor Frankenstein as she tries to save Collins from himself and his dark desires, too.

A fun read—and better than most fan fiction I’ve encountered online.

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