Review: Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley

Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley
Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley by S.L. Armstrong
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I love vampire stories, they’re a first and lasting love in fiction and Other Side of Night fits in well with the genre. There is nothing especially new or fresh about the plot and concept, in fact it’s very familiar on just about all levels. The story takes all the existing vampire trends and clichés and puts them together in a decent, entertaining story that holds your attention. It’s not groundbreaking or different but it’s interesting and well written. Vampire fans especially will appreciate a nicely crafted entry in a genre stuffed with fluff.

Other Side of Night begins with the slow friendship of Bastian and Riley. Bastian is dealing with his transformation to a vampire without any rules or guidelines or help and his friendship with Riley is the one saving grace of his complicated life. Riley is equally grateful as he recovers from an abusive past relationship. The two men grow closer and their relationship becomes romantic. But both men have secrets and Bastian’s “undead” status may test the limits of Riley’s considerable patience.

Like I said the plot is pretty standard vampire fare – vampire and his human lover must find a way to live together and make it work – so the story isn’t reinventing the genre or even putting a new, fresh spin on the classic tale. Instead what makes this particular story work pretty well is that it’s well written with interesting scenarios and three-dimensional leading men. The subtext to the vampire world is very subtle, only appearing in one scene, but it works and creates some interest and potential future intrigue/conflict.

Both Bastian and Riley are complicated individuals. Bastian is definitely the hero of the story as he grows up from a playboy to a committed, intelligent man. Bastian’s growth is the backbone of the plot and creates the most framework and interest. Riley on the other hand is a bit more difficult to get a handle on. He’s skittish, reserved, and frankly a lot of work. He forces Bastian to jump through considerable hoops (10 months of platonic dating before sex) while reserving the right to yell at Bastian for his mistakes. They’re both young and immature so they make a lot of mistakes. Riley especially takes his immaturity pretty far at the end without many consequences.

Beyond the main protagonists though the secondary characters fall short. The brief appearances by Riley’s friends are forgettable with the exception of Cheryl. She fits every female fag hag stereotype and is insufferable. I wanted to slap her and didn’t like any scene where she’s present and overbearing. Additionally although well written the prose tends to be denser and slower to read. This isn’t a quick page turner but a more thorough, thoughtful examination and thus the pace is slower. I find this tends to be pretty typical of this author duo and not a bad thing but it means you read with more deliberation and care instead of eager enthusiasm.

Overall this is a good entry into the vampire genre with a well-crafted story about honesty, choice, and coming to terms with your life. I’m definitely curious to see where the characters go from here and the potential of the vampire community at large. I also have to mention I love the cover art from this publisher. Almost all of their covers are gorgeous works of art and I especially appreciate their efforts in that area. I’d recommend this book for vampire and m/m fans. I hover between a 3.5 and 4 in terms of rating because it’s a good, solidly written book with a few mistakes and missteps but it’s also not one you devour and can’t wait to read.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley

  1. Riley especially takes his immaturity pretty far at the end without many consequences.

    Yeah, this was a sticking point for me too. Plus the dreadful Cheryl. I still enjoyed the book though and agree it’s a good read and one that vampire book lovers will enjoy.

    • Ugh that bad female. Why does she still exist?! You’d think readers would have ranted about her enough. I am seriously curious why authors seem to think this type of female character not only belongs in books but she somehow enhances it. I mean not to say these type of over the top people don’t exist but they’re not the majority in my experience.

  2. Erik says:

    I’m not sure what’s up with the Cheryl hate. This type of person exists, for one thing (believe me, I’ve met more than one), and once you read the entire book, you see that there is a very serious character-driven reason why she in particular is so meddlesome (both in intent and in influence).

    You forgive Riley his character faults and “immature mistakes”, despite the hurt he causes to people he supposedly cares deeply for, but you wanted to “slap” Cheryl (interesting choice of words) for trying to make sure her best friend doesn’t get hurt again? It seems an odd double standard. Female characters should be allowed to have faults and quirks, to make mistakes in the way they deal with situations, and to have those faults forgiven in the same way as the male characters.

    It’s something that’s curious to me as a male reader of gay erotic romance, because I don’t seem to hate female characters — even archetypal ones — the way much of the female audience appears to.

    (Disclosure: I have two short stories published through Storm Moon Press, but that has not influenced this comment. I genuinely would like to understand.)

    • Well the difference is a character like Riley is more fully explored and given more context. As the protagonist you’re supposed to be willing to forgive flaws because this is a character that grows and changes; they evolve so what may be annoying (and Riley definitely fits that) you hope changes.

      Also if you read my review you’ll see I didn’t forgive Riley’s faults and in fact his actions, especially towards the end, definitely effected my enjoyment of the book. I’m hoping he changes and redeems himself in future books and there is the potential for that so I didn’t condemn him.

      On the other hand Cheryl is overbearing and obnoxious. Sure there are characters like that but I’d have had the same reaction if Cheryl had been a male character. The overprotective friend – to the point of interfering and being rude – is a cliche. Cheryl never came out of that cliche to be a more in depth, developed person. Nor does she show any of the potential that Riley does to alter her behavior. This is partly because she’s a secondary character and thus not given enough space except to be annoying and nothing to redeem her.

      All characters are allowed to have faults but the problem is in this genre the female characters are of course secondary characters at best and therefore are not given enough depth to be three dimensional. So they are more annoying and frustrating as cliches and tropes than actual people with strengths and weaknesses.

      Now mentioning the whole female reader vs. male I’m not sure except that since I’m female I take it more personally that such obvious cliches and tropes continue to be used to describe women. Sure they exist but it’d be nice to have a few more examples of the normal ones too.

      • Erik says:

        I can see where you’re coming from, but I think what stuck out to me is that you didn’t describe her as the “cliched overprotective friend”; you described her as a “female fag hag stereotype”. It was a very gendered choice of words that seemed unnecessary to me. Granted, the term is thrown out in the narrative, and Cheryl owns the label, but your usage seemed to be intended as insulting rather than simply using Cheryl’s description of herself.

        (Trying to avoid spoilers here, but reader beware!)
        She *is* overbearing and obnoxious (and manipulative), but the coda shows that there’s more to her than what’s on the surface. Does it redeem her actions? No, I don’t think so. But it does put them into a larger context once viewed from outside Bastian and Riley’s narrow view of the world. And it makes you wonder if she would have acted differently if her circumstances were other than they were.

        I think the problem is, as you stated, that female characters are necessarily secondary in a m/m story, and so tropes are used in place of character development to keep the focus of the story from straying away from the primary characters. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself; it’s a common narrative device for *all* secondary characters that goes back as old as storytelling. Yes, there are very destructive and demeaning tropes out there, particularly involving female characters, and authors should strive to avoid them.

        However, the alternatives (removing female characters entirely or increasing the narrative focus on female secondary characters) are equally derided by readers and reviewers, so that makes it a bit harder for any author to strike the proper balance.

        I don’t know what the solution is, or if there is one at all. Maybe it’s just a matter of increasing the variety of female secondary characters in gay erotic romance rather than limiting the “acceptable” types. (And maybe I’ve just found the topic for my first blog entry!)

        • Well I did use the term “fag hag” because she used that to describe herself. I know some people find it offensive so it’s not a descriptor I would have used had it not been used already in regards to her. Perhaps my tone came off as insulting since she -really- annoyed me as a character but I wasn’t intentionally trying to demean her as a character.

          See I’d disagree that there is more to her than just the surface. On the one hand, of course there is. Every single character has that but I don’t feel it was really shown. Her overprotective side is what is shown numerous times but a softer, alternate side doesn’t really come through. Perhaps that’s personal opinion and everyone gets something different from a book. I didn’t see her as having more depth or potentially more depth but I’m hoping to be proven wrong in future books (even though I’m not looking forward to her presence).

          I do agree that the alternatives just aren’t viable. Both of the ones you mention would cause more issues than help so they’re not really options. I’m not sure what the solution is though I would love to see more diverse female characters (or any diverse secondary “best friend”) in fiction. The overprotected, interfering, and rude BF tends to be female and it’d be nice to see some more options for that role. Not everyone is going to be to that degree yet in fiction this is the predominant stereotype by far.

          It would be a great blog topic 🙂

  3. Thank you for the review, Kassa! I’m glad you, over all, enjoyed the story. 🙂 I wanted to point out that we sent out an ARC for reviewers that contained a few errors inside it. We caught those errors before publication, though, and readers who purchase the book won’t have those mistakes inside.

    I hope in the subsequent books that Cheryl can redeem herself. Since we see her from Bastian’s and Riley’s points of views, she comes off as the annoying, bawdy stereotype. But, I promise, she is deeper than that, and I hope readers will see it in the next book!

    • Oh sorry! I didn’t realize mine was an ARC. (I rarely get those so I forget). I’ll make the correction, sorry!

      As for Cheryl, I’m interested to see where she goes now.

      • Let’s try this again, hmm? 🙂

        I do hope the second book, where you see more of her and her story, does make her a fuller, less annoying character. In this book, it was all about Bastian and Riley, and so you only see her in those moments where she tries to protect Riley out of sisterly love.

        Also, I’ll have to make sure K. lets reviewers know when she sends out ARCs versus the final product. 😉 Let me know if you’d like the corrected file or not!

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