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Morgan Harcourt;Laylah Hunter;Thea Hayworth;Gryvon
Stung (Zombie Gentlemen) - K.A. Merikan
4.5 stars

Honeyhill, such an evocative name for this bucolic setting-- grass-covered hills, apple orchards baking in the sun, busy bees gently buzzing on the warm breeze… pollinating, fertilizing…

But, when the train spits the unfortunate Victor, and his fellow prisoners out, it’s into a place of nightmare, torture, and death. This lovely prison, Honeyhill farm, fenced off to keep out the slavering zombies that surround it, hides all sorts of evil and danger.

“… he could still sense the earthy, somewhat wet smell of the ground, mixing with the sweet aroma of the apples… so alien and new that he wasn’t yet sure whether he liked it or not.”

Victor lives in a Victorian dystopia, a world where one thuggish family has the power to ruin lives. Owned by the mysterious and elusive Dal family, Honeyhill is policed by vicious guards who take joy in punishing the prisoners, starving them and working them like slaves, with grueling work in its fields and apiaries. Mr. Crunch (a great name!), is a man on a mission, and alone among the the guards, seems to have a heart. He takes the beautiful, succulent, Victor under his protection.

With benefits attached.

This was pure, nonstop fun. Down and dirty and sensual… there are orchards of apples, the brutish guards seem to be constantly crunching on them while the emaciated prisoners are denied. And there is honey… Mr. Crunch, a hedonist at heart, feeds the starving Victor on it, secreting him pots of the sweet, drippy stuff.

“Victor… opened the pot, digging his finger in the golden liquid. He then sucked it into his mouth with a groan, his soft, plump lips closing over the digit.”

And Crunch dips into the honeypot that is Victor… Victor, spoiled, seductive, a sexpot who knows how to make good use of his looks to garner favors. He holds Crunch prisoner to his charms.

“‘Then fuck me, Mr. Crunch,’ he rasped, clutching his fingers on the thick grass and inhaling its fresh scent. With the cool air caressing his back, it was almost surreal.”

Everywhere, there is the constant hum of those bees, huge and voracious, feeding on nectar and… other festering, oozing sources… Victor and his fellow prisoners tend the orchards and the aviaries and try to avoid getting stung.

Crunch and Victor are fueled by their lust, but there is something else between them, a sweet exchange. But that ‘sweet something’ is fed by need, dependency, and greed which gives the situation a disturbing edge. Secret trysts, whispered naughtiness, sex in watchtowers and grassy ditches, all composed to the hum of insects and the groans of the circling zombie hoard-- this is a different kind of romance.

I have a small disappointment… The world outside of the apple farm is not explained… how we come to this zombie apocalypse. And the Dal family is also conspicuously absent from the story. These evil perpetrators who have such an affect on everyone remain hidden and mysterious.

Stung is wickedly great storytelling, well-paced and gorily descriptive. It is a great read anytime, but perfect as we approach that bewitching night… All Hallows’ Eve. Watch out for the slavering masses!

(LoVe the cover!!!)

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