Cheryl Anne Gardner is a hopeless dark romantic, lives in a haunted house, and often channels the spirits of Poe, Kafka, and de Sade. She prefers novellas and flash fiction to writing bios because she always seems to forget what point of view she is in. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. Her writing has been described as "beautifully grotesque," her characters "deliciously disturbed." Her short fiction has been published in dozens of journals including Dustbin, Hobo Pancakes, Carnage Conservatory, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others. She lives with her husband on the East Coast USA, and she is currently the head fiction editor at Apocrypha and Abstractions Literary Journal.
on Oct. 01, 2010 :
"The Kissing Room" is not your typical cheery romance for a Sunday afternoon. Rather, it’s a dark, disturbing story that threatens to repel the reader with its brutal honesty, while simultaneously compelling him to read on, anxious for resolution.
This fast-paced story is hardly a chronological one, beginning in the middle of the action, and then alternating between what happens next and what happened before. The story fluctuates between gentle, romantic, or bittersweet moments and truly ugly, stomach-churning scenes of violence and despair. Even the nastiest situations, however, are not described graphically or in lengthy detail, though neither are they for the faint of heart.
"The Kissing Room" is told in the engaging, first person voice of Merle, a woman whose short life has already seen too much tragedy, making her wizened and weary beyond her years. While the reader may not agree with her choices or even understand her reasons for making them, it is impossible not to sympathize with this character and want to see her prevail. The character of Lain was less clear to me, and I wasn’t always sure I liked him, but that wasn't important; I was rooting for Merle, and if he made her happy, that was good enough for me.
The Irish pub setting of the story is unique and authentic, with both the language and the details bringing it to life. I could always see and feel the story happening as though I was a participant, rather than some disconnected voyeur. The only time I felt thrown out of the story was when the point-of-view suddenly changed from Merle's to Lain's for a brief passage near the end. I understand why the author did this, but for me, it broke the spell. Fortunately, I was so caught up in wanting to know what would happen, I just ignored it and went on.
Clearly, "The Kissing Room" is not what you'd call a “beach read” with its violence and macabre themes, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it. I read the book nearly straight through, and only stopped because of an unavoidable interruption. I was annoyed to have to pause the action going on in my head, and went back to it as soon as I could—I just _had_ to see how it would end. When it is all said and done, Cheryl Anne Gardner’s "The Kissing Room" is a deeply touching love story; you just won’t know it til it’s over.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Ellen C Maze
on June 01, 2010 :
The Kissing Room by Cheryl Anne Gardner
So what if The Kissing Room’s star is a little “ashtray in the head”; Irish euphemisms only add to this stunning story’s appeal. Set in a pub in Ireland, Meryl O’Byrne tends her deceased father’s business with spit, grit and wit. Although she is haunted by the suicidal death of her beloved husband Jon, she muddles through with thoughts rampant and barely controlled as they gallop past her consciousness like wild horses. When Meryl meets an intriguing stranger named Lain, she slowly learns to release the past and begin anew—shrugging off her demons at the same time.
All of this makes her the most believable character I’ve read in a long time. Told in First Person, author Cheryl Anne Gardner expertly gives us a glimpse into the mind of a widow who sees and reacts to the world with her very last ounce of passion. The reader is invited onto a roller coaster ride of delicious descriptive settings and masterfully done character development.
Gardner is a superb storyteller and you won’t regret giving her a try.
Ellen C Maze
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