Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here and desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.
The Alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.
Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.
With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.
Thanks to Reb Langham for her review in Aurealis #160
Winter Masquerade is noteworthy for its authentic queer content, which tackles the issue of abusive relationships and celebrates the healing power of healthy ones.
Thanks to Nikky Lee for her 4.5 Star review.
…if readers lean in to the dream-like surrealism, they’ll come to understand there’s a deeper, psychological undercurrent to the story. This is more than a dreamy tea party; it is Ferris’s soul laid bare.
Thanks to Books That Burn for their lovely review.
The story has a recognisable kind of structure, a narrative style which mimics how dreams feel when you try to remember them; the pieces connected so beautifully while you were asleep, but upon waking they feel disparate and discordant.
Thanks to Camille at Joyfully Jay for her 4.5 star review.
I was hoping for an absurdist piece I could get lost in and I think Klehr certainly delivers.
Thanks to Annarella for her 4 star review.
It’s the first book I read by this author and won’t surely be the last.
Thanks to Amos Lassen for his review.
What I first thought was going to be a “fluff” read became something much more serious when I realised the message that Klehr was sending us.
Thanks to Ashley from Broome Books for her 4 star review.
I finished reading it a couple of days ago but I needed time to digest and analyse my thoughts about this story. There are so many layers within its pages and it deserved the time.
Thanks to Alias11 for their 5 Star Review
I don’t have the eloquence to succinctly describe the plot, so all I will say is that this is one of the most creative, enjoyable, fantastical stories I have read in a long while.
Thanks to Truus from Diverse Reader for her 5 Star Review
At times I couldn’t read because of my blurred vision, all my emotions bubbling up.
Thanks to Amazon reviewer, Roger Hyttinen, for his 5 Star Review
This was a wild ride of a story with stellar world-building, a fun cast of zany characters, and an important message underneath it all.
Thanks to Kazza from On Top Down Under for her 4 star audio review (Listen below).
For my own personal reasons I appreciate this as an own voices book. There is a message here written by a gay man about something that (some) other gay men may understand all too well.
Thanks to LoveIsLove for their 5 star Instagram post
EXCERPT from CHAPTER FIVE:
The Alchemist’s wife loved watching the sun rise. A fact everyone with whom I spent time with in the captain’s quarters knew well. They decided the Detective and Janus should talk to her, but that didn’t stop me and Cole tagging along.
She had small wrinkles, conveying kindness rather than worry. As Janus introduced her, she smiled. The stylish deep blue dressing gown, her outfit of choice for early mornings, had no hint of age or wear. The sea breeze unable to mess her snow-white hair.
Her name was Camilla. She wasn’t alone, though.
Holding her hand and sharing the view was Molly, the Alchemist’s mistress. She wore a candy-pink dressing gown that shed fluff all over the deck. You could find her cabin from the trail of bright fuzz. Her damp hair left a wet patch on her shoulders. During this conversation, the sun turned up its slow heat, making her hair dry curly.
“Now, Janus, why would I kidnap my own husband?”
I showed her and Molly the ransom note.
“It does look like your handwriting,” Molly said. “You’ve always had those curly tails when you write the letter Q. And look, that tail is bursting with life.” She turned to me. “I can read handwriting, you know. Write your name, and I’ll tell you all about yourself.”
Camilla took the note and studied it closely. “Yes, that is a Q I’d be proud to call my own. But, Molly, you have lavish tails on your Q’s as well.”
Molly took the note. “I’d also be proud to call that Q my own. I think I picked up the curlicue habit from you.” Molly gazed at me. “Letters infiltrate us, you know. My life and Camilla’s have become so intertwined our handwriting appears to be the same.” She examined the note again. “And we’re both writing rounded O’s. Camilla, yours used to be oval but now yours are as rounded as mine.”
“This reminds me of the time I solved a case by examining a bowl of alphabet soup.” The Detective reached for the note, but Molly was unaware of his gesture. “The false eyelash sticking to the spoon was a major clue.”
“So, did you write the note?” Janus asked Molly.
“And look at your trademark squiggly S,” Molly continued, not answering. “That shows you’ve lived before.” She turned to Cole. “We’ve all lived before, you know. I was a fishmonger’s wife once. Don’t look so shocked. I was very happy once I got used to the smell.”
“Was the sea made of soft chocolate when you were a fishmonger’s wife?” the Detective asked.
“No. It was an odd period. The sea was water.”
“Didn’t you say the sea was made of water when you entered that other dimension, Ferris?” Janus jumped out of the Detective’s bag and landed on deck. We all looked down at him.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Does this mean Molly used to live in that other dimension?” Cole asked.
“Yes!” the Detective said, enthusiastically.
“There’s not enough evidence to tell,” Janus replied.
“But it matches Ferris’s description of the other dimension.”
“Where I come from, ocean is made of water.” I couldn’t help but sound glum. “I think Molly’s past life was in my dimension, not the dark one I experienced.”
“How do you know?” Camilla asked.
“Just a feeling.”
“Trust your feelings,” Molly said. “You’re empathic, you know. I can sense it.” She gave Camilla a curiously affectionate grin. “Ferris is very empathic like your cousin, Katherine.”
“Yes, Katherine knows everything about us.” Camilla slipped a hand under her robe and onto her heart. “She’s wise beyond her years. Even as a child she—”
“This conversation isn’t getting us anywhere,” Cole said. “Who wrote this ransom note?”
“It’s a long story,” Camilla said. “Perfect for telling during sunsets. But not the best topic of conversation for watching the sun rise.”
“If you don’t gaze at the sky too often, you can fool yourself it’s a sunset.” Janus’s reasoning made sense. Any reasoning would have made sense at this stage.
“Go on, Camilla,” Molly said. “Tell this story. I like this one.”
Molly and Camilla held hands again, swaying their arms like children displaying their playful affection for each other.
“This is a tale best suited for sunsets, red wine, and an array of cheese,” Camilla began.
“That’s true,” Molly confirmed. “I’ve heard her tale with those very accompaniments.”
“My husband was in a restless mood. He sensed more than our ship sailing on a chocolate ocean with an overly bright rainbow in the sky. He sensed more than just a population of women with a few men thrown in for good measure.”
“She meant no offence, guys.” Molly looked very concerned.
“None taken,” Janus replied.
“And he sensed music made with more instruments than just a harp, a guitar, and drums.”
Camilla paused. Once again, she slipped her hand inside her gown, but this time she pulled out a string of pearls which she clutched. She turned on her heel and looked back out to sea. We did the same. Janus sauntered up to the edge of the deck and peered from the gap under the barrier. The sun had crept up into the sky. The rainbow sheet flapped. A rainbow pair of shorts and overalls also hung in midair.