Title: Love Tokens
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 12,500 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Rent Boys, Incubus, Demons
Rating: Pretty Good
Chanda is the Lord of Honey Flower House, which specializes in catering to those who have a taste for the paranormal between the sheets. Being an incubus makes him all the better at the job, even if the job makes him lonely. Then a demon appears on his doorstep in search of a missing person, and Chanda is quickly reminded why he prefers the relatively quiet life as master of a pleasure house.
I think just about everyone knows how much I love Megan Derr by now. I finally got to meet her at GRL and she was so sweet. This story is similar in a lot of ways to her other stories and enough of a divergence from the shorts I’m accustomed to reading from her (mostly in tone) that it was a surprise and delight to read.
Chanda is quite an old incubus, but nowhere near in age to the unusual demon that visits his brothel, the Honey Flower House. The demon intrigues Chanda from the start — even though he has good reason to avoid their kind forever. He must have been summoned by an incredibly powerful man, because even if he doesn’t look it, the demon is the most powerful that Chanda has come across in all his centuries. And that makes Chanda nervous, even though the demon tries to woo him, however forcefully.
Aside from his games, the demon has been summoned to find a young noble who has fled before his arranged marriage. Yet, if Chanda understands who exactly the demon and his summoner is searching for, then something else must be going on other than simply running away from a charmed life. To get to the bottom of the mystery, the demon will need Chanda and his particular brand of lustful magic. Unfortunately for the demon, Chanda has no desire to fall for him. And it is a key phrase — “fall for” — because unlike most other beings of lust, Chanda wants to fall in love more than anything.
Megan Derr really has the short story down well. She has a certain style in the short format and this story does all those things again, quite well. There is enough plot, characterizations, and world building to take this story much further, but the quick pace and the lack of backtracking to give a lot of the history that we often see in fantasy shorts means that the story really seems well planned and plotted beforehand. It makes for a smooth read where the format and length work perfectly with the story. And if you can end a story and think that pretty much the only thing you would have wanted differently was more time with the characters, then the author can really work within the limitations of a short. It is difficult and errors and problems are much easier to spot in the short form, we all know this, so that’s why I appreciate this author and the fairly large amount of short stories she produces.
The real meat of this story is the sexual tension and emotional and physical chemistry between Chanda and the demon. Even though we get the story from Chanda’s point of view, he holds everything close to the vest, even away from the reader. So the release of information about him is selective. In many ways the demon acts in a classic way, or at least to my expectations of the behavior of a demon — he is aggressive, wily and deceiving, and has a unique moral compass. Together, though, I felt as if they tempered one another and there is a bit of a power struggle that comes into play between them. The demon’s acts of dominance (yet earnestness) and Chanda’s obstinacy (yet willing submission) betrays the roles they play in seduction. It was nice, seeing them strip those away as they get to know each other through their search. It adds a bit of enemies to lovers style flair to the story.
This story probably doesn’t stand up there among my favorite Megan Derr short stories, but it is still memorable and well written. I particularly liked the evolution in tone from quite dark in the beginning to almost fairy tale happiness in the end. The best Halloween Rent Boys story that I’ve read yet. Recommended