In the Flesh by K D Grace
Self-published with Smashwords and Amazon, 2016
No one writes paranormal fiction like KD Grace. In penning her tales of myths and magic, she plumbs psychological and spiritual depths that most authors don’t even realize exist. Ms. Grace ignores tropes and conventions, following the trail of her stories down the rabbit hole of her own fertile imagination. The truths she unearths amaze, arouse, terrify and delight.
In the Flesh shows more of this narrative serendipity than any of her other paranormal titles I’ve read. The novel began as a serial posted on her blog; I suspect that each installment was as much a discovery for her as it was for her fans. Certainly I found myself continually surprised by the story’s twists and turns, though in retrospect none of the plot devices seemed implausible. I just didn’t see them coming.
That’s a compliment. As anyone who reads my reviews will know, predictability in a story can really kill my enjoyment.
The tale begins when author Susan Innes is invited by her close friend Annie to visit Chapel House, the de-consecrated church Annie purchased six months previously. Susan finds Annie much changed. Her formerly plump, boisterous girlfriend has become skinny, pale and distracted, obsessed with a mysterious, invisible lover who she claims is God. As Susan watches Annie bathed in moonlight in front of the old altar, moaning and writhing with pleasure, she tries to rationalize her friend’s strange behavior as some sort of psychological illness.
However, Susan herself senses the presence of the unseen being who haunts the church’s half-ruined halls and overgrown garden. She feels his erotic pull, hears the promises of unspeakable ecstasy he whispers to her. Though she sees that Annie has been literally consumed by her spectral paramour and understands she is in danger of a similar fate, she cannot resist falling under his spell. Only the arrival of a burly workman named Michael saves her from losing herself completely.
Michael rips her out of the Guardian’s sphere of influence and takes her as his lover, but he cannot totally eradicate Susan’s irrational lust for the invisible but overwhelmingly seductive spirit. When the Guardian uses Annie to lure Susan back to his territory, Michael enlists the aid of allies equally powerful, and equally dangerous.
I don’t want to spoil things by saying too much more about the plot. However, the emotional and erotic intensity continue to build throughout the tale. There’s magic and terror and death, plus lots of sex—sex that involves deeper connections than the purely physical. As she did in her Lakeland Witches series, Ms. Grace explores the ways in which sexual experience is a gateway to new capabilities and states of consciousness.
As an author, though, there’s one aspect of the plot that I just have to mention. Susan gradually comes to understand that the act of writing is literally infused with magic. Her writing shapes reality. Even the supernatural creatures who surround her recognize and honor her awesome power as a true scribe—a woman whose imagination can alter the world, a woman whose words are made flesh.
This is what it feels like to be a writer, on the best days when the ideas are flowing and the words write themselves. We’re immersed in the sacred act of creation, totally sure of ourselves, molding the universe in subtle but important ways. And this is perhaps what I loved best about In the Flesh: the fact that Susan manages to save herself and her companions not by casting a spell or wielding some enchanted sword, but by writing a story.