A Whimsical Captor-Captive Romance
The wonderful title of this novella immediately attracted me. When I learned that it features a mad scientist, abduction, a weird laboratory inside a mountain and a plot exploring true love versus Stockholm Syndrome, I just had to read it! I obtained the book some months ago via Smashwords. It is no longer available there, but it is still free in pdf format on the author, Christine Pope’s website www.christinepope.com. The work is based on the song “Skullcrusher Mountain,” by Jonathan Coulton, www.jonathancoulton.com , which is written under a Creative Commons license that permits the creation of derivative work as long as no profit is made from it.
In “Welcome to Skullcrusher Mounatin” Jenna Masterson, a newly employed newspaper reporter, is curious to discover what people are wary of on Black’s Peak, a mountain known locally as Skullcrusher Mountain. Whilst she is exploring the mountain she is abducted by a monstrous hairy man and delivered to Dr Theophilus Black, an eccentric scientist who lives deep within the mountain. When Jenna accuses Theo of kidnapping her, he denies it and says that he is simply “collecting” her.
Jenna recognises that Theo is not of sane mind, naturally fearing him and to what end he has kidnapped her. This fear is compounded when she learns that women previously abducted by him have disappeared. However, Theo does not pose an immediate threat and she decides to play along with him, doing what it takes to save her own skin. She therefore accepts his invitation to dinner and thus begins a bizarre relationship and courtship. Theo is surprised by Jenna’s apparent lack of fear and is determined to make a good impression on her, serving her fine wines and food and is quick to have her moved into a spacious apartment within his home. He hopes that she will be different from the other women, who tended to turn hysterical when introduced to him, and tries to impress her with his scientific endeavours within his laboratory.
Theo is the archetypal ‘mad’ scientist, a recluse, caring little for his appearance. He is attracted to Jenna from the off, viewing her as “exquisite” and “the best yet.” He is also a hero who does not know how to relate to others, especially women, due to his isolation and his upbringing, being more comfortable with quantifiable facts and data. When Jenna is upset at one of his creations he is not only angry but confused and hurt, which was endearing. Although I found him a little threatening and strange to begin with, I soon came to sympathise with him in the same way that Jenna does. He appears to be very vulnerable and suspects Jenna’s motives when she reciprocates his advances and they become lovers. We also learn of the past goings on in the Black household, and we are left wondering if it will all end happily or not. Much rests on what will happen when Jenna asks Theo about the fate of the other women abducted and to what extent he had a hand in their disappearances.
The humorous repartee between Jenna and Theo is very entertaining, as are Jenna and Theo’s respective conversations with Scarface, Theo’s loyal servant who has been “collecting” girls for him all his life. The scene where Scarface offers Theo advice on how to court women is particularly humorous. I very easily found myself transported into the heart of Skullcrusher Mountain, due to the vivid manner in which the author describes Theo’s home, with its mixture of ‘faux gothic’ and up- to- date modern conveniences and strange inventions.
I would recommend this book to those who like to read romances which are a little bit different, especially if you enjoy captor-captive tales with a bit of weird science and skulking henchman thrown in! Readers of paranormal and fantasy romances are urged to check it out. I have since read Christine Pope’s novel “ Dragon Rose ( Tales of the Latter Kingdoms)”, which I will review later this month.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
Permission to use book cover art for “Welcome to Skullcrusher Mountain” kindly given by Indie Author Services, www.indieauthorservices.com