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We've all heard it before: a gormless, overly trusting young woman meets a dark, damaged young man and heals his soul with the power of luuuurve. Since their connection is sooo strong, his control is always a form of protection and domination is just another word for devotion. Nothing says "I love you" like controlling your girlfriend's life under the pretense of caring about her, right? 

Fortunately, this isn't that story.

The Drunken Bell is about Thora Lang, a 22-year-old college student studying film and TV abroad in London. She's desperately in love with Quinton Crutchley, a British actor who got his start as a child star in a popular fantasy film franchise and miraculously managed to cobble together a respectable acting career in adulthood. Now 36 years-old, Crutchley is one of the most famous and highest-paid actors in the world and has enough charisma to melt the panties off of women everywhere. By freak chance, the awkward Thora meets the charming Quinton and he takes a shine to her, inviting her to stay with him for a romantic getaway in his country house.

...His country house that's in the middle of nowhere. But it's only in the middle of nowhere because he likes his privacy. Really. Those bars on the windows of the first floor are just to keep out burglars. Oh, and that strange brown stain in one of the bedrooms? Brown mold. (He really ought to get that looked at.) As for the rotten smell wafting up for the laundry chute that goes to the cellar, must be a squirrel that got in and died in the vents. Yeah.

Though the timid Thora is starstruck and has the self preservation instincts of the average lemming, she starts to get more and more alarmed by Quinton's harsh and controlling behavior. With the literary equivalent of a record scratch, the story shifts from dark romance to thriller when the actor finally reveals his true colors. Unfortunately for Thora they're from a rather dark palette and she finds herself launched head-first into an unexpected struggle for survival. Thora must confront her own painful past and find untapped reserves of inner strength and grit if she wants any chance at all of leaving Quinton's mansion alive.

Suspenseful, tense, and twisted, with a garnish of dark humor, The Drunken Bell is a story about the choices we make and the choices that make us--and how we can only make those choices for ourselves.

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kpolil

October 2012

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