REVIEW: A Peculiar Prom Night – R.L. Merrill

A Peculiar Prom Night - R.L. Merrill

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Horror

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

  • Four sexually frustrated chaperones

  • Three hapless kids caught vaping in the bathrooms

  • Two heated kisses

  • One ghost ship on the San Francisco Bay turns this joyous celebration into one helluva creepy night…


Meet siblings Ramona and Ruben, veteran teachers at Baymont High School. They’ve been chaperoning proms for years, but tonight they’ll need all of their faculties to protect their students from beings who may or may not have evil intentions. Oh, and manage to keep their family’s secret while attempting to get closer to their respective love interests. No problem, right?

The Review

This tasty novella by R.L. Merrill is distinctive in a couple of ways. First, although the setting is crammed full of high school kids, the main performers in Merrill’s drama are all middle-aged, lonely people. The other distinctive detail is that we’re looking at a man and his sister, who live together, teach at the same high school, and who both love what they do and the kids they teach. Ramona Gilman is divorced, while her little brother Ruben is just a gay player who could never settle down. 

Somewhat randomly, I thought, these two forty-something teachers, Ruben and Ramona, are also endowed with psychic powers, able to do magical things related to feelings and interacting with spirits. Their gift is a secret from the world, but neither Ruben nor Ramona is against making use of it in school to ease the pain of being a teenager. 

It is prom night, at a hired venue looking out across San Francisco Bay, and the adults present are chaperones, including the school principal, Victor Villareal, and a local superior court judge, Matt Pierce, who happens to be both divorced and Ruben’s best friend. As these things go, Ruben has a crush on the principal, and has invited his friend Matt because he’s hoping something with spark with his sister. 

The paranormal aspect of the story takes center stage when both Ruben and Ramona spot a spectral Navy Destroyer dock at the venue’s landing. The intuitive siblings have to keep track of hundreds of teenagers while they try to figure out what this apparition is and whether or not it poses a threat to their charges. 

Merrill does a good job condensing the multifaceted plot into the restricted space of a novella. As isinevitably the case for me, the author presents us with interesting characters, but doesn’t have the space to really develop them beyond the essential elements we need to care about them. An epilogue suggests that this is (or could be) part of a series, but not necessarily one with the Gilmans as ongoing characters. For all its good writing and interesting actors, I ended this story hungry for more—more about the adults’ professional interactions with the teenagers, more about the romantic pairings of the key players, and more about the larger context of the magic abilities and how the Gilmans fit their psychic powers into their love lives.

Four stars.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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