Hôtel Inspiré by Douglas Warren

Hôtel Inspiré by Douglas Warren
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (62 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Henry Harris had a horrible habit of having his hands in his hair.” Thus begins this quirky coming-of-age tale of a late-blooming 29-year-old-virgin. He leaves his parent’s Manhattan apartment (for the first time) to attend a writers’ retreat in France. Each summer Hôtel Inspiré hosts a retreat for artists from around the world. To attend all you need is a large pile of money, plus a vague notion of creating something: a novel, poems, paintings, or photos: literally anything creative. The fancy full-color brochure with wonderful pictures of the hotel convinces Henry it’s time to experience the wider world. A frustrated wannabe poet, he assumes this romantic setting will inspire his poetry far beyond anything he’s previously written. Indeed, Hôtel Inspiré does become a transformative experience. However, little did Henry know that the hotel would be full of eccentrics, a few of whom actually create works of art. There’s also a love interest, at least in Henry’s mind. Eventually he has to deal with ‘life on life’s terms,’ instead of stealing away, back to the safety of his parents’ apartment. Luckily Henry is ready to change his life, despite difficulties along the way. Unexpectedly he also discovers his muse.

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Henry’s character development was handled wonderfully. His peculiar upbringing was only matched by his equally unusual personality. When the almost total social isolation of his childhood was mixed in with his irresistible urges to obsess over things that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to, the results became someone who I felt like I got to know incredibly well. I felt like I’d known him for decades by the time I reached the final scene.

There were pacing issues. At times I had trouble staying interested in Henry’s adventures because of how slowly they unfolded even though I was fascinated by this character himself. So much time was spent describing his surroundings and the people he met that there wasn’t nearly enough space as I would have liked to see left over for things like dialogue or seeing how his choices affected what happened to him in the future.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that described how everyone at the retreat treated one another once they settled into a routine. I wasn’t expecting these characters to spent as much time gossiping about each other as they did. Like Henry, I’d made complete different assumptions about the kinds of interactions he’d have there, so it was a surprise to see how quickly things began to sour and how he reacted once he realized that his dreams about this place and his future as an artist might not match the reality of life after all.

Anyone who enjoys stories about unconventional characters should give Hôtel Inspiré a try.

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