A Lila Review: Object of Desire by Dal Maclean


Disclaimer: If promiscuity, open relationships, or perceived cheating are deal breakers for you, this isn’t your book. 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tom Gray is one of the world’s top models–an effortless object of desire.

Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he’s accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms.

But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.

Someone’s framing him. Someone’s stalking him.

And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.

Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price.

If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.

Object of Desire should not be confused with a romance novel. It is a well-written mix of police procedural and a thriller with romantic undertones. I used the same disclaimer than above when reviewing Bitter Legacy and it applies here quite well. By the way, I didn’t make the connection between the two books until I was done reading. And to be clear, there’s no need to read them one after the other. They just complemented each other.

In this story, we don’t get to see Will and Tom falling in love and having a fairytale HEA. We get to accompany them in their search to uncover the reasons behind the collapse of Tom’s life and are witnesses to all the machinations and actions that resulted in a new path to their worlds. There’s a lot of exposure at the beginning of the story and it doesn’t stop until the end. I would have been happy with a bittersweet ending too.

Dal Maclean knitted a wonderful set of characters with deep backgrounds and interrelations. We are given enough information to make our own conclusions and to switch those conclusions with every new piece of information presented. There’s not one single suspect or lead to followed. It is a complex web of possibilities that keeps the reader guessing until the last minute. Only to have them question if they arrived at the right conclusion.

The plot leads change often enough to make the story engaging. The reader is always trying to figure out if they have the right players and set of events right, or if they have been misled. Trying to figure out the end gets harder with each page, and there’s no way to know until the last part of the story. Anything before that would be wrong, and even then, it’s hard to know if you are correct.

All the descriptions, from clothing, decorations, smells, locations, food, etc. added to the flavor of the story. Cars, traffic, day & time, weather, and many other items make Object of Desire more than a tale and more of an experience. I’m glad to see the author didn’t Americanize this book either. There’s no need to provided comparisons about the two country systems or explain terms or phrases. It makes the whole package credible and authentic. I would love to hear the audiobook to be further submerged in this world.

The characters were marvelous, sophisticated, and intricate.  I do have a sweet spot for Nick and I need to accept is due to the great work the author did to bring him to life. He’s definitely my favorite. At the same time, it was hard for me to warm up to Tom. Which is also due to a great characterization by the author. Unfortunately, it’s the reason why this is not a perfect five stars’ book for me; even if the overall book is stellar. Every other character in between has a purpose, a story, and is more than a generic name on a page. I’m still impartial about Will.

If you are not used to complex books with intense psychological turns, this book can be overwhelming. But, at the same time, it’s rewarding to get to the end to understand how everything comes together. It would definitely make a great TV movie or show. It has the potential to be more than a once read.

The cover by KaNaXa matches the previous book by this author and it has the same issue. At first glance, it’s hard to understand the content of the cover. Especially if looking at a thumbprint. When taking the time, all the elements are present in the story.

Sale Links: Blind Eye | Amazon | Nook 

ebook, 396 pages
Published: May 22, 2018, by Blind Eye Books
ISBN: 1935560549 (ISBN13: 9781935560548)
Edition Language: English

A Lila Review: Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean


Disclaimer: if promiscuity, open relationships, or perceived cheating are deal breakers for you, this isn’t your book. 

Rating: 5+ stars out of 5


Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance.

But when the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company.

Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time, his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity.

But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.

Bitter Legacy is a bloody brilliant debut book. See the Britishism? I had to set the tone because not many authors can pull it off. For once, some try to play it down to make the story more accessible for worldwide audiences. Others only have research to go by, but Dal Maclean makes the reader travel with her characters. We are with them for the full ride even when the story is narrated in its entirely from James’s POV.

Needless to say, the settings, language, meals, and everything in-between engages the reader from the very beginning. Yes, the Oxford comma was necessary in the previous sentence. All these serves as the perfect background for a well-presented story, filled with police procedures and investigations. Perhaps my only complaint in this regards would be Scrivenor’s authenticity. It was hard to follow when he spoke more than two or three sentences at a time, but by the end of the story, I was used to him and his brogue.

Now to the characters. Everyone, from Ben’s lovers to the murder victims had a layered background. There were no flat or unnecessary characters, and each one of them provided a clue to solve the overall mystery. The cultural diversity was refreshing, and it displayed London’s diversification. Family ties, friendships, and acquaintanceship played a central role.

As a narrator, Jamie is a complicated character. He had an entirely different life before starting to work as a Detective Sergeant. We see how those aspects influenced the way he conducted the investigations and how he related to others. For some, Jamie can be considered weak or malleable. There were many moments in which I wanted to shout, don’t do it or don’t give in. But in reality, his strength comes from the way he gave everything he had for others. And we couldn’t discard his physical attributes and intelligence.

Ben isn’t a traditional main character. Even when the story is mostly about Jamie’s life and work, his relationship with Ben colors the readers’ view of the events being investigated, and Jamie’s self-worth. Their relationship goes beyond the physical; it’s complicated and intrinsic to the central mystery. The author did an excellent job keeping the reader from figuring out if they love or hate him. The more we learn about him, the more we understand his actions. Even so, I wanted the final outcome to be different. I think a bittersweet ending could have worked better than the HEA.

The antagonist is one of the friendliest I had seen in a long time. I wanted this person to play a bigger role throughout the story instead of just showing here and there, but in the end, it worked. I had hope for redemption, but sometimes we have to let go of our darlings. And figuring out who/whom had the bitter legacy was a welcome surprise.

I expected this story to be a psychological thriller but not to this extent. The way the murders and the characters are weaved together show a complexity many authors try to evade. This book works because every plot line presented was equally important to the overall idea. The number of sex encounters in the story is as important as the amount of time Jamie spent working the case and as necessary as its full cast.

To figure out the case, the reader has to pay attention to every detail no matter how small or insignificant it appears. The story does start slow, but as soon as it picks up, it’s hard to put down. I’m a fast reader, but this book made me want to read faster. I wanted to know what would happen next. Plus, I wanted to know if my guesses were correct.

And yes, you guessed it—I’m leaving the stories specifics out of my review. Anything I say could be considered a spoiler. I did add the disclaimer at the top, but those topics are part of the blurb. This is not an MM Romance or a police procedural novel, it both and none; perhaps a literary fiction hybrid.

Overall, this is one goes under my best reads for 2016.  I don’t do re-reads, but this is a story I’d not mind listening to if it becomes available in audiobook. The complexity of the plot lines and the characters are worth re-exploring. I highly recommend this book; it’s definitely an ace. See, I did it again. 🙂

I can’t wait for another book from this author. I’m a fan of her style.

The cover is eye-catching, but hard to relate to the story. The man in it is Jamie, but the colors don’t translate as police lights. It makes me think of a sci-fi cover.

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Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published: Oct 4, 2016, Blind Eye Books
ISBN: 9781935560432
Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Devil Lancer coverCaptain Elliott Parrish of Her Majesty’s 17th Lancers cavalry division and his men make the treacherous voyage across the seas as part of the British forces grouping in the Ottoman Empire to fight along side the French and Turks in the Crimea War against the Russians,  Storms make passage for the frigates hazardous and vomit inducing.  But the conditions the troops find upon landing are scarcely better.  Rampant cholera, missing supplies, inept planning and unbearable heat quickly dose the hope for a summer victory for the British.  Then winter arrives bringing with it starvation, freezing temperatures and a lack of rations and shelter that quickly takes it toll on all involved.   But even worse are the rumors of black magic and witchcraft that spread throughout the encampments, mostly revolving around the enigmatic, solitary figure of Cornet Ilyas Kovakin.  It’s Illyas Kovakin who catches Eilliot’s attention, attracting him as a man while raising Elliot’s suspicions about his orders.

Cornet Ilyas Kovakin is half British, half Russian and returning to his homeland under conditions so heartrending and horrific that you want to weep for him. For Ilyas carries within him something monstrous, something that even the camp rumors can’t begin to encompass.  Ilyas is on a mission, reporting only to one man high up in British command.  Isolation, along with other factors make him both a target of suspicion and a danger to all who get in his way. But one man seems to be unable to let him be.  That would be the handsome Captain Elliot Parrish who goes out of his way to welcome Ilyas and try to get to know him better.   Ilyas feels as though he has no barriers he can raise against the feelings building in him, for Elliot. Something far darker lurks inside him.  Because Ilyas is not totally in control and the monster’s strength is growing.

Against the backdrop of the Crimean War, Elliot and Ilyas do battle with forces far beyond the natural world, the stakes are nothing less than their lives and those of all nations.

What an absolutely stunning story!  Astrid Amara combines the heartbreak and history of the military campaign in the Crimea War with romance and magic to arrive at The Devil Lancer, a story so huge in scope and impact that it goes beyond genre into something that can’t be restricted by categories or boxes.  The story opens on May 1854 on board ships crossing the Bay of Biscay  France.  The voyage is harrowing, the men and horses sick and sometimes dying.  Through descriptions so vivid and raw, we feel every wave, every squeal of the frightening horses tossing about below deck, and the fear that all must have  felt becomes real.  And once they land at Varna in the Ottoman Empire, the men find themselves and their horses thrown into hellish conditions that few will escape from.

Each chapter moves the story and campaign forward as the men march into Crimea. By Chapter 4 its August 1854 in a war that will last a little over two years. Here history isn’t dry but alive and writhing with the everyday horrors of sickness, starvation, arrogance and death that war brings, especially to the enlisted men.  And into this nightmare of geography, hysterical national fervor, and strategy, Astrid Amara weaves a tale not only of romance but of ancient malevolent magic let loose once more.

The characters feel so alive and believable.  Whether it is Elliot Parrish, the fifth son trying to find a future for himself or Ilyas, a man with a mission and secret that threatens to consume him, our hearts and attention are focused on them and the wars that wage around them.  Yes, wars, because there are so many layers here waiting to be revealed and each one carries an unanticipated nasty surprise.  There is the battle to accept their attraction and feelings for each other where such a discovery means death.  A battle for trust, support, and finally of survival.  This is a saga for sitting around halls and blazing fires as the tale unfolds.  Even the side characters ring with a humanity and force that makes them hard to forget, whether its Henry, Elliot’s friend, chilly Charles Cattley  with his secret intelligence department or even Valentin, Ilyas’ black stallion.  Read and be prepared for them to captures shards of your heart as the story proceeds.

And those elements of magic and mythology that anchor this story along with the location and campaign!  From subtle hints and glimpses in scene to scene is  a pantheon of evil built that will shake the foundations of this story and the hopes for all the characters you have come to love. Amara makes this mystical aspect of the story feel every bit as believable and authentic as her factual research on the war.  It’s epic, as unforgettable as all the other facets to be found within this story.

Finally, there is the deep and complicated romance between two soldiers under the most horrendous conditions you could imagine.  Its brutal at times, gentle when possible, and heartrendingly believable. You are never quite sure how the author is going to pull it off and where she will take it.  I loved that uncertainty and it heightens the suspense for the final outcome for both men.  The ending was just as splendid as I could have hoped for.  But its the journey there that will have the reader on the edge of their chair, caught between actions loving, erotic, bloody, and heroic in scope.

Amara has done a huge amount of research for this story, from the various battles to camp conditions, even down to the jackets and equipment used.  This attention to detail and the manner in which they are folded into the narrative combine to produce a powerful, and appalling portrait of men at war under the worst of conditions and leadership.    There is a list of references used at the end, some so fascinating that they cry out for exploration.  Where others might falter, this author brings together the gods of war, the frailty of human beings combined with the need to love and survive into a story that will continue to resonate long past the last word read.

Who should read this book?  Everyone.  Yes, everyone.  I know some will say they don’t read historical fiction because its too dry or has too many dates.  Not so here.  This book will reach out and shatter those beliefs and assumptions.  The Devil Lancer will make you realize that history is vital, raw and real. Its full of blood, sweat, tears, death, and sometimes things you can’t explain.  Its full of love and romance and an uncertain path that needs to be negotiated before you can arrive at a HFN or even HEA.  The Devil Lancer should be on everyone’s must have, must read list.  It will certainly be at the top of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014 in December.  Don’t wait until then to pick it up and begin your introduction to this unforgettable story.

Cover art by Dawn Kimberling.  Not a favorite of mine.  There are so many elements that could have been included or highlighted, that the figure on the cover feels to rough and singular for the scope of this saga.

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Book Details:

ebook. also available in paperback and kindle format
Published October 7th 2014 by Blind Eye Books
edition languageEnglish