David Shaughnessy was content in his life as a police detective in Armata, California. It lacked the visceral, sick thrill that came with exorcising demons, but it was better for him, saner. Until the night he got called out to a vicious murder in the woods, and met Dallan Jaeger. The older man and Interpol agent is much more than he seems to be, and their connection is immediate, powerful. Trust blooms quickly as they learn to work together to pursue the evil fae responsible for the murders.
They must learn to do more than trust each other if David is to fulfill his birthright and claim what was so long denied him. Only then do they have a hope of catching the killer…in the Twist.
Warning: There are also scenes of graphic violence, off-page abuse/torture of minors, off-page reference to sexual abuse of a minor.
Debut novella urban fantasy with a religious/mythology tinge, In the Twist, is the first in the Wild Hunt series. It's definitely a story that is not for everyone. Read the blurb. Still think you're ready?
The story begins with a gory start...a disemboweled junkie child kind of start. Still with me? There are triggers up the wazoo, potential readers are heavily warned. While the subjects are dark, the story isn't as dark as it seems. (Think light-ish DMC read)
If you don't mind viscera here and there.
Anyone, still here with me?
Irish ex-priest, now American detective David Shaughnessy is a damaged soul with so baggage he could probably run his own department store. He's fairly young but has lived a lifetime of pain, shares a home with a sister and houses unwanted orphans. He was an unwanted once. And was used and abused by those who he should have trusted.
Present day David can care for those in need but doesn't care about himself, he's scarred and tattooed. While on a case, he meets older and worldly Interpol agent Dallan Jaeger. Dallan and David see the world...differently. Together, they uncover the mundane and magic world, open a new way of life for David and meet the 'The Wild Hunt', a group of the world's best warriors of legend.
The first 30% was a struggle for me. In fact, it took me days to get through. It wasn't the subject matter (because this barely scratches my dark meter) but the POV is muddled. At one point eye colors changed from ice blue to green-grey. And I thought it disemboweling was going to be as good as it got. But something pushed me to keep reading.
And I'm glad I did.
After 30% or so, the story got less muddled and more interesting, especially the urban fantasy world, religious and historical undertones brushed through. There was action, magic, romance, horror and mystery. It might've also been the swords added in too. I'm a sucker for swords. There's more to Dallan, David and his family. I like the mythological/fantasy world created. And I enjoy anything with a hint of heaven/hell thrown in made interesting. I enjoyed the author's take on it (the hints the reader gets).
Bare bones, this story hits an appropriate checklist of romance: man meets man, they share interests and mutual attraction, fight said attraction while uncovering a mystery and falling for one another for a solid HFN.
Not bad, right? What's the difference from all the other urban fantasy romances? The Wild Hunt, for one. Picture international badass immortal warriors from the ages. The faeries in this book are evil. And there are dukedoms in Hell.
I thought all of that was cool.
But I have quibbles.
My main quibble with this novella is it could have been longer.
For someone with David's depth of damage, the rapid way he gets over his hangups for love? I want to buy it. I really do. But it takes time. His mental abuse is so ingrained, the hurt and pain were written so well (a bit too well in aspects) that I ached for him. We get novel length feelings and major declarations in a novella. And some really lovely words, that I normally flutter like glitter fairy to I really enjoy. But the time span the men spend together is days. It's not like we're talking normal human relationships here. I can turn a blind eye for fated mates (not the case here).
I liked the attraction between Dallan and David. The romance was nice when I overlook the muddle. Because the conversations that Dallan and David had, really had when trying to overcome the hardships of their past (namely the abused), oh...those were sweet. Like laying jewels on your damaged feet kind of sweet. I basked in some the words when the muddling lessened.
I especially liked the duke. I kind of wished there was elaboration on the backstory about that. The story slowly unfolds David's background and his kids. It's more about him than Dallan, though both men are equally interesting.
Worth a gander (those who can handle the subject matter)? I think so.
Underneath the weaker start, rapid insta-love, beginning POV confusion, there's a solid plot. And it's too soon to call, but there were hints of something in the prose. It reminded me of a few urban fantasy stories I used to read in the past underneath my quibbles. And I think that if the author finds a groove, explains plot points and keep the POV separate...this could be an urban fantasy series to watch.
I'll be back for book #2, Titan's Watch, see what else the author has up her sleeve especially for these characters.
For more info on Goodreads or NineStar Press
L.A. is a professional writer finally crossing over into fiction. She has a background in the Classics and Religious Studies, and those themes will come up again and again in her work. L.A. lives in Texas, has two incredible kids, and a varying number of rescue mutts. Reach out to her on Twitter; she’d love to hear from you!
L.A. Stockman © 2016
All Rights Reserved
Hanging in the tree, the boy’s body looked unreal. A forgotten Halloween decoration, the gore so over-the-top there was something almost cartoonish about it. Yes, David Shaughnessy thought, except for the smell. He wrapped his inadequate suit coat more tightly around his tall, lanky frame and stood in what he was already thinking of as “the viewing circle”—a ring of seemingly random detritus that formed a perfect vantage point from which to view the dead child.
His long-fingered, elegant hands were jammed unceremoniously into his pockets, twitching to make the gestures of faith that he was not entitled to perform. Dear God, if You have any love for the lost, take this child in Your arms. Forgive his petty, childish infractions and grant him Your most blessed peace.
That the boy was a runaway was obvious to him: David could see past the fetid, swollen ropes of intestines arranged in elaborate patterns in the branches, the odd way the tree itself seemed to have taken hold of slender arms in a wrap of branch and twist of vine that was not natural, but couldn’t really be man-made. There were needle tracks on those delicate arms, clothing that was tattered and torn, and a sweet, thin face just barely introduced to shaving beneath the rictus of pain and fear.
“How long have you lived here again?” The woman’s voice came from behind him, to the right toward the parked line of emergency vehicles. “And yet here you are, at oh-dark-whatever-the-fuck in the rain without a proper coat and boots. Shaughnessy, you’re fucking hopeless.”
“Ellen,” he responded quietly, without rancor. The older woman was just trying to help him, take him under her wing. She had a son not much younger than David. How to tell this ruthless pragmatist of a crime scene supervisor the truth? That standing in the cold rain, feeling it chill down to bone and marrow, was the most insignificant of penances, his discomfort a tiny drop of what this child must have felt. It was not right, that he was standing here, having avoided the same fate as the boy in the tree. “I was in such a hurry, I forgot again. Oh, please be careful of this ring. I’ll need it carefully documented.”
“Right,” Ellen said, tossing him a glare as she picked through the clearing with her sensibly attired team armed with flashlights until they found places to set up the harsh spotlights.
David stepped out of the ring and blinked. The scene became palpably less clear to him as the light of his pocket flashlight was swallowed by the rain and predawn darkness. The light didn’t quite reach to the boy in the tree, and all the details that were so distinct became dim in the distance. A shiver raced down his spine, and he knew it had little to do with the cold and damp. His hand went to the small intricate silver crucifix beneath what had once been a nicely pressed and starched dress shirt.
In the absence of that clarity, he was forced to move closer to the powerful stench, but he willed himself to put it away, to bear witness without blanching. It was the least he could do for this lost boy. The very, very least. An absent request brought a ladder over, and he leaned it somewhat haphazardly against the tree before clambering up it to look more closely.
The boy was no more than thirteen, perhaps fourteen and excruciatingly small for his age. David shined his light to the boy’s face and almost fell off the ladder. Amidst the filth and rain, the small features were composed: eyes carefully closed; face washed clean; wet, dirty hair raked back and some attempt made to untangle it, probably with fingers. There were flowers woven into his hair, flowers that smelled sweet this close, pure and white in the middle of this late-winter muck of rain.
Someone had tried to help.
David was still staring, processing what this could possibly mean, when a gruff, accented voice cut through the background noise of the crime scene team and coroners. He almost fell off the ladder again, but the owner of the voice steadied it with a foot braced against the bottom rung, driving it deeper into the soft earth. “Lad, you’re gonna end up on your arse if you’re not careful.”
“Um, thank you for that…astute…” There was no point in being rude, especially since the unidentified man was correct. “Yes, thank you.” David peered down at the man but couldn’t make out much thanks to the damnable mist and the man’s very weather-appropriate hat. He summoned his few shreds of dignity and climbed down the ladder to face the newcomer. The stranger was older, perhaps in his late forties, with the sort of face that was kind and predisposed to smiling. David found himself staring into warm, gray-green eyes, rapt, and the cold seemed to seep out of his bones.