This second full book in O’Riley’s Desire Entwined series does not stand up well against her first. In the beginning of the novel, the storyline is strong, with just the right allusions to the events of the previous entry. We are introduced to our main protagonists who were significant but secondary characters in the first novel. In fact, Chase Manning’s role in that entry was highly important.
And then, in Chapter 4, one sentence shook the story’s foundation to its core. My first thought was that what I had just read couldn’t be right. And then my second was that O’Riley had chosen drama over context and believability. And for this reader, that is not a good thing, but more on that later.
Chase Manning and Rhys Sayer met during the course of events in “Designs of Desire.” It was not a pleasant meeting either, with Rhys slashing and cutting at Chase based on his appearance and his popularity at the club where they met rather than on Chase’s personality or philosophies.
Chase does his best to avoid Rhys from that point on as Rhys’ PI firm often does work for Seth Burns, the domestic partner of James Bryant. James and Chase are best friends, but James has become friends with Rhys also. Rather than cause the physically fragile James any undue stress or make James feel that he has to choose between them, Chase simply makes himself scarce when Rhys is around. This is actually hard for Chase because he is very much attracted to the man he has come to see as a “gentle giant” even if he is a Harley-riding ex-Marine, a private investigator and a security specialist.
Unbeknownst to him, Chase is the object of Rhys’ daydreams, too. Also unbeknownst to Chase, Rhys’ repugnant behavior toward Chase was predicated by the fact that he had just thrown out his boyfriend after catching him in his own bed with another man. And Chase just happens to look remarkably similar to his ex-lover, not only in face but also in physical size and dress.
When Rhys’ forensic IT specialist moves away, James brokers a deal with Chase to take the position. With space to pursue his own freelance consulting firm provided as partial compensation, Chase reluctantly accepts the deal.
As could be expected in this romance tale, Chase thaws toward Rhys and they begin a tentative relationship. And, as could be expected in this type of tale, an ex-lover of Rhys makes an unexpected appearance, lies are revealed, a fight ensues and so does a make-up scene. Unfortunately, in that make-up scene, Rhys calls out the wrong name at exactly the wrong time and the relationship comes to a grinding halt. And at this point, the execution of the storyline begins to fall apart, scene by scene.
DEFINITE SPOILERS FOLLOW:
The initial degradation of the plotline occurs in Chapter 4 when Chase learns of the lies that Rhys told months earlier (in the previous novel). Chase is so angry he begins throwing objects from his desk at Rhys. And that action is the beginning of the end as far as credibility is concerned, as this action is absolutely 180 degrees out of characterization for Chase.
In the first novel, Seth, in anger, throws a phone against a wall and breaks it, with James close by. Because some of James’ physical problems stem from repeated abuse, Chase lights into Seth with a vengeance and tries to get James to end the relationship. For pages, Chase goes on and on about throwing objects being absolutely unacceptable. And now, in this entry, Chase begins screaming and throwing objects at Rhys, actually hitting him in the face and drawing blood. Very dramatic but very out of character.
After this scene, a number of small-to-medium events occur – or do not occur – within the story, which cause the reader repeated pause. For instance, after Rhys calls out the wrong name, Chase flees in the night and refuses to take Rhys’ calls or respond to his texts. And, at that point, that subplot just stops. Even though they are in the same office for hours every day, Rhys never once goes to Chase and asks what went wrong, even though he wants to reconcile. And Chase does not confront Rhys about the name even though he gladly bloodied Rhys’ face over that name only hours earlier. Then, after several weeks, they are back together, having never discussed the issue at all. Chase alludes once, in a backhanded way as to why he fled, but that’s all. Sizzle, fizzle, stop.
O’Riley’s writing style deteriorates in other ways also. Transitions between scenes and chapters cease to flow smoothly. Many scenes feel disjointed as if edited for word count and the parts we need for comprehension are now on the cutting room floor.
Another point of confusion is that no one’s professional choice is ever given any substance, not Chase as an IT expert nor Rhys as a PI. Even Dal Sayer’s position and experience on the police force is washed over. We don’t actually know why any of them are qualified to do what they do, especially when they get involved in the investigation of the murders of gay men that have been disguised as suicides. This is far different from the way in which professional creds supported the events in the first novel. And since the murder investigation leads right to Chase’s doorstep, not as perpetrator but as ultimate victim, it seems that O’Riley just expects the reader to believe these guys are capable of rescuing him before it’s too late.
O’Riley’s glossing over of easily researchable issues leads to other inconsistencies and inaccuracies. For one thing, Chase is beaten unmercifully and repeatedly while bound, both hands and feet, and tightly gagged. Even though he vomits with that gag in his mouth, he doesn’t aspirate the vomit (don’t try to imitate that in real life if you intend to see tomorrow!). Even though he is kicked viciously, over and over, in the torso, he doesn’t sustain even a single cracked rib, let alone kidney or spleen bruising. Dramatic, yes; intense reading, yes; realistic, absolutely not!
Then, when the group attempts Chase’s rescue, Dal Sayer, Rhys’ cop brother, does not call for backup. Of course, had he done so, then he would probably not have been shot or ultimately wind up on the wrong side of an IA investigation. Again, O’Riley goes for drama and angst rather than believability.
Finally, there was the issue of the wristband that Chase wears. This leather band plays a significant part in the story, a subplot in and of itself as far as Chase’s backstory is concerned and as far as his ability to continue in a relationship with Rhys is concerned. Then, with the blink of an eye and a swipe of the pen, the leather band is gone. We are told, oh-by-the-way, in retrospect, in the epilogue, in the space of one whole sentence, that Rhys replaced it with a platinum band – six months prior to the events of the epilogue! So, a scene that would have actually been legitimately dramatic and emotionally fulfilling isn’t even written. Again, sizzle, fizzle, stop!
Earlier in this review, I stated that it appeared O’Riley had chosen drama over plausibility, essentially fluff over substance. I watched and read as her main storyline and subplots degenerated into events based on unrealistic or false premises, utilized inaccurate medical and police procedures and reached the point where even suspension of disbelief could not save the proverbial day. She consistently placed the need for emotionally dramatic interludes above the need to convince the reader that the drama had a legitimate basis to build on.
Based on this entry, I do not believe that I will purchase the third book in the series when it comes out. And, I hate to feel that way, because the first book in the series is absolutely outstanding!
Cover Art From Goodreads