New novel Lay Me Bare is the total package, filled with thrills, chills and heart aches. It’s all that fans of contemporary erotic fiction could ask for, writes Timothy Arden.
By Timothy Arden
The erotic romance genre may have been revitalised in recent years, thanks in no small way to the success of the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy, but in other respects it has firmly refused to step out of the past.
While it is now deemed perfectly acceptable to declare an enjoyment for this type of escapist writing, too many authors in the field seem content to continue offering up basic variations on the stale and outdated ‘damsel in distress’ scenario.
Enter debut indie author L. M. Allen, a big fan of erotic romance but no champion for tired, lazy Fifty Shades rehashes. In Lay Me Bare – the first of a planned trilogy of steamy adult romances – she has dared to break with the norm by presenting a female lead character who is neither in the shadow of her lover nor waiting for a dashing white knight to come rescue her. Indeed, Allen has flipped conventions on their head by having the woman come to the aid of the man on at least one occasion.
At the novel’s centre is the charged love story of leads Eva Adams and Will Hunter.
Eva is a character for the present day: an independent, single mother who runs her own highly-successful, London-based business.
She has, however, deliberately kept out of the dating scene since separating from Dan, her former partner and the parent of her child, Summer. This isn’t surprising given that Dan is a textbook psycho who tried to kill Eva when she announced her pregnancy, irrationally suspecting her close friend, Gary, of being responsible.
Never brought to justice, Dan remains an ever-present threat and has continued to plague Eva with harassing phone calls despite her changing her number numerous times.
Eva has been able to maintain this existence for some years but she didn’t account for entrepreneur Will entering her life.
She first bumps into him, unknowingly, when ordering a coffee. The female counter assistant seems mesmerised by someone behind her and…
“I turn to see what caused her reaction. And stop breathing. He’s . . . wow. That is the kind of face that would make you buy an overcoat in the summer.”
For Eva, the attraction is instantaneous: “His dark blue eyes stay on mine, gluing me to the spot. I’m trapped. I couldn’t move if I wanted to.”
She manages to get back to her office, only for her close friend, confidante, and colleague, Bells, to declare…
“Bloody hell! Eva. Do not move until the next client has been in. I don’t care if there’s a nuclear disaster. Do not leave this room until you’ve met him.”
The client in question is Will and he wants her bustling events company to oversee the launch of his new hotel.
Eva tries to keep her cool, but she knows that the irresistible combination of charm and God-given looks may prove too much.
“I look from his hand to mine, my imagination in overdrive as my eyes travel over his hands. I flinch when my brain whispers that he’s not wearing a ring.”
Taking on the contract, Eva has to conduct an initial site visit. Reluctantly, she arrives with a plan to get in and out, but Will suggests a spot of lunch and won’t take no for answer. Here, it is made clear that he’s fallen for her just as much as she has for him.
“I can’t tear my eyes from his as he steps closer, erasing any distance between us and taking my hand. The simple touch is more intense than before. That was no gentle warming. That was a thousand-volt shock.”
Inevitably, the two enter a relationship filled with scorching encounters to savour. As the story progresses, however, they will both have dark secrets that they need to divulge. For Eva, this concerns Dan – who has been spotted around the city – but with Will it concerns another of his business concerns, an exclusive honey trap agency.
From this point on the novel gallops towards its close, packed with many twists and turns to hook the attention as well as bombshell revelations. Allen doesn’t hold back on the drama, throwing in organised crime and an unexpected encounter that takes both Eva and the reader totally by surprise.
The big reveal at the end satisfactorily wraps up an initial mystery teased right at the start, while leaving the door open for more in the next book, which will revisit and expand the story from Will’s perspective.
A great storyline, however, is nothing without engaging characters. Thankfully, the author particularly shines in this department. Bella is the kind of loyal friend that any woman would want on her side, and is a perfect match for Gary, while Eva and Will run the full gamut of emotions as they have to deal with issues of insecurity and trust, loss and betrayal as their relationship develops.
There’s no trouble buying into the events that unfurl because you are already fully invested in the central couple and their problems. They are looking out for each other every step of the way, even when withholding things, rather than being cyphers roaming from one liaison to the next. Good thing, too, considering the dangers they will eventually run into.
For a debut novel, Lay Me Bare is impressively packaged – much like Will. Allen’s love of erotic fiction shines through but she has only picked up the right writing habits along the way. Not without reason has she already been compared favourably with the likes of New York Times bestselling authors Jodi Ellen Malpas and Nora Roberts.
You’ll love every minute in Eva and Will’s company and will find yourself counting down the days until the next instalment.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ADULT ROMANCE AUTHOR L. M. ALLEN
Debut author L. M. Allen tells us about the secrets to writing good erotic fiction, why there’s no damsel in distress within her book, and what readers can look forward to in her next book.
Q. What do you think are the key elements for making an enjoyable work of erotic fiction?
A. It’s all about the characters. People and places you can get to know, love or loathe. Eva in particular is supposed to be someone you could know; a single mum, working overtime to provide for her daughter.
Q. Eva and Will are very balanced as a couple. Why did you decide to make them this way rather than go down the traditional route of having a damsel in distress?
A. Eva is a strong woman. She doesn’t want to need a man and wouldn’t admit it if she did. But, apart from that, I think it’s more realistic and representative of a modern relationship. Cinderella is dead.
Q. This novel is the first in a planned trilogy. Without giving away any spoilers, what can readers expect next?
A. The next is set in a similar time frame starting three months before this one and told from Will’s point of view. It won’t be in any way, shape, or form a repeat of book one. There are purposely unanswered questions in book one that will be set up in book two and conclude in book three.
Q. How did the idea for your novel come about?
A. It was so long ago that I don’t remember exactly! I’ve been writing this trilogy for about eighteen months now, but I recall that Will didn’t start off as the honey trap – that was Eva. I decided that it was too cliché and flipped it.
Q. Who are the authors that you most admire, and why?
A. Too many! Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell were actually some of the first ‘grown up’ books I read as a kid. I’ve written a few horror stories in my time but mainly to scare my friends with then.
I’m currently reading The Obsession by erotic romance author Nora Roberts and The Eye of the World by epic fantasy writer Robert Jordan. Very different from each other but both brilliant.
Q. Even though it’s one of the world’s best-selling genres, romance fiction often gets sneered at by critics. What are your views on this?
A. Some people are born cynics, others are born romantics. I think a person’s perception of anything is born out their own experiences, culture and belief systems.
Q. What do you want your readers to get most from reading your novel?
A. Simple. To fall in love.
Q. As an author of romance fiction, how would you sum up the ideal man in a relationship?
A. For me, personally, it would be someone who doesn’t need me but wants me. I’m a pretty independent person; I like space. I don’t want someone that needs to live in my pocket.
Q. This is your first novel, and one that you have independently published. What are you most proud of from this whole process?
A. Finishing it! It’s very sobering statistics for those that would be authors but never finish writing the novel for one reason or another.
Q. What tips could you give to other writers who want to pen erotic fiction?
A. Read. And read , and read some more. Write. Anything at all. Just write and you’ll discover your own style. Finally, always work with a professional editor.