Must-read of the week: Lay Me Bare by L. M. Allen
New adult romance novel Lay Me Bare comes across as a breath of fresh air for the genre, bringing it firmly out of the ‘Fifty Shades’ shadow.
By Timothy Arden
As a genre, erotic romance has never looked back since the explosion of the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy by author E. L. James.
The first book in the series, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, topped book charts around the world and, as it stands, has shifted more than 125million copies. It is, to a large degree, responsible for making adult fiction both legitimate and acceptable to the vast majority of readers.
Yet, in its wake, it could well be argued that the genre has never really moved forward since its release in 2011. The same tropes that made that novel so darn popular have now been accepted by many erotic romance authors as the model that they feel obliged to follow, either with the hopes of similar commercial success in mind, or simply on account of creative laziness.
This is why new novel Lay Me Bare by debut indie author L.. M. Allen is such a refreshing change. It is still clearly cast within the mould of steamy romance, with the same delicious titillation and a ‘to die for’ male love interest to arrest the attention, but it dares to make changes to the basic formula that will arouse the interests of even the most jaded adult fiction fans.
At the heart of the novel is the sizzling love story of leads Eva Adams and Will Hunter. Eva is a modern, independent single mother who has vowed to stay clear of men since suffering at the hands of her psychotic ex, Dan. It’s been some years since the two parted following a brutal attack precipitated by her announcement that she was pregnant with his child.
What should have been a moment to cherish has, thanks to Dan’s uncontrollable and irrational jealousy, become a memory far more painful than the injuries she sustained at the time.
Understandably, then, she still lives in fear of him, and what he might do to her – and their beautiful daughter, Summer – if they should ever meet again. Like some cinematic monster, he lurks in the shadows ready to pounce and Eva recalls only too well the potential consequences should she invite a new man into her life. A casual date resulted in both her and her companion being rushed to hospital, he with a stab wound.
Her wish to avoid the dating scene, however, is thwarted when businessman Will walks into her London-based events company, wanting Eva to handle the launch of his new hotel. If you look up the word “smouldering” in the dictionary, you’d most likely see a portrait of Mr Hunter. Eva’s first impression sums him up perfectly:
“That is the kind of face that would make you buy an overcoat in the summer. High cheek bones and stubble that makes your fingers itch to touch it.”
The attraction is instantaneous and while Eva knows she should stay clear – “My brain is desperately scrambling for excuses to stay far, far away from Will Hunter” – he is charm personified and she is soon, despite her best protestations, enjoying a working lunch with him.
In Will, who we quickly come to understand is equally smitten, we have the first of author Allen’s departures from the norm. Yes, he is Adonis in jeans and, yes, he is highly successful,but he’s not the usual fantasy billionaire. It is just possible that you could meet a man like him on the high street.
This sense of greater realism is carried through in the back stories of the main characters,and the range of emotions they experience. Eva takes on the job and given that she needs to spend time with Will while they map out the launch event, the sparks inevitable fly. During a dinner date, he makes his approach and Eva is powerless to resist.
“His soft, full lips press against mine and my heart pounds in my chest. My mind blanks while my body comes alive, electricity and heat burning through my bloodstream and along every nerve.”
Of course, Eva has her dark secret about Dan, who – worryingly – is believed to be back in the city, but as we learn, Will – who also owns an exclusive honey trap agency – also has his own skeletons waiting to fall out of the cupboard.
To say any more would be to spoil what comes next but it is only fair to note that as the fast-paced narrative unfolds to the explosive denouement, with many gripping twists and turns along the way, Allen reveals her second trope-toppling change, with the female love interest coming to the rescue of the man. There is no suggestion of dominance and submission in this relationship. It a grounded tale of two people who have got each other’s backs.
Lay Me Bare is a hugely enjoyable, tasteful read for any lover of quality erotic fiction. The main characters are fully-realised and have more chemistry going on than in a laboratory, while the story revolves around a central mystery that doesn’t disappoint come the big reveal.
The writing is richly descriptive and bears comparison with that of New York Times bestselling erotic fiction authors Jodi Ellen Malpas and Nora Roberts.Planned as a trilogy, the second instalment – told from the perspective of Will – is set for release later this year.
In the meantime, if you want something to keep you warm during the winter months then you couldn’t do better than diving straight into this sensual, sensational novel – a romantic must-read for 2021.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH EROTIC ROMANCE AUTHOR L. M. ALLEN
We speak with erotic romance author L. M. Allen about why it’s time for the genre to ditch damsels in distress, and the joys – and challenges – of bringing a book to market on your own.
Your book is refreshingly different from others on the market, turning tried and tested conventions on their head. Did you deliberately set out to do this, and what do you feel is currently lacking in the majority of erotic fiction as a genre?
Yes, I tried to mix things up a bit. As much as I love ‘Fifty Shades’, and appreciate everything it did for the genre, there’s only so many times you can read the same story: billionaire with a dominant side and a virginal, shy heroine. I think it’s quite sad when women are portrayed as weak, frail little things that can only do as they’re told and need a man to protect them from the world. Newsflash. We have brains and opinions. And a mean right knee, should the occasion call for it!
Your book is very realistic in the matching of the romantic leads. Why did you take this approach?
Well, more realistic than the usual billionaires, I suppose! I think there needs to be at least one foot in reality for the story and characters to be relatable, in this genre anyway. The characters are flawed, vulnerable and imperfect, but strong and independent in different ways.
What research did you conduct in writing the book?
Not a lot! Most of Eva’s ideas and work-related activities are actually things I have done in my day job at one time or another. The only real research I did was on tree symbolism. The ‘tree choices’ aren’t random.
What do you hope readers will enjoy the most from reading the book?
I hope the relationship between Eva and Will and the way they grow together is the favourite thing about the book. They’re both coming at it from very different places with Eva having always wanted a family and Will never having wanted one.
Who are your favourite erotic fiction/romance authors, and what do you admire mostin their work?
So many! I love Sylvia Day, the way she draws the reader in to the character’s head. And I’ve read pretty much all of Jodi Ellen Malpas’s work. We actually live in the same town, although we’ve never met.
This is your first book, and has been independently published. What were thebiggest obstacles that you overcome in the writing process, and how did you do this?
I’m sure my editor will agree, I have too many ideas. The biggest thing for me was which to leave out and then putting it all together in an order that made sense. It’s harder than you might imagine.
Your book appeals to female readers of all ages, but particularly older women. What do you think the attraction with older readers is here?
Who doesn’t want to be young and in love? I can’t see why that would be any different for older women.
How did you come to write with the erotic fiction genre?
It’s what I like to read myself. Although I would, and have, pretty much read anything from thrillers to fantasy.
The novel is planned as the first in a trilogy. What can you tell us about what readers can expect from the next book?
Book two is told from Will’s perspective without being a repeat of the same story. Readers will get to see how Will first became involved in Eva’s life and really get into his head.
You have just launched a new platform called ‘e-lectory’ that is designed for indie authors to promote their books more effectively. Tell us about how this idea came about and how it works.
E-Lectory is about social media reach and generating ‘e-word’ of mouth for authors. I have found, since becoming an author, that I have a lot of other authors and book bloggers as friends and followers. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s necessary if you don’t want to completely lose your mind during the whole process and a great way to make new friends. But in terms of reaching readers, it’s quite limiting in that you’re sharing with people in the same boat as you are.
E-Lecotry is about enthusiastic readers being introduced to new authors and sharing their readings, experiences, thoughts, and recommendations on their own social media feeds via pre-made posts that have to be shared in order to download the rest of the book.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.