Cara McKenna‘s Lay It Down has been sitting on my Kindle shelf for months. Ever since her Irish-set Red Hot Cosmo novella, Her Best Laid Plans, I’ve all but devoured her standalones; they’re untidy and messy and more real than most romance novels. I find my heart aching in the way it should when you discover something that mirrors life back at you.
So it’s a mystery to me why I hadn’t read this before now. Perhaps it was because the cover and blurb implied that it was an MC-romance. Don’t get me wrong, I adored Sons of Anarchy as much as the next person, but after the series was finished, I felt so utterly drained that I gave books featuring bikers a bit of a wide berth.
Lay It Down is the first in the Desert Dogs series (the rest of which will be purchased with my annual Christmas kindle vouchers) and it does things you don’t expect. The characters aren’t actually part of an MC, though they do ride motorbikes (something which can only be a positive; I do love a motorbike), but rather the narrative focuses in on a mysterious death.
The tone reminded me of Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series, in that it marries gritty complex characterisation with a mystery in the best kind of way.
I’m fairly new to the subgenre of romantic suspense, and it turns out that I’m a big fan; when there’s higher stakes, everything seems so much more urgent. And boy are things urgent here.
Mysterious deaths, what appears to be a near-conspiracy and a small town standing up to a big corporation – what’s not to love?
I also love Vince as a hero. He’s not polished or backward in coming forward, and the stark truth and honesty that I see in him is one of the things I love most about my own partner.
Kim, as a heroine, made me look twice. When we’re first introduced to her, an apparently out-of-place suit seen through Vince’s eyes, I wasn’t convinced; I’m so used to the good girl meets bad boy trope that my heart sank a little. this isn’t the case at all. Kim’s not all that much of a good girl and Vince, for all his tattoos and motorbike-riding habits, isn’t really a bad boy.
Nothing delights me more than having my expectations upended, so this was great.
Also, there’s the mystery aspect of the narrative. I want to read on. I want to know what the hell’s going on and (this is where I stop talking for fear of spoilers). It’s gripping and entertaining, but it’s McKenna’s teasing out of her characters – both main and secondary – that makes this shine.