Sculpting Clay

Title: Sculpting Clay
Author: Linda Reilly
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M contemporary paranormal romance
Length: 226 Pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre


When Taran Lorenz enters Clay Stevens’s life, Clay is still reeling after his long-time partner, Javier, abruptly ended their relationship. Taran gives Clay the motivation to start living again, but Clay’s insanely jealous ex threatens to nip their relationship in the bud… only Taran won’t give up, even when Javier gets their mutual employer, the manipulative billionaire Vincent Torres, to mark Taran for “removal.”

It’s the start of a fight on three fronts: Javier confessing his continued love for Clay while he tries to run Taran off, Taran fighting to be loved and accepted for who he is—not what he is—after magically returning from the dead, and Clay trying to figure out how he got stuck in this fairy tale of monumental proportions and where he can find the happily-ever-after ending.


Clay is a broken man. A few months prior to the start of the book, his lover of 10 years, Javier, had broken off their relationship with very little explanation. Clay spends the next few months in a daze of hurt feelings, nursing his broken heart. One day he is sitting in his favourite bar when one of the bar workers, Taran, breezes in late. Clay has never noticed Taran before, but he is struck by how attractive the man is. They begin a relationship but Clay has a great deal of trouble letting go of his love for Javier. When Clay learns that Javier is in trouble, he is determined to help him, even if it jeopardises his new relationship with Taran, a man who holds a few secrets of his own.

This book’s strength is in its characterisation, especially with the growing relationship between Clay and Taran and Clay’s recovery from his broken heart. When we meet Clay at the beginning of the book he is still trying to recover from the sudden break up of his relationship with Javier. This is difficult for him as he can’t understand what prompted the spilt and therefore find any closure with the relationship. When the younger looking Taran comes along, Clay is flattered that such a young and attractive man would be interested in a 46 year old man with greying hair and age spots on his hands. Taran breathes new life into Clay and I really enjoyed following their developing relationship as they start to fall in love. The way that it takes Clay a long time to recover from Javier’s betrayal was realistically done, as was Taran’s feelings as he veered from being understanding about giving Clay space and time, and also being jealous of the hold Javier still has over Clay’s heart. It was a gradual process and I was really happy for Clay and Taran as they overcame their problems and fell in love.

Javier was also quite a complex character and I liked that the author hadn’t made him into some kind of bad guy monster. Instead he is conflicted over how he has treated Clay, especially once he realises what a mistake he has made. The way that he attempts to get Clay back at first makes him a very unsympathetic character, but it isn’t long before I was able to see that Javier actually has a good heart under his misplaced ambition. It was necessary for Javier to be this way otherwise Clay would have come across as being quite weak to have fallen in love with such a selfish man, but by the end of the book I was able to see Javier as the man Clay fell in love with.

If the positive part of this book is in the characterisation, the negatives rest on some aspects of the plotting. The main thrust of the suspense plot revolves around Clay and Taran discovering why rich businessman, Vincent, has such a hold on Javier. I actually thought this part of the book quite weak in that Vincent is the richest man in the city and yet most of his money is made through slightly dodgy business transactions. It just seemed too unrealistic that no-one would have been suspicious of him prior to Taran and Clay’s investigation of him. I also found the way that they resolved this issue was too easily done making Vincent seem like a cartoon caricature of an evil businessman than a realistic opponent for Taran and Clay.

Another oddity was that Clay seemed completely obsessed with designer clothing. Everything he or Taran wears is some famous expensive brand (many of which went straight over my head as I have zero interest in such things). This seemed odd considering that Clay is an author and not connected to the fashion world at all until he meets Taran. Taran is a model, so it was more believable that he would wear designer clothing but I still found all the name dropping rather intrusive to the story and it got to the point where every time a brand name was mentioned, it pulled me out of the story.

One final, albeit minor, negative is that some of the writing was a little clumsy at times. For example, the characters say ‘ha ha’ when they laugh, which jarred a little. There was also a lot of telling the reader how the character was feeling rather than showing through gesture, tone of voice or facial expression. Finally the viewpoint was fairly erratic on several occasions, switching randomly between the characters. However, these are probably things which will improve as the author gains confidence in her writing.

Overall though, this was a sweet romance story with an interesting and unusual paranormal twist. The paranormal storyline worked well alongside the contemporary feel of the romance and although the end got a bit slushy for my tastes, this didn’t detract from some of the tender romantic scenes earlier in the book. Sculpting Clay is a good first book from Linda Reilly, and I shall look out for future books from her. For now, I recommend this book to those readers who like sweet romance and paranormal elements in their books.


  • Jen
    I’m really uncertain about this story based on the review. Some of the characteristics would grate on me but maybe, as you said, the author is new so she may definitely improve. The plot also seems too unrealistic.

    • Hi Wave
      The plot actually works really well up until the last third of the book where Clay, Taran and Javier cook up this plan to expose Vincent. The last part is the bit which I had most problems with in terms of realism in the plotting.

      I think this new author shows promise and I’ll be happy to read her next book.

  • The book is interesting and not at all bad, but like you said, it is clumsy. It is very late into the story when you find out what Taran really is, with no real hints before that.

    I didn’t quite like the books, but I didn’t quite not like the book. Though I can’t exactly explain what was really bothering me about it!

    Good review though! 🙂

    • Thanks Larissa :).

      I understand your mixed feelings. As I was reading parts of the book I was thinking ‘this is really great’ and then at other times I was thinking ‘this isn’t so great’. I hope that has come through in the review :).

  • When I read the synopsis for this book, I thought ‘the ex-boyfriend marks the new one for removal? Jeez, that’s a bit extreme’. And since the one dimensional ex-bf is one of those tropes that’s really starting to wear on me in my m/m reads, I marked this book as a definite no, even though it has some other elements that appeal to me.

    But now you say that Javier is not the cartoon ex-boyfriend who burns the hero’s house down in an insane rage five seconds after they break up, maybe I will give it a go. I can live with a dodgy business-man villain if the other characters are well rounded, especially from an author who names a character Taran (that gets a vote from the Lloyd Alexander fan).

    • Hi Alexi
      The blurb is rather misleading I think because it suggests that Javier deliberately manipulates matters so that Taran is put in danger but that’s not quite what happens. To describe him as ‘insanely jealous’ is rather an exaggeration too. The jealousy is there and he does attempt to get in the way of Clay and Taran’s relationship but the blurb makes it sound more extreme than it is.

      I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give the book a go.

      • Jenre: is anyone else finding that a lot of blurbs are misleading lately?

        The other day I bought what I thought was going to be a fairly sweet and straightforward romance about long lost lovers reunited (something undemanding to read at work) and all of sudden there was a threesome, then some voyeurism, some bondage, a foursome… Not that it wasn’t hot, but I wasn’t prepared, you know? It spoiled my enjoyment, because I’d invested in one kind of story and got something else.

        Not to mention that since I was reading at work (on my ereader) all those throbbing, flaming and winking body parts were making me slightly uncomfortable in the presence of my sixty year old coworker, who kept asking me why I looked so flushed…

        • Oh dear! I’m laughing at your expense over your flushed face, Alexi :D.

          I think sometimes blurbs can be a little misleading. They either tell you the entire gist of the story or they don’t tell you enough. Mind you, I think it must be very heard to write a decent blurb – and authors often complain on their blogs about how difficult they find it.

          • And it takes a lot to make me blush, believe me!

            You are right – It IS hard to write blurbs. I’ve written a few myself and agonized over them. I just think that, even if you’re trying hard not to give away plot twists, you have to try to express the spirit of what’s in the story, if that makes sense. Use the right words and tone to suggest a sexy romp or a sweet romance, even if you don’t want to lay out exactly what takes place, that sort of thing.

            Ah, well. I’ll make sure that I don’t read any of this author’s books at work again (though I’ll probably read them in my alone time).

        • Alexi
          I did a post on blurbs sometime ago and I think it’s probably time to write another one. Thanks for a great idea for another blog post. 🙂

  • This sounds interesting although I’m not sure what the paranormal aspect is. Did Taran come back with some kind of power?

    Wonderful review as always! 🙂

    • Hi Lily

      I’ve been deliberately vague about the paranormal aspect cos it’s a huge spoiler. Taran keeps Clay (and the reader) in the dark as to his paranormal powers until quite late on in the book – although there are plenty of hints and I picked it up long before the reveal.


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