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.