Loving Luki Vasquez (Vasquez & James #1)


Title: Loving Luki Vasquez (Vasquez & James #1)
Author: Lou Sylvre
Cover artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Buy Link Loving Luki Vasquez
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance/Mystery/Suspense
Length: Novel/68,950 words/220 PDF pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by LadyM

Review summary: Romance between two likable protagonists that worked and mystery that didn’t.

Blurb: Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James controls every color and shape in his tapestries, but he can’t control the pattern of his life — a random encounter with Luki Vasquez, ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, makes that perfectly clear. The mutual attraction is immediate, but love-shy Sonny has retreated from life, and Luki wears his visible and not-so-visible scars like armor. Neither can bare his soul with ease.

While they run from desire, they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. After it becomes clear that a violent stalker has targeted Sonny, Luki’s protective instincts won’t let him run far, especially when Sonny’s family is targeted as well. Whether they can forgive or forget, Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to save Sonny’s nephew and fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.

Vasquez & James Series

Review:

There were several things that attracted me to Loving Luki Vasquez. I love discovering new authors, especially within one of my favorite genres. Which brings me to the second reason — I simply cannot pass a detective story/mystery in any shape or form (yes, yes, I said that before!). The fact that one of the protagonists was a weaver — not something you encounter every day in m/m romance — only piqued my curiosity. And, finally, there is that cover. It’s one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. All this said, since I started reviewing for this site, this was probably the hardest rating decision I had to make.

The book is a blend of romance and mystery/suspense and while romance worked very well, the mystery part failed at the end of the book, in spite of the promising setup. I suspect that the readers’ enjoyment in the novel will depend on what they value and enjoy more. The protagonists were complex and sympathetic, although many elements of their background stories were left unexplored. The writing was very good, which made my decision on the final rating even more difficult. But, let’s start from the beginning.

When Sonny Bly James meets Luki Vasquez, the attraction between them is instantaneous. Of course, things aren’t that simple. Sonny is 29-year-old professional weaver, recluse by choice, socially awkward, shy, inexperienced and afraid of getting hurt. Beside his nephew Deslyn, who comes and goes every few weeks, and Margie, local coffee shop owner, there aren’t many people he interacts with. He is also a gentle, loving man, who sees the beauty in the world around him and recreates it in his works. He is a keen observer, something that helps him see behind Luki’s cold exterior. Luki Vasquez is a different side of the same coin. He is a 41-year-old former ATF agent, now owner of his own, successful security agency. He might not be hiding in the remote house with no cell phone service like Sonny, but he is hiding none the less — behind aloof, cold attitude, expensive suits, immaculate grooming, his guns and knifes. The trauma from his youth left scars both on his face and his soul and intimacy and true affection are something he, at the same time, craves and fears. Considering their personalities, the progress of the relationship was realistic: from initial, almost autistic interactions, the first intimacy prompted by outside forces to misunderstandings, heartaches and acceptance. It is in the realm of romance, emotions and descriptions of Sonny’s art that this author’s writing shines. The scene when Luki wants to end the relationship and breaks both Sonny’s and his own heart in the process was heart-wrenching. The sex scenes between these two men were among the best I’ve read this year, possibly longer. There were very few of them and the author made sure that each and every one counted. The gentleness and sensuality were simply beautiful. And Sonny and Luki are beautifully flawed characters and you can’t help but like them even when you want to hit them.

As I already said, some things from the protagonists’ backgrounds were left unexplained and unexplored. Sonny is a Native American (Yakama Nation), but his heritage plays no part whatsoever in the book. In fact, it was just mentioned a few times in passing. Luki’s mixed heritage — Hawaiian and Basque — also had no role in the book. Sonny’s academic background was just mentioned. More importantly, how and where did Sonny learn to drive muscle cars like Nikki Lauda? While Luki’s past was explored in more depth, mainly because it was an important part of the mystery plot, there were still huge chunks of it that were left in the dark (his ATF background, his agency). I suspect that these ‘blanks’ will play the part in the future sequel(s) of the novel.

The secondary characters can be divided in three groups: the types, the props and the villain. The types, like Margie or teenagers used in the crimes, were painted in broad strokes but with sufficient skill to engage the reader’s emotions (I think Josh and Jackie will especially break some hearts). Luki’s employees and former colleagues a.k.a. “the props” were simply the tools used to provide necessary information and help to the protagonists and move the story on. The villain… The villain brings me to he part of the book that didn’t work for me — the mystery.

One of the main elements that separate the mystery (in all its incarnations) from any other genre is reader’s participation. We don’t read mysteries for Sherlock’s violin playing, Poirot’s dashing mustache or Adrien’s bookstore. We read them to follow the detectives around, to learn what they learn and, possibly, solve the case together with them. Even if the reader doesn’t want to exercise his or hers little grey cells, there should be that “a-ha, that’s what happened” moment of recognition — the payoff for playing along — at the end of the story. That means that the clues necessary for solving the case, no matter how veiled or hidden, should be provided within the plot. In Loving Luki Vasquez the author withheld crucial information from the readers until the last 40 – 50 pages of the novel. Although the villain’s name was mentioned once before that point, there were absolutely no clues that could rationally lead to the perpetrator. The man to whom the clues rationally did lead turned out to be the big, fat, red herring.

As a consequence, what, up to that moment, seemed like carefully set up mystery completely fell apart. Frankly, when Luki’s reaction to the big reveal was something like “Oh, I sort of knew that” I wanted to explode from frustration. It would be nice if the readers were given some hint about it. Another consequence was the cartoony, over-the-top villain. You know, one of those guys with maniacal laughter and “I’m evil” T-shirt. I’m kidding, but you catch the drift. And, I won’t say more to avoid spoilers.

I had a few minor niggles as well, like some decisions Luki— an experienced agent — made, the overuse of word ice (icicle, icy) for describing Luki, etc., but they really weren’t that important.

Overall, Loving Luki Vasquez was well-written, emotionally charged love story with sympathetic protagonists that I really liked. The mystery, tightly intertwined with romance, didn’t work for me, but I am only one reader. If you are reading for romance alone, you will definitely enjoy this book. Will I read another Lou Sylvre’s book, including another Sonny/Luki book? Absolutely. The quality of writing alone guarantees that. This one in its entirety, however, gets 3.5 stars (recommended with some reservations).

16 comments

  • “What are you looking at?”—- I mean really, how many times would you love to ask people this question?
    I liked this book and I agree with your rating.
    One scene in particular just broke my damn heart, effing Luki.
    Thanks for your review, glad to know a sequel is coming.

    Reply
    • I know exactly the what scene you are talking about and I agree – it was heartbreaking. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, even if mystery didn’t work for me, because I liked Luki and Sonny together very much.

      Reply
    • Hi, Reese! You are very welcome. The cover is really classy – subtle, yet I can’t stop looking at it. 🙂

      Reply
  • Ohh, from your review I might pick this up just for the romance. I’m in the mood for something really emotional right now!
    I used to read a lot of mysteries, but I’ve never had that kind of mind. You could throw clues at me by the dozen and I’d still be unable to figure out the villain.

    Reply
    • Hi, Feliz! I think you’ll enjoy these two guys. I wasn’t kidding about the love scenes either – they were very gentle, yet intense. Let me know what you think once you read it. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi, Helena! You are very welcome. If you decide to read it, let me know what you think. The book really does have beautiful love scenes, but the mystery fan in me was dissatisfied – it simply boils down to what you prefer. 🙂

      Reply
  • Intriguing, as you suggest the relationship is what matters for me and I am in no way a purist as far as mystery goes, so I’ll probably give this one ago. Thanks Lady M, sounded like a tough review to write but you balanced it beautifully.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Raine! It was very hard to rate this and I’m still not sure if the rating is right. This is why I tried to be very specific about what worked and didn’t work for me. I will be very interested to hear what you think about the book once you read it.

      Reply
      • This was a very mixed bag of stuff, so pleased not to review it. 🙂
        I loved Sonny, had mixed feelings about Luki- I like my very alpha heros to stay heroic and not do daft things…….I found the break up irritating.

        Loved some of the writing very much.

        Even I- character junkie – agree with you over the mystery plot, that was just not fair play.

        I say again….good job of that review!

        Reply
        • Hi, Raine, you summed up the book pretty well and I too have very mixed feelings about it. But, there is a lot of promise there and I hope Luki will live up to his alpha status in the sequel. 🙂

          Reply
  • I thought this book was a bit all over the place. It was like several storylines mashed into one book without doing either one properly. The mystery went way over my head with the psycho brother coming out from nowhere in the end, agents popping in and out. The romance was the best part but a lot of things in the background were tossed out and left unexplored. I also had a hard time understand where (geografically) they were with all the hawaiian, native american and american references. It was hard to set up an inner picture of the locale.

    Reply
    • Hi, saga! These were the reasons why I had such a difficult time rating this, especially since the mystery part was important to me. I know Lou Sylvre is planing one or two sequels, so I was willing to overlook some unexplained background info, including Sonny’s heritage (Luki isn’t from Washington state, so his heritage wasn’t that important for this book). I think the ratings for this book will be all over the place – depending what readers’ value more – romance, mystery or want both of these elements to be strong in their book.

      Reply

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