Stockholm Syndrome

Title: Stockholm Syndrome
Author: Sage Marlowe
Publisher: Me and the Muse Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com
Length: Novel/168 PDF pages
Genre: M/M/Thriller/Suspense
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by LadyM

Review summary: Promising concept, with many lost opportunities to make the story shine, ultimately – forgettable.

Blurb: We don’t get to choose who we fall in love with—and sometimes we fall too far…

Daniel Eames is a bodyguard. Usually assigned to protecting politicians, he has fallen out of his boss’s good books after getting too close to his last charge’s son but when rising Hollywood star and Academy Award nominee Bryan McTiernan receives peculiar letters and requires the best possible protection, Dan is put on the job.
While he agrees that the letters are more than harmless fan mail, he finds it impossible to narrow down his suspicions and Bryan isn’t helping by alternately seducing and irritating the hell out of him. Against his better judgement, Dan falls for Bryan’s manipulations, but the more he gets to glimpse behind the façade of the young actor, the more he realises that something in Bryan’s past has a strong hold over him. While both Dan and Bryan are aware of this, neither sees the full extent of his fixation.

With the help of Gabe, a fellow bodyguard and friend, Dan pursues different theories and even hires a private investigator to learn about Bryan’s well-hidden past. What he discovers has the potential to destroy more than just a promising career and in the end, Bryan has to make a choice—allow for his past fixation to take him hostage again or run away and into Dan’s open arms?

Review:

Your mileage may vary, but if you are a regular M/M reader, you have certainly read at least a dozen of these bodyguard – client/agent – witness scenarios. Still, I was excited to read this story, because it is marketed as thriller/suspense and because I’ve never read a story by Sage Marlowe. But, in spite of author’s attempt to lift the story above the average, the elements that could have done that remain largely in the domain of retelling or off-page. The easy-to-read writing style just isn’t enough to sufficiently pull the reader (at least this one) into the story.

As the blurb tells you, Daniel Eames is a bodyguard already in the doghouse with his boss for getting involved with his previous charge’s son. Guess what? He does it again. Immediately. It’s hard to sympathize with a man who apparently has no self control whatsoever. He falls for Bryan’s manipulations every time and has a stockpile of rationalizations to justify his behavior. Also, it’s hard to understand what he sees in Bryan beyond the man’s good looks, because he fails to look beneath the surface.

Bryan McTiernan, a young Hollywood star and the object of Daniel’s lust, was an element of this story that offered many possibilities. It’s obvious from the beginning that Bryan wasn’t entirely honest about the messages he received, but the reader cannot really get an inkling what he is hiding, because Daniel does nothing (on page) to uncover this secret, except occasionally telling Bryan that he knows about it. Putting aside the improbability of a rising Hollywood star no one knows anything about, considering the lengths some media are prepared to go for a piece of news/gossip (News of the World, anyone?), this was a lost opportunity on the author’s part. Having Daniel investigate Bryan’s past would have done wonders for character dynamics. Instead, someone else does it – off page. Similar things happen with the key event that defined Bryan as a person.

Except from the title and his penchant for manipulating Dan, very little is given to the reader in terms of clues which would connect Bryan to the sender of the letters. In fact, there is no way of knowing who he is until he appears. And when the man does appear, he offers no insight into the young, impressionable mind he seduced. We do not know who the man really is or was in the past. In fact, he comes across as a mustache-twirling villain and it takes only a few sentences from Daniel for Bryan to drop him like a hot potato. Even Bryan’s psychological breakdown happens off page. Instead of taking opportunities to engage the characters and deepen their personalities, the author shows us only their sexual relationship. Frankly, a very limited number of secondary characters (including Dan’s colleague Gabe, Bryan’s agent and a couple of other minor characters) hardly allowed for anything else.

Aside from a decent writing style, I give the author credit for trying to show that Dan’s actions had consequences – his bad decisions cost him his job. Yet, by that time I really didn’t care. It’s a shame really, because I think the author had a concept that could have given us an exciting story. As I said in the beginning, your mileage may vary and thus you may enjoy the story more than I did. I’ll be certainly giving this author another chance, but Stockholm Syndrome just didn’t work for me.

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