Buy Link: Six Degrees of Lust
Author: Taylor V. Donovan
Publisher: MLR Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Machlan O’Bannon is visiting New York from Houston with his friend Braxton Sinclair when he literally bumps into a gorgeous man in the airport. The attraction between Mac and the stranger is strong and mutual, and in the brief exchange the man gives Mac his card with the request to call him in a few days when he returns to town.
Samuel Shaughnessy leads an elite FBI team tasked with investigating hate crimes, specifically those against the LGBT community. He and his team are currently investigating a serial killer targeting gay men he picks up at night clubs, leaving their bodies wrapped in painted canvas. The killer has left bodies all over the NY tri-state area, and they are discovering victims in other areas of the country as well. Although Sam is consumed with his case, he can’t stop thinking about the gorgeous guy he met in the airport and is thrilled when he gets a call from Mac.
The two men meet up for a hot night together, but both are clear this is a one night only thing. Sam is a pretty closed off, controlled guy and not looking for intimacy or a relationship. A bad breakup with his wife years before has kept him wary of getting involved again and holding anyone’s feelings in his hands. And Mac isn’t fully out yet, and not quite ready for a relationship. He has promised his political family that he would stay in the closet for five years to give his father a chance for his career to be established. Although that time is almost up and Mac can’t wait to live life on his own terms, he is still doesn’t feel he can have a real relationship quite yet.
But neither man can forget their evening together and they begin meeting casually and talking on the phone. Sam can’t help but try to keep total control of things and sets up detailed rules about how the situation will progress — how many phone calls, how often they can see one another, and most importantly, that they are not “boyfriends” or even dating. Yet Sam himself can’t help but break some of the rules as he starts to fall for Mac, surprising himself with his own feelings. And Mac decides he has had enough of his family’s homophobic attitude and realizes he wants more with Sam than he originally planned. The men’s relationship goes further than either of them expected at the beginning, but not quite as far as either of them want quite yet.
The relationship between the men and the investigation of the killer are just two parts of a long and richly detailed book. There are a large number of side characters and the book also develops their stories. This includes Sam’s FBI team and Mac’s various friends in both Houston and New York. One subplot concerns Sam’s sister and his nephew Nicky who are being abused and Sam takes them into his home. He becomes quite involved with caring for his nephew, especially when it appears he may be questioning his own sexuality. We also meet Sam’s ex-wife Gabi and learn a bit about their relationship and the death of Sam’s infant daughter, an event for which both he and Gabi hold him responsible. There are a host of other characters and subplots that are part of the story, many of them intertwining throughout the book.
I enjoyed all of these various subplots and I think they worked quite well in a saga that continues over more than one book. But I will admit that at times I had trouble keeping track of all the secondary characters and how they all fit together as they are quite intertwined. For example, Mac’s good friend Christian lives in New York and happens to be best friends with Sam’s ex-wife Gabi (although Sam and Mac don’t seem to ever realize the connection). And Sam’s best friend and team member Logan is good friends with Gabi and Christian’s manicurist and the three of them meet and become friends. So every once in a while I found myself a little confused as to who was who, where they lived, and how they connected. But I do think the broad array of characters work well in a book like this one with its long narrative spanning multiple books.
The serial killer investigation is quite exciting and very well done. There are enough clues about the mystery to keep the reader engaged and following along, but it is not completely clear who the bad guy is just yet. The book opens with some internal dialog from the killer about 10 years before the main part of the story. It is clear that the man is torn between his desire for men and a strict religious background that has convinced him homosexuality is evil. We can see evidence of this internal chaos in the glimpses we get of his crimes and actions throughout the book. I really enjoyed this part and think Donovan did a nice job keeping the mystery moving and the pace exciting.
So in case I wasn’t clear, this story is the first of a series and the plot is not wrapped up in this first book. Both the relationship between Mac and Sam, as well as the serial murder investigation are still developing by the end of the book. I wasn’t aware of that and was a bit surprised when the ending snuck up on me and now I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! I am not a patient waiter (just ask my husband!) but I think the series is definitely worth it. If you are looking for a detailed story you can really sink into, along with a great mystery and hot romance, I would definitely recommend Six Degrees of Lust.
P.S. Donovan will be visiting Joyfully Jay tomorrow to talk to us more about the book and give a copy away to one lucky commenter. So be sure to stop back in!