Dragon's LairRating: 2.5 stars
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Length: Novella

Clinical psychologist Noire Scarlett works for the criminal justice system of California, evaluating inmates and the accused to make recommendations for sentencing and parole. He’s been assigned to meet weekly with Dragonfly Lawson, an incarcerated drug kingpin from Los Angeles, to determine if the “model inmate” has been suitably rehabilitated after five years in high security. Noire is also suffering anxiety attacks, alcoholism, and has become a Xanax-addict, all in the wake of his difficult job and unwanted divorce. His husband left him for a celebrity chef nearly two years ago, and Noire can’t get past it.

Dragonfly Lawson, who goes by “Dragon,” still manages his criminal empire from inside the pen, but he’s dog-tired of it.  Despite being a confirmed sociopath, he’s thinking of turning over his assets to trusted associates and going legit. All Dragon needs to do is charm his new therapist into believing he’s not a menace to society. Dragon isn’t a sexual man, by choice, but he uses his sexuality to woo potential advocates and it frustrates Dragon that Noire seems impervious.

Not that Noire is actually impervious; he’s guiltily attracted to Dragon, but he’s also a professional. Sort of. He goes through the motions of professionalism, in most cases, but his boundary issues are off the chain. It seems that Noire does believe Dragon’s claims to becoming a better man and wanting to walk a straight path, but there’s a fly in the soup: a new inmate who’s terrorized Noire in the past and looks to be causing trouble for Dragon, too.

I chose this book because the title and blurb strongly hinted at Dragonfly having a secret even greater than his dubious childhood. If there is one, it’s a secret deeply buried in prose I found ponderous and inconsistent. I received a review copy that was filled with grammatical errors, which was irritating, and I hope it’s been corrected for the consumer. The “love story” supposedly building between Noire and Dragon is wholly based on a few hours of interviews in a prison and lonely nights filled with bizarre longings. The timeframe was messed up, with inconsistencies that made it seem as if Noire was smitten with Dragon after (maybe) two weeks of meetings. The most intimacy that passes between them are deep gazes, a held hand, and conversation, which is (conveniently) far more revealing than either man wants it to be. Meanwhile, Noire takes Dragon’s suggestion to visit his private sex club, Dragon’s Lair. While high on Xanax and pounding alcohol, Noire proceeds to get thoroughly smashed and have weird sexytimes with one of the male “treasures” of the inner cave.

So, a romance this was not. And, it wasn’t a romantic suspense. There’s the thing about the insane inmate who wants Noire dead, but that wraps in the last ten pages. Unfortunately, Noire isn’t any hero I want to read more about. He’s just as guilty of vice as any other, and Dragon claiming him as some sort of pet was whacked. In the end, I felt like the story had spiraled into ridiculous (yet oddly predictable) territory that could be easily called melodrama.

veronica sig