Jeff opens the show talking about the work he’s doing on the manuscript for the Hat Trick re-release.
New patron Lucy is welcomed.
The guys talk about Tales of the City on Netflix and the new season of Pose on FX. Will reviews Anticipating Disaster by Silvia Violet while Jeff reviews Prince of Killers (Fog City #1) by Layla Reyne.
Jeff interviews Layla Reyne about the new Fog City series as well as how it felt wrapping up the Trouble Brewing series earlier this year. They also talk about Layla’s RITA nominated book, Relay, and the upcoming fall release, Dine with Me.
Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, PlayerFM, YouTube and audio file download.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode:
- Tracker Hacker (Codename: Winger #1) by Jeff Adams on Amazon
- Tales of the City on Netflix
- Pose on FX
- Anticipating Disaster by Silvia Violet on Amazon
- Prince of Killers (Fog City #1) by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Layla Reyne Interview
- Layla Reyne: website | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram
- Prince of Killers (Fog City #1) by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Irish & Whiskey series by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Trouble Brewing series by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Relay by Layla Reyne on Amazon
- Annabeth Albert on Amazon
- Erin McLellan on Amazon
- Allison Temple on Amazon
- Dine with Me by Layla Reyne on Amazon (pre-order through September 16)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
Interview Transcript – Layla Reyne
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome Layla back to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.
Layla: Thank you for having me back.
Jeff: I had to have you back to talk about this new series, “Prince Of Killers,” as listeners will have heard right before this interview, blew my mind to pieces and back.
Layla: That’s what I wanna hear.
Jeff: Tell everybody what this new series is and in particular what they have to look forward to in “Prince Of Killers.”
Layla: Sure. So the series is “Fog City.” It’s set here in San Francisco. It’s a new romance suspense series. You don’t need to have read any of my series before that. I won’t say that there aren’t some Easter eggs for those that have, because we are all existing in the same place and time. But, this is a little different because this is following a family of assassins. So in books one to three of the “Fog City” trilogy, starting with “Prince of killers,” you’ve got Hawes Madigan, who runs a cold storage business by day, a very successful family kind of business in the city. And then by night, the families, they’re assassins. And he and his two siblings, Helena and Holt, are kind of the triumvirate that is currently the heir apparent. He’s the heir apparent and they kind of all run it together. His grandfather is ailing and so that’s kind of the setup and fairly successfully he is making some changes in the organization.
And so in comes…in the first scene, which is actually set at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Gary Danko, walks Dante Perry who kind of has this strut about him, you know, long hair, looks like a rock God. But he’s carrying a gun, which he immediately notices, Hawes does, and Perry tells him, “There is someone trying to kill you.” And Hawes kind of laughs it off to start with because, dude, he runs an organization of assassins. That’s what they’re paid for. But then as Hawes and the family come to learn, it does look like someone is trying to stage a palace coup, so to speak. And so “Prince Of Killers” involves sort of the first stages of that and them trying to figure out who it is. And Dante has his own motivations as well. You know, he is trying to find the killer of someone who was close to him and Hawes doesn’t want him to find out who that is either. So I will leave it at that without spoiling too much.
Jeff: Let’s talk about the elephant in the room a little bit, and that is the fact that while you have left, for example, the books of the Whiskeyverse on some subtle cliff hangers, this one’s bigger than normal for you.
Layla: Yeah, I’m not hiding anything, guys. This one’s got a cliffhanger. I wouldn’t say anyone’s life is in jeopardy, but it’s definitely a cliffhanger. I have made no bones about that “The Usual Suspect” is one of my favorite movies. So hello. And, you know, I grew up in TV land and so I love cliffhangers and I kind of embrace it with this. And, you know, the good thing is the plan is for all the books to be out this year. All the covers are done. By the time this airs, book two will be in the hands of editors and I should be working on book three by then. So, they will all come this year and it’s in the blurb. So you know, everybody, fair warning. I’m not trying to hide it here. So…
Jeff: Yeah. And I love how you make the analogy to TV because I would put the cliffhanger that you did on the level of like the mid-season break. Not quite the end of season break, but that mid-season, it’s Christmastime, we’re gonna go away for a while and we’ll have a big thing when we come back.
Layla: That’s right. It’s the end of November sweeps.
Layla: That’s where we’re at, not gonna lie. And then book two picks up right where it ended and goes on in there.
Jeff: Yeah. Which I’m super looking forward to.
Layla: I’m writing. It’s been a…It’s fun and, you know, I can’t…yeah, I can’t spoil anything.
Jeff: Yeah. Don’t say anything else. I don’t wanna know. I don’t want the listeners to know.
Layla: Okay. Okay.
Jeff: What was the inspiration for “Fog City” overall? Because since you’ve gone with this family of assassins, it’s certainly different from what we’re used to in the Whiskeyverse where you’ve got all the, you know, FBI agents and other kinds of, you know, law enforcement as your main characters.
Layla: So ironically, I was wandering through Wander Aguiar’s photography website looking for covers for a different project and I saw this picture of what will be the book three cover. And I had to know what the hell is their story. I mean it just jumped at me and I was like, I have to know the story. And then one of my good writer friends, Allison Temple said, “You can’t buy the pictures until you have a story.” She’s like, “Do not spend the money.” So by the end of the weekend, I had the story. I had all three of them and then I was like, “Okay, so let me piece together the three covers.” And so that’s kind of how it, in its original, came about, you know, thinking about doing it. So art really did inspire art in this case because the photos were just amazing.
I wanted to branch out and do a little bit of something different. There have been hints of the people in the gray area, you know, Jamie, good guy, but some of that hacking is not exactly on the up and up. Mel, I think we saw go more and more, you know, in her bounty hunter business and be a little bit more flexible once she left the FBI. And so kind of going from there and wanting to play more in that gray area and having read books too, L.J. Hayward’s “Death And The Devil” series, in particular, you know, it’s fun and it’s to some extent pretty liberating. I don’t think it was…it wasn’t harder. There are less rules. Right? I don’t have to check the FBI’s hierarchy chart every day to make sure I’m naming someone the right position. So in that regard, it’s actually been a bit easier.
Jeff: Your shades of gray is 100% right because it’s not a spoiler to say that Hawes, not only did he have the legit business on the side, but he’s even trying to modify the ways that the family does the assassin business to make it, I guess, less bad maybe.
Layla: Yeah. So, there’s an event that happened three years ago that kind of drives a lot of the series and when you read you’ll find out what that is and to the extent it drives Hawes’ three rules, which are in the blurb, which is no indiscriminate killing, no collateral damage, and no unvetted targets. So, if they’re not…He is turning the organization away from kind of the killing machine that his grandfather, Papa Cal, was. And his parents were very methodical, very efficient, not a whole lot of emotion in it. And so, he’s trying to find the balance between those two of it being, you know, I don’t wanna say the killer with a heart of gold, but he is a killer with a conscience. And so he doesn’t even like the moniker Prince of Killers and what that stands and how it came about, which you’ll read about in the book as well. So, he’s definitely a great character.
And then when you look at the broader picture of everyone in the series, Holt is, you know, this…he has a kid and he is, first and foremost, a father, right? And he is a hacker and he, because of where he’s at in his life, has pulled back to being kind of the digital assassin of the bunch. And then Helena, who is the sister, who is my typical female complete badass, love her, she works for…she does a criminal defense work in her day job where she is actually working for people who are wrongfully accused. And so there’s some shades of gray in her as well. And then even one of the other side characters is the chief of police who has an interesting relationship with the Madigans and he knows that there is some benefit to what they do and you’re gonna find out there’s some backstory with him as well as to where he is. So, there’s a reference to him in…If you’ve read “Trouble Brewing,” there’s a reference to him in “Noble Hops.” It’s the same chief, for those who are watching, that read that. So…
Jeff: That was one of the Easter eggs that I missed. Because you and I have talked about the Easter eggs and there was some that I caught it and some was like, “Dang it.”
Layla: So that’s one of…he’s the new chief, you know, that’s a little bit more flexible in the way things are done. And so everybody…and then Dante is also, you know, playing in his shades of gray as a PI and how far he’s willing to go and what he’s doing personally and professionally. Like where’s that line for him?
Jeff: Helena is the one that I found the most interesting in her shades of gray because here’s an officer of the court who occasionally does some, you know, very illegal things, which isn’t to say that, you know, all lawyers are, you know, on the right side of the law. But for her, it seemed like really…
Layla: Right. And she makes a line about balancing out her karma, right? That’s kind of how she approaches it to some extent of, you know, part of what they’re doing and why he…particularly Helena and Hawes are so well aligned like that, you know, Hawes wants the contracts of the people the law can’t reach or that escape the law, you know, who get around it, let’s just say, because of who they know or who they pay. And that’s kind of who their targets…that’s the targets he wants. People that have, you know, skirted justice for nefarious reasons. And her day job is the people who justice has wrongfully done. And so they kind of work hand in hand and her feeling on it plays to both of her careers.
Jeff: You mentioned in this book you had less rules, so like, you’re not looking upon the FBI flow chart and things. Were there challenges to coming at these characters who had these shades of gray or was it…”free for all” is a little bit much, but certainly more freeing I guess.
Layla: Yeah, certainly challenges. Though, I mean, you still have to balance the fact that, “Hey, they’re killing people.” Right? And how you balance that with their conscience, with the people around them, particularly Kane, who was the police chief, has a lot to deal with and going on kind of. So yeah, I mean it is definitely there. There were different challenges for me, I kind of liked it because I got to go a little bit more, even though it’s a shorter book than usual, I think going into their heads more than I typically would because there’s a lot more internal conflict – while still having tons of external conflict. I felt like there was more internal conflict about what they’re actually doing than, you know, being an FBI agent and knowing you’re on the right side of the law. So this was more…they had to kind of walk that line, particularly Hawes.
Jeff: One of the things I like most about the book that is…in a lot of ways, it’s separate from the romance and it’s separate from the suspense element a lot is the family unit. And it’s a recurring theme, at least in the books that I’ve read of yours from, you know, Irish And Whiskey and their families. And then what we see of the families in “Trouble Brewing” of the main characters. And here I really feel like maybe it’s because we’re so much closer to the family that we really, even in the shorter book, get a lot about Hawes and Holt and Helena and their interaction with each other. What was your plan as you like populated this family and the characters that you wanted to put on the page?
Layla: So, it kind of, I would say, came about organically to an extent. The first scene I wrote like that weekend when I saw the pictures, I wrote it and then I posted it in my little reader group’s like, “I hate you.” And in that first scene, actually there’s a reference to the siblings, but you actually don’t see them, but then they pop up. And part of it too was I had already found their pictures as well. I kind of knew who they all were, but, I also knew who we needed to do X, Y, and Z from a plot standpoint. I also didn’t want Hawes to be an island to himself. Right? And to some extent, giving the life that he lives. And, you know, the two aspects of his life, that family is gonna be the only…like they can’t really let anyone else get close. Right?
And so, they’re so tight with the family. That’s the only people they trust. And so, that’s, I think, particularly why, you know, that’s who he debriefs with. That’s who they’re planning with and everything because that’s kind of it. And then, sort of, you have in that expanded family, you also have Holt’s wife, Amilia, and you have the grandmother, Papa Cal’s wife, and like that’s the tight-knit crew. And it has been that way for that family for three generations. And that’s kind of what you find out is that, this is what they do. And because of that, they have to keep it close to the vest and the families who they trust.
Jeff: But even through that, you’ve got Helena pushing on Hawes to make the connection to find somebody. Which I love because even as all hell’s breaking loose, it’s like think about doing that because you could have what Holt has.
Layla: Yeah. They both…you know, Holt’s happily married with a kid. And I think for both, for Hawes and Helena, you know, that’s the ideal. Their parents were happily married, right? Papa Cal and Rose were. So you can have happiness, right, in this. You just have to find the person who accepts it and where’s that line? And Dante is someone who could be that person, right? He comes in and he seems to know what they do. He seems to be okay with it. And it’s got a hint of insta-lust for sure. Like they’re immediately attracted to each other, but it’s not until later where Hawes kind of starts to think, “Huh, here’s this person who maybe gets it and is okay with it,” the way that Holt and Amelia ended up working out. And Amelia is part of the group, she actually has her own specialty with pressure points and being kind of a perfect Trojan horse for the group because she’s not as out there as the rest of the Madigans are with the business. So yeah. So, he starts to see that. And Helena is kind of also walking a thin line of, “I wanna be happy, but do we know who this dude is?” Right. “Hey, Buddy. Okay, go have fun. But be careful.” So, he’s trying to be the rational one in that scenario.
Jeff: So, we know that this is a trilogy. How far does “Fog City” go overall? Do you have a grand plan?
Layla: I do, I do. Hawes and Dante will have a trilogy. So they’re the main characters through books one to three. And then Helena will have a book and then there’s another fifth book, but I’m not gonna say who that is because that’ll spoil things. But everybody will get their HEAs by the end of it. I’m looking at five and then I’ve got some ideas for spin-offs and I may already have some cover photos bought for them. I would say I like building big verses, right? I mean, I grew up…I mean my intro to really reading a lot of romances, Kristen Ashley, and I love that big verse concept. And so I like building them too.
Jeff: And if you, you know, put it back on TV, I mean, you look at things like the Arrowverse and all of its characters or all of the Chicago shows on NBC, you can have all of your one big, huge comboverse.
Layla: Yeah. No, and that’s kind of like that. I grew up in all that too. I was a TV person first. I come from that world where it is all intertwined like that. I like doing that. I like cameos and seeing characters and it’s fun. And you know, Mel runs everything, just remember that. That’s all you need to know.
Jeff: Even if the characters don’t know that, she’s really in charge.
Layla: Everything. Yeah.
Jeff: Now, we gotta give you a congrats too because in the midst of you getting this ready, it was announced you’re a finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award, for the book, “Relay.”
Layla: Yes. Yes.
Jeff: Which is awesome. For those who don’t know, tell us what “Relay” is about.
Layla: “Relay” is book one and the “Changing Lanes” duology, which is “Relay” and “Medley.” So, two books. The duology follows the four men who are on the U.S. men’s medley relay team, swim team. And so, the first book, “Relay,” which was nominated, is about Alex Cantu and Dane Ellis, who had a little summer love affair at a training camp 10 years ago and didn’t go well because Dane is the son of an evangelical minister and very closeted. And so he ends up on the same Olympic team with Alex, who is the team captain, who’s worked his tail off basically to get where he’s at and he is…you know, it’s enemies to lovers to start.
Obviously, there’s a lot of friction there from what happened in the past. And then they end up on the relay team together, have to work together. And so then you’ve got a bit of a second chance love story. That’s what it rolls into. And so you see up through the first two legs of training camp and Olympic training in the first book. So you see the two domestic sites. And then in the second book, “Medley,” which follows the other two characters, Boss and Jacob, that’s a mentor-mentee. A little bit of an age gap, like 26 to 19, I think. And Jacob’s this lovely like pirate-quoting cinnamon roll. I love him. He’s so much fun. And two bi characters.
Jeff: Pirate-quoting cinnamon roll?
Layla: Yeah, he’s a cinnamon roll character, like, he’s a total dork.
Jeff: I love that description of him.
Layla: And so, then you see international training in the Olympics in that book. So they go hand in hand. And I’m really…you know, there are definite problems with the RITA awards has been brought up with getting better representation. I am happy this book got through. Alex is a character of color. And, you know, when I wrote this, I wanted to say, you know, “This is the U.S. Olympic team, a representation that I would like to see,” right, that’s diverse in sexuality and race and, you know, I’m glad that it did get to the finalists because that’s at least out there.
Jeff: And again, congrats for that. That’s cool. I’ll have to go pick that up now because I have not picked up your sports books and I’m certainly like a sports romance lover anyway, so…
Layla: One of my good friends was a competitive swimmer up through college and so I talked to him a lot and then one of my other friends swam up through high school and then a little bit in college too. So, it was something different, you know, and I think it was right about the Olympics time where we started talking about that idea and then it just rolled.
Jeff: As I mentioned, there was some research involved there too, just to know what the training program was like and where it happened.
Layla: And then some of it was my own, like, but too, they go to Vienna for training and I studied abroad there. And I’ve kinda always wanted to put it in a book. And so that was a lot of fun – everywhere there is somewhere that I went and even the fight that happens up in the wine country kind of happened to a friend. And so it was interesting like to see kind of, it was a different source of the fight, but you know, I was traipsing through this little village in the middle of the night going, “Where’d you go?”
Jeff: That’s awesome. Drawing from real life events. You’ve got a bit of a con schedule going on this year. You’re headed to BLC so you’ll be at the first incarnation of Book Lovers Con in New Orleans, but you’re also making your very first trip to GayRomLit this year.
Layla: I know, I can’t wait. It’s finally back out here, relatively close to us on the West Coast. I’m so looking forward to that. You know, I loved…I’ve been to an RW International and then I went to RT last year and I love the reader interaction like that. I like that part of it so much. And so that’s why I’m going back to Book Lovers Con to get more of that, but then I really want to go to GRL because those are particularly our readers, right, and my favorite authors, so I can’t, you know, wait to meet some folks. See folks that I met last year, meet others, and then like… two of my closest writing friends I’ve never met in person, they’re both going to be there. So I can’t wait for that.
Jeff: So name drop a little bit. Who are these people you’re meeting in person for the first time?
Layla: Well, what’s cool at Book Lovers Con is that I’ll get to meet Annabeth Albert, who’s been a sprint partner, publishes with the same…with Carina Press too. So that’ll be awesome. But then, yeah, at GRL, it’ll be Erin McLellan, who you actually reviewed “Clean Break,” and Allison Temple. So we’re looking forward to that.
Jeff: Very cool. Now, of course, “Fog City” continues through this year. I know you’ve got at least one other book sneaking it’s way out there. What else is coming up this year?
Layla: So there’ll be the three “Fog City” books and then “Dine With Me” comes out in September and it’s very different from everything else. So, well, I guess not, you know, if you read my books, and even in “Fog City,” there’s food, there’re restaurants because I am a complete and total foodie. And so “Dine With Me” is kind of my love letter to restaurants that I’ve loved, to food experiences that I’ve loved. And it follows Miller Sykes who is an award-winning chef who gets a diagnosis, a medical diagnosis, and basically if he gets treatment, he will lose his sense of taste. It’s a high likelihood that the treatment and surgery will compromise the sense of taste. And as a chef, dude, how? Like even as a foodie, you know, God, I can’t imagine and I can’t even…as a chef, wow. And so rather than get treatment, he decides to go on the last tour of his favorite meals. And it’s not just high end, you know, it’s dive bars and, you know, there are high-end restaurants also all across the spectrum for everything a different place offers. And that’s partially my experiences too, everywhere there is based on somewhere I’ve been.
And then Clancy Rhodes who is the financial backer for this effort is kind of along for the ride. He’s a total foodie, experiencing it, and how he starts to piece together what’s going on and also starts to realize they have a lot in common. Despite, you know, a bit of an age gap and coming from different places in different worlds, they are both kinda facing these great expectations and how to handle that. And he has to convince him that, you know, life is more than just your taste buds, right, and that love’s worth it. And so it’s the book of my heart. It’s been in my head for years. I’ve sat on the first chapter since 2015, 2016 it was on the initial list of blurbs I gave my agent, and we finally found a place to make it happen. So I’m super excited about it.
Jeff: That’s awesome because it’s always good to get the book of your heart out there.
Layla: Yes. Yeah. Like I said, it’s different. You know, there is a ticking clock aspect to it given the diagnosis and what’s going on but, there’s not a car chase, which is unusual. But it’s a much more internal book and a lot of food gushing. So, you know, I generally say have snacks and tissues, just FYI.
Jeff: That’s not really a bad thing for any book to have the snacks and the tissues nearby.
Layla: You’ll really need it. So, I’m excited. That comes out September 16 and that’ll be from Carina, that one will.
Jeff: Cool. And I have to ask before we wrap up, how was it to wrap up the Whiskeyverse for now – as “Trouble Brewing” wrapped up earlier this year?
Layla: Yeah. I mean, good. Right. I like where everybody got to. I loved writing that last scene in “Trouble Brewing” and “Noble Hops.” You know, it was just kind of a nice – everybody’s where they should be. Right. I was glad to give everybody their happily ever after there. I did see some things, which are in the pipeline. And so, things may happen in the future depending on time and whatnot. But I’m excited for it and I’m glad Nick and Cam and Mel and Danny and Aiden and Jamie all got their happy. They definitely deserved it.
Jeff: Yeah. Yes, they did. They worked for it.
Layla: They worked for it.
Jeff: Yeah. It was such a satisfying read. If anybody hasn’t picked those books up, they need to for sure.
Layla: Thank you.
Jeff: So what is the best way for folks to keep up with you online so they can keep track of all the “Fog City” releases and the upcoming “Dine With Me” and everything else?
Layla: Yeah, so probably my Facebook group, Layla’s Lushes is where I’m at the most. And you can find a link to that on my Facebook page too, which is just Layla Reyne. So, that’s me on pretty much all the platforms on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’m on Instagram a fair bit. There’s a lot of food and my pugs there, so just FYI. I would say the reader group and the newsletter too, which is on my website, there’s a banner, so it’s laylareyne.com and you can follow and find it there.
Jeff: Yup. We will link to all that in the show notes along with all the books. The reader group is the place to be because it’s where you find out about like, oh, the first chapter of “Fog City” well before anybody else does.
Layla: Yeah. I kind of like…I have a hard time sitting on stuff. I ran one of the big “X-Files” spoiler sites back in the day, so if that tells you anything, I’m a bit of a spoiler junkie and have a tendency to spoil things though, just FYI.
Jeff: Yeah. Everybody should go join up with that if you’re into Layla’s books in any shape, form, or fashion.
Jeff: All right. Well, Layla, it’s been so good talking to you. Thank you so much for the great read that is “Prince of Killers” and I look forward to keeping track of “Fog City” as the year progresses.
Layla: Excellent. Thank you so much for having me again. It’s been fun.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Anticipating Disaster by Silvia Violet. Reviewed by Will
Nice-guy Oliver enjoys his quiet bookish life – so he’s less than thrilled to be attending a family reunion at a ski resort. He braves the frigid temperatures and disapproving attitudes of his extended family to please his grandmother, who he adores.
Irresistibly sexy bisexual outdoorsman David is in town to help his friend mend a broken heart. While his bestie distracts himself with a pair of slope bunnies, David sets his sights on klutzy Oliver, offering to give him private ski lessons.
Flirtation leads to friendship and to David accompanying Oliver to some of the planned reunion activities. When certain family members mock Oliver’s nerdish tendencies, David fiercely defends him. Can’t they see how smart and sweet and kind he is?
To give Oliver a vacation from his relatives, David takes Oliver to Anticipation, the picture-perfect mountain town that he calls home.
The more time that our heroes spend together, the more they think this might just be the real deal. The problem is that neither one of them does casual relationships. David has his life in Anticipation and Oliver has his life back in Florida with his grandmother.
A long-distance arrangement doesn’t seem particularly practical and they sadly part ways.
Oliver returns to his real life and, after some time apart from David, he realizes (with some help from grandma) that his quiet existence might be more about hiding from life than truly living it.
He decides that David is well-worth the risk and heads back to Anticipation to start a new adventurous chapter in his life story.
I really enjoyed Anticipating Disaster. The author takes some familiar character types and story tropes and crafts a really compelling story, while at the same time giving the romance her own twist. The set-up might be pure category romance, but let’s be real, this is a Silvia Violet book, so you know that the heat level is going to be cranked up to 11.
Oliver has a penchant for lacy undergarments and, over the course of the story, David discovers he likes cute guys with a penchant for lacy undergarments – like, A LOT.
Also, in the bedroom, David has a talent for turning some particularly filthy turns-of phrase. So the time our that heroes spend together do not disappoint – these aren’t the kinds of sex scenes you’ll skim over.
This book is the first in a series with the quaint town of Anticipation serving as the backdrop for future installments. A few side characters are introduced in Anticipating Disaster and I look forward to the new romances that will unfold in upcoming books.
Prince of Killers (Fog City #1) by Layla Reyne. Reviewed by Jeff.
Anyone who’s been listening to the show over the past year knows that I’ve fallen hard for romantic suspense, and in particular the stories that Layla Reyne writes. As soon as I offered the chance to read an advanced copy of Prince of Killers I jumped on it and devoured it in just a few days. Not only is the suspense tight but the budding romance had great sizzle.
I’ve never read romantic suspense where someone in law enforcement wasn’t at least one, if not both, of the central characters in the love story. In this book, our main character is on the flipside of the law as the leader of a family of assassins. This provided an interesting twist and I loved the ride.
The titular prince of killers is Hawes Madigan who has recently come into leading his family’s business because his grandfather is on his deathbed. One evening, just before a job, Hawes gets information that someone inside the organization is looking to take him out and possibly targeting others inside his family. The bombshell is dropped by the mysterious Dante Perry.
The news of betrayal from the inside throws Hawes for a loop. He figured some associates might take issue with the new rules he’s put into place, which include no indiscriminate killing, no collateral damage and no unvetted targets. He introduces these rules because of past incidents that haunt him.
The introduction of the Madigan family and how they approach their line of work fascinated me as much as the suspense of the internal sabotage and the romance that blooms between Hawes and Dante. Hawes has a twin sister, Helena, and younger brother, Holt who has a wife and baby daughter. Holt’s the tech wizard for the organization and Helena has another career as an attorney helping those who are wrongfully accused. Hawes’s life revolves solely around the family businesses–both the legit refrigeration business and the not-so-legit assassin game.
The interplay of the family members as they try to sort out the traitor in their midst while dealing with their dying grandfather is so sharply written. There’s barely time for them to process any one thing that happens and yet the do make time to support and care for one another. Helena even pushes Hawes toward Dante as a potential partner because she wants her brother to have someone. Hawes taking the leap to trust and fall for Dante is one of things I love most about the book as he finds the strength to overcome the fear of putting his family at risk. Even though Holt has made a family for himself and his parents and grandparents had a successful family life, Hawes feels that he needs to be cautious since he’s the family leader now.
Dante also goes out of his way to get Hawes and the family to trust him with not only their brother’s heart but aspects of the business as well. Hawes using Dante as his rock as the plot against the family unfolds, exposed his vulnerabilities perfectly. Meanwhile, the bombs that dropped in the final quarter of this book were ones I hadn’t seen coming and got my heart thumping.
This is book one of a trilogy and as was the case with Layla’s other books I can’t wait to see where she takes this story. Similar to the Irish and Whiskey and Trouble Brewing trilogies, the Hawes and Dante’s story doesn’t fully wrap up at the end of the book. Of particular note, Prince of Killers ends with a significant cliffhanger. I don’t mind cliffhangers but if you are averse to that kind of ending you might want to wait until book two’s out so you won’t be waiting long to see what happens next. For me Layla’s redefined what a family of assassins looks like with this book. Fog City kicks off with some mind-blowing twists and I can’t wait to see what happens next.