The first in a planned trilogy of steamy erotic fiction novels, Lay Me Bare features a charged storyline and attractive characters that you’ll be enthralled by.
By Timothy Arden
Contemporary adult romance fiction is not hard to find, thanks in no small ways to the ripple effect of E. L. James’ best-selling ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy, but truly satisfying reads are in short supply.
Thankfully, author L. M. Allen has delivered the first erotic romance hit of 2021 with her debut novel, Lay Me Bare. It’s steamy and sensual yet wrapped in a gripping plot filled with characters that you’ll come to care for like they were close friends.
Set in present-day London, the novel begins with a mysterious meeting between two shady, unnamed characters. A file is exchanged furtively, concerning an unidentified female target. We learn that someone is desperate to break the woman up from, presumably, her partner. It isn’t revealed why but even at this stage there’s a sting in the tale, and it instantly puts the reader in full suspicion mode going forward.
In the opening chapter we are introduced to Eva Adams, a strong, independent single mum and the owner of one of the city’s hottest events companies.
Never far from her side is Bells, her best friend and colleague. She is concerned that Eva is “turning into a celibate bloody hermit” and urges her to go out on the town to find a new beau while her daughter, Summer, is away.
Eva, however, is having none of it. We soon come to learn that she has chosen a lonely existence because of a horrific attack she suffered at the hands of her ex, the psychotic Dan de Luca.
He tried to kill her moments after she announced that she was pregnant with his child, suspecting without any grounds that her friend, Gary – Bells’ husband and someone she considers a “surrogate big brother” – was the father.
Since that time, Dan has been able to evade justice and the continued threat he poses to her, and her daughter’s, safety has forced Eva to swear off men. This is totally understandable given that the last date she went on ended up in hospital courtesy of Dan’s violent jealousy.
Then she meets Will Hunter.
Will is a both an entrepreneur and devilishly handsome. If he were a dream boat, he’d be an ocean liner.
When he walks into Eva’s office, looking for her company to handle the launch of his new hotel, his undeniable charm makes short work of all her defences. Despite herself, she finds she is instantly attracted to this debonair, prestigious client.
“It should be illegal to look that good. It’s unfair to every other man in the world who can’t wear jeans like that.”
The last thing Eva wants to do is to spend time in his company – a simple handshake had been electric in its intensity. Fate, however, has other plans as she must go to his hotel to inspect the site before getting to work on planning the launch.
Upon arrival, Eva has prepped herself to get in and out as soon as possible, but Will insists she stays for lunch and she finds herself powerless to resist.
“His smile is triumphant as he raises my hand to his mouth and brushes his lips lightly across my knuckles. I’m bloody sure I just whimpered.”
Will suggests a date the following night to get to know Eva better but her unspoken delight is tainted with thoughts of Dan, who is known to be back in the area and just as dangerous.
“How do I explain this one, without actually telling him I’m married to a psycho? A psycho I haven’t physically laid eyes on in years but is still convinced he owns me. It’s not safe for him to be seen with me.”
But though she tries to put the brakes on things, Will is as much the hunter as his surname and the two are soon officially a couple.
You can be sure, however, that Dan is going to emerge from the woodwork at some point and it could be the case that Will is not everything he seems to be, also owning an exclusive honeytrap agency. Is there a connection between him, Eva, and the clandestine exchange of files set up in the prologue?
Only time will tell, but it won’t take too long to find out as you’ll be glued to the book until the explosive finale.
Allen is an expert in ramping up tension, whether that be of the sexual kind or the risks that Eva is walking right into through her association with Will.
The pay-offs, though, don’t disappoint. The sex scenes are tasteful yet scorch the eye, while the big reveal at the end, and the HEA (happy ever after) that thankfully follows, will have you punching the ceiling in excitement.
What really makes this novel stand out from the crowd, however, are the characters. Eva and Will come across as real people with real-world problems, and they will both face moments of peril where their bond is the only thing to get them through.
In this respect, it’s refreshing to find that Eva comes to rescue of Will on occasion rather than functioning merely as a damsel in distress to be swept into her lover’s muscled arms.
Lay Me Bare offers a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, supported by prose that can turn from sensual to sinister just as smoothly as Will’s leather-clad sports car changes gears.
Readers have understandably compared Allen’s natural gifts for erotic fiction with some of the biggest names in the field, including New York Times bestselling authors Jodi Ellen Malpas and Nora Roberts.
Planned as a series of three books, the second novel – written from Will’s perspective – comes out later this year. With a winning couple at its centre and much more to tell, there’s no fifty shades of grey about the Lay Me Bare trilogy – it’s a black-and-white must-read for 2021.
Five minutes with erotic romance author L. M. Allen
Erotic romance author L. M. Allen reveals her gripes with the erotic romance genre and offers her advice on how to write an engaging work of romance, among other things.
Q. Your novel deliberately turns established erotic romance conventions on their head so that it doesn’t come across as a rehash of ‘Fifty Shades’. Do you think this is a common issue in the genre, and how is it cheating readers?
A. It is a common issue. I’m not sure I’d call it ‘cheating’ readers – after all they sell by the bucket load – but after a few hundred books with largely the same plot and characters, it all gets a bit old.
Q. That aside, what do you think ‘Fifty Shades’ legacy will be?
Q. As an avid reader in the genre, what are the other flaws in erotic fiction writing that you see you see as turnoffs for readers?
A. Poorly written love scenes. They’re just cringe.
Q. What has been the feedback from readers for your novel that you are most proud of?
A. That they have described it as “hot”, “emotional”, and “tense”, and that they have totally fallen in love with the characters.
Q. A novel is not an easy thing to write. Describe the process you followed in realizing your idea for a book.
A. I wrote all three books in one go and then went back through to edit and make them hang together. Then Selina (my editor) pulled it all apart and I started again, but the end result is a million times better than the first.
Q. If your novel was turned into a movie, which Hollywood stars would you pick for the male and female protagonists, and why?
A. You’re asking the wrong person. I’m the least celebrity-savvy person alive. I wouldn’t know if I was sitting next to Madonna! I doubt I could name five. It’s never been my thing.
Q. Your novel is the first in a planned trilogy, with the second book planned for release next year. What can readers expect?
A. A similar timeline but a totally different story. It’s from Will’s point of view but won’t simply repeat book one. The reader will get to know Will, his past and his relationship with the mystery man.
Q. You originally planned to be a children’s author. How did you end up instead writing erotic fiction?
A. I think it’s called a happy accident. I was writing both when I started, but got so engrossed in Will and Eva that they took over my brain.
Q. What’s the most important piece of writing advice you have been given, and why?
A. Plot is subservient to character. Always. There’s no point writing anything about a character that readers can’t love, loathe, or identify with.
Q. If you could only recommend one erotic novel by another author to your readers, what would it be and why?
A. Lay Me Bare book two? I’m kidding. I’d probably suggest The Forbidden by Jodi Ellen Malpas. I love the main character, Annie.