Let Them Try by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine

The police motto “to serve and protect” takes on all new meaning in Let Them Try.

Twenty-six years of dedicated duty as one of Baltimore’s finest should earn a man some reward. One autumn night in a dark cemetery, Officer Rick Baker is forced to reflect on his lonely, closeted life when he meets a strange young man under peculiar circumstances.

Diego is unlike anyone Rick has ever met, and Rick has to face a new reality he’d never imagined in his wildest dreams. Couple Rick’s deeply rooted need for love and companionship with Diego’s remarkable gifts, and even the threat of hell might be too tempting to resist.

**********

Let Them Try is the first installment of a new erotic horror series by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine. It is a Faustian-inspired story of middle-aged cop Rick Baker who is given a renewed sense of youth and vitality and a second chance at happiness when strange circumstances bring Diego a beautiful young male into his life.

Officer Rick Baker has been with the Baltimore Police Force for over twenty-five years. While his best friend and fellow officer Steve Wren knows he’s gay, Rick is otherwise closeted and with the exception of the rare anonymous sexual encounter he lives a solitary and lonely existence – his job is essentially his life. One night while on patrol Rick comes across teenagers in the local cemetery who the police have been hunting for robbing and desecrating graves. When he tries to apprehend them he witnesses the most bizarre happenings and literally finds a beautiful naked young male – Diego – at his feet. Diego entices Rick to keep him by promising to fulfill Rick’s every sexual wish and fantasy. While Rick is at first fearful and hesitant, he cannot resist Diego, or the chance to live a truer life. As their relationship intensifies, Rick makes a life-altering decision to not only be with Diego but also to fight for, and protect their relationship at any and all cost.

Let Them Try is a well-written novella with a well-developed plot and characters and equally great dialogue that lays the foundation for Rick and Diego’s continuing story in books to come. The opening scene sets an overall mood and tone that is dark and suspenseful and the writing carries this through to the end of the story.

I found the main characters in this tale to be a most interesting pairing. Aging, lonely and alone, Rick has lived life on the periphery, hiding his true self and not allowing anyone to get too close. The authors play with the concepts of hero and anti-hero, alternating key attributes of each in respect of the character of Rick, who is both brave and fallible. Owing to a rich narrative voice Rick is very much a character that readers can touch and feel. Young, beautiful and “gifted” Diego is the catalyst that gives Rick sanction to not only unleash his pent up sexual needs and desires, but also to reveal his longing for love, intimacy and partnership. Despite his seductive ways and mysterious nature there is also an innocence and vulnerability to Diego that not only serve to bring out Rick’s protective instincts, but also to cautiously endear the character to the reader. MacLeod and Valentine blur the lines of black and white in respect of these characters making Rick and Diego that much more rich and multi-textured.

The authors capture Rick’s thrown caution through some intense and raw sex scenes between the two. However, it is the intelligent and provocative dialogue between Rick and Diego that most captured my attention and imagination. A signature quality of this duo is their ability to write extremely good two-character scenes with well-crafted realistic and witty dialogue that serves as key in establishing the characters, the chemistry between them and often the underlying themes of the story. And this is exactly what they do in this tale. The dialogue is very much an intricate tango between the two characters as Diego entices Rick into keeping him and Rick struggles to not succumb.

Diego’s seduction of Rick is as much psychological and emotional as it is physical. Having made the decision to keep Diego, Rick in turn makes choices that completely uproot his life and set him on a different course, perhaps a more honest life course. But as usual with this writing duo there is allusion and nuance in the plot that will keep the reader guessing as to whether Diego is actually saving Rick’s life or condemning him to hell.

“Diego watched intently, in no apparent rush. ‘I give my special blessings only to those who need them most, and particularly those who bear an unfair stigma…To know me—in the Biblical sense—is to have a second chance for happiness.’

Rick inhaled a deep, steadying breath. Although he’d grown to love his work, his work was all he had. His life slipped away with every tick of the clock, and for what? To end up like Mr. Griffith, living out his life inside a three-bedroom closet with an impeccably tended garden his only companion?

With death inevitable…he decided he’d rather go out on his own terms, and for once in his lonely, lackluster life do something entirely selfish. The thought of performing a licentious act while on duty, committing a cardinal sin, sent adrenaline shooting through his system again, but this time in a good way…”

Readers familiar with the unique writing qualities and style of this partnership, in particular in respect of their erotic horror and urban fantasy tales, will immediately recognize that the authors have imbued this story with meaningful subtext just below the surface of the main plot. It is obvious that MacLeod and Valentine still have a lot to say about societal convention, morality, religion and differences, an aspect of their writing that I most enjoy. In Let Them Try they deftly balance these underlying themes without sacrificing subtlety in the quality of the writing or drawing attention away from the main plot and characters as questions of self-denial, guilt and living a life true to oneself form much of Rick’s internal struggle.

“‘Tell me this,’ Diego said. ‘Have you noticed how much religion has stopped flourishing in your world over the years? Once upon a time, families considered their children growing up to become clergy a great honor. Many people came to great power and wealth because their ordained offspring gained access to the ear of God.’ Diego straddled Rick’s lap with fluid, graceful movements despite the close quarters and many obstacles. ‘In these trying times, churches are closing their doors in record numbers due to lack of funding and not enough clergy. No one wants to be a priest or nun anymore, and even the number of non-celibate priests and ministers dwindle each day.’”

I thoroughly enjoyed Let Them Try. It is a solid beginning and sets the stage for what I believe will be another dark and provocative erotic horror series full of exciting twists and turns, psychological enticement and sexual thrills that once again push both buttons and boundaries. While it is very difficult to give away anymore of the story without completely spoiling it for readers, I will say that Let Them Try ends in a cliff-hanger that has Rick and Diego on the run from forces that would otherwise do them harm. I have it on good authority that the sequel – Let Them Try Harder – will be released very soon. I can’t wait to read it!

Let Them Try by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine is available at All Romance eBooks, Amazon Kindle, OmniLit, Rainbow eBooks and Smashwords.

Music: Hotel California – The Eagles (Hotel California, 1976)

NOTE: This review was originally published at Three Dollar Bill Reviews.

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