Title: Illuminate the Shadows (Shatterproof Bond Book 1)
Author: Isobel Starling
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 9th 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Mystery
Page Count: 157 pages
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
The thrilling, funny sequel to ‘As You Wish’.
A Scotsman and an Englishman fall in love… After the most amazing week of his life, at Dunloch Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, in Scotland. The charming, mysterious Samuel Aiken has turned Declan Ramsay’s life upside down. Declan has experienced a remarkable change. He has come to terms with the fact he is bisexual, and he has fallen head-over-heels in love with his boss’s son Sam.
However, falling for his boss’s son was never going to be an easy path to happiness, mainly because the boss in question is multi-millionaire property tycoon and former MI5 operative, Sir James Aiken.
Sir James is repulsed by his son’s homosexuality, and so discovering that his employee Declan Ramsay- the man he installed to run his luxury property rental empire- is in a relationship with Sam, does not go down well.
The lovers cannot hide from the looming presence of Sir James Aiken for long! Soon enough James makes his move, and Declan finds out what he will have to endure to stay with Sam, and what he will have to give to feel worthy of Sam’s love.
This story follows on immediately from As You Wish (Shatterproof Bond #0.5). If you haven’t read it, I suggest you start there to get an idea of the characters and the situation they find themselves in.
At the start of this story, we discover Sam has been on a ‘mission’ for his father and on ‘radio silence’ for three months, but re-connects with Declan, his lover of only six days before he left.
If you take this story in the same way you would a James Bond movie, then the plot becomes more acceptable. The romance plot is interwoven with intrigue and the machinations of Sam’s father, although neither Sam, Declan or the reader are made fully aware of these schemes. James appears to have accepted Declan as Sam’s partner, but can they trust him?
There’s a rather underhand initiation exercise/interview for Declan and a ‘spy’ training session, but no mission as such. Declan discovers he’s being watched, but he’s not sure by whom, and it’s not fully explained why either when we find out. There are hints at covert ops and surveillance, but like Sam and Declan the reader is also kept in the dark. There are suggestions of mystery and intrigue, but it never really gets going in this story and what happens isn’t clearly explained or resolved. These happenings almost seem like a filler between the sex scenes, which sometimes fade to black or are recounted the day after.
At the moment, Sam remains an enigma to me. Yes, he’s a nice guy and in love with Declan. He’s multi-talented and experienced with spy training, covert missions and gay sex, but I feel I don’t know much else about him. His father has taken a great deal of the joy away from his life and Declan is the one to replace it. And that’s what I like about their relationship.
I like Declan’s character. He has a lot to deal with in these two stories. He’s bowled over by his attraction to Sam and the possibility of coming out as bi is new to him. But he’s having fun experimenting with man sex and light bondage, and feeling things he’s never felt with or for a woman before. Plus Declan believes he has to prove himself to Sam and James and show that he is capable of taking on this new role in the company, and that motivates him in this story.
I enjoyed reading the scenes these guys have together. They are both head over heels for each other, even though they only spent six days together in the castle and then had three months apart with no communication. They just want to be on their own to make up for lost time, but life and Sam’s father gets in their way. When they are alone, it’s sweet, and when we get the details, it’s hot.
Overall the story was fun and enjoyable to read. Isobel has an engaging writing style, but as in book 1, there’s plenty of head-hopping which pulled me out of some scenes. I often had to re-read a paragraph to work out whose POV the scene/paragraph was being told from to avoid confusion.
In the ARC there were editing issues that needed fixing. I hope they’ve been resolved by release day.
As in the prequel, the ending is unexpected, but in this case it came very abruptly. All the unanswered questions will hopefully be addressed in the next installment, Return to Zero, which comes out in early June.
Isobel is an artist and has produced some wonderful paintings as story teasers.
This review was also posted on Gay Book Reviews