Book Review – Variable Onset by Layla Reyne

Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 230
Characters: Lincoln/Carter
POV: 3rd
Genre: Romantic suspense

To catch a killer, a special agent and his former student will need to get close—to their target, and each other. Layla Reyne returns with a stand-alone romantic mystery.

When the serial killer known as Dr. Fear seemingly reemerges after a cooling-off period, Special Agent Lincoln Monroe wants on the case. He knows his research on the calculating criminal, who targets couples and uses their worst fears to kill them, could prove invaluable. But nothing can prepare Lincoln for the agent waiting for him in Apex, Virginia: a brash and cocky former student. Carter Warren is everything Lincoln is not, and somehow everything he wants. And they’ll be going undercover. As newlyweds.

For Carter, seeing Lincoln again—and flustered to boot—pokes his raging bear of a crush something fierce. He thinks posing as lovers will provide the perfect bait for Dr. Fear. But pretending to be married forces them to confront fears of their own…like giving in to the very real chemistry between them.

With evidence pointing to the possibility of a copycat killer, Lincoln and Carter will have to race to separate truth from fiction. But when another couple goes missing, finding the killer will test every ounce of their training, skills and the strength of their bond like never before.

This book is approximately 72,000 words

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This is the first book I’ve read by this author. Wow. I was pulled into the story and its characters immediately and didn’t want to let go. She writes suspense fantastically well and although I did guess who the killer was, there were enough red herrings to make me second guess myself right until he made his move. I kept asking questions all the way through, turning pages to find out what happened next, while trying to figure out the identity of the killer and what their next move might be.

I was seriously worried for Lincoln and Carter, and didn’t expect the twist of who got taken and the fears he had to face. I loved their friendship and growing relationship and the way both of them wanted more, yet was scared the other didn’t. I also liked their connection to the town, which upped the suspense and made me worry for their safety.

The relationship between Lincoln and his family felt very real. The town had an authentic small town feel about it, with everyone knowing everyone else, but do they really? To quote the very accurate description: “this town is like a kooky sitcom gift that keeps giving.” I also liked how their ‘marriage’ is written within the context of the town and that them being gay/bi doesn’t factor into being an issue in the story or to the killer.

All of the action scenes were edge of seat reading, but in particular the final confrontation with the killer. Wow. I found this quite an emotional read too, as the panic, fear, and love they have for each other feels very real.

The ending was very satisfying on a lot of levels.

I’ll definitely be reading more of this author. 5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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