Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Signet (September 1, 2009)
For centuries Lachlan MacGregor has battled demon thieves for the souls of the dead, carrying out his pledge to deliver them into Heaven or Hell. But his greatest challenge as a Soul Gatherer is now among the living.
Struggling to connect with her troubled teenage daughter Emily, artist Rachel Lewis turns to her enigmatic yet strangely compelling neighbor Lachlan for advice. As Lachlan soon discovers, the young girl has fallen victim to a seductive demon—a specter from the past using the unsuspecting women to fulfill an ancient prophesy and settle a hellish score with Lachlan himself.
In the race to save Emily and avert a disastrous power shift among the deities, Rachel and Lachlan forge an uncommon bond. But how can Lachlan tell the mortal woman he’s falling in love with that the next soul he’s been enlisted to gather—and deliver beyond—is her daughter’s?
Sometimes a debut book immediately pushes my hot buttons and the need arises to instantly read it, whatever is on the to-be-read-pile, that book precedes every other book. This is the urge I had the minute I read the premise of DRAWN INTO DARKNESS and saw the page wide ad in the RT magazine of last month. That very same day I pre-ordered a copy and looked forward to its arrival.
I’ve read DRAWN INTO DARKNESS in twenty four hours and wish I could do it all over again. It feels like I have lived contemporary issues in a paranormal setting with Rachel and Emily having a classic mother-teenage daughter relationship. Rachel is a single mother trying to manage it all, being a provider, a mother, a talented artist and underneath all those responsibilities hides a passionate woman. Now Emily is a Goth teenager who wants to spread her wings, who thinks she has the coolest boyfriend ever and feels restricted by her mother’s decisions. Mother and daughter collide at many discussions and it seems things just cannot get any worse between them. This is where the paranormal entered their world in the form of Lachlan Macgregor.
Lachlan is a Soul Gatherer doing his peneance for the Goddess of Death and battles the demons of Satan to collect the souls of those who have just demised from the world of the living. He has been ordered to protect Emily and from a distance has done so for the past few months. But with a freak bus accident he is suddenly in direct contact with both mother and daughter and ends up entangled in their lives. Add Lachlan’s lifelong nemesis as the boyfriend of Emily and the situation has become an explosive one.
What amazed me so is that the concept of Drawn Into Darkness is so natural and easy to follow and to understand. Yet, it is executed with such a moving writing signature that it was hook, line and sinker for me from the very first page. Instead of initiating an elaborate epic battle in the first book of the Soul Gatherer series Annette McCleave keeps the motivation very personal, intimate and close to the heart of the characters. She draws me in to the lives and hearts of three people; Lachlan, Rachel and Emily. Each so very understandable in their hopes, doubts and fears that they came alive for me via the voice Annette McCleave has as an author.
Lachlan MacGregor was once a proud Laird with flaws, a man of his time until he unknowingly met with a lure demon and lost it all. As a Soul Gatherer he has honed his skills to perfection, his goal is to defeat Satan’s demons so he can release the soul in to the care of an Angel. He is a warrior and one who instantly stirred my emotions. He is so sympathetic but now without his flaws. He feels so much but has no future that will allow those feelings to be. He longs for a redemption that might never come. He is vigorous strength wedded to emotional vulnerability and in all his male complexity he is so very understandable. Lachlan is the kind of hero who takes difficulties in stride and he aimed for my heart and got it!
Rachel is the epitome of a single mother and all I wanted for her is the time so she could get back in touch with her daughter. Her emotions are sharply drawn as the desperation at times bleeds from the pages. Her struggles to keep her daughter safe touched me on various levels, although she is not without her own set of mistakes they are so very understandable. Rachel as a mother, an artist and of course also as a passionate woman blended in to a resilient person whom I so very much enjoyed in this story.
And then we have Emily. How I so recognized the youthfulness and teenage rebellion in Emily. Haven’t we all been there? The stubborn attitude of wanting to do things your own way. Of falling for the “not-so-right-for-you” boy, of setting your own boundaries and sneaking out when actually being grounded. She is no longer the little girl of her mother nor is she a full grown woman. Her thoughts and actions emanate this without her becoming petulant. She has a mind of her own and not afraid to state her opinion. Her thoughts are also at times gloomy and at other times funny and quirky that it made me grin and smile. She has an effect on the story I can greatly appreciate and I hope I didn’t see the last of her.
Lachlan, Rachel and Emily are the epicenter as the romance and plot blossoms to its full potential and ensnared me to keep on reading in to the wee hours of the night. The chemistry between Lachlan and Rachel is evident from the moment of introduction and the sexual tension crackles between them, ready to erupt full force into an entwining of mutual desires. What I noticed but didn’t miss is that McCleave kept those eruptions of desires on the few and far between. The attention was divided between their personal struggles, the growth of them as a couple and their combined worries for Emily. It, or better said, they interconnected together and delivered a tale that turned me in to a voracious reader of the written word.
As each of the main characters struck a chord with me there is also the supporting cast of good and evil as a paranormal story should have. What I think I so well done by the author is the fact she didn’t bombard me with an extensive cast of characters. She kept each character so very key to the plot and actual story telling that it enriched the story as a whole. There was Brian, another Soul Gatherer and Stephan Wahlberg, a Romany Mage. Both formed the sidekicks of Lachlan though I don’t think I have heard the last of them. The Goddess Of Death who plays her schemes and she’s the person each Soul Gatherer has to answer to. And then there is Drusus. While Satan is a very distant and abstract figure it is Drusus who gives voice to all that is evil in this world and does it so with an eerie charm that makes him so very dangerous.
The plot, while I think that perhaps for the experienced paranormal reader this doesn’t hold any innovating surprises, just worked for me. Heaven versus Hell, two archenemies battling opposite each other, with innocence and love to be protected from the big and the bad. The characters made me believe it all and the fact that Rachel needed time to come to terms with the Soul Gatherer’s world gave credibility to her feelings. I am very much enamored by the premise Annette McCleave has set up and can’t wait where she takes the overall story arch to because, rest assured, there is change lurking on the horizon and it isn’t all that good.
Drawn Into Darkness is one of those reads that sweep me off my feet and firmly plants me into another world. It is rich in atmospheric backdrop, emotions and characterization. It flows from the pages in to my mind’s eye where I see it all and as the emotions of the characters echo in my heart I am bound to flip the pages and head of to an exhilarating ending. It isn’t overly dark or gritty but a powerful blend of recognizable situations and feelings along with compelling characters who tell a tale of love and redemption, of new beginnings and second chances and of a battle yet to come.
The voice of Annette McCleave lured me to reading her debut novel from cover to cover in one day. In my case that doesn’t happen often and I can’t wait to find out what she has in store for me with the sequel BOUND BY DARKNESS.
Quote Rachel and Lachlan:
“Maybe you’re reading way too much into my visit. Maybe I’m just looking for sex.”
Encouraged by his subtle edge of anticipation in his stillness, Rachel added, “No strings attached, down and dirty, wild crazy monkey sex.”
A short breath hissed from his lips.
“Single moms don’t get out much, you know,” she went on, gaining momentum with every increasingly excited heartbeat. Nothing she knew about Lachlan was real…except the attraction. Maybe she was crazy, but salvaging something out of this train wreck – even if it was only the sexual romp she’d been imagining ever since she bumped into him in the stairwell – had tremendous appeal. She was tired of going to bed alone and unsatisfied. “It’s been a while since I had a screaming orgasm without the help of my vibrator.”
She heard him swallow, hard.