Dragon's Lair by Daniela Jeffries

No Series

Newly divorced therapist Noir wasn't expecting to fall for criminal mastermind Dragon when he was assigned to weekly meetings with him in prison as part of his possible parole. But fall he did, and hard.

Dragon, however, is no knight in shining armor. Like his namesake, he's a fiery beast that will do anything to protect his new treasure...

"He’s clever, he thought. Not getting violent but refusing necessities for his own good unless they do what he wants – manipulative."

Despite how “nice” of a person I generally consider myself to be, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to enjoy books where some people start going to the darker side. What can I say but that contradictions and layers add spice?

I had to put aside the other books I was reading when I stumbled across the plot for this one because it sounded pretty unique, and I’ll just admit I was in the mood for some new m/m romance.

The book definitely didn’t let me down on standing out as something different and daring, and it didn’t sugarcoat the characters from the synopsis. You expect a criminal and you get a criminal who is mainly unrepentant and not fluffy/misunderstood, and you expect a psychologist that’s realistic, so you’re treated with one who is a flawed, burned out and layered character.

As other reviewers have noted, it’s not high on the romantic steam but the fascination lies in the blending of the two minds on the brink of a life’s change. “Dragon” uses his intelligence and con-artist personality to try to manipulate and coerce as expected, but the author thankfully gives us a layered and realistic man with a motive that makes decent sense. His personality fits the domineering and naughty type but it’s not overdone to where it’s eye-rolling or unconvincing. Vulnerability hits in soft notes but nothing angst-driven or downright silly; instead we get a book mainly filled with intriguing and convincing dialogue that shows an intelligent and socially stunted mind at work.

The doc isn’t as worthy of a character, but he’s still likable and easy to follow. He’s been burned out by hearing so many horror stories and trades the wealth of higher pursuits in his field to try and make a change in the criminal justice system. That’s been coming to an end for awhile but he holds on to integrity while allowing himself to reluctantly change into something ‘other.’ While Dragon may be reformed because he sees the error of his ways by the insane risks of the punishment system and downright boredom, it is Noire who goes through the most evolved character change.

It’s a shorter book and it’s hard to put down since the pacing holds up well just because I was intrigued. Dragon is admittedly asexual so you don’t get actual physical contact much between the two, but there is a charged interest that goes into genuine romantic and unique friendship territory. There’s a tossed in heady scene where Noire explores some of his kinky side, a personal battle with addiction, and the tricky obstacles of the prison system.

It may not be what you’re expected right off for a romance, or m/m romance, but that’s perfectly fine since this one so heavily delivers anyway in the actual emotional human feels department.