Fallen Angels by Marty Rayne – review

Rating: 2/10 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Title: Fallen Angels
Author: Marty Rayne
Genre: Contemporary romance, crime
URL: Loose ID
Price: US$5.99
Other Information/warnings: Explicit m/m, violence, bad language
Summary [from the publisher]:
Adam Hardy’s assignment was clear: Infiltrate the pseudo-biker gang Fallen Angels and bring back the dirt on their big boss, Lucifer. Nowhere in the mission statement did it tell him to fall for the local leader, Mammon, named after the fallen angel of greed.
Marc, aka Mammon, thought that a quick dip would sate the lust he held for the newest Fallen Angel. After all, Adam would never be his now that Lucifer had taken an interest in the pretty boy. Was intent on making him a golden boy.
Who knew sex and an unexpected bond of trust would bring Adam and Marc together while they tried to take Lucifer down and out of their lives forever?

My review: I really like crime stories, though in the m/m genre, undercover cop stories always seem to follow the same tired plot – the cop falls for one of the bad guys, and together they work to defeat the villains. Fallen Angels is no exception to that cliché. I don’t mind that particularly, but there’s nothing in this to compensate for the unoriginal set up.

To be blunt, this story has a dumb plot, stupid characters, and flaccid writing. I’d like to be kinder, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t mind bad writing as much as I mind lazy writing, and this is full of it. Take the plot. We’re plonked down in the middle of the story, with Adam being taken away on a very thin excuse for a couple of days in the middle of the Everglades, to have a bit of rumpy-pumpy with the stupidly named ‘Mammon’ or Marc. Starting the story too late means that we’re treated to a load of unconvincing info-dumping. I wanted to at least see some interaction between Adam and Mammon that wasn’t about sex but instead we’re dumped right into the porn before we have a reason to care who these people are.

Adam is an undercover agent for ‘The Agency’ (I guess it was too difficult to come up with the details of how a real agent for a real US government agency would operate, though I’ll be charitable and assume the author could be setting up a series here, and hey, I’ve seen worse in anime.) That’s not the stupid bit. The stupid bit is the criminal gang he’s infiltrating is a group of elite computer hackers. Adam is not a programmer. In case the reader misses just how stupid it is for him to be sent in, he helpfully points it out:

I knew only basic computer applications. Strategy was my forte, which somehow had gotten me into the Fallen Angels.

‘Somehow’ – even the author doesn’t know. But it doesn’t matter because Adam is a hot piece of ass – so hot, in fact, his ass is magical, causing the ultrahard supercriminal Mammon to start feeling all gooey and sentimental over him after just one night of conjugal bliss. So gooey and sentimental that when he discovers Adam is in fact an undercover agent (belatedly, because though he’s a supercriminal he’s apparently not very bright) through a piece of idiotic behaviour on Adam’s part, he doesn’t kill him. Instead, he bursts into tears at the idea of having to be a little mean to him:

I tried to push away the sympathy, reminding myself he’d lied the entire time I knew him, but my eyes watered.

He doesn’t mind hitting him over the head with a gun though, because as Hollywood will teach you, that’s a perfectly safe form of anaesthesia. He’s a little worried – “I hoped I hadn’t given him a concussion”. Since at that point, Adam’s been unconscious for long enough to be securely tied up, I’d say a concussion was assured, but no, Adam wakes up and doesn’t even have a headache. Good old Hollywood, eh?

Anyway, he roughs up Adam in an extremely unconvincing fashion, but even that’s too upsetting for him:

I turned off the light, snatched up the phones and gun, and walked out. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I ignored the way my chest was so tight my lungs had a hard time expanding. I refused to acknowledge the tears that finally slipped down my cheeks, letting them run their course and drop to the floor to evaporate as if they never existed.

If you ask me, Mammon is what we call in Australia a sook. A crybaby. Not really what you’d expect in a supercriminal. But then so is Adam, so they make a good pair.

Of course ‘somehow’ Adam gets free of bonds so tight they make his wrists and neck bleed (apparently by wishing it to be so, because in one sentence he’s whining about losing sensation and in the very next, he says oh, they’re free now – huh?) But Mammon still doesn’t kill him (and Adam doesn’t make any attempt to escape either.) No, naturally the thing to do with an undercover agent when you’re expecting your evil overlord boss any time now, is not to (a) tie him up again or (b) kill him or (c) torture him into giving up who he’s working for. No, it’s (d) fuck him stupid, fall in love with him, agree to give up your boss in exchange for unspecified benefits and incidentally, toss away the extremely cushy life you and your sister have had for the last fifteen years.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. There isn’t a well-trod cliché that goes unused here, and the plot was simply a vehicle for sex every few pages, usually at the most ridiculously inopportune moments.

The characters are tedious. One thing I loathe in crime stories – or any story really – is a conspicuous lack of competency in the hero/es/ines. These guys aren’t given much chance to show their stuff since we start the story after Adam has insinuated himself into the group (and thus never shown how he does, although we’re told “what he had shown the small group was that he could be a real hard-ass”.) Mammon’s supercriminal abilities never really appear either. However, since they both think with their dicks, it’s hard to imagine them being ‘super’ at anything, and certainly, we see no evidence of that here.

The villain, Lucifer (oy, what a name), is into kink – naturally, because he’s incredibly evil, and we all know that supervillains are all sadistic dominants, right? He also suffers from an inability to use contractions, and is amazingly unobservant – Adam’s bleeding rope burns and bandages don’t get a mention even once after Mammon attends to his boo boos. Lucifer is cardboard cutout material and only lacks a twirling moustache. He does have a nubile young virgin in his clutches – Mammon’s annoying and preternaturally mature fifteen-year-old sister who only exists apparently to make Mammon stick with Lucifer and meddle in her brother’s love life. She’s about as realistic as the rest of them. I honestly didn’t give a damn about any of these people by the end of the story.

There’s a lot of sex in this story, so if that’s something you prefer to plot, this might be more enjoyable for you than it was for me. However, the style is very distancing, so the sex failed to engage me. This is typical:

Mammon did it again and again, every stroke hard and precise. He was dominant and aggressive in his movements. It served to stimulate every fiber that composed my body.

Same as the rest of the story – telling, now showing – and telling with some rather strange descriptions, for example:

His mouth smashed into mine with an assaulting determination

Mouths smash a lot in this, but I have no idea what “assaulting determination” means.

The writing is padded to hell and back – lots of the narrator ‘watching someone doing something’ constructions – and the dialogue is stilted and unconvincing. It doesn’t help that the editing is lousy, with tense switches and someone forgetting which POV they’re in, so that Adam refers to himself in the third person in his own POV.

In short, I found this dull and unerotic. I can forgive unerotic for a good plot or strong characterisation, but this had none of that. The leaden thud of inauthenticity rings all through this, and sadly, I have to say I don’t recommend it at all. 2/10, because it’s spell-checked.