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REVIEW: Drawn into Darkness by Annette McCleave

Cover image of Drawn Into Darkness by Annette McCleaveDear Ms. McCleave:

I am beginning to think I’m one of the few readers out there who has not died from paranormal overload. I realize that in my deepest heart of hearts, I am a sci/fi fantasy geek of the highest degree, which is probably what is insulating me from said overload. I had a twinge of trepidation when I picked up your book and splashed below the title was the subtitle, “A Soul Gatherer Novel”. The fear of mid-series reading affects me, but I was relieved to realize that not only was this the first in a series, but this is your first published book.

Lachlan MacGregor has served out 409 years of a 500 year sentence to be a Soul Gatherer, an immortal that collects souls for Death and releases them to Angels or Demons. Lachlan ended up as a Gatherer due to his soul being in balance at the time of his death, shouldering blame for the brutal deaths of his family and distruction of his home back in 1603 (if you’ve done your addition, this story takes place a few years in the future). Lachlan blames his own arrogance and stupidity for the horror that befell his family. He’s matured and accepts his past without being robotically stoic. He’s using his soul gathering time to get himself to heaven to reunite with his family. Interestingly, Lachlan’s drive to be with his wife and children has faded over time, which makes the romance more plausible and negates any feelings of betrayal towards them Lachlan might have harbored.

With minimal explanation, Lachlan has been commanded by Death to guard Emily Lewis, a 14 year old girl, while continuing his soul gathering duties. Lachlan moved into Emily’s apartment building posing as a priest. Rachel Lewis, Emily’s divorced mom, is a talented graphic designer who is overworked, I’m guessing underpaid, is dealing with a total deadbeat ex and a defiant, petulant and generally miserable teenage daughter. None of this stops her from noticing the gorgeous priest that lives in her building, and I couldn’t help but think of the Sex and The City episode in which Samatha is lusting after “Friar Fuck”. Rachel tries to resist temptation and focus on the shitstorm that comprises her life, but when Lachlan offers to talk to Emily and actively provide some guidance she jumps on him…er, his offer.

The pace of the book is moves quickly and the world you’ve created is engaging. Friar Fu…uh, Lachlan is pitted against his long-standing enemy, Drusus, a lure demon that is bent on gaining power for himself and Satan by getting a hold of the Linen (the cloth Pilate used to wipe his hands on…I think. More on this below.) which was in MacGregor’s possession. Drusus is also targeting Emily after realizing that Lachlan was tasked with protecting her. Rachel and Lachlan’s relationship moves at a nice pace, and throughout the book the dialog was strong and flowed naturally, like this exchange when Rachel is trying to convince Lachlan to go to a hospital after an encounter with Drusus:

Men and their stupid macho bullshit. She joined him in the car, backed out of the parking spot, and zoomed toward the gated entrance. “O’Connor Hospital is the closest. I can have us there in a couple of minutes.”

“That’s if this death trap of a car doesn’t kill us first.”

She glanced at him.

His head lolled on the headrest and his eyes were closed, but he was smiling faintly.

“Was that a joke? You must be hurt more than I thought.”

When Rachel initially questioned Lachlan’s ability to heal quickly, she was easily hormonally distracted by his nice naked chest and her need for some serious sexin’. Anyone who doesn’t believe that ones’ thoughts and/or actions can be completely derailed hasn’t observed my daughters watching morning television.

Lachlan and Rachel get into it as a result of Lachlan’s superpowers, his inability/reticence to explain them and her anger at supposedly being deceived. Rachel has enough mettle to question what Lachlan has told her, and quickly comes to the conclusion (on her own) that above all he is her friend and ally. When the big reveal comes, Rachel doesn’t go off the deep end, which was a relief.

Rachel’s relationship with Emily was a tough pill for me to swallow. I can’t imagine the world of a working single mother, and Rachel’s actions were painful to watch but seemed on the nose for someone that is being tugged in a million directions. What bothered me was the lack of even an attempt at communication. Rachel was around enough to take her daughter by the ear and explain exactly what’s what, but didn’t do it. She let Emily sulk and pout and act out. Yeah, I’m the heavy of the household. Can you tell?

Not being of the Christian persuasion, I realized that people might be put off by the heavy iconographic imagery, regardless of their religious beliefs. The Soul Gatherer world depends heavily on a Christian belief construct, and the novel mixes Christian beliefs with romance and sexual relationships. While I would not call this novel religious, the amount of Christian references coupled with MacGregor posing as a priest could cause problems for some. The religious imagery and references were slightly distracting for me. When I think of other novels that delve into angelic/demonic/heaven/hell relations, I feel that many take a more neutral stance from a purely religious point of view.

I’m assuming the secondary characters will be having books of their own, and according to your website, Brian’s book is due out at the beginning of May. For me, this was a strong out-of-the-gate novel and a solid foundation for an engaging series. I’m interested to see what happens next. B

~ Shuzluva

This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link), in Kindle (non affiliate link), BooksonBoard (non affiliate link) or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free.

Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.


  1. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 12:45:05

    Nice review! I don’t read enough paranormals, and this one looks good. Love the “priest in disguise” set up.

  2. Jane
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 14:55:33

    Thanks for the review, Shuzluva. I’m on the fence about this book but will await your review of the second one. A strong second book can entice me to pick up the entire series. Not sure why that is.

  3. Chez
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 15:47:05

    Thanks for the review, this sounds interesting. You’re not the only one still loving the paranormals by a long shot.

  4. bam
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 17:15:33

    way to go, shuz! awesome review debut for you. :D

    and sounds like an interesting debut for Ms. McCleave.

  5. Julie D
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 19:17:01

    Thanks for the review. I remember seeing this at my local B&N and thinking it looked interesting. Then, of course, I promptly forgot about it. Heh. I’ll have to pick it up next time I’m there.

  6. Saranna DeWylde
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 21:43:10

    This looks great and what a comprehensive review. I’ll certainly be adding this to my TBR list.

  7. LizJ
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 10:59:49

    I think I’d might prefer the close connection with Christian beliefs instead of the typical everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mismash that often occurs in Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance. Sometimes it’s easier for me to grasp the world that’s being created when I can understand the “rules” of the worldbuilding, whether it’s a focus on Greek mythology, or Christianity, or Native American beliefs. If the author is going to do everything-but-the-kitchen-sink or is going to blend supernatural elements from multiple belief systems, I’d almost rather finding that out fairly quickly in a series, instead of getting into the series and then finding out later.

  8. Shuzluva
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 19:49:45

    @LizJ: I believe that if an author is doing his/her job, one should be able to understand the worldbuilding, whether it’s developed through preexistng beliefs or has sprung from an authors mind like Athena.

    When it comes to worlds that are built on actual religious structures, I personally can have difficulties with it. Regardless of whether the construct is based on my own religious belief or not, theology has a tendency to take me out of romance. For me, this book tread close to that line in some instances.

  9. Shuzluva
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 19:56:39

    @Jane: I hear you. When the sophmore effort knocks it out of the park, I’m always hooked.

  10. Heather
    Jun 17, 2011 @ 10:14:13

    I tried to read this last night, but couldn’t get more than 10 pages into it. I tried skimming to see if it got any better and would make me want to try again. It didn’t.

    Although I didn’t read it all, I was bothered by a) the disguised as a priest b) treatment (personality?) of Death c) boinking while daughter was in danger and d) weird ending.

    (It was a thorough skim.) From the bit I read, the I just couldn’t mesh the Death mythos (which coulda been interesting) with the God/Satan stuff.

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