Friday, August 11, 2017

What Makes a Compelling Villain?

Giveaway Alert!

In Barrel Proof, the third and final book of the Agents Irish and Whiskey trilogy, our heroes, Aidan and Jamie, finally confront villain, Pierre Renaud, an international terrorist who has wreaked havoc on Aidan’s life for the past year and a half. As AIW is a continuation series, Renaud is in play the entire way through, a series-long big-bad dropping bodies and attempting to murder Aidan, the loose thread in a long game that’s coming to an end. So what went into creating Renaud and making him a compelling villain? Three tips that can be widely applied to romantic suspense villains:

1.   The Right Time to Reveal – Renaud is the one pulling the strings in Single Malt (AIW1), but he does so through henchmen and lackeys. Renaud also makes an attempt on Aidan’s life at the beginning of Cask Strength (AIW2), but we still don’t see him. It’s not until Barrel Proof, when our heroes have chased him for months, that Renaud finally appears on page. By delaying the reveal, Renaud’s shadowy persona grows, along with Aidan’s and Jamie’s—and the readers’—fear and anticipation. And for a villain who’s played the chess match so well, it makes sense he doesn’t show himself until the final move. This is not to say the villain’s appearance should always come late. It depends on the narrative and genre. For example, in thrillers we usually meet the villain early. The point is, always ask the question.

2.   Know the OTT Line – Dr. Evil is over the top and on point for Austin Powers. He would not be on point for Agents Irish and Whiskey. The OTT line varies by narrative and must be considered. If a villain goes past the OTT line, it’s difficult to take the villain (and hero’s pursuit) seriously. Renaud works in AIW because he is a refined, master chess-player, a perfect foil for the Bureau’s best crime solver and best hacker. He does have a slight larger than life flair, but then so do all the AIW characters.

3.   Motive/Relation to the Hero – Most importantly, a compelling villain’s motive will be human/real and directly related to the hero. Personally, I find the most compelling villain to be a worst-case reflection of the hero. As revealed in Barrel Proof, Renaud is out for revenge after losing his wife. It’s a very human motive, and a parallel to Aidan. When Aidan lost his husband, he could have turned away from love, like Renaud, and solely focused on revenge. But neither his family nor Jamie would let him; that’s what separates him from Renaud, what separates the hero from the villain.

With those rules in mind, Renaud comes to life (and death) in the Agents Irish and Whiskey series, and in so doing, he brings our two heroes, Irish and Whiskey, together. Who are some of your favorite compelling villains?


FBI agents Aidan "Irish" Talley and Jameson "Whiskey" Walker can't get a moment's peace. Their hunt for the terrorist Renaud seems to be nearing an end, until a fire allows him to slip through their fingers—and puts Jamie's life in danger. When Jamie is nearly killed, Aidan learns how many forms loss can take.

Aidan says I love you just moments before learning that Jamie's been keeping a devastating secret about Aidan's late husband. How quickly trust and love can go up in flames. When Aidan requests a solo undercover assignment, Jamie hopes Aidan will find a way to forgive him.

But the explosions are far from over. Aidan's cover lands him in the heart of the terrorist's conspiracy, and Jamie will have to put his life, his career and his freedom on the line to save the man who has become his entire world. Partners, always is a promise he intends to keep.

RT Magazine - 4.5 Stars, Top Pick:

Barrel Proof is the third and final book in the Agents Irish and Whiskey series. After two books that follow the formation of a heated M/M romantic relationship, Barrel Proof starts off with a climax as secrets are revealed and the romance is tested. … Fans of the series will be equally challenged and delighted by the twists and turns Reyne takes. The book flows into a more action-oriented focus as the plot progresses, but Reyne ends the romance with just the right amount of heft to keep any reader of romantic suspense and M/M romance delighted.

Night Owl Reviews - 4.5 Stars, Top Pick:

Layla Reyne finishes her trilogy with an absolute bang! As sorry as I am to say goodbye to this fabulous pair I couldn't have enjoyed their ending more.

The Romance Reviews - 5 Stars, Top Pick:

BARREL PROOF is the emotional, high impact, AMAZING finale to the Agents Irish and Whiskey series.

Heart-breaking and heart-fulfilling, this book is the perfect finale to the series, and Layla Reyne now has a brand new reader completely addicted to her work. Without a doubt, absolutely recommended by me.


Aidan snatched his hands away. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“She ordered me not to.”
“Wrong answer.” He rocketed out of the chair, snatched a tumbler off the table by the door and hurled it at the opposite wall, glass shattering.
“Aidan, please, stop.” Jamie used a bedpost to haul himself to standing, swaying. He moved toward his partner, putting as little weight as possible on the braced leg, the pain excruciating but not as unbearable as the thought of losing Aidan. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
Aidan grabbed another glass and heaved again, keeping him back. “Why the f**k didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to break your heart until I knew the whole story.”
“Too late, baby.” He spat the cherished endearment, full of spite and hatred.
The verbal punch landed right where he intended, robbing Jamie of breath. “Irish, please,” he whispered hoarsely. “I’m sorry.”
Aidan shot forward, forcing Jamie back to seated. “I trusted you, with my back and my heart, and you lied to me for months.”
“I’m sorry, I thought I was protecting you.” Jamie reached for him, and Aidan batted his hand away.
“Wrong! We protect each other. Keeping critical information from me about our case, about Gabe and Tom, about my family, is not protection. It’s lying. And me not knowing the full story means I can’t protect them or you.” His shrill voice pained Jamie’s ears.
“Baby, please.”
“Renaud came after my husband, he came after my partner, he came after me. F**k, Jamie, he keeps coming after me, and now he’s coming after you too. And my brother and my best friend. Maybe even my goddaughter. You didn’t think I needed to know that? I could lose them. I could lose you! I told you what would happen if I loved and lost you.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Jamie stood and reached for Aidan’s arm again.

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