Ever since I started this BWWM journey in June, I’ve heard of Xyla Turner. I did not immediately get into her until after I got a Kindle Paperwhite, and made sure that her books were on Kindle Unlimited, but I got there eventually. And you know what I noticed? Xyla Turner only uses three quarters of her books to tell the actual story. The rest are previews for other books.
Whether I post this on Friday, or cram all my posts into next week, I want to take the time to do this author spotlight because I’ve swallowed a number of Xyla Turner books recently, and I feel like she deserves a post. I know absolutely no personal info about this author, so this post is written entirely on the strength of her works alone.
So the first Turner novel I read was Eli from the Across the Aisle Crossover series. Eli Richardson is a former Marine turned mogul who doesn’t feel like he needs a bodyguard. Too bad Brandy Cruise has ambitions of her own and a point to prove. Ultimately sparks do fly, but can Eli and Brandy get over themselves long enough to make something happen?
I’ve been seeing advertisements for Eli for months, but I think what ultimately got me to read it was Xyla Turner talking about a reviewer who felt like it wasn’t as good of a book as Trent, despite Turner herself saying that Eli and Trent are essentially the same person. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go with the reviewer on this one, Eli wasn’t that great even without the comparison.
Eli was too arrogant, and not in a charming way. He originally comes off a little bit sexist, and then when you get to know him he’s just super bossy, and not at all used to taking orders. Brandi isn’t very engaging, and a lot of her backstory is essentially nonexistent. Even the little bit of motive that she has is ultimately dropped in the end. It’s an outright disappointment from an author that is so hyped in her niche.
You would think that this would make me drop Xyla Turner, and never look back. Not quite. You see, Eli stops at about 75% of the way through the novel, and then Turner introduces a couple previews for her other books.
To be quite honest, I hate that, and I’ve made it the focal point of this post for a reason, but it was ultimately the saving grace in this instance. As a reader, it annoys me to have such a significant chunk of the book used for the promotion of other books. That’s not what I came here for. Previews should not come until the last 5% of the novel, and it generally shouldn’t be for more than one book. For Turner to have opening chapters of several books at the back end of an already disappointing novel, felt like she already knew Eli would be bad so she needed to do something to bring those disappointed readers back.
Which is how I ended up reading James from the Across the Aisle series. James Klinger meets Patricia Bond on a train station platform during his initial run to be a Maryland state Representative. Patricia turns him down for both a vote and a date. However, when, five years later, Trish turns up in James’ office lobbying for education reform, James sees it as a second chance.
I don’t remember half of what went down in this book, but I remember that I liked it from the moment that I read the preview. James was pretty sweet and relatively engaging, and Trish’s convictions were sound. Trish’s everything was sound, but I’m so far out from when I read it that I can’t remember half of what went on.
James takes place over the course of a few years even after the five year gap, because there is a point where it’s almost concurrent with Duncan. There is an issue that the couple does not agree on, but they can’t quite quit each other so they decide to do couple’s counseling to work through it. On one hand, that’s a very mature way to handle that situation, but, on the other, I could see that just not working out at all.
Ultimately, James – despite ending at 75% as well – is what got me to bother with continuing the series. Most of these characters are heavily interconnected, so they show up in each others’ stories, and Turner does write very compelling characters.
So I decided to step out of the series for the next book, and read Mr. Vega. Faith Jacobs wasn’t getting anywhere in her art career, and so turned to being a nanny until she got her big break. Logan Vega was not interested in a nanny of any kind, but his wife picked Faith because she thought Faith was the best fit. Soon Faith and Logan would come to agree that this was the best fit indeed.
This is the only book in this entire post where Turner uses about 90% of the novel to tell the story. I’m not sure if it’s because it was intended to be a standalone, or just because Turner decided that there was more of a story to tell here. Either way, I appreciated it.
So the big issue with Mr. Vega, if there is any, is that the first Mrs. Vega ultimately chooses the second. In other words, one wife has to die for the other to become the new wife. I’ll admit that it was done very well, but I personally think that there’s nothing wrong with going the polyamory route. As soon as I find out who is writing for that niche in the romance world, I’ll be reading all of it.
In any case, once you get past that, this story is really about growth. Ultimately Faith comes to Logan as a woman who has never made it on her own, and it becomes something that they ultimately have to work through. Logan comes to Faith as a man experiencing the loss of someone he had considered his soulmate, and having to raise their child by himself. His first wife has ultimately taken care of the second part, but it’s still a factor in the end.
I personally loved this book and how well Turner handled the subject matter. While some grammatical mistakes did make their way through, there were no cringey moments, and I don’t think that this story missed a beat.
I made my way back to the Across the Aisle series, and got myself ready for Trent. Trent Richardson is a Republican’s Republican with a taste for black escorts. Bernadette McCoy just wants to pay her school fees and start her law career in another state. One night turns to two, and the most unlikely of loves happens.
If anyone tells you Eli is just like Trent, slap them. They’re lying. Trent is the much better book by a long shot, and probably the more interesting cousin. I love the line they use in the Goodreads summary, “A man over fifty is afforded the privilege to say and do what he wants.” That sums up Trent Richardson in a nutshell.
On paper, Trent and Bernie should not have happened. Absolutely not. Their ages, their personalities, and their public personas, just did not match up. But when it comes to these Alpha Male romances, sex will have you considering all types of people.
I loved Trent, both as a novel and as a character. He was like a Chaotic Neutral, if not a Chaotic Good. The wildest things would come out of his mouth, and I wanted to be offended, but I just wasn’t for some reason. Being able to get inside of his head and see the whole of it, including the points where he realized his own mistakes, and that of the party he was supposed to embody, really helped the situation. Watching Trent change, but still ultimately be himself, was just awesome.
This is not to say that Bernie was not a compelling character, because she really was. She had her own mind, her own goals, and she wasn’t taking Trent’s bullshit lying down. I totally understood where she was coming from every time she walked out on Trent. I also understood that she ultimately needed to let Trent love her the best way he knew how.
Trent, of course, returned to Turner’s 3-quarter novel model, but I was used to it at this point, and the books had become worth it. Interestingly enough, Turner wrote an extended epilogue for Trent. However, I wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you’re super invested. I’ll get back to why later.
The final book in my Xyla Turner run was Duncan. Duncan Morgan is a man in search of a wife, and he thinks he’s found her in Portia Lane. Portia isn’t in search of anything, much less Duncan, but life has a funny way of showing you things that you wouldn’t expect.
I felt like this was the best book of the entire series, and I’m happy that I read it toward the end. This trend of male romantic leads who are on the spectrum is intriguing to me because, the two times I’ve seen it, these characters could have just as well been characterized as the “strong, silent type” who are actually really awkward when you get to know them.
I think what I loved most about this book is how realistic everything is. Portia’s reaction to Duncan is understandable before and after she learns what’s really going on with him. Duncan’s aversion to the idea of having children due to past trauma is largely on point. Trent and Bernie just trying to be good friends while Duncan and Portia figure themselves out was very relatable.
Being in Duncan’s head was what really put this book over the top. I loved Portia: her ambitions, her family drama, her everything. However, this book would have been crap if we’d never gotten Duncan’s POV.
I gave this book 5 stars, which is something that I rarely do, and is almost unheard of with the recent BWWM books I’ve read, since most of them are somewhat self-published and not professionally proofread the way that they should be. The fifth star is generally withheld for grammatical mistakes, but I guess Duncan was too good for me to try to remember if there were any.
The only thing I wish this book covered that it didn’t was how Trent and Duncan became friends, however, I’m okay with the fact that it didn’t. Turner does however give us a followup in Duncan’s Pride, which covers Portia’s pregnancy and Duncan’s acceptance of having children.
As a standalone novel, Duncan’s Pride is a poor sequel. A few of the scenes are recycled and out of order, and while it honestly makes sense for it to be on it’s own, it just doesn’t stand up well in comparison to Duncan. And I’m not surprised that I feel this way, because the extended epilogue of Trent wasn’t that great either, though all of the scenes were new.
So these two instances were a chance where Turner should have abandoned her 3-quarter model, as the extended epilogue would have better served as a short story on the back end of Trent. Duncan’s Pride might be too big to tack on as a short story, but the decision to reuse some of the scenes in James and Mr. Vega was ultimately in poor taste. Readers come to authors for new experiences not scenes they’ve already read.
Ultimately Turner’s 3-quarter model might be a great tactic for attracting readers to her other projects, but it fails in situations where Turner continues the story. To be quite fair, Duncan’s Pride is a great addition to Portia and Duncan’s story, but it’s a terrible sequel in that it doesn’t hold up to the kind of story-telling that we’re used to in Duncan. The extended epilogue for Trent is just awkward, regardless of how nice it was to gain some closure on certain things.
I’m not going to lie and say that this experience has put me off of Turner. While I don’t intend to get into any more of her series, I’m still eyeing the second book in the Mister series, Mr. West, as a possible read. I wasn’t a big fan of the preview, but I expect it will still be better than Eli.
All in all, I enjoyed discovering Xyla Turner as an author. I don’t think that I could have properly made my way through this part of the genre without reading at least one of her books, so finding that I could enjoy them was a big plus.
Next up, I’ll be catching up with Blue Saffire, and making a point about these shared universes that wasn’t going to fit here.
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All images courtesy of Goodreads.