The Devil by Daniela Barisone & Juls S.K. Vernet


@Archaeolibrary, @debbiereadsbook, @LuxLabBooks,

#MM, #romance, #erotica, #omegaverse (no mpreg), #western, #historical,

Skyler Reyes was a man, but also an Omega. Native americans used to call him Nadleehi, Two Spirits, but he never really accepted his dualism.


To flee from a world that saw him as a freak of nature, Skyler became El Diablo, an outlaw that did his best to allow his band of society-scraps to thrive.


Horace Lewis was an Alpha. Pinkerton, the detective agency, put him in charge of bringing Skyler to Carson City, dead or alive. He wasn’t the only one to have this task, John Jacobi was a dangerous headhunter that as well had Skyler on his hit list and was determined to be the one to catch him.

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«What I’m trying to say, Mr. Lewis, is that your Alpha status makes you more suitable for the role than our agents.»

Horace Lewis raised an eyebrow listening to Micah Walker’s words, the Pinkerton Sergeant who found him on the mountains in Vermont.

«I’m not a hound, Walker. I don’t know what the hell you want from me.»

The Sgt. raised his hands to calm him down and grinned, showing his tobacco stained teeth.

«Listen, Mr Lewis: I’m offering you a job that nobody else can do. What I’m saying is that the man we want is none other than El Diablo himself.» The man pointed at the wanted poster. «And he’s an Omega

«Bullshit,» Horace retorted, adjusting his white suit. «Unless you are telling me that El Diablo is a fucking woman, I don’t believe you. There’s no such thing as an Omega male.»

Walker sighed and opened the drawer of the mahogany desk on which he was sitting. He picked an old photograph whose sides were consumed by the hundreds of times it had been looked at, but still was in good shape. «This was taken in Carson City, probably just a memento. The photographer had to use two plates, since he was unsure that the first picture had come out well. This is the only time El Diablo has been portrayed in a photograph.»

He handed it to Horace, who grabbed it with white gloves, since he still believed that photographs were some kind of demonic device that stole people’s souls, but he had to come to terms with how useful they could be. In the photograph there was a man in his early twenties, so good-looking that any woman would have fancied him. He had a serious expression, but his dark eyes were mesmerizing. His skin was fair, his drawn back hair was clearly black and he had a 5 o’clock beard. His entire outfit was black, except for a foulard he wore around his neck that probably was ruby red, even if in the picture it was obviously grey.

He was the type of devilish scoundrel who could sweep you off your feet if you weren’t careful. A guy like that couldn’t be an Omega.

«Well, now I know what El Diablo looks like, but this doesn't make him an Omega.» Horace handed the piece of paper back, but the Sgt. shook his head in denial. Horace’s only option left was to keep the photo on his lap.

«Keep it, you’ll need it,» Walker said, scooting back up on his chair. «Here at Pinkerton, Mr. Lewis, we are proud to have the best detectives of America. So, believe me when I say that all information is correct. Skyler Reyes, known as El Diablo, is an Omega. We managed to chase him and his gang to Imlay, but after Winnemucca we lost them in Paradise Valley. At that point, they vanished. In Mill City, before Winnemucca, Reyes went into heat and they quickly disappeared to avoid being attacked while their boss was KO.»

It all made sense. If the outlaw really had gone into heat there were only two ways out of it: mating until the body could keep going or suffering atrocious pain while hiding. Unless El Diablo had an Alpha among his men, the second option was the most likely and probably the best one. If there were to be an Alpha, Reyes wouldn’t have been more than the boss’ dick pleaser. That’s how things worked, male or female you were.

«How long has it been?» asked Horace. Still not convinced.

The Sgt. thought about it while going through the paper he had on his desk, then he found what he was looking for: «Two weeks, the scent might not be intense, but for a nose like yours, it shouldn’t be an issue.»

«I’m not a hound,» growled Lewis, showing his canines, «I don’t know on which side you are, Walker, but I didn’t fight for the Union to end up being someone's problem solver.»

4 out of 5 (very good)

Independent Reviewer for Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!


A rare male Omega, Skylar becomes The Devil, an outlaw. Horace, an Alpha, is the Pinkerton tasked to capture him, and bring him in, dead or alive.


So, first things first.


This book is translated from Italian. English is my first (and only!) language and in places, it comes across as very proper. There is no slang, or abbreviations. It's all very correct, mind, just very PROPER. It does make for a slow read, for me, cos my mind was making it more . . .what's the word . . . . .common? I suppose that's the best fit. I kept translating the very proper English, into everyday.


It was, however, a very good read! I liked it, quite a lot.

Horace is Alpha, and a Pinkerton, and needs to bring in Skylar. But something about Sky's picture and then his scent throws Horace. He can't give the man up. Sky doesn't want an Alpha for his heat, he'll ride it out like always. But this heat is particularly bad, and Horace arrives at the right time. It's primal, their first mating.


I liked that things with Sky's gang aren't fully explained at first. It all comes out, just not in one go. It does take a little bit of time for things to fully be explained though, and I did manage to put some of the clues together correctly (for a change!)

I liked the world building, that Alphas and Omegas (both male and female) were dying out, given how the female Omegas were now treated. Betas are the dominant type. I liked that the war ran sorta along side the American civil war, that sort of time line.


It's well written and, proper speak aside, well delivered. It's short and steamy and both Horace and Sky get a say.


Passed a very enjoyable, if slightly longer than usual for this page length book, couple of hours.


I should mention, but it in no way affected my reading, is the formatting is slightly different to a standard form. It just looks different, is all. I know that some people have issues with stuff like that, and so I thought knowing ahead of time would make it easier. It certainly helped that I​ was given a heads up.


First I've read of these two authors, I will certainly read more.


4 good, but very proper, stars


** same worded review will appear elsewhere **

* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *

Personal

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Juls: Hi! I’m 39, I’m an Italian woman and when I was a kid I wanted to be Louisa May Alcott

Daniela: Hello! I’m about to turning 36, I’m an Italian woman from Milan


What do you do when you’re not writing?

Juls: I play videogames, knit, read and watch stuff on Youtube

Daniela: If I don't write, then you will find me drawing and coloring comics.


Do you have a day job as well?

Juls: yes, just your run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 in an office

Daniela: yes, I’m a comic colorist.


What was your favourite book as a child?

Juls: Little Women - Fun fact: I didn’t even know it was part of a series of four books. When I realized that I was overjoyed. I have always loved series and expanded universes.

Daniela: A series of books for girls with glow-in-the-dark covers that my mother bought me to encourage me to read. Unfortunately, I don't remember the titles.


When was that point in your life that you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?

Juls: When I started writing with Daniela and I told her ‘do you want to roleplay?’ and she said ‘nope, we’re going to write this thing properly and then we will see about publishing it’ and I was like *galaxy brain*

Daniela: When I sent my manuscript to a publishing house, and they asked me to write the sequel as well.


What book do you wish you had written?

Juls: Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims

Daniela: Il nome della rosa by Umberto Eco


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Juls: Look, I’m turning 40 this year, I don’t want to think about that =P

Daniela: Possibly alive.



Writing

When did you start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Juls: I started writing as soon as a learnt how to write. I was already writing fanfiction as a very young kid and I had already started to tell my own stories before I could even read.

Daniela: I started writing fan fiction around the age of sixteen with a classmate of mine. I wrote them for years, and my first book was born in 2010 (before that I only wrote short stories)


How did you choose the genre you write in?

Juls: I come from decades in fandom-y things. I am a slasher and I used to read a TON of manga. Moreover, there was little to no MM stuff back in the late 90s early 00s and LGBT+ literature focused heavily on Very Serious Topics. I wanted queer romance, so I started to write it.

Daniela: Same as Juls :D


Where do you get your ideas?

Juls: Literally everywhere. Daniela and I wrote an 11 books series all starting from a meme, to mention just one occurrence.

Daniela: I'm an avid reader. Because of my job I have to read so many books and comics, as well as movies and TV series, so it's completely normal for ideas to come from all over the place.


Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Juls: Of course

Daniela: Sadly yes: I didn't write anything between 2013 and 2019


Are you a planner or a pantser?

Juls: A bit of both

Daniela: Pantser


Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Juls: It’s hard to choose just one. I used to be an avid reader as a child and as a teenager and I couldn’t get enough of anything, so I would say that everything I have ever read has left a trace.

Daniela: Yes, Garth Ennis (The author of The Boys)


Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Juls: As a teenager I had this dream of publishing a book but didn’t really have the skills to write one from start to finish. I took part in some competitions and never got very far. So my first experience was being scouted together with Daniela when we wrote the whole JBI saga and published about half of it on Wattpad.

Daniela: It wasn't really a challenge because they responded to me quickly. It was my first time sending a book to a publishing house. The problem arose later with editing, but I finally got it done.


If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

Juls: If we are talking about ‘The Devil’, I would probably allow myself more time to read it over and over and try to get all the pesky little typos. If we are talking in general, then what Daniela said - I *really* want to go back to ‘L’Agenzia - Milano’ and expand on it.

Daniela: I would like to rewrite our second book “L'Agenzia - Milano” because it was meant to be a standalone. As a result, a lot of information that we included in later books are missing from this one.


Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Juls: Not really. It’s the other way round. We decide what to do with any book before we even write them. Moreover, we have the powerful tool of self publishing at our disposal, and that’s not because of a lack of offers.

Daniela: Honestly? No. I know the Italian market well, and I know what would be published or not, which is why I choose self-publishing when I write something unsuitable for the traditional publishing market.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Juls: We know our reading public, moreover Daniela is extremely cognizant in the ways of the Italian MM Romance market. Furthermore, we ferried over part of our reading public from our fandom days.

Daniela: The Italian MM Romance market is very limited (unlike FM Romance) also due to a linguistic issue (few people speak Italian in the world, many people speak English). So, we rely on a group of blogs for preview reviews, moreover I personally take care of the marketing part. We have our group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/LuxLab/) where we invite our readers and other writers to participate and exchange advice.


Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Juls: Daniela spoke about our upcoming publications in Italian. As for ‘The Devil’, well, it is our English-speaking debut, so we are a little bit anxious and a little bit excited and we really really hope that it will be well received!

Daniela: Well, that's a problem because we have so many coming out! I personally have two (one written with Juls and one with my other coauthor Koorime Yu).

With Koorime, “Il nuovo Prof” comes out in March, a story set in Italy between a high school student and his literature professor (don't worry, they're all over 18). There's a strong age gap, forbidden love, and a very long talk about the importance of consent.

With Juls, “Ombra” comes out in April. This is a story also set in Italy during the 90s. A superhero story that is intertwined with a background of the politics of the time (of which I am very passionate) including “Mani Pulite” and the whole history of the First Republic.


Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Juls: “The Devil” comes from Daniela’s interest in Old West stories, coupled with our first experience in writing the Omegaverse trope. As much as it is possible without going physically to the portrayed locations, we tried to remain true to the spirit of the story and to tread respectfully whenever necessary. We even spent a couple of hours trying to calculate how much time it would take to travel to Winnemucca by horse, but unfortunately this information is not available on Google Maps!

Daniela: Of course. Especially when it comes to our stories with an Italian setting, reality is a strong driver for our fantasy stories. But this is also true with our characters: in our JBI series, the character of Oliver Mount has some weird quirks derived from me (like drinking cappuccino diluted with water or tea with lots of lemon and tons of sugar).

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Juls: This was the first story I wrote with Daniela after our first series Just Beat It! It was difficult to switch registers! So I really liked the experience overall because it showed me I could go out of my comfort zone.

Daniela: My favorite part is writing sex scenes where there is a large emphasis on consent.


How did you come up with the title?

Juls: We wanted to use ‘El Diablo’ but there is already a book by that name so we switched it to English. I think it came from our obsession at the time for the Lucifer TV Series.

Daniela: I honestly choose the first thing that comes to mind.


Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Juls: I am the queen of sequels and spin-offs and honestly I love to explore the lives of secondary character etc, however at the moment we do not have plans to revisit the characters of ‘The Devil’.

Daniela: We've explored quite a bit of the characters in the JBI series, we'll definitely be returning to the characters in “L'Agenzia” to wrap up the series. After two series, though, I'd rather just focus on standalone books and characters I'll never see again XD

About themes, I'd like to write science fiction MM romances, which aren't popular at all, but I really like them.


Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Juls: Read a lot, write a lot and have fun.

Daniela: My main advice is to never get attached to what you write. A book is not a child, nor are the characters. This allows you to put yourself in the right mindset when working with an editor.


What does your protagonist think about you?

Juls: Probably hates us because of the painful heats, probably loves us because we gave him a handsome Alpha

Daniela: They sure think well, given how much they fuck.


Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author, his creator?

Juls: I highly doubt it

Daniela: I don’t think so XD


What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?

Juls: What Daniela said

Daniela: We've never received much criticism, to tell you the truth. The few negative reviews we have received (I'm speaking for our books in Italian) were about the subject of the book, in which the reader didn't feel comfortable (and this is completely legitimate).


What has been the best compliment?

Juls: “It felt like being there.”

Daniela: “Your characters are real.”


Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamour to be heard over the others?

Juls: In “The Devil”, honestly it’s Sháńdíín, as silent as he is, his whole demeanour screams pain, endurance and honestly a secret but bloodthirsty wish for revenge.

Daniela: We have two: Oliver Mount and Alessandro Russo. Oliver is one of the many main characters in the JBI series, who for some reason is everyone's favorite over the MC of the series. Alessandro, on the other hand, we call him “Il Piratissimo” (the super pirate) because he has an eye patch, a soft belly and is BAMF. All of our readers are in love with him (and consequently me because Alessandro is the male version of me, only I have both eyes).


What sort of writing environment do you create? I.e. music or not? Pen and paper or laptop/PC?

Juls: Laptop and possibly a quite environment

Daniela: Laptop, iPad and not music at all.


Is there a certain type of scene that is harder to write than other? Racy? Love? Action?

Juls: For me it’s action scenes, I find it difficult to make them feel vibrant and not static

Daniela: The sex scenes are the most difficult, as it is hard to make them exciting and different from each other.


Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Juls: Thank you so much!

Daniela: Thank you for reading our books and enjoying our stories!


Is there one subject you would never write about? What is it?

Juls: Mafia Romance, for the reasons Daniela says.

Daniela: Mafia Romance. As an Italian, I find it extremely disrespectful when I find love stories set in mafia stories. The Mafia is a cancer that must be eradicated. I find it ridiculous to write about love and sexy criminals, when in reality people like Totò Riina have dissolved children in acid and buried people alive in a concrete pour.


Do you have any strange writing habits? Like writing in the shower?

Juls: I write on public transport sometimes :D also I scribble little notes about plots and characters in the corners of every single piece of paper I can get my hands on.

Daniela: I love to write in bed from my phone.


How important are the names in your book?

Juls: I like to choose meaningful names and make interesting connections or references, but I like to keep them realistic as well.

Daniela: I just need them to be realistic names that fit the story. If they're weird, there has to be an explanation.


Did you choose them based on how they sounded or looked, or was it completely random?

Juls: Both,

Daniela: Both.


Do you read your reviews?

Juls: Yes, we read them.

Daniela: Yes, I read them and try to get an idea if something went wrong with the writing if there are negative reviews.


Do you respond to them, good or bad?

Juls: No, we don’t reply to reviews.

Daniela: Usually I don’t respond to them at all.


Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

Juls: Honestly it still stings every time, but you just take it and try to see if there is anything to learn from it. Then you just square your shoulder and go on with your stuff.

Daniela: This is a hot topic for me, as I have a sacred mission to educate young writers about it. Reviews are not for writers, they are for readers.

Negative reviews happen, but you can't blame the reader (who paid to read our book) for not liking it.

Rather, it's helpful to learn to read between the lines of these kinds of reviews and ask yourself, “What did I do wrong?” or “How can I fix this critical issue?”

I find this to be a healthier way to deal with criticism and work through it.


What is your least favourite part of the writing or publishing process?

Juls: Getting into ‘the zone’ for a good long writing session without distractions

Daniela: THE EDITING (because it’s boring)

We are an indie literary collective based in Italy. We met through our enjoyment of MM romances and we decided to team up and work together on our own projects. Our aim is to publish good quality MM novels and short stories in English and in Italian, taking care together of the different parts of the editorial process but as individual authors. We specialize in MM novels, but we don't mind other types of stories.


We are not a publishing house, and we do not accept submissions, as we are focused only on our own work.



Our team is made by:

Daniela Barisone (aka queenseptienna), Enys LZ, Fera Pennacchioni, Juls SK Vernet, Ester Manzini. We do act in specific roles in our team, but we are involved together in all phases of the process, and we support each other through it all. We see to everything from the artwork to the format and, of course, the text (in both languages).


What you will find in your books:

Cute boys, handsome men, BUTTS, romance, sex positivity, a good measure of feels, love in every shade of the rainbow, DID WE MENTION BUTTS, and happy endings (yeah, love always wins at the end). (also: butts).


What you WON'T find in our books:

Romanticised abuse, distorted bias against masculinity, toxic masculinity, sex degradation (that is not fun for all parties involved) and no modern cowboys. No, really, no modern cowboys.



Since February 2021, ​Chiara D’Agosto (aka babyjenks) is no longer part of Lux Lab.


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