Guest Post: Variable Onset by Layla Reyne

I am excited to welcome Layla Reyne on Queer Books Unbound today. Layla is here to talk to us about her latest stand-alone novel, Variable Onset. Please give her a warm welcome!


In Variable Onset, my new standalone m/m romance, “Criminal Minds” meets “Bones” in a mystery whodunit with a will-they-or-won’t-they side of romance. It features Lincoln Monroe, a prickly FBI instructor, and Carter Warren, a brash, flirtatious former student, who must go undercover together—as husbands—to catch a notorious serial killer.

I’d love to share a bit about the research that went into Variable Onset. To catch the killer known as Dr. Fear—they murder according to their victim’s worst fears—Lincoln and Carter rely on tried and true investigative techniques and also on forensic genealogy. Not gonna lie, this one was a knowledge stretch for me. Living in Silicon Valley, the hacking featured in Agents Irish and Whiskey and Fog City isn’t a big stretch for me. Ditto the biotech angles and all the Bay Area locations. And as a lawyer myself, I either knew or could easily find or ask a friend about the legal aspects of the cases Nic and Cam tackle in Trouble Brewing. Forensic genealogy though… WAY outside my wheelhouse. But I had a lot of fun getting to know more about it.

We were on vacation in September 2018 when I started noodling a new romantic suspense idea. In a weird twist for me, I knew my characters and the romance tropes I wanted to use first but I was floundering for the suspense hook. Until my husband reminded me of the Golden State Killer case and how forensic genealogy played into capturing a serial killer that had been at-large for decades. Hooked, I dove into the research. Forensic genealogy involves looking at more than just traditional forensic evidence like DNA—because often times that evidence does not exist in cold cases—and using archives and observations to draw connections and discover genetic relevancy between and among populations. Which can lead to case clues!

It’s not a field for the easily frustrated. It often involves taking a leap of faith to follow a lead that may go nowhere, but if one is skilled at finding the needle in the archival haystack—photos, hospital records, census data, and more—and evaluating those resources in conjunction with observations of genetic relevancy within a population, a suspect pool can be significantly narrowed. Especially in a population that is somewhat isolated, like the fictional town of Apex in Variable Onset. When Lincoln and Carter arrive in Apex, it doesn’t take them long to notice a higher than usual incidence of early onset gray hair. Not common and there’s evidence that it can be linked to certain genetic variations. That gives Lincoln and Carter a place to start, and from there, they (and me) are off and running.

So how did I distill all that info into (hopefully) relatively easy to follow science in Variable Onset? One, I stepped away from it for six months. That distance allowed the science to settle into the developing plot and helped me forget some of the super technical details. I’d say I retained seventy-five percent of the info I learned and that’s what made it onto the page. Two, my husband and another close friend, both biologists, helped get details right, and the latter is a romance reader as well, and she helped get the balance right too. Did it pass the James Bond test? I hope so! Let me know in the comments if you agree!



To catch a killer, a special agent and his former student will need to get close—to their target, and each other. Layla Reyne returns with a stand-alone romantic mystery.

When the serial killer known as Dr. Fear seemingly reemerges after a cooling-off period, Special Agent Lincoln Monroe wants on the case. He knows his research on the calculating criminal, who targets couples and uses their worst fears to kill them, could prove invaluable. But nothing can prepare Lincoln for the agent waiting for him in Apex, Virginia: a brash and cocky former student. Carter Warren is everything Lincoln is not, and somehow everything he wants. And they’ll be going undercover. As newlyweds.

For Carter, seeing Lincoln again—and flustered to boot—pokes his raging bear of a crush something fierce. He thinks posing as lovers will provide the perfect bait for Dr. Fear. But pretending to be married forces them to confront fears of their own…like giving in to the very real chemistry between them.

With evidence pointing to the possibility of a copycat killer, Lincoln and Carter will have to race to separate truth from fiction. But when another couple goes missing, finding the killer will test every ounce of their training, skills and the strength of their bond like never before.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

Release Date: May 4, 2020
Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Google

And don’t miss any of these books from Layla Reyne and Carina Press:

Dine with Me

Single Malt (Agents Irish & Whiskey #1)
Cask Strength (Agents Irish & Whiskey #2)
Barrel Proof (Agents Irish & Whiskey #3)
Tequila Sunrise (An Agents Irish & Whiskey novella)

Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1)
Craft Brew (Trouble Brewing #2)
Noble Hops (Trouble Brewing #3)


LaylaReyneRITA Finalist Layla Reyne is the author of the Agents Irish and Whiskey, Fog City, and Changing Lanes series. A Carolina Tar Heel who now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, Layla enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart-pounding romance. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. Layla is a RWA® RITA® Finalist in Contemporary Romance (Mid-Length) and Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Genre: Contemporary Genre: Mystery Genre: Romance Genre: Suspense Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Carina Press Tag: Age-Gap Tag: Forced Proximity Tag: Guest Post Tag: Military / Uniform Tag: Pretend Relationship Trigger Warning: Abduction Trigger Warning: Murder Trigger Warning: Physical Assault Trigger Warning: Violence

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