New and Debut: Dal MacLean


I'm really happy to welcome Dal MacLean for the regular New and Debut spotlight. She is the author of Bitter Legacy, mm romantic suspense, which was just announced to be a Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the Mystery category! Read on to see what inspires her to write her stories and what you can expect from her in the future. There is also short excerpt from Bitter Legacy for you to enjoy. 

Meet Dal

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?

First of all thank you for having me! To answer the question (that sound is me sucking my teeth in a considering fashion)… I don’t think I ‘decided to become a romance writer’ so much as deciding to TRY to become a romance writer. I’m still not really sure I’ve succeeded. I’ve been fascinated to find that romance has a formula and structure that maybe I veer from slightly. Without meaning to. Not deliberately. Or anything. It’s because I don’t know any better. Honestly.

I do know that the kind of romance I love reading, has genuine, believable conflict at the heart of it, which must be overcome to win the happy ending. I think my first (and so far only) book, ‘Bitter Legacy’ was a bit of a 50/50 hybrid really of mystery and romance. Mystery, I discovered (it was my first try at that too) has its own structure that readers expect to see, and trying to wrestle both structures into one coherent, balanced story isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I loved the process though, in a masochistic kind of way.

Before this, my training and experience were in writing, but not creative writing. I hadn’t done any of that since school. I decided, on a whim, to give fanfic a go and discovered that, while I was using, in principle the same basic skills (grammar, punctuation etc) it was a totally different thing. I didn’t do much of it, but I loved the challenge and reward. I think MM is different again from fanfic. 

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?

The person who first got me in to reading (and writing) M/M is still right at the top – Josh Lanyon. I bought ‘Fatal Shadows’ and was blown away because it read like a top-of–the-line mainstream mystery, but with gay leads and a turbulent, charismatic romance at its core. I thought it was incredible, and then I bought the rest of the Adrien English series and I became A Fan. A Fanyon in fact. She writes so beautifully and intelligently and she’s not afraid to make her characters genuinely flawed, and her conflict genuine and not easily resolved. I crave that in romance, and, really, in any book I read. It’s that ability to make what’s probably essentially wish fulfillment feel believable and real that gets me every time

Harper Fox, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale are such superb, skilled writers they kind of knock me on my arse every so often, with sheer envy. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have them in this genre. I recently discovered and love Elin Gregory & Roan Parrish. I loved the Captive Prince series by C P Pacat – that felt like something a bit different. And because I like historicals (history was what I studied) KJ Charles. And I still want to read Alexis Hall, Rhys Ford and CS Poe because so many people have told me how good they are. But right now, if I read, I don’t write, so…

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?

I don’t know, to be honest. I read and a watch mainstream mystery and detective fiction – mainly UK stuff, though I love US TV as well. But I also love historical books and TV –– medieval to Elizabethan is my favourite. And I like sci-fi and fantasy too.

I’ve always admired Agatha Christie particularly, as a mystery writer, not just because she emphasized characterization with actual flaws included, but because she was never afraid to make an unpopular decision for the good of the book. By which I mean, sometimes the culprit was a person you liked and understood. That made her work more messy, far less predictable, and far more exciting, and I think it’s one reason it’s had such longevity. I also love Hollywood film noir and Raymond Chandler etc -- laconic humour, lovely use of language and flawed larger than life characters.

In MM, possibly Josh Lanyon, because I love what she does so much. But also because I’ve never been taught to write formally (as in taking a course or anything) having an editor as skilled and insightful as Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books was a real revelation. Nicole’s taught me such a lot.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)

I think probably contemporary and for the time being anyway, mystery, though, as I said, mystery was a genre I never tried before Bitter Legacy. I have an MM ghost story/romance, shoved down the back of the sofa, but it’s not a traditional romance structure so I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I don’t have the nerve to try historical because I research everything so obsessively I’d spend months identifying historically accurate curtain fabric. So contemporary it is.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.

Ah. I can’t really because I’m still writing and forming it. But at this point I can say it’s in the ‘Bitter Legacy’ universe, but not a sequel. It’s set in present day London, and the main protagonist/narrator is not a policeman. That may all change tomorrow if I panic and throw it in the bin.

In the meantime though, there’s Bitter Legacy. It’s a fairly complex police procedural/whodunnit on the one hand (set with the Metropolitan Police in London) and a focus on a challenging romantic relationship on the other. Everything is seen through the eyes of the narrator, DS James Henderson, but bear in mind that, just like all of us, Jamie sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick when it comes to interpreting other people’s behaviour. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it!



Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance.

When the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company.

Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity.

But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.

Purchase links: Amazon


Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.


The door on the left at the top of the first flight of stairs appeared identical to the one on the ground floor—paneled and freshly glossed white. But though James knocked on it, ignoring the intercom-man’s instructions, and though he definitely heard voices behind it, it remained stubbornly closed. He knocked again. The door didn’t open. The man had meant what he said.

James had no real reason to feel as pissed off as he did. The man inside couldn’t know he was a detective investigating a murder. He wasn’t purposely disrespecting the police. Yet, as James lurked, frustrated, in the plush hallway, stealing irritated glances at his watch, he found himself almost deliberately pushing himself to conclusions.

The visitor in there had an appointment. And the man who’d answered had said there’d be another right after James.

So. What kind of men were most likely to have serial “appointments” at expensive residential addresses? High-end hookers.

He glowered at the pristine door, copper’s imagination running with it.

Fuck—the last thing he needed was a vice collar right now, but he couldn’t exactly ignore a high-class prostitute operating under his nose.

Or maybe—he could. He really didn’t have time for this.

He frowned fiercely, slumped against the opposite wall. Then, without warning, the door to the flat opened with a shocking blaze of light, and a man slipped out into the hall.

James, as he straightened, could hardly fail to notice the guy was flamboyantly good looking—all extravagant cheekbones and pouty lips, like a catwalk model—and to all appearances, extremely pleased with himself. As he strutted past, he gave James a quick once-over and a knowing smirk, then he trotted down the stairs and out of sight.

James stared after him. He didn’t look like the kind of man who paid for it, but, if police-work had taught him anything, it’d be that people rarely obliged by fitting their stereotypes. Whatever the guy had been there for, he’d emerged appearing very satisfied indeed. James’s suspicions solidified.

“Sorry about that, mate. Overran a bit.”

James snapped his head back to stare at the figure now standing in the open doorway of the flat, assessing him in turn.

The man was startling. Caucasian, round about James’s height, but with a more slender build and thick, dark, shoulder-length hair in silky, loose curls. He had a fine bone structure, straight black brows and large, dark eyes whose color James couldn’t determine in the dimness of the hall. If the guy fucked for money, James thought in those first moments, he could fully understand how he could afford to live in Selworth Gardens.

Suddenly James felt very aware that, while he was wearing a very nice Paul Smith suit from his old life, it needed a good pressing. And after only three hours’ sleep, he could do with the equivalent himself.

The man smiled brilliantly, which rendered him even more startlingly attractive.

James found himself fighting not to blush. It was his fatal emotional tell and he hated it—a lifetime of self-discipline, and he still colored up like an adolescent.

“Hey,” the man said. “Come in.”

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