Cover Design: Hang Le
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.
For 21 days she held on.
But on Day 22, she would have given anything for the sweet slumber of death.
Because on Day 22, she realizes that her only way out means certain death for one of the two men she loves.
A haunting tale of passion, loss, and redemption, The Paper Swan is a darkly intense yet heartwarming love story, textured with grit, intrigue, and suspense. Please note: This is NOT a love triangle.
A full-length, standalone novel, intended for mature audiences due to violence, sex and language. Subject matter may be disturbing for some readers.
“Who are the last people you think of before you die? Those are the ones you loved the most.”
I love the blurb for this novel because it doesn’t tell you anything. You go into this book blind, and it works. Please go into it blind with just the blurb because it makes for such a tremendous reading experience with this book. It was a cold, dark, and wild ride of a story, and I let it take me away. I didn’t think too far into anything, and just let myself be swept along with the current. Leylah Attar will weave you into the story beautifully starting from the very first page.
“There are no good guys or bad guys. Everyone has a reason.”
This is more than just a story. The romance is timeless, the angst is heart-beatingly good, but most of all…most of all, it’ll show you what people are capable of. What anger, resentment, revenge will do to you, and what living above the clouds, having money, and living with little thought to others will do to you. These people become entwined and while their journeys have them meeting, they’ll all be taken down their own path. For what people suffer through, what horrible things that happen in this world, they shape us. Ms. Attar shows that in a poignant manner; that a loss of stability, loved ones, control, will change a person. It can make them cold and unforgiving, but that underneath they’re still the same person. Your heart will ache for the paths of these people in the story. Their injustice will unravel you…how is life so unfair sometimes? How can people keep moving forward when they’re continuously being pushed back?
“We are the question that hasn’t been answered yet, a hiding place that hasn’t been found yet, a battle that hasn’t been fought yet.”
I’m being vague by not mentioning character’s names, and that’s for a reason. It was sad, and brutal, and lovely, and forbidden, and wild. Life lessons really are abundant in this novel for you’ll see how things can escape from your grasp. Mistakes can be grueling and consequences for actions can strip possessions, and those consequences can sometimes keep dishing out even years later. Think of one tiny little rock in a pond, and the ripples it induces. Whether someone is rich with money or not, both sides have their own woes. And sometimes it has nothing to do with either. Sometimes it’s evilness that can strip people of things. Salvation is all they’re looking for, but each person’s version is different.
“When the world has always been taken from you, when it’s constantly tilted and shifted under your feet, it’s hard to attach permanence to the things it gives.”
The only thing that lowered the rating for this novel was the change in point of view from the first person to third person in certain parts. The third person parts were harder to envelop myself into, maybe because of the emotionality and rawness of this book I wanted to be able to be closer during all parts, but that could simply be me; I found myself wanting to get back to those first-person parts. This standalone, full-length novel was beautiful in so many ways. It served to capture everything it set out to. A chilling, unforgiving, and peaceful ride of a story.
“Sometimes everything gets dismantled so something better can be pieced together.”
The light from the hallway outlined Damian’s form, casting a sinister shadow over my bed. I wanted to hide somewhere it couldn’t reach me.
He placed a tray on the bed and pulled up a chair. He left the lights off, but I smelled food. He’d brought me food.
I approached the tray cautiously, keeping my eyes averted. I remembered what had happened the last time I’d defied him, and I was going to be a good girl. I was going to be a good, conditioned girl. I could barely contain the hunger pangs that were rolling through my stomach in short, tight contractions, but I forced myself to slow down, to behave, to be civil and not bury my face in the plate like I wanted to.
It was some kind of fish, simply grilled, with rice on the side. God, it smelled good. There was no cutlery, which was fine, because all I wanted to do was rip into it, but I knew he was watching, so I pinched off a piece with my fingers, and the oil and cooking juices mingled with the rice.
“Not so fast,” he said.
Oh God, not again. Please just let me eat.
I wondered what he’d do if I licked my fingers.
I could taste the fish so bad.
“Stand up,” he instructed.
I swallowed the dry lump in my throat, the one that wanted to scream and cry and whimper and beg. I swallowed the tasteless, fishless lump and stood.
“Take your clothes off,” he said from the shadows.
I had been expecting it. Sooner or later, one way or another, it always came down to their dick. Suck it, lick it, stroke it, fuck it.
Because my mother didn’t love me.
Because my father hit me.
Because my teacher fondled me.
Because I was bullied.
Because my wife left me.
Because my kids don’t talk to me.
That’s why I drink.
I can’t stop eating.
I’m addicted to sex.
I cut myself.
I pull out my eyelashes.
I do drugs.
But it’s not always enough, you know? And sometimes, it spills over because you can’t control it, because you need to make others feel your pain, your hurt, your rage, because it’s tough to walk around all scarred up, in a world full of slick billboards and bright, smiley toothpaste ads and shiny, happy people. Life’s not always fair. So suck it, lick it, stroke it, fuck it.
I didn’t care what category of dysfunction Damian fell in to. Sometimes it’s because I’m just pure evil, you know? I kept my mind on the prize as I unbuttoned my top. It might have looked like I was staring at the floor, but I was eating rice and fish with my eyes. It’s amazing—the things you can do in survival mode. I stepped out of my pants and stood before him in my bra and panties. Agent Provocateur. Midnight Captive Collection.
What inspired you to write this story? It’s so different from your debut novel, 53 Letters For My Lover.
The Paper Swan is definitely a darker and grittier read, but the inspiration is the same. I like playing the devil’s advocate. Can you root for someone whose actions you would never condone? Can you sympathize with characters that take you out of your comfort zone and make you wrestle with an impossible dilemma? In 53 Letters, I brought you face to face with a woman who is cheating on her husband. In The Paper Swan, it’s a kidnapper. I try to present both sides of the story and let the reader decide.
Your writing comes across as vivid and alive. There were many times when I felt myself completely immersed in a scene. Is there any particular approach to your writing?
My biggest challenge with The Paper Swan was the setting. I wanted it to be as authentic as possible so I spent the first few months immersed in research. I doubt if I will ever be able to forget the things I saw and read about the cartel, some of the Mexican prisons etc. At the same time, I enjoyed the lighter aspects – the food, the music, the culture, the beaches. I feel like it’s time to pack my flip-flops and head out that way!
What are you working on next? Anything you’d like to share?
I have a couple of ideas, but I’m taking a bit of breather before I start writing again. I like that down time, because good things happen when you stop pushing yourself and allow your mind some free time. You stop to smell the roses and get inspired again.
♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦
Leylah Attar writes stories about love – shaken, stirred and served with a twist. When she’s not writing, she can be found pursuing her other passions: photography, food, family and travel. Sometimes she disappears into the black hole of the internet, but can usually be enticed out with chocolate.