Sebring: Unfinished Hero, Book 5

SebringAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Sebring
Series: Unfinished Hero
Order: #5
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Nick Sebring has issues. Born feeling like an outsider in his own family, growing up under the shadow of a brother who could do anything, Nick isn’t that great of a guy. But when this culminates with Nick lashing out to hurt his brother through the woman he loves, Nick turns inward and makes some decisions about the man he intends to be.

And as he does this, he falls in love and truly learns the man that he’s grown to be.

When his love is murdered right before Nick’s eyes, Nick knows he has to avenge her. He knows how he’s going to avenge her. And he has no qualms using Olivia Shade to exact that vengeance.

Olivia Shade has grown up on the outside of her family too. Her problem is that they don’t want her outside. They want her all the way in, right under their thumbs. She pays the price for seeking escape and learns her lesson—she’ll never see a dawn where she wakes up free.

Then she meets Nick Sebring, and even as she fights it, the hope that died years ago starts to blossom. She can find love. She can have a man of her own. She can be happy. She can be free.

Olivia hopes while Nick schemes.

However, as Nick peels back the layers of all that is Olivia Shade, he finds something surprising. He understands its fragility. He falls in love with its beauty. He seeks to protect it.

But he forgets to protect his Livvie from one thing: Nick Sebring.

Review:  This was definitely one of KA’s sweeter books, which seems odd as this entire series falls on the darker side as far as her characters go.  I enjoyed it mostly because it was a sweeter romance than many of the other KA books I’ve read recently.

Livvie isn’t one of my favorite characters, but she isn’t a cotton candy character that melts in light drizzle.  She has something of a quiet strength, but she isn’t bold and does tend towards doormat status, at least within her family.

I really enjoyed Nick’s character in that he isn’t over the top bossy and the softer side he does have is pretty awesome.  He still had his quirks, but nothing that was overt enough to take away from the rest.

It was nice seeing the other characters from this series pop up, and I was overjoyed with the fact that they were just sort of pop up notes rather than whole additions that weren’t necessary.  There was just enough page time with most of them to get that taste, but we weren’t forced to overindulge in them as this was Nick and Livvie’s story, not theirs.  It was a nice, clean finish to this series.

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With Everything I Am: The Three, Book 2

With Everything I AmAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: With Everything I Am
Series: The Three Series
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars


Blurb:  One night, Callum is driven into the woods by instinct, an instinct to protect. In the form of wolf, he meets a young human child who he is instantly drawn to in a fierce way he doesn’t quite understand.

Sonia Arlington has lived a lonely life. She has certain abilities that make her strange and she has a rare disease that, if untreated, could kill her. Her father makes her vow that she will never let others discover her abilities. This forces Sonia to stay distant, always guarding against exposure.

Intelligence leaks that Sonia is Callum’s human mate. He is now King of the Werewolves and has war on his hands. He’s forced to claim his mate and integrate Sonia into a world that is strange and frightening.

As Sonia attempts to adjust, Callum attempts to cope with the knowledge that his mate is mortal. He will have her beauty and gentleness only the length of a mortal life making their union unbearably bitter even as Sonia makes it unbelievably sweet.

Review:  More often than not, I really enjoy Kristen Ashley, but when I don’t, there are very specific reasons and this book is a classic example of the things I really don’t like about her writing.  If anything, this one is probably the worst offender.

What is classic KA is the alpha male.  In this case, that is literally as Callum is a werewolf.  But there is a gigantic difference between a sexy, bossy alpha male and what essentially amounts to ugly abuse.  Sometimes that line can be thin, but there is a definite line.  KA likes to skirt that line and when she gets too close to it, I don’t usually like those male characters.  For Callum, she went flying over that line with a jet pack.

This book basically states that if you are a female, feel a little different or lonely, that it is okay if the one person that makes you feel less alone treats you like trash and can run roughshod over your feelings, wants and desires.  That it is okay to be treated as an object and set aside when you are not currently in need.  That it is okay to push you into things that you don’t want, but since they make you feel not alone, that it is a privilege to have to put up with the crap to get the not alone.  That is force and coercion and that is not sexy.  It is not romantic.  It is not sweet.  It is ugly.

There is also a very, very thin line when it comes to violent sexual situations.  There can be, if it is handled well and carefully, consensual sexual violence, but is should be dealt with carefully, otherwise it is just violence.  What happens in this book really isn’t dealt with carefully in any way.  It edges in places to being rape, even if Sonia eventually gives in.

It doesn’t matter that there are parts of the romance in this book that are incredibly sweet.  It is like telling the abuser that it is okay that he beat the crap out of his wife because he apologized and gave her flowers afterwards.  Making the arrogant and controlling attitude seem to be a cultural thing in the werewolf community and that it is just a misunderstanding between the different cultures is just a way make something ugly look not so ugly.  You stick flowers in a turd, it is still gong to be a stinking turd.

Unlike so many other KA books, I had a visceral dislike of Callum and found him a truly ugly character, no matter what good parts were tacked onto what is essentially a pretty abuser.  So no, I really did not like this book at all.

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The Will: The Magdalene, Book 1

The WillAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Will
Series: The Magdalene
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Early in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.

While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.

But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.

Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.

Review:  This is the closest I’ve ever come to not finishing a Kristen Ashley book.  Not because the story itself was bad or anything but because I really couldn’t stand the main female character.

Josie is the most ridiculous character I think that KA has ever written.  Her ladies are usually fun and quirky and a bit crazy, but in a really cool way.  Josie was so not any of those things.  The way she was presented kept making me think of a character that was either a literal alien from another planet or this person that got yanked out of a time period hundreds of years ago and dumped into the modern era.  Since neither of those are the actual plot of the story, that makes her make no sense.  She seems to know absolutely nothing about how the real world works.

I also had some major cringe moments when she first started interacting with the kids.  Sorry, but someone meets my kids for the very first time and starts correcting their behavior and telling them what they should do and how they should behave is so not happening.  It makes her seem as if she is this holier than thou person.  The fact that Jake, the kids father, just sits back and lets her do that lessons my opinion of him as a parent.

She not only jumped right in on the kids, but with just about every single other character she ran across, yet everyone thought it was sweet and cute instead of thinking she was this uppity bitch that thought she new better than everyone around her.  Her thought and speech quirks upped that level of snobbery even higher.  You’d think she was royalty with the way she behaved around everyone.

Josie had the added background of being severely abused, not just as a child, but in a romantic relationship.  The personality that she has and her reactions to people just don’t really reflect that.  She has no issue whatsoever of having a badass get up in her face when he is angry, has no problem with him having an incredibly violent hobby/career with the boxing and, other than her lack of forming any real romantic relationship, she has zero real baggage from that history.  Absolutely, people deal with trauma in various different ways, but there just weren’t ANY kinds of triggers or issues at all and that just didn’t add up for me.

I’ve seen klutzy characters before that made that trait a cute aspect of who they were.  With Josie, it didn’t fit with this super elegant, appearance is everything, height of fashion person.  Instead of being cute, it just came across as awkward and weird.

Trying to mesh all of those really random personality aspects created this incredibly confusing and unbelievable character that made no sense at all and didn’t give the reader anything to actually like about her.

I did end up reading the whole thing, though it was so close at a few points.  I liked the story itself and it was on the sweeter side, but it was really difficult to overlook how much I disliked Josie to be able to enjoy the rest.  I really kind of didn’t even like the kids in this one as much either.  In all, this just snuck in on the okay level rather than the didn’t like, but only barely.

Hold On: The ‘Burg, Book 6

Hold OnAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Hold On
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #6
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Since she was young, Cher Rivers knew she was not the kind of girl who got what she wanted. A girl who could hope. A girl who could dream. She knew a happily ever after just wasn’t in the cards for her.In love for years with the last bastion of the ‘burg’s eligible bachelors, Garrett Merrick, Cher worked hard at making him laugh. Being one of the guys. Having him in her life the only way she could. All this knowing he was in love with another woman.The Merrick Family is known for loving deep. So when Cecelia Merrick was murdered, it marked the Merricks in a way none of them recovered. Both Cecelia’s children found love. Both turned their backs on it. But Garrett “Merry” Merrick knew in his soul the woman he divorced years ago was the one for him.Until the night when Cher took Garrett’s back and things changed. The Merrick family loves deep. They also protect fiercely. And with his eyes finally open, Garrett sees the woman who truly is for him and he goes after her.

Review:  Way better than book 5.  The characters and story in this book are more along the lines of what we see in the majority of the Colorado Mountain or Dream Man series than what is seen in most of this series, which is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned.  There is a bit less on the suspense side than in those series, but the rest is similar.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this one as I wasn’t a fan of Merry in Rocky’s story, Golden Trail.  I also wasn’t so sure about Cher’s character from what bits about her showed in previous books either.  Merry’s character is much better presented here and Cher actually comes out way stronger than I expected, so I was relieved.

The suspenseful aspects in this book seemed a little bit more random and almost forced into the romance parts to give it that extra we expect, but they just kind of frustrated me a bit.  The part of the story line about Ethan’s dad was really intriguing initially, but then it kind of falls flat.  Same thing with the ex, Mia.  Either of those would have been fine, if lacking a more fully rounded out line, but I wasn’t a big fan of the major drama really getting only lightly touched on and then, bam!  That is where the forced feeling kind of blew up because it just didn’t make a ton of sense.  It is as though there needed to be a tie to the first book, so there was this random thing that got tossed it there to make it work.

I loved the romantic line of this story, though.  The Merry and Cher characters came out way more balanced in their relationship than we’ve seen from other pairings in this series and their story absolutely worked for me.  Both having their issues, but neither one really having those issues become a huge thing for either of them just emphasized their strength as characters.

It was also really great, since this was the last book in the series, that we kind of got a last taste of all the other characters in this series and how their lives ended up.  Totally teared up several times to the point where I couldn’t see the words for a bit in places, it was just that awesome.  It was a great way to finish this off.

Thoughts on Author Kristen Ashley

Reading Heaven and Hell, by Kristen Ashly opened my eyes to something that has been bugging me with the last several KA books I’ve read.  It took a while because I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but with this book, I finally figured it out.

While she writes these amazing, badass alpha males, they are all pretty chauvinistic.  It is most often done in such a way that they are still damn hot and sexy, which is one of the things that kept bugging me because I don’t find that kind of behavior sexy.  There are parts of all of these alpha males that I absolutely adore, but a lot of times, that gets pushed to the side because of the attitude.  The female characters also have their own issues that I don’t normally like and how they act and respond to those alpha males really emphasizes that chauvinism.

When taken as a whole, the majority of female characters in KA books, while spunky, quirky and, on the surface, pretty cool, they are also most often the stereotypical heroine that ultimately needs someone to take care of her and rescue her.  They also often seem like they are bordering shallow and flighty.  No matter what strengths she may have, she is rendered weak when put up against these serious alpha males.  They talk over the female characters, are almost always right and have some reasonable, rational, logical response to every concern that the females may raise, making them seem irrational, over reacting, or even bitchy and that makes those thoughts, feelings or concerns seem frivolous.

As a standard (and there are exceptions to every rule), the female characters are the ones to compromise or give in.  Heaven and Hell is a good example of that as really the only compromise the male character allows in the entire story is the biggie in the end.  Sure, it is huge and important, but the smaller, every day compromises are just as important as the biggies.  Again, not always, but so often these books seem to be carried on the solid personality of the alphas, even if they are chauvinistic, and only a bit on the quirky of the females.  There just aren’t that many female characters that come across as truly strong.

This creates a power imbalance in the relationships between the male and female characters.  Not once have I read a KA book where there is a true balancing of that power.  When it comes to the “man’s world” aspects of the relationships it is always the man’s way or the highway with zero room for compromise.  I am not usually a fan of this huge divide between men and women in romance.  I see no reason why you can’t have these amazing, protective alpha males that still balance and support the strengths of the females, making them stronger instead of making them seem weak and unable to stand alone while also not emasculating or lessening the power of that alpha male because she would in turn balance and support him.

So why is it that I have, and still mostly do, love Kristen Ashley?  In a lot of ways, it isn’t the characters, as I’ve seen often enough, there are lots of aspects that I don’t like about her characters, yet I still love them.  It is the way she writes them, infusing them with huge, gut snagging emotions that make them so incredibly real.  The histories she wraps those characters in and the fact that they are so far from perfect they can only be human makes it impossible not to connect with them.

It is because of the realism and beauty that she manages to weave into every story that I keep coming back and why I still love the stories even if I don’t always love the characters or what they represent which kind of makes me hate that I like them in the first place.  There is such a uniqueness to her style and how she writes that just draws you in no matter what.  That is kind of difficult for me to understand.  How can I love a story but not so much the characters, even sometimes when I feel like the story may be missing something?  It doesn’t seem rational or logical, but it just is.

The last several KA books that I’ve read have been really difficult for me to rate and review because there are quite a few things that I love and hate about them so it is incredibly hard to figure out where it falls in the grand scheme of things.  I’d have to say that I’d still rate Kristen Ashley as my favorite romance author because what she writes always hits strong.  I’d even say that a few of her characters are some of my favorites, but I don’t actually like her characters (at least parts of them) most of the time.

It’s kind of crazy, but even with the things that I’m not such a fan of, I’ve yet to find another romance author that I like they way I do Kristen Ashley.  It would be beyond awesome to get the kinds of characters I know I’d love wrapped up in the kinds of stories KA writes, they way she writes, but that is probably expecting something like perfection and not even our favorite authors are capable of that.

Heaven and Hell: Kristen Ashley

Heaven and HellAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Promise
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  After making a bad decision when she was very young, Kia Clementine finds herself in hell. Then, suddenly, within the time it takes for a shotgun to blast, her hell changes. Completely. Then out-of-the-blue she sees Sampson Cooper, her celebrity crush. A man the whole world knows is decent. A man the world knows is loyal. A man the world knows is good. All of these very unlike her now dead husband.

He’s sitting at a table right next to hers. And she catches his eye.

Terrified of the interest Sam shows in her, Kia finds the courage to go out with him. Not long after, she shares her dark secrets and Sam shares that he’ll stop at nothing to gain her trust.

As Sam leads Kia to heaven, Kia realizes that Sam is living his own hell. But although he gives her beauty and she gives him everything, he withholds his trust.

Even with all the beauty Sam shows her, Kia wants it all. But Sam forces Kia to make a heartbreaking decision and only she can decide. It’s all or nothing.

Review:  I came to some realizations while reading this book, but are a bit too in depth to put into a review, so I’ll be writing up a separate post on that.   As for this…

This is what I’ve decided is classic KA writing with yet another serious alpha male.  I’m not as big of a fan of these characters as I have been in many other KA books, but they are still good.  This definitely had its sweet moments.

I did find the underlying plot in this with regards to the hit put out on Kia to be a bit underwhelming and kind of an afterthought.  I think I would have liked for this to have had a bit more focus and not such an anticlimactic resolution.

In all, though, this was another really good story that brushed the edges of a couple of other series KA has written without being a direct part of any one of them.

 

The Promise: The ‘Burg, Book 5

The PromiseAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Promise
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #5
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.Benny has decided differently.But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

Review:  Writing this one is hard because it is the first time I’ve had to give a KA book a less than stellar review.  Also for the first time, I actually struggled to stick with this during the first half of the book.  It really almost feels as if the first half was written by another author.

Since this book is really placed chronologically right after At Peace, it started off hitting a speed bump.  It kind of threw me off that the last couple of books that I’d just read in this series hadn’t happened yet.  I thought for a while that there’d be a time skip to get us past those books to current time but that never happened.

Several of the important plot points early on were confusing to me.  The break with the Bianchi family and why there was that break really tripped me up and it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The entire family blamed Frankie for Vinnie’s choices and his resulting death to the point they completely shut her out for years, but she gets shot and all is clean slate, no revelations that the choices where his not hers, no explanations, just straight to no hard feelings all is forgiven.  On all fronts.  That all goes from full stop zero contact to all in your face we love you closeness.  An emotional wound like that takes at least a little time before things can get to smooth, so this whole thing was really off for me.

Along those same lines, Benny and Frankie’s relationship made no sense at all to me in the beginning.  Everything seemed like it went from all out hate on Benny’s side to no doubts totally in love in a second.  It felt completely unrealistic as I felt like there was a huge part of the foundation for that relationship missing.  We did get a little bit of that in the end of At Peace, but not enough to really explain how these two are actually attracted to each other.

I wasn’t a fan of Frankie’s character.  Not at all.  I thought she was spunky and smart and good crazy when we met her in the end of At Peace, but it was like she underwent a personality transplant between the two books.  Here she is (at least in the beginning) neurotic, flaky and really kind of a crazy bitch.  We do get a little bit of an explanation of why, but again, it just doesn’t really work.  Like there is something missing.

Benny isn’t a whole lot better except he is more of just an ass.  The whole first half of the book he talks to Frankie as if she doesn’t have a brain in her head and it seems as if he doesn’t have any respect for her at all.  He doesn’t listen to what she says and when she talks his attitude is all “Aww cute!  She is trying to be smart.  Let’s shut her up by throwing her around and screwing her until her brains fall out.  She doesn’t need them anyway.”

KA is the queen of writing bossy alpha males.  She does it in such a way that the bossy rides a knife edge of tough that is still sweet without falling into true asshole.  We did not get the sweet in this, at least not the first half.  The way Benny was bossy was missing that essential KA element that made it truly sexy and not dickish.

I won’t say that I disliked this book because I didn’t.  It got way better in the last half and is the only reason I gave this the higher rating, but by the end I still wasn’t much of a fan of either of the main characters.  As of right now, it is my least favorite KA book and more than likely I won’t ever take the time to read this one again.

I think it is sad that the absolute best part of this book was the speech given at Vi and Cal’s wedding rehearsal dinner.  That was absolutely beautiful and had me crying like crazy yet it had not one thing really to do with the main characters in this book.

Games of the Heart: The ‘Burg, Book 4

Games of the HeartAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Games of the heart
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #4
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  From the balcony of his house, Mike Haines can see the quiet, commonplace beauty of the Holliday farm. But what he remembers is the little sister of his high school girlfriend, Dusty who grew up there. As a teen, Dusty had gone off the rails but when she was a kid, she was sweet, she was funny and she had a special bond with Mike. But after high school, she took off and Mike never saw her again.

Then tragedy strikes Dusty’s family, she comes back into town and Mike thinks she hasn’t changed back to the sweet, funny girl he knew but instead continued to be selfish and thoughtless, leaving her family alone to deal with their mourning. So he seeks her out and confronts her in an effort to understand what went wrong and to force her to sort herself out.

He finds out quickly he’s wrong about Dusty Holliday. Very wrong. And right after Mike discovers that, the bond they had years before snaps back into place in ways he would never suspect.

But Mike Haines had a bad marriage then he played games of the heart for a good woman. And lost. In order to protect himself and his kids, he’s cautious, he’s careful to read the signs and he’s not interested in finding a woman he has to fix.

Then he learns what happened to Dusty and he thinks she needs to be fixed. He swings, he misses and in this new game of hearts, for Dusty, Mike just got strike three.

Review:  Another stunning one from Ms. Ashley.  I think I liked this better than the last several in this series.  Every single character had something of interest to contribute on this one.

The focus of this book was almost as much about Reesee and Fin as it was Mike and Dusty.  I had a few issues with this, the biggie being the complete and utter support of the adults when it came to a relationship between a 17 year old and a 15 year old.  It threw me off a bit a couple of times, even though that relationship still stayed on the sweet side.

Dusty was a kick ass lady who had zero hesitation being exactly who she was without apologizing for it.  Loved her character.

This, as is kind of standard practice for a KA book, had all the right pieces in all the right places to make it an excellent read.

Golden Trail: The ‘Burg, Book 3

Golden TrailAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Golden Trail
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Tanner Layne and Raquel Merrick fell in love young, hard and fast and both of them knew a beautiful life they thought would be forever.

Until Rocky left Layne, no explanation, no going back.

Layne escapes The ‘Burg only to come back years later because his ex-wife has hooked herself to the town jerk and Layne needs to make sure his sons get raised right. Layne manages to avoid Rocky but when Layne gets three bullets drilled into him while investigating a dirty cop, he can’t do that because Rocky stops avoiding Layne. They make a deal to work together to expose the dirty cop but they have no idea the strength of their enduring attraction or the sheer evil at work in The ‘Burg.

As Tanner Layne and Raquel Merrick play their game and dance around the pull that draws them together, Layne has to discover the dark secrets buried so deep in Rocky’s heart she doesn’t even know they’re there at the same time untangle a sinister web of crime so abhorrent it has to be stopped… at all costs.

And to do it, Layne has to enlist everyone, including his ex-CIA mentor, Rocky’s detective brother, the town’s unpredictable informant and Layne’s two teenage sons all the while stopping Rocky from doing something crazy and keeping their game secret so Layne won’t get himself dead.

Review: Yes, this was a great book and it gets top ratings.  That said, there were a couple of aspects that I had a hard time with, which is really rare for me when it comes to a Kristen Ashley book.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Rocky’s character.  It took almost the entire book to get her whole story and when I got it, I struggled with it and the drama around it as it just didn’t all add up for me.  I ended up not liking her dad or her brother at all because of it as that whole situation was completely f’d up.

I think that part of the reason I struggled to connect with Rocky is that, for the first time (that I’ve seen) a KA book is told entirely from the guy’s perspective.  Normally, she goes from the female perspective or bounces around between the two main characters (which I think I like the best) and sometimes even has bits in there from secondary characters.

Because we got nothing from Rocky’s side, we could only get her personality from how Layne sees her.  Honestly, there were times where I think he had some major blinders on and she really wasn’t all that.  I’d have to say, that Rocky is probably one of my least favorite KA characters ever.

Still, I did love this story and the secondary relationships that exist in this book.  While this is probably going to fall towards the bottom of my KA favorites list, it is still light years ahead of most any other romance on the market.

 

At Peace: The ‘Burg, Book 2

At PeaceAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: At Peace
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Violet Winters once had it all but lost it when her husband was murdered by a criminal madman. During a cold winter night Violet has to leave her warm bed to tell her neighbor to turn the music down. And that’s when she meets sinister, scarred, scarily attractive security specialist, Joe Callahan.

She wants to deny it, but Violet can’t beat back the hunger she feels for Joe so she gives in again and again. Feeling it himself, Joe feeds Vi’s hunger, breaking his own rules to keep her in his bed.

Even though Violet had only one man in her life, she’s sure Joe is giving her the signals and Vi decides she’s ready to take a second chance at life and, maybe, love. But Violet doesn’t know the dark secrets in Joe’s past, secrets so soul-wrenching, they’ve drained him dry. With nothing left to give, Joe’s determined to live his life alone and he breaks Violet’s heart.

Crushed by Joe’s betrayal, Violet comes to terms with the fact that, no matter what signals he gave, Joe was not theirs to win. But Violet’s husband’s murderer is obsessed with her and heartbreak again haunts the door of the Winters home. When it does Joe is forced to face the knowledge that he can’t fight Violet’s pull, she’s under his skin and filled him full to bursting.

Joe needs to win her back and put his life on the line to keep Violet safe. But, having had it all once, can Violet endure losing Joe?

Review: The best of the best of the best!  So, I’m a little biased in that Kristen Ashely is my favorite hunky, sexy, funny, crazy, quirky, deep, sweet, heart wrenching romance author and I don’t think anyone really comes close to her ballpark.  This book is no exception at all.  Seriously loved it.

As usual, these characters are so realistic and personable.  Wasn’t a huge fan of Joe in the beginning, but again, as usual that works itself out in the story.  Kind of the same with Violet.  That is what is awesome about Ms. Ashley’s characters.  They are far from perfect, but all their quirks and bumps and wrinkles are what make you love them.

If I had one negative thing to say, it would be the issue I had with the pet name “Buddy”.  For me, that is what you call your guy friends, your dog or even a kid, not the hot chick you are dating and getting crazy in the sack with, so that kinda tripped me up here and there, but it wasn’t near enough to take me out of this awesome addition to the KA repertoire.

 

For You: The ‘Burg, Book 1

For YouAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: For You
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Lieutenant Alexander Colton and February Owens were high school sweethearts. Everyone in their small town knew from the moment they met they were meant for each other. But something happened and Feb broke Colt’s heart then she turned wild and tragedy struck. Colt meted out revenge against the man who brought Feb low but even though Colt risked it all for her, Feb turned her back on him and left town.

Fifteen years later, Feb comes back to help run the family bar. But there’s so much water under the bridge separating her and Colt everyone knows they’ll never get back together.

Until someone starts hacking up people in Feb’s life. Colt is still Colt and Feb is still Feb so the town watches as Colt goes all out to find the murderer while trying to keep Feb safe.

As the bodies pile up, The Feds move in and a twisting, turning story unravels exposing a very sick man who has claimed numerous victims along the way, Feb and Colt battle their enduring attraction and the beautiful but lost history that weaves them together.

Review:  I knew that this series was out there, but I hadn’t gotten around to getting started on it for various reasons.  When I saw that my library finally had this, I grabbed it.  It is going to kill my book budget, because now I’m going to have to get the whole series.

This is classic Kristen Ashley with her super hot, badass guys and her quirky, fun adorable females with a darker twist than I think I’ve seen in most of the other books of hers that I’ve read so far.  And damn if this didn’t bring me to tears a couple of times.

There were a couple of times where I was wondering if the 20+ year span in the history between Feb and Colt was going to keep me from really getting into this, but once I got the full story, I was a total goner.  I just loved this and it probably climbed pretty darn close to the top of my KA favorites list.

 

 

Ride Steady: Chaos, Book 3

Ride SteadyAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Ride Steady
Series: Chaos
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy–until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling single mom stranded by flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistake when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa–or ride away forever…

Review: Kristen Ashley does badass like no other.  Most, if not all, of my favorite characters were written by her.  This is one of my favorite series by her and this book was just as awesome as the rest.

I love both Joker and Carissa.  I wasn’t sure at first how much I’d like her because she seemed pretty much the Cinderella type that needs the man to take care of and rescue her, but she ended up totally not being that person.  I love how she found her backbone yet still stayed a sweet and caring person.

I also loved that we get to see so many other characters that we love, even bits from their perspective.  That is one of the coolest things about how Ms. Ashley writes in that she allows her different series to intermingle the characters.  We even got to hear from Knight in this one.

I would have loved to have seen Carissa’s lawyer take down the jackwad ex-father-in-law, but a book just cannot contain all that goodness without severe addiction concerns.

Absolutely loved this one and it will be getting added to my favorites list.

June 2015 Releases

June has quite a few new titles that I’m looking forward to.  Not all are on my purchase list, but they are definitely books that I’ve been anxiously awaiting their release.

Shards of HopeAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Shards of Hope
Series: Psy-Changeling
Order: #14
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 2, 2015

 

 

Dead IceAuthor: Laurell K. Hamilton
Book Name: Dead Ice
Series: Anita Blake
Order: #24
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 9, 2015

 

 

Song of Midnight EmbersAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Song of Midnight Embers
Series: Maggie’s Grove
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 22, 2015

 

 

Ride SteadyAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Ride Steady
Series: Chaos
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Release Date:  June 30, 2015

 

 

Lady Luck: Colorado Mountain Series, Book 3

Lady LuckAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Lady Luck
Series: Colorado Mountain Series
Order: #3
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Romance

This wasn’t actually a new read for me.  I read it last year for the first time, but it is absolutely one of those that demands more than one read.

I first ran across Kristen Ashley last year when my library added parts of the Colorado Mountain series to their digital library.  While the series and author quickly became one of my favorites, this book in particular hit the top of the list.

While Lady Luck contains all the hallmarks that makes the series excellent… super hot badass dude, quirky, smartass sassy chick, steamy love and intense drama… for me this book really did hit all of that perfectly.  From the first book, I have fallen in love with the men Kristen Ashley creates and how they become so very real I cannot seem to get enough of them.  In this one, for some intangible reason, I was totally sucked in, more so than any of the others in this series.

Not sure exactly where on the scale this would land, but it is definitely up there in my all time favorites of all the books I’ve ever read.

So Far – January 2015

As of today, I’ve already read 19 books.  For the most part, while I have enjoyed what I’ve read, I haven’t just loved it.  I think I’ve gotten to a point where I need to find a new author I love to add to my favorites list, though.

Last year’s new author was Kristen Ashley.  I still have quite a few of hers to read, but as most of them are not available through my library at the moment, I’m having to read those as they come.

Other than those books, I haven’t been absolutely absorbed by anything I’ve read in a while, so I think I need to do some research into some new authors that I have yet to read.  Finding the Goodreads site recently is probably where I’m going to start.

I was lucky enough to get a couple of gift cards over the holidays, so that opens  my options up a bit more, especially with as stingy as I’ve been when it comes to what I’m willing to actually pay for now that I’ve discovered the wealth of options available to me through the library’s digital content.  Unfortunately, that wealth of options also means I’m more willing to read all kinds of stuff whether I actually like it or not just because it is available, so I may have to seriously rethink that as well.