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.

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.