Book Review: Jagged

It feels like forever since I’ve reviewed a Kristen Ashley book. She is by far, one of my most favorite romance writers and authors in general. So when I found out that she would be writing another novel in her Colorado Mountain series, I marked my calendar! Literally…I wrote the release date on my calendar; which was November 5th and I finished Jagged yesterday, November 6th. Without a doubt, it falls into my top 5 Kristen Ashley books. Up there with Motorcycle Man, Sweet Dreams, Mystery Man, and I can’t choose what would round out the 5th and those are by no means in order by love (I can’t do that either). Alas, let’s dive in.

Jagged tells the story of Graham Reece aka Ham aka Reece and Zara Cinders. We met Reece in Ashley’s For You (which could be in my top 5…but so could At Peace…but I digress). Reece has been a bit of a rolling stone for the majority of his adult life. Zara has been a Gnaw Bone, CO staple the entirety of hers. She was married. He was married. Both divorced and having fulfilled each other’s emotional and ‘physical’ needs for years, things begin to ‘shift’. 

During the recession–yes, THE RECESSION–Zara loses her house to foreclosure and her small business goes under, all in the midst of her divorce. She finds herself in an unsafe apartment complex, working for minimum wage at the local home store. Reece/Ham rides back into town–yes, he has a Harley–and takes up residence at some posh condos seeing as how he’s the new manager at The Dog. Let the fun begin! Reece and Zara are so down-to-earth and relatable, you almost feel like you know them. Well, if you hang out with super hot biker/bar managers–my personal dream.

Unlike some of Ashley’s other books, there is no kidnapping and nail-biting suspense in this book, but that doesn’t make it any less an intriguing page-turner. (Did I mention I read it in a day???) Your heart-strings play a symphony for all that Zara has had to endure, abuse, loss, etc. And Reece as well, his problems with women, while extreme, are understandable. Ladies–we aren’t perfect and men really do have feelings. There are ups and downs throughout the book and of course, some steamy bedroom (and various other room) scenes. For almost 300 pages, this is a quick read. The characters pull you in, you see some familiar faces that are always entertaining. I think I’m going to have to go back and re-read some of those ‘old’ Kristen Ashley novels…

Kaleidoscope is next in this particular Ashley series and my calendar is already marked for its February 4th ebook debut!

Book Review: Fire Inside

fire insideEven if you’ve only been paying attention marginally, you would know I absolutely love Kristen Ashley books. Since she has gone mainstream with a big-time publishing house, it is clear to see the quality of her work has dramatically improved. The editing has taken her books from 1,000+ pages to just under 300 in most cases, making the stories more concise, easier to follow, and leaving readers feeling less guilty about skimming through a lot of the fluff. Kristen Ashley is a great story-teller. She develops characters with depth, intriguing pasts, and the level of emotion they explore is, at times, heart wrenching. Which is why, when characters reappear in other books or cross over between her various series, it’s always nice to ‘see’ them.

Fire Inside is the 2nd book in the Chaos Motorcycle series–a spin-off of the Dream Man series; it is also, one of my favorite books of Kristen Ashley’s to date. The primary reason for my love of this particular book is the alpha male character–Hop. In the past I’ve had issues with all of her male characters essentially morphing into the same Neanderthal speech pattern–which rarely happened in this book. Also, the male lead in Fire Inside stayed true to who he was throughout the book and was for the most part, a likable, true to life guy which made the story line more real. Which goes a little something like this…

Hop is in the Chaos Motorcycle Club. We met him in the book Motorcycle Man along with Lanie. At the time, Lanie was engaged to Elliott and Hop was with Mitzi–though we saw him in a very compromising position with Bee Bee. Fast forward to Fire Inside, Hop is no longer with Mitzi and Elliott is deceased–leaving it impossible for Lanie to be with him anymore. Lanie and Hop get together and proceed to keep their relationship a secret from everyone else in the club–primarily because Tyra, Lanie’s best friend and her husband, Tack–the president of Chaos–probably would not approve. See, Tyra was the one who caught Hop in the compromising position with Bee Bee (who has been banned from ever going near all things Chaos; but not because of Hop–hint: read Motorcycle Man). Anyway, there are a lot of twists and turns: Lanie blames herself for the kidnapping and other tragedies that befell Tyra, and her parents are the epitome of drama. Hop has 2 kids and an extreme dislike for their mother. Lanie and Hop sneaking around and subsequent discovery–you knew it had to happen–breaks them up, reveals secrets of both Hop and Chaos’ past, and then of course there’s the happily ever after. There are no kidnappings and drama of that sort, this is a true character development love story–which is a welcomed departure from Ashley’s other books and another reason for me to like this one. Not to mention, Lanie is an advertising executive with her own business–very buttoned up and professional and Hop is a ‘text book’ motorcycle club man and works in a garage–yet they work (it gives me hope!!!).

I am looking forward to more books in this series and more from Kristen Ashley in general. She has truly become one of my most favorite authors. Her books are easy reads, a lot of fun, and seriously–who doesn’t love a happy ending?!?!?

Book Review: Rock Chick

We all know what a big fan I am of romance novels (I still can’t believe I wrote that…). Indulge me for a moment: I used to read nothing and I mean nothing but mysteries. James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell are among my most favorite authors. When I was in a book club, my friends repeatedly gave me lectures on reading books outside my norm. I once read a Nora Roberts trilogy, and while good, it was the one exception–not the norm. But here I sit today, writing about how much I love romance novels. Who am I? (Ok, THAT is a post for another day.)

Anyway, I enjoy readying quite a few self-published authors, one of whom is Kristen Ashley. I can’t remember how many series and books of hers I’ve read, we’ll suffice to say–a lot. I intentionally waited on writing this review because I didn’t want it to be too tainted by the one I wrote a few weeks ago about her latest book, Own the Wind. For that book, she had a publisher and all the ‘perks’ that come with it, including professional editing. For Rock Chick, she did not. Big difference.

rock-chickRock Chick was a good story. It’s the first in, I believe, 7 books that Ashley has written in this series so far. It is somewhat reminiscent of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. A series I loved for the first 13 or 14 books until it became clear that the characters would never move on, the story lines would always be the same, and the reader could essentially write the next book themselves. (Leaving that series still breaks my heart.)

The main character–Indy–owns a book store. She has a wild child best friend in Ally; interesting employees, including a guy named Rosie who’s on the lam for having stolen some diamonds; Lee–her gorgeous security expert/bounty hunter/surveillance professional/general badass boyfriend; and a host of other colorful characters in the form of friends, family, and bad guys that continuously shoot at and kidnap her. And while there is definitely some ‘romance’ in this book, I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as such. It’s comedic, mysterious, romantic, and generally a fun read.

The book was almost 1,000 pages on my Nook, but that didn’t bother me. What did, is that the telling of the story went on forever. There were complete chapters that could’ve been eradicated. I hate to think that I’m spoiled from the 300 page book of Ms. Ashley’s that I just read, because you can clearly see that there is much fun to be had in the Rock Chick series. Only, I am hesitant to read the other books if they drag out the story lines as this one does. The characters are entertaining and you could easily settle in to read the books like you would enjoy a weekly sitcom. The question is, will I?

Book Review: Own the Wind

OwnTheWindCover300_zps5d6277c7In Romance Novel Overload I admitted my addiction to Kristen Ashley books. Her first in the Chaos series was recently released, a spin-off from the Dream Man series. For those that know me, Kristen Ashley’s books are the ones that inspired me to move to Colorado and become a biker babe. A move, I might add, that was totally unsupported by essentially everyone I know. They all thought I should get a job first. Then move. Seriously, where is the fun in that? Anyway, I am not in Colorado and I am not a biker babe. Hmph… But I digress…

Off the bat, I have to say, I enjoyed the fact that Kristen now has a publisher and the book was professionally edited. I still found a few typos and some missing punctuation, but overall, a much better read than her other books–which I still love. Also, this book was a compact 279 pages, as opposed to the majority of her other books which are over 1,000 pages on my Nook. However, talk about a book that sticks to a formula.

My biggest and probably only complaint about this book is that the hero falls into the exact same speech pattern as do ALL of her male characters. I simply don’t understand why they all have to speak the same way, which is to say they are unable to form complete sentences. It’s a cross between slang and Neanderthal; hence, a dialect I am not familiar with? It also forces all of her male characters to take on the same mannerisms, which is a bummer. The characters she creates have so much depth to them. The back stories that she gives them are intricate and compelling. It’s almost as though she puts so much into building up the character’s history, she runs out of steam and by mid-book, and they revert to becoming the same person in every series. I’d say the background and depth she gives the characters is what keeps me coming back. That, and I love the fact that the characters from her other books and series cross over. It’s so fun to see them again. And all of the books are light-hearted and humorous. And then there’s that whole Colorado biker thing I’m attracted to. Ok, clearly I just like her books.

The first book in this new series is about Tabby and Shy. We were introduced to them in the last (so far) of the Dream Man series, Motorcycle Man. Tabby is Tack’s daughter and Shy is Tack’s brother in the Chaos Motorcycle Club, of which, Tack is the president. We saw this pairing coming a mile away. But boy did it not happen entirely as expected. Tabby, while the ‘Princess’ of Chaos, is a nurse and actually has a pretty good head on her shoulders. Now, of course, anyone who’s seen Sons of Anarchy, which is mentioned in the book, has to think of Tara and Jax. I have only been able to watch a handful of episodes so I’m not all that familiar with what’s going on, on the show; other than I know Jax is in a motorcycle club and Tara, his woman, is a doctor. As such, I can’t speak to any other similarities that may or may not exist.

Tabby and Shy finally come together, but it’s not easy. And after they are together, that’s not easy either. But it’s good. And it was nice that the heroine in this book didn’t get kidnapped, or beat up, or have to be saved. That was a nice departure from ‘the formula.’ But there was still more than enough drama and Kristen has set up the books to come. There was a happily ever after and I can’t wait to see them in future books. We already know the next book is going to be about Lanie and Hop. She’s a glamour girl and he’s a biker in Chaos. So that should be a lot of fun. (See…you can be all ‘buttoned up’ and still be a biker babe. There is totally hope for me yet!)