I was on the fence about biker romances, but I grabbed this one on NetGalley because one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Bitches, Smart Authors, have talked frequently about the crack that is a Kristen Ashley novel. I decided to find out for myself why this author was so addicting.
I received an ARC of this novel free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A biker from a broken home and a woman struggling to take care of her son on her own connect years after knowing each other in high school and try to forge a relationship through the emotional baggage they’re carrying. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.
The Good Stuff
They weren’t lying when they said Ashley’s books are addictive. Here’s the thing…there were things about this book I didn’t particularly like, but I had a really hard time putting it down. It’s not a one-sitting read either. The book is long because the author doesn’t just take the story over one conflict, she takes it over the whole situation. In the story of Joker and Carissa, we not only have the angst of their romance, but we also get to see what happens when their relationship settles down and becomes good. We get to see the characters’ dynamic with other people in their life, like Joker’s friends who supported him when he was growing up in an abusive house, and Carissa’s douche canoe ex-husband. It’s easy for a story to become bogged down in different conflicts and plot lines, but Ashley seems to have a knack for doing this and doing it well.
I also liked the fact that the motorcycle club that Joker belonged to wasn’t a criminal gang, but they weren’t above taking it there (on the down low) to defend or take care of a member of their family. I also liked the character development. Joker and Carissa both evolve during the book, and the author shows this, rather than tells it, especially in the dialogue, where Joker went from ignoring pronouns, which drove me nuts, to talking in full sentences.
Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Though I really enjoyed this book, I found several aspects of it fairly jarring. For instances, even though I’ve seen it on TV shows and in movies and have read it in other books, having the bikers refer to their women as “bitches” took some getting used to. As I mentioned before, I hated Joker’s cut off sentences, and he’s not the only character in the book to use them. It was hard for me to hear him talk in a way that didn’t sound weird. Though Carissa turns out okay, there are parts of the book where she’s super whiny and annoying. Strangely enough, she was also endearing, so I wanted to hit her, but then I wanted to hug her.
The Romance Factor
I think the only reason I’m not giving this one a 5/5 romance factor rating is because of the whole “bitches” thing, because that was hard for me to get around.
But the relationship between two broken people was sweet. There was a sense of possession at first, but Joker was mostly supportive of Carissa and wanted to see her happy. Their whole damsel-in-distress meet cute (she was stranded with a flat tire, he stopped to help her) was kind of adorable. This one gets a 4/5.
The Steam Factor
There was alot of sex in this book, but it wasn’t used as filler. It was part of the story and it was entertaining and it was definitely steamy and a little graphic. I’m giving it a 5/5 Steam Factor and noting that it also fits into the romance because of the way Joker made Carissa feel about her body (typical self conscious heroine, but rather than being over the top, this interplay was done very well and realistically and didn’t go on too long).
It’s a pretty easy call…I’m definitely going to read more of Kristen Ashley’s books. In fact, while in Michigan, I found another Chaos novel at a used bookstore and grabbed it up. Her writing is addictive. Even the things I didn’t like drew me into the world she created. This one is a sweet romance with some action and a few non-romantic violent scenes to add to the more dangerous plots Joker had to deal with. I’m pretty sure this author will find a place on my must-read list.