Ride Steady, by Kristen Ashley

3 Stars

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KA is my go-to escapist romance author. Her books are delightfully predictable, because in 50 characters, she replicates the same five personalities. While definitely romance, these books usually have an engaging plot to keep them out of the erotica category… until recently.

I’m not sure if KA’s fall is due to having a publisher or if she’s cranking out the books too quickly, but her books have grown shorter and both the sex and plot scarcer. It’s as if her last five to ten titles have been long novellas, where we meet some new characters, revisit some old ones, and see the resolution of a minor conflict. Since every book in the Chaos series has flopped, I checked Ride Steady out from the library, expecting disappointment… and ultimately setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised.

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Ride Steady tells the typical KA tale of love gone awry until boy saves girl some odd years later. While there were a couple of forced crossovers, unlike many of her latest titles, this one didn’t focus too heavily on cameos from other books. The characters were true KA characters, both quite likable, and the sex scenes were limited, yet explicit and normal. The plot was no Mystery Man, still being a bit sparse, but it was present and it was interesting. I’d have liked to have seen it developed more. The resolution was happy, as always. Overall, while the old KA isn’t back in full force, I think I see her on the horizon.

Review Word Count: 250

Chaos Series Order (sans novellas)

  1. Own the Wind
  2. Fire Inside
  3. Ride Steady
  4. Walk Through Fire
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Beautiful series (Travis and Abby), by Jamie McGuire

2 Stars

Meh. That about sums it up.

I was surprised, and admittedly disappointed, that there is zero sex in Beautiful Disaster. It’s not that I can’t enjoy something without smut, but for this kind of romance, I expect some sexy times. Instead, I got an abusive relationship between once-friends, Travis and Abby. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I love a good alpha male. Travis wasn’t alpha, though. He was irrationally angry, a lot. After deciding that he and Abby, can’t possibly be just friends, he acts like a raving lunatic with the smallest provocation, by smashing up his apartment, beating the crap out of his cousin, and generally stalking Abby. It’s not fantasy sexy like Kristen Ashley. It’s scary and there aren’t even erotic scenes to make up for it. The “plot” is distractingly far-fetched in its conclusion, taking the reader right out of the pages for a good eye roll. 1 Star

Walking Disaster was surprisingly much more readable. Travis’s point-of-view comes off as less violent than Abby’s perception of the same events. The plot flaws are still present, however. I just couldn’t get past them. 2 Stars

Beautiful Wedding was wonderful, if only because we got to see an author respond productively to criticism. I’m not the only one who found Travis to be too much (which is saying something in the genre) and one year later, we see a realistically toned-down version in Beautiful Wedding. This wasn’t just a happy ending, but a healthy one to an unhealthy romance. 3 Stars

Review Word Count (sans star ratings): 249

Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn 1), by Maya Banks

2 Stars DNF

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I don’t like to review DNF’s, but I tried, y’all. I really tried.

The problem with Keep Me Safe isn’t the plot. It was pretty original, mixing romantic suspense with paranormal romance. That’s why I gave it a second go (and star) after only having made it through 25% the first time. You have to be in the mood for Banks, because she loves her damsels. These aren’t KA damsels, mouthy and impulsive. These are old school Disney damsels, too stupid to refuse an apple from a stranger or prick their finger on a glowing spinning wheel. These gals are weak and need saving from the badasses who fall in love with them instantly… which can be fun to read. In fact, this theme worked particularly well in Banks’s highlander series and the first half of her KGI series, which, admittedly, takes a hilariously hard left turn.

Keep Me Safe’s major flaw isn’t the plot or characters. It’s the writing. I don’t know if Banks has jumped the shark or if she’s writing too quickly, but this book was unbelievably repetitive. In the first few chapters, Caleb confesses that he’d do it all over again at least four times. It takes away from the effect and is exhausting to read. On top of that, I know this is romance, but oh my stars, Caleb turned into such a vagina. I just could not take another redundant heartfelt speech from this “badass.” It was beyond nauseating. I quit at 66%.

Review Word Count: 246

Slow Burn

1. Keep Me Safe
2. In His Keeping
3. Safe at Last

Rock Chick (Rock Chick 1), by Kristen Ashley

3 Stars

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I can sum up Kristen Ashley books in one sentence: she ain’t deep, but she sure is fun.

As a librarian, I meet a lot of people who think that all reading has to grow your mind. It doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s really nice to enjoy the literary equivalent of that Kardashian show. The difference is, old school KA has a delightfully fun plot. So, why just three stars for Rock Chick?

Rock Chick is not a good introduction to KA. Lee isn’t quite as much of an alpha as her many male leads and, quite frankly, there’s not as much sex. I wouldn’t call the majority of KA erotica, but it’s definitely heavy on the romance. The plot of this entire series is crazy and fun and maybe a little too goofy in comparison to the rest of her contemporary romantic suspense. Not only do the women refer to themselves as Rock Chicks, the men are The Hot Bunch. It’s eye roll inducing if you’re unfamiliar with the author and even if you are, it takes a bit of adjusting to accept alongside the almost supernatural draw the men have to their individual gals.

All that being said, this book is great fun, as is most of KA’s older stuff. The author has a signature writing style and characterization that many have failed to replicate. Admittedly, she rotates the same six characters with new names, but they’re just so much fun to read that you’re not so sure you care.

Review Word Count: 249

Series Reading Order
Rock Chick
Rock Chick Rescue
Rock Chick Redemption
Rock Chick Renegade
Rock Chick Revenge
Rock Chick Reckoning
Rock Chick Regret
Rock Chick Revolution

Silver Bastard (Silver Valley 1), by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

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I’ll admit, after book 4 of the Reapers MC, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one. More often than not, once an unknown author has lost her mojo, it’s because she’s gotten a publisher and a time crunch and you’ll never read anything good by her ever again. However, I was still binge watching Sons of Anarchy and I am forever the obsessive 12-year-old who, at one time, regularly watched the week’s new episode of Roswell on repeat for seven days. I figured I’d get the MC craze out of my system and what better way to do that than with a book called Silver Bastard, from a one hit wonder?

If the 3 stars didn’t already give it away, I was wrong. Unlike Reaper’s Stand, Silver Bastard had enjoyable characters engaged in a gritty and intriguing plot. Wylde also managed not to overdo the alpha role, which has been one of her struggles in the past. Puck’s just arrogant enough to keep me from rolling my eyes over hearts and flowers, but not enough to earn genuine dislike. Becca was a little bland and inconsistent, virginal at times and an old pro at this slutty biker chick gig at others. Her decisions made enough sense, even when they were frustrating. It didn’t seem like Wylde was just trying to make the story happen and fill her word count. The climax did not disappoint, nor did the epilogue. I’ll reread the next time I’m in the mood, I’m sure.

Review Word Count: 246

Reaper’s MC, by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

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Motorcycle club romances have become increasingly popular since Sons of Anarchy and few writers have pulled them off. They definitely need plot with the sex and Wylde accomplishes that… mostly. I tend to exhaust a genre before moving on, so I’m going to review this series as a whole, since I read them all in four days.

Reaper’s Property
The romance felt genuine and the plot, while a touch predictable, wasn’t lazy or tiresome. It worked and could’ve easily failed. Horse was a bit of a jerk, but he’s well redeemed in the end. Marie was too judgmental and took the mistrust too far. 3 stars.

Reaper’s Legacy
Ruger delved into alphahole territory. Sophie was too hormonally impulsive and made bad decisions. They both did, so the relationship had too many highs and lows. The plot wasn’t bad, but it was surprisingly anti-climactic. 3 stars.

Devil’s Game
It wasn’t intentional, as it says in the author’s note, but this is clearly new adult. It’s not bad new adult, but you can’t switch genres in the middle of a series, so it made for a frustrating read. Futhermore, the first 40% heavily overlaps with Reaper’s Legacy, so it drags. The plot is… fine, I guess? Nothing about this one was especially engaging. 2 stars.

Reaper’s Stand
DNF: 50%. This one just… sucked. Picnic was vastly different and London was about as interesting as a tape dispenser. The chemistry wasn’t there and the plot was painfully obvious. It read like fanfic and based on the reviews, the ending is completely unrealistic, even in this Felons Be Hawt universe. I couldn’t do it. 1 star

Review Word Count (no ratings or titles): 249

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades 1), by E.L. James

1 Star

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I first read Fifty Shades in the height of its popularity, because there must be something to this, right? Spoiler alert:

I reread this series to drunkenly mock an illegal download of the movie. Two years later, I found all of my initial complaints valid. First, it’s not difficult to believe this was fanfiction, because it reads like fanfiction. We experience every selfish thought in Ana’s hateful head as we’re walked through each mundane moment of her day. During the first read, I was wondering if I had the wrong title. This wasn’t sexy at all, because nothing was happening. Once James finally got to the sex, it was just… bad…. and not because of whips. J.R. Ward totally pulled that one off and I’m not even into BDSM. It’s bad because it’s intensely repetitive and childishly worded in a super creepy way.

“I … quickly tie my hair in pigtails. …The more girly I look, perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard.”

Second, it’s not about a consensual kinky relationship or just one with an alpha male, like most paranormal romance. It’s about a woman who’s pressured to submit and share sexual quirks under threat of losing affection. It’s not that Christian spanks Ana. It’s that she cries, because she doesn’t want it. I’m no stranger to erotica, and that’s exactly why this book failed. The characters are assholes. It’s not sexy. Even if you don’t consider the relationship abusive, MY VAGINA FELT LIKE DRAGON SKIN.

Review Word Count: 246

Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey

Series Reading Order
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
2. Fifty Shades Darker
3. Fifty Shades Freed

Alternative Erotica Suggestions
Bared to You, by Sylvia Day
Knight, by Kristen Ashley (she calls him daddy, so there’s that)
Rush, by Maya Banks

On Dublin Street (On Dublin Street 1), by Samantha Young

4 Stars

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This is a terrific angsty read. It has all the elements of a good plot-light, strictly romance story: rich alpha male repairs emotionally damaged girl with his luuuuuv.

While this is the beginning of a series, and not a bad series at that, Young definitely got things right the first time. Braden comes off as a real world alpha, with none of Kristen Ashely’s fireman holds or Christine Feehan’s puppeteering. He’s just the right mix of possessive, protective, and rich. He has his asshole moments, but Young never takes it so far as to completely turn off the reader. Jocelyn is a believably broken heroine. Her story never becomes so complicated as to induce eye rolling, as is common in the genre. She’s just sassy enough to counteract Braden’s overly domineering moments, but not enough to earn the title of bitch. Most importantly, I never felt like Young was reaching for excuses to keep the couple apart in this story. It ended when it needed to end and the romance wasn’t too cheesy, which is more than I can say for her series as a whole.

My only complaint, while trivial, is that Jocelyn/Joss has a confusingly similar name to Johanna/Jo in the sequel, Down London Road. I found myself thinking “EVERYONE IS NAMED JO!

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. On Dublin Street
2. Down London Road
3. Before Jamaica Lane
4. Fall from India Place
5. Echoes of Scotland Street

Review Word Count: 216

This Man (This Man 1), by Jodi Ellen Malpas

1 Star

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Have you ever bitten into a burger only to get one of those hard bits of cartilage? This book is like that.

Being a fan of alpha males, this series was recommended to me numerous times, before I finally decided to give it a try. This, however, was one of those books that actually took me multiple tries to even finish. Not only was the text bursting with Britishisms to the extent of rendering it nearly unreadable, but the characters were deplorable. Jesse was batcrap crazy, Ava a moronic masochist, and I’m pretty sure Kate was the worst best friend since Wormtail betrayed the Potters.

Worse even, than muddling through stories of people I hated and their “jumpers” and “posh flats”, were the stories themselves. This Man has literally no plot to move it forward, save for the rapey and psychotic romance. The sex is plentiful, but it’s so redundant and unappealing, with descriptions of “hot minty breath” that I was left dry as the Sahara, as well as bored. As a mystery, the Big Reveal is weak. As a romance, the relationship is abusive. As erotica, my vagina felt like sandpaper. I do, however, regularly recommend this one to those fans of The Hate Read.

Series Reading Order
1. This Man
2. Beneath This Man
3. This Man Confessed

Review Word Count: 218