Author: Alexa Riley

Claimed by Alexa Riley

Claimed by Alexa RileyClaimed by Alexa Riley
Series: For Her #3
Published by Carina Press on March 27th 2018
Pages: 314
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three-stars

Jordan Chen is the man behind the screen. As part of the elite security team for Osbourne Corporation, he has an iron grip on protection, all without having to make close connections with people. Until he meets the beautiful Jay, and suddenly his quiet life doesn't seem so perfect anymore. He needs more. He needs her.

A workaholic to her core, Jay Rose doesn't have a lot of men in her life. Smiling in the face of her enemies gets her the results she wants at work, but doesn't exactly project a warm, welcoming vibe. So she's surprised when the enigmatic security expert strikes up a friendship with her—surprised but flattered, and maybe a little bit turned on.

A company as powerful as Osbourne Corporation has powerful enemies, and when Jay becomes a target, Jordan realizes there's nothing he won't do to bring her home safe.

It’s no surprise that I’ve often complained about the brevity of the dynamic (and instalove) duo Alexa Riley’s stories. The novella-length and even shorter tales they weave have tended to be—in part due to the length—full of alpha males who take over their women so thoroughly that they sometimes consume them whole, developing tunnel, caveman vision to the point where they see nothing but the words ‘mine, mine, mine’. It’s ‘crazy love’, as a villain in ‘Claimed’ says, or devotion so complete it could well be religious—a style that any Alexa Riley reader needs to get accustomed to first.

But Riley’s full-length stories, in the ‘For Her’ series at least, have gone a long way to ease this somewhat extreme vision of theirs, as the plot—as well as the action—unfolded and stretched over chapters rather than mere paragraphs. The drawn-out storytelling is a boon in this case and the burn between Jay/Jordan more believable because of it.

Yet if I thought ‘Claimed’ started out quite well, the story and characterisation faltered for me as the pages wore on. I liked the initial awkwardness between Jay and Jordan, even as Riley pushed their relationship straight into the deep end rather quickly without much angst at all. And while Jordan was quite the bossy protagonist to remember, what I couldn’t quite get was Jay’s seeming inability to use her brains around Jordan—her total dependence on him, her concealment of the threat pushing her into TSTL behaviour, her helplessness later on—and her sudden pliancy when it came to just becoming a passive taker as she got in deeper with Jordan. That said, a caveat: my confessed preference for stronger, take-charge heroines is definitely showing up here however, particularly since Riley has written some suspense into the story but not too much that it overwhelms the romantic elements in it.

While ‘Claimed’ isn’t my favourite of the series, it’s one I jumped onto because just the thought of a full-length Alexa Riley story is irresistible. Riley’s iron-clad reaffirmations of HEAs (multiple epilogues!), over the top as they might be, do sometimes work out after all quite nicely—this book’s tooth-achingly sweet, drawn-out ending fits the bill.

three-stars

Don’t Go by Alexa Riley

Don’t Go by Alexa RileyDon’t Go by Alexa Riley
Series: For You #3
Published by Carina Press on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 78
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three-stars

CEO Henry Osbourne has only ever desired one woman—the one who got away.

I’ve spent the past ten years convincing myself that what I felt for her was teenage infatuation. That love so consuming couldn’t be real. Then everything went to shit, and in an instant, she was gone.

Kory Summers knew returning to New York meant running into Henry. The way her heartbeat picked up at just the thought was nervousness—not anticipation. Oh, no. She never expected to find him on her doorstep looking as handsome as ever.

She’s mine. She always has been. I’ve waited this long for her…but time’s up. I’ll use all my power, all my connections, to convince her she’s the one.

Kory ran from a boy, but a man of power and persuasion now stands in his place.

‘Don’t Go’ is in fact, part of the ‘For You’ series, though it’s now Miles/Mallory’s son’s story, which can be a little jarring since it wasn’t too long ago that I read his parents’ HEA, though in Riley’s fictional world of the Osbournes, over 2 decades have gone by. The biggest issue I have with this series is the lack of chronological order in which the books come about and the time-gap that these stories span—which is at least a generation, but that might just be splitting hairs here.

Alexa Riley’s commitment to short and safe might cause some raised brows when it comes to instalove (or lust) and the all-in stance of the male protagonist. And, honestly, I do sometimes count myself among these brow-raisers. But in rare cases, Riley’s short and safe novellas can and do make an impact.

In ‘Don’t Go,’ Riley writes about 2 people so devoted to each other as well as the memories of that single Cinderella-esque night that there wouldn’t be space to ask the messy and difficult questions that typically appear as part of a second-chance romance. In fact, questions about the contentious separation period and the believability of the pairing’s second-chance romance don’t really factor into the equation here, simply because there have been no one else for Henry and Kory.

From there onwards, it’s pure Alexa Riley that takes over: the instalove (this is sufficiently warned by the authors to be fair), the possessive hero and the iron-clad HEA that probably spans a quarter of the entire short book. It’s not for everyone, clearly, because of how implausible and admittedly unrealistic the pairing and story might come across, but if devotion that sometimes seems out of the real world is what you’re looking at, then Alexa Riley is the kind of read to go for.

three-stars

Hold Tight by Alexa Riley

Hold Tight by Alexa RileyHold Tight by Alexa Riley
Series: For You #2
Published by Carina Press on October 16th 2017
Pages: 64
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three-stars

A hotshot consultant hired to streamline Osbourne Corp. meets his match in Pandora Justice—the more she plays hard to get, the more he wants her.

They say that like recognizes like, and the day I looked into her deep blues, I met my other half.

Pandora Justice took over as head of security at Osbourne Corp. after her father's retirement. Eighty-hour workweeks are normal; being brushed up against by hot consultants with ridiculous names is not. And she doesn't like it. Not even one bit.

It's amazing how easily she can lie to herself.

I had to have her. Plain and simple.

The first time Pandora sees Royce in the ring—all tattoos and sinew, covered in sweat—he looks at her like he's just won more than the fight. Like he won her.

I won't play games with her. I'll wait, and it will kill me, but I'll do it for her.

Royce's cocky grin with deep dimples makes Pandora melt. Once she wanted to smack that look off his face—now all she wants to do is kiss it. For the rest of her life.

The thought of spending the rest of my life with Pandora warms the place in my chest I didn't think was alive. I've put my claim on her—she's the one, and I'm done. It's that simple.

Alexa Riley’s formula should be well-known by now: instalove, a hero who goes alpha the moment he sees his significant half, decides he wants her and does everything to claim her as his territory. Be prepared for over-dramatic moments interspersed with sex that can be scorching, though you might question the validity of the connection between the protagonists because of this.

‘Hold Tight’ is Pandora’s book – something I’ve looked forward to for a while – but its sheer brevity (this tops out at a mere 64 pages) magnifies the faults I find with Riley’s books. Had it been a longer, more drawn-out version, I think I would have liked and rated the story a lot higher with greater character depth and development. Still, Riley delivered a safe(ish) read, with a guaranteed HEA, so it could be a balm for readers discouraged and cynical about their romance reads.

three-stars

His Alone by Alexa Riley

His Alone by Alexa RileyHis Alone by Alexa Riley
Series: For Her #2
on March 28th 2017
Pages: 244
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four-stars

She thinks I'm perfect. A good boss, a good man. She thinks that I play by the rules.
She has no idea who I truly am. Why I'm really here.
Paige Turner is trying to outrun her past, but there it is, tossed back in her face anytime she manages to get two steps ahead.
She has no idea what a man like me will do to get what he wants.
Her need for Ryan got in the way of revenge, took her off course. Redirected her focus. Before she knew it, he'd made his way into her life. Into her heart.
I'm dirtier than she knows. She thinks I'm good to the core, but she doesn't know the things I've done. The things I would do for her.
True love doesn't let secrets as big as these stay buried. And when the truth about Paige's father is finally exposed, Ryan will do anything to fix everything. Paige has always been his and his alone.

There’s no denying that Alexa Riley’s books appeal to a certain portion of readers (as is declared by the authors themselves). Her heroes and heroines are over the top, have over the top sex, are prone to dramatic bursts of temper, and are well, so completely devoted to each other that their happy-ever-afters actually require chapters worth of epilogues to ensure that these happy endings are iron-clad. It’s as though the readers themselves need some convincing that a pairing’s overwhelming love can and will last decades, even when the kids have flown the coop. Along with instant love however, Riley’s characters stay ‘safe’ in many ways: there isn’t talk of other men or other women and the steamy scenes—consisting of acrobatic sex, a multitude of orgasms and no recovery period—are reserved wholly for the protagonists alone.

Captain’s and Paige’s story had been in the wings for a while now, ever since Miles and Mallory burst onto the scene like a recap of ‘Fifty shades of Grey’. And both Captain and Paige kind of follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, though the obsession and stalkerish behaviour is thankfully toned down a bit more here. Lies and deception do form some part of the conflict here, but they don’t last. The bulk of the story is much focused on the developing relationship between Captain and Paige, the side of suspense comes as a surprise, as is the revelation of Captain’s undercover status throughout all these years. The lack of elaboration and details regarding that shady part of his life unfortunately, made the bit about his role in Paige’s and Miles’s father somewhat less unbelievable, but perhaps that really isn’t the point at all in this book.

The long and short of it is, if you’re looking for erotica that’s wrapped around a decent kind of plot (though you’ll definitely need to suspend some disbelief there) and characters who burn up the sheets, then this is a read for you.

four-stars

Her Touch by Alexa Riley

Her Touch by Alexa RileyHer Touch by Alexa Riley
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Pages: 183
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three-stars

Eli Strong got out of the military and all he wanted to do was get better. He never expected that the officer he was living with would have a daughter who tested his honor.
Maggie Drummond has been moved around more times than she can count, and starting at a new high school sucks. But when a wounded Marine comes to live with her and her dad, suddenly Maggie’s figures out what home is.
She’s forbidden fruit, and he’s trying to not to taste… But desire can only be denied for so long. Circumstances keep pulling them back together, and something truly unforeseen happens. Overnight, Eli becomes a guardian and Maggie his ward.
Will Eli keep his hands off Maggie? Will Maggie like it if he doesn’t? Will the two of them break the law because it feels so good? Only one way to find out!

Forbidden relationships are my personal crack and truth be told, I’m not concerned at all about age-difference, unless it’s a grandparent-sized gap. Yes, this story takes the wide age-gap problem and runs with it, but my issues were really with the structure of the story rather than the topic that could be a trigger for some.

There’s a seemingly separate ‘bonus’ story in the last quarter of the book that could have been better integrated with the main story, the lack of differentiation between the individual voices (I thought the men sounded indistinguishable, as did the women), and the use of the tired but patronising ‘I’m leaving you for your good’ excuse that essentially took the decision away from a main character.

Otherwise, everything else is classic Alexa Riley. Enjoyable in parts, hot at other times, cringeworthy in some. ‘Nuff said.

three-stars

Everything for Her by Alexa Riley

Everything for Her by Alexa RileyEverything for Her by Alexa Riley
Series: For Her #1
Published by Carina Press on December 27th 2016
Pages: 368
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four-stars

I'll never forget the way she looked, so confident and sure of herself. I watched her from a distance. She wasn't ready for me yet. I didn't approach her and I didn't disturb her, but I never once took my eyes off her.

Mallory Sullivan is ready to start her new life. After graduating at the top of her class, she's landed one of the most coveted internships in the United States. Hard work and determination have gotten her to this moment of living the life she only dreamed of while growing up in foster care.

From the start, I knew that she would be my greatest achievement, so the day I let her go, I set down a path for her. A path to me.

She never expected Oz to be the greatest culmination of those dreams. But sometimes fate determines who you fall in love with. Who makes you lose control. Who owns your soul.

And then you realize it wasn't fate at all.

I've wanted to care for and protect her since the first moment I saw her. I've constructed everything in our lives so that at the perfect moment, I could have her, could give her the life she deserves.

Alexa Riley’s stories aren’t for everyone and I can understand why.

Her characters are obsessively devoted to each other—sometimes one more than the other without much reason to the point where it feels like creepy stalking—yet Riley builds on a pairing’s dynamic in a way that makes you gratified that there isn’t any other woman or man in the picture that will ever come between them. There’s the virgin trope that’s refreshingly celebrated in all her books, and her heroes are (thankfully) never manwhores or players, but there’s also the lightning speed at which lust and apparently love come into play. And if the idea of unbreakable soul-mates isn’t enough, there’s also an indubitable HEA that has epilogue after epilogue of the couple in question months and years later—still happy and horny together.

That in a nutshell, is the core of Riley’s writing, which often leaves me conflicted about the crazy, instant dive into love and the over-the-top behaviour with hot sex to help tide you over the unbelievable bits.

The longer length of ‘Everything for Her’ do, in some ways, mitigate those bits I’ve just mentioned, although those traits are still present, only with better character development that goes a long way in framing the obsession and the manipulation Miles had going with Mallory for years. However, I couldn’t fully understand this completely possessive attitude that Riley’s heroes tend to have and Miles’s one did leave me more than a little alarmed at the stalkerish way he tracked Mallory, who after a time, did accept his reasons for doing so.

If it’s as unreal as romantic fiction could get with some shades of Christian and Ana (minus the BDSM) in it, Riley nevertheless does write something compelling between Miles and Mallory with minimal angst that dissipates as soon as every barrier—physical and emotional—is stripped away. In short, best for a good few hours of escapism so you can feel hot under the collar.

four-stars

Shielding Lily by Alexa Riley

Shielding Lily by Alexa RileyShielding Lily by Alexa Riley
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on September 13th 2016
Pages: 132
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four-stars

It’s Lily Parker’s first day at a new high school. She’s a senior finishing her last semester, and all she wants to do is graduate and get out of town. Her home life is a secret hell, and she’s trying to find a way out. But everything changes when Ren says hello and sees right through to her truth.

Ren Hendrick’s succeed's at everything he touches, including football. But he’s never been passionate about anything. He’s quiet and keeps to himself, which pisses people off. But he can’t find the desire to care. He’s lived a life without color, until Lily walks in and lights up his world.

Their story is one of sweet young love and finding your forever before you can even dream of what that is. It’s one of protecting what belongs to you and having the courage to follow your heart, no matter your age.

Could it be possible to read something entirely so happy and tooth-achingly sweet that I wouldn’t quite know how to review this? From the crazy start to the even madder multiple epilogues, Ren’s and Lily’s high-school first and only love affair is the stuff Shakespeare would crow about in hyperbolic metaphors, minus the tragedy and the comedic confusion.

From what I’m starting to gather about Alexa Riley so far – which admittedly isn’t too much – is the sheer enjoyment of subverting the usual manwhore/inexperienced woman trope and bringing to light the kind of story that colours outside these typical boundaries. Riley does bring an over-protective alpha male and a woman so in need of help who are on the cusp of adulthood to full term without the rising tension and conflict towards the end, which is probably still something that amazes me because of the rarity of it all.

Not that I’m complaining though, because ‘Shielding Lily’ is a fun (albeit rather unrealistic) romp that simply shows a couple going from strength to strength without the difficulties reality can toss their way. I’d say it’s escapism at its finest, but even that might be a little too cynical for me.

four-stars