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Ride Wild by Laura Kaye

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 25th August 2017
Ride Wild by Laura KayeRide Wild by Laura Kaye
Series: Raven Riders #3
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Brotherhood. Club. Family.They live and ride by their own rules.These are the Raven Riders...

Wild with grief over the death of his wife, Sam “Slider” Evans merely lives for his two sons. Nothing holds his interest anymore—not even riding his bike or his membership in the Raven Riders Motorcycle Club. But that all changes when he hires a new babysitter.

Recently freed from a bad situation by the Ravens, Cora Campbell is determined to bury the past. When Slider offers her a nanny position, she accepts, needing the security and time to figure out what she wants from life. Cora adores his sweet boys, but never expected the red-hot attraction to their brooding, sexy father. If only he would notice her...

Slider does see the beautiful, fun-loving woman he invited into his home. She makes him feel too much, and he both hates it and yearns for it. But when Cora witnesses something she shouldn’t have, the new lives they’ve only just discovered are threatened. Now Slider must claim—and protect—what’s his before it’s too late.

‘Ride Wild’ focuses on the emotional journey of a widower struggling to get his life back, though it isn’t for the reason every one imagines it to be. It’s only the arrival of a babysitter (a secondary character who escaped the clutches of her evil father in previous books) needing her own sense of worth and identity that his life starts to turn around.

By and large, that was done fairly well. I did like Slider and Cora together, because both did seem ready to move on, needing only the right motivation to do so without the usual push-pull dance that most pairings undergo. Slider had my sympathy when his reasons for withdrawal from everything became clear, as did Cora—to some extent—as she struggled with trying to figure out her life at 24.

There isn’t too much angst on the romance aspect which Kaye heavily throws the spotlight on for most of the book; it’s a gradual journey of attraction and desire to a domestically blissful relationship that is established before the MC affairs kick in which sort of provide the suspense towards the end of the book.

Kaye’s ‘Raven Riders’ doesn’t quite read like a usual MC romance though; it skirts the hardcore, violent edge instead, (‘Ride Wild’ even more so) and presents female characters a little more needy and weepy than I’m used to in contrast to the large, tattooed men with even larger motorcycles. It’s not a bad mix really, though Kaye’s portrayal of the MC as a big, happy, loyal family got me sceptical at times, along with the significant age gap between the more ‘experienced’, career-established older men and the women who are younger and less sure-footed about their lives. Still, there are rival gangs, the problem of dogfighting and corrupt police officers though those really don’t take the shine away from Slider’s and Cora’s happy times in what has to be one of the most affirming MC stories I’ve ever read.

three-stars

Ride Rough by Laura Kaye

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th January 2017
Ride Rough by Laura KayeRide Rough by Laura Kaye
Series: Raven Riders #2
Published by Avon on April 25th 2017
Pages: 480
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two-stars

Brotherhood. Club. Family.They live and ride by their own rules.These are the Raven Riders...
Maverick Rylan won’t apologize for who he is—the Raven Riders Motorcycle Club Vice-President, a sought-after custom bike builder, and a man dedicated to protecting those he loves. So when he learns that the only woman who has ever held his heart is in trouble, he’ll move heaven and earth to save her.
Alexa Harmon thought she had it all—the security of a good job, a beautiful home, and a powerful, charming fiancé who offered the life she never had growing up. But when her dream quickly turns into a nightmare, Alexa realizes she’s fallen for a façade she can’t escape—until sexy, dangerous Maverick offers her a way out.
Forced together to keep Alexa safe, their powerful attraction reignites and Maverick determines to do whatever it takes to earn a second chance—one Alexa is tempted to give. But her ex-fiancé isn’t going to let her go without a fight, one that will threaten everything they both hold dear.

My own feelings on the MC type romance are still somewhat nebulous and I’d hoped Laura Kaye’s books would help shed some light on it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not quite a sub-genre that I can easily get into, even though I’ve always known has to be more than simply a bad boy on a bike in a rough-looking, territorial (but ultimately brotherhood/family-oriented?/very protective) club that functions on its own code of honour.

This particularly story left me undecided still. Apart from the territorial MC spat that the Raven Riders have gotten going, it’s a second-chance story of two people who couldn’t quite see the obvious in front of them when tragedy struck five years ago. But going their separate ways led to certain consequences that affect present-day circumstances, and it’s—predictably—up to Alexa Harmon and Maverick Rylan who, being older and wiser, should know how to right those wrongs together.

‘Ride Rough’ isn’t exactly romantic suspense, though there are some elements of those, along the description of activities that do fall in typically in the grey legal area. Much of the story has to do with the drama of their reconciliation and there are certain triggers to do with abuse here that would resonate with several readers, that much I’m sure. Kaye certainly describes the subtle kind that some women suffer in relationships and the tendency to blame themselves while becoming a doormat in the process in the character of Alexa. This sort of divided the book in 2 where their relationship was concerned: the first half that had an abused woman who blamed herself for her fiancé’s behaviour, to the repetitive, recriminating guilt after leaving him when she didn’t realise how domineering he was especially after he turned ‘evil’. I do prefer my lead female characters a bit less needy though and perhaps this is why Alexa didn’t appeal to me that much as a heroine, despite he trying valiant to rise above her own troubles.

Yet I found myself sorely disappointed when she jumped straight from a controlling abusive fiancé into straight out sex with Maverick who never quite stopped wanting her, since it simply felt like her shame at having made so many mistakes and the resulting gratitude that someone seemed to have given her the kind of self-worth and identity she needed to possess again. After all, wasn’t it only a day ago when Alexa had been trying to rationalise how good she was for her fiancé who could provide what Maverick couldn’t? In fact, it was hard to shake the feeling that Alexa was using Maverick as a rebound—or rather, as an affirmation of her own self-worth—and that he deserved better. Blinded by lust, with the admittance that she is messed up, buying into their relationship was near impossible. Her numerous comparisons of how Maverick’s superiority to grant merely emphasised her own failings and I thought she never quite chose Maverick as clearly as she’d chosen to walk away from him five years ago. The downtrodden, abuse status should garner sympathy from me really, but all I could think of was that the support she received from Mav made him more like a caretaker than an equal.

Obviously, my personal preferences account for the rating of this book. It’s definitely a story and a pairing that others can get into more than I did, and this review is in no way a reflection of bad writing. It isn’t. Only that the plot and characters aren’t quite to my tastes.

two-stars

Hard Ever After by Laura Kaye

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 2nd February 2016
Hard Ever After by Laura KayeHard Ever After by Laura Kaye
Series: Hard Ink #4.6
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 176
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three-stars

Justice served. Honor restored. Team reunited.
After a long battle to discover the truth, the men and women of Hard Ink have a lot to celebrate, especially the wedding of two of their own—Nick Rixey and Becca Merritt, whose hard-fought love deserves a happy ending.
As Nick and the team shift from crisis mode to building their new security consulting firm, Becca heads back to work at the ER. But amid the everyday chaos of demanding jobs and their upcoming nuptials, an old menace they thought long gone reemerges, threatening the peace they’ve only just found.
Now, for one last time, Nick and Becca must fight for their always and forever, because they know that when true love overcomes all the odds it lasts hard ever after.

The incredibly unappealing cover aside, Laura Kaye wraps up the Hard Ink series with ‘Hard Ever After’ and takes us back to the original couple who started it all: Becca and Nick. Their HEA, so hard-earned after the first book, is written here nearly angst-free, save for a loose end that is neatly tied up by the time they say their vows.

But HEAs and I have a mysterious and prickly relationship. Draw it out too long with too many smiles and declarations of love and it takes on a cheesy sheen; don’t write about it enough and I’ll think the couple in question deserved better. If anything, ‘Hard Ever After’ can only be accused of cementing a HEA firmly in readers’ minds, even if the general happiness of all 6 couples in question seems unreal and too bright for my own scepticism. Yet it offered a last glimpse into a (quirky) world that captured my attention for the better part of the last couple of years, so getting this extended epilogue was nevertheless a short, but welcome return to it.

three-stars

Hard to Come By by Laura Kaye

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 26th November 2014
Hard to Come By by Laura KayeHard to Come By (Hard Ink, #3) by Laura Kaye
Series: Hard Ink #3
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on November 25th 2014
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Caught between desire and loyalty…
Derek DiMarzio would do anything for the members of his disgraced Special Forces team—sacrifice his body, help a former teammate with a covert operation to restore their honor, and even go behind enemy lines. He just never expected to want the beautiful woman he found there.
When a sexy stranger asks questions about her brother, Emilie Garza is torn between loyalty to the brother she once idolized and fear of the war-changed man he's become. Derek’s easy smile and quiet strength tempt Emilie to open up, igniting the desire between them and leading Derek to crave a woman he shouldn’t trust.
As the team’s investigation reveals how powerful their enemies are, Derek and Emilie must prove where their loyalties lie before hearts are broken and lives are lost. Because love is too hard to come by to let slip away…

The supposed betrayal of a commanding officer had brought together several ex-Special Forces soldiers under the roof of a tattoo parlour, inciting a breathtaking series of events that unravel the mystery behind their dishonourable discharge from the army. It’s certainly a complicated one with hooks and twists to get the reader invested in the plot and as each book brings you deeper into the conspiracy theory, each delicious ex-soldier gets his chance at love. Which is rather ridiculous, seeing as they’re hooking up like flies after a matter of days.

But the suspension of belief is key to all of this and finally it’s Derek DiMarzio’s turn to hit the deck when he meets Emilie Garza, the sister of a target/asset the team is gunning for in a so-called honey trap that goes awry when he starts to fall for her. The initial hope that Emilie would have something more ‘tangible’ to contribute to the team soon faded away (I was hoping for a kickass, soldier maybe?) but she holds up enough on her own and provides the perfect foil for Marz to lean on. Marz, in particular, left quite an impression. I’ve never come across a character so buoyant, so optimistic and so determined to laugh through his troubles in spite of all the crap in his past, though I’ve to say my heart broke along with Emilie when he confessed no one has ever said ‘I love you’ to him. The fact that he f*cks like a demon adds to that appeal, and I’m just really happy that he’s found his well-deserved HEA.

four-stars

Her Forbidden Hero by Laura Kaye

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 6th November 2014
Her Forbidden Hero by Laura KayeHer Forbidden Hero by Laura Kaye
Series: The Hero #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on May 15th 2012
Pages: 240
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four-stars

Former Army Special Forces Sgt. Marco Vieri has never thought of Alyssa Scott as more than his best friend’s little sister, but her return home changes that…and challenges him to keep his war-borne demons at bay. Marco’s not the same person he was back when he protected Alyssa from her abusive father, and he’s not about to let her see the mess he’s become.

When Alyssa takes a job at the bar where Marco works, her carefree smiles wreak havoc on his resolve to bury his feelings. How can he protect her when he can’t stop thinking about her in his bed? But Alyssa’s not looking for protection—not anymore. Now that she’s back in his life, she’s determined to heal her forbidden hero, one touch at a time…

Marco Vieri has returned from the military in a sorry state and the last thing he needs is the distraction in the form of a very old, good friend…whom he’s starting to see as someone more than a friend. For Alyssa Scott, Marco has always been the one she’s loved, and the hero she’s always worshipped along with her brother.

The brother’s best friend and younger sister dynamic is a little different in this book – a feat considering the same trope features so often in the Brazen line, yet it’s probably one of those I’ll always remember. Alyssa’s self-sacrificing and sweet nature won me over and while Marcos’s idiotic but special brand of tortured heroic quality made me want to stone him, I found myself rooting for their HEA the whole way.

four-stars

Hard as You Can by Laura Kaye

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 26th September 2014
Hard as You Can by Laura KayeHard as You Can by Laura Kaye
Series: Hard Ink #2
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on February 25th 2014
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.
Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn't want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can—and never let go.

It took me a while to get my words together for this review. The action, the questions I have that I just need answered…oh lordy.

While I can’t exactly connect with Crystal and Shane’s insta-love story, Ms Kaye’s portrayal of Shane as an sensitive alpha was endearing and scored heaps of points in making him a very likeable character. Jenna, rather than Crystal, was the show stealer, for all her small moments in this book, serving as Crystal’s not-too-subtle conscience that they were way over their heads with this one.

But the biggest draw of this series for me really, is the ambitious, ever-growing plot (and Jeremy’s funny t-shirts) that I suspect will only be unravelled at the very end when all the guys get their love interests. There’re still many unanswered questions and loose threads that I can’t see coming together yet, but from the build-up, I’m guessing it’s going to be epic.

four-stars
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