Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin

Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlinDare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin
Series: The Sons of Steel Row, #2
Published by Signet on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 336
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Bruised and bloodied on Boston’s mean streets, Chris O’Brien is reeling from the loss of his childhood best friend. But after barely escaping a hit placed on his head, Chris is desperate to live. A safe haven comes to mind—the home of the perfect girl from his childhood, Molly Lachlan. Before he has fully considered what it would mean to involve her in his mess, he finds himself on her doorstep.

When Molly agrees to let Chris inside her home, she realizes she’s also letting him into her life. Danger and desperation are coming off of him like steam, and yet she can’t bring herself to turn him away. His bad boy charm always had a hold on her, but now there’s a soulfulness and sorrow in him that she’s never seen before. And despite the heart-stopping risk of helping him, she hopes against all reason that he’ll stay...

The anti-hero, lost and despairing, in search of redemption, with all his existential, fatalistic trappings – has long intrigued me, even if they’re best kept examined with some kind of distance. To see them popping up from time to time in this genre (although they do seem more common now) is always a reminder that men who dwell in all shades of grey can be written as a shining example of a credible male lead – while getting all he doesn’t quite deserve by the very end of the story.

Chris O’Brien is that man who’s convinced he doesn’t deserve anything beyond guns, alcohol, brotherhood and meaningless sex because, well, as a product of this very squalid and hostile environment, he simply doesn’t know better. Perhaps it’s only fitting that woman he has known for years and admired from afar is the complete, diametric opposite of this world, even if her angelic qualities might really have been exaggerated in his perspective. Hence, that constant self-recrimination of never being good enough plays out constantly in his mind, ad nauseum, because Molly Lachlan, if anything, is frustratingly naive and only determined to see the ‘good’ side of him without really wanting to know what he really does on the streets.

I hadn’t read the first book and delving into this one is in a way more rewarding than going at it straight from the very beginning. There’s a back story that I had no problem catching up on, and a meaty game of double-crossing and whistle-blowing that leaves Chris, Molly and Scotty mere heartbeats away from danger. A gang war is in full swing and players aren’t quite who they seem and that perhaps, was the key element in ‘Dare to Stay’ that kept me hooked and the pages turning, rather than the on-off, yes/no game that Chris and Molly inadvertently kept playing throughout the book because of their indecision about each other.

The happy-for-now ending however, is also what I strangely appreciate, when it’s clear that the next book will build on what has already been established here. The violence doesn’t miraculously cease because a couple finally gets their act together and the story after all, isn’t quite over until the streets are cleaned up. Surprisingly, I find myself wanting more – more of Scotty’s story, even Tate, perhaps – too quickly, too much, only to wonder if I’ll end up disappointed when it finally comes.