Have I been living under a rock?? Why have I only just discovered Kristen Ashley books now? They are like a drug, a sweet intoxicating makes-you-want-to-spend-the-whole-weekend-in-bed-reading elixir that gets you from the get go and makes everything else – eating, drinking, sleeping – optional. Well, I just came out of a two day Kristen Ashley binge and I feel like I should be on the next plane to Colorado. Stat.
The first Colorado Mountain book was one of my favourite books ever and this one did not disappoint. I think one can comfortably get used to and expect a certain standard from Ms Ashley’s writing – it is a superbly written, entertaining, original, addictive emotion-fest that puts equal emphasis on character development and plot. Nothing is hurried or fudged in these books, they are well-rounded little gems and they are a pure joy to read.
This is the story of a forty-something divorcée – Lauren – who leaves her fancy suburban lifestyle after her marriage painfully dissolves and takes off, driving aimlessly throughout the country, searching for a place where she would find a peaceful and drama-free existence. She comes across Carnal, Colorado, a waitressing job vacancy in a local biker bar and she takes it. Lauren is a broken woman. Her ten-year-old marriage to an egocentric man made her question herself and her worth. She spent a decade changing who she really was in order to please a man who needed to put her down to feel good about himself. He fed her insecurities by making her believe that she had to change if she wanted to keep him. Eventually, he left her anyway.
“All my life, or as long as I can remember, I thought something special was going to happen to me. I just had this feeling, deep in my bones. I didn’t know what it was but it was going to be beautiful, spectacular, huge. All … my … life. It didn’t. I waited and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it still didn’t happen. I tried to make it happen and it still didn’t happen. Now I know it isn’t going to. It’s never going to happen because there isn’t anything special out there to happen.”
Carnal is exactly what she has been searching for – a small town where people actually care about each other, know each other, where she can live a quiet uneventful life and heal her broken heart. She expects nothing more from life, she believes that life doesn’t have “anything special in store for her” and she is OK with it. She just wants a job, a home, and a peaceful and predictable everyday life.
Well, life has something quite different in store for her – Tatum Jackson. Tate. A macho mountain biker man, co-owner of the bar she is now working at, a man with a nasty temper and an equally ugly past behind him. Theirs is a love-hate relationship from the beginning. Their attraction is undeniable but Tate’s baggage pulls them apart every single time. Until it doesn’t. What Lauren eventually finds in Tate is a safe harbour, a place where she is appreciated and loved for the person that she really is, narky attitude included. Tate is a man who has been dealt so many bad cards in his life and he never once gave in. His only fault (that I can see) is his temper and vicious tongue when he gets mad. But he is a dog that barks but never bites. The women that “got under his skin” up to that point have all been dysfunctional individuals who only took and never gave anything back. He is at a crossroad in his life when he meets Lauren and choosing to pursue her proves to be the best decision he has ever made.
“Two kinds of women get under your skin. The ones who do damage, they don’t feel good there but once your f*cking stupid enough to let them in you got no choice but to take the time to work them out. Then there are the ones who don’t do damage, who feel good there, feed the muscle, the bone, the soul, not rip it or break it or burn it. The ones you don’t wanna work out.”
Theirs is an attraction of opposites – Tate being the possessive domineering bossy alpha male who loves with all his being and protects whom he loves at all costs; Lauren being a spirited and loving woman who only wants to take care of the ones she loves, a woman whose goodness and mere presence make people want to open up to her and make her one of their own, someone who was never outspoken during her marriage but who has a lot to say. Their personalities end up perfectly fitting each other like missing pieces of a puzzle, and what they build together is exactly the kind of “special” that Lauren always hoped to find.
“God, if he wasn’t so handsome, strong, sometimes sweet, didn’t have a Harley, that beard, a tendency to play with my hair, didn’t look so good in jeans and wasn’t so danged good in bed, he would seriously not be worth it.”
As in all Colorado Mountain books, the plot of the book is so much more intense and intricate that just the romance between the main characters. None of the secondary characters are neglected, neither in character development nor in their contribution to the overall storyline. There is always a heart-stopping event at the end and a heart-warming HEA. Just what the doctor prescribed. Reading one of these books means immersing yourself up to the tip of your head into another reality, one that takes over yours and makes you a (willing) participant. Like a good junkie, I am immediately throwing myself into another KA book, real life be damned!
“So, maybe, if he exhausted you, you wouldn’t have had trouble sleeping.”
“Yeah, Ace, f*cked you so hard you couldn’t move. Couldn’t do anything but sleep. Exhausted you. You were in my bed, couldn’t sleep, that’s what I’d do.”