If you know me, you are aware of my Kristen Ashley addiction. But if you know me, you also know I am a tough reviewer, especially when it comes to beloved books that have sequels because my expectations are tenfold. It takes nothing less than a small miracle for a book to swipe me off my feet when I’ve loved the prequel something fierce, and I adored Own the Wind, BUT… there is a reason Kristen Ashley is my drug of choice. Her stories, her writing style, her characters get to me like no other – I feel it all, every single emotion, every single word, and let me tell you, this is one addiction I am never going to kick.
“I’m not your old lady,” I declared.
He grinned and asked, “You aren’t?”
“No,” I stated firmly.
“In my tee, in my bed, after a night where my condom stash got lighter by three, lady. Beg to differ.”
In this breathtaking next installment of the Chaos series, we are treated to the story of Hopper “Hop” Kincaid and Lanie Heron, Tyra’s best friend. We met these characters in Motorcycle Man where we indirectly watched them go through their own personal ordeals, but in this book, their story is finally told. Lanie is a survivor – her last relationship ended with her fiancé getting shot and killed in front of her after using her as a shield, getting shot herself and getting her best friend stabbed. These events have left her emotionally broken, unable to move on, crippled by guilt and disillusioned with love. When she approaches Hop for a one-night-stand, her intentions are just that – one night of sex and nothing more. But once they get a taste of each other, of how good it feels to be in each other’s arms, a one-night-stand soon becomes a lot more than that.
“Injected, the drug that was Hop coursed through my veins. I had it back in a way I couldn’t believe I’d ever managed to live without it.”
Lanie is like no woman that Hop has ever bedded before – all class and kindness. She is high drama but she challenges him, makes him unable to get her out of his thoughts, and her vulnerability makes him want to protect her and keep her safe. She tells him that she does not want a relationship with him but every cell of her body responds to him and to his efforts to take care of her.
“The way you look at me when I tuck you in bed, like I gave you diamonds, something precious, something you wanna keep safe, something you want forever. Woman like you could get diamonds just crookin’ her finger, so a woman like you shouldn’t find a man tuckin’ you in bed precious. But you do.”
So, Hop does not give up. He pursues her, never taking no for an answer as he slowly gets under her skin, bit by bit, gesture by gesture, showing her that there are men out there who would never use a woman as a shield and who would love her unconditionally, always putting her first. He breaks through her defences, but even then, Lanie’s demons are deeply ingrained and tough to beat, constantly setting their relationship back and turning it into a fight to stay together.
“I don’t use you as a shield. I am the goddamn shield, and I’m not talkin’ about bullets because shit like that does not touch old ladies. Ever. I’m talkin’ about assholes with monster trucks. I’m talkin’ about Club business, life, every second you live, every breath you take. You take a chance on me, your biggest worry is your 7Up fizzing over.”
There are no words for the kind of range of emotions I have felt reading this book. Not many books make me cry but this book succeeded effortlessly and it did so on more than one occasion. The emotional vulnerability of these characters, paired with their desperate longing to be loved, properly, genuinely, completely, made my heart clench page after page. There is something truly magical about a scenario where a man won’t give up on a good woman, regardless of all her hang-ups and issues, and who is willing to do his best to make her feel loved and protected. Call it old fashioned but this is one formula I will never get tired of.
“Those bullets tore through you, baby … But you didn’t leak out. You’re still here. You lost blood, Lanie, and someone you loved. But you’re still here.”
Lastly, a special note has to be made about this author’s writing style. No other author I have ever come across has perfected her own style so beautifully and so uniquely – her sentence structures, her vocabulary, the vehicular used by her characters, it is all flawless and truly original. She does not use profanities for shock value, her alpha men might look rough and not use “please” and “thank you” every five minutes, but their every word screams of the kind of hearts they have behind those badass exteriors. You can get lost in a book like this, find yourself highlighting passage after passage wishing you spoke that way because this is no ordinary prose, this to me is poetry, and this is pure Kristen Ashley at her best.
“Every step, every breath, every second I lived on this earth, I’m thankful for, no matter how fucked up or whacked or hard or good, ’cause all that shit led me to you.”