Ride Steady by Kristen Ashley

This is one of those romance series that seems to improve with the addition of each novel.

What’s it About? 

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The ride of her life. . .Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy—until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

Climb on and hold tight. . .In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa—or ride away forever . . .

First Impressions

The standout feature of this novel which sets it apart from all the others which came before is our heroine. Simply put she’s an outsider, one completely removed from the motorcycle world. The previous two novels dealt with women who knew the customs and traditions of a motorcycle club, and what it meant to be a man’s “old lady”. Carissa is getting a crash course in these customs after Joker comes to her rescue after her car breaks down on the side of the road. What’s particularly fascinating though is that the club seems to claim Carissa before Joker does.

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It’s not just that Joker has expressed an interest in her that the club has chosen to envelop her into their world, although that is certainly what drew their attention to her in the first place. Rather, it’s after this initial introduction when they work on her car that they hear her story. They see a woman who is being mistreated and emotionally manipulated at the hands of her ex. A mother who wants nothing more than to care for her child. This is what causes the entire club to rally behind her as though she were already one of their own. It’s a beautiful reflection of what this motorcycle club of seemingly rough and intimidating alpha men is all about. They’re looking out for those less fortunate, and should they have the means to remedy the situation in some way they throw everything they can at it.

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The Growth of a Tigress

Something even more intriguing than the development of Carissa and Joker’s romance was the evolution of her dynamic with her ex-husband. At the start of the novel, he’s doing anything he can to make Carissa’s life a living hell, and using his stature within the law community to take advantage of their separation. Our story opens with a focus on Carissa’s many burdens. From a lack of child support payments, to a mountain of lawyer fees she can ill afford, and the increasing loss of custody of her son to the point where she’s considering desperate measures to attain a sub-par lawyer to represent her against her cutthroat ex. This is when Joker and the Chaos Motorcycle Club come in. They support her in any way they can. But it’s not as though they just throw money at her in the hopes her situation will improve.

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They bring her in as one of their own, and become an emotional support and shoulder to lean and cry on that she was desperately in need of. Joker shows her and her son a selfless expression of love that she’s never experienced up until this point in her life, even from her ex-husband. They become her family. And it is through their support that Carissa finds her own inner strength, and the will to stand up for herself and her son in the face of her ex’s intimidation tactics. However, it is only after Carissa starts to exude confidence, and following the introduction of Joker to her ex that he starts to re-think their separation entirely. He adopts a renewed vigor to win her back after he sees another man encroaching upon his assumed territory. The question soon becomes, which was worse? His desire to push her down, or his tricks to try and win her back?

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Series: Chaos, book 3. Hands down, my favorite story of the series so far.

Final Impressions: In a way, the romance between Joker and Carissa is almost a second chance at love. They both crushed on each other in high school, but he ran away before they could ever voice their feelings for each other. All these years later Carissa is a single mother, and Joker is a tough-as-nails member of a motorcycle club, but none of that can interfere with their long suppressed feelings from coming to the surface. This novel also finally provides us with the introduction of some club drama with a rival gang, though it still takes a backseat to the developing romance between Joker and Carissa. What helps this novel supersede the others which came before is that the plot doesn’t just focus on our lovers learning to navigate their relationship, but we also have the added intrigue of them learning how to navigate the intrusion of Carissa’s ex into their relationship.

Smut Level: The sex scenes between Carissa and Joker often involve her desperate pleas for him not to stop. While definitely steamy, they also reveal a deep-seated neglect at the hands of her ex to fully satisfy her sexual needs.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 628 Pages

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Fire Inside by Kristen Ashley

Lanie approaches Hop for what she assumes will be a one-night stand. Silly Lanie. You should know this Chaos motorcycle club is full of alpha men who aren’t willing to let their women go once they’ve had a taste.

What’s it About? 

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Lanie Heron isn’t looking for love-no surprise, considering her last serious relationship nearly got her killed. So when Lanie propositions Hop Kincaid, all she wants is one wild night with the hot-as-hell biker who patrols with the Chaos Motorcycle Club . . .

For Hop, Lanie has always been untouchable. She’s too polished and too classy for his taste. But when she gives Hop the once-over with her bedroom eyes and offers him a night in paradise, he can’t say no. And he doesn’t regret it when he finds that Lanie is the best thing that’s ever happened to him-in or out of bed. Now the trick will be to convince her of that.

First Impressions

Lanie definitely got more than she bargained for after approaching Hop for a little romp between the bed sheets. While he’s initially thrown off by her proposal, and it’s rather entertaining to see her be the initiator in the beginning, it doesn’t take long at all before he takes back the reins in their relationship. One taste is all it takes, and even though Lanie tries to brush off his advances, he’s determined that the two have a connection which is more meaningful than just one night.

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It’s possible that not all the readers out there will be comfortable with Hop’s constant pursuit of Lanie in spite of her many initial objections. However, we soon learn that Hop does have a soft and nurturing side underneath his tough exterior and leather cut. Lanie has awoken feelings in him which he thought would lay dormant forever, and he recognizes that she too is struggling to overcome some of the trials and heartbreaks of her past. Perhaps if he can show her that he’ll always be there for her, no matter how much she might push him away, he won’t abandon her like others had done before.

Battling the Past 

When we first meet Lanie at the start of the book, she seems like a go-getter who isn’t afraid to pursue what she wants, and in this matter what she wants is one night with Hop. But why does she insist on limiting things to just one night? As it turns out, Lanie has been battling certain demons from her past for years. Her attempt to limit things with Hop is her attempt to protect herself, as well as her heart, from the same kind of pain she experienced when her ex-fiance put her in the direct line of danger to protect himself. She also hasn’t exactly had the perfect example of love when looking at her own parent’s relationship. It’s really no surprise then that when Hop comes along, and tries to insert himself fully into her life, she would try and do everything possible to push him away.

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As for Hop, he too has experienced pain in regards to love lost. He’s been cheated on, lied to, manipulated, and fought alongside his brothers to defend their turf for years. However, whereas Lanie tries to close herself off from the possible pain a new relationship might bring, we see the opposite is true when it comes to Hop’s outlook on love. He’s able to recognize in Lanie a kindred spirit; a woman who will challenge him every step of the way; someone he sees as being different from any woman who may have come before her. He’s an alpha male, through and through, and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure this unique woman he’s falling for doesn’t get away. He also has the difficult task of opening her eyes to why it’s worth going all in on their relationship, and overcoming the pain of her past to take a chance on them.

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The Dramatic Focus

This is the second novel in the Chaos series, and like book one I was once again surprised to discover that the bulk of the drama surrounds the developing relationship playing out between our lead characters rather than any kind of drama related to motorcycle club business. We do get many references to the past events involving Lanie and her ex-fiance being shot and left for dead by the Mafia, and even though they’re suspenseful in nature, the fact they’ve already taken place years ago means they play a more important role on Lanie’s current state of mind rather than lending any kind of actual drama to the plot.

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This is quite similar to what we saw in book one in that we see multiple references to events which have already taken place in a sister series. However, the implementation of still making these past events relevant was executed much more successfully in this sequel. I would have to say it was pretty disappointing though that the main drama we see involving club business takes place at the very very end of the novel in the epilogue, and even this dramatic scene is one we already witnessed play out in book one. It’s like this whole series so far has been an insinuation of drama which will inevitably happen in a future book, but it’s definitely taking us an awful long time to get there!

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Can (Almost) Never Push Him Away

One of the most endearing features of Hop as a male lead is that he refuses to give up when Lanie keeps trying to push him away. We get multiple descriptions of his knowing smirks, as though he’s thinking “yeah right, like I’ll just walk away from you, pffft!” Deep down, Lanie knows that she wants a life and a future with Hop, but she’s simply afraid of giving her heart over to another person again. She openly warns him that she’s prone to overreacting when it comes to relationships, and she’s wont to think the worst of a certain situation. Therefore, I loved that Hop was willing to stick by her so many times as they stumbled across a few hurdles here and there. At first. Turns out, there’s only so much one man can take. Eventually, Lanie pushes Hop away one too many times, and he decides to end things between them.

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Throughout so much of the novel up until this point, we’ve seen Hop insist that he’ll never walk away, and yet we shockingly discover that it’s only so long before he actually turns his back on her. Now, I could definitely understand why he would’ve reached a breaking point. There’s only so many times a man can be accused of something from his past that he didn’t actually do, and he was pretty fed up with Lanie always defaulting to think the worst of him. He certainly had more patience than I ever would have, but I was still shocked that he actually did reach a point where he gave up. Especially when we see her admit she was wrong, and all her attempts to win him back are rejected. Hop was definitely giving her a taste of her own medicine, and again although it was understandable for a time, you still can’t help but taste the bitterness of his actions.

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Series: Chaos, book 2.

Final Impressions: Where is all the drama?!?! We’ve seen multiple mentions throughout these first two books of a rival motorcycle gang encroaching upon Chaos territory, but aside from one escalated argument in the final epilogue, we really haven’t seen much suspense or action when it comes to this rival gang. I’d say the first book had a few more references to them, but in this second one the drama was almost entirely absent. Ultimately this sequel was more successful though in summarizing previous events from the past. In addition, I think I also appreciated Lanie and Hop’s relationship more than the couple from the first novel. They are both finding out how to move forward from their pasts, and it’s in each other that they are able to find the love and strength necessary to succeed. Hop definitely comes across as a tough guy, but his devotion to Lanie and even his poetic descriptions of music evoke a softer side to this motorcycle man. This made it all the more surprising when he eventually pushed Lanie away, but at the same time you can’t necessarily fault him for reaching a breaking point.

Smut Level: The fact that Lanie and Hop’s first time together isn’t described in any detail shocked me to my very core! Don’t worry though, what follows are plenty of descriptive, dirty talking sexy scenes to make you blush. Some even involving a waterbed!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 421 Pages.