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.

Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley

I’ll admit it was kind of cute to see the domestic side of a romance novel, especially when a hard core biker is involved. Shopping for a refrigerator, arguing over who is responsible for doing the laundry. Feels so realistic!

What’s it About?

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Tabitha Allen grew up in the thick of Chaos—the Chaos Motorcycle Club, that is. Her father is Chaos’ leader, and the club has always had her back. But one rider was different from the start. When Tabby was running wild, Shy Cage was there. When tragedy tore her life apart, he helped her piece it back together. And now, Tabby’s thinking about much more than friendship…Tabby is everything Shy’s ever wanted, but everything he thinks he can’t have. She’s beautiful, smart, and as his friend’s daughter, untouchable. Shy never expected more than friendship, so when Tabby indicates she wants more—much morehe feels like the luckiest man alive. But even lucky men can crash and burn…

First Impressions

Shy is the ultimate alpha motorcycle dude with a cave man persona and everything. I’ll admit that my initial reaction to some of his comments made the inner woman in me want to cry out in protest. He’ll never do the laundry? Excuuuuuse me? You think I wanna wash your dirty underwear, I don’t think so! But what this novel does pretty well is that Shy is rather quick to then verbalize why he’s coming off as a seemingly difficult guy. For example, with the laundry we discover there’s actually a sad back story to his laundry aversion revolving around having to live with his uncle and tyrannical aunt following the death of his parents. It seems like in so many romance novels you’ll have some kind of argument like this, and our lead characters will just get all pissy about it and refuse to speak the truth about the matter for days. To Shy’s benefit, he sort of breaks the mold in that he insists Tabby listen to his explanations. True he could still probably tone things down a smidge, but you gotta give the guy some credit for not closing himself off.

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 From Repetition to Time References

I will say I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the writing elements employed here. Firstly, the book was quite repetitive when it came to the wording of a particular scene. Either the same emotion or action would be stated in a slightly different way, or it would just be blatantly repeated. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize I am also 100% guilty of doing this, and I do it often. I do it all the time. I do it in a plethora of different ways. You could even say the number of times I do it is rather numerous. See what I’m doing here? Saying the same thing three-four times over, but it builds my paragraph length and sometimes lets me look up some fun new words in a thesaurus. And even though I know I myself am guilty of this technique, it was kind of irritating to see it utilized so many times throughout a full-length book, which is already pretty long at roughly 400 pages.

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Another feature which left me kind of lost was that each chapter, and even sometimes multiple times throughout a chapter, we’d be introduced with some kind of time progression. 3 weeks later, 2 days later, 6 weeks later. I’m sorry, am I supposed to be keeping track of all this? Because I stopped paying attention about 7 months ago. Towards the beginning I think it was helpful when tracking Tabby’s relationship with another guy, and the length of time which passed after this guy’s untimely death before she and Shy became an item. Other than that, kind of unnecessary.

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One final confusing aspect was that we would have a sudden introduction of a person or event as though we were supposed to know the full back story of what was going on. But of course we don’t, so we then get multiple pages of description and background before finally getting back to the present predicament. Again, if this had happened once or twice, I would get it, but it was a recurring theme which would often make it even harder to understand the timeline of where we were in the story. To be introduced to a character for the first time, then learn about the history of the main character with this new character, then hear about some of the different events from this new character’s past even before meeting the main character which made them the person they are today, to finally getting back to why this new character had to be introduced in this particular scene in the first place. Exhaustion!

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Brushing Aside the Action

For the most part, this book is just an exploration of Tabby’s evolving relationship with Shy, as well as the two of them getting used to each other’s quirks and habits. And bodies!! We have two moments in particular which are pretty drama-filled, but I must say I was disappointed in how they were handled. In both instances, the details are kind of left feeling unfinished. Seeing as the rest of the book isn’t too action-packed, it was kind of frustrating that the few instances where we do have it we never get a full resolution to matters.

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In the first instance Shy is finally allowed to confront his parents’ murderer, and some body-beating goes on, but then we sort of switch gears entirely to him having an honest confrontation with his aunt and uncle. Um, I’m sorry but what happened to the guy you were just mercilessly beating? Did you kill him? Remove an extremity? Leave him to die somewhere?? The second instance was especially frustrating as we are introduced to an intense feud between the club and a rival gang in which Shy is even left slightly injured. I was expecting a final confrontation or battle. Showdown between key members. Something! But again it’s brushed aside and the book basically ends. There’s the implication this will continue on in future novels in the series, but I wanted more! Now!

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Series: Chaos, book 1. This book wasn’t my favorite thing ever, but I gotta say it was probably one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read from Kristen Ashley so far. Don’t have much to go on of course, but still! I could see myself continuing with this one.

Should you read it? As it turns out, I unknowingly broke the cardinal rule of romance novel reading. I didn’t do a thorough enough background check to see if this was part of a series. I simply saw that it was book 1 of the Chaos series and assumed I was good to go. Well, you know what they say when you assume something! Turns out there’s some fine print to that, which states that this is an offshoot of the Dream Man series, and that it recommends you read Motorcycle Man first so you can follow along with some of the events which are referenced. Oops! At times I was kind of lost when they quickly referenced what must have been huge story points from this other novel. The problem is I’ve read a few of the novels from this other series and I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’m not as motivated as I should be to go back and complete that series.

Smut Level: Good Lord it was shocking how some of these chapters started! Normally with Shy’s head between Tabby’s legs. Yowza!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 405 Pages.

Knight by Kristen Ashley

Knight? Well, that’s definitely a…unique name for a human being. Talk about pressure! Certainly a name you’ve gotta live up to.

What’s it About? 

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Anya Gage has learned that to get anything good in life, you have to work for it. She has no expectations, no dreams. Then she finds herself at a party where she doesn’t want to be and she meets Knight. Knight Sebring knows who he is, what he wants and what he likes. And he gets it. But he never expected something as sweet as Anya Gage to wander into his bedroom during a party he did not expect to be having to borrow his phone.

Knight tries to leave Anya to the life she deserves of white picket fences and a man who watches football on Sundays – good, normal and clean. But when Anya comes to his nightclub and finds herself in a situation, he knows someone has to look after her, he can’t fight it anymore and he decides that man will be him. Knight teaches Anya that, just as with the bad, in life you should also expect the good. And he teaches her this by giving it to her. But Knight has a dark past and just as he desires Anya for exactly who she is, he fears when she finds out exactly the man he has become and always intends to be, she’ll leave him for good, normal and clean.

First Impressions

I will say I did enjoy how this novel started off. I think we can all relate to being at a party at some point in our lives that we simply wanted to escape from. This is how our story opens; with Anya feeling totally out of place surrounded by such splendor in her knock-off shoes and out of season clothing. Luckily for her, she ends up meeting a sexy man who is prepared to take her to pleasure town. With a layover in orgasm city. Unluckily for her, said man also happens to scare the dickens out of her.

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Fear and Control

Anya repeatedly acknowledges throughout the novel that Knight scares her. He’s intense, overbearing and controlling. She honestly doesn’t know what he’ll do if she disappoints him, or doesn’t follow his directions. When she admits her fears to her friends, what do they do? They repeatedly tell her to just “forget the scary.” That…seems like dangerous advice to follow when fearful of an overbearing guy you just met.

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Anya tries to convince herself that since meeting Knight he’s only made her life better. While I do think that he’s made her feel more confident in her own skin by constantly saying how beautiful she is, she never lists this as one of his influences. Every single reason she gives for the impact he’s made in her life relates to material possessions. If we were to take all that away, I think Anya would just be left with an uber controlling guy who scares her. And yeah, sure, gives her lots of orgasms.

A D/S Daddy

I’ve been reading romance and erotic novels almost exclusively for about 3-4 years now. I’ve read a lot of novels in that amount of time which have featured dominant/submissive relationships, and I’ll admit I’m finally just now starting to fully understand what they’re all about. Took long enough! As Anya’s close friend comments, “that’s bedroom, not in life.” For her in particular, she leads a very stressful life where she’s the one in charge and making all the decisions. By giving up control in the bedroom, she’s able to let go, relax and let someone else make the decisions for once. I can sort of see how such a relationship could be freeing. When it comes to Anya and Knight though, it seems his controlling ways do expand beyond the bedroom. He even says “Unless I tell you what to do or not to do, do whatever you wanna do.” Umm…that’s not really what I consider to be the definition of freedom there buddy.

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So I might just now be understanding of how some women could get into the whole d/s relationship without it being considered misogynistic. I’m learning here. Something I still don’t for the life of me understand the appeal of though is calling your lover “daddy”. Like…no. Not the time or place I want to make reference to dear ole dad. I mean, I feel like it doesn’t go both ways, which simply isn’t fair, right? I’ve never read an erotic novel where the guy calls his girlfriend “mommy” as she spanks his ass. I just don’t get it!! Can someone out there explain the appeal of calling your lover daddy? Seriously, I’d really love to get a discussion going.

Series: Unfinished Heroes, book 1.

Should you read it? The writing was just ok. Pretty basic descriptions were used, with “very” as the descriptor of choice. Very expensive, very tall, very pretty. By the end I thought if Anya said “Oh God” or “Oh my God” one more time I was gonna scream. About 145 times actually. When it comes down to it, repeatedly using the term “daddy” is a sure-fire way to kill my mood. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid of your significant other! She never really communicates her fears or misgivings to Knight, so he has no way to address/resolve them.

Smut Level: He sure does like to use the “c” word in reference to her…lady bits.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 285 Pages.