Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wild Man by Kristen Ashley

Why I read it:  Continuing my glom...  (Really, the books are priced so as to make it very easy to go on a spree.)

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  While filling her display case in her bakery, the bell over the door sounds and Tessa O’Hara looks up and sees the man of her dreams. Within thirty seconds he asks her out for a beer. Thirty seconds later, she says yes. But after four months of falling in love, she discovers he’s an undercover DEA Agent investigating the possibility she’s involved in her ex-husband’s drug business.

Obviously Tess decides this means it’s over.

But DEA Agent Brock Lucas disagrees. A man on a mission who’s really committed to his job, he’s spent years in the underbelly of Denver with the dregs of society. And spending four months with Tess who’s as sweet as her cupcakes, he seriously enjoyed his job. But during Tess’s interrogation, Brock learns the devastating secret Tess is carrying and he’s determined to be the man who helps her heal as well as take her back as she walks on the wild side.

As wild and sweet mix, they face challenge after challenge of family struggling with history and terminal illness. Not to mention, Tess’s ex-husband, the drug lord and Brock’s ex-wife, who has a very big playbook are scheming to tear them apart.

But Brock Lucas has wild in him and once in his past on the trail of vengeance he let that wild loose, making a mistake that he would have no idea years later will put his sweet Tess in the position to pay his penance.

What worked for me (and what didn't): This was my third Ashley book.  I've noticed quite a few similarities; the heroines are funny and a little bit screwball (in a good way, IMO), the heroes are uber-alpha protector types who like the dirty talk and have a bit of a rough edge, even though they are devoted to their ladies once they find them.  That might sound a bit like I have been reading the same book. But I have noticed some differences too.  It may be that they are too subtle for some people to enjoy however.  It's not a problem I'm having however.  Out of the three heroines I have read so far, Gwen (Mystery Man) is the funniest, Tyra is the gutsiest (Motorcycle Man) and Tess (Wild Man) is the sweetest.  Her version of screwball is a little toned down as compared to Tyra and Gwen.   In term of the narrative arc, Wild Man is, I think, much different to the two MMs.  Even though the title is "Wild" Man, the book has a long period in the middle of courtship and relationship development without a hail of bullets.  There are issues that the couple deal with - a lot of family drama involving Brock's father and Brock's ex-wife and two sons but, unlike the other two books, there is a large section of calm.  That's not to say boring.  Just, as compared to the rollercoaster that was the other two books.

The differences were a happy discovery for me - as much as I enjoyed Mystery Man and Motorcycle Man, I think if I found the stories too one note, I would tire more quickly.  The things that are the same are things I enjoy.  But I do want a different story and I don't want the characters to be entirely interchangeable*.  At the same time, I'm a fan of the alpha protector so those traits are welcome and even in a book with angst and drama, I like a bit of funny to lighten the mood so those aspects are more likely to remain a win with me.

(*I can see that there may be some debate over this point by various readers - some may say that they are in fact interchangeable and there is no material difference; rinse, repeat.  While I think there are many similarities, I do think there are differences, at least in the 3 books I've read so far).

I also appreciated that the hero in this story is 45 and the heroine is 43.  There's not a lot of that out there that I know of.  Maybe some older heroes, but not that many hot sexy 40+ heroines.  Bring on more I say! :)

A note of warning: Tess has a significant trauma in her past and even thought Brock swears (and I believed him and so did Tess) that he would never hurt her physically, he does have the occasional violent outburst (throwing things against a wall) and, despite all, there are scenes in the book where he corners Tess physically or, for example, lays on top of her to "force" her to have a conversation with him.  Those things sat uncomfortably with me.  Hawk and Tack have both been guilty of the physicality but it bothered me less in those books.  While I could not enjoy that IRL, in the context of the fantasy of fiction, I was okay with it.  I found it more problematic here because Brock knows about Tess's past and says he's going to take care and then, to my mind, doesn't quite, not always.  It wasn't enough for me to dislike Brock but it did lose him some points with me and I think for other readers who perhaps have some acquaintance with some form of domestic violence/abuse, this may be a dealbreaker.

I thought the book dragged a bit at the end. I understand the reason for the multiple storyline epilogue (even though I thought the last bit with Levi and Lenore was unnecessary angst) but, for me, the book seemed to end with a wimper rather than a snap (even though it did totally end with  a bang if you get my meaning). [insert eyeroll here]

What else?  Much to my surprise (because I'm really mostly about the hero/heroine together in my reading), I am really enjoying the interaction with the women.  What I like is that there are females in the story that aren't getting their own books.  There are 'good' females and 'bad' females, but the good ones vastly outnumber the bad so I don't feel it's at all a woman bashing book.  Also there are 'good' men and 'bad' men too.  And, there are (mostly male) characters who are neither 'good' nor 'bad' but are flawed and trying to sort themselves out - that's always interesting to read IMO.  But, getting back to the women; they are funny.  They have each other's backs.  They enjoy each other's company and they don't just talk about their men (even though they do a bit of it).  There is a real tone of celebration of girlfriends (as in friends who are girls) and the heroes celebrate those connections too.

Sure there is also a lot of "women in traditional roles" in the books - in this one, Tess does the shopping and cooking and cleaning - because Brock doesn't do it at all.  He doesn't come out and say that it's "women's work" per se but he could care less about it and, if Tess wants it done, she will have to do it.  (Me, I'm thinking they should explore getting a cleaner).  Contrast this with Hawk (Mystery Man) who has a cleaner and who eats super healthy and has to buy in junk food and condiments for Gwen because she does not) and Tack (Motorcycle Man) who loves to cook and isn't afraid of going to the grocery store either.

In Wild Man, as it is from Tess's POV, I feel like she is okay with the exchange in her relationship and whatever an outsider looking in might say about the sharing (or lack of) of domestic roles, she is content.  And, ultimately, in my opinion, that's what matters.

That's not to say that the 'sisterhood' doesn't stand up for themselves in this book - the scene where Tess takes Brock's brother Levi to task over being a dawg is just one example.

Motorcycle Man is still my favourite of the three books so far, butI enjoyed this one too.

Favourite Quote:  
"Only I could find a woman who describes pies as "autumnal"."
"Well, how would you describe maple buttermilk pie?" I asked.
"Babe, I've never had maple buttermilk pie but there are only three adjectives to describe any pie and those are bad, okay and fuckin' great.".

Grade: B


Marg said...

I went through a glom with these boosk a few weeks ago. For all their issues, they are still damn fine reads.

Just reading that last quote about the pie made me grin, and that has to be a good thing right?

Kaetrin said...

@Marg I'm really enjoying them. They are a ripper read IMO. :)