This is Jill Sorenson’s first foray into Motorcycle Club Romance, and it was a natural fit for the Romantic Suspense expert. Mia Richards (formerly Michelle Ruiz) is psychologist, who entered the Witness Protection system after Phillip, her husband was murdered and she was left for dead during a home invasion perpetrated by bikers connected to the White Lightning MC. Three years have passed and Mia, thirsty for revenge, jumps at the opportunity offered by shady DA investigator Damon Vargas to take part a mostly-off the books operation against the Dirty Eleven MC. Mia is to monitor the psychological health of their informant Cole “Shank” Shepherd. After the death of his brother and with prison life turning too dangerous after retaliating against the Aryan Brotherhood who killed him, Cole has agreed to provide information on his uncle’s criminal activities as head of the Dirty Eleven Motorcycle Club. In Cole, Mia sees the perfect instrument of revenge but as she plots to seduce Cole, she finds that after three years of numbness, he has sparked both her body and her feelings and believes she can’t callously use him as she intended. Cole has come back from prison changed. The deaths of his brother and cousin have reinforced a sense of his mortality, and made him increasingly uneasy with the criminal partnerships his uncle has made. He is wary of old friends, he is thinking too hard, noticing too much and knows from the start Mia wants something from him. Cole and Mia’s relationship was complicated enough when she was trying to seduce him into being her instrument of revenge, but simply trying to be together nearly destroys them both.
Sorenson did a wonderful job combining MC elements with her excellent romantic suspense plots. Sorenson doesn’t sugarcoat the machismo & violence of the MC life but is still able to exploit the erotic potential Cole’s possessiveness & crudeness holds for Mia. Cole deeper interest in Mia was also realistically developed. While they both develop intense attraction from the beginning, their relationship is given time to build, through multiple therapy sessions, & then in furtive and conflicted encounters. The tension of Cole is seeking intimacy beyond sex for the first time in his life, and Mia struggling with the reality of giving him anything other than her body (such a her true identity) will endanger them both.The external and internal obstacles Mia and Cole face were so realistic and intense I had a hard time imagining how Sorenson could bring it a believable resolution but she did. I am eager to read more of the Dirty Eleven series.
Side-note: I really liked how Sorenson depicted Mia’s Mexican-American heritage. I liked how it was introduced and how it then lent a playful note to Mia and Cole’s otherwise heavy and secretive dates.
4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a review copy of Riding Dirty from its author, Jill Sorenson.
Reaper’s Stand is the fourth book in Joanna Wylde’s popular Reapers Motorcycle Club series. Throughout the series Reese “Picnic” Hayes has a been recurring and imposing figure. Picnic is the long-time president of the Reaper’s, and father of Emme, heroine in the Devil’s Game. In previous books he has been established as a tough, very protective of his daughters, and very promiscuous since the death of his beloved wife.
In his early 40's, Picnic only ever seems to have young women in his bed, not because he doesn't find older women attractive but because the young club groupies won’t stand up to him, or put up a fuss when he doesn’t call them up the next day. He can get plenty of sex without developing relationships.
London is in her late-thirties,a serious and hard-working small business owner. She is foster mother to her impulsive and troubled cousin, a hard and thankless role that ended her marriage. She is not a biker groupie or hanger-on, she just cleans after them, having landed a lucrative contract cleaning the Reaper’s two legitimate business, their pawn shop and strip club.
The book opens with London putting together a plate of food for Reese and preparing and failing to shoot him in the back. Wylde then jumps us back in time to the first time Reese ever laid eyes on London, and declared her off limits to himself and all other club members and then forward again another 6 months to the event that brought London to Reese’s door. Her troubled cousin has disappeared into the Reaper’s clubhouse for one of their wild parties. While Jessica is legally of age, she has awful decision making skills along with other health issues due to her mother’s drug abuse while pregnant. After exhausting all other options London finds herself knocking on Reese’s office door to ask him for help. Reese is in the midst of receiving a very enthusiastic birthday blow-job from one of the club groupies and is initially thrilled to see London turn up thinking she is part of his birthday celebration. Instead London uncomfortably but persistently persuades Picnic to interrupt his private party to help her find her cousin but doing so leaves her in his debt. To full-fill her obligations to Picnic, London agrees to become his part-time housekeeper, making meals and cleaning house for him. London’s constant presence in his house but not in his bed are a challenge and frustration for Reese.
Wylde pulls the readers in two different directions as she develops Picnic in this novel. In previous novels we have read many references to his first wife, and the solid and loving relationship they had and how he hasn't quite let go of her. Since his wife’s death, Picnic has been having conversations of a sort with her his head. Picnic is still angry at her for abandoning him and their daughters when she died, and she wants him settled with a strong woman who will be his equal partner (she is rooting for London), while he doesn’t want to risk the vulnerability losing someone again. Despite revealing the feelings of abandonment that are the root of his behavior, I found Wylde's made Picnic less charming, more threatening and juvenile when he interacted with London than he had been in the previous books. Justifying Picnic’s childish antics as resulting from experiencing emotions he hasn’t felt for a woman since his teenage years when fell in love with his first wife, was less than convincing. I felt Picnic doesn't realize till much too late the horrible mixed messages he is sending London, trying to pressuring her into a casual sexual relationship and then getting mad at her when she doesn't turn to him for more. I found myself liking him less and less through the course of the novel as he blackmails, incites and eventually attacks London.
In nearly all the Reaper’s books the heroine is sexually menaced or kidnapped by the hero at some point in the story. And this book is not exception. Although both London and Reese feel the violence of that encounter is justified, I felt it went too far, and I had a hard time embracing the resolution, despite having liked the idea of them up to that point. It was no comfort to learn that Picnic and his first wife has similarly fraught and complicated relationship history. The compatibility of London and Reese’s devotion to their children, their fierceness in fighting for them and their sacrificial love for them, while one of the strongest threads in the book, was not enough to overcome the violence of the encounter for me as I felt it diminished Picnic beyond redemption.
3.5 out 5 stars.
I am thankful for the review copy provided by Berkley via NetGalley.