Rock Chick Revenge by Kristen Ashley
This is a friends to lovers story and generally speaking I love those. Luke moved next door to Ava when she was eight and she promptly fell in love. Luke stoked those feelings unintentionally by championing Ava. When Luke’s dad dies, Ava and Luke promise to go out for a drink but Ava is embarrassed and ashamed of her body and refuses to answer his calls. Her sisters called her Fatty Fatty Four Eyes. After hearing her being mocked for hugging hot guy Luke, Ava went on an image improvement binge, losing weight, getting fashion and make up advice. Luke then says that Ava is not the same person anymore. Instead, she’s a bitch. Ava calls herself a bitch. Luke wants the old Ava back. What Ava and Luke calls being a bitch, however, reads to me like Ava standing up for herself. I tried to look at it from the characters’ point of view without some superimposition of my own personal beliefs, but alas, no, she still sounds like a normal female to me. To wit:
“Why am I always repeating myself with you?” he asked, sounding slightly impatient.
“Maybe because I don’t snap to when you tell me to do something like all the other women in your life likely do,” I retorted, sounding bitchy as all hell.
I needed time to bury that deep before I set myself up to start thinking he was a good guy again only to find out he wasn’t. To buy that time, I said quietly, “Luke.”
“We’re not talking about this anymore,” Luke told me.
I glared. “We are. Give me something to go on here, what’s triple payment mean?” I asked, sounding kind of bitchy.
I mean, asking a question is bitchy? Refusing to be bossed around and told what to do is bitchy? Maybe my bitch meter is completely off. But then later Luke admits he likes the bitch. Does that make it not sexist? DO YOU SEE MY CONFUSION HERE?
Obligatory pain in the ass statement (there are two of them in this book so bonus!):
“Jesus, Ava,” he said, his voice strangely part curt, part amused like he found dealing with me frustrating but he found that frustration enjoyable. “It’s a good thing your sweet body and the fuckin’ things you don’t even know you’re doin’ give you away or you’d be a serious pain in the ass.”
“Dexter was wrong, you don’t taste like cherry pie, you taste a fuckuva lot sweeter. If you didn’t, babe, you’d be a pain in the ass.”
I really did like Ava. She had good and bad angels sitting on her shoulders having semi hilarious discussions. She wears crocs and flip-flops. Eats processed cookie dough to soothe her battered feelings. Curses a lot, dresses up, and gets shit faced with her girlfriends. These are all blue collar guys and gals, albeit ones with good jobs and their romances play against a background of assaults, explosions, and tons of oversharing gossip. Unfortunately, it glossed over some opportunities for deeper emotion exploration particularly with Luke’s past attachments to a couple of former Rock Chick girls. Ava rightly questions his devotion to her and Luke’s succinct replies don’t cut it. Just once I’d like to see a Rock Chick say to a Hot Bunch Guy “Good thing you are a great lay and very fine because otherwise you’d be a serious fucking pain in the ass.” D
Rock Chick Reckoning by Kristen Ashley
This one is a reunited lovers trope. Stella is a musician and Mace is a member of the Nightingale crew. They had a previous relationship but then Mace broke it off because Stella was too needy. They still have strong feelings for each other, but Stella is just as needy and Mace, well, and this is where it goes off the rails. The reason why they broke up wasn’t consistent with the previous hints. Mace hints earlier that it was Stella’s band that broke them up. Then later it is supposed to be that Stella was supposed to chase after Mace when he broke up with her.
Stella supposedly turns down the opportunity to be a huge rockstar because she doesn’t want her parents to find her. Yet when Mace gets involved, she begins to meet with agents about pushing her to the next level and suddenly her “fame” doesn’t pose a problem anymore.
Consistency was a huge issue in this book.
Obligatory “get me” phrase:
He interrupted me. “We’re done talkin’ about this. I said what I had to say. I think you get me.”
This one had at least five different points of view which were essentially used to show how the previous relationships were progressing. This book could have been interesting given the different types of characters playing the leading roles but they were, despite their professions and backgrounds, nearly indistinguishable from previous characters. Clothing details were superseded (but not eliminated) by extensive discussions of lyrics and set lists. Ironically, one of the most important sentences of the book is indecipherable. Mace says to Stella “I can’t be the star in your sky when you’re the only star left shining in mine.” What does that even mean? F
Rock Chick Regret by Kristen Ashley
I almost didn’t read this one because after the incomprehensible tragedy that was Stella and Mace’s romance, I questioned whether I wanted to read another Ashley book ever. But, because of my OCD, I couldn’t leave the last book of the Rock Chicks unread. Hector Chavez, brother of Eddie Chavez (leading male in Rock Chick Rescue) is the hero in this book. He was deep undercover for the DEA working to bring down drug lord Seth Townsend. Sadie Townsend, Seth’s daughter, and Hector fell for each other while Hector was undercover but Hector couldn’t jeopardize his role and Sadie was too shy and reserved to act on her feelings except for one night when she was a little tipsy and Hector lost control. Except Hector says something very vulgar to her (that he was glad she was slumming) and Sadie ran away from him. After Sadie’s father was imprisoned, she became the target of the bad guys who wanted to take her father’s place. Having Sadie under their thumb was a way to cement their top dog position. She goes to the Nightingale Agency to pay for a protective detail and is turned away by Lee. Sadie then proceeds to be viscously beaten and raped.
Chapter two has five! different points of view because you can’t get the full range of regret in the first person. The pathos expressed is great, but the way in which it is done seems manipulative and cheap.
That said, Sadie’s blossoming after her rape was touching. She feels like she is alone in the world because her father made it that way. She had no friends or so she thinks. But the sole employee in Sadie’s art gallery takes her to his home where he lives with his partner and together the two gay men show Sadie that she is loved and worthy of love. The relationship that develops between Sadie and the gay couple is almost worth reading the book.
Hector and Sadie’s relationship is a standard Rock Chick story. Only Hector gives epic “pain in the ass” speeches.
Then his eyes opened and he said softly, “Christ, Sadie, puttin’ up with you demonstrating how many more ways you can be a pain in the ass was worth every fuckin’ second if that was the end result.”
“If I didn’t know it was worth it. If I didn’t know from what happened last night and, whatever the fuck you thought it was, mamita, what happened this morning. And if I didn’t like your hands in my hair holding my mouth to you, the smell of your fuckin’ perfume when I’m buried inside you and the way you lose that tight-as-shit control over every fuckin’ move you make when you get excited and you use your nails and teeth on me, I’d give up, because, mamita, you are one serious pain in the ass.”
I ended up liking this more than I thought I would. It has disturbing misogynistic overtones that made me flinch throughout the book, however, such as Hector instruction Sadie that she wasn’t to stand close to any other man. Plus, the Rock Chick name checks were tiresome. There were complete pages that were tl;dr and were completely meaningless such as identifying every character who was attending a barbecue and mentioning who was pregnant and who was engaged and who was married. Tiresome. Unnecessary.
There is a lot to like about Ashley’s stories. The characters are vivid. Her romances are charming. The settings are ordinary in a very positive way. There aren’t billionaires here, for the most part. There is a lot of cursing, drinking, fighting and partying. These characters say things that aren’t normally voiced in the regular and polite course of events. I feel like Ashley is writing about characters we don’t read much about. But I think a content editor could help to reduce the repetition, point out the inconsistencies, increase the flow, and reign in some of Ashley’s writer tendencies.