The following is a guest post from Angela James. Angela James is both the executive editor of Carina Press (but all views expressed when discussing books are purely her own) and an avid reader of all things romance since she snuck her first Harlequin category romance from her mom’s brown grocery bag full of them in fourth grade nearly 30 years ago. She’s also addicted to Twitter, tweeting compulsively about books, shoes, football, her daughter and her bad travel karma. You can find her at @angelajames.
This was my first Kristen Ashley. I happened upon this book via Twitter, which is something that happens to me on an increasingly frequent basis. I follow a lot of romance readers and I buy what probably amounts to a ridiculous number of books just based on their conversations about the books they’re currently reading and loving.
This time, JenniferRNN and KatiD happened to be discussing Motorcycle Man, which Jennifer had just started reading. Kati was warning Jennifer that Ashley’s books were like Pringles and you couldn’t read just one. I immediately asked if this was an author I should be reading. Yes, I’d missed the reviews of this author’s books on Dear Author and my normal book pimp, Jane, had fallen down on her job and not emailed me about the crack that is Kristen Ashley books, so this was the first time I was hearing her name. Readers say something is addictive, I want to read it. Partly because of my job, but mostly because, above all, beyond my job, I’m first and foremost a reader who loves to read and is always looking for her next fix. So I ended up buying Motorcycle Man.
That was Friday night. By Sunday morning I’d read 4 more books by Kristen Ashley, which is saying something because these are not short books. They’re not even kind of long. They’re really long books–Motorcycle Man clocks in at 130,000 words, which doesn’t appear to be unusual of her books. But her writing, while unpolished–convoluted sentences, typos galore, some meandering narrative, hard-to-follow dialogue and, as Jane puts it “word jamboree”–has a quality that has you sucked in and flipping pages as quickly as possible. As is often the cases in why something in author’s writing grabs a group of readers, it’s somewhat undefinable quality, but I was asked by @mad4rombks to create a top ten list for why someone should read this book, since she was on the fence, so I’ve taken a stab at it.
Before I do, I need to say that these books are not perfect, because I don’t want anyone to feel misled. I think they’re a love them or hate them type of thing. And the writing is not perfect. And they make me long for a red pen–in a good way–to help polish them just a little. But despite all that, the stories and the characters make an impact, and they keep you engaged. At the end of the day, warts and all, that’s the type of book I’m looking for and the type of book I think others are looking for. So…
10 reasons you should read Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley
10. Tack is an anti-hero
This man called Tack loved life and knew how to live it to its fullest. And I knew, as crazy as it sounded, that I was going to live my life to its fullest by his side.
I was on my belly in bed, my arms crossed on the pillow, my cheek resting on them, my head turned away from him. I turned my head his way and looked up at him.
Dark, longish, somewhat unruly, definitely sexy hair with a hint of gray interspersed in it. Blue eyes with pale lines radiating from the sides that I knew, I just knew, came from laughing. A dark goatee around his mouth, the bit at his chin overlong in a biker way that was too cool for words. Fantastic tattoos slithering up his defined arms, broad shoulders and muscled neck along with one on his ripped chest and a big one on his back. The rest of his body hard and strong, I knew because with great relish I’d acquainted myself with every centimeter.
Beautiful. Perfect. Not my type and I never would have thought a man like him, a biker guy, a motorcycle man, rough and ready for anything, would be my type. But now that I found the man of my dreams, I knew he was perfect.
“I’m awake,” I whispered and a whisper was all I could manage. My throat was clogged with joy and excitement. I’d been waiting for him forever and here he was.
I knew when I’d jumped off the roller coaster that had been my life, I was doing the right thing and here he was. Living, breathing, gorgeous, tattooed, gravelly-voiced, great with his hands, mouth and other parts of his anatomy proof that I was absolutely right.
His hand left my skin to smack my ass lightly before he said, “Time to get to your own bed, darlin’.”
I blinked but the rest of my body froze.
He exited the bed, grabbed his jeans and yanked them on. Then he sauntered to a door off the room, not even so much as glancing back as he said, “Leave your number and close the door on your way out, would you, Red?”
No really, he’s not a good guy, except towards people who are his. He treats women as disposable, he’s been in a motorcycle “club” his whole life and broken a good number of laws, including running drugs. He believes in retribution, even for things most of us would shrug off, he calls women “bitches”, and he’s got issues. But all of this adds up to a guy you want to see redeemed, because when they fall, you know those anti-heroes fall HARD.
9. And he’s possessive and protective of his woman.
“Queasy?” he guessed accurately which made me wonder what I looked like because I knew I had wild hair. I also knew I had leftover makeup which was never attractive but I was deducing I also was green at the gills which was even less attractive.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Day off,” Tack stated.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“You feel shit, day off.”
“But… I’m hungover.”
“Yeah. So you’re gonna take the day off.”
“Tack,” I started to inform him, “you’re my boss. You should frown on an employee taking the day off because she tied one on the night before.”
“Tyra, I’m your boss, I’m your man and I’m a biker. As your boss, you feel shit, you’re not gonna be on your game so you might fuck shit up which means it’s better you’re not in and work doesn’t get done instead of you bein’ in and work gettin’ fucked up.”
I had to admit, this made sense.
He continued, “As your man, you feel shit, I want you to rest and get better.”
8. No, I mean really possessive and protective.
“Jesus, fuck me, Tyra. What the fuck were you fucking thinking?”
“Let me go,” I whispered.
“Shy told me, way he went at you, he coulda caved your fuckin’ head in.”
“Let me go,” I repeated on a whisper.
“What were you thinking?” Tack kind of repeated.
I yanked at his hand at my throat which, from the minute he placed it there to now was holding me but it was just like how I hit the wall. Not gentle. Not hard.
What it was, was immovable.
“Let me go,” I said yet again.
The dragon breathed fire and roared in my face, “What were you fuckin’ thinking?”
“Quiet!” I hissed. “Tabby. Rush.”
“Don’t worry about Tab and Rush, babe. Advice, right now, you worry about you. What the fuck were you thinking?”
“Let me go!” I snapped, still yanking at his hand.
“Tell me what the fuck you were thinking!” he thundered.
“Fuck you!” I screeched. “And let me the fuck go!”
I yanked hard at his wrist. It went down and I let it go. I quickly slid away only for his arm to hook around my waist and haul me right back where he stepped in and pressed one hand into my belly and curled the fingers of the other one around the side of my neck.
And I was immobilized. Again.
“Tonight, you coulda died,” he ground out.
“Or you coulda been made not you, he did damage but didn’t take your fuckin’ life.”
“That didn’t happen either,” I snapped.
“It could have.”
He got nose-to-nose with me again and clipped, “It could have.”
7. It’s Sons of Anarchy meets romance novels.
There are motorcycles. And bikers. And bitches. And the club and parties and…really bad shit they’re involved in. If you think of Tack as Jax (who wants to clean up the Club) and Tyra as the straight-laced Tara who can’t quit him, you’ve got that kind of romance in book form. The only thing missing is Gemma.
…he growled into my ear, “Listen to me.”
When I made no response, his thumb slid from my lips and his hand spanned the side of my head, he kept his mouth at my other ear and he held me captive as he spoke.
“Shit is not good in the Club. Shit is not good outside the Club. Shit is not good with Naomi. I got a lot goin’ down, it needs my attention. I need to stay sharp. I do not need to be thinkin’ about your sweet mouth wrapped around my cock or my dick buried in your tight, wet pussy, which is all I wanna think about. When I say I gotta stay sharp, baby, I mean, I don’t, I get dead and when I say that, I mean the not breathin’ anymore variety. You don’t fit into all the shit that’s swirlin’ in my life right now unless I can make you fit. That’s all I got to give you and that’s all you’re gonna get. And you’re gonna take what I have to give, Red. You’re not gonna resign. You’re not gonna disappear. You’re gonna be where I want you to be, you’re gonna do what I want you to do and you’re gonna listen to what I have to say and if you don’t do it, I’ll find a way to make you do it. That scares you, you gotta learn to get over it and you’ll learn not to be scared because I’d rather cut off my own arm than ever hurt you. But you fucked up, baby. You showed me somethin’ I want and I get what I want and I do what I gotta do to get it. So this needs to sink in right fuckin’ now, Tyra. You… are… stuck. Find some way to deal with it and my advice would be, don’t fight it. You fight it, I’ll take you on. That’s a guarantee. Do you understand me?”
“You’re scaring me right now, Tack,” I admitted breathily because I was lying on my back but everything he said made my breath ragged and there was nothing I could do to stop it mainly because I wasn’t lying. He was scaring me right now.
He lifted his head, his other hand came up so both were framing my face and he looked into my eyes when he whispered, “What scares you?”
What scared me? My God, he was insane.
“All of it,” I told him.
“Break it down,” he demanded.
“Shit isn’t good in the Club?”
“No, shit is not good in the Club.”
6. There are positive female relationships.
My cell chirped on my desk, I picked it up, saw a text from Lanie, flipped it open and read it even though I knew what it was going to say.
Did you give notice yet?
This was the same text she sent six times a day, every day, since Tuesday when I realized that I’d been an idiot with Tack (again) and I’d shared this knowledge with her. She went from thinking he was a jerk to actively hating him. This was not surprising. This was what best friends did. Before Elliott, I’d done the same thing with numerous boyfriends of Lanie’s.
No, I texted back.
Five seconds later, I received, I’ll pay for your yoga classes until you get a new job.
Yesterday, she started an incentive strategy. We were up to once a month facials at her favorite salon, weekly invitations to Takeaway Thursday at her and Elliott’s place and now yoga classes.
I’ve applied three places. Give it time. I sent back.
Is he there today? She returned.
He was. He was currently in the garage working on that kickass red car I noticed no one touched but him. He was also currently avoiding me or forgetting I existed. It was nearly two in the afternoon. I’d heard him roar in at nine forty-five (I’d heard it and like the idiot I was, whenever I heard any bike roar in for the past four and half days, I’d looked), he’d sauntered into the garage and I hadn’t seen him since.
Yes, he’s here. I told Lanie.
I’m emailing you your letter of resignation now. You just have to print it, sign it and give it to him. Easy. Lanie replied.
She’d written my letter of resignation. Totally Lanie. I smiled at the phone. Then the door to the garage opened, I looked up and Tack stood there.
This is a trait I’ve noticed in all of the Ashley books I’ve read so far. The heroine already has and/or develops in the course of the book, positive female relationships, and they’re not just a scene in the book, but a pervasive part of the heroine’s life. In Motorcycle Man, her relationship with Lanie is pivotal to both the plot and her relationship with Tack. It’s awesome to see female friendships portrayed positively, rather than just as a vehicle for the author to talk about the heroine’s relationship with the hero (though this is done as well, but the relationships are more than that)
5. The heroine does have a backbone.
Though she inevitably folds in the face of Tack’s demands and possessiveness and “play it my way” attitude, there are still times when she stands up to him and shows she’s at least made of some spunk. She might not make him grovel enough (none of the Ashley heroines do) but she’ll still go toe-to-toe with him. And with his psycho ex.
Oh my God. Did he just say that?
I felt the blood stop rushing through my veins as my entire body solidified.
“Did you just say that?” I asked when I got my lips moving again.
“Red, give me your number, get your ass in your car and I’ll call you when it’s time for us to play again.”
He did. He did just say that because he’d also just mostly repeated it.
I clenched my teeth again but this time for a different reason.
Then I asked, “Do you know my name?”
“What?” he asked back.
“My name,” I stated. “I told you my name Saturday night and I know I did so don’t tell me I didn’t.” And I did. I absolutely, totally told him my name. In fact, I’d done it at least three times when he kept calling me “Red”.
“You’re shittin’ me,” he said again.
“Stop saying I’m shitting you. I’m not. What’s my name?” I demanded to know.
“Babe, who cares? We don’t need names,” was his unbelievable answer.
“Ohmigod,” I whispered. “You’re a jerk.”
“Totally a jerk.” I kept whispering and he crossed his arms on his chest.
“Two choices, Red, give me your number, get your ass in your car, get outta here and wait for my call or just get your ass in your car and get outta here. You got five seconds.”
“I’m not getting in my car,” I told him. “I’m waiting for Eloise to come and show me the ropes then I’m going to work.”
“You are not gonna work here,” he returned.
“I am,” I shot back.
“No, you aren’t.”
“Babe, not gonna say it again, you aren’t.”
That was when I lost it and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t the type to lose it. You didn’t lose it when you planned every second of your life. Caution and losing it did not go together.
But I lost it.
I planted my hands on my hips, took a step toward him and lifted up on my toes to get in his face.
“Now, you listen to me, scary biker dude,” I snapped. “I need this job. I haven’t worked in two months and I need this job. I can’t wait two more months or longer to find another job. I need to work now.” His blue eyes burned into mine in a way that felt physical but I kept right on talking. “So you’re good-looking, have great tats and a cool goatee. So you caught my eye and I caught yours. We had sex. Lots of sex. It was good. So what? That was then, this is now. We’re not going to play, not again. We’re done playing. I’m going to come in at eight, leave at five, do my job and you’re going to be my scary biker dude boss, sign my paychecks, do my performance evaluations and maybe, if you’re nice, I’ll make you coffee. Other than that, you don’t exist for me and I don’t exist for you. What we had, we had. It’s over. I’m moving on and how I’m moving on is, I’m… working… this… job.”
I stopped talking and realized I was breathing heavy. I also realized his eyes were still burning into mine. I knew he was still angry but there was something else there, something I didn’t get because I didn’t know him and I couldn’t read him. But whatever it was, it was scarier than just him being angry which, frankly, was scary enough.
4. Not an erotic romance, but there’s no closed bedroom doors here.
My head snapped back and I gasped, “Oh my God.”
Then I came. Hard.
The instant I did, Tack whipped me to my back and kept pounding deep. So I wrapped all four limbs around him tight and kept coming. Harder.
“Fuck,” Tack muttered against my mouth between grunts, “my girl’s got a greedy fuckin’ pussy.”
He was right. I did. Because I was still coming.
When I stopped coming, Tack was still driving deep and it felt so freaking good, it started to build again.
I held him tight, lifting my hips to take him deeper and slid one hand up his back, his neck and into his thick, longish hair as I whispered against his lips, his goatee tickling my skin, “Honey, you have to come or I’m gonna come again.”
“This is a problem?” he grunted back.
I saw his point.
So I smiled against his mouth.
He slanted his head and kissed me.
About thirty seconds later, I came again.
About a minute after that, Tack did.
About thirty seconds after that, Tack’s hand slid lightly down the skin of my side, causing tingles that hit mid-range on the pleasant scale but high on the soothing scale and his lips at my neck whispered, “Like that.”
I liked it too. All of it. Going down on him and Tack returning the favor. Then, because he was so good at it, getting greedy, pushing him to his back and him letting me. Then climbing on and riding him until I came. And last, finishing when he flipped me and rode me until I came again and he did too.
Yeah, I liked it. All of it.
3. It’s just so…freakin’ delicious
“What’d I forget?”
One of his arms left my middle and cupped the side of my head.
“This,” he muttered then his mouth was on mine.
It wasn’t a morning mouth touch. It was a kiss, a serious kiss. So serious, his body moved back, turned mine to face him then it moved in again, pressing me into the counter. His hand cupping the side of my head slid into my hair to cup the back and hold me to him as his other arm locked tight around my waist, plastering me to his body.
It was such a serious kiss, and such a great kiss, I totally forgot Lanie was there, my confusion, weird response to Tack spending time with Lanie and the sleep that lingered and my arms moved to wrap around his shoulders. I went up on my toes and I went at it right along with Tack. Maybe more. I was off guard plus I loved how he tasted and I was hungry for it. So without the barest thought about anything but Tack, his tongue and his mouth, I drank deep.
Tack broke the kiss but he didn’t take his mouth away when he whispered against my lips, “Jesus fuck, Red, you can use that sweet mouth,” and his arm around me squeezed tight on the word “fuck”.
I gazed up at him in a haze thinking he could use his mouth too, thinking a lot more than my skin was tingling and also thinking I wasn’t quite done with his mouth when I heard Lanie clear her throat.
2. He is so, so into her. So into her.
“Right back at you, Red, seein’ as it’s not sinking in that I’m not gonna let you go. We’re talkin’ this shit out.”
“There’s nothing to talk out!” I cried. “We’re done.”
Suddenly his face dipped close, the room filled with his badass biker vibe and he was all I could see.
“Truthfully,” he shot my word back at me, “you were funny, you were sweet, you’re gorgeous, you have great fuckin’ hair and a great fuckin’ body and I had fun with you, darlin’, in bed and out. But you didn’t show me all that’s you so all I knew was the parts of it I wanted and I know that shit stung and this is gonna sting too, there were only parts. And I’ll warn you, babe, this is gonna sting as well but you were too easy. A man like me can get easy, easily. So that’s not what a man like me wants.” He paused, I kept glaring though I suspected my glare was more heated then he went on, “Until you squared off against me. That first night, I didn’t have it all. And I still don’t have it all but every piece you give me, baby, I like. So now I want it all and I’m gonna fuckin’ get it, Tyra. You aren’t gonna hold back, you aren’t gonna retreat, you aren’t gonna push me away and I sure as fuck am not gonna let go.”
“You’re unbelievable,” I hissed.
“You said that before, babe, what you need to get is you like exactly that about me. You’re just too fuckin’ scared to admit it.”
“Oh,” I started sarcastically, “so now you’re in my head and you know what I’m thinking?”
“Yeah, I do. You may not have lived your life suckin’ it dry but I have. I’ve jumped into bed with more than my fair share of women and I’ve spent time outta bed with more than my fair share of women and I know that a woman does not go wild for me in bed and that woman is not wild in life. You want wild, babe, because you are wild. You’re just too fuckin’ scared of it to embrace it.”
Wrong. You just happen to be an excellent lover, Tack. The problem is, outside of bed, you’re mostly a jerk.”
“You like that too, all of it,” he shot back.
“God!” I yelled. “Seriously?”
He was losing patience. I knew this when he growled, “Seriously.”
“News flash, Kane Allen, women do not go ga-ga over men who brag about their exploits and replace them within a day.”
“Tyra, do not shit me or yourself. There was nothing to replace, not back then. You came to a party, got drunk and got laid. Same as me. The minute you gave me more of you, I took it, wanted even more and I didn’t keep that a secret, babe, and you fuckin’ know it. And you kept givin’ it. You coulda walked away and you didn’t. And along the way as we’ve been playin’ our game, you got your hooks in me and I got mine in you and you know that too.”
1. There are a whole lot more where this came from.
A whole lot more. No worrying about finding an author you love with only one book out to read. This author has a backlist. A prolific backlist. And at $4, the books are fairly priced and easy to take a chance on, without completely devaluing the author’s hard work.
P.S. In case you can’t tell, a warning: if you don’t like bad language or are bothered or distracted by it, these books are not for you.