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REVIEW: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Dear Ms. Zapata:

This book, like so many recent motorcycle books, draws heavily on the writing of Kristen Ashley. There are entire scenes and conflicts that are reminiscent particularly of Sweet Dreams and the main protagonists, Lauren and Tate. And like Kristen Ashley, this book is rather long. The Amazon entry says it is 900 pages and it’s more like 140,000 words or so. It could have been reduced by about 40,000 words and been a tighter, more readable, and less repetitive story.

Still, I enjoyed it even though there were problems with both the editing and the characterizations.   Iris Taylor moves to Austin after six months of unemployment, after her mother loses her fight with cancer and moves in with her brother Sonny.

Sonny is part of the Widowmakers Motorcycle Club (“Widows” for short) a lifestyle that her mother and father had warned her against for years. But he’s the only one who is offering a helping hand. Sonny also arranges a receptionist / officer manager job at a tattoo shop run by Dex Locke, another member of the Widows.

Her new world is imperiled when an outlaw MC decides that she and Sonny could pay for their father’s debts. Iris is drawn into the Widowmakers MC against her better judgment but finds that it is full of both drama and family.

Dex treats Iris with contempt and Iris overhears Dex calling her stupid to someone on the phone. This scene was pretty much Lauren and Tate’s initial interaction in Sweet Dreams. After Iris has worked for Dex for some time, he eventually apologizes after explaining to Iris that he has a foul temper and a worse mouth. Iris spends chapters not forgiving Dex, even after he apologizes repeatedly. I think the grudge was designed to keep up the conflict between the two but it went on far too long for my taste. Iris also engages in some really eye popping stupid behavior which she acknowledges in the text is stupid (but doesn’t refrain from doing it) and there’s an issue with her past medical history that implies she is somehow unattractive to the opposite sex which I found to be a fairly worthless storyline.

You can’t help but like Iris though. She sticks up for herself and tries hard.  Because the story is told from Iris’ point of view, Dex is somewhat of a mystery. He’s surly at first but he makes a concerted effort to win Iris over even if she is somewhat dense about his advances. It’s not entirely clear why Dex is so rude to Iris in the first place other than he believes her to be spoiled. Because we know that Iris is not spoiled and has a good heart, this misunderstanding of her intentions only serves to make us sympathize with Iris.

Iris and Dex’s story is a slow burn. For the first twenty-five percent, Iris really does not like Dex. She acknowledges he is attractive but he’s mean and she’s just not attracted to mean people. I liked that about her. I also enjoyed the relationship between Iris and her brother Sonny.  For instance, when Iris revealed how Dex had made her feel stupid, Sonny calls Dex up and chews him out. 

The group at the tattoo shop were a real family and each character, even though they only had a few scenes on the page, were well drawn. I loved reading about their interaction and their love for tattooing.

There were a few writing tics that drug down the story in places. She’d have the heroine spout off a spontaneous joke after about ten paragraphs of setup which undermined the moment. Further, the that’s what she said joke became old after the second use. It was the only joke Iris knew and she used that line repeatedly. In the book, everyone laughs uproariously whenever she says which caused me to roll my eyes. 

Overall if a reader enjoys a) a slow burn b) piercing and tattooing c) protective males and d) MC books then I think this would be a recommended read so long as she can overlook a few writing quirks and some irritating heroine behavior. C+

Best regards,



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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Bamaclm
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 14:23:06

    I bought this book as a daily deal either here or Smart Bitches, but didn’t get past chapter two. The setup reminded me of Tack and Tyra in Motorcycle Man and I got pissed.

    My friend DNF’d it also, said she was bored.

    Perhaps the only original thing about this book is the cover? I did like the cover.

  2. Lil
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 16:17:13

    I haven’t read any of the books you mention here, but I have on more than one occasion read two and even three books with similar set-ups, characters, scenes, etc. None of them could possibly have been cases of plagiarism because the books all came out within a few months of each other. (They were all paperbacks, and you know how long it takes a book to go from manuscript to bookstore.)

    It seems as if at times there is just something in the air—a news story, an art show, a sporting event, anything—that makes light bulbs go off in a dozen different heads. I started a book one time, and I wasn’t more than a few chapters into it when I read a book that had just come out. It was too damn close to mine. The setting, the hero, were too close to mine and the plot was eerily close to what I had planned. So I tucked it away in a file and started something else.

    But I do think people need to be careful when tossing around charges of plagiarism. When blocks of text are lifted with only a few minor changes, yes, that is despicable. But when it is plot points or characters, we’re in a very iffy area.

  3. Lori
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 22:08:35

    Holy schmoly, this book was endless. I had to quit reading a third of the way through because nothing seemed to ever happen.

    I thought the writing voice was good and I would probably have loved this if there was some real plot happening. But it was just too much of nothing happening and even when something happened (like Sonny getting beat up), it still felt slow.

    I think she could have cut half the words and maybe it would have been readable.

  4. Cathy
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 12:40:19

    I thought the book was OK. I enjoyed the author’s voice and I liked the characters well enough. I especially enjoyed the interactions of the gang and the tattoo shop. Although I too had a quick flashback to Tate and Laurie during the overheard conversation and subsequent grudge-holding, it didn’t scream rip-off to me. I think the book would have benefited greatly by more editing/good editing. I’d definitely give the author another read.

  5. Loonigrrl
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:27:34

    I’ve tried to read 5 or 6 Kristen Ashley books but unfortunately they’ve all been DNFs for me. So even though i’ve pretty much given up on becoming a fan of her work, I thought i’d check this one out after reading your review, even though you mentiond it’s similarities to KA. Annnnd…. I liked it. It’s definitely a slow burn, but it worked for me.

    The similarities you mentioned didn’t really strike me as direct borrowing or plagiarism. I haven’t read those other books you mentioned, but i’ve read numerous other books where the heroine overhears the hero insulting her or something similar. The prodigal daughter is one plot point I’ve read more than once before, and “on pins and needles” is a pretty well known idiom. I could see how more than one author might come up with the idea to use it for the name of their tattoo parlor. Of course, maybe the similarities are more striking if you’ve read the other novels, but just based on your description, it doesn’t appear to be anything.

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