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REVIEW: With Everything I Am by Kristen Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

2012 was definitely “The Year of Kristen Ashley” for me. I read about 20 of your books. And then I read most of them again. Generally speaking, your contemporary romances work better for me than your paranormals, as I find your world building to be occasionally half-hearted. I don’t say this as a criticism so much as I believe that you’re wholeheartedly focused on building the romance between your protagonists, and building a paranormal world draws your attention from the romance.

WEIAWith Everything I Am tells the story of Sonia Arlington, the daughter of a well respected Senator,  and Callum, the King of Werewolves. Sonia was orphaned at a young age after her parents were killed in an auto accident. She’s always loved nature and has an affinity for animals. She can sense them when they’re near and can call them to her at times. When she was a child, she saved a wolf (Callum, of course) from being hunted, and since then has often dreamed of her “puppy”. As she got older, her “puppy” would, on occasion bring her “wolf” to her, a dream man who would begin to make love to her, but she’d always wake up before they got to the good stuff.

Sonia has grown up being raised by Gregor, who is a cold standoffish man who she knows loves her, but is not very affectionate. His son, Yuri, on the other hand, is a little too affectionate – Sonia knows he’d like to marry her.

Callum is leading a nation on the brink of war from a band of rebel wolves. His mating has been foretold for years, and he’s been waiting for Sonia to reach an appropriate age to woo and claim. Sonia is human, so Callum must be very gentle and careful in how he introduces the idea that he is a werewolf. His plan is accelerated when Sonia is grabbed one night by the wolf  rebels and is nearly raped. She’s saved by Callum, whose spies had sussed out the attack, and thus begins their courtship. Callum takes Sonia to her childhood cabin and attempts to woo her. But he goes about it all wrong, being autocratic and high handed, leading Sonia to resent him, despite her intense attraction to him. He’s ham-handed in his handling of her, and ends up claiming her during sex. Sonia really has no idea what this means (He asked, “Are you mine?” and she says “Yes” – BOOM – Claimed/Mated) and is understandably pissed off when she finds out. Thus Callum being to slowly explain to Sonia about his “people” who  he says are a different species than human. He tells Sonia that the Claiming cannot be undone, and that she is now tied forever to him.  Sonia is beside herself. She’s deeply attracted to Callum, but he’s ripped her away from everything she knows and is insistent that she adapt sooner, rather than later, to all that he’s told her. He takes her to his castle in Scotland, his people’s stronghold, and informs her they’ll be settling here and she’s now Queen of his people. Sonia is forced to acclimate again and does her best to deal with Callum’s dictates and adjust to the many changes he’s brought to her life, all while fighting her growing feelings for a man who only seems to order her around.

This book is quintessential Kristen Ashley. Callum is off the charts alpha. He’s high handed, he’s bossy, he’s autocratic, and frankly, a bit of an ass. And yet, through it all, I found myself understanding why Sonia was falling in love with him, all while also wondering why she didn’t just kick him in the junk and order him to get over himself. Sonia is one of my favorite heroines you’ve written. She’s smart and willing to defend herself when she feels she’s been wronged. She navigates an unknown culture really well, and finds ways to put her stamp on a community that is completely paternal. Callum was harder for me to become attached to. He was extreme to me in many ways. Impatient and argumentative, rarely showing compassion for all that he was putting Sonia through. He constantly insisted that Sonia adapt, adhere to his rules, and generally subvert her questions, thoughts and feelings for what he wanted. This was not heroic behavior to me. And yet through it all, I  found myself believing that he loved her.  It’s a conundrum for me, as I truly liked your heroine and was not 100% convinced that the hero deserved her.

I found With Everything I Am to be quite cleanly copy edited, which your readers  know has been a weakness in the past with your books. The book is very long, which was unnecessary. There were several places that I though the book would be wrapping up, only to find that I was roughly 58% through the story. Despite its length, there were several threads that were extraneous. For example, why even have Sonia own a shop, and stress that it was terribly important to her, only to have it be dropped as a story line?  You also set up Yuri, Sonia’s adopted brother as a possible rival to Callum for her hand, but then never went anywhere with that thread. The paranormal aspect of the book is easily its weakest part. The werewolf culture is very haphazardly explained, with only occasional elucidation of why things were happening. Also, Callum and Sonia are part of some sort of Prophecy which has them banding with two other couples (Lucien and Leah from Until the Sun Falls From the Sky and a TBD other couple) to save the world. This is the weakest part of the story, as there seems to be no actual urgency about the Prophecy and no inherent danger or ramifications to what will happen if they fail.

All of this being said, I started this book at about 7 p.m. one night and read until after 2 a.m. in order to finish it. Your writing is as crackalicious as ever and in the end, I went back and re-read the story again. So while I don’t think it’s your strongest work, I found it to be every bit as addictive as others by you. I think your regular readers will find the book entertaining and will be willing to overlook some obvious weaknesses. Readers who have never read a book by Kristen Ashley would be far better served to start with either your Colorado Mountain series or your Dream Man series.  In the end, I found With Everything I Am to be compulsively readable, yet weaker entry in the Kristen Ashley oeuvre. It gets a C from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

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Kati

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

12 Comments

  1. Ann F.
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 08:51:18

    I totally agree with your review. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and was looking forward to this one. Like you, I read it all in one night. But overall I thought this was one of her weaker books. The book was waaaay too long and could have used some serious content editing. The paranormal stuff felt like an afterthought and often didn’t make a lot of sense. And how on earth did she manage to live surrounded by werewolfs for so long and not figure out what was going on? That section of the book really dragged for me. But I thought the teaser at the end for the next couple sounded great and I’m sure I’ll buy the next one!

  2. Ceilidh
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 12:28:10

    No pimps in this one?

    I’m glad Ashley’s at least sorting out the horrific editing issues (don’t care if it’s self published or done the traditional way, there’s no excuse for sloppiness) but I just find her work overall to be hilariously bad. Then again, her fondness for the hard-core, almost parody-level alpha douche is an instant no-no for me.

  3. Kati
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 13:37:36

    @Ceilidh: I think that there are a lot of readers out there who feel as you do. For me, I can’t seem to quit her, and at this point, I’m not sure I want to. I lose myself in her books and always find that they obsess me while I’m reading them.

    Several of her books are now total comfort reads for me, and she is now my go to, “I don’t know what to read” author. But I think that your complaints about her are valid ones and that many readers might feel the way you do about her writing.

  4. Shelley
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 18:22:21

    @Kati: I seriously cannot believe you read 20 of KA’s books in a year!!! You’re a stronger woman than I! LOL! She is occasional “crack” for me if that’s possible. I do like her books but only with a couple of months in between stories. :O)

  5. Oh Dear
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 09:17:59

    I can’t get past that cover. Just…cannot.

  6. MrsJoseph
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 10:18:41

    I’ve read…6 or 7 KA books this year. I started with Dream Man and then went to Rock Chick. I was so disgusted by KA heroes that by the time I finished Rock Chick Renegade I was sick. If one more “well meaning” stalker showed up I was going to punch someone.

    So…while I look at my KA time with fondness (and still enjoy Motorcycle Man), I’m done with the stalker crazy “heroes.”

  7. Shelley
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 10:49:31

    @Oh Dear: Hallelujah. It is truly ugly and just pure lazy.

  8. asees
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 15:35:31

    Are these series linked ? i mean until the sun falls from the sky & With Everything I Am . I have’nt read them that’s how i might be feelings this but having read the discriptation i don’t see a comparison between until the sun falls from the sky & With Everything I Am so can anyone please explain is there any comparison and if there is’nt then how are they ae series and whats the 3rd book called ?

  9. Kati
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 07:24:29

    @asees: This is where the prophecy comes in. The leads from Until the Sun Falls From the Sky & With Everything I Am will team up with the couple from the next book to save the world.

    …or something.

  10. asees
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 10:50:34

    Can anyone please tell me where could i buy a hard copy of Until the Sun Falls from the Sky (The Three Series & with everything i am please am desperate i have read the discriptations and i want to read it but a hard copy not a kindle version .

  11. asees
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 14:27:50

    does anyone know what is the 3rd book called after this one and when would it be out p.s
    i loved this book better than the first i love the first one too but this one was amazing roller coaster ride absaulty loved it too bits but i hate the bit when sonia nags and blah blah , hates Cal for cheating that bit was giving me a headache but then Cal did what i wanted to do shut her up and the bit where she dead broke my heart but then brought it back to comfort and hope , but am excited too read the 3rd book and find out whats the title so if anyone knows please reply to me lol thanks xx

  12. Mzcue
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 14:17:53

    Very validating to read your review. I’m reading “with Everything…” at the moment. I find this and Ashley’s other paranormal much weaker than her romances—to the point that I had to wonder if she used a different editor or allowed ghosting. Throughout her books I’ve struggled over the quirks mentioned elsewhere: misusing the expression “honed in” while meaning “homed in” is one. The terrible “to vs. two vs. too” also pops up. Things like that ruin the flow for me, just like the abominable “555” telephone exchanges that blight TV and movie stories. With Ms. Ashley and other romance writers, I can’t help wondering whether they try to do their own editing, or are their editors just so overworked that they can’t catch rookie flaws like those?

    A good editor would also help in differentiating the kind of detail noted by the different characters’ POVs. While one of Ashley’s heroines might notice the colors of the braided trim on the overstuffed furniture, we see the same sort of observances in sections coming from her macho guys as well, which ring false for me. Less is almost always more.

    And yet, as also mentioned in this and other DA reviews of Ms. Ashley’s work, there is enough appeal to counter-balance the distractions. I find her dialog to be fresh and interesting (although as I work through the series, I fear they may begin to sound a lot alike). The revelations undergone by the characters are intriguing. Plus I enjoy the Ashley standards: the gal posses there to back up the heroines, the prickly alpha buddies who come through in the end, the warm and loving families contrasting with their hopeless opposites. It’s also nice that characters go beyond the white bread populations of other romances. Plus, I really enjoy the humorous inner dialogs of Ashely’s lead characters.

    So, I guess I”ll keep indulging my KA addiction. In addition, I hope someday that the author gets the editing she deserves.

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