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REVIEW:  Deacon by Kristen Ashley

REVIEW: Deacon by Kristen Ashley

Deacon Kristen Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

This is the fourth in the Unfinished Hero series. I’ve read Knight, Raid, tried Creed and abandoned it, and now Deacon. This is a relationship book more than anything. There aren’t a lot of hijinks and there isn’t an overriding suspense story.

Because it’s told almost entirely from the heroine’s point of view, it’s more about what will Cassie endure to have the love of her life. After years of saving, Cassie buys a Colorado property consisting of eleven rundown cabins. She moves with her boyfriend Grant and begins to renovate the cabins. Grant turns out to be a lazy asshole and her only returning customer is “John Priest”, a big guy who has danger written all over him. He pays in cash and his ID is no doubt fake.

But John turns out to be more steady than Grant and soon Grant is kicked to the curb as Cassie builds up her business. In the beginning, it’s amusing to see Cassie proudly inform the returning Priest that the rates to her cabins have gone up. With each infrequent stay, Cassie becomes more attached to the enigmatic Priest. During one visit, she takes a piece of pie to his door and is turned down, abruptly.

Yet there would be no book if Priest does not succumb. He does so but he’s not willing to give Cassie anything but his real name, Deacon, and only his first name at that. She teasingly calls him Deacon Deacon.

Part of the conceit of this book is that the reader assumes the hero is a good guy. Through Cassie’s friend Milagro we question Cassie’s seemingly unquestioning acceptance of a man who only spends a few weeks with her, never divulges any details of his past, but promises that his future is in her eyes. The reader is treated to Deacon doing good guy things such as standing up for drugged teens, being patient with children, and helping Cassie around the property. But Cassie knows only a few things about Deacon before she invites him to her bed. That he pays in cash, that his SUV is dirty, and that he looks hot and dangerous.

That’s kind of TSTL behavior.

What he does is a mystery, even at the end of the book. I have only the vaguest of vague memories as to what Deacon does for a living. I know that Knight was a pimp and that Raid was some kind of bounty hunter of sorts. Deacon’s refusal to talk about his “work” and how it was going to be hard to extricate himself from the dark life he hid from Cassie hinted at something far darker. However, this build up was met with a rather unspectacular denouement making me wonder if Deacon’s refusal to leave his job had more to do with his own uncertain emotional state than any outside pressure.

Deacon was a mystery to me!

Parts of the story unravel at the end. There’s a dark emotional moment between the two and I’m still befuddled as to why Deacon responded in the fashion that he did other than the book needed an emotional dark moment. His past was horrific and yes, I can see how experiencing that would result in strong aversion to certain things but his emotional motivations didn’t match the actions or at least, I didn’t understand.

I enjoyed the relationship part of the story as Cassie and Deacon fought and reconciled over things like money, expectations of the other in terms of contact (i.e., their first fight was over Deacon not calling Cassie back and Deacon upset that Cassie hadn’t continued to call him), children, and so forth.

In most parts of the relationship, the important parts, Cassie and Deacon were a good fit. He never interfered with her running of the cabins as her first boyfriend did. He offered advice if she asked for it. The power dynamic in their relationship was very even.

It’s a comforting read and while the pace is a bit slow, I was entertained. I wish the ending had less of a crazy factor and was more in concert with the tone of the rest of the book. I don’t really know how to grade the book. I think if not for the ending, I would have given it a B- but as I reflected on the ending when writing the review, I was really disturbed by how much Deacon was unknown to me and frankly Cassie, even until the end. I’m sure Cassie would say that she knew everything she needed to about him but I guess I needed more. C+

Best regards,

Jane

 

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REVIEW:  Don’t Judge Me by Sylvie Fox

REVIEW: Don’t Judge Me by Sylvie Fox

dont-judge-me

So far, Raphael Augustine’s ten year career as a comedian consists of a lot of ones: one night gigs, one night stands, and one night in jail. But he’s committed to inking a successful TV deal, nonetheless. He’s not looking for a relationship and certainly doesn’t expect to have his briefs tied in a knot by a prim and proper woman from Connecticut.
There’s not much to laugh about in Daisy Fletcher’s life. She never thought an Ivy League degree would land her work as an adult webmaster. Years later, fake chat room dates are her only companions, and a failing business her reward. Her father always told her men only want one thing. By selling that one thing to virtual customers, she’s lost faith in the opposite sex.

After Daisy catches Raphael’s shirt during a striptease at a gay bar, she’s tempted. Can a rakish comic change her ideas about love and fortune?

Dear Ms. Fox,

In a world full of romance books on SEALs, billionaires and Dukes I love it when an author steps outside the ordinary and gives me something different. When I read the blurb and saw this would be about a stand-up comic with issues and a woman who makes her living funneling users to adult internet porn sites, I thought now there’s a book I want to try. While I appreciated the unusual livelihoods of Raphael and Daisy, ultimately I had other issues with the story.

The story jumps into gear with a fast start. Daisy needs more oomph in her business which is suffering from user ennui. No, it’s not that people have stopped using adult websites but as Daisy has found out, the demand and drive is for new, New, NEW faces and combos and content. Eventually that will come back to haunt her but tonight it drives her to beg her friend Nari to accompany her to a gay bar where she meets her catnip, Korean-American Raphael.

But Daisy thinks Raphael is gay (he’s not, but his brother is) though this misunderstanding avoids being milked for comic relief. No, it’s when Raphael is arrested for sex with an underage minor (turns out the girl is of age but barely) that the truth comes out. Meanwhile Daisy is crushing on Raphael’s Korean-ness. Lots of effort goes into Daisy telling us that she’s really not fetishizing but given that she keeps saying how attracted she is to Raphael because of his ethnicity along with her long term friendship with Nari, Nari’s family, and Korean food, I find it hard to believe.

But okay let’s move on to Raphael. He’s not the typical hero material if only because of the many ways he keeps screwing up. I’m used to a hero being humanized with one bad decision but sleeping with a barely legal female is only the start of his problems with other women. But for some reason, he’s still attracted to Daisy. When he discovers what she does for a living, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot of sex with a sexy woman who knows all about sex from her job. A terrible first sexual encounter with Daisy keeps his sexual scorecard in the negative.

Daisy’s best friend Nari has been desperately trying to get Daisy to quit her job but then Nari sort of disappears for sections of the story. Daisy really stretches their friendship to the breaking point when she pulls the stunt for her work videos at Nari’s house. Seriously, just washing Nari’s $500 bedding would never be enough to make up for staging a porn shoot there. Meanwhile, Daisy’s longstanding issues with her WASP family (including alcoholic mother) continue.

Raphael faces his own family problems with a father who has rejected his gay son and an immigrant mother who can’t or won’t stand up to her husband over it. He works his ass off to win a reality TV show that will get him a network contract and tries to work to keep Daisy in his life after never having to work to get any woman before. Will he be able to get her to leave her lucrative sex industry business behind and has 10 years of it warped her idea of sexual normal?

There’s a lot going on here. It’s edgy, it takes some risks with trying to make us like the hero after his sexual exploits. It deals with family logistics and immigration worries. It deals with Asian stereotypes while also exploiting them and then throws in some WASP ones as well. What was whole WASP aspect for? To show how Daisy learned her business skills from her banker father? To bring in the issue of her mother’s drinking? Just to show she has a flawed family too? And has Daisy’s view of sex and men been skewed?

The problem for me is that all of these things are introduced but few of them are carried to a end. The story builds up to a scene and then it’s over without us seeing how it resolves. At one point my notes say, “Back and forth again.” So many plot points get introduced but then sink without a trace.

Their relationship goes like a gerbil in a wheel. It just keeps seeming to circle around and doesn’t really get anywhere new until suddenly the book is almost over and both declare they love the other. I closed the book still feeling like they’re feeling their way through and not quite to the stage that is presented as done.

It did make me want to try all this Korean food. But I’m still uneasy about the way the book ends. I’m told that they’re in love and in a steady relationship but I think they’ve still got a lot of work to do and have some issues that I never really saw resolved. Perhaps that’s intended and this is a HFN, which I can see, but not quite a HEA. C-

~Jayne

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