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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,



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REVIEW:  Private Politics by Emma Barry

REVIEW: Private Politics by Emma Barry

Private Politics (The Easy Part #2) by Emma Barry

Dear Ms. Barry:

This is the second book in the series centering around characters in DC. As I said in my previous review of your book Special Interests, I generally shy away from political books but you are able to write a book about people passionate about causes yet unabrasive which I find to be some kind of wizardry.

Alyse Philips is a wealthy socialite who works as a fundraiser for an international girl’s literacy non-profit. The job gives her validation in the face of expectations of her parents who would prefer her to be married to a Wall Street banker and popping out babies. She uses her understanding of people and her ability to negotiate a cocktail party to get donors to open their wallets for her charity. Alyse’s job takes an unsavory turn when she discovers discrepancies in the books of her charity during an annual audit of Young Women Read, Inc.

She takes the issue to her roommate’s boyfriend, the lawyer and male protagonist of Special Interests who recommends she seek out the advice of political blogger Liam Nussbaum. Liam has had a crush on Alyse for months, but he’s not the type of guy who gets a girl like Alyse. His closet isn’t full of sharp suits and he spends more time behind his computer than in the gym. He tried to flirt with her but was the attraction wasn’t returned and he resolved to set aside his feelings and move on. When he finds out that she needs his help he comes running, still wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Because heroines are often judged on a harsher scale than their male counterparts, pretty, wealthy, and good at reading people Alyse could have come off as villainous.  As I was writing this review I remembered that many of the historical books pre-2005 featured glorious heroines who caused an earthquake of male attention. I don’t know that the Alyse archetype is as common perhaps because it may be more difficult to pull off without giving her some traumatic background like rape to make her sympathetic. She is a bit of a damsel in distress, though, needing help from those around her to extricate herself from a potentially career ending political scandal. Part of her character conflict is that people do tend to see her as shallow and vapid and in part, Liam views her that way as well. Not shallow and vapid but at times I felt that his emotions were elevated above hers.

Liam is a sweetheart of a hero. He’s a successful political blogger who managed to leverage his college hobby into a career with employees. But he’s also a control freak and he’s finding it a challenge to delegate control so that he can grow his burgeoning blog. The story that Alyse brings to him can catapult him from second tier to top of the search engines or the so called front page of the internet.  The situation allows Alyse to see the passion and intensity that Liam brings to his avocation. He is not merely a man with a keyboard attached to the end of his fingers, but one who is as dedicated to his job as she is to hers. This shift in paradigm takes Liam from nice and nerdy to warm and protective. Alyse begins to view Liam anew and when she sees him on a date, the shift becomes complete.

And as Alyse begins to eye Liam differently, he’s embolden by her possible attraction and that becomes a feedback loop. Liam is more confident leading to Alyse being more attracted. Alyse wasn’t a doormat though, relying solely on good looks. She knows immediately something is wrong with the books, offers up suggestions on how to resolve the problem and works together with Liam.

The passion for politics link makes their romance believable, particularly when it appears Alyse had perused what Liam had to offer previously and rejected it. (I think that Liam never actually got up the nerve to ask Alyse out which could have also contributed to her viewing him continually as a friend only). Making the story about graft and corruption instead of a particular ideology helps to render this work palatable for both sides of the party divide. After all, who isn’t for literacy, nerdy boy bloggers, pretty girls, and love winning out? Curmudgeons, obviously but for the rest of us, Private Politics is a good escape. B-

Best regards,




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