REVIEW: Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley
Dear Ms. Ashley:
You were easily my biggest discovery this year, and probably my favorite. Sure, I gnash my teeth and moan about the editing and the weird writing ticks that you have, but I read your books over and over and I pimp them relentlessly on Twitter. So, as I started to come up with my Top 10 for 2012, I realized that I would have to include a Kristen Ashley book. I’ve read almost all of your books, and easily my favorite, the one I’ve re-read and recommended more than any other, is Motorcycle Man.
Motorcycle Man is the story of Kane “Tack” Allen and Tyra Masters. The couple meets one night at a party at Tack’s Motorcycle Club, “Chaos”. They have an immediate attraction and end up hooking up. Tyra believes she’s met her Dream Man — right up until Tack pats her on the behind and tells her to find her own bed, he’ll call he when he’s ready to see more of her. So, needless to say, when Tack spots Tyra in front of his office (he runs a custom car and motorcycle shop), he’s not pleased. He’s even less pleased to find out that Tyra is his new office manager. But when he tells her no, in fact, she will not be his office manager, and she gets right back in his face, he’s intrigued, and he ends up letting her stay. He tells Tyra in no uncertain terms that not only will she be working for him, she’ll be in his bed as well.
Right. So these are NOT the actions of a romance novel hero. Any man who spoke to me (and I assume most readers) that way, would be headed for a quick kick in the junk or a slap across the face. And yet…Tack works for me on every single level. His pursuit of Tyra is single minded, occasionally appalling, and often very tender. Quite simply, he adores her, and he understands her issues and quirks and he goes to great lengths to make her happy. Often this is done in ways that are unconventional, bossy, and alpha-holish. He yells, he curses, he intimidates, he manipulates. So why does this work for me? I wish I knew. I think part of it is that from the beginning, I trusted that Tack’s heart was in the right place. Even having done a lot of things that were illegal, and not OK. Part of it is that he’s loyal to his friends and to his kids. Part of it is that you so successfully conveyed to me how much he was feeling about Tyra. The last part of it is Tyra. She’s strong, she takes absolutely no crap off of Tack. She reacts in ways that I could empathize with. She’s smart, she’s genuine and as she begins to understand Tack, so do we, the reader.
Motorcycle Man does have the issues that others of your books have. It could use a copy editor, as you do go long, often focusing on things that serve no purpose, like the heroine’s clothing, the layout of a house or building, or the inner monologue of your heroines, which can be mind numbing in their stream of consciousness. But man, do I love this book. I think that Tyra and Tack are the perfect couple. They have amazing chemistry, they are funny and they’re entertaining as hell to read about. And I’m not the only one. You’ve received tons of good reviews of Motorcycle Man, and even Dear Author has had a guest reviewer, Angela James, give Ten Reasons Why You Should Read Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley.
While I understand that your books are not for everyone, I read them over and over, and have found that diving in to one of your books is like putting on a favorite sweatshirt. I’m comfortable in the worlds you build, and I genuinely like the characters you create. Of those characters, Tyra and Tack are my favorites which is why I give Motorcycle Man an A-.
I love, love this book! This was my first taste of KA writing and through the inner monologues and long winded descriptions I remain a fan. I’ve read 95% of her backlist and I’m anxiously awaiting all the upcoming releases most especially Own the Wind, Shy and Tabby’s story. I hope Tack will make several appearances in that one! :) With KA joining GCP, I hope her new release schedule doesn’t delay further for for Ally/Ren, Frankie/Benny, Noc, and Apollo’s stories because I very much look forward to theirs as well.
It was Angela James’s post here on DA about Motorcycle Man that got me started on my Kristen Ashley kick. I haven’t looked back since and Motorcycle Man definitely stands out as one of my favorites of her titles (though my favorite in this series specifically is Wild Man).
Warning: Self-Indulgent Whine Only Tangentially Related (aka Poor Me)
I haven’t read Kristen Ashley because I can tell that it would most definitely not be my bag. However, I can’t help but wonder why all the books that everyone goes crazy about have to have alphahole heros. When is there going to be a cracktastic book with a beta hero? I have to search long and hard to find romances that work for me because I can’t stand possessive, controlling dudes. I know I’m whining, but when I see another book like this everyone’s gushing about all I think about is how there probably aren’t any editors actively looking to acquire the books I want to read and self-published books just seem to be more of what I don’t want.
This is probably one of my favorite KA books. I agree…like putting on a favorite sweatshirt. It just feels good.
Actually, the descriptions of the clothing and the layout of the houses is a big plus for me. As a reader, I feel like I can imagine the characters and their surroundings with such clarity. Love Tack and Tyra but have to say I may love Hawk and Gwen even more (from the first book in the series: Mystery Man).
This is probably my favorite book in 2012, I think I’ve read it 3-4 times, and just finished again last night, so your review is timely for me. I still don’t know why it grabs me like it does. There is a lot about Kane Allen that is harsh, but he is smart – as a ‘Tack’ – and he really gets Tyra, especially after their second ‘date’ (as he says, he doesn’t date).
His story is one of redemption, always a favorite trope with me. Her story is of coming alive,’ living in color’ as she puts it, after playing it small and straight.
It is also an immersion into another world, the motorcycle club ethic, that I have never read before in a romance novel.
As for her writing style, there have been numerous comments on the web, and they are not wrong. But, her voice is very strong and her stories ( and I have been hooked on all the Rock Chicks and the 3 prior books in this series) just move you right along at a swift pace. I have come to decide that her overly desciptive narratives remind me a screen writing and I just keep that in mind as she describes everything everyone wears as well as every room they ever step into.
So far I have enjoyed every story she has told, and she is one hell of a story teller.
My current book crack is Amy Lane, who writes emotional m/m (with editing and continuity issues that’d normally annoy me but somehow I don’t mind in her case, which is why it’s book crack). Some of her heroes are jealous but none are the type of possessive, controlling jerks that show up in m/f. (And that’s why I got hooked on m/m in the first place – I feel safer trying new m/m authors than new m/f authors because of the asshole factor.)
@JewelCourt: I think when readers use the word “cracktastic” they are referring to guilty pleasures. Beta heroes don’t engender the same guilt in readers that alphholes do. So Ruthie Knox’s About Last Night may not be a cracktastic read, but it has a beta hero and it certainly had that addicting effect on me. It put Knox’s other books on my buy list and got me to read contemporaries by other authors as well. And straight contemporaries have been my least favorite subgenre of romance for years. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it highly.
Oh! Try Ainslie Paton – her heroes aren’t passive, but they’re totally NOT alphaholes. At least in the ones I’ve read, which are Grease Monkey Jive and Turning Tables. Which might both still be on sale at Amazon.
Thanks for the recs! I’m off to spend some money.
Love this book! Every time I even start to think about it I want to re-read it (AGAIN FOR LIKE THE 5th TIME). One of the best things about KA’s books can be her secondary characters, and in this one Tyra’s Aunt Bette is hands down my favorite — a kickass and capable woman of a certain age? LOVE HER.
KA does family set-ups really well and in this book the sense of the Club as the family is really well done, plus Tack’s kids are great too.
For those of you seeking beta heroes, I don’t know that any of Kristen Ashley’s guys would qualify — maybe Hank Nightingale (from the 3rd Rock Chick book) or Mitch Lawson (from “Lawman” — the book right before “Motorcycle Man” in this series), but really I think they might only be kinder, gentler alpha-holes. She writes all her heroes pretty damn bossy and I fall for all of them in varying degrees! Great review! Thanks!
I like beta guys too – which is why the only two KAs I really like are the two Rock Chicks with betas – Hector and Eddie. (In comparison to the rest.) The rest are so over the top for me I can’t stand a re-read. The motorcycle series are just too much for me, the “babes” and “your man” and don’t even get me started on the terms of endearments Ty uses. Other women can eat up those alphas like tic-tacs, that just leaves more betas for me.
I am having a really hard time understanding all the Ashley love since it is all prefaced with what jerks the heroes are or how bad the editing is, how trashy/easy/walk-all-overable yet great the women are or a myriad of other things the reviewer cites.
It is like saying “The food was burned, oversalted, dropped on the floor but OMG it was made with real butter and I couldn’t get enough of it.”
I read each review hoping, wishing for something different, something to make me click that button. I guess I am thankful that each review makes me all the more resolute in my decision to stay on an Ashley fast.
If I had to draw a food analogy with KA, it would be that it is a dish made with whole milk, cream, butter, sugar, loaded with carbs (and probably MSG), is not gluten free and is about 10,0000 calories and then given to you on a ginormous platter and you are expected to eat it all. You know it is bad for you, it will raise your cholesterol alarmingly and make you feel slightly sick afterward. But while you are eating it is really quite good.
Motorcycle Man was my hands down favorite of the Dream Man series. When I read romances, my enjoyment is really bound up in how much I like the heroine moreseo than how much I like or dislike the hero. MM was great for me because even though Tack was a total Uber-Alpha, Tyra was not one to roll over for him. She, imo, was what made the story for me.
Having said all that, though, I am on a KA fast at the moment because even though I like her voice, it is really strong and her books, especially read one after the other, can give you the sense of having overindulged and feeling slightly queasy.
@Ellen: First of all, I love your food analogy. It cracked me up big time! I agree for the most part. I’ve read several and DNF’d a couple. I will NEVER, EVER read “Knight” or at least not until she reissues and changes his profession. I can’t even think why in the world you would write a “hero” like this unless you were actually on crack at the time. I only borrow or buy these books on sale and since I do still read them, I must be high on that crack myself. LOL!! Each time I read a KA I take a couple of months break just to clear my head and sober up. I am going to buy “Motorcycle Man” with my %40 off Kobo coupon mainly because Tyra is supposed to stand up to Tack and not take any guff from him. From what I could tell in excerpts is that this is true. As God is my witness, if the wimpy, insecure heroine in “Law Man” whispered another line I was going to shoot myself!!! I love bikers but hate “Sons of Anarchy” so hopefully this will fill that need.
I JUST started reading this and I am really loving it! I can tell that the hero is an alphahole, but the heroine seems to be holding her own. At least right now. I get annoyed when this sort of hero features in YA, but we’re all grown ups here. If it pisses me off, I’ll just stop reading it.
I loved this one too. I’ve thought about it at great length because, as a reader, I’ve always loved alphas, but there’s a limit. And it is hard to understand how these stories that push my limits seem to not only make it past my radar, but make me love them. I think the reason we love these stories is because there’s no doubt ever that the guy is worthy of the leadership role. Most men we know nowadays aren’t worthy of being the captain of our ships – we know the men come and go, and we can’t trust them to put our needs, needs we may not even recognize, first. So when the alpha turns hole-ish, we run the other way, and when we read books about them, we are worried for the woman. We almost always link the idea of being overly alpha with being abusive because so many have proved not worthy, and that overly alpha tendency tends to be a portent of ugliness to come.
I think the secret is that any man worth his salt might be alpha-holeish at times, but that aggression and control are not used against the woman, but on her behalf. He may make all the decisions, but we know he would bend over backward, do whatever necessary, to give her what she needs and wants. He may tell her I’m the boss, but in the most important ways, she is.
In these books, I never worried about the woman. I knew to my toes Tack was thinking of her, would not hurt her, was worthy of her trust in him and worthy of the leadership position she gave him in her life. And I think that’s why KA’s alphas are okay with us. Somehow we know it’ll all work out in the end, even if she and we can’t see it right now, and it does. And we keep reading her because we know we can count on that.
As for the cracktastic books, I found Knight to be one I have read probably 10 times this year. I like books that make me look at a person or situation I think unsavory and questionable, and change how I see them, that opens my eyes to consider how and why someone ends up in a spot I might otherwise consider wearing a black hat and shows they are honorable. KA’s ability to do that is another part of her amazing gift. Yes, she needs editing, yes her books are always longer than they should be, but she is part of a very short list of authors I’ll read through and stick with during the slow parts to get to the good stuff.
@Georgia Woods: Yeah…no…not getting the honorable part about “Knight” at all. **FOR READERS WHO HAVE NOT READ KNIGHT AND DON’T KNOW WHAT HE DOES FOR A LIVING AND WANT TO BE SURPRISED, SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH** I mean you’ve already got a pushover h who lets him buy her expensive presents and buy her off at every turn only to discover he keeps a stable of whores? Really?? This is how he makes his money with which he’s supporting the h. And she’s ok with it. As a woman. And as his gf. Ummm, ok? KA could have written this with just about any other hook and it would have been awesome. He could have had any other occupation and it’s not like there aren’t plenty of cool ones to choose from. But why a pimp? Cuz that IS what he is – a pimp. He’s not trying to change lives, he sits back just letting the dough roll in and living the high life. How this is ok for female readers is beyond me, to be perfectly honest. I’m not gonna lie – it kinda pisses me off that more fans didn’t call her out on this particular story. Instead, some fans apparently went through and clicked on the “No, this review was not helpful” button on all the Amazon 1-star reviews in a hissy fit. I mean, how dare readers be mad that the hero is a pimp??? Obviously, these 1-star reviewers (most of whom stated they were normally big KA fans) were just not “getting” the greatness that was Knight (and yes, snarkiness is meant here).
Well, that is my rant (for now). Not trying to piss anybody off (but if you are, I can take it) and I’m not trying to trying to change anybody’s mind (well maybe a little). :O) We all like what we like and will continue to do so. I will continue to pick and choose carefully from her books for ones that fit me because over all I think she is a good storyteller though not necessarily a great writer. She is entertaining and she injects lots of emotion into her books and I like that. When she does WRITE strong h’s I like it a lot but that seems pretty few and far between, unfortunately.
I’ve heard about this series before and this particular book has had high praise. Do I need to read the series in order or can I read this as a stand alone?
@Shelley I know exactly what you mean, and that was my first impression. But there was something very compelling about him, and about the story, and I reread it several times, especially certain parts where I was trying to pick it apart and put my finger on what made these characters tick. In many ways, Tick is just like Knight, that same sort of hardscrabble tough life character who grew up hard, made his own rules, and made his own way in the world, and like it or lump it, doesn’t really care what others think of him. They are who they are, with flawed sides and good sides. And even if I don’t agree with some of their choices, I can still see they possess some honor all their own.
And I think when a story is written that causes us to look at someone we might otherwise immediately write off and see some redeeming qualities, it’s important to note. I like it when an author can take characters I might never choose as friends or agree with their lifestyles or choices, and yet they can still make me connect with them, and even like them.
@Carolyn @Book Chick City – MM was the second KA book I read. You absolutely can read them out of order.
Ahhh, it is the Krispy Kreme of e-books. Well, your explanation makes a little more sense. I have a deal with myself I can only stop for a KK when the “HOT DONUTS NOW” sign is on. Somtimes I have to drive around the block a few times (okay, nine) before the sign is conveniently on, so I understand the compulsion.
But just reading that she can only work for him if she continues to sleep with him raises my blood pressure more than a dozen “cream” filled, chocolate covered KKs.
IN RE THE POTENTIAL SPOILER FROM SHELLEY ABOUT KNIGHT:
Thanks for the heads up. If Starsky and Hutch aren’t involved, then I don’t want to read about that particular profession.
Since these are all e-books and I value both my Kindle and iPad and my husband would frown upon them flying through the air, I will have to just let it go, even though I will admit to spending more time thinking about these books I haven’t read more than a lot I have read.
@Carolyn @Book Chick City
I’m one of those people who normally must read series in order, but I picked up Motorcycle Man after Angela James’ post on DA finally convinced me to give it a try and I had no problem reading it out of order. After I finished it, I picked up Law Man, which is the third in the series and now I’m finally going back to Mystery Man, which I think is the first. So, you can definitely read these out of order.
My love for Tack is pretty huge, as all of twitter must know. I’ve read many other of Ashley’s books, but he’s the one I most often reread. I think the Krispy Kreme analogy is perfect thought. KA books are a sugary, fat-filled indulgence. They melt in my mouth, but I wouldn’t want a diet of nothing but.
I think you’ve described the “bonding” process between a reader and a Alpha-hole character very well when you state – I think the secret is that any man worth his salt might be alpha-holeish at times, but that aggression and control are not used against the woman, but on her behalf.
And – In these books, I never worried about the woman. I knew to my toes Tack was thinking of her, would not hurt her, was worthy of her trust in him and worthy of the leadership position she gave him in her life.
This is part of the fantasy, because in reality, I think we all know that whether, say a thief loves you, they will steal from their loved ones in real life. But in many of these novels, the author draws the line at the alpha hole messing too much with the heroine, because the reader would be turned off. I’m of the other mindset. I guess I’m based far too much on reality but I do straddle the line, so when I wrote a alpha-hole who used the N word, he didn’t stop using it just because he fell for my African American heroine.
I haven’t read Knight but I may pick it up just to see how a true pimp wouldn’t “use” the heroine, because you know, that’s how a real pimp would do. Even the female they’re closest to would have to get out there and make that money. And she’d keep the others in line. I say this not just a reader and now new writer, but one who has witnessed and grown up with both males and females in that lifestyle, and had a close relative who decided to make hustling/pimping his profession. I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience was that our blood relation caused a protective nature, but the women he professed to “love” were of no use unless they got with the program, which was supporting him through prostitution. So I lean more towards Shelley’s comment, but see your point.
My concern with novels like this, is that in an effort to make the Alpha male more “Alpha unsavory but he’s so hot” the message that these types of relationships aren’t really “romance” is getting lost, which is the issue I have with the current trend of adding Street lit in IR romance.
The somewhat innocent heroine falling for and not picking up clues until she’s fallen for the Alpha hole is a trope that has been quite successful.
@Georgia Woods: On anti-heros we can agree and I see exactly what you mean but unfortunately, Knight’s occupation, or rather, his refusal to change said occupation makes him irredeemable. I think I will like Tack waaaay more, that’s for sure. I have found myself gravitating toward these types of H’s for the last year or so (I get bored with perfect). :O) I’m always open to new experiences in my reading and I may very well come back to this story at some point. Probably not, but I try to never say never!!
@Ellen: What is it with you and the food analogies??? You’re making me crazy. Now I may have to make that special trip to KK!!
“My concern with novels like this, is that in an effort to make the Alpha male more “Alpha unsavory but he’s so hot” the message that these types of relationships aren’t really “romance” is getting lost…”
This right here. Thanks for expressing what I couldn’t!!
So, this review finally got me to read Motorcycle Man, despite some reservations. My Kindle tells me I’m 16% of the way through with 9 hours to go (this book is long!). So far I find Tack annoying and obnoxious, as well as unattractive (the descriptions of his facial hair did not appeal to me). However, I find I can’t get worked up about his behavior much because Tyra likes most of what he orders her to do, and she stands up for herself enough of the time that I never feel like she can’t walk away if she wants to, or like she is being abused.
The reason I’m still reading is Tyra, as well as something I haven’t seen mentioned in reviews — the humor. This book is hilarious. The confrontations between Tyra and Tack over things like donuts and pencil skirts, the way Tyra refers to Tack as “scary biker dude” when over half the time, he is anything but scary, and Tyra’s narration in general, are quite comical to me. I’ve been laughing out loud throughout this, and I wonder why no one has mentioned to me that Kristen Ashley has a good sense of humor.
Last night I bookmarked this little passage:
Is that not funny to other people? Or is it that the humor isn’t that noticeable a factor to others who are outraged over Tack’s bossiness or who feel guilty for liking him?
@Janine: I have a hard time putting my finger on the “why” of what works about these books, but yes, part of it is that they’re funny. Her heroines in particular always make me laugh. But I’m very drawn to her heroes, and they are what make the books for me.
In general though, I’m never surprised when someone says to me that her books don’t work for them. She writes a VERY specific hero, and they either work for you, or they absolutely do not. There doesn’t seem to be any in between.
@Janine: Oh, the funniness is a lot of why they work for me. Also, the heroines aren’t passive. They may not be entirely sensible in a sort of man-irking way, but they’re not passive and they don’t behave incompetently. A lot of the conflict in KA’s books arises from the heroine’s version of sensible behavior and the hero’s version of sensible behavior, and fairly often, the heroes are wanting to take some care of the heroines and the heroines are not always so much going along with that. There are exceptions, of course.
@Kati: So far it’s keeping me turning the pages easily, even though Tack irritates me. My feelings may change as it goes on, but right now I’d say that I’m am in the middle, actually. I don’t dislike the book, but I don’t love it either.
@Anne V.: I think the relationship dynamic you describe is part of the comedy.
Oh noes! I read the sample last night, then hit one click this morning, and poof! it’s no longer available! Argh! Can’t tell if I would have loved or hated it it yet, but now that I CANNOT finish reading it? Blerg, the worst itch on your back that you cannot reach
@Joopdeloop: I still see it for sale, though it now says Hachette Group so the version may have switched and that’s why that didn’t work. Or are you international?
@Angela James. Thank you for the new link, I’ve clicked for my dose of Krispy Kremes. (Oddly when i search amazon on my iphone under “Motorcycle Man” and also separately for “Kristen Ashley” this book and others from this series still fail to appear (and I’m in the US). Don’t know what that’s about.)
@Angela James: Just so I get this right – a major book publisher releases these books but no editing of any kind is required? Really? I’m really curious about this.
Are you asking in general, because I wouldn’t want to answer and make it seem like I’m suggesting that’s what happened here, since I haven’t looked at the Hachette version to know if anything was changed or not, and it may be that they’re simply transferring ownership on retailers and have plans for a reissue.
If you’re asking in general, I think it really depends on the publisher and the project. Sometimes when a book is self-published, no edits are done when it transfers to a publisher. Sometimes it’s transferred to a publisher, then edits are done and the ebook is updated. Sometimes the publisher acquires, pulls the book from sale, edits and then reissues. (for the record, pulling the book from sale is the least optimal thing on the publisher/author side because it really hampers momentum, and momentum is pretty important to book sales)
There are really a variety of scenarios that can take place, and some of it depends on sales momentum, the author, the publisher, the book itself and a host of other factors. There’s really no easy one answer for this and because of all the factors at play, no one right answer for how to do it best.
@Angela James: Yes, you gave me the answer I was looking for, and then some, which is so great, as I have not one iota of an idea how these types of transactions are handled. That’s some pretty fascinating stuff, actually. With the main complaints about her books being editing (typos, grammar, too long, and so forth) I wonder if these issues will be addressed. And yes, I think this could be changed from an entertaining but sometimes difficult to read book into a really awesome book. And I don’t think the awesomeness has to get lost in the translation so to speak. I am so grateful you took the time to explain some of the workings of publishing these babies! Thanks!!
Shelley, I saw somewhere, I can’t remember where now, Amy Pierpont from Grand Central posted that they planned to respect Ms. Ashley’s author voice, while providing her with editorial support. If I can find the link to that, I’ll post it here, because I don’t want to paraphrase or misquote Amy.
Ah, here it is: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1100555-kristen-s-big-news
Very cool! Thanks!!
KA is by far my favourite author. I love her writing style, the way she describes scenery, places, houses, clothes, belt buckles – whatever. She creates a world of excitement, uber hot guys and kick ass strong women. I have read nearly all her books and making ways to read the rest. KA is one of the few that I ‘automatically’ buy on release day. I savour it, devour it and I live it. I think that I have a author-crush. I don’t get to flustered with celebrities, but if I ever get a chance to meet KA – I will definitely go ‘psycho crazy fan girl!!’