What it’s about: (from Goodreads) An old flame rekindled . . .
Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn’t interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara’s lost her business, her marriage, and she’s barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara’s plight, he’s on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.
Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham’s faced his own demons, and he’s learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he’s meant to live. So when he hears that Zara’s having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he’s a changed man.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Those who follow me on Twitter, will know I’ve been under a bit of stress lately, with my stepdad coming toward the end of his life in fairly sad circumstances. Maybe that’s why I am a reverse-outlier here. Maybe I just needed some ridonkulous in my life. I haven’t read any Kristen Ashley books since I read Fire Inside (which I enjoyed – Hop!) and I was out of the habit of reading Kristen Ashley-ese. There is a somewhat unique syntax to her books. Her publication by Forever has cleansed it in some ways but there were still sentences which only made sense after I read them a few times and some which made no sense at all (how does colour radiate OUT to the pupil from the iris?) – and this included the time after the babel fish was returned to my ear. The traditionally published books are shorter and there is less of the female friendships which (to my surprise) I adore but Ashley still sounds and feels like Ashley so I’m glad the editing hand is fairly light.
The book starts off in a fairly “jagged” fashion – with time skips of three years and then five months before the main story starts. It was when the latter occurred that things started to fall into place for me. Some of it was getting my Ashley-groove back – her syntax really is very different and the creative use of grammar and lack of important commas is something I forgive in very, very few authors. Possibly only one. But it’s so uniquely her that I would seriously miss it if it were removed. Having said that, there was serious overuse of the word “jagged” – I counted 23 times in 248 pages.
Bear with me, I’m getting all the “didn’t work” stuff out of the way early.
The very end was also a little strange as it inexplicably became third person omniscient for a couple of pages – which was kinda weird.
But. I really liked it. Sometimes it’s a matter of the right book at the right time. Sometimes it has to do with sharing the read (as I was buddy-reading with some friends on Twitter, which made it extra fun). But I think I was just in the mood for Ashley’s particular brand of absurdity and I choked and laughed (the good, fond kind of laughter) through this book with delight. Sure the hero’s name is Ham (although only Zara calls him that – everyone else calls him Reece which is a much better hero name in my opinion) but he was recognisably an Ashley hero. Zara was a little untypical for this author (at least, in my admittedly somewhat limited reading of her books) because she was “easy”. This is not a perjorative or at all sexual. It just means she’s not high maintenance. Zara has her moments but she is mostly fairly laid back and accepting and in the end, it was that acceptance of Ham which brought him round (even though it took a really really long time).
Ham even had evolution points on some of the other Ashley heroes – he does housework:
“I can do my own laundry. I can clean my bathroom. I come to the kitchen meanin’ to turn on the dishwasher, I find it’s been turned on and the dishes put away. I get up in the mornin’ ready to make coffee, you not only got the coffee made, babe, you’ve pulled down a mug and put sugar in it for me. Again, Zara, you’re my roommate not my maid.”
“I’m just tryin’ to keep things tidy,” I told him. “You like things tidy.”
“You’re attemptin’ payback,” he contradicted. “You live here. You pay rent. It’s your place, too. You aren’t an indentured servant. This is your pad. Just live and stop knockin’ yourself out to show gratitude to me. I don’t need that. I’m good knowin’ you’re safe and gettin’ on your feet.”
Like many other Ashley heroes, Ham has a way with words:
“Plus, you’re all kinds of pretty. We’ll make beautiful babies, have fun doin’ it, and have fun raisin’ ’em. You’ll get my history because you lived a lot of it with me. I’ll share the rest. I’ll get yours because I’ve been in your life to share it with you. We never fight unless your head’s a mess because shit is fucked in your life and I’ve been recently attacked by an ax-wielding fuckwit. Or because I’m actin’ like a dick because listenin’ to you make yourself come after spendin’ night after night in a bed a door down from you was doin’ my motherfucking head in and I hadn’t been in there for years drove me to act like a dick.”
Oh god, how can you NOT laugh at that? It’s hilarious! (I say this in love. Truly).
And the, right on the very next page, the laughter (again, fond) continued for me when this exchange occurs:
“When we’re done, you’re comin’ with me to the bathroom,” he ordered, voice thick.
“I won’t leave your bed, babe,” I assured him through panting.
Ham’s hips powered faster and I gasped against his mouth.
“You’re comin’ with,” he stated, voice now gruff.
I was so very close but still managed to force out a breathily exasperated, “Ham, I won’t leave your bed.”
“Makin’ sure and killin’ two birds with one stone by fuckin’ you in the shower while we’re there.”
Nina Maxwell also had an important role in the story and it was fun to catch up with Nina and Max for a little while. The differences between Nina and Zara were apparent fairly early – Nina is the very definition of high maintenance.
Nina’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll remind you, Holden Maxwell, father of my children, love of my life, that we just met Reece and perhaps he doesn’t wish to listen to us squabbling.”
Max looked at Ham. “Kiss that good-bye. We’ll be fightin’ on and off through dinner. Prepare. She gets riled, we’re all fucked.”
I will admit to some frustration with the slow reveal of Zara’s family history but I did like where the story ended up and I think Zander’s interests were paramount which was great. There wasn’t tons of the female friendship stuff in the book but there was some and, as usual, it was, to use a Kristen Ashley phrase, the shit. Wanda, Maybelline and Arlene in particular were pistols and I was snort-laughing as I was reading the more outrageous things which came out of their mouths.
What else? Sadly there no-one was kidnapped or buried alive in this book. There is an ax murderer but he appears only briefly and early on in the story. (On a positive note I guess it’s better that the ax murderer was attacking the hero rather than the heroine though, right?). It wasn’t quite as over the top of some of the other Ashley stories I’ve read but there was enough here to entertain me thoroughly and make me laugh and I really can’t complain about that.