The Promise by Kristen Ashley

The PromiseWhy I read it:  I had this one pre-ordered from Amazon and a few of my Twitter pals and I did a buddy read. (Except I was late starting so I played catch-up most of the time.)

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she doesn’t want to.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Ordinarily, I’d expect I’d have some difficulty with the concept of a guy dating his dead brother’s ex-girlfriend – as a concept it doesn’t appeal to me much.  But, I was sold on Frankie and Ben (I refuse to call him Benny – sorry, can’t do it) by the end of At Peace and Vinnie (the dead brother/ex) was kind of vague and amorphous but also not good for Frankie in many ways.  So it didn’t faze me when that wasn’t an issue for most of the characters in this book.  Frankie struggled with it for a while at the start of the story but no-one else did.  Frankie and Ben so clearly belonged together, everyone was just happy it looked like it was happening.

And in some ways, herein lies the problem with the story. Frankie and Ben were so good together, they fit well and made each other very happy – there wasn’t a lot of conflict in the book to keep the narrative tension.  There was a lengthy separation (thankfully not lengthy by page count) which felt kind of pointless but once they were back together, their only real drama was negotiating a long distance relationship for a few months – and it was 4 hours by car long distance, not other-side-of-the-world long distance so, while I get it was a challenge, it wasn’t like they never saw each other either.

The conflict, which arose mostly later in the book, was about a scandal going on at Frankie’s work.  It didn’t have the OTT excitement of kidnappings, shootings or being buried alive etc, which some of Ashley’s other books have.  While they’re OTT, they do serve to ramp up the tension and make for a very happy ending after surviving a life or death situation.  Frankie’s and Ben’s life or death situation came in At Peace.  While I’m glad in one way the author didn’t go there again, there really wasn’t any risk – internal or external to Frankie’s and Ben’s relationship and that meant that a crucial enjoyment factor was kind of missing.

I didn’t hate it – it had a lot of funny lines and I found it readable enough (and there were only 3 typos I spotted and that is a big improvement so yay on that).  Ben was a little too perfect.  Still alpha and bossy but he was so committed to Frankie right from the start that he would do anything for her. Which was nice but it was, at times, too nice. While Ben was very sweet, he certainly had a way with words and it often made me laugh and this meant that he didn’t become syrupy for me.

“Do you try to piss me off?” she asked, and he grinned.

“You haven’t got that?”

“Why?” Her voice was pitching higher.

“You pissed is cute. It’s hot. And, just sayin’, it makes me hard.”

“Are you hard right now?”

“Be my pleasure, you wanna check.”

or here

I threw out. “I’m not a big fan of blowjobs.”

“Then, no offense to my dead brother, he didn’t teach you right.”

I threw up my hands. “Do you not find this entire conversation bizarre?”

“Babe, seriously, I get you naked, I’ll get you to the point where you latch on and be so into what you’re doin’, you’ll come before I can pull you off and bury myself inside you.” “

Arrrrrr!” I screamed, mostly because , all of sudden, I had an overwhelming desire to give Benny a blowjob.

What else? I think the story was probably too long – it was a low conflict novel and add in a lengthy word count and the flaws are more easily exposed I think.  Once again however, I liked the girl posse stuff and the sense of community which is always at the heart of an Ashley book.  Yes, there is a main couple who are deeply in love but they are not lone wolves.  They are surrounded by family (by blood or by choice) and friends and those connections serve to enhance the romantic HEA.

And Frankie was pretty funny too.

I did a war whoop and a big feet-thrown-back cheerleader jump. In pumps. Holding my phone, my computer bag, my purse slung over my shoulder. Just like a woman in a commercial who successfully got through her stressful day as an executive and did it without getting underarm stains.

or

“I’m not saying you get a computer and immediately start your Facebook profile. I figure, if you tried to type in your profile information on Facebook, your fingers will catch fire.

I have to hand it to Kristen Ashley for taking a trope (dead brother’s ex) I was predisposed not to like and make it work as well as she did.  And, she did it without demonising Vinnie too much.  Vinnie was a screw up and he got involved in the mob and he got “whacked”.  He didn’t take care of Frankie the same way Ben would/did and he could be thoughtless and he was weak but he was also funny, sweet, good looking and charming and he did care deeply for Frankie.  All of that was preserved through the story and I liked that.

There are better Kristen Ashley books.  This was just okay for me but I’ve added the + to the grade because I did get some laughs out of it and also, for that making-the-trope-I-didn’t-think-I-would-like work.

“Why?” Sal clipped. “’ Cause this is Frankie. She could be standin’ in a field in the middle of the day and a dead body would drop on her.”

Grade: C+

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