Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley

Walk Through FireWhy I read it:  I’m a fan. I pre-ordered.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I think I might have had a different reaction to this book than most of my friends. It seems that they mostly liked the first half but felt the second half dragged a little. For me, it was kind of the opposite and I think that’s all about the kind of reader I am.

I hate not knowing stuff. I find it really frustrating to be teased with information which is then kept from me. Millie and High fell in love when they were very young (18 and 21 respectively) and were together happily for three years. But then something happened and Millie pushed High away, making it so that he left because she couldn’t bear to do it herself. And it was at about the 35% mark that the reader finds out what the reason was. (I did guess beforehand though.) There are times when this kind of device bothers me less but Walk Through Fire‘s first third depended entirely on “the secret” and it was mentioned again and again. I felt teased and not in a good way. I was so frustrated, after I guessed, I DM’d friends on Twitter to see if I was right because the waiting was doing my head in.

Then, I found out what it was and I had to get my head around it. I kind of understood it but there were other options available and frankly, the problem wasn’t explained well enough (and this includes how Millie found out about it) to know what the breadth of those options were. In that regard, it was a plot device only and on that level it failed. That said, I could understand the reactions and, even High admits that he may have had the same one in Millie’s shoes, even though, with maturity, he now sees that it wasn’t a wise or good decision.

Aaaaand, now I feel like I’m the one teasing because I haven’t said what the problem is. But the story’s beginning does kind of hinge on it, so I feel it would be too spoilerish to say. (However, if you read  like me, you can DM me on Twitter and I’ll spill the beans.)

I was uncomfortable with the way High treated Millie at the beginning. I didn’t like the way he spoke to her and I didn’t like the things he did. Some of it skirted close to non-consensual – even though it was clear that Millie was on board by the time the sex was actually happening, she had clearly said no beforehand and asked him to leave. I get that High was very hurt and I get that he still felt a strong connection to Millie but still, it wasn’t nice and it wasn’t very heroic.  Because I’m nothing if not contrary, I did enjoy the parts of the book where they were together more than the parts when they weren’t though because I like al lot of h/h time in my romance.

And that brings me to the second half of the book – there is plenty of h/h time and this bit was my favourite. There is a kind of suspense-y subplot which revolves around Benito Valenzuela’s continued thrust for more Denver territory and Chaos’ battle with him over it. That is a series arc though and it isn’t fully resolved by the end of the book.

The rest become a domestic romance where Millie and High work out how to be together now, when they have been apart for 20 years. Even though they love each other, there have been changes.

Then it hit me. The memory. The memory that there were a variety of occasions where Logan spoke Badass.

There were only a few words in the Vocabulary of Badass but each one had a number of meanings. They included beautiful, Christ, fuck, Jesus, and shit.

But the one used most was babe.

I was out of practice.

I had no idea what that particular babe meant.

And, there is the issue of High’s daughters, Cleo and Zadie; Zadie in particular is very unhappy that her dad is not getting back together with her mother and Millie’s presence is therefore a call to arms. Zadie behaves very badly and it takes her a while to come around. (I did think the turnaround was pretty sudden however. I know bribes never worked with me with my mum’s first boyfriend after she split with my dad. I took them but I still hated him. I never kicked him though and I was polite. But he never held my regard. Maybe he would have eventually if he’d stuck around. Maybe.) Through this section, there is plenty of High and Millie loving on one another and really, these are my favourite bits of Kristen Ashley books. It gives High plenty of opportunity to say sexy romantic things and make plenty of physical demonstrations of it (and I’m not only talking about sex but yes, that too).

What else? I hadn’t been a fan of High because when I first met him in Motorcycle Man, he was not a supporter of Tack. It was not until Tyra was nearly killed that he came around to Tack’s way of thinking. However, this book does throw some of that earlier behaviour and High acting out in a new light and by the end, I was pretty happy with him.

I also liked that High’s ex-wife wasn’t demonised. They had a good post-divorce relationship, a solid (if somewhat distant) friendship and the genuine well-being of their children at heart. High always treated Deb with respect and Millie and Deb got along great so yay for that. Yes, Deb was a little unusual in that she didn’t seem to want any romance in her life and was more than satisfied with her job and her daughters, but I gave that a pass because I actually know someone like this. High described Deb as without passion but I think that was more a reflection of the fact that they never loved one another than anything else, so I didn’t really believe it. People have passion for things they care passionately about – and Deb didn’t feel that way about High (and vice versa).

I find Kristen Ashley books a complete comfort read. I know what I’ll get. They’re different enough that I’m not bored but similar enough that I can relax into it. (Here, it wasn’t until about the 35% mark that I relaxed because the not knowing was driving me wild but that’s fairly unusual.) I like the humour, the friendships and the family and the brotherhood and the sisterhood and I like the package it comes in.

He was helping her pick out an outfit to meet his daughters.

This was not what he thought he was going to do when she’d led him into her bedroom after they cleaned up after dinner.

That was bad. But it got worse when he found out what she was up to.

She started this shit, he’d approved every outfit, and she’d nixed it, tossing crap aside and rushing back to her closet only to come out again with another outfit he’d approve and she’d nix.

This had happened eight times.

He was done on the first one.

“Babe, it’s fine,” he stated.

“I don’t know,” she mumbled, pulling the sweater away and looking at it. “When it’s on, this sweater is kinda tight.”

“Then it’s absolutely fine,” High declared, and she turned narrowed eyes on him.

“I’m not gonna wear something suggestive to meet your girls, Low.”

“Babe, you got a killer body, you’re an unbelievably great lay, and both a’ those are mine… again. You could wear a bag over your head and mom jeans, I knew it was you under all that, I’d still wanna fuck you.”

Grade: B

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