Taking Him by Jackie Ashenden
Steam Level: oh my stars, yes there is steam. Lots and lots
My Thoughts: After reading a most excellent review at All About Romance for the second book in this series, Having Her I knew I must buy it. And since the first book, Taking Him was pretty much the same price and I could tell they were connected, I got this one too and figured I’d read them in order this time.
Note of interest. When I was in Grade 3 I developed a crush on the son of friends of my parents who was a few years older than myself. This crush lasted all the way through high school and even today, more years than I care to think about, hearing his name gives me a funny feeling. I didn’t know him that well, but spent a couple of summers camping with his family and mine and we went to the same schools. So when I read a story where the heroine has had a lifelong crush on the hero, dating back to childhood, I can buy into it so easily as I lived it. Mind you, mine is not a story where after years of unrequited love, he finally noticed me and we got married and lived happily ever after. I lost track of him after he left high school and my family moved to another city – but still.
If you haven’t gathered it by now, this is that kind of a story.
Ellie Fox has had a crush on her older brother’s best friend, Hunter Chase, for years, ever since he sometimes looked after her when she was young and her brother was dealing with a very unstable, mentally ill mother. But of course he never noticed her as anything other than his buddies sister who he knew had a crush on him. But Ellie is all grown up and about to leave the country for a squeal of a job designing video games for a company in Japan. She decides she has nothing left to lose, she’s leaving after all, and makes a play for him when he picks her up and rescues her when she gets very drunk at a Comi-Con convention. Hunter is horrified – it’s his best friend’s sister, but once the genie is out of the bottle he can’t help but think of her in “that way”. But she’s his best friends sister and if that isn’t enough, he had real sexual issues himself that plague him. He was sexually molested when he was younger by someone he trusted and he’s done a major job in his head trying to deal with things. Because he was not in control when he was young, he has major sexual control issues now and has rules that his partners must adhere to. When he folds under the onslaught of Ellie, she must also abide by his ‘rules’. And oddly enough, one of his rules is no sexual intercourse. Yes, our 33 year old alpha type hero is still technically a virgin. Oddly enough, this is the second virgin hero book I read in a weekend, though both for totally different reasons. Hunter is very skilled at what he does and definitely knows his way around a woman’s body.
Ellie is desperate and in love enough to accept Hunter’s very odd rules. She has no clue as to why he’s set them in place but she does clue in that he has issues and wants to help him. In the real world, things wouldn’t be solved by the love of a good woman, but I don’t read romance novels for real world solutions. I had no trouble buying into this “romance novel – love heals all’ premise. In the story Ellie eventually gets through to Hunter and gets to the root of his issues. She tries explaining that he wasn’t to blame, but a lifetime of issues take longer to overcome.
I loved this book. I loved Hunter; he most definitely is an alpha type hero and it makes for a very interesting dichotomy when the fact he’s a virgin is added. And I quite liked Ellie too. I read another review where the reviewer called her desperate. While I could understand why the reviewer felt that, I didn’t. I think she had a girls love for him but didn’t really know who he was apart from what he showed her when he took care of him, but as she got to know him outside and inside, that love evolves to a more mature love. And I found the ending a bit unusual – in a good way. I’m glad I found the review for the next book and as a result, found and read and loved this one. I know I’ll be reading it more than once.
I’m looking forward to the next book about her brother Vin and her best friend. I have a feeling it will take place around the same time as this one does.
Grade: 4.5 out of 5
Having Her by Jackie Ashenden
Steam Level: oh my stars, yes there is steam. Lots and lots
My Thoughts: Right off the bat I have to confess that this book made me uncomfortable to read. I’ve never read a BDSM/slave-master relationship book before and I can state categorically that it will never be my cup of tea. Not that I’m saying anything is wrong with it – hey we all have our fantasies and I can’t say that hasn’t been one of mine at one point or another in my lifetime, but I’m just uncomfortable reading with that being the sum total of the relationship. Which one would wonder why the high marks? I will explain *grin*
Vin Fox is a control freak. At least he comes across that way as in reality his life is completely out of control. His mother suffers from schizophrenia and when she is off, the voices tell her to kill her daughter, Vin’s sister Ellie and the heroine of the first book, Taking Him. His father left the family early, unable to handle Vin’s mother’s illness. Vin had to give up his dream of going to architectural school. Because he can’t control things, he overcompensates and anger seethes within him.
Kara Sinclair is Ellie’s best friend. While outwardly she is one strange young woman, she dresses oddly, constantly changes the colour of her hair, wears bright contact lenses, in fact she has a case of virginity she wants to rid herself of but whenever she gets close to it, she can’t – or rather can’t let whatever partner – go through with it. She also has issues though we don’t start seeing them until further on in the story.
So this is the set-up. Although they know each other through Ellie, Vin and Kara don’t have much interaction with each other until Vin picks Kara up after another failed attempt at getting rid of her pesky virginity. In a fit of pique, Kara asks Vin to do it. He refuses of course, but Kara seems to be set now on Vin being “The One” and sends him a series of emails and pictures, some at inopportune times. He finally loses his temper and takes her up on her offer, while she is wearing a Princess Lea costume she had donned for a Comi-con type convention.
Thus begins an erotic, somewhat unnerving role playing game of Vin being the Master and Kara being the Slave. There is no affection between the two; it’s strictly a sexual relationship at first though Vin is careful to be gentle and give Kara plenty of opportunity to call it off at any time. But in a twisted way, it suits both their needs; Vin’s need to control and Kara’s need to be absolved of any responsibility or intimacy and as we will find out later on, a kind of punishment. I’m not exactly sure what I was feeling reading this part of the book, but what I did find was that it was a compelling read and very difficult to put down. If the book had continued like this, I’m sure I still would have kept reading but not sure of my enjoyment level, but as Vin’s world spins more out of control, he slowly begins treating Kara differently, caringly, needing her outside the boundary of Master/Slave. Kara wants no part of this changing of the rules. That means facing her own tragic demons.
I am in awe of how this author tells a story. Kara’s life is so sad. She is so far from the person we think we know from the beginning of this book and the previous book when she was a secondary character. I ached for her. And it would be so easy to dislike Vin and his control issues, but I didn’t. I ached for him too. He never had a childhood and had to take on responsibilities far beyond what he should have had to. These two are perfectly suited, both filling a need the other one has. They are both so broken and it is through opening up, getting past the lines of their initial relationship, they begin to heal, as much as they are capable of. For both, the other is exactly what they need. It’s a complex connection they have and it’s dark, complicated story. And I loved it. Comfortable isn’t always best. This book proves it.
Grade: 5 out of 5